A prayer for salvation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 January, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 January, 1998, 12:00am

Dear Lord, are we holding anyone in slavery? Has your man Moses been to see Tung Chee-hwa on any people's behalf to tell him to let them go? Certainly, there are migrant workers in Hong Kong. Some are obscenely exploited. But they are a minority. Asians, after all, apply in their thousands to come here, fight to stay, and send home remittances in hard currency. Others sneak across in the dead of night to work here illegally.

Some even sail for Hong Kong in floating rust-buckets, braving pirates and typhoons just to get a chance to be put in a detention camp. Besides, they are a people we have not just let go, but have actively and sometimes physically encouraged to leave.

So why, Lord, do you visit your biblical pestilences upon us, as you once did upon Egypt? In generations to come, will some overlooked ethnic or religious minority celebrate its liberation from Hong Kong with a recounting of the 10 plagues you have rained down on us to force its release? Will the descendants of that minority spill a drop of blood-red wine to commemorate each of the punishments you inflicted on the SAR, much as Jews spill wine at the feast of Passover to remember their liberation from Egypt? The litany would go like this.

'For the blood on the floor of the stock market, we spill a drop.

'For the crash of the property market, we spill a drop.

'For the locusts who ravaged our currency once when they swarmed in from Indonesia and Korea, and a second time when their larvae hatched from the local fundamentals, we spill a drop.

'For the raising of interest rates, we spill a drop.

'For the influenza which struck our poultry and our children, we spill a drop.

'For the ciguatera brought by the leviathan fish from polluted reefs, we spill a drop.

'For the crash of banks and brokerages, we spill a drop.

'For the tourism slump, we spill a drop.

'For mad cow disease, which struck insidiously from infected blood plasma imported, by a cruel irony, from the former colonial power, we spill a drop, stagger out and fear we will remember nothing more this time next year when our brains are softened and full of holes.

'Amen.' Oh Lord, let it be Amen at that point. Let the list not continue on to an 11th or an umpteenth plague. Reveal to us which people we must let go to be granted redemption.

Hang on a minute. Maybe the idea is we should get out ourselves. A respected psychologist once said rocks were more intelligent than cats, because when you kicked a rock it rolled out of the way, but a kicked cat stayed around for more.

Why are we hanging around for more of the same when we could all be shipping out and heading for cheap holidays in even more-crisis-ridden nations? Or, if that sounds too frivolous in such desperate times, perhaps we should be manning the lifeboats. There are too few, of course. And they are for first-class passengers only, just like on the Titanic. But if the Lord is with us, the waters of the Pacific will part as the Red Sea did for the Israelites, and we can all head for the booming economy of the United States.

Better still, we could head for Japan. The diffident citizens of that once-aggressive country would take flight at the approach of refugees from disease-ridden Hong Kong, thus leaving us a new Promised Land to colonise.

The message, we now realise, is not to Mr Tung to let others go, but to lead his own people to freedom.

Now, don't jump to conclusions. We are not asking for independence or anything subversive. On the contrary, we are happy to have Beijing support the dollar peg, keep the red-chip market buoyant and preserve us from unhealthy chickens.

But the time has come for a New Year's break. Happy Year of the Tiger. Enjoy the holiday.