Hell is a HOPSCA concept in Hainan

Warning: Readers are advised to have an air-motion discomfort receptacle handy before proceeding…

You might have missed it. Whoever wrote the copy certainly hoped we all missed it. But it did not escape my attention, and I filched it and filed it under ‘Grotesque’. It is page 7 of the Standard on February 5…


Landlord Allan Zeman teams up with ‘Dr’ Ken Chu, boss of the Mission Hills golf complex over the border, and actress Miriam Yeung, star of such artistic achievements as Love in the Buff, to bring you something called Centreville in Hainan…


It is more than just a resort. It is a project of outdated, vacuous clichés, cynicism, blatant opportunism and, we suspect/hope, a portent of the end of an era – a time when crassness, greed and excess collapse in on themselves. (We might note here that Hong Kong’s Age of Disneyland/Tourism/Shopping Wretchedness finally seems to be passing.)

Among other things, you have to wonder just how much more Zeman can wring out of the ‘Lan Kwai Fong’ theme – the original now being a hub of overpriced tacky pseudo-bars along streets full of vomiting teenagers and asylum-seeking drug-dealers…


I mean – is there a single illiterate, cave-dwelling, foot-binding, iodine-deficient, ragged peasant left in the remotest corners of Gansu or Guizhou who has never seen, and will still be impressed by, dancing fountains…


And is this the right time to open a mall the size of Lantau full of the dreary Exclusive Luxury Designer Brand Label outlets, just when the planet is so stuffed full of this junk it’s gagging on it…


And then everything starts to go seriously, horribly, downhill…


‘Dr’ Ken Chu is a member of the CPPCC, a meaningless Chinese Communist Party pat on the head for shoe-shiners. Basically, anyone who wants to do this scale of business on the Mainland has to kowtow. This is a culture where there are no bounds to obsequiousness – it cannot be too ludicrous. Ritual self-humiliation is taken as a sign of loyalty. You have an insatiable lust for money at any cost in terms of self-respect? You need stamps of approval from Beijing? Belt and Road teddy bears coming up.

Desperation and tastelessness combine to create unwitting surrealism…


On the subject of the surreal… The idea that someone could write an interesting book on the tragic mental sickness known as golf sounds bizarre. But Dan Washburn pulled it off with his magnificent Forbidden Game. In it, he describes a vast Mission Hills mega-project starting up in Hainan comprising 22 golf courses. Local families lose their land, though a few make small fortunes setting up stores selling noodles to the thousands of labourers toiling away digging bunkers and fairways and bogeys and all the rest of it. But, in an uncharacteristic fit of common sense, Beijing bans construction of golf courses, and the reader is left wondering what will become of this half-finished monstrosity.

Of course, the Zeman-‘Dr’ Chu Centreville Theme Hub Zone could be a different Mission Hills multi-course complex in Hainan. But assuming it’s the same one, it’s an interesting twist at the end of the story…


These golf facilities were not supposed to be there. The politics-business murk is par for the course (haha) in what may be the twilight of China’s Leninist kleptocracy. The golf thing is inevitably wrapped up in corruption. To get around the prohibition, the sprawling greens masquerade as parks or sports complexes and are in turn covers for development of luxury villas that end up being sold to the same Beijing officials who banned golf in the first place. (See Washburn’s 2010 FT piece here, and more here.)

So God knows what the Zeman-‘Dr’ Chu-Love in the Buff Concept is really about. All we can say is that it is too dazzlingly putrid to let pass unnoticed in a 10-day-ago issue of the Standard. And maybe historians will find that it merits a footnote when they come to assess the Fishball Riot Era – because all this stuff is connected.


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16 Responses to Hell is a HOPSCA concept in Hainan

  1. Joe Blow says:

    “Dr” Semen doesn’t seem to be aging very well. Is he sick ?

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    You lost me at “The accent on the latest Korean brands…”
    Note: Centreville is a Virginia town and former strategic railroad hub in which several American Civil War battles were fought nearby…

  3. Semen always looked like Dr Evil. But now he’s the bad comic imitation on YouTube, a lost has-been geriatric, clinging to all sorts of horrors.

    Please never under any circumstances re-run that pic of him and Regina Ip in the same frame. It causes night sweats.

  4. Rumour-monger says:

    Isn’t “Dr” Ken Chu the eldest sprog of the late unlamented David Chu, billionaire slimeball & CCP shoe-shiner who was rumoured to have ordered the assassination of a Mission Hills investor who’d sued him? The guy was shot in the head while having his congee at Luk Yu Teahouse in Stanley Street, if memory serves.

  5. Stephen says:

    This was a bit of a shock to the system ! I was expecting some post ‘Fishball Riot’ droning on but no a full frontal ‘Semen’ in all its repulsive infamy …

  6. reductio says:

    Zemann is not the best looking guy around, but so what? He’s a successful self-made man in a very competitive industry. Good luck to him. Thank God Hong Kong has people like him who have the guts to dream big. Could the commentators who write here do half of what he’s done? I don’t think so. Bravo to Zemann for thinking outside the box and daring to be different. ( Allan, I don’t think I can keep this up much longer, I’m feeling a bit queasy. Can I have the cheque now?)

  7. I felt a bit queasy reading reductio, unti! the last paragraph.

    Do you still have that Photoshop job you did of Semen in a Mounties uniform, his “national minority outfit” for the National People’s Congress?

    Every little helps.

  8. reductio says:

    Has anyone else noticed the curious facial expression and body language of Zemann in the second picture? It bears an uncanny likeness to a crucifixion. Which is what’s going to happen to him in Centreville the way the Chinese economy is going.

  9. LRE says:

    @reductio/Joe Blow/Enid Blyton

    Au contraire! Semen has the looks of a movie star:
    Max Schreck in the 1922 classic Nosferatu, to be exact.

  10. Sojourner says:

    One does not simply walk into Mordor …

    Instead one can take a budget flight via Hainan Airlines, and if there are any mishaps, you’ll be up accommodated overnight in comfortable and salubrious surroundings:


    Certainly an aesthetic and intellectual improvement on the hellhole Zeman et al are inflicting on an innocent island that has done them no harm.

  11. reductio says:

    @LRE et al

    Ha, ha. All great stuff. This is such a good day at the Big Lychee. Thanks Allan.

  12. Gretchen Chen says:

    These have been a tough few years for ‘Uncle Alan’ (wink wink). First he built the tower in LKF, but the people are not coming anymore. Macau is tanking big time. He was booted out of Ocean Park and now he finds that nobody is taking him serious anymore: probably his greatest fear.

  13. All the “Father of Lan Kwai Fong” bullshit over Semen ignores the fact that the title really belongs to the late Gordon Huthart. Without his initial vision, there would have been no LKF for Allen to develop, Semen’s brilliance was to combine that vision with obsequious shoeshining in the right quarters.

  14. Hermes says:

    “I mean – is there a single illiterate, cave-dwelling, foot-binding, iodine-deficient, ragged peasant left in the remotest corners of Gansu or Guizhou who has never seen, and will still be impressed by, dancing fountains…” – I was recently in Xian and the hordes of domestic tourists were completely entranced by the fountain display at the Big Goose Pagoda.

    “And is this the right time to open a mall the size of Lantau full of the dreary Exclusive Luxury Designer Brand Label outlets, just when the planet is so stuffed full of this junk it’s gagging on it…” – There may already be millions of designer bags in China but I guess until every last tuhao in China can afford a new LV there will still be demand. Also the established rich and fuerdai will likely buy a new design every season.

    “the tragic mental sickness known as golf” – brilliant!

  15. Qian Jin says:

    I’m surprised Hemmers and most of his followers are not welcoming this Hainan mega-development? It will surely help to keep locxxxs , (sorry) “them” away from Hong Kong’s crowded streets.These can now be reserved for colonial flag-waving and brick-lobbing separatists and a handful of “innocent” book dealers carrying multiple passports.

  16. RhZ says:

    @Qian Jin

    Ah, logically-challenged as usual. Are you arguing that there are simply no other tourism opportunities throughout the Mainland, so that this development will attract all the Mainland tourism attention? How is it that Hong Kong should suffer from so many Mainland tourists despite the existence of the Big Goose Pagoda (which I have been to and watched for about two minutes before wandering off in search of cold beer, or at least something even mildly interesting)?

    Let me take you through the logic, slowly, so you can understand:

    1. Does Hainan provide milk and milk powder free of communist-party taint?
    2. Does Hainan provide gold items free from communist-party taxes, both explicit and implicit?
    3. Does Hainan provide food free from lead or mercury, as certified by a nominally-trustworthy organization, i.e. most certainly not the communist party?

    If the answers to these questions are a resounding ‘no’, then Hong Kong doesn’t need to worry about losing any of its precious mainland tourists.

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