Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Powerless or just useless?

According to the SCM Post, Hong Kong officials are powerless to stop New Territories landowners from blocking access roads to villages in order to build houses. Like much government propaganda, this is of course total nonsense. There are numerous regulations the government could apply if it wanted to - and if those are insufficient, it could always put new legislation forward to deal with the problem.

The fact is that what the government lacks is not legal power, but willpower to tackle the excessive influence of the New Territories Mafia - those memorably dubbed "indigenous property developers" by the late Kevin Sinclair. Well-intended measures to protect a vulnerable rural minorty decades ago have, through changing circumstances, created an elite class of Hong Kong citizens enjoying special privileges - particularly the widely abused "village house" policy - just because of where their ancestors were born.

But don't expect to see any measures to rectify this situation in Donald Tsang's policy speech tomorrow. There is an unspoken pact whereby the government will continue to enjoy the support of the Heung Yee Kuk and its LegCo representaive so long as it does nothing to curb the undeserved "rights" of NT villagers. Just one of the facts of life in Hong Kong.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mixed Metaphors and Mark Twain

According to ATV's trailer for Gary Rhodes' Local Food Heroes, Rhodes "leaves no eating hoile unturned" in his quest for the best in British food. Now that I must see - I've mever witnessed a hole being turned before.

Meanwhile, what is this obsession ATV News has wih golf? Most days, about half the sports segment of the 7:30 news is given over to a near hole-by-hole account of some tournament or other. Now I know not everyone shares my agreement with Mark Twain's description of a round of golf as "a good walk spoiled", but it is very much a minority sport here. I have no idea what a bogey, birdie or eagle is, and I suspect that 90% of Hong Kong people are happy to share my ignorance. I'm not saying ATV shouldn't cover golf at all, but couldn't they give more time to sports that most local people actually care about?

Friday, October 02, 2009

What goes around, comes around

From a production standpoint yesterday's day-long extended commercial for 60 years of Communist Party rule in China was, as expected, an impressive spectacle. Every tiny detail was impeccably choreographed, down to the symbolism of President Hu wearing a Mao jacket to inspect the troops (in a Chinese-made limo) , while donning Western suit and tie for the evening's gala show.

Nevertheless, all the razzamatazz could not quite hide the mass of ironies and contradictions in the underlying message. The most obvious irony is that of proclaiming the nation's peaceful intent while showing off its largest ever assemblage of deadly weapons. Somehow the doves of peace in the evening show failed to harmonise with the tanks and ICBMs of the earlier parade.

Even more at odds with the peaceful image China seeks to project is that all this weaponry is primarily aimed, not at any external enemy, but at intimidating 23 million fellow-Chinese separated from the PRC by a narrow stretch of water and a century of history. And then there is the little matter of proudly displaying the armed might of the PLA on the very spot where its reputation was irreparably tarnished by its slaughter of the innocents in June 1989.

As in many cucltural events in China, there is also the irony of relying heavily on the traditional costumes and dances of the nation's many ethnic minorities to bring colour to the evening's festivities, at a time when relations between the Han majority and at least two of the largest of those minorities are so tense that they have erupted into violence in recent times.

But perhaps the biggest irony of all is that a writer on China (Martin Jacques, I think it was) could say on the ATV news a few nights ago that one of China's biggest problems was not only its tremendous gap between the rich and poor, but that many of the poor strongly resented the rich because they believed most of them to have become rich by foul means. Which is pretty much where we came in in 1949 - maybe what China needs now is a communist revolution?