Signs of the times

The Hong Kong government is determined to establish, and apparently believe, its own narrative of the Chinese New Year Mongkok Fishball Riot. Officials are now loudly claiming that the Food and Environmental Hygiene inspectors sent to the area that night did not take any actual enforcement action against the unlicensed food hawkers – the implication being that the subsequent violence was unprovoked. If such details seem petty, perhaps that’s the whole point: the more we zero in on little things, the less we look at the bigger picture.

SCMP-LauSiuKaiPredictably, the government does not want any sort of independent inquiry. Pro-Beijing think-tank guy Lau Siu-kai rather guilelessly explains that it would open a Pandora’s box. (He even wonders whether the administration is not just incapable of managing rock-throwing youths on the street, but of managing the outcome of an inquiry into said youths. The South China Morning Post article, drawing on colonial experience, also offers a label for those perplexed about how to term the riot/unrest/disturbance: a ‘Communist-initiated confrontation’, which sounds about right from a big-picture viewpoint.)

Lau is correct. Treating the disturbances as a symptom of broader and deeper problems would put the spotlight on too many examples of bad governance to list (inequality, unaffordable housing, the invasion of Mainland shoppers, broken promises on democracy, the abduction of book publishers, an education system designed to fail most students, and an arrogant, contemptuous ruling elite – just for starters).

Instead, a police review of the events will meticulously count the exact number of bricks torn up from the sidewalk, the goriest descriptions of each and every officer’s injuries and no doubt an estimate of the cost in millions of taxpayer dollars. The burning questions will demand a tight focus on rioting. Should rioters be banned from wearing masks? But what if they have flu? Should the cops be better armed? Should they use tear gas or pepper spray? Should their uniforms be blue or black? Don’t take your eyes off those few hours of mayhem.

Even the Chinese Communist Party identifies reasons for unrest in the Mainland: it’s invariably down to evil foreign hostile forces, but at least they don’t expect anyone to imagine it just spontaneously happens. To the Hong Kong government, it is a matter of EJ-Ambrosehonour to insist that the outbreak of violence occurred in isolation, for no reason other than wickedness. Or maybe supernatural forces. Former Security Secretary and devout Christian Ambrose Lee labels the rioters ‘beasts’, as in possession by demons.

Anyone attempting to see the riot in any sort of wider context is justifying or excusing or glamorizing violence. If there was no reason for the unrest, the government is obviously blameless – and equally obviously, it won’t happen again. Yup.

Far, far away from Mongkok – in Pacific Place Mall – a temporary but ever-so high-class retail outlet has sprung up, under the name Caviar House & Prunier. (Not sure what sturgeon roe have to do with prunes, other than being roughly the same colour. Something to ponder.) When I passed, the salesman was patiently explaining the wondrousness of the little fish eggs to a suitably gullible-looking couple who had that fuerdai look about them. The price list included a 1-kilo tin going for $166,000…


But that’s Hong Kong dollars, of course. No Food and Environmental Hygiene enforcement here, either.

At home, I am brought back down to Earth by a leaflet in my mailbox. It is from the exquisitely named Easy Billion Finance….


Even more delightfully, they proudly announce that they are a ‘Caring Company’. And who am I to doubt them?

Essentially, they are offering 2nd mortgages, a type of loan that goes by various other names – such as 3rd mortgages, 4th mortgages, 5th mortgages, etc. Like a person using his Visa Card to pay off his MasterCard, or Li Keqiang getting local governments to roll over debt to spend yet more on pointless infrastructure, this is a sign of extreme dimwittedness and impending doom. Yes, more impending doom.

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13 Responses to Signs of the times

  1. Corrianderphilanderer says:

    Only those with a doctor’s note certifying a respiratory infection should be allowed to wear a mask when protesting government incompetence.

  2. bob the builder says:

    off topic but a great headline…..

    Australian police discovered billions of Hong Kong dollars worth of methamphetamine hidden inside a shipment of bras, part of what they said was the country’s biggest ever drugs bust.

    bras…bust….boom boom

  3. Regislea says:

    Prunier was a well-known seafood restaurant in London. I ate there in the early 70s. My credit card is still smouldering!

    It now seems to have morphed into this chain – there is a branch at Heathrow Airport – need I say more?

    I quote from the website:

    “Caviar House and Prunier is . . . subtle, not needing to shout from the rooftops or make overblown gestures . . .”

    So perfect for Hong Kong then.

  4. Qian Jin says:

    @ (ban on masks).”But what if they have flu? ”

    Then they shouldn’t be out spreading their germs around. Even the broken bricks will have contaminated snot on them if they haven’t washed their hands before they prised them from the pavement.

  5. Haddock says:

    Another great headline now on the rthk news website

    ‘Serena pulls out of Qatar with flu’

  6. pd says:

    Beware of what we in the trade call false friends.

  7. Headache says:

    Deplore the violence, shoot the protesters.

    Meanwhile, China installs missiles on one of its South China Sea reclamations.

    Nothing but a bigger, better-resourced North Korea.

  8. Qian Jin says:

    @Haddock : ‘Serena pulls out of Qatar with flu’

    That could have been simplified as ‘Serena pulls out from catarrh’

  9. Red Dragon says:

    Good, solid post again, Hemmers.

    I do think, however, you should be more careful about the links you provide.

    That article about “fuerdai” made me lose my lunch. Shame on you!

    By the by, isn’t Ambrose Lee a complete tosser?

  10. Cassowary says:

    The government remembers that the riots of ’67 turned the population decisively against the CCP, squelched the anti-colonial movement into embarrassed mumbling, and bought the Brits another 30 years of legitimacy. They’re trying to pull off the same trick, in reverse. Rioters bad. Law and order good.

    They forget the part where the Brits had good reason to worry about their continued survival and therefore had an interest in finding out what went wrong, instead of sweeping it all under the carpet. Insofar as they’re attempting to replicate the British “defuse tensions with social policy” strategy, they’re stuck with half-measures and lame gestures. You can’t pull off a welfare state expansion of Maclehosian proportions when you’re held captive by vested interests.

  11. Knownot says:

    From today’s post:
    “To the Hong Kong government, it is a matter of honour to insist that [the violence occurred] for no reason other than wickedness.”

    Two days ago, quoted from Radio Free Asia:
    “But if we don’t agree with their behavior … then it can only be explained by a sort of irrational recklessness, or even a hysterical impulse to violence.”

    When I read the latter quote, I thought at first that the writer was being ironic, because what he describes is surely part of the explanation of what happened.

    Imagine (it’s easy if you try) a place called Paradise. There is no poverty or unemployment. There is only a moderate wealth gap between rich and poor (no need for greed and hunger). There is a safety net for those who are unable, for physical, mental, or emotional reasons, to work. The government is democratic; the laws are just. Paradise is at peace with its neighbours; there is no army and it has never known war (nothing to kill or die for).

    However, there are two football teams in Paradise and, every so often, the fans of Paradise City and Paradise United riot. The trigger is usually a referee’s decision, but sympathetic, educated Paradisians search for the underlying reasons, because they understand how stressful life can be in Paradise.

    They don’t understand: these people only need a trigger! They like to fight! They’re the mob!

    They like to fight and hurt people. When they are hurt themselves, they are proud of their ability to endure pain, and when they recover they are proud of their scars. They show their scars to the girls, who touch them and are thrilled. The men feel like lords.

    That’s the way of the world, any world you imagine. And if that’s what it’s like in Paradise, how much more so in Hong Kong, which is so far from Paradise!

  12. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    They can take our fishballs, but they can’t take our freedommmmm! Sorry, I’ll get my coat.

  13. LRE says:

    What could be behind the fishball debacle?

    @Gin Soaked Boy
    Surely it’s “They may take our freedom, but they’ll never take fishballs!”?

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