The week ends on a mildly amusing note, as public bickering breaks out among several Hong Kong property empires. Companies under Robert Ng’s Sino group and Robert Kuok’s Kerry group are taking legal action against the Town Planning Board’s decision to let the Cheng family’s New World upgrade and expand the Avenue of Stars promenade on the Tsimshatsui waterfront. (The Standard mentions the tycoons by name; the Kuok-owned South China Morning Post keeps it corporate.)
The two complainants are miffed by the project’s impact on trees, aesthetics, pedestrian access, air quality and parking arrangements, as well as the rushed and suspect manner of the decision. These echo previous criticisms by politicians and activists. But the landlords are probably not – you will be amazed to hear – driven by public interest.
The Sino-owned Tsim Sha Tsui Centre mall/office complex and the Kerry-owned Shangri-La Hotel overlook the proposed extended Avenue of Stars, and their awe-inspiring views of the pristine, jewel-like Victoria Harbour will suffer, at least a bit. Perhaps a bigger concern for them is the flow of what the industry calls ‘quality traffic’ – otherwise known as ‘moneyed morons willing to buy overpriced tat’. New World has its own properties in the vicinity and could find devious means to funnel the tourist hordes into its own retail space. Last but probably not least, members of this tycoon caste are not above being jealous and nasty towards one another. The Singaporean/Malaysian/Hong Kong origins of the Ng/Kuok/Cheng clans may even add extra spice to any existing rivalry and bitterness.
The legal action mentions ‘unfairness’, which gives us a clue about what is going on. The Sino/Kerry people are possibly vexed that New World – whose boss broke ranks to back CY Leung rather than tycoon-favourite Henry Tang in the 2012 Chief Executive ‘election’ – got a free lunch here. Or, more to the point, they did not. Recall the other developers’ whining in 1999 when Li Ka-shing’s son Richard got the Cyberport ‘free public wealth gift handout rip-off boondoggle’. And they did not. Funny how cartel members freak out the most when they are left out of the collusion; the rest of the Hong Kong populace and economy just take it on the chin 24/7, decade after decade.
Right-minded people will surely think that the ideal outcome would be for all involved in this squabble to come out of it in worse shape, and preferably suffer horrible and lingering losses of face and fortune in the process. I declare the weekend open with the exquisite thought that, with Hong Kong’s parasitical tourism sector collapsing in on its own greed and short-sightedness, they could all end up losers.
Extreme Snacks Alert… In a fragrant Nepalese store (Queens Rd W, opposite the old Wanchai Market), appropriately near the Dhoom cookies, you will find pickled lapsi. Think of hua mui, the sour salted plums that you get in 7-Eleven or (illustrated below) 759. Except they look like especially evil hua mui on steroids…
But that would be an understatement. It starts with a sudden hit of plasticky/garlic/gasoline – that’s hing. That’s immediately followed by the intense acidic saltiness of regular hua mui frothing and zapping through your tongue-synapses. Then the chili kicks in, and you start frenziedly banging your head against the wall. The weird part of these explosively wince-inducing psychopath-candy things – both in Hong Kong and Nepal – is that their biggest fans appear to be… schoolgirls. There must be an explanation. (More here and here.)