For what seems like ages now, the South China Morning Post has carried a succession of near-identical opinion pieces whining about how Hong Kong’s pro-establishment politicians are willing to ‘move on’ so Why Oh Why won’t the naughty bad pro-democrats do likewise? ‘Move on’ here means ‘forget the humiliating Legislative Council political reform vote fiasco bizarreness ever happened’. Just like ‘focus on the economy’ means ‘pretend the quality of governance is not crumbling away before our eyes’.
So it’s refreshing to see something a bit different today – specifically a column that includes the phrase ‘reactionary womb’. It’s all about Hong Kong nativists and their insistence on inventing enemies rather than knocking back a handful of soma and looking on the bright side of things.
Hong Kong nativism is intriguing as a political and youth sub-culture for the simple reason it is so gloriously deviant. According to the official plot of our story, Return to the Motherland, young Hong Kong people are supposed to become more patriotic, Chinese and adoring of the Communist Party with each passing year. They are supposed to sing along during the national anthem, jump up and down in excitement about the opportunities presented by ‘One Belt One Road’, and take part in every Flag Raising Ceremony cum Extravaganza with breathless passion. (What results if a Flag Raising Ceremony cum Extravaganza takes place in close proximity to a reactionary womb? Eeewww. Never mind.)
And the kids have gone shockingly, hilariously off-script. To put it in Singaporean terms, it’s as if the city-state spawned a thousand Amos Yees and had no mental institutions in which to incarcerate them. They wave the colonial flag and discuss ‘independence’. This violates not only political correctness but logic – until you realize the impact it must have on Chinese officials, to whom it is blasphemy of brain-exploding proportions. They are rude and aggressive to Mainland tourists and shoppers. This can look like bullying and is therefore reprehensible and probably counter-productive – except when you get up close to the cross-border inundation, when it seems more reasonable on grounds of community- and self-preservation, and arguably even necessary.
If this sounds a bit of a stretch, check out this video of a stroll down a Sheung Shui street. Dozens of people are occupying the whole sidewalk, unpacking, sorting and repacking frozen-for-now-hopefully meat, letting kids pee on the trees, and discarding piles of garbage. Laws being broken in this scene run from work permits to obstruction of the footpath to littering to serious health and hygiene issues. There are no cops, public health or immigration officials because – hey ‘integration’. There is no story in the SCMP about this because – hey ‘Mainland tourism’.
Calcutta is better-run than this. No-one is ‘inventing’ it. There is no ‘positive’ to focus on. Nativism is a reaction to something that’s going seriously wrong.
(Just thought of a ‘positive’! Somebody hacks into the HK Tourism Board website and swaps the video of happy grinning rickshaw drivers and noodle-pulling panda bears gazing over the harbour with the City of Squatting Sweaty Sidewalk Meat-Packers clip, which promptly ends up on prime-time BBC and CNN. An ongoing ‘tourism trough’ must be worth a few vermin-infested piles of rancid bloody cardboard up in Sheung Shui.)