A cold silly-season

When Hong Kong’s summer monsoon reaches its peak, current affairs wilt in the heat and humidity and the local media have nothing to report but such trivia as the missing pedigree poodle, the record-breaking Hello Kitty doll collection, and the passage through town of yet another Belgian cycling around the world. Now, it is February; a high pressure front brings freezing air streaming down from some Mongolian/Siberian-type hellhole, and the Big Lychee’s movers and shakers are too cold to do their usual thing. It is a mini-silly season, and in desperation, the newspapers need to present non-events as front-page blockbusters.

The Standard leads with an exciting exclusive scoop in which a billion-dollar dream turns to sawdust. I was walking along the street this morning, and I saw what looked like a box full of extremely rare and precious diamonds; but on closer inspection, it turned out to be a load of broken glass. Well – it didn’t happen to me, but change minor details and that’s the story. It was a fisherman, and he thought he had found a big chunk of ultra-valuable ‘super-rare agarwood’, but actually it was boring old camphor. Next time, maybe.

The Standard’s stable-mate, Sing Tao, leads with developer Sung Hung Kai slashing prices at its Riva residential project in glamorous Yuen Long. These two papers slant their reporting to suit the property tycoons, so they try to help SHKP boss Victor Lui puts a brave face on it. He insists current prices should not be directly compared with units released last year ‘as developers always price units similar to the market level’ (which is of course why we do directly compare them, determining in this case that they’re as much as 40% lower). He goes on to say that prices may be hiked due to better demand (and if you can’t manage that after such a hefty discount, you’ve got problems).

Meanwhile, the used-home market in the area is drying up, as owners continue to demand prices at or higher than those of the brand-new units (each of which will of course become ‘used’ upon sale – at some stage, denial will presumably turn into a stampede for the exits). Aficionados of tacky real-estate marketing will enjoy the classy visuals-and-music combination at the Riva’s website.

All right-minded people’s hearts skip a beat when they first see the Standard headline about an entry tax being ‘mooted’ to reduce the number of tourists flooding Hong Kong. ‘Mooted’ surely means by officials, or by some realistic and relatively enlightened corporate interests, or at least by a think-tank. Wackos don’t ‘moot’ things, do they? But sadly, with the real news-makers shivering in silence, the eccentrics and losers have been allowed onto the stage.

People Power’s suggested charge on visitors to keep the riffraff away is actually quite mild-mannered, as if they want an image-boost following their infantile-radical-tantrum attack on moderate pro-democrats last week. The mouth-frothing comes from the industry insiders, desperate to pack yet more shoppers into the Big Lychee’s overcrowded streets and neighbourhoods, perhaps getting nervous at public discontent at the way Mainland tourism makes them huge profits at everyone else’s expense.

The funny part is that a departure tax was ‘mooted’ quite seriously 10 year ago by then-Financial Secretary Antony Leung. With the budget due in a couple of weeks, and current Financial Secretary John Tsang constantly bleating about the need for a broader fiscal base, pro-dems could ask a pointed question: why are some officials so desperate to impose a sales tax on Hongkongers, yet so adamant that we mustn’t require the hordes of visitors to contribute anything?

From a land far away, some real news. In a city and at a time of officials who run in fear of accountability and whine pitifully about consensus rather than stand up and fight for principles, how inspiring it is to see our gallant friends the Danes reject the mewling of anthropomorphic child-adults over the death and disposal of Gerald the Inbred Giraffe.

In the Big Lychee, the authorities bow and scrape to deranged dog-lovers who insist on neutering and releasing stray canines, so the mutts can live productive lives as valued and respected members of the community, defecating and barking in an environment of sustainability, social inclusion and self-esteem. In Denmark, we see true leadership: mockery about the ‘Disneyfication of zoos’, swift and rightly sneering rejection of a ‘romantic image of animals as citizens’, and some gloriously healthy sarcasm about lions eating Brussel sprouts. A breath of fresh air, give or take a whiff of giraffe…


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11 Responses to A cold silly-season

  1. maugrim says:

    Is a subtext that at least with a ‘used’ flat, one actually gets to see how large it is from a practical/living point of view? People’s Power coming up with a good idea represents the void/vaccum that we have in HK, when few, if any good ideas come from the Government or major parties, they are too busy squabbling about other toys in the legislative pram. To have ideas implies care, thought, planning and concern. Its all too hard la, better building a civil works project somewhere.

    As to the Giraffe, they killed it and conducted an autopsy in front of kids, lol, sounds like Chinese pragmatism meeting the Buddhist view of the Giraffe’s karma. That said, the keeper had a point. In the West, particularly the US, we have gotten to the point where all animals have been Disneyfied. I was disappointed Mc Donalds didn’t have ‘Babe’ or ‘Nemo’ burger promotions.

  2. Joe Blow says:

    Just read a news snippet somewhere about a vigilant citizen in Vladivostok (no less) who single-handedly poisoned 1000 stray dogs in his city.

    Can we bring him over ?

  3. Stephen says:

    Regarding the departure tax. This was the lead story on TVB News last night so, like you, I actually thought it came from the usual suspects the Government listens to – Lion Rock Institute, DAB etc. But no it was People’s Power! So forget it.

    It’s difficult balancing act for CY because he has to covertly implement the CCP’s mandate of the mainlandization of Hong Kong, whilst keeping the locals in check – they gladly would support taxing the Mainlanders’. CY is trying to build a support base amongst the poor, a tried and tested method (Thaksin’s Thailand), in increasing his ballot box chances. Which when added to the DAB, NT Thugs and increasing mainland voters may, give the establishment a fighting chance of, winning against a moderate (love thy country, love thy party) Pro Dem (Audrey).

    Whether John will do anything other than his bland same old same old in his forthcoming budget is a given. Next year will be where it gets interesting and I could do without the frigid temperatures please.

  4. Gumshoe says:

    From my village experience it’s not the stray dogs that are the problem. The real problem is with dog owners who mercilessly beat their dogs, leave them outside in very low temps, and lock them in tiny cages even with the availability of a relatively large garden. Stray dogs lead a happy and, comparatively, quiet life I’ve found compared to the other poor mutts I described.

  5. Don’t we have our own dog poisoner already? On Bowen Road, if he’s still around.

  6. maugrim says:

    Stephen, a problem made worse for Leung when his FS says ‘cannot’ owing to a lack of revenue. Good luck in Leung reconciling the two.

  7. Ex Tax Payer says:

    Could we employ the Bowen Rd dog poisoner to dispose of all people power politicians – starting with the awful bald Albert Chan ?

    That would a lot to restore our morale during this cold season

  8. Sojourner says:

    There are far too many in-bred giraffes in Legco crying out for culling, and only some of them belong to People’s Power.

    One day when Hell freezes over Ex Tax Payer may also actually spit venom at pro-Beijing/tycoon politicians though I’m not holding my breath.

  9. jason says:

    @ ETP: Why single out ‘bald’ Albert Chan?
    He seems to be one of the more active, less useless politicians in Legco.
    His political stunts might be questionable at times, but most of his initiatives make sense.
    Unfortunately, he disqualified himself with this awful/racist anti-Philippines motion. In this point he went down to the level, we are used to by all these DAB legislators.

  10. Regislea says:

    As the giraffe in the Captain’s Bar said, “The highballs are on me.”

  11. @Ex Tax Payer – my respect for People Power was almost zero, but it’s gone up a notch since they proposed a tourist tax – and another notch when Allen Zeman quickly attacked the idea.

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