City in shock as bureaucrats get something tiny right

Hong Kong awakens to a little victory for common sense and good taste over political correctness and obdurate bureaucratic stupidity. One of the vast concrete-pouring projects over at the West Kowloon Mega-White-Elephant Arts and Culture Themed Zone Concept Hub is a thing given the English title ‘Xiqu Centre’. Even pronounced correctly in Putonghua, it sort-of sounds like a Cantonese reference to genitalia. But with even RTHK Radio 3’s newsreaders unable to get their heads around Pinyin, what are the chances of English-speaking tourists and others blurting out the sneeze-like word (‘shee-choo’, very roughly) accurately? And even then, what does it mean? Is Xiqu: a) That martial art where fake monks break bricks with their heads? b) That stringed musical instrument that makes a pentatonic tinkle-tinkle sound? Or c) Chinese Opera?

Some genius worthy of a Nobel Prize has now suggested ‘Chinese Opera Centre’. Amazingly, they’re going with it.

Meanwhile, on the South China Morning Post’s letters page, senior Hutchison executive Frank Sixt complains about people criticizing Hong Kong’s billionaire tycoons, like his big boss, Li Ka-shing. Writing as director of the Li Ka-shing Foundation, he movingly describes the property mogul’s deep concern about the Big Lychee’s less fortunate… 

Maybe someone out there, mindful of the unhealthy divisiveness in Hong Kong society, will buy it. Columnist Michael Chugani gets in an instant response by demanding that the tycoons dip into their unused land reserves to help solve the city’s housing problems.

A suitably stern riposte to the letter would make the point that Hong Kong’s tycoons have not (unlike their American contemporaries) made their vast fortunes through innovation or other value-creation, but by ripping off consumers via cartels. Their companies and subsidiaries are parasites on the economy, extracting wealth in the form – for example – of 20-year mortgages families must pay on tiny, shoddy apartments. The donations they make to charity look big, but compared with the amounts they have skimmed off the economy over the decades, they are drops in the ocean. If such donations were (say) 10 times bigger, they might qualify as guilt-money; as it is, they are PR stunts, calculated, with increasing desperation, to ward off demands for reforms to create a more level, less feudal, capitalist economy where players have to compete. Like in Shanghai.

Sixt would be more convincing if he just pointed out that the tycoons have done nothing illegal: the Hong Kong government allows cartels and collusion.

As for tycoons ‘caring’, try opening a basic social-enterprise supermarket to help the low-paid that undercuts Park N Shop and see what happens.

Another Nobel Prize test… Hardly anybody likes Chinese Opera, therefore you should: a) Build a HK$2.7 billion Chinese Opera Centre; b) Don’t build a HK$2.7 billion Chinese Opera Centre.

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17 Responses to City in shock as bureaucrats get something tiny right

  1. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    The offer of land is a Trogan House. The land is designated for argricultural use and the tycoons are struggling to get permission to concrete it over to build more small boxes in the sky. So … offer a bit of farm land for free, get it rezoned and you’ve opened the flood gates by setting a precedent.

  2. duck! it's rubber! says:

    Instead of expecting petty charity from the tycoon monopolists, may I suggest hanging them and their families from lampposts? It will save time, and is in keeping with our great country’s history.

  3. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    Sorry, that should read ‘Trojan House’

  4. Stuart says:

    I dont like Chinese opera / see choo either. but according to this survey, it is the most attended art form in HK, so someone must like it?

  5. mjrelje says:

    oh how i pray that FSixt reads this blog. Anyone dare email it to him?

  6. Thank you for the entry to our Asian Order Of The Brown Nose. It’s a beaut. The usual tenner cheque drawn on the Bank Of Nigeria is on its way to you.

    Cartels! Nonsense. It just makes sense to have the same prices for everything in the supermarkets. It saves one walking around from shop to shop in this muggy weather.

    Will no one take a close look at the original proposal committee of the Arts Hub Scam? This dodge of asking builders to submit ludicrous under-estimates after being reassured that they will never have to stick to them is so old now. I thought Chek Lap Kok was its last tango.

    But with crime, like jokes, the old ones seem to be the best.

  7. Local Tax Payer says:

    COC — let’s just hope it is suitably shaped. Incidentally, is there any particular reason it’s not called Cantonese Opera…?

    The consumers who buy some of the ridiculously priced jerry-built matchboxes from the cartels are also to blame of course, when often there are low rises built by private individuals right beside at half the price.

    But you’re absolutely right to give us the information the SCUMP is too frightened even to allude to: that the property crisis is due to the monopolistic greed of the tycoons, whom the government has loyally supported.

  8. Stanley says:

    I think it should read Trojan Horse

  9. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    @Stanley. No, it’s a Trojan House. Get it!

  10. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Chinese opera when done well is lovely. However, 95% of the time it’s not done well and sounds like an alley cat being arrhythmically buggered.

  11. Probably says:

    Doesn’t the HK government, one of the most cash rich in the world, feel any shame what so ever when the populace they they are meant to be the guardian of are bailed out by those “tycoons” that have been stealing their hard earnt cash from cradle to grave?

    Talk about crumbs from the banquetting table…..

  12. Big Al says:


    Whereas if Chinese Opera is done well, it sounds like an alley cat being rhythmically buggered?

  13. maugrim says:

    I seem to remember some American wealthy do-gooders, Gates among them, going to China, exhorting their mega-wealthy to engage in philantropism. From memory it became something of ‘how dare you round eyes come here and tell us, with our different cultural practices what to do blah blah’ So, appealing to ‘better nature’ clearly didn’t work. As to Mr. Sixt, its going to make the next ‘company gweilo’ association dinner interesting, and yes, they do exist, the company gweilos that is, tame or otherwise.

  14. Real Tax Payer says:

    I would prefer $ 2 Billion spent on clean buses !

  15. Quick Silver says:

    I’m given to understand that the LCSD has to place a quota on Chinese opera rentals or they feel all their venues would be booked for Chinese opera almost every night.

  16. Sojourner says:

    A pleasant and diverting collaborative effort today from Hemmers and the other contributors to this thread.

    Well done all.

  17. A lot of people do like Chinese opera – my wife, for one. But even if it’s a minority taste, is it any less deserving of support than other subsidised cultural activities like western opera? Or are we going to wind up the HK Phil as well on the grounds that only a minority listen to it, and close down the Cultural Centre? Back to the cultural desert…

    In any case, supporting Cantonese opera strikes (probably inadvertently) another small blow against Beijing-led cultural homogenisation.

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