Is the HKTV saga coming to some sort of head? The Liberal Party and its leader James Tien are joining the pro-democrats in demanding that the company be issued a broadcasting licence. The Liberals are the party of the establishment tycoons who wanted (and expected) the Chinese government to appoint their buddy Henry Tang Chief Executive last year. They are torn in several directions: between their dislike of eventual winner CY Leung, and their eagerness to shoe-shine Beijing; and between their natural preference to side with their own friends’ cartels, and their occasional fondness for cynical and opportunistic acts of more-or-less populism. (Tien has never really recovered from the immense frisson he enjoyed when he withdrew the Liberals’ support from the Article 23 national security bill in 2003 and found himself the people’s hero.)
In this case, the Liberals obviously cannot resist the chance to skewer the administration, already squirming in discomfort over its ill-judged decision to keep HKTV’s more-watchable pap off the screens. If the Liberals received direct orders from Beijing’s local officials to support CY, they wouldn’t be doing this, which suggests that the Liaison Office has not been too fussed about the possibility of HKTV getting a licence (though other elements in the Communist regime might be). Nor do the Liberals seem to be crossing their tycoon constituents too much, given signs that the successful establishment-linked licence applicants are themselves surprised that HKTV’s bid was rejected. So James can go populist.
Will it help force the government into granting that third licence? The above multi-triangulation could almost suggest that Beijing and the local tycoons, as well as Mr and Mrs Hong Kong couch potato, are all pushing CY to do just that. That said, it seems hard to believe that China’s locally based officials would be urging our beleaguered leader to lose face so horribly.
HKTV boss Ricky Wong, meanwhile, is comparing the government to Adolf Hitler – which tends to be the mark of someone who has given up hope. That’s assuming he still really wants the licence. I hate to indulge in obscure and desperate-sounding conspiracy theories, but if someone wanted to position himself as a Chief Executive candidate in a universal suffrage-lite election in 2017, Ricky Wong is illustrating a half-credible way to go about it.
And then it all starts to go downhill…
It is unlikely most people in Hong Kong think much about Sir David Tang these days, assuming they ever did. The entrepreneur, raconteur, wit, socialite, art collector, psoriasis-sufferer, Anglo-Sinophile and philanthropist capitalized on the 1920s retro thing with the China Club and Shanghai Tang back in the 90s or so, and then withdrew gracefully from the glare of public infatuation (or something). Unless, that is, you read the Financial Times’ weekend edition, in which case you will see his weekly column, in which he dispenses perhaps-questionable advice on etiquette.
By the standards of FT columns, it is, let’s say, OK. Better than the excruciatingly pretentious one by the gay trendy-magazine editor who seems to spend his whole life sitting in and raving about Japan Airlines’ first class, or the one packed with the world-weary introspections of the youth with a Dutch name (can’t recall the details). Still, I must have missed it a couple of weeks ago. I would guess it had a question from a reader that said something like:
“I often stay with dear friends in the country for the weekend. Everything about these visits is perfect except for one thing: their dog. The mutt stinks to high heaven, yaps incessantly and sticks its snout into my groin, leaving putrid mucus dripping from my clothing. How can I suggest to my kind hosts, without causing offense, that they restrain the revolting beast?”
To which Sir Tang would – I am guessing – have replied something like:
“You should be grateful to be the object of this adorable and defenceless creature’s affections. Anyone who does not realize that dogs are the one life-form superior to Homo sapiens, and who does not worship them and share their owners’ commitment to pandering to their every whim, is a Nazi who does not deserve to exist in this world.”
Which is pretty much the default reaction of the emotionally defective, anthropomorphic misfits who gather and tend to dozens of the brutes as if they were human orphans. Anyway, the voice of reason – from the Big Lychee, no less – subsequently appeared in the FT letters page and deserves the widest possible audience …
James Tien, dog-lovers… On the subject of tragic inadequates, the New Age Shop in Old Bailey Street has closed. Aside from a curious mention of how “We expats are no longer appropriate…” the founder-owner’s farewell message is interesting for its tone of regret at various changes in circumstances that necessitated the shop’s closure. This is an institution dedicated to the supernatural and metaphysical, to channeling, fortune-telling, and the power of crystals and, well, foreseeing the future. And they couldn’t even predict a rent increase in Soho in mid-2013.