Thanks, Henry, we couldn't ask for a better tomorrow
It can now be exclusively revealed that members of the Hong Kong Association of Satirists were summoned to an emergency meeting last month, after an unseemly outbreak of panic among the organisation's directors who got it into their heads that Henry Tang Ying-yen would fail to be 'elected' as the next chief executive.
Messages flooded into the satirists' headquarters, with members expressing concern about becoming unemployed should Tang fail to secure the top job. Some veteran satirists had even borrowed large sums of money against future earnings they believed would be guaranteed with Tang in place.
All this seemed in jeopardy as irresponsible newspapers published opinion poll after opinion poll suggesting Leung Chung-ying had overwhelming public backing and could well slide into office.
However, at the emergency meeting, one of the senior members delivered a solemn assurance that he had been in touch with the people who matter in Beijing and they had confirmed that Tang was indeed their man and that none of the comrades really knew what an opinion poll was anyway.
But, spluttered one of the younger satirists, surely they're not going to install in office someone who has a tenuous grasp of policy, can hardly open his mouth without saying nothing and has the finest Hello Kitty wave in the whole of the special administrative region? As he spoke, a small wave of relief pulsated through the room. In his innocence, this young speaker had unknowingly spelled out Tang's sublime qualifications for the job. What a relief.
Relief turned to sheer joy on December 19 when Campaign Henry was officially launched under the slogan 'We Are Tomorrow'. This brilliant slogan had, of course, been written by one of the association's members and Tang put on a show to delight even the most worried satirist: he stumbled for Hong Kong, said nothing repeatedly while managing to retain the rictus-like grin that is particularly pleasing to the cartoonists among the ranks.
However, satirists are hard to please and, despite relief regarding the Henry Tang situation, there were still murmurings of discontent over the seeming rehabilitation of bankers. The rich earnings stream they had provided all year appeared in danger of drying up as these worthy gentlemen dispensed with made-to-measure suits and were forced into the sackcloth of attire supplied by the likes of Brooks Brothers. In this new garb, they started to admit to fallibility and made great shows of dishing out cash to charity. Frankly, it was ominous because satire thrives on hatred and contempt and they were doing their best to undermine the livelihood of frontline satirists.
Crisis loomed but, yet again, victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat as the bankers went back to their old ways and got governments to prop them up as they invented new and better methods of explaining why they are always right even if the markets occasionally get things wrong. Some went further and overturned the timid mea culpas issued when it looked as though they might actually have to dig into their own pockets to make good their losses.
And it should be noted that, despite the depths of satirists' despair, 2011 proved to be a year when some things went right - thanks to the admirable efforts of the satirist's best friend, the Information Services Department. As ever, keen to ensure that Hong Kong remains Asia's Satire Hub, the department obliged by pumping out information on how the environment was improving, how the poor were being helped in every possible way, why major property developers never get preferential treatment and how smoothly elections had been conducted. The satirists' association gave its annual heartfelt vote of thanks to the department for going that extra mile to help this struggling industry.
So members of the association are looking forward to 2012 and beyond, confident in the knowledge that Tang's tomorrow means a better day for all those who slave to keep Hong Kong satire alive in these challenging times. Or, as Tang has previously explained, when he says something is 'complete rubbish', he means this as a term of respect.
Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur