Another day in Asia’s testing-people’s-patience hub

The People Power proposal to impose an entry tax on the hordes visiting Hong Kong may or may not be a dud from an administrative point of view. But it has hit a surprisingly raw nerve, with no less than Chief Executive CY Leung rushing to reject the idea. His haste, and his weak arguments against such a levy, bring to mind the panicky, fire-fighting mode of previous governments, notably that of Tung Chee-hwa, who spent most of his time in office in a bunker, besieged by unfolding events. CY is made of more stolid stuff, but it is interesting to see that if prodded by a sufficiently sharp stick in the right place, he will react.

What is it about the fringe radical rabble’s cheap publicity-grabbing idea that so roused him? Any hint of animosity towards Mainland compatriots obviously offends his personal ethnic, cultural and of course political loyalties. And, being overly eager to prove his faithfulness to Beijing, he has to be seen to be so offended.

The issue of cross-border mass-tourism offers CY an opportunity to side with the ‘not-boycotting-him’ developer-landlords-retailers-parasite sector who benefit from the influx of visitors even more than they dislike him. But he is probably more concerned about kowtowing to the emperor than to the local feudal aristocrats. In 2003-04, in the wake of SARS, leading Hong Kong figures begged and pleaded with Beijing to allow millions of residents of wealthier Mainland cities to visit Hong Kong on an individual multiple-entry basis. CY himself could easily have been involved in the lobbying. They probably stressed that such a measure would go down well and earn the Chinese government the affection of the Hong Kong public. The idea of admitting the ‘gift’ is an ongoing disaster, and going back and asking Beijing to reverse everything, doesn’t appeal.

Then we have to ask whether, or to what extent, the cross-border visitor phenomenon has become a part of a deliberate initiative by China to integrate and tame a reluctant Hong Kong by swamping and ‘Mainlandizing’ the city. In other words, the fact that the tycoons make huge money out of it is just a coincidence. This is, of course, a conspiracy theory. But if you give people enough reasons to think a vast plot is afoot, they can only draw their own conclusions. For example…

Anyone who likes going to our country parks will have noticed that even our remote semi-wilderness is attracting a few Mainlanders (they seem to like the gazebo on the Disco Bay-Mui Wo trail, for example). We are now told that Lantau should be used for ‘development’ (which presumably means vast malls for Mainlanders, plus underground caverns for Honkongers to live in), so we should use the Mainland’s country parks instead. (We are also told that the Japan=Britain, China=Germany pre-World War I comparison is an absolute no-no. But the guy’s name is Kaiser, almost – that’s all I know.)

Look at past uprisings. On a scale of West Kowloon in 2005 at 4, National Education in 2012 at 6 and Article 23 in 2003 at 8, Mainland tourism so far looks like a 2 at best. The issue is a mish-mash, overlapping with things like housing shortages, bad planning and poor product safety over the border. Public frustration and anger are unfocussed, and there’s no sign of cohesive leadership or active popular resistance, let alone the all-important abandonment of government by fair-weather friends. But Kaiser and friends seem determined to make it into the next Big One, anyway.

Meanwhile, following yesterday’s shocking revelations that developer Sun Hung Kai is cutting prices at The Riva, Cheung Kong does the same at The Diva. Next up: Henderson Land slashes prices at The Biva, New World does it at The Liva, and Hang Lung follows at The Hiva. CK boss Justin Chiu explains that “developers are offering a wide range of discounts just to make home purchases easier amid soaring costs.” Got it: it’s not ‘price cuts’ it’s ‘making home purchases easier’.

If there were a psychopath among us, he would be really confused by now about who to beat to death – the cross-border shopper with 10 boxes of Yakult, the surveyor telling us to picnic henceforth in Hubei, or a lie-spewing property developer. Then along comes one Barton Lui. At a cost of HK$1 million in taxpayers’ money, he has been to the wretched-sounding Winter Olympics in the hitherto unheard-of Sochi, where he took part in a new sport called ‘skating in tight pants with hands clasped behind back while leaning forwards and thinking very hard about something’ (and lost, obviously). He’s whining about how we didn’t provide him with a personal doctor. So our psycho picks up the baseball bat and goes over to Ginger-Haired Lip-Gloss-and-Lycra Boy, and who does he find but Hong Kong Olympic Buffoon-Scion Timothy Fok? Where to start? It’s enough to send a psycho nuts.

The things you can do with the sweep of a pen

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15 Responses to Another day in Asia’s testing-people’s-patience hub

  1. maugrim says:

    “In other words, the fact that the tycoons make huge money out of it is just a coincidence”

    As is the fact that the Kowloon terminus of the XRL project has shops and apartments. Nothing to see here folks, move along. No mention was made of Regina’s comments yesterday. I’m sure she talked about ‘discrimination’ in a racial/cultural sense. You are correct about the mish-mash, however, what flame or spark will ignite all of these issues into one bonfire? There is after all a common root cause. As to Barton Lui, I can see his point. If you are going to spend $1m, at least make sure that he can do his best. Tim Fok and posse? Enough said.

  2. Joe Blow says:

    Why does spoiled-rich-kid, never-worked-a-day-in-my-life, Olympic chief Timmy Fok always looks like he is terminally constipated ? Maybe he should take up some sport.

  3. Sojourner says:

    Steady the Buffs, old chap!

    Far too many references from all and sundry (including my good self) to cullings, butcheriings, poisonings, and now baseball-bat bludegeonings over the last two days.

  4. Ex Tax Payer says:

    One of the advantages of being an EX tax payer ( i.e. retired) is that one does have time on one’s hand to wander round the back streets surrounding one’s high-rise rabbit hutch instead of rushing from air-conditioned office to another office, or the airport or the HK Club / FCC / posh restaurant.

    Thus one actually can spend serious time at street level instead of only touching street level for the few minutes it takes to get into a taxi or go underground to the MTR. (Walking to a bar in Lan Kwai Fong does not qualify as serious street level time , nor does taking the tram)

    It’s surprising what I see, looking at and sometimes talking to the real “Mr/ Ms Average people who make up 90% of HK and who will eventually decide our future if we have real universal suffrage. The guy digging up the road (what a horrible job) has the same vote as an investment banker.

    The tourist invasion , and the pollution, and the many other social ills really impact on Mr/Ms Average far more than on Mr Investment Banker – or CY and the Legco clowns, or top civil servants, or Kaiser Lau – and certainly more than LKS and his ilk.

    It may be a 2 scale mish-mash at the moment, but it’s bone dry tinder and it only takes a spark to turn it into forest fire scale 10

  5. CY himself told a group of HK business men over a year ago that he was CH Tung’s emissary to Beijing to get the personal visit scheme in place in 2003. May have been involved? No, he’s claimed it as his baby.

  6. Sojourner says:

    @ Ex Tax Payer …

    After taking a stab at you yesterday, I now feel obliged to at least acknowledge I am well-impressed by your post today. Well said!

  7. Grog says:

    Agree with ETP. Anyone who has lived here for a while will have seen how a minor dispute with a usually calm and tolerant local can rapidly escalate into a major confrontation as all the bottled up stresses of living in Hong Kong are ignited. Once that spreads, well, there could be rioting in the streets and people casting maths books into giant bonfires.

  8. reductio says:

    Here’s a spark that didn’t hit tinder: some little kid nearly being rammed by a mega-trolley on the MTR, as I saw last Friday. Train accelerates, suitcase does not and said kid nearly got whacked except that a passenger managed to stop it at the last moment. What could have happened was: kid injured, fight, police, more fights, mobile phone videos, Youtube videos, viral Youtube videos.

    Only a matter of time.

  9. reductio says:

    And lay off Barton. Anyone who can say this in this craptocracy of not-my-problem and general buck passing:

    ‘”Of course, I won’t totally blame my leg injuries as my skills are not good enough,” Lui said’

    Gets my vote.

  10. mumphLT says:

    It was interesting how fast CY got off his arse to quash the mere idea of a tax or duty on ‘tourists’ crossing the land borders – it rang very much of ‘Shit – the plebs will like that idea!’

    Though I have but a very ‘s’ SME I am familiar now with having customers who complain of hotel prices, rammed public transport and long waits to cross at LW / LMC etc.

    But of course those business people don’t matter…

  11. Sen says:

    Speaking of odd sporting chiefs, Have a look at what the IOA managed to find after being suspended for 2years for electing crooks. Hint; he is the brother of the Cricketing head honcho whose son in law may or may not be a crook (if only someone would charge him)

    http://static.ibnlive.in.com/ibnlive/pix/sitepix/02_2014/n-ramachandran-pti.jpg

  12. AHW says:

    Silly Barton – didn’t he get the memo that trips to the Olympics are not for HK athletes but jollies for the usual suspects (yes, Timothy Fok, that means you & your cronies). And no doubt having to actually go along and support Barton would have interfered with the fun.

  13. An elected Chief Executive who represented the Hong Kong people might consider it his duty to advise Beijing on why a tourist tax was necessary for Hong Kong to impose, and request them not to retaliate, rather than threatening retaliation from Beijing before they’ve even said a word on the matter.

  14. nulle says:

    I truly don’t mind having the HK entry-by-land (and sea) tax, I even welcomed Beijing to retailiate by slapping their entry tax on HK.

  15. Country Kin says:

    There is already a “tax” on visitors to the mainland. Do none of you have to bother with paying the extortionate visa fee?

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