Slice of Life
Compiled by Bonny Schoonakker
From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1997
Two days before the handover, the Post Magazine consulted 'internationally renowned psychic Betty Palko and local fortune teller Kwong Wai-hung' on the fate of some of Hong Kong's movers and shakers. All Palko and Wong had to go on were dates of birth and photos of their subjects, who included then governor Chris Patten, chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, mainland leader Jiang Zemin and chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang.
Lord Patten 'could be the next British prime minister', said Palko, who also predicted Hong Kong's soon-to-be-former governor would 'follow in the footsteps of Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill' in becoming a writer. Kwong was adamant Mr Patten would never be British prime minister: 'He does not have the chin for it.'
Mr Tung was 'not going to be in the hot seat for long', said Palko. 'He is going to say something or do something that will annoy everybody. He has no idea about politics - he is a businessman.' Kwong thought Mr Tung's chin was great and that 'political success is written all over his face'. In Mr Jiang's future, Palko espied 'another man very much linked with him, a right-hand man', but she believed Mr Jiang's future was assured and that a mooted power struggle in Beijing 'seems to be off the agenda for a while'. Kwong thought Mr Jiang 'was blessed with a very good chin, like his predecessors Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong '.
Mrs Chan 'positively glows with good fortune and a good aura', said Palko. Mrs Chan 'faces no conflict, just a long, happy life'. Kwong thought Mrs Chan was a dragon and that, therefore, 1997 would be a bad year for her. The only way Mrs Chan could maximise her luck 'would be to leave Hong Kong for a while'.
People's Liberation Army troops were seen in Wan Chai carrying boxes 'about the right size to contain weapons', a news agency had reported. 'Given that PLA troops are supposed to be armed with nothing more serious than their haircuts, this appears serious,' the Post said, in a lighthearted look at the handover hype. The government, 'tired of all the wild speculation', investigated, and found the troops 'were, in fact, members of the orchestra of the People's Liberation Army. But, boy, are they dangerous. One of the boxes carrying a tuba damaged one of the Convention Centre escalators'.
A group of police inspectors was refusing to abandon the oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth and had vowed to quit the force from midnight of the handover, said a report. 'The small group' made its grievances public in a statement issued by the office of legislator James To Kun-sun. A petition to the governor for early retirement had been rejected, and the government had warned of disciplinary action and the forfeiture of their pensions. The inspectors were upset because expatriate officers had been offered early retirement. Mr To asked: 'Why are gweilos given the opportunity to choose whether to serve the SAR government in accordance with their conscience, but not the local Chinese?' The next day police commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on said he was considering waiving the notice period for those who wanted to resign. They would be free to leave, 'but were not eligible to meet the criteria for early retirement with immediate full benefit'.
Except for those sitting in the Court of Final Appeal, judges would continue to wear wigs, chief justice-designate Andrew Li Kwok-nang had decided. Government barrister Andrew Bruce dismissed suggestions that the wigs and gowns were 'mere symbols of the colonial era ... I don't regard it so much as colonial but as a symbol of continuity', he said. The vice-chairman of the Bar Association, Lawrence Lok QC, was disappointed. 'I hate them,' Mr Lok said of wigs and gowns. 'They look ridiculous on a Chinese person.' Gill Godfrey, of the London firm Ede and Ravenscroft, which supplies Hong Kong's judges with wigs at HK$9,000 each, was delighted. A wig 'preserves the dignity of the court and makes the protagonists more anonymous'.