There is organic, gradual change. And then there is systematic rapid destruction. An example of the latter is the incessant tearing-down of authentic Hong Kong. Traditional residential neighbourhoods are being flattened and replaced with hotels and malls aimed at tourists. Old trees in streets are chopped down overnight. Some sort of ‘consultancy’ is suggesting scrapping trams in Central to free up space for (presumably) far more important Alphards and tour buses.
Now even our traditional grotty concrete wastes are under threat. Property cartel pillar New World and accommodating friends in government propose to ‘revitalize’ the Tsimshatsui waterfront. This once barren and soulless but inoffensive strip became Avenue of Stars, a tacky movie-themed pseudo-attraction. The cheap-looking statues (allegedly) of Bruce Lee and Anita Mui inexplicably draw swarms of Mainland tourists.
By ‘revitalizing’, the government means shutting the area off for years and putting more fake and ugly clutter in, so New World’s adjacent hotel can make more rent from yet more luxury retail outlets. (For an example of how charming it all is, consider that a proposed lame observation deck will be located at a romantic beauty spot called the Hung Hom bypass flyover.) An activist on the radio this morning described the plan as turning the waterfront and related public space from ‘50% for tourists’ to ‘100% for tourists’.
Not that many people will notice – it’s hardly the Louvre – but the HK Museum of Art is also being closed for several years for some sort of ‘revitalization’. So if the waterfront plan goes ahead, most of the southern tip of TST will be boarded off for the rest of the decade.
Interestingly, it is not just irrelevant uppity pain-in-the-ass taxpaying citizens who oppose the New World/Leisure and Cultural [sic] Services Dept vision for a utopia of non-stop tourists, concrete and luxury shops. The South China Morning Post reports that other businesses nearby, including the much-cherished Woodlands Restaurant in Wing On Plaza, hate the idea.
The LCSD predictably goes into ‘government knows best, public shut up’ mode and says it wants to ‘enhance cultural ambience’ and that current facilities must be replaced as they are aging (good job they’re not in charge of the pyramids or Notre Dame). Tellingly, they insist that the proposal ‘is not a property or commercial project’ and ‘complies with principles of openness and fairness’, which – without wishing to sound cynical or anything – suggests that this is a classic example of government-tycoon collusion. Specifically, it seems to be about turning Hong Kong public space into Mainland tourist space so one property giant can make more money.
A government that really put Hong Kong first would curb the whole parasitical Mainland (and non-Mainland) tourist/shopper influx, through selective sales taxes, visa restrictions, electric razor wire – whatever it took. This would free up space for breathing, and for a greater diversity of economic activities and opportunities. But that would hurt the big landlords and property players like New World, who were long ago co-opted by the Communist regime in Beijing and whose interests must apparently come before anyone else’s. It would also end or slow down the eradication of Hong Kong’s unique physical and visual features in favour of plasticky and anonymous Shanghai Pudong/Dubai Airport/Shenzhen cookie-cutter crappiness. And that, too, is looking more and more as if it is a real policy.
In the interests of fairness, a plug for another Indian restaurant on the same floor as Woodlands: Sangeetha…
Other food-related news: man who threw egg complains about not having egg.
Now I see why Derek Chan was complaining about the prison food.
I have to say that I always enjoy taking visiting friends on a stroll along the Avenue of Stars. Yes, there are a lot of mainland tourists, but it’s a smiling, festive atmosphere, unlike a death march through another shopping mall. It’s nice to see so many people from across the border getting being excited about Hong Kong’s legitimately excellent cinematic legacy. And I get a real frisson upon discovering that Siu Fong Fong and I have the same size hands.
I was most recently there only a few weeks ago, and was startled to discover that Chinese tourists still want to have their pictures taken with gweilos. In my experience, that novelty stopped being a thing in China at least 15 years ago. It’s kind of a sweet, unselfconscious throwback.
As for the proposed new development, I’m also appalled by the prospect of the waterfront being closed for several years, all for the benefit of one of our development vampires. I’d add only that an enhanced film-related attraction can only be something of a downer, in that it can’t avoid at least implicitly highlighting the atrophied state of the industry today.
You’ll never stop the quintessentially half-baked, yet patently sinister, schemes of that group of fourth-rate cretins who, for some reason, rejoice in regarding themselves as, the Hong Kong Civil Service. To be quite honest, I’d sooner this place were run by Sarah Palin and her family than by the clueless humanoids (King’s College, Hong Kong University, possibly a year or two at Stanford) that infest the Administrative Officer cadre.
And it’s not only the fabulous, fun-filled Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Mui Wo has for some time been in the throes of a so-called “improvement” project which involves apparently endless disruption and noise, and which, when completed, will result in a crappy, jerry-built pile of aesthetic offensiveness such as that which you so accurately describe. There will even be a “boardwalk”; how naff is that? But never mind, in ten years or so, when the whole thing “ages” and doubtless falls apart as a result of poor design and shoddy workmanship, the Government will be able to “improve” Mui Wo all over again.
Needless to say, the whole thing is entirely unnecessary and arises not so much from a desire to ameliorate the lot of most local residents, but from a desire to cram in ever more four-wheel drives and the bottle-blonde Australian women who propel them. This, in turn, helps satisfy (but will never sate) the greed of local “villagers” and their patriotic DAB representatives, the majority of whom profit mightily from renting or selling (generally illegally) their golden goose “village houses” to the said antipodeans and their ilk.
While the morons in the “relevant government departments” continue to collude with anti-social entities like the Heung Yee Kuk and the property cartel, there will be no end to this madness, with the result that Hong Kong will sooner rather than later evolve irrevocably into a tacky heap of concrete, ill-disguised by meretricious gimmicks. But, don’t worry, that won’t matter to Carrie and her kind. They’ll all be off, pockets bulging, to leafy Esher, or Toronto, or somewhere else where the people who run local government tend, more often than not, to have brains, and who, in any case, are accountable to the communities they serve.
We don’t have a hope in hell of avoiding this calamity, which makes your apparently inexhaustible, but clearly ebbing, optimism all the more admirable, Hemmers.
The kill-the-tram guy is a troll. He’s messing with us, and his goal may very well be to provoke a “save the tram” campaign. His last intentionally absurd submission to the Town Planning Board involved turning the PLA headquarters into a hotel.
As for TST, in theory the upgrade is a good idea. The current waterfront is a bit of tacky plastic slapped onto a drab municipal walkway. Compared to say, London’s South Bank, there’s just not a lot of there, there. I would love for the LCSD and FEHD to get over their irrational hatred outdoor dining and give us a waterfront where you could do that. Unfortunately, nobody believes that anything the government touches won’t become another Chow Tai Fook/Milk Powder wasteland. Sad.
Red Dragon most of those bottle blondes are Brits or Kiwi pilot wives. but shh don’t tell anyone. just blame the strayans.
fyi i see Hemmers favourite fake uni degree Quat has opened her mouth apparently.
“all corrupt HK officials are brought up by the British”
By the time the whole lot has been ‘revitalized’ the locusts will have left, the cars will be electric and we will be able to stroll on the promenade, breathing fresh air.
Red Dragon (or are you strawberry blonde ?): as a bottle-blonde, busty Australian myself, I resemble that remark.
@Cassowary: I think the idea of turning the PLA HQ into a hotel is an excellent one. It’s all about “location, location, location.” It took the PLA quite a while to eliminate all the bugs left behind by the Brits before they felt comfortable renaming it. I wonder if they got them all.
Moreover, the design of the former Prince of Wales Building was clearly based on an upturned gin bottle. Cheers!
The thing that puts me off going to Sangeetha is that they don’t serve beer or allow you to bring any in! How can one have a curry without beer?
You’re quite right to pick me up on my comment about Australian ladies and their big, black panzers. Much chastened, I would now like to extend that observation to Brits, Kiwis, and anyone else for that matter.
As for the apercu of the Hon. Professor Dame Elizabeth Quat QC FRS ARIBA TD JP, I’d only say that, as might be expected, she’s barking up the wrong tree. It’s not the corruption of high ranking Hong Kong civil servants that irks me; it’s their breathtaking stupidity.
She is quite right, of course, when stating the bleeding obvious that these buffoons learnt their tricks while shinning up the greasy pole in the colonial era. It will therefore no doubt please her to learn that I have always regarded the Hong Kong Civil Service Administrative Officer class as, by a country mile, the most egregious legacy of the British Empire.
Sad. But true.
Have you got your own blog? Is there anywhere else but here I can read your rants? First class stuff, love your writing, really made me chuckle :))