Friday, 1 October 2010


Fireworks. Heavy-artillery-bash-the-sky fireworks explode over Hong Kong. It's National Day and a grand public celebration for China.

How the seven million citizens in Hong Kong feel about an artillery of ten thousand fireworks blasted relentlessly into the sky in a glorious blaze of orange, red and gold, I can't tell you.

One thing I do know, it's not simply a kaboom of firecrackers bombarding the night sky. This whizzbangcrash of colour and canon boom stamps a mark for everyone, miles around. It slams into the darkness a marker, a telling you of who's in charge. The People's Republic of China. The fireworks celebrate the founding of the republic in 1949. Hong Kong became part of China only recently, in 1997. Some were willing, some were not.

I'm told that in 1997, some feared direct control from Beijing; others thought, good thing too. It's time for China to start a new wave of global enterprise. I read that Hu Jintao, the Paramount Leader and head of state for the PRC, is a forward-looking technocrat who mixes pragmatism with social control. For now, Hong Kong makes money: Deng Xiaoping showed the way with Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, and outward alliances give a good return on Chinese investment.

But China is a long-term game player. Right now, Hong Kong is useful. Will its semi-autonomous status be respected in the long term? I don't know. Some people say it depends how much Hong Kong ultimately bends to China's demands; some say it doesn't matter. Events elsewhere will eclipse Hong Kong - when the issue of Taiwan is resolved, Shanghai as the older seat of Chinese power will simply take over as the centre for Chinese economy.

Me, I have mixed feelings about it all. My part in Hong Kong's history is as insignificant as it can get. Shark and Tiger come along with me to see the display.

Tiger, only just. There are some insults so profound we can't get round them with linguistic slips of 'how I will interpret your reply'. The hurt is too obvious, and requires an apology and recognition of boundary line broken. In Tiger's case, the retraction was urgently given and thankfully received, with seconds to go.

Squirrel, on the other hand, gets herself grounded for one final, unapologetic, insolent utterance to a pissed off parent - I'm maintaining it's after a long hard day of kind patience and tolerance - but with rising irritability and no beer. And the fact that Squirrel doesn't go to see the fireworks tells her, just for that moment, where the line is, what the rules are, who enforces them: who's in charge. Not Deng Xiaoping. Not Hu Jintao. Not Squirrel. Mama.

1 comment:

sharon said...

All hail the Glorious Leader AKA Mama! Or else!!!

I love fireworks. we don't get to see so many out here in the countryside because of the fire risk ;-(

No comment on how long HK will be useful enough for its idiosyncrasies to be tolerated by its Glorious Leader. They do indeed play the long game in China. Much depends also on how long the lid can be kept on the burgeoning aspirations and disatisfactions of the mainland population.