Asia’s Somalia

I dropped by the local Wellcome supermarket five minutes after its 8.00am opening yesterday. People were already struggling to carry away multiple 12-packs of toilet paper. There were none left inside, and the shelves were also empty of rice and bleach. Just like in all the news and social media photos – but it’s weirder to see it in real life.

Surprisingly, the Bloomberg opinion piece likening Hong Kong to a ‘failed state’ has not yet triggered a whiny press-release tantrum from the government. The article focuses on a collapse in government credibility and legitimacy, official dithering over things like face masks, and of course the panic-buying. (It also spots Carrie Lam’s narrow bureaucratic focus – where closing museums counts as decisive grand strategy.)

Perhaps the petulant press statement will have to wait while our officials beg the Boy Scouts for help in quarantining possible plague carriers.

While comparisons to Russia’s crisis in 1998 or Venezuela may seem far-fetched, these places have never claimed to be international financial hubs or a ‘World City’.

In some ways, the Bloomberg article goes easy on the Hong Kong authorities. It largely overlooks the transformation of the police force into a tool of political control. If there was ever a time to get the cops back into their smart blue uniforms, the WuFlu scare is surely it – instead, they are whacking frightened residents in Sai Kung and Tai Po. And while the article hints at the weakening of Hong Kong’s legal system, it doesn’t mention the increase in politicized prosecution and other administrative decision-making.

The column does say that the administration’s lack of contingency plans and shambolic performance suggest ‘deterioration’, which should seriously worry the business sector. And ‘the next shock will be worse’.

Speaking of which, HK Free Press looks at the backlog of catch-all ‘riot’ and other cases that will be going before the courts over the coming couple of years.

I do actually need a new bottle of bleach. Will just have to gargle with absinthe for the time being.

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12 Responses to Asia’s Somalia

  1. Big Al says:

    Coronavirus rumour of the week, if not the century, should go to this, courtesy of SCMP:
    “A rumour that emerged on February 5, about a talking pig, went viral in the southern province of Guizhou. The rumour was that a pig had spoken to its owner and told them cooking and eating nine eggs before sunrise would prevent them contracting the coronavirus. Many people apparently believed the rumour and shared photos of themselves cooking eggs on social media, according to the report.”
    People should have spotted the obvious untruth in this: A pig, which is supposedly a highly intelligent animal, would have told its owner that not eating pork would prevent them contracting the coronavirus, rather than supporting the egg marketing board.

  2. MarkLane says:

    @Big Al
    That is seriously hillarious! On the topic of snake oil and sheer craziness, here’s something from the New York Times last week:

    “In Myanmar, loudspeakers broadcast advice from Buddhist monks: Seven ground peppercorns, exactly seven, placed on the tongue will ward off the coronavirus spreading across Asia and the world.

    In Indonesia, Terawan Agus Putranto, the health minister, advised citizens to relax and eschew overtime work to avoid the disease, which has killed more than 360 people and infected more than 17,000 others, mostly in China.

    “To prevent it is very easy as long as your immunity is good,” Mr. Terawan said.

    And in Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen told a packed news conference on Thursday that he would kick out anyone who was wearing a surgical mask because such measures were creating an unwarranted climate of fear.

    “The prime minister doesn’t wear a mask,” he said, “so why do you?”

  3. Mark says:

    Indeed @Big Al, those crafty Pangolins admitted responsibility for initiating the virus and thereby securing their survival!

  4. Mary Melville says:

    Time the boy scouts give back to society. They have been enjoying abundant revenue from BP International hotel and meeting rooms and 500 vehicle car park while showing a determined reluctance to sharing any of this community zoned space with other NGOs.
    The almost 2,000sqm basement has been rented out for years to a restaurant operator when it should be providing ‘canteen’ services. As scouts obviously do not need this facility then there are numerous worthy uses it could be put to, like a drop in centre for the elderly, for example.
    This is currently under review at Town Planning Board whose members recognizing that there are urgent community needs to be addressed effectively gave the scouts one year notice to put the basement to genuine community use.
    Scouts have appealed the decision. Outcome delayed because of the suspension services.

  5. Mary Melville says:

    I should have added to my post that government departments led by Home Affairs supported abuse of lease conditions at BP International, despite a scathing report by Audit Commission and declared that there was no outstanding need for community space in Yau Tsim Mong!
    So now its pay back time. Official support comes at a price, as pro establishment political parties have learnt.

  6. Hong Kong Hibernian says:

    Another example of the amazing levels of stupidity found at the CE’s office:

    Local hotels aren’t able to keep track of guests under the new quarantine regulations! The hotels “are not notified about the orders and the visitors are not obliged to tell them”. Cordon sanitaire? Try ‘Cordon comique’ instead. Ça n’existe pas.

    Though it must be said that this is classic Hong Kong; image is more important than substance!

  7. Chinese Netizen says:

    You know how they say you have to kill a wild beast after it bites a person and tastes human flesh for fear that it will forever be incurable in its bloodlust?

    I dare say the HK Popo might have reached that stage of never going back – if in fact any of the shock troops doing the majority of the beating are indeed HKers and not secretly imported PAP/PLA. They’ve become fully mainlandised and have bloodlust knowing they’re immune from anything they do.

    It’s actually quite scary and depressing.

  8. Casira says:

    @Mark: The pangolins underestimated the stupidity of the party. If they can’t blame the US they’ll blame the bats and the pangolins and eradicate the shit out of them

  9. A Poor Man says:

    HKH – I can accept the government quarantine system being based on an honor system because if someone really wants to cheat they surely will find a way. If the past 8 months have shown anything, it is that the people are smarter than the government. So this maybe the government acknowledging the reality of the situation. The real stupidity of the government policy is that once it is determined that someone needs to be quarantined, they are free to take public transportation to the place where they will be quarantined!

  10. Plagued with Doubt says:

    @Hong Kong Hibernian
    That the alleged quarantine measures are utter nonsense was made abundantly clear by CCTVB News interviewing one of the quarantined Hong Kongers outside immigration as he stood outside waiting to catch a bus home.

    Once you add up the disparate figures squirrelled throughout the article on the first day reported by the SCMP however, it is revealed as even more utterly rubbish than first glance suggested.

    932 people that came from the mainland (in this case Macau counts as mainland according to both the CPC and common sense) that day only 17% (161) were “quarantined”. 99% (159) of those 17% are voluntary and unsupervised not really quarantined at all. In the pretend section, 148 were told to go home to some huge high rise building full of thousands of people, whilst 11 were told to go to a hotel to mingle with hundreds and hundreds of people who will shortly be leaving Hong Kong to go all over the world.

    Only the two people who may actually have been properly quarantined (sent to government facility) were not allowed to take public transport to get to their alleged quarantine site.

    So in fact, 0.2% of people coming from the mainland have been truly quarantined: that’s a fail rate of 99.8% — which by ironic coincidence is also — if I remember correctly — the fail rate of the toothless and useless IPCC in prosecuting police complaints over the past decade or so.

  11. Cassowary says:

    The Bloomberg piece’s omissions say more about the mentality of international business types than about Hong Kong. They actually do not give a shit about political prosecutions of pesky locals (as long as expats don’t get targeted), but a run on toilet paper gets them all jittery.

  12. Joe Blow says:

    I read today in the Alibaba Morning Yawn that a quarantined person has the right to fail THREE quarantine inspections, before they are hauled off to a camp (and gassed, I presume).

    I feel so safe now.

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