All right-thinking people drool in gleeful anticipation as the long-awaited bribery trial of property tycoons Thomas and Raymond Kwok and ex-bureaucrat Rafael Hui begins. Reporters were lining up outside the court before daybreak today. We want a public execution, and we want it now. So far, all we have is lists of expensive lawyers flying in from London. The prosecution has lined up an impressive-sounding 82 witnesses. Fingers crossed.
If Thomas ‘devout Christian’ Kwok ends up with a prison haircut, will we be able to confirm the rumour about his ear deformity?
Meanwhile, back in Poo-Poo Land…
Someone sends parcels of what seems to be excrement to Commerce Secretary Greg So, the minister who has managed, despite intense competition, to become probably the most unpopular member of the government. Under normal circumstances, decent civilized people would recoil in instant disgust at the very idea of mailing faeces to someone. But circumstances are not normal, and we feel little surprise at all – except maybe to wonder why it hadn’t happened sooner. We simply sit back and ask: will this idiot get the message now?
The Great Mongkok Mainland Toddler Pee-Pee/Poo-Poo Horror of April 2014 continues to grip the world’s imagination. In Hong Kong, the most outspoken protestors fixate on the uncivilized soiling of the street. The vividness of the imagery is obviously tempting, but it distracts from the far greater ongoing harm to quality of life that it’s supposed to symbolize. (Incidentally, are overhead welders who spray sparks all over the sidewalk any less of a public hazard?)
Overseas, the media tend to portray it as a funny-scatological story with a serious political-cultural angle, in which a sophisticated colonial-housetrained city gets inundated by a cruder Communist-reared peasantry and lashes out as a way to compensate for the invaders’ relative wealth. (The latest, from the New Yorker, is a rough example.) We are overloaded with stereotypes here, from benign British rule to a newly resurgent China. To put it in perspective following the recent GDP-at-PPP excitement: the average Mainlander is as (un)rich as the average Peruvian.
The Legislative Council, of all places, offers a voice of quiet reason. Partially, at least. It blathers on a bit unquestioningly about the supposed economic benefits of Mainland tourists. But it also presents hard data to back up claims of social costs. The number of cosmetics outlets in Hong Kong exploded by 1,500% in the last 10 years, while the number of shops selling books and stationery shrank by 25%. Two pie charts show Hongkongers’ share of retail expenditure in their own city falling from 80% to 60%; with little extra space being built during the period, these stats quantify the physical displacement we see and feel around us. Ditto for the MTR, etc.
The South China Morning Post’s headline says ‘Government urged to consider social impact of visitors’. What it should have said is ‘Government disastrously failed to consider…’.
How many more ‘presents’ does Greg So need?