Still not enough tourists clogging up streets

The week starts on a cheery note over at the Standard’s editorial, which mentions the Financial Secretary’s concern (here) about the lack of old-style nightlife to attract tourists…

As a matter of fact, there are numerous things in need of rejuvenation. 

For example, we used to rank as an international financial center along with New York and London.

Now, it has become New York, London and Singapore.Also as a matter of fact, our Hang Seng Index is still struggling around 19,000 – roughly two thirds of the pre-pandemic levels.

Yet Japan’s Nikkei index is hitting the highest since 1990 and India’s stock market is expanding quickly.

Hong Kong’s container port was once the busiest in the world, but has now slipped to ninth. If the fall in exports and imports continues, the city could be in danger of falling further down the chart.

Note that the Poor Man’s Nightclub on Central waterfront – a major fun place back in the day – was a) primarily intended for the enjoyment of local residents and b) shut down by the government. Why do tourists like going to Japan and Taiwan so much? It’s because of the local quality and style of life, not contrived ‘attractions’ aimed at foreigners. Meanwhile, the Transport Dept is covering street furniture with garish posters ordering people not to use electric bikes or dare cross the road where they need to. 

More things to boost livability/attract tourists… The Hong Kong government holds a ‘sharing session’ about Xi Jinping’s letter to Pui Kiu Middle School. And AP manages to get photos of Jimmy Lai being allowed out of solitary to exercise at Stanley Prison.

Some reading from the weekend…

Every media outlet in the world is running a column on China’s economic problems, notably looming deflation. Here’s the Guardian’s

Those of us who remember Hong Kong’s 60-month property crash/deflation in 1998-2003 know how this can grind on. The phenomenon deters spending (in Japan at one point, policymakers considered printing currency with expiry dates to force people to spend cash). The last thing you need with rising youth unemployment. Potentially even worse, it pushes up the value of debt in real terms.

For a far more in-depth view – Adam Tooze’s column. And some thoughts from Andrew Batson.

RFA reports a police raid on a major Shanghai emigration consultants, raising the prospect of a broader clampdown on people – and their assets – leaving the country.

The Diplomat on how China’s zero-Covid policy might have backfired as a way of of strengthening mass support for the CCP…

The stark contrast between the harsh living conditions and the noble ideal of “People First; Life First” subverted the party-state’s initial design.

Didn’t know TED (short for ‘tedious’) Talks were still a thing, but it seems they (or the TEDx offshoots) are thriving in China. Or were. CMP looks at how officialdom eager to manage public discourse is discouraging the events…

A new set of regulations released on Friday by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) calls into question the dismissive line from state media on the TEDxGuangzhou shutdown. Released jointly by 10 official bodies, including the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department, they suggest the deepening of a broader national campaign since March to curb what the CAC, the country’s top internet control body, called in Friday’s notice “forum activities run amok” (论坛活动乱象).

If it’s not public lectures, it’s rainbow stuff. LBGT striped clothing is confiscated at Chinese concerts by A-Mei. (For some context: similarly patterned watches can get you three years’ jail in Malaysia. What’s wrong with death by stoning?)

From What’s On Weibo, comments on the London Brick Lane graffiti saga…

…some users assert in the comment section that artists have the freedom to express themselves. They argue that adding English translations could enhance foreigners’ appreciation of the socialist values.

…On other social media platforms, Chinese netizens have also labeled their acts as “a shameful exhibition of self-importance.”

Back to how local lifestyle beats fake tourist attractions: a review of a book on Taiwanese music, including the tune played by municipal waste-collection vehicles…

The original music used was a piano piece called The Maiden’s Prayer by Badarzewska-Barandowsk from 1856. When garbage trucks were first imported from Japan in 1968 this melody was already pre-recorded on them. It was eventually, after much controversy, replaced by Beethoven’s Fur Elise, and then a lot later by “an English sea chantey.”

[Author Nancy] Guy sees these melodies as a form of “sonic irritant,” as well as boding the arrival of a community service. Nevertheless Taiwan boasts one of the world’s highest recycling rates, and has even been called an island of green in Asia.

Attempts to replace A Maiden’s Prayer on over 1,000 of the island’s garbage trucks, including a telephone poll of possible substitutes, failed and the excessively familiar original tune was reverted to.

Cue your instant memories of Taiwan.

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14 Responses to Still not enough tourists clogging up streets

  1. Nury Vibbrachi says:

    “Every media outlet in the world is running a column on China’s economic problems, notably looming deflation.”


    In the Soviet Union era some Russian propaganda expert apparatchiks came to London to study the Western media.

    ” How do you do it?” they said after a week. “All the newspapers here say exactly the same thing about almost everything and they all report the same news. It took us years to get everyone in step. What’s the secret?”

    Does Jimmy Lai talk to Rurik Jutting? Or to Henry Chau? Chance would be a fine thing! You can’t say he isn’t entertained inside.

    Lack of nightlife? Well, when you have a cowed, demoralised population, it was bound to happen.

    Hong Kong is so boring. How do you all stand it?

    Time for my four-hand massage on the yacht.


  2. reductio says:

    Do not use electric mobility vehicles? That memo got lost somewhere north of Lion Rock. Saw an electric cycle gaily (not in the Malaysian sense) sailing past a couple of plods the other day. The guy stopped, got off, and went to the market as they ambled past with nary a glance. Maybe the fact that the driver wasn’t wearing black explained the insouciance.

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    Could always set your watch by the rubbish collector’s melody down in Kaohsiung. Taipei’s schedule seems a bit more sketchy.

    Prison screws watching over danger-to-society Jimmy Lai seem to be wearing surplus PLA garrison “shirtsleeves” uniforms.

  4. asiaseen says:

    Do not use electric mobility vehicles
    Electric wheelechairs obviously don’t count, Lamma has a fleet of them.

  5. wmjp says:

    STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education

    That’s a new one. Rather destroys the original concept of STEM

  6. Reactor #4 says:

    It must be bloody exhausting whinging all the time. Gentlemen and ladies, you’ll soon all be dead (give or take, we each get about a 1,000 months). If living in HK leaves you in a perpetual state of jackedoffness, then you owe it to yourself to move somewhere else. Things are not going to change so if chose to stay then you need to deal with it, and in the meantime STFU.

  7. @wmjp says:

    Yes, talk about broad brushes. It seems the only non-STEAM subjects are Theology and Sports

  8. steve says:

    Solitary confinement is torture, or so say numerous international treaties.

  9. HK-Cynic says:

    Mary Ma quote: So how much do we understand this? Could the loss of expatriate professionals be blamed for the new calm in Lan Kwai Fong? And why are young people hanging out less in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay?”

    Umm. Half a million HK residents have left Hong Kong since the NSL was implemented. That’s about 7% of the population. BUT – how many of those that have left are between the ages of 15 and 35? Probably a much higher percentage – and that is the age group that goes out at night to party. They are not out in those party locations because they are no longer in Hong Kong at all. They’re all moving to places with better opportunities and without having to worry about being thrown in jail for “improper thoughts”.

  10. Eggs n Ham says:

    Official figures show 20% of 20-24-year-olds have left since the NSL clampdown.

  11. Clubbed to death. Twice says:

    Re the Poor Man’s Nightclub on Sheung Wan waterfront:
    The story was even sadder than Hemlock paints it — the government actually killed it twice.

    It went for a good 150 years as an organic and local thing, cheap dai pai dongs with expert cooks who been cooking there for decades and stalls fashioned from rickety metal poles and red white and blue tarp, lit by dodgy bulbs and neon every evening.

    Can’t speak to other tourists (although wikipedia says “it was also one of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attractions between the 1970s and 1980s”), but it was definitely the most memorable place I found in Hong Kong on my first trip here in 1990. The food was spectacularly good, the ambience was turbocharged Temple Street. It was truly a sight to behold.*

    As Hemlock said, the government shut it down in 1992, to make way for the Bus terminal at Shun Tak redevelopment and Hong Kong island’s only night market and its largest tourist attraction was gone for good.

    Let us savour for a moment the delicious irony of the HK government’s finest transport and tourism planners deciding that their best course of action is deliberately destroying a top tourist attraction and replacing it with something that is literally designed to drive tourists away from HK.

    But about a decade later, the government finally grudgingly admitted that maybe, just maybe, a huge iconic tourist attraction that nowhere else in the world had might have actually been a good thing after all (likely after a decade of tourists asking HKTB why they couldn’t find — or what the hell had happened to — the fantastic place mentioned in their slightly-out-of-date tour guide), and they built a new government-planned and -approved version at great expense that had all the soul, ambience and a lot of the tiling of a public toilet, with the tackiest of tourist tat and zero fantastic seafood dai pai dongs because that sort of organic thing couldn’t possibly be allowed, and the rent was far too high.

    It ran for about a year or so. IIRC it ended in great acrimony as the stall renters lost fistfuls of cash, and the place finally did the only organic thing it was allowed to do and died. Food Trucks, anyone?

    By the time the new poor man’s nightclub launched, I had already worked out that the HK government had absolutely zero clue about tourism, how to do it or even what constitutes a tourist attraction. But I went there hoping against hope that there might be a small shadow of its former glory. We all did. Sadly it was pretty much the absolute diametric opposite of the real deal. It was very much a poor man’s Poor Man’s Nightclub.

    I was still surprised and impressed by the scale and scope of the government’s amazingly thorough own goal: Not just failing commercially, financially and conceptually, but also forcefully drumming into everyone with even a vague memory of the original how tone deaf and incompetent the government was. Bravo.

    *The original did rather have to be seen to be believed, however, so here are some pics:

  12. Chinese Netizen says:

    @Clubbed: Thanks for that. I know it’s not comparable but is that little area behind some LKF bars on D’Aguilar St (Wing Wa Lane?) still in existence or has that too been made “civilised” by the government/and or landlords?

  13. zatluhcas says:

    @Chinese Netizen: Do you mean Rat Alley? Covid killed everything there and it has been a ghost town since.

  14. Knownot says:

    Clubbed to …

    Thank you.

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