Short of funds? Buy pointless death flowers

Kwun Tong District Council set up a display of (allegedly) funereal electric flowers because of… a lack of funds. (If I’m short of cash, I don’t buy hundreds of nasty LED flowers – but maybe that’s just me.) The sort-of attraction has now been covered up

The controversial LED roses installation at the East Kowloon Cultural Centre – which many online users say give off macabre vibes – was set up due to budget constraints, Kwun Tong District Council papers have revealed.

The areas on the steps where the white LED roses have been set up were covered with canvas yesterday after the display sparked online discussions that it looked like funeral flowers.

…It cost around HK$500,000, but it is worth it so long as it can attract visitors, [District Councillor KT] Cheung added.

If we can’t attract visitors, at least we get attention from overseas media. The WSJ laments a ‘sad silence’ descending on Hong Kong…

As China wraps its authoritarian rule more tightly around this once-boisterous metropolis, no corner of society has been left untouched. 

Bookstores are closing, shows have been canceled and opposition to the government—once a rallying force—is now mostly whispered between friends behind closed doors.

…The [Article 23] law, fast-tracked through the city’s Beijing-approved legislature, has sparked debates over whether people could get into trouble for transgressions as minor as having old copies of pro-democracy newspapers lying around at home. Some wonder whether spaces once considered sacred and private, such as church confessionals, are still safe.

…Police have called upon taxi drivers to report anyone they suspect to be involved in violence, terrorism or other crimes. There is a national-security hotline for tipoffs from the public that has received hundreds of thousands of reports.

Several independent bookstores known to support freedom of expression have said their businesses have been targeted by frequent government checks on anything from land regulations to whether their business license was clearly displayed. 

…The city’s arts community has seen a spate of dance and theater shows, whose members were known to be sympathetic to the city’s pro-democracy movement, canceled by their hosting organizations or venues, sometimes without a reason being given. One canceled show was to feature a group of deaf dancers whose leader had once interpreted a protest anthem in sign language.

The Guardian does pretty much the same

Overt and implicit limits on artistic expression are becoming increasingly clear. In 2020, after months of pro-democracy protests, Beijing introduced a national security law, which criminalised in broad terms secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Chinese authorities say it was necessary to restore stability; critics say the vague wording crushes dissent. More recently, authorities have been talking with increasing frequency about the need to tackle “soft resistance”, a vague term that appears to refer to the use of “media, culture and art” to defy the authorities.

All this has led to opaque or convoluted decisions from artistic venues. In January, the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture cancelled a lease agreement with performing arts group Fire Makes Us Human because of complaints from the education bureau, which cited national security concerns. The following month, M+, a museum of visual culture, removed the name of the film “Beijing Bastards”, a well-known feature about China’s disillusioned youth, from the credits and brochures of a screening. Explaining the decision, a spokesperson for M+ said: “Regarding the movie mentioned, the film title was updated by film-maker Zhang Yuan and M+ curatorial team.”

Reuters reports growing concerns in the business community…

Several corporations, worried about data security, are now treating Hong Kong, once a major Asian base for multinationals, in the same way as mainland China and shielding information about the rest of the company from teams there, said an executive with decades of experience as an advisor to international firms.

Another executive said his hedge fund was seeking legal advice on how to deal with regulators and other government officials because of the state secrets provisions.

“It boils down to a lack of trust in the Hong Kong government, that is beholden to China,” said a foreign executive who attended a recent meeting with senior Hong Kong officials.

…The lack of clarity around the terms and the implementation of the law was precisely what drove a hedge fund to update their contingency plans, an executive said.

“We’re urgently seeking advice on two key points – does our research of companies and individuals stray into risky areas, and how can we safely manage any relationships with foreign government-linked wealth funds. That includes how we share and store that research,” the executive said.

…A corporate investigator in Hong Kong for around 20 years said work that might no longer be viable could include looking into fraud or due diligence cases, as these discreet probes often scrutinize assets and companies.

These potential risks, three due diligence executives said, were already driving some consolidation in the sector, with some executives leaving the city.

“China’s security reach will increasingly extend into Hong Kong, including data regulations,” said the corporate advisor.

“And while Hong Kong is still more open, the broader direction is clear.”

And a word from the cross-strait (or cross, at least) compatriots…

Passage of Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law by the territory’s legislature marked “the darkest day for Hong Kong,” the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday, adding that it “strongly condemned” the Beijing-backed bill.

The legislation completed Beijing’s totalitarian takeover of Hong Kong, and the final destruction of the rule of law and human rights that had survived in the territory, the DPP said in a news release, citing the bill’s broad definition of “breaching national security.”

Implementation of Article 23 would have a chilling effect on speech and put every business, non-governmental organization (NGO) and foreigner working in the territory in legal jeopardy, the party said.

Officials at the Chinese Communist Party National Congress in Beijing brazenly ordered the nominally autonomous territory to pass the latest bill, which was done in less than two weeks, the DPP said.

The events show that the Hong Kong government and legislature have become the “thugs and rubber stamps” of China, it said.

China’s behavior in Hong Kong, which contravenes universal values and guarantees made by Beijing, was a demonstration of the regime’s totalitarian character and discredited its “one country, two systems” formula for Taiwan, the party said.

Some weekend reading…

The Critic on British universities’ China problem

As long ago as 2019 … the Times was reporting that British intelligence agencies were “concerned that a reliance on Chinese money and students, particularly postgraduates paying up to £50,000 a year in fees, was making some universities particularly vulnerable [to influence and interference by the Chinese government]”.

CNN on Chinese police tracking down Mainland Twitter followers of a dissident in Europe.

In the Guardian – online Chinese nationalism gets more extreme

Last month a patriotic blogger called Wu Wanzheng filed a lawsuit against China’s only Nobel prize-winning author, Mo Yan, accusing him of smearing the Communist army and glorifying Japanese soldiers in his fictional works set during the Japanese invasion of China.

…Elsewhere on Weibo, netizens have been posting videos of themselves pouring away water from bottles of Nongfu Spring, China’s biggest bottled water company. The company’s crime? Using a design on its green tea drink that allegedly looks like a Japanese wooden pagoda. Another offending beverage, a brown rice tea, features on its packaging fish that allegedly look like Japanese koinobori, flags in the shape of carps.

…“Traffickers in online nationalism have a vast audience from people who are pretty frustrated in terms of jobs, living standards and so on,” [Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago] Yang notes.

(These people are also apparently reacting badly to the Netflix adaptation of the sci-fi Three Body Problem. The TV version is largely set in the UK, and many characters are ‘race swapped’.) 

In the LA Times, an American wishes they could have 7-Elevens like Taiwan’s…

At any [Taiwan] 7-Eleven, you can pay your taxes, ship or pick up packages, drop off your laundry, check your blood pressure, return library books, send faxes, buy rail and plane tickets, purchase internet access and, as a bonus, use the receipts for everything to play a lottery.

At one point, 30% of Taiwan’s driver’s license renewals took place at a 7-Eleven…

…“In the U.S. you don’t need 7-Eleven to have a good life,” Chen said. “In Taiwan you cannot have a good life without 7-Eleven.”

In my experience, Taiwanese 7-Elevens are also good places to dump little bits of wrapping – they have bins. The Japanese stores are also pretty good. Even gourmets rave about the sandwiches.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Short of funds? Buy pointless death flowers

  1. Mark Bradley says:

    I had the best bowl of microwave beef noodles at a Taiwanese 7-11. Nothing comes close in HK 7-11

  2. Ronny Kwun Tong says:

    Ah this would be the Kwun Tong District Council that memorably brought us the waterfront ‘musical fountain’ that seemed to stop working almost as soon as it opened? Well at least nobody in this prosperous district has any real problems that need addressing…

  3. Mary Melville says:

    YTM DC spent district funds on giving away chocs and flowers beside the Flower Market on Valentine’s Day, pissing off the flower shops that were trying to sell bouquets and boost the economy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *