Tycoons don’t make money out of fishballs


Hong Kong’s valiant law enforcers round up armed, bomb-making, Viagra-chomping HK Indigenous terror suspects wallowing in tons of cash donated by sinister and mysterious sources. The theatrics are verging on comedy, but Asia Sentinel sees a logic in Chief Executive CY Leung’s obsessive need to attack and offend. If true, you could conclude that he has an interest in failing to calm things down.


Meanwhile, supporters of Hong Kong Localists’ confrontational tactics are vindicated as the Standard reports that the Mongkok Riot persuaded countless millions of tourists to stay away from Hong Kong over the recent Golden Week. However, the details don’t add up. The Fishball Revolution took place right in the middle of the Chinese New Year long weekend, well after visitors had booked their travel arrangements, and indeed after many had already checked into their hotels. Any fall in the number of arrivals would have happened anyway, riot or no riot. (Which is even better news!)

The South China Morning Post does a whole page on how Hong Kong can ‘bring back’ tourists. The assumption is that we lack them and need them. There is no discussion of what we mean by ‘tourists’ let alone any analysis of the costs and benefits of flooding the city with visitors who are mostly Mainland shoppers rather than sightseers.

My hunch is that the industry delivers few net benefits to most local people; for every new store that opens and new job that gets created, another store closes and another job is lost. In a city with a shortage of space and little unemployment, the tourism industry just displaces other economic activities. One sign is that while visitor numbers/retail sales SCMP-WhatNowincreased massively over the last 10 years, median household incomes hardly budged. The phenomenon raises rents and squeezes out retailers serving local consumers. The beneficiaries are mostly landlords (and luxury-purveying tenants), who of course are the core of the local tourism lobby.

Tourism in Hong Kong is like a weed that has taken over a garden and choked off the diverse plants that were previously there. Gullible onlookers believe vested interests’ claim that, because the sector visibly occupies so much space, we are dependent on it. In fact, the parasitical weed is dependent on the garden.

While it doesn’t dare question the wonderfulness of the sacred tourism industry, the SCMP feature does vaguely ask whether it should be about something other than mass-shopping by money-launderers and arbitrager-smugglers. The assumption is that Hong Kong needs ‘attractions’ and should imitate those of Macau (historic buildings) and Singapore (the ugly skyscrapers with a banana on top). HK Tourism Board boss Peter Lam’s property company allegedly demolished historic buildings in Guangzhou, so presumably he’s not into the heritage thing. We can expect more desperate fake plastic stuff like themed food trucks, lame sports events, Lantau spas and expansion of the ever-crappy Disneyland.

Mass-tourism is for poor countries with empty space and youngsters grateful for dead-end jobs. If Hong Kong’s tourism leeches, in their drooling short-term greed, have built too much hotel space, we can convert it to serviced apartments and help get a few rents down. And our government can ‘think out of the box’ and focus on making the city a nicer place for its own people, with the authentic sort of neighbourhoods, countryside, retail scene, street food, culture, historic sites and other amenities they want. Weirdly, it could actually lure overseas visitors, albeit not of the luxury shoppers/grocery smugglers variety. The biggest tourist attraction is the absence of tourist attractions.


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12 Responses to Tycoons don’t make money out of fishballs

  1. Big Al says:

    Just noticed a headline on SCMP website: “Brazil to fight Zika by sterilising male mosquitoes with gamma rays”. This is a BAD IDEA. Do they not remember what happened to Dr David Banner when he did this to himself?

  2. In the future, 30% of Hong Kong people will live in serviced apartments.

    The rest will live in tents.

    As for boutique hotels, we ought at least to able to defecate in the lobbies.

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    Ever see a seriously pissed off mozzy??? Yikes!
    If by “tourist” the HK “leadership” are always referring to mainland Chinese only, then already they’re starting in the negatives.
    Selfie seeking Yobos aside, there are heaps of Western and Asian visitors yearning for a taste of Chinese culture without having to make the dreadful dip into the mainland.
    Perhaps the HK tourism Tsars would like to hand off ALL Chinese culture matters to the nation of Taiwan? After all, they’re not talking about converting to Pinyin and simplified characters and they do have the Palace Museum!

  4. Stinkabore says:

    Actually Singaporeans (the cheeky few among them) have dubbed that “banana” structure atop the ugly skyscrapers the sanitary pad or the panty-liner, which is much more descriptive of its shape.

  5. Cassowary says:

    Insofar as it serves Leung to antagonize Hong Kong’s population, it’s that he can back the Liaison Office into a corner. Under President Xi’s Campaign of Paranoia, the one thing they will absolutely not contemplate is looking weak, so the more angry opposition Leung faces, the more they are forced to support him. They can’t quietly edge him off the stage because that would be Admitting Wrongdoing and Capitulating To China’s Enemies.

    Note how Mainland officials were silent for 2 or 3 days after the riot, and then they came out swinging. They must have spent 48 days going “oh shit oh shit” until the order came down for a display of strength.

  6. Cassowary says:

    That was supposed to say “48 hours”, not “48 days”.

  7. WTF says:


    OK, I’m a broken record on this, but nevertheless, the people in charge everywhere will do anything, I mean any harebrained scheme, other than give ordinary people money to increase aggregate quality of life. Here the FS does his jiggly, jiggly dance to divert attention away from the many of the elderly who don’t have roof under which to place the non-existent pot to pee in, nor food and drink enough to make much pee in the first place. Instead he wants to offer a miserly 2% on the $20 or $100, or what ever savings they have.

  8. LRE says:

    Perhaps the HK government should have some sort of tie-in event with an existing tourist attraction — like the Avenue of the Stars. They could maybe call it the ‘Hong Kong Film Awards’. That sort of gala prestige event with loads of actors and actresses and famous films would be bound to attract more mainland tourists. Why, we could even get CCTV and Tencent to publicise it on TV and the intranet in the mainland.

    Both governments, working together to promote a better understanding between the two cultures, through the common medium of film, and attract more visitors to Hong Kong. I mean what could possibly go wrong, eh?

  9. Headache says:

    @LRE “the intranet in the mainland” – perfect

  10. Joe Blow says:

    Does any of you fossils remember the Dodwell department store in Ocean Terminal ?

  11. @Joe Blow – call me a fossil if you like, but weren’t they the local agents for Marks & Spencer’s products, way back when? I also remember the Asia Provisions supermarket there, when supermarkets were a rare and exotic import. But why are you asking?

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