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What made that barren rock Hong Kong and the city that it became was its internationalism.

This was an inexplicable and interesting melting pot of various nationalities who brought with them their ethnicity and uniqueness which made this city the most international and exciting in the world.

Sure, quite a few were flim flim men smelling the opportunities to recreate themselves in colonial Hong Kong replete with taipans, those most ignoble of Noble Houses that James Clavell, below, wrote about so knowingly and where my mother worked as a secretary for decades.

It wasn’t long before Hong Kong was overrun by celebrity chefs and kissy kissy hairstylists along with designer brand young wives.

They were all necessary supporting players in a pretty weird but extremely rich and pukka Hong Kong lifestyle in a non social media age.

Over the years this internationalism, no matter how weird it might have been has gradually eroded until there was a well publicised exodus from Hong Kong a few years ago for various reasons.

The internationalism of Hong Kong been allowed to erode to such an extent that we foreigners and proud Hong Kong Belongers who are still here, at least for a while more, have seemingly been reduced to a second class status.

This indifference has stopped some from doing their part to try and fix that wheel that dropped off from the city probably around 2018.

Forgetting the tedious lamenting about “the good old days”, I look at what’s going on in Hong Kong in 2023 and shake my head at just how rundown this city has become- a city without a credible and relevant brand personality without which nothing can become something.

What IS the brand personality of Hong Kong today?


Does anyone know or care?

Last week, there was another new initiative by the government and, I guess, the Hong Kong Tourism Board to revive the nightlife in Hong Kong under the theme of “Night Vibes”.

Not to sound petty, but what are these “vibes”?

And what are these “vibes” at night?

Are their “vibes” in the daytime?

Who exactly is this campaign for? Adults and children?

Watching the launch of the “Night Vibes” special was embarrassing. It made me cringe.

I felt like Marty McFly looking for Doc to go back to the future but finding myself in the middle of a tacky HKTVB variety show from the Eighties.

Continue with this marketing “strategy” of randomness and instead of losing Hongkongers to weekends in Shenzhen, let’s not forget that Macau is opening up far faster than Hong Kong and could well be positioned as The Monte Carlo Of The Orient.

Macau is attracting tourism, it’s just an hour away from Hong Kong and offering six star hotels like the David Beckham endorsed The Londoner, fabulous restaurants and a nightlife that most definitely has long legs.

Macau is competition to every other port of call in Asia except for Japan.

Japan will always be its own brand and so much more of everything that Hong Kong and no one else has.

I am guessing that those who approve tourism themes along with those massive marketing budgets for promotions like “Hello Hong Kong”, “Happy Hong Kong”, and now “Night Vibes” grew up watching local television variety shows and believe copycat versions of these can work in the new Hong Kong.

Maybe they can work for a certain age group and socio economic group in Hong Kong, but it’s definitely not going to have tourists- International tourists from the West- rushing to experience these “Night Vibes”.

They’ve given a flick to the usual harbour light shows, bazaars, night markets and more of the same old same old and are heading to Bali, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines..,

Why not showcase the art and culture of the ethnic minorities- like myself- still in Hong Kong?

Think about it and think of someone like popular Mauritian jockey Karis Teetan introducing all the flavours of his homeland?

Aren’t there any Hong Kong based fashion designers or creative communities from Vietnam, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc etc?

Couldn’t all this talent be part of sustainable good vibes with Hong Kong being host for showcasing talent in Asia?

Of course Hong Kong should embrace its “Chineseness”, but Made In Hong Kong and made and inspired in China products need to be introduced to this new Hong Kong by those who know their dim sums and then sums.

This is a Hong Kong that went through so much during those masked and vaccination driven years under the reign of terror of the Chief Executive Housewife whose bumbling leadership created a paranoia that still exists today.

This is why something like “Night Vibes” and those “happy happy” campaigns that came before flopped like a House Of Pancakes made out of jello and were quickly brushed under the Tai Pan carpet.

The government should perhaps go back to listening to “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys and realise that Hong Kong is still gripped by an invisible fear.

THIS is what makes many of us stay home and order meals via Deliveroo and think twice about going out to hear some covers act sing “Shallow” and then get home before midnight even on a Friday night.

This is because we’re bloody bored- bored with a Humpty Dumpty Hong Kong that seemingly no one can put together again.

This is also where those of us who have worked in marketing and advertising for global brands and even produced advertising for GIS- Government Information Services- see just how much standards have dropped.

Those pandemic years robbed many in Hong Kong of things like Hope and Inspiration and replaced this with a defeatist “Why Bother?” attitude.

Before there are superficial add-ons like “Night Vibes”, there’s a need for a mothership of continuous good vibes and good feng shui and strategic thinking that’s about improving situations instead of settling for mediocrity or waiting to strap on those golden parachutes and disappear forever after- as usual- taking billions from Hong Kong and with no giving back.

Empty talk and billion dollar funding of things while missing the mark by not actually having the talent to make things happen is not what’s needed- not when many are still going through a healing period- especially all those children who grew up in a masked and scared and screwed up city and dysfunctional world.

Off the top of my head and to inspire those coming up the ranks, I would take this new generation to the times when Hong Kong had truly creative photographers, world class graphic designers like Henry Steiner, and exciting film and advertising industries because of people with vision.

There were creative and larger than life characters like the late David Tang who gave us Shanghai Tang and the China Club.

Today, could we not have world champion swimmer in Hong Kong born Siobhan Haughey be recruited to inspire young children, especially those who look up to her? There are many.

Perhaps the $5 billion initiative introduced by the Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club- The Institute For Philanthropy through the organisation’s Charities Trust- will be involved in creating something like a young entrepreneurs club?

Gawd knows Hong Kong needs new thinkers and especially something that brings these people together.


Why must underground music- and there are some extremely good and innovative music being produced by Hong Kong Chinese talent well versed in multi media who are never heard.

Maybe it’s time underground came up for air- and the Hong Kong Government fund this talent as part of “Night Vibes”?

This funding would go much further than what has been sunk into that complete waste of time that’s CreateHK and part of the legacy of the former civil servant Duncan Pescod.

Doesn’t Hong Kong need something multi creative like Eastern Margins- something else other than more and more and more Canto Pop, covers acts and function singers?

Sustainability. This is what’s needed in Hong Kong.

Drawing up lists of one-off events is fine, but what’s needed is a field of dreams that can grow and be more than what it is.

This is the visionary thinking that made Sir Run Run Shaw, Stanley Ho, Sir David Tang, and a few others the game changers they became.

What Hong Kong doesn’t need are lame and cosmetic changes.

We can see right through those.

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