The op-ed page of today’s South China Morning Post is largely dedicated to attacking evil foreigners plotting to hold the glorious motherland back…
American academic Tom Plate traces market jitters about the Yuan to the West and its ‘fast-buck investment jackals’ responsible for the Asian Financial Crisis. And local pro-Beijing polemicist Lau Nai-keung rants that George Soros’s attempts to short the currency will fail and takes another 800 or so words to insist that we must therefore ignore the guy. Both authors sound hurt that anyone might imagine that China’s economy is in any sort of trouble. Their tone suggests that we should believe everything is in fact fine, or, if it is not, it is the fault of the aforementioned barbarian devils.
What a joy, then, to have a third item on the page that is actually entertaining, and indeed very funny. Peter Kammerer hilariously suggests that Hong Kong’s divisions could be healed by having an annual celebration of the day in 1841 when the British seized the place. The idea presumably came to him just a few days ago, on January 26 – the 175th anniversary of the event, which he felt went unmarked (though, as we shall see, it did not).
The Hong Kong government – not to mention our sovereign overlords in Beijing – would of course find such a suggestion horrifying. The local authorities are currently eradicating colonial-era symbols from Post Office mailboxes and, and more to the point, are engaged in a struggle against freedom-loving residents to curtail the city’s pluralism and liberty. The official line on everything is relentlessly Mainland, Mainland, Mainland, and young people seeking to defend Hong Kong’s distinctive culture are viewed as enemies.
I am amazed that such a scurrilous article could make it through the SCMP’s in-house Patriotic Mass-Line Enforcement Committee. How could they miss the joke – the idea that we have an annual celebration of the British legal system, as a sort of light relief from the other 364 days a year when the government and its Communist Party minders are dismantling rule of law?
The author makes one slip-up. He believes that pro-colonial and anti-colonial camps switched positions in the city’s power structure after the handover in 1997…
It was not that simple. The Chinese government made a point of co-opting interests like the property tycoons and the rural Heung Yee Kuk – the very people who had previously most energetically shoe-shined the British. The local pro-Communist loyalists remained largely excluded from the post-1997 government.
Hong Kong’s tycoons and New Territories mafia now seem to be losing favour among China’s leaders, who have finally noticed that these ‘elites’ are dedicated purely to extreme avarice. But the traditional leftists are still mostly sidelined and taken for granted – used for United Front purposes as required, and kicked in the teeth for their faithfulness, as with Tsang Tak-sing, like beaten dogs that come back whimpering to their master. Beijing seems to have given up the idea of having ‘friends’ in Hong Kong.
Anyway – the 175th anniversary of the British acquisition of Hong Kong was in fact celebrated. I guess Peter Kammerer did not get an invitation to the Party No-one Came To. It probably helped if you lived in or around the neighbourhood where it all began…
A good time was not had by all.