In an uncharacteristic display of hip n’ groovy, in-tune-with-the-kids lateral thinking, the Hong Kong Police decide to let people scribble with chalk on the wall of a government building without fear of arrest, incarceration, family separation or worse. The previous strategy – daring pro-democracy teenagers to treat the patch of gray concrete as Forbidden Fruit – was so obviously counterproductive even the cops (or someone higher up in officialdom) saw sense. The truth probably dawned when activist-wits started leaving boxes of chalk lying around in convenient locations.
At no stage following the Occupy-Umbrella events of late 2014 will anyone in government openly admit that policymakers have failed and a significant shift is now necessary. But we can already hear a hasty reshuffling of priorities behind closed doors. The education bureaucracy has quietly proposed ending certain subsidies to universities for accepting non-local (typically Mainland) students. This minor tweak could free up a few more course places for local students. More to the point it addresses a criticism young protestors can exploit against the authorities. Officials are also trying to appear conciliatory on constitutional reform. This includes pondering the ‘none of the above’ option for voters to reject every Chief Executive candidate on the ballot. And there is talk of a low-ish hurdle – support of one-eighth of the Nominating Committee – to take part in the preliminary Beijing-rigged race to get on the ballot.
So far, so lame. Barring a coup d’etat in Beijing, no serious concessions on 2016-17 election arrangements are possible. But that leaves plenty of scope for panicky Titanic deckchair-rearrangement Band-Aids in education, employment, housing, economic diversification, welfare and other areas in next week’s Policy Address. Indeed, it will be amusing (as reading Policy Addresses goes) to spot the clumsy attempts to mollify an angry – especially young – citizenry, inserted into the speech as afterthoughts. Identify 10 or more and you can win a special loan for 20-somethings to start up a new business in Qianhai.
The message will be: We won’t listen – until you Occupy the streets; then we will, but not much, as we’ve already forgotten those ‘We’ll Be Back’ banners and assume you’ll be happy with that and go away.
On the subject of amusement, I watched The Interview over the weekend. I expected it to be 75% puerile, gross, vulgar unfunniness; it was more like 50%. I was similarly delighted that the 5% level of halfway-thoughtful satire I anticipated occupied more like 10-15% of the film (according to my highly accurate objective method of quantifying these things). But it was clunky. Some sort of homo-erotic thing between the two lead characters kept cropping up. And an outburst of gratuitous gore (people biting each other’s fingers off) came towards the end for no obvious reason except, perhaps, because some Hollywood accountant decided the 15-24 male demographic needed it. I also saw Guardians of the Galaxy – hilariously stupid-and-proud-of-it pap, and far more enjoyable.