The mysterious case of the missing vibes

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.”

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7 Responses to The mysterious case of the missing vibes

  1. Stanley Lieber says:

    Allan Zeman quotes in a single HKFP article:

    “People used to go out 15 at a time…now a lot of them go home at 9 pm”

    “Things have changed”

    “Our business has really been very good”

    “Now that the tax is almost equal to Hong Kong, they don’t come here”

    “We just have to keep on being innovative”

    “I’m not sure (Night Vibes) will bring a lot of business”

    “On the weekends, a lot of locals are going to Shenzhen. It’s become what a future in the Greater Bay Area will be about.”

    It is patently obvious that the man has no actual first-hand knowledge of the subject matter and is merely parroting what he has read and heard from others.

    This is what passes for insightful commercial leadership in Hong Kong these days.

  2. Mark Bradley says:

    “She hinted that the prosecution could also have appealed the decision to acquit me.”

    In a normal non NSL criminal case in 2020 when can the authorities appeal an acquittal and have it not be considered double jeopardy? I thought that during that time acquittals were supposed to be “final” with the prosecution not being allowed to appeal but I’ve heard of cases of authorities appealing acquittals from time to time despite this supposed double jeopardy rule?

    In the US the authorities are constitutionally barred from appeal, but there seem to be a lot of exceptions to the double jeopardy rule in HK before the more recent “legal reforms” in double jeopardy have been passed that eroded the protection further.

  3. HK-Cynic says:

    Why are people going home earlier? Pretty simple. Young people stay out late while the older sort head home after dinner. And who has fled Hong Kong in the past four years? Young people.

    Those age 65+ has increased by 256,000 from mid-2020 to mid-2023: a 19% increase.
    Those aged 20-39 has decreased by -180,000 (-9%) in the same 3-year time period.

    While no stats, who do you think is more likely to head to Shenzhen to party on the weekends – those in the 20-40 year-old demographic or those in the 65+ age demographic?

    Young people are voting with their feet – and they want to be somewhere other than Hong Kong. But Government officials aren’t allowed to observe that. Plus, Government officials love to be given more power to wield and money to spend….so here we are….

  4. Joe Blow says:

    Whether you choose to be out and about, in Kennedy Town or Sai Ying Pun, in Peel Street or Soho or Wyndham Street, or even on the Dark Side in Knutsford Terrace, or with the painted aunties in Portland Street, always keep one thing in mind:


  5. bewildered says:

    Joe Blow

    Nice to see recurrence of your obsession. But is it a matter of national security and if so to ban or not ban Lan Kwai Fong?

  6. A Poor Man says:

    Mark Bradley – You are not in Kansas anymore.

  7. Alan Zeman says:

    To be fair, I am a mental imbecile who has stuck my nose and other stuff wherever it helps me

    Oher things being equal I would be a working-class git in Alberta or rural Canada

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