Three impossible things before breakfast

It’s not every day Cheng Yiu-tong, the grim boss of Hong Kong’s Chinese Communist Party front, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment Etc of HK, gets mentioned in the same sentence as kitsch artist Jeff Koons – but, here at least, it has now happened. Cheng warns that unless the Big Lychee has a system to screen nominations for the 2017 Chief Executive election, we could end up electing a porn star to run the city. He doesn’t say which one, though given the dire quality of leadership in Hong Kong up to now, perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Commentators agree that Cheng is probably referring to Koons’s one-time wife, La Cicciolina, a Hungarian-born Italian legislator, who was apparently ‘famous for delivering political speeches with one breast exposed’. (Annie Leibovitz did their wedding invitation, right.) It is surprising that the patriotic Cheng – not known for his interest in Barbarian affairs – is even aware of her existence. Has he let slip a dirty little secret: a fascination with the sordid and prurient, typically associated in Hong Kong with grubby-looking middle-aged men in oblong spectacles and nylon jackets who gather beneath escalators to peer up schoolgirls’ skirts? A healthily normal pro-Beijing figure looking to Italy for a reason democracy is bad would surely choose the infinitely more loathsome Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of ‘bunga-bunga’ party fame. You would have thought.

As if the mind is not sufficiently boggled, we are invited to believe that tycoon Li Ka-shing’s possible sale of the Park N Shop supermarket chain is cause for alarm. The theory (peddled by pro-tycoon media and assorted dimwits) is that without Li Ka-shing’s ‘investment’ Hong Kong is or would be a poorer place. Li has happily encouraged this idiocy in the past by grandly assuring us all that he will not withdraw from the city. People pushing this bizarre idea further suggest that he is influenced by dislike for Chief Executive CY Leung.

Whatever we might think of him, Li does not buy and sell major assets out of spite or any other emotion. As level-headed reporters point out, future growth in Hong Kong supermarkets will be limited, and it could make sense for Hutchison Whampoa to cash in and move on. Politics could play a part. Li might sense that time is running out for legal cartelization and price-rigging in Hong Kong. If I owned half of the supermarket duopoly, and had an insatiable appetite for perpetual rent-seeking business expansion, I’d be looking for a sucker to buy it.

Why the drivel about ‘Hong Kong is doomed without KS Li’? Partly because, as with any alarmist claptrap, it sells newspapers. But also, perhaps, it is a form of shoe-shining to flatter the uber-tycoon; it is also a facile way for pro-cartel media to make the government squirm – our officials being too lame to state the simple fact that in the 2010s it makes no difference to Hong Kong what Li does.

The third, and probably least surprising, impossibility today is about tourism. Every time we think the latest other-worldly plan or call for yet more Mainland shoppers must be the last, one more comes along. This time, the city with an acute shortage of housing and space has mysteriously discovered 12.5 square kilometres of land in north Lantau, and naturally the idea is to fill it with more malls full of luxury brands for outsiders – this time an anticipated flood of people coming over the bridge to Zhuhai. (There are no other prospective users of this particular white elephant project.)

The South China Morning Post’s editorials are not – so far as we follow them – riveting reads. Today’s, however, highlights the sloppy or duplicitous thinking behind the incessant cram-millions-more-tourists-in propaganda… 

Yes, that does read “…James Tien Pei-chun rightly points out…”. ‘James Tien’ and ‘rightly points out’ are a bit like ‘Cheng Yiu-tong’ and ‘Jeff Koons’. It goes on to maintain that “…tourism is the city’s only pillar industry with sustained growth.” Two glaring errors:

First, our ‘pillar industries’ are largely the ones that are already mature and in parts – like logistics/ports – probably past their prime. Bureaucrats anoint them with this special label out of ignorance or deference to existing big players. (Who are smarter: Park N Shop is a ‘pillar’ of Hutchison’s operations.)

Second, why is tourism the only one that is growing? Could it be because the extreme distortions created by the Mainland-HK price differential for luxury goods and the vast number of Mainland shoppers are suffocating other forms of economic activity here? In other words, tourism is ‘the only industry that is growing’ because it is an out-of-control cancer killing other parts of the economy through such things as high rents.


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12 Responses to Three impossible things before breakfast

  1. I really feel sorry for you, reading SCMP editorials. The news service is bad enough. They have had to sack another journalist for wanting to revise her article without authorization of the Sturmgruppenhauptquartier. I think she wanted to cut remarks from a loon saying that the June 4th massacre was justified.

    One day there will be a plaque in Causeway Bay commemorating the journalists fired from the SCMP for daring to have a conscience.

    As for PayNWeep, hurrah. My fifteen-year boycott has worked.

    And why do we need porn stars when we have Rita Fan?

  2. PCC says:

    An excellent parting sentence.

  3. Gweiloeye says:

    Well HK politicians and public servants are getting more and more weird eveyday. Lacking in any original thought they spout the wierdest shit. No wonder Peking doesn’t want HKers to have a vote. They realise what quality of respresentatives HKers are willing to vote for.

    Mr Li, please sell parkNrob to an international company – then your “international” stores might be taught to realise that 50 types of 2 minute noodles from Japan, Taiwan and Korea, does not make them “international”.

  4. Worm Flu Patient Zero says:

    There is no way La Cicciolina can compete with our very own Paul Tse.

  5. Mary Hinge says:

    Any prospective CE candidate that dares to advance a mildly anti-tourism platform (luxury goods tax; turn Disneyland into houses; turn Ocean Park into a park; end to individual visit scheme; machine-gun towers (x4) at Sheung Shui MTR station, etc.) will win the popular vote by a landslide. Sieve or no sieve.

  6. PropertyDeveloper says:

    By my calculation 12.5 sq km is about 125 million sq ft, which, with a plot ratio of say 5 to 10, would surely be enough to house all the male “indigenous” “villagers” and their adult male descendants until kingdom come.

  7. longtimenosee says:

    In fairness, the land is in/on the airport island and so you can’t really live there. Same goes for Tung Chung I suppose, but still.

  8. Headache says:

    Fellow correspondents: I think you mean “FarknShop”.

  9. Real Tax Payer (almost ret'd) says:

    @ PD

    If indeed your calculations are correct ( and I believe you, although no PD myself) then write to Jake vdK and give him the nitty gritty

    Jake can be depended on to follow through

    (No, I am NOT writing tongue-in-cheek* : you and I do sometimes agree on the really important points. Now is the time for every good man to come to the aid of the party / Party ? )

    *nor even Tsang-in-Cheek ! 🙂

  10. sunny sandhu says:

    they r international but when they employ people is only Chinese Han… u must read and write Chinese…

  11. PropertyDeveloper reckons the vacant patch of land on Lantau ‘would surely be enough to house all the male “indigenous” “villagers” and their adult male descendants until kingdom come’. This is great news – when can we start moving them there?

    Actually I prefer the late Kevin Sinclair’s term for them: “indigenous property developers”.

  12. Ruff n Ready says:

    Well, given that the CPPCC already has a former porn star (Pang Dan), a comedian (Stephen Chow) and an over-the-hill kung fu star (you know who), you wonder what he is scared of.

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