As part of its 110th anniversary, the South China Morning Post has asked readers to help it celebrate Hong Kong’s unsung heroes, to be named by a group of judges of its choice. The list of these worthies is a celebration of the Big Lychee’s oldest and most predictable fogeys.
- Heading the line-up is Mesozoic-era Chief Secretary and Monkees lead singer Sir David Akers-Jones, everyone’s favourite voice of wisdom, experience and moderation.
- Next is SCMP editor Wang Xiangwei – which is fair enough. But…
- Then, perhaps gilding the lily that is the newspaper’s representation on this august panel, is one Dr David Pang Ding-jun, of whom we know little except that he is Chairman of the SCMP Group.
- This leads us on to – it hardly needs to be said – Ronald Arculli, member of everything, including every government body (right down to the Justices of the Peace Selection Committee), and of innumerable property companies’ boards, not to mention that of the Real Estate Developers Association.
- Then we have another retired senior civil servant, Shelley Lee, one of Anson Chan’s ‘handbag gang’ of female bureaucrats.
- Next is Daryl Ng, son of Robert Ng of property developer Sino Land (on the board of which sits Ron Arculli, as does landlord Allan Zeman, who should be on this judges’ panel but strangely isn’t). Sino Land is co-sponsoring these Spirit of HK Awards.
- As a slight contrast, we get ‘author and explorer’ Rebecca Lee, of (some) polar expeditions fame. Among the many wastelands she has visited is the 1996-98 rubber-stamp Election Committee that pretended to choose Tung Chee-hwa as Hong Kong’s first Chief Executive.
- Last-and-perhaps-least-but-one is university professor Nelson Chow, another dependable member of endless government commissions that never achieved anything.
- Finally comes Ronald James Blake, who we are told/reminded was Secretary for Works back in the early 90s, and who would be the only octogenarian on the Commission on Strategic Development when he celebrates his 80th birthday next year, except Akers-Jones (86) has beaten him to it.
It would be tempting to liken this list to the membership rolls of Hong Kong government advisory committees, with their grindingly repetitive names of trustworthy and pliant shoe-shiners who loyally play their part in the tired old colonial co-opting-of-elites ritual. But this is even more clichéd, almost a parody. Officials would include a token, easily out-voted semi-outsider.
One problem is that the two families who run the SCMP and Sino probably have more limited imaginations, not to say social circles. (They’re not exactly reaching out to the kids; strip editor Wang and the boy Daryl out of the line-up, and the average age here must be in the mid-70s.) The list also suggests a lack of clarity over who is shoe-shining whom: are the Kuoks and Ngs shoe-shining those invited to be judges, or are those accepting such invitations shoe-shining the Kuoks and Ngs? It’s usually obvious, but it’s harder to tell here. Mostly, of course, the silliness of this selection comes down to the impossibility of allowing real people into the process. Draft in a jury of a dozen residents taken at random from the electoral register, and heaven knows what sort of unsung hero they’ll pick.
You are free to nominate someone. Just bear in mind there has to be a filtering system.