The great clusters-of-employees-from-the-same-country menace reconsidered

'Iron Curtain' - Anne Applebaum

In the South China Morning Post’s business section, the campaign to establish Shanghai’s free-trade zone as a rival and vanquisher of Hong Kong continues. In an attempt to come across as really modern, trendy, ever-so free, normal and global and to ‘let foreigners live and work happily’, the Chinese Communist Party may let people look at Facebook and the New York Times within the confines of the exciting new super-hub. Such desperation can only provoke a twinge of sympathy among anyone with an ounce of humanity. If an aspiring financial centre could fall to its knees sobbing and wailing “I just want to be accepted, to be loved!” this is what it would look like. Sad, really.

In Singapore, it’s the other way round. Several banks have admitted to ‘hot spots’ within their organizations “where clusters of employees from the same country appeared to have developed over time.” In response, the Lion City is listening to its citizens and making it harder for outsiders to get in. (Hong Kong officials have a tougher time. To appease residents and calm anti-Mainland feeling, they clamp down on milk powder exports. But then Mainland counterparts criticize them for it; presumably, the cadres will be happier when gangs in Sheung Shui go back to verbally abusing ‘locusts’ at the MTR station.)

No-one is ever satisfied. What’s the betting that as soon as Xinhua issues the story ‘Shanghai proudly announces clusters of employees from the same country successfully developing’, people outside the free-trade zone will be whining about barbarians hogging all the wi-fi bandwidth?

Meanwhile, on a much brighter note, the SCMP’s ‘Lai See’ column mentions a new participant in the Occupy Central movement: courier company SF Express. The trucks and delivery boys often cheekily help themselves to a lane at the bottom of Wyndham Street to sort out all their boxes and packages. Sure enough, at 8.30 this morning they were doing just that… 

And just a few yards up the hill, Watson’s Your Personal Store – part of property tycoon Li Ka-shing’s empire – was colonizing space on both road and sidewalk in the course of distributing dozens of carboys of drinking water.

These daily events are good corporate citizenship at its finest. The firms are using public areas for purposes that are at least vaguely productive; the courier company ensures (I’m guessing) that Hong Kong’s brokerages get a ready supply of IPO prospectuses, while the retailer keeps the city’s industrious office workers hydrated every day. More to the point, they are denying space to two of the Big Lychee’s greatest afflictions. Without these firms’ presence, we would see chauffeur-driven, eight-seat Alphard luxury vans illegally parking at the roadside, and one of the previous night’s Lan Kwai Fong drunks lying comatose in his own vomit on the sidewalk. I nominate SF Express and Watsons for a Gold Bauhinia Award.


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6 Responses to The great clusters-of-employees-from-the-same-country menace reconsidered

  1. PropertyDeveloper says:

    We may be yokels out in the sticks, but we beat you urbanites hands down on the finer points of occupying space. The following tips and tricks are provided, for a limited period only, without charge.

    Recourse to a mob, especially one carrying stout sticks, should only be contemplated if all else fails. Also, civil servants need to be on-side: while allowing them to throw rubbish, hawk and spit and relieve themselves goes without saying, it must be rcognised that they are human beings as well, and require plenty of food and drink, parking facilities, peaceful shade for sleep, the right to pick through rubbish on a first come first served basis, and of course the obligatory red packets and exclusive access to lucrative sub-contracting jobs and property market information.

    Only the amateurs use heavy flower-pots, automatic sprinklers, strategically parked vehicles, cc cameras, rose bushes, man traps or packs of semi-wild dogs. Water hoses are not recommended, unless resembling a bumpkin is deliberate.

  2. maugrim says:

    This problem extends to even ordinary footpaths, where a shop’s area devoted to goods for sale magically includes any number of metres out the front. Areas like Kennedy Town are frustrating to drive through as at any turn, a lane will be blocked by palettes sitting around, let alone Alphards taking up a lane while the wife ducks in to Cafe de Coral. The overall message is ‘fuck you, I have something to do’. Im starting to sound like Raymonde Sacklyn lol

  3. Aghast says:

    Nice use of the word ‘carboys’

  4. PropertyDeveloper says:

    maugrim, The shop owners have a time-honoured arrangement with the department responsible: the FEHD only inspects outside peak hours, the shop owners consent to take their things in for 10 minutes while the FEHD photographs the empty space, and everyone’s happy.

  5. Stephen says:

    I can remember a time (Colonial or Silly Old Tung?) when overzealous FEHD job-worth would clear a Knutsford Terrace or a Sai Kung seafront of outside tables and chairs in a heartbeat usually under the pretext of some missing license or other. As we all know the Big Lychee is big on licenses.

    Of course Mr. Li’s waterboys could, like the newspaper boys, do the deliveries in the wee small hours so they don’t ‘Occupy Central’ – albeit only Alphard’s corner.

  6. Could it be that Watson’s Water – a Li Ka-Shing company – can’t afford to rent sufficient space in one of Li Ka-Shing’s buildings at the exorbitant rents he charges to perform their work under cover?

    And by the way, maugrim, that’s pallets, not palettes – unless you were striving for an artistic impression.

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