The map on the right shows a circle covering the eastern and southern part of Asia. More people live within this circle than in the rest of the world. It follows that, statistically, the majority of the planet’s bizarreness, atrocity and carnage should take place in this region. And it does.
In North Korea, boy-emperor Kim Jong-un’s ex-girlfriend, singer Hyon Song-wol, has been executed by firing squad, along with 11 other entertainers, with surviving members of the country’s most famous pop groups and their families forced to watch, before – as you would expect – being sent off to prison camps. Hyon was responsible for the tune Excellent Horse-Like Lady; the executed were allegedly guilty of making porn; they were found to possess bibles; and it appears they were part of Kim’s wife’s faction (and therefore potential rivals or threats, perhaps). How many more death-penalty boxes can you tick?
Back on planet Earth – specifically, in Fujian province – a three-year-old girl is crushed to death by a bulldozer during China’s land grab du jour. Her father naively asks for clarification about the relative importance of human life and land acquisition, and local officials politely take the time to explain it all to him.
Which brings us back to the Big Lychee, where we are too squeamish to machine-gun pop stars or even squash obstructive families’ toddlers to death. The best we can manage is an Indonesian maid who tries to tarnish the name of her hard-working employers by tying herself to a chair and half-starving herself while they are away, and cunningly beating and burning herself in such a way as to make it look as if they did it. Despite a noble defence lawyer’s attempts to unmask the demur Muslim girl for the fiendish sadomasochistic freak she is, and despite the fact that brown-skinned people don’t feel pain like the rest of us, the assumption is that the couple may end up being found guilty. If past cases are anything to go by, the judge will make an example of them with fines of HK$2,000, even HK$4,000 – maybe as much as HK$6,000.
Not everyone automatically assumes that Southeast Asian domestic helpers are viciously cunning little elf-devils. The normally staid Asia Sentinel recently exploded in a rage of polemic over the South China Morning Post’s incisive investigative report uncovering the fact that Hong Kong’s new contingent of Bangladeshi maids are deliriously happy here (free spoons!), give or take the ones who were fired within weeks. Hong Kong officials have ‘deeply ingrained racial prejudice against brown Asians’, Asia Sentinel says (from experience?), while the SCMP has been ‘ethnically cleansed’ of its once-large South Asian editorial staff (ditto?). Anyway – ouch.
Would it be too much to hope that Hong Kong at least has less far to climb than North Korea? I declare the weekend open with the ever-cheering thought of Voltaire’s Dr Pangloss: “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”