Something has gone horribly wrong within the Hong Kong government.
A while ago, a small but appealing piece of downtown public land – a harbour-front wharf – became available for some other civic use. Local residents had for some time enjoyed the space as an informal park for strolling, cycling and dog-walking. After considering various anti-people, ugly and wasteful options behind closed doors, officials decided that the least desirable, most unpleasant and non-social function for the area would be a ‘community garden’. Most of the area would be sealed off behind a tall fence within which a small number of people would be allowed to grow plants on tiny patches of soil for their personal amusement. Other citizens would be allowed to access only a thin strip alongside this pointless facility.
Some impertinent rabble-rousers protested. And that would normally have been the end of the matter. The bureaucrats would reject outsiders’ views without ado, and start ordering the HK$100,000-per-foot chain-link.
But then a shocking thing happened. In a disastrous breach of standard operating procedure, someone in the government listened to public views, and – even more disturbingly – changed official plans accordingly.
What on earth is going on? It’s as if citizens know better than the government – and someone in the government actually believes they do.
The plans have now been scaled down from 90% shit to 30% shit. Of course, civil servants from the Quality of Life Reduction Unit, the Anti-Pedestrian Department, the Inefficiency Bureau and the Tourism Board are all working hard to put things right. Expect the installation of huge safety barriers, signage listing 200 forbidden activities and a Milk Powder Heritage Footpath for Mainland shoppers. But at the end of the day, the result will be perhaps 50% non-shit – at least half-serving local people’s wants and needs. Residents will like it. From the government’s point of view, this is a major failure and the road to chaos and anarchy.
Presumably officialdom will recover from this horrible setback and get back to their usual standards of administrative excellence – soon.