Possibly as punishment for heinous sins committed in a previous life, I get an occasional unsolicited email from a publication called Gafencu. Named either after something trendy in Pinyin or a former Romanian diplomat, it declares itself to be aimed at ‘the most discerning men in Hong Kong and [almost as an afterthought] China’. The photos are stock guys-in-suits-clutching-cocktails/shiny-sports-cars/chandeliers stuff, and the fleeting impression I get when I press ‘delete’ is that of an attempt to produce a hip version of The Tatler. In other words, no-one actually reads it; it’s just there to relieve purveyors of inane junk of their advertising budgets. If it exists in physical form, it hides in shame behind Asian Golfer in dentists’ waiting rooms.
This month’s edition features the last refuge of a publication with no reason to live: a list of people who all deserve to be on a list. In this case, the ‘elite’ ‘movers and shakers’ of Hong Kong. The top 300 of them, no less. Now, it would be possible to draw up several hundred names of prominent figures who contribute to our city. I would have Lufsig the IKEA wolf-doll. I would include, via a bestowal of honorary citizenship, the guy – a possessor of authentic courage, I believe – who thought he could and would wing it as sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. Like this, but worse, and real; hideous and brilliant. And then there would be a parade of the Big Lychee’s unsung heroes, from trouble-makers to cartoonists to 7-Eleven staff, who battle in their own ways against the stupidity and dullness that threaten our civilization.
So I click on the link, and start at the beginning of the alphabet. Up pops a box of head-and-shoulder shots. And the first thing that leaps to my attention is… Ronald Arculli.
As I consign the thing to the trash bin, it feels as though my life has been extended by an extra 30 minutes.
One person in my list of Most Mighty and Magnificent Hongkongers would be the official who didn’t blink when Google asked for freebies in return for expanding its planned data centre here. No doubt Google would have said how popular their search-engine is, and how hip-and-trendy and freedom-loving and stock-price-rocketing the brand is, and how gee-whizz and high-tech such a facility would be. There was a time, under former Chief Executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang, when the government would have spontaneously wet itself with Disney-level excitement and promised Google anything it wanted. Oh, to strut around with such a glorious status symbol and win the admiration of our public and be the envy of deadly rivals like Singapore, Shanghai and Ordos!
A Google data centre is a huge building full of computers. It uses not only vast amounts of space but vast amounts of energy to power and cool the miles of racks of servers. As well as cheap land, a nearby hydro-electric plant offering cheap electricity and water is ideal. Such complexes belong in the Carolinas, Oregon, Chile and Finland. I like to think our newly enlightened, lateral-thinking, gutsy, self-confident official explained to Google that Hong Kong doesn’t have enough space for affordable housing, for old people’s homes, for student dorms, for playgrounds and for its extensive Yakult-for-locusts distribution and supply chain. “We don’t do Google-groveling,” he would have said. “That’s for losers. Do a search for ‘Taiwan, rivers, disused farmland’.” Apparently, we’re supposed to be grief-stricken. Now can we clear out the rest of the taxpayer-subsidized, space-hogging Science and Technology Park?