Monday, March 2, 2015

Hong Kong


The Chinese will unquestionably protest that Hong Kong is not a country, but a special administrative zone within mainland China, and therefore should not be included in this list. Well, tough, you Chinese. I'm including it.At the time of writing (November 2014), we have just entered the start of the second month of student protests against the decision by the Chinese authorities that Beijing will choose the candidates for the forthcoming elections, though these elections will still be entirely democratic, as the people will be welcome to choose which chosen candidate is elected no different really from voting in Britain or the United States, where you get the candidates who the leaders of the political wings of the lobbying groups decide. In the blue corner, a representative of the oligarchy of the People’s Republic, wearing a blue tie; in the red corner, a representative of the oligarchy of the People’s Republic, wearing a red tie; in the green, yellow, orange and lilac corners…choose, good citizens, choose, we are fulfilling our commitment to democracy, to “one country, two systems”, made when we persuaded that nasty little Fascist Margaret Thatcher to sell out the people of Hong Kong to us. “Sell out”? Did you use the phrase “sell out”? You are a corrupt and disgraceful man, Mr Prashker, and we have just found $450m (the Chinese currency; 1 Yuan is worth about 16 American cents; Hong Kong still uses the Hong Kong dollar, which is worth about seven and a half US dollars) in cash in a suitcase in your bedroom; we are fighting corruption with every backhander we can lay on it; you are sentenced to death with no appeal…

Hong Kong, for those of you who like to know these things, means "fragrant harbour", which is a far better choice of name than, say, Kuala Lumpur, which means "muddy estuary", or Boca Raton, which means "rat's mouth". Fragrant harbour is however a falsehood, because these days the estuary of the Pearl River is so badly polluted that "contaminated harbour" would be a much more accurate description. "Contaminated harbour" in Chinese is 污染的海港 according to my Google translator, pronounced, I think, wūrǎn dì hǎigǎng. If you have a better offering, please let me know. Suggestions already received include 不再免费 (bù zài miǎnfèi) and 这是英国的错 (zhè shì yīngguó de cuò), whose meanings you can enjoy looking up for yourself (you will enjoy them, I promise you).

Had I been writing this before 1997, when the British overseas territory of Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, I would have spoken of a densely over-crowded but extraordinarily vibrant Asian economy, crammed onto a small group of islands, of which Hong Kong itself is the largest, though there are two hundred more dotted around the Kowloon Peninsula. I would also have mentioned that Hong Kong's Chinese speak Cantonese, though today Canton is pronounced Guangdong, so I guess they now speak Guangdongese, as opposed to the Mandarin of "mainland" China; and I also guess they won't be speaking it at all for very much longer, because Mandarin is the only form of Chinese approved in Beijing, though an attempt to try this out in 2010, by having some programmes on Hong Kong television in Mandarin, failed when nobody watched them because they were out on the street protesting against them - and amazingly, almost uniquely, the government backed down. There will probably be an interesting battle over language at some point in the future, because Malaysian Chinese is Cantonese, and Vietnamese Chinese is Cantonese, and all but a handful of the Chinese who live in Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States use Cantonese, so any attempt by Beijing to eradicate Cantonese, or even to have it globally renamed Guangdongese, is doomed to failure. Can the same be said of China's other world-imperialist ambitions, economic and otherwise? That is much harder to say.

And how long before Hong Kong’s status as a special zone is eliminated, and it becomes just another region of China’s global empire, oppressed, suppressed and repressed? Boo-choo, as they is Chinese. Boo-choo. 不久. Not long.

Marks For: 12 (before 1997); 2 (in 2015)

Marks Against: see my blog entry on China.

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