Maybe a funeral company could come in handy

Interesting juxtapositions in today’s Standard. First, a Malaysian funeral services company called Nirvana is listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Second, a Stan-FuneralProviderShenzhen security chief is suspected of pocketing billions from the city’s 2011 World Student Games boondoggle. Third, a Mainland official advises Macau to reduce its dependency on casinos for the good of the nation.

We can more or less join these dots. First, some surprising businesses raise capital in Hong Kong. Undertakers are arguably socially useful, but we have Japanese pachinko operators, whose sleazy quasi-gambling sunset industry is ever-so allegedly linked to gangsters. More to the point, there are the Macau casinos that some occasionally say are a screaming buy – not to mention backdoor listings by junket operations, which collect legally unenforceable gambling debts and are of course paragons of corporate social responsibility. Second, corruption on the Mainland is endemic and systemic, and authorities are clamping down strictly, if selectively. Third, dirty money, like that given as bribes, is laundered in Macau, in and around the city’s casinos.

In brief: Beijing is warning that Macau’s main source of revenue could decline as the Chinese leadership attempts to save Communist one-party rule from itself. (The collateral damage on some of the slimier companies listed in Hong Kong is essentially of amusement value.)

We are often told that Hong Kong ‘depends’ on Mainland shoppers/tourists, because there are so many of them. This is rubbish. The city was a happier place without the influx. If anything, it is the Mainland tourists who ‘depend’ on Hong Kong for lower-priced tacky luxury goods and non-poisonous milk powder and cosmetics. Strip the parasitical tourism industry away, and Hong Kong would flourish in a new era of affordable rents and less-crowded public space.

Not so Macau. Apart from some textiles sweatshops, fireworks factories and fishing, Macau in Portuguese colonial times had little apart from a few casinos (and at times gold smuggling). It was crumbling and quaint – or in plain English, third-world. Since acquiring the role of China’s only legal gambling/money-laundering hub, it has seen per-capita GDP surpass Switzerland’s. Ordinary people see little directly of the extra wealth; as in Hong Kong, rising rents and other inconveniences have if anything outweighed benefits from tourism. But their government has more to throw around. Meanwhile, Macau’s economy is more than ever a monoculture, where teenagers avoid college in order to go straight into employment as croupiers.

By warning that gambling receipts could fall (actually, continue falling) Beijing’s Li Fei is probably not addressing ordinary Macau people. China has just appointed Chief Executive Fernando Chui to a second term and approved a team with a mission to ensure the city remains docile in a way Hong Kong clearly is not. Li is more likely telling Macau’s casino and other tycoons (the ‘other’ families overlapping greatly with Chui and his top officials) to count their blessings, accept less obscene rake-offs from the gambling/rents thing, and spare a few crumbs to keep the masses subdued (mainly through subsidized housing and welfare).

The parallels with Hong Kong are not exact. Our economy is far bigger, and it is diversified well beyond the laundering of Mainland officials’ dirty money. Also, our population is politically aware and assertive. But we can probably assume that a clampdown on the recycling of illicit funds through Macau will apply to Hong Kong as well. And if Beijing is prepared to harm the Macau oligarchy’s interests for the greater good of ‘national security’, Hong Kong plutocrats would get the same treatment. This is no help to the pro-democracy cause – the ultimate threat to the motherland. But it reminds us that Hong Kong’s property hegemons enjoy their malevolent and overbearing influence over the city only for as long as the Chinese government sees a point to it.

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8 Responses to Maybe a funeral company could come in handy

  1. PD says:

    If the deluge of dirty yuan flooding into HK may also decelerate/peak/pause/slow down/not accelerate as quickly as before, might this not finally set off the long-awaited property crash?

    In other financial “news”, I was over-optimistic in predicting only 15 years of boredom as the remaining 160 or so more countries accept the yuan one by one. It now transpires that each Canadian province, US state, and — who knows — French region or German Land counts as a new entity, so no end is in sight.

  2. nulle says:

    you guys forgot a new industry in HK and Macau…real estate and stock speculation…that’s how HK and Macau gotten their wealth of the years…

    about the yuan, be cafeful what you wish for…now Abe is back on a QE-Abefinity….I hope Abe will print Yen by the trillions…China will eventually have to print money to counter Abe…

    the places that accept yuan so far because

    a) the PM of those countries (ie UK) wants to lick certain parts of Chinese President and Premier trying to gain favor
    b) China loans a boatload of money so the country build or embazzles (ie African dictatorships
    c) Trying to set up alternative funding to avoid the checks and balances of money laundering, embezzlement, etc. (ie South Africa, Russia, Brazil, India)
    d) Countries already infected and solded their real estate assets to PRC China (ie Greece, Italy)
    e) Countries either accept the yuan or face war, economic or military variety (ie Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Taiwan)
    f) Countries in a bind by either high debt loads, or temporially squeezed for cash (ie Japan and Russia)

  3. inspired says:

    what’s ‘sleazy’ about pachinko? real gamblers play mahjong…

  4. reductio says:


    …or Russian Roulette.

  5. Scotty Dotty says:

    Hooray! First non-Occupy post in ages

    A good reminder that Macau has the same problem as Hong Kong with assymetric wealth, a few elites pissing over the masses. Just like China now I think of it… see, there is a true unified Motherland!

  6. Monkey Reborn says:

    Constitutionalism and articles on “educating citizens about their constitutional rights” in mainland newspapers… what is going on?

    Possibility #1: this is the beginning of a new “Hundred Flowers Campaign” … sneakily designed to get self-identified “citizens” who are interested in their “rights” to reveal themselves to authorities … and (best case scenario) then be sent down to the countryside to join the the artists in “rural re-education”, or (worst case scenario, unless of course you are in need an organ transplant) generate a massive increase supply of spare, healthy, young organs onto the global organ transplant market … using the techniques pioneered by such leading scientific lights like Wang Lijun to “remove organs from living social deviants and thought criminals” and offer them “patriotic citizens in need” … or rich foreigners willing to pay top $ to fund military hospitals across China, and the patriotic doctors and nurses and administrators who dedicate their lives to serving the CCP, sorry i mean the glorious Chinese nation.

    Possibility #2: Mr. Xi Jinping has been playing all of his cards close to his chest to date… is there a possibility, that deep down, in his “secret heart” … he is politically liberal (relatively speaking) and respects his father’s principled stand against the military suppression of 4689 that led to his removal from top-level politics? who understands that the CCP must start to implement the Chinese constitution (an extremely liberal document, especially when compared to the present status quo) if it is to lead and remain the dominant influence in the ongoing massive political transformation in China? that his moves to consolidate power and go after the psycho-nasties in the party is in fact a prelude to a forthcoming liberalization in a post – 2017 world, when all the truly insane senior psycho-nasties (Bo, Zhou, Jiang, et al) are safely and securely located in Chinese prisons or out in the cold, politically?

    Let us pray (but not in an underground church, sorry i mean, an evil cult) that it is possibility #2 … for Chinese all over the world, but especially for us Hong Kongers… sorry i mean colonial running dogs who have been incapable of accepting the cultural superiority (evidenced by their massive wealth accumulation, usually at the expense of their own society and the environment) of our mainland brethren …

  7. Joe Blow says:

    Great Moments in Social Activism

    In Mongkok they are now really getting into Shopping Expeditions, organized and determined. Let’s follow suit all over town.

    The Boycotts: painful AND effective. And there are so many worthy targets. Let’s get this show on the road.

    Attack Of The Drones: I got this idea last Sunday nite at the frontline of the Lo Wung Road attack: A protestor drone was flying overhead. Like mosquitos on a hot day we can send drones to liven up and entertain solemn outdoor ceremonies: National Day, Bauhinia this-and-that, any ceremony involving CY Leung or other unworthies . Let’s make it festive with drones flying in and out, or swarms of drones. Up and down, in and out, overhead: so much more fun than standing around with crossed arms or throwing bananas. The drones can also carry paper banners with witty slogans and one-liners: “I want real universal suffrage” (boring but meaningful), “ CY Leung Fuck Off” (heartfelt), “Vagina Yip blows goats” (risqué but probably true) and so many other possibilities. Start thinking and be creative: endless fun for the whole family.

  8. Doug r says:

    I like the drones idea. With a huge cloud of drones, what can the police do? If they try to jam them they’ll just end up crashing on everybody’s head in the crowd.

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