As Marvin Gaye asked, what’s goin’ on, Hong Kong?
Forget everything that happened in 2019. What you have today is a very different Hong Kong- different to even what it was five short years ago.
The events of 2019 when local droogs ran rampant throughout Hong Kong cheered on by the naivety of their supporters, ended up changing the psyche of this city forever.
Being immediately hit after this by the Covid virus and everything that the pandemic has wrought on once stable and vibrant Hong Kong has been a double whammy of fear and more fear and large doses of uncertainty.
We know all too well that the motherland is still spanking us for everything that happened in 2019.
Sadly, too many refused to see that this could only end one way. Or maybe some did know this and were paid to help the “cause”. This is why we are where we are today.
Often this new Hong Kong with its life sucked out of it reminds me of scenes from “Bladerunner” and any of the “Mad Max” movies- a post apolitical city picking up whatever pieces are left. There aren’t many. Maybe there’s nothing.
Those who can, have left, taking with them that entrepreneurial spirit that made this city shake, rattle and hum.
Those who are still here is a dwindling and ageing population. Those who still have time on their side are deciding where’s next. This place is not for them.
What’s next for Hong Kong is a blur and a whirlwind that’s not blowing anywhere specific.
Those who might have once had power are no longer worth anything because it’s the type of power that meant something in another time and another world.
If Shanghai was once “the Paris Of The Orient” before those days were shut down forever, Hong Kong, and with Macao next door, was once this region’s Las Vegas and Havana.
It was intoxicating and sexily dangerous with its own versions of Bugsy Siegel, Capone, Louis B Mayer, mobsters, dolls and taipans.
Some of us were fortunate to have grown up here when Hong Kong was busy finding its feet and then hitting its stride.
It was long before that other pandemic known as social media. We should know by now where this has led and how the technology tail is wagging the running dog.
Many, way back then, thought nothing would change. Life was better than good. It was five star everything all the way- the hotels, the restaurants, the women, the entrepreneurs from everywhere in the world, the horse racing, those who had the control and those who wanted to pay big to play.
There is always a narrow pathway to accommodate all this.
What we were too blinded by the bright lights to see is that the road to excess always has its pitfalls.
History has proven this many times over. But when drunk on power and success, few see the wolves at the door and who are allowed in.
Reflecting on those days, and who I was and who I am today, I wouldn’t have liked me.
Many during those days- the Nineties and early 2000- were in the entertainment industry- television channels, radio, music companies and everything that had anything to do with the aforementioned.
We were superficial and very often had our heads up our arses. We knew of no other way to be.
Being shallow was okay. Really.
For myself, there was finally a sense of belonging and, if true to myself, the ability to exact revenge on those who had once made my life miserable. I was now Michael Corleone and had my power base.
Not to keep playing the minority nationality card, but I have still not forgotten how this Asian from what was then Ceylon was treated, especially when first arriving in Hong Kong as a kid with his penniless parents to seek a new life.
There were then those years in advertising when superficiality and cliques and being white mattered.
Always remembered will be the arrogance of a certain older Australian musician working here in the commercials business and his absolute contempt for me. Why? No idea. Guess jealousy must be earned.
Still, this person’s hostility shook me, especially one night at the Club called Manhattan. I walked over to his table to say, Hello, and was told to f-off. One could put it down to drunk talk, but I couldn’t.
Years later when at EMI, he and his wife came hawking some CD he/they had produced. He was now old and he needed me. Shutting the door on him was shutting the door on the past- but only partly. One never forgets. Timing is everything.
To be fair, this musician wasn’t the only piece of style over substance superficiality peddling their wares in Hong Kong those days.
They might have thought they were game changers, but it was a plastic fantastic sandbox they were playing in and which has been glamourised over the decades. Much has.
The fact is that there was a completely different layer of Chinese money makers who ran Hong Kong. Their playground was Tsimshatsui East.
I was introduced to their world when “researching” the world of high end escort clubs for Universal Music and when VIP Mamasans heard and knew and kept all the secrets.
These cash rich Chinese gentlemen- just as Sinatra and his Rat Pack- were charming gangsters with charisma and connections to everyone and everything.
There was a memorable night at the iconic Club BBoss when I was asked to sing patriotic Chinese songs with a General from the motherland and toast whatever with his troops.
Another time, I was asked to sing Beatles ballads as a request from the local godfather who wanted to ballroom dance with his favourite girl.
Having them welcome you into their family was a big deal. It made that layer below and where you were trying to belong look exactly what it was- disposable, and how despite all the false bravado, down there were some very wafer thin and superficial individuals.
This was always the problem with Hong Kong: Too many layers.
To make it more simple, it’s always been about The Haves and The Have Nots.
This was to prove to be the trigger to the 2014 Umbrella Movement.
What I had felt towards that Aussie musician, and his sense of entitlement, many locals at the bottom of the totem pole felt about their lives in Hong Kong when seeing the fat cat designer lifestyle others were leading.
They didn’t like the Great Divide and decided to make it known. This was what The Umbrella Movement was about.
Where things got out of hand is when “foreign forces” infiltrated what was a Hong Kong problem and funded and supported something that was to tear Hong Kong apart in 2019- and then left.
Can Hong Kong dig itself out of the hole that it’s been digging for itself for decades because arrogance and how ignorance is bliss?
As I have been mentioning to anyone within earshot, the reins to everything everywhere in the world are in the hands of those who are staring retirement in the face.
Many don’t want any bumpy rides to trip them up- not at this stage of their lives. It’s about quietly fading to black with a “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!”
Meanwhile, Hong Kong looks to have inherited the obedient leadership of Chief Executive Carrie Lam for another four years.
Other than the much touted Greater Bay Area project which seems like a million miles from home, there’s nothing much in sight. Except boy band Mirror.
Surely, Shirley, now is the time to show those still here that there’s a reason to stay here and TRY to put Humpty Dumpty together before it becomes an omelette?
Optimism- repeat, Optimism- this is what’s missing and needed in Hong Kong.
There must be optimism in Hong Kong as everything depends on the image of and confidence in a city.
Optimism offers hope and can show the people of Hong Kong that not only Actress Nicole Kidman can waltz in and out of this city and how this is all tickyboo.
Funny isn’t it how this incident has been allowed to just disappear?
And what about that private dance club for very rich mature ladies and toy boys smuggled into Hong Kong from China?
The Have-Nots can no longer be relegated to a post script and an afterthought. We’ve seen what this can do.
#hongkong #hansebert #carrielam #optimism #greaterbayarea #nicolekidman #haveshavenots #leadership