In a brave attempt to spice up the ‘two meetings’ in Beijing, a Hong Kong delegate to the CPPCC – the retired shoe-shiners’ gathering – proposed scrapping colonial-era street names in his city.
(So I look up this Shie guy in the hope of finding that his company is located on Queen Victoria Street or Gloucester Road or Worcestershire Sauce Avenue. It seems Hong Kong, China’s not good enough – it’s registered in the jolly old Cayman Islands.)
Can it be done?
Roads recalling barbarian Anglo-Celt oppressors like Robinson, Hennessy, MacDonnell and Caine are easy enough to deal with – just call them Tsang, Chan, Wong and Ng, then hurriedly replace the barely used, highly expensive new signage with Zeng, Chen, Huang and Wu when you realize your horrifying error. But what about those really odd names, like the sinister Muscovite-Tartar creepiness Gutzlaff Street, the apparently Mexican D’Aguilar Street, the opium-induced Rednaxela Terrace, and the ever-irritating Des Veux Voex Veoux Voeux Road?
I hear there are two barriers (not counting common sense, of course) to removal of these reminders of China’s humiliation. One is Hong Kong Post, who fear mail-delivery chaos. (That said, they succumbed to pressure and covered the royal ciphers on once-red-now-green post boxes – the sight of which had been turning youths into deranged pro-independence radicals. As an aside, the Monetary Authority’s coin-collection exercise is eliminating coins featuring the Queen’s head, which distress Mainland visitors.) The other opponent to re-naming streets is the taxi industry.
This could be interesting: officials caught between upsetting either the Communist Party or the taxi drivers.
I declare the weekend open with juicy sizzling links…
Xi Jinping’s constitutional coup comes in for more attention from observers sensing a definitive turning point. From here on, China exists to serve the Communist Party, not the other way round. Among possible/likely outcomes are disillusionment among the middle class at home and the country’s student/expat diaspora, and a more aggressive and provocative nationalism leading towards a new Cold War.
Venerable rights lawyer Jerome Cohen doesn’t pull any punches in expressing his own disillusionment. Carl Minzner offers an extract from his prescient book End of an Era; How China’s Authoritarian Revival is Undermining its Rise. And Minxin Pei sees the Communist Party’s mission – ‘to stay in power, not reform itself out of existence’ – as a recipe for stagnation.
More at the ‘light pop’ end of the spectrum, star Francis Fukuyama chips in.
The ‘Chinese Communist infiltration on Western campuses’ story is becoming a genre – here’s the latest one.
For Taiwan enthusiasts, an introduction to the country’s indigenous people, written by one.
Fans of weirdness will know about the politicization of archaeology and ancient history, which has tainted Chinese academia at times. And they will know about maniacs who insist on turning Jewish fairy tales into science, like Christian wackos Truth in Genesis (if you must). Now, insecurity overcomes reason and truth in India’s attempts to establish an all-Hindu 12,000-year heritage out of creation myths.
Lastly – yet another of those humdrum things Hongkongers take for granted but visitors amusingly find strange.