Ominous warnings over damage caused to protest-hit Hong Kong
Risk consultancy firm SVA, headed by former organised-crime buster Steve Vickers, recently held its annual cocktails to remind us why we should hire its services. People were impressed, if somewhat alarmed, by Vickers' thoughts on Hong Kong in the aftermath of the protests. He believes we have crossed a significant watershed in the city's recent history. He said real "under-the-waterline damage" had been done, adding Hong Kong would not be the same again.
While noting that "the end of Hong Kong" had been predicted, incorrectly, many times before, he did not think the present difficulties signalled the end of the road for the city. He warned that people would need to adapt to a new situation, "perhaps one where living here will eventually resemble, in many respects, living in another mainland city". He said the current situation represented a major challenge and "ironically the protests may have actually precipitated the greatest threat to our 'one country, two systems' principle. Separating 'the river water from the well water' is what has kept Hong Kong healthy and protected our way of life since the handover".
Vickers says a more combative form of politics with more aggressive street politics is here to stay. It will be harder to govern Hong Kong. "Most importantly, the real power in Hong Kong is no longer with the [Leung Chun-ying] Hong Kong government, but is clearly in the hands of the Liaison Office." He also thinks that in the short to medium term, "we will see greater involvement by the mainland security and intelligence apparatus than before the Occupy exercise", adding: "A permanent expansion of these departments' activities can be anticipated in Hong Kong." He thinks the People's Liberation Army garrison might in future include elements of the People's Armed Police and the Hong Kong Police leadership might spend more time training on the mainland.
While observing the legal system had operated well during the protests, he thought it "may not be viewed favourably for this and may come under renewed pressure". As for education and media organisations, they were perceived to have contributed to the protests, and academics may come under pressure along with the media.
Vickers said it was important that the government addressed the social issues that fuelled public support for the protests, such as housing and low wages. As for business, Hong Kong is still important to the mainland in terms of trade finance and capital raising, but a diminution of the rule of law would hurt the city and the mainland.
He concluded with the thought that "things are changing - not all of them for the better". The protests "may just have precipitated what was eventually coming", but he suggested that if people were adaptable and pragmatic, "we will see Hong Kong overcome great difficulty and thrive".
Paying the price for a review
We hear of an extortionary story from the travel industry. A British couple found they had been charged £100 (HK$1,213) by a hotel in northwestern England after they said in an online review that it was a "filthy, dirty, rotten, stinking hovel".
Tony and Jan Jenkinson told the BBC that they were charged by the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool after leaving their comments on TripAdvisor. The couple, Associated Press said, found a charge on their credit card after their review of the £36-a-night hotel. When asking about the charge, they were told the hotel had a "no-bad-review policy" in its terms and conditions. The hotel could not be reached for comment, but Blackpool authorities say it has changed its policies. John Greenbank, a trading standards area manager, says he has "never seen anything like this".
Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to [email protected]