Read my lips – no new tourists


Right-thinking Hongkongers were alarmed last week by headlines suggesting that authorities would allow a further increase in the millions of Mainlanders allowed to swamp the overcrowded city on shopping/tourism trips. The reports emanated from delegates attending the ‘two meetings’ of China’s rubber-stamp legislative and advisory bodies in Beijing. Landlords among them were begging Chinese officials to send more money-launderers, smugglers and new urban hukou awardees to prop up rents in our tacky malls.

Torn between serving the property tycoons and avoiding an uprising among its angry and rebellious population, the Hong Kong government’s response was a mumbled ‘no’. It was not enough to satisfy skeptics. And so today, the Tourism Commission’s Deputy Chief Assistant Sub-Flunky writes to the South China Morning Post to elaborate on the earlier obfuscation and try harder to get the message across without actually uttering it.

It would work better as a video. The Tourism Commission guy would recite unconvincing inanities while waving his arms, shaking his head and rolling his eyes to communicate to viewers that they will not be inundated with millions of sorghum-farmers from Gansu. Instead, he has to do it on paper. The result is a triumph of spelling it out, HK Civil Service-style…


To give the landlords the impression that the government is eager to do their bidding, the writer declares…


…we are supportive of studying ways to continue to explore [cramming further millions of Mainlanders into our city regardless of however many riots it provokes]…

Aren’t we all ‘supportive’ of ‘studying ways’ to ‘continue to explore’ all sorts of things? Losing weight, taking action on climate change, making that dental appointment, ending poverty, being kind to small furry animals… It is a masterpiece of bureaucratic linguistic composition. It is not semantics, euphemism, litotes or rhetoric – it is brilliant and cunning (and of course simple) BS.

Speaking of euphemism, note how the letter goes on to say…


By ‘inconvenience’ we mean ‘riots’.

A note of uncertainty creeps in at the end…


The old phrase ‘there is no plan…at this stage’ can of course mean ‘we will start [the crappy nightmarish inhumanity concerned] sometime next week while you all sleep’. But it can work both ways. If any property tycoon is alert enough to spot the possible ambiguities, hedging and conditions in the stuff about ‘being supportive of studying ways’, officials can take him to one side and show him the ‘no plans at this stage’ rider, and wink. The tycoon, assuming that additional millions of Mainlanders will materialize, will go away happy. The officials can then go back to their reinforced basement and quake in fear wondering how to resolve the next terrible conundrum.

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5 Responses to Read my lips – no new tourists

  1. They’re coming. The idea will be for full residence, not shoppers. Renegade provinces in China always get flooded. People are a commodity the CCP knows how to shift about. So expect a policy announcement soon expressing the need for IT professionals, maids, engineers, resident construction workers, security guards, medics, bankers, nurses…you name it, Peking will deliver. They call it Überschwemmungspolitik. Let’s hear it for Convergent Lebensraum!

  2. Reader says:

    So now it is the rapacious landlords and other rent-seekers being fobbed off by our oh-so-upstanding leaders, rather than the righteous masses as usual?
    Whence appears this sudden confidence in our fate, this Ides of March?

  3. PD says:

    Local-speak avoids difficult words like conundrum and the foreign-looking litote in favour of “difficult position” and, er, not really spelling it out without resorting to open innuendo.

    George has been occasionally slacking recently — I do worry about the chappie, especially in the light of his doppelganger’s sidekick’s publicity seeking in London.

  4. It appears that Sir Humphrey Appleby has been giving lessons to the Hong Kong Civil Service on the art of obfuscation.

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