Friday the 13th – and horror strikes with the quintessential Hong Kong outbreak-of-slime story. Lawyer Yip is desperate to get his precious princeling into an ‘elite’ school; friend Lam advises him to donate a quarter of a million bucks’ worth of Rolexes to an alumni charity auction, but in fact keeps the watches for himself.
What happens next? A judge of Solomon-like wisdom could declare that the pair deserve each other and put them in the same jail cell. If there were a fair and just god, they would both end up being found on a hillside, chopped into bits and stuffed into a Hello Kitty doll. But this is real life: most likely, the little boy will get into the oh-so elite institution, throw himself off the roof one day under pressure of homework, and expire after the principal calls a semi-trained volunteer ambulance crew to the scene to avoid bad press.
Meanwhile, the police suggest raising the fine for illegal parking. Could this be the same police force that doesn’t enforce the existing parking rules? Yes it could! But this is Christmas, so we’ll move onto the true malevolence here: legislator Chan Kam-lam, who says there are too few parking spaces “and drivers are forced to park illegally.” The correct phrase is of course “and drivers are forced to take the MTR.”
The problem is too many cars, and I have an elegant solution. Outsource enforcement to a private company who are incentivized with a slice of the fines. Order them to put wheel-clamps on illegally parked SUVs and Mercedes, and tow the cars away to a lot in the New Territories. Impound the vehicles for six months, and when the owners come to claim their chariots, extract a suitable fee and then shoot them.
At which point, rampaging vested-interest scum burst onto the scene. The Lantau Economic Development Alliance warns that Hong Kong is doomed if they are not allowed to turn some of our last remaining open space into more shopping malls – also known as ‘seize the opportunities of the Zhuhai bridge, or we’ll fall behind Macau and Hengqin in a quagmire of weak governance’.
‘Not enough shopping malls’ is landlord-speak for ‘too many tourists for a city this size to handle’. Again, I have the answer. The city dances with joy after damaging its ‘reputation as a duty-free port’ by imposing a 50% sales tax on all luxury and designer-label goods. At that level, it would be cheaper to fly up to Shanghai to buy Burberry scarves, skin-whitening ‘lift’ serum and Ralph Lauren jeans. A giant sucking sound would herald the mass departure of Abercrombie and Fitch, Apple, Massimo (who makes these names up?) Bonini and Patek Philippe (ditto). The sound of falling metal shutters would echo through the fast-emptying streets as Chow Sang Sang, Eu Yan Sang and all the other Blah-Blah-Sang gold and medicine chains close 90% of their outlets. And a cloud of dust would obscure the yellowish haze of the northern sky as a million locust-folk drag their suitcases-on-wheels back across the border for the last time.
Then all we need to do is inject botulism into a few samples of Darley toothpaste and Yakult in Sheung Shui, and we have our city back.
As ‘wrongly attributed to Voltaire’ put it, mankind will only be truly free when the body of the last Causeway Bay landlord has been strung up with the entrails of the last Mainland shopper.
As we all know, the retail rents that the Standard prays will forever soar kill off local outlets offering affordable and useful items to ordinary residents. What used to be the faded Wedding Card Street in Wanchai will become a ‘themed shopping mall’ after the ‘The Avenue’ development opens. The developers aren’t saying what this means, but we know: yet more tacky watch, handbag and shoe outlets. And it is hard to believe that the adjacent side-streets will carry on as if nothing had changed, because the overpriced-crap stores will attract overpriced-crap buyers, who will plod like zombies beyond the old Tung Lee Street in search of more brain-dead luxury-brand ‘shopping experience’. They will soon stumble upon Spring Garden Lane, which means bye-bye Shing Fat Coconut Company…
Purveyors of all manner of coconut product, as well as every spice you can think of, and no famous brands beyond such authentic exotica as ‘Lucky Kid’ lemon juice. The old man sits in a chair, urgently nodding you towards his wife guarding the till, while number-one son (50 if he’s a day) chops and dries cinnamon bark out the back. There’s obviously a classic Overseas-Chinese rags-to-semi-riches history here: the grandfather escaped depression-era poverty by trying his luck in Malaysia and ended up cornering the Wanchai coconut market in the 50s, after which his heir branched out into peppercorns, cardamom and big hefty lumps of turmeric – something like that. I declare the weekend open with advice to stock up on tamarind while you can: two years, and it’ll be full of Louis Vuitton.
“Not enough parking spaces.”
As a driver who only drives to work because one bus serves the entire Tai Tong corridor, I call complete bullpucky. I park on one of two roads in eastern Yuen Long that have no parking regulations (yet police still sporadically give tickets?) and otherwise always park in almost empty parking garages. If I can afford to obey the law on my salary, do owners of Mercedes and Porches really need to save that 15 dollars an hour (around here)? I’ve heard of “Penny saved, penny earned”, but not at the expense of laws and turning Yuen Long into the hell hole it is every weekend.
Weekend drivers be damned, that’s exactly when I DON’T want to take the car out.
The principal’s principle.
“Meanwhile, the police suggest raising the fine for illegal parking. Could this be the same police force that doesn’t enforce the existing parking rules?”
Ya, I had exactly the same thought.
Oh but the developers of “The Avenue” have spelt out what it all means: in the illustration on their advertising. The façade shops are helpfully annotated – “Watches, Watches, Jewelry, Jewelry, Fashion, Fashion, Tick Tock, Jewelry”
There’s a patisserie … which will be of the Laduree variety.
Result for the splendid URA!
I wonder if a certain Principal today is feeling a little uneasy given a) the blueprint to other parents as to the level of badgering that will give a prospective parent what they want and, b) the suspicion from others that there might be a little more to it than that.
Today’s post sums up so much about modern HK. Yes, the coconut shop and its environs are well worth a visit before it all goes. Around the corner is an outlet devoted to Godiva chocolates while another sells imported roasted French chickens at prices Olivers would baulk at. Plus c’est change.
Yup – the Spice shop and its resident cat are well worth a visit.
That’s a very depressing way to start the weekend Hemmers.
Because it’s all horribly, HORRIBLY true, especially what you wrote about the Avenue spelling the demise of every family-owned shop within a mile radius of that URA monstrosity.
Goldman Sachs vampire squids have nothing on the URA : hence it’s real title :
U – R – truly fucked all little home owner / shop owner – people .. ASSHOLES .
La propriété, c’est le vol !
The URA – one of Hong Kong’s nastiest creations. Nothing more than institutionalized theft dressed up as urban revitalization in communities that already possessed vitality – but sadly of the wrong sort!
Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that parking fines should increase to reflect ‘world city’ values, it should be more imperative to amend regulations that impose fines on: 1. Cars with a driver inside ( who at worst just get waived on); 2. Double parking (see Sunning Road in CWB); and 3. Tour coaches waiting to ferry their next load of mainland tourists to and from ‘The Avenue’.
Saw a license plate on a black minivan yesterday that read: BATMAN V
Underneath was the Bat-logo.
There is some hope for the future : watch this !
The police have a quota on parking tickets, and they make it every month. They try not to go over, because then that would bump up the quota. I know this because my wife and I were on the other side of a hedge of bamboo at Taimeituk when an experienced office was giving a rookie the game rules while writing tickets.
It seems that weekends and places like Taimeituk are a particular favourite, because the officers can make their quota in less than an single afternoon. They usually do this on the 2nd or 3rd weekend of the month, and thus if you want to park illegally in Taimeituk, do it on the end of the month. The police will usually rather just call your cellphone if you are blocking others (if you leave the number on your dash), rather than go over their quota.
J, True enough, but the greater Tai Mei Tuk hinterland is a no-go area for any sort of traffic control, with some of the “villagers” extorting money for parking on government land.
It is a very slim slice they must cut, the police. If they go to far south, then they risk ticketing someone who can raise a stink. To far into the villages, and they risk infringing on the time honoured role of the village chief, who divvies up the places to park or dump vehicles.