Hong Kong seems to have two governments operating in parallel universes.
One is obsessed with pushing up tourist numbers. (Why does a developed economy with a labour shortage need mass-tourism? This isn’t Thailand or somewhere. But anyway…) That government seems convinced that a city can attract tourists with fake stuff designed by civil servants. And it has ordered a rejuvenation of the ‘night economy’. (Could this be the night economy that excessive Covid restrictions killed off? Yes it could.)
As HKFP reports, the Hong Kong government has been phasing out dai pai dongs, neon lights and so on for years. In 2016, protesters battled police as officials tried to remove street fishball vendors. So civil servants are now expected to create a synthetic version of the now-phased-out excitement and buzz. Obviously, they are not going to employ much imagination or creativity. And it would hardly be surprising, given the impossibility of creating authentic street markets and nightlife with a month’s notice, if they show little apparent enthusiasm.
So the ‘Night Vibes’ thing launches to the familiar sound of boxes being ticked: a range of unimpressive discounts from malls; some hastily assembled events, weighed down by bureaucratic rules; hackneyed promos; HK$100 ‘Night Treats’ for visitors. The main night market-pastiche was required to close for the fireworks display.
Transit Jam visits the carnival site during daytime…
In its desperate bid to turn us all nocturnal, the government has transformed a half-decent harbourfront promenade into an unimaginative rancid cesspool of litter, grease, stinking diesel, cigarette smoke and several tonnes of child-labour-produced Tao Bao “gift” shit.
…Nobody, at any stage of its design, gave any thought to how the desecration of a prime tourism asset might look in the day time, or whether the intangible day-time value of a unique and world-class harbour view might ultimately add more to GDP than the alcohol and instant noodles on offer from the relatively tiny number of night-time stalls.
The civil servants needn’t worry: nobody officials hear will point out how lame it all is. Jason Wordie in the SCMP mentions that the new all-patriot environment spares the government criticism…
Nonsensical non-starters like the ‘Night Vibes’ initiative … go unchallenged in the city’s echo chambers.
He also alludes to the real issue here: the whole post-2019 environment – NatSec, zero-Covid, all-patriots politics, etc – has left Hong Kong a different place. It’s the ‘mojo’, stupid.
Oh and twice as many Hongkongers went to Shenzhen for the holiday than Mainlanders came the other way.
Meanwhile, in the other parallel universe, the authorities have not received the message that everything is warm and cuddly and ‘back to normal’.
Beijing’s top NatSec official in Hong Kong writes online…
He said the great rejuvenation of the nation has entered an irreversible process, while Hong Kong has been transformed from chaos to order and is advancing from stability to prosperity but still faces risks and challenges in maintaining long-term prosperity.
Dong said the office will use Xi’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era as guidance, uphold a holistic view of national security, and unwaveringly implement one country, two systems.
“[The office] will work with the committee for safeguarding national security of the HKSAR and relevant departments, to deeply implement the national security law in Hong Kong, combat all acts that endanger national security, and safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests of the country,” he said.
Police – not the nice sort who will give visitors directions – were all over the city on National Day, with a guy wearing a black shirt and holding a flower wrestled to the ground in Causeway Bay.
And if the tourism people wanted to attract Swiss visitors, they could have done without this online Helvetic magazine’s report on the plight of photographer and Hong Kong resident Marc Progin…
An altercation erupted between a banker from mainland China and the crowd, resulting in the Chinese citizen being assaulted. The photographer [Progin] got pictures of the incident, but he in turn was being filmed by the world’s TV cameras.
…Very soon, Progin was being singled out by pro-Beijing elements who started a campaign of online harrassment against him, accusing him of being involved in the beating.
The Swiss native only became aware of the seriousness of the situation when police came to his home just before Christmas 2019. He was arrested, then released on bail. Finally, in April 2020 he was charged with “aiding and abetting public disorder”, a criminal charge carrying a sentence of up to a year in prison. The person who actually assaulted the Chinese banker has never been found.
… “Reading the judge’s findings, I could see she would prefer to see me in jail,” says the photojournalist. “She hinted that the prosecution could also have appealed the decision to acquit me.”