George and the locusts, coming soon to a former colony near YOU

20 Feb

george osborneThere’s probably something about living in the shadow of the world’s most populous nation and pre-eminent global authoritarian one-party state, that can’t help but make one a little jittery. At least, that’s my over-simplistic explanation of why Hong Kongers seem so quick to mobilise in protest. Last week all the fuss was about the not-so-subtle erosion of the SAR’s enshrined press freedoms while this week the news cycle has been dominated by a rather ugly anti-mainlander rally.

In the sort of irony bypass that’s become wearingly familiar to anyone following public protests in Hong Kong and China, around 100 locals paraded the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday waving anti mainlander banners and scuffling with passers-by. The reason? They believe HK is full up and can’t take any more of these rude, uncouth big spenders from across the border. They conveniently glossed over the fact that tourism makes up a decent wodge of Hong Kong’s economy (around 4.5%) and that they were being pretty rude and uncouth themselves on the Sunday march, shouting slogans like, “Go back to mainland China”.

The Communist Party of China has spent the past 60-odd years carefully constructing the narrative that the Middle Kingdom and its territories (Taiwan, Tibet etc) belong to a unified Han race; a kind of master race of the East rising once again to its rightful place at the centre of the universe. I guess Hong Kong didn’t get the memo. Want some more irony? The protesters also shouted the word “Shina” at mainland shoppers on Sunday. That particular moniker was last used by imperial Japan back in the day as a derogatory word to describe China. Want another? The Sunday protesters were apparently carrying British colonial-era Hong Kong flags to signal their otherness from the mainland.

You’ve got to hand it to the protesters, they’ve managed to do the unthinkable and actually arouse some sympathy for the hapless ‘locusts’ caught in the crossfire. All that those bum bag and velour leopard skin onesie-wearing gits want to do is spend a shedload on some gaudy luxury goods, jump a few queues and act rather unsympathetically to their surroundings, which is not strictly speaking illegal. As I’ve said before, Hong Kong has made a rod for its own back in allowing developers to build luxury shopping mall after luxury shopping mall to attract these tourists. It’s no wonder why the SAR is so limited when it comes to theatres, arts spaces and non-tourist oriented shops/bars/anything.

Go George!

I have a theory about this particular protest. I reckon it was incited by the UK Chancellor as a classic bit of magician’s misdirection, so he could slip into the country almost unannounced this week. Now I’m not quite sure why gorgeous George has decided to make a speech about the UK economy from Hong Kong today, unless the rationale was that the last remaining group of people on the planet who might not be tempted to give him a good shoeing are the Mr and Mses of the British Chambers of Commerce here.

Or it might be that only local business leaders in Honkers are predisposed to take George and his ridiculously high fringe line seriously. “Balanced economy? You don’t even have a balanced haircut mate.”

Anyway, Lord Gideon of Tatton has shared his message that the UK economy might just be ever so slightly too reliant on consumer spending and the City of London. So well done there, exactly what every economist worth his salt, and the Governor of the Bank of England, has been saying for rather a long time now.

Still, thumbs up for getting there in the end chancellor. You can go back to the UK now, and while you’re at it can you take some of these revolting Chinese with you? We’ve got enough take-aways here as it is.

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