If you lived back in early 1970s Britain, when young people graduated straight from Oxford and Cambridge into television comedy, you will likely have watched Monty Python’s Flying Circus on TV, and lived with its absurd tag lines as catch phrases for the rest of your life.
You may have caught its flavour in the Life of Brian movie or just bothered to take an archival sample of what made John Cleese and Michael Palin so famous to start with. If so, you will have a sense for the remarkably Pythonesque qualities which infuse the Hong Kong government.
A government which puts people who dislike students onto university councils must surely be disputing in its own committees whether a parrot which has dropped off its perch is truly dead. Administrators who built a $60 billion railway from China without working out how passengers can legally get off it at the other end are definitely operating a Secretariat for Silly Walks along the corridors at Tamar.
Under strict rules of collective responsibility, the whole Executive Council regularly breaks out into the legendary song, “I’m a Lumberjack and I’m OK. I sleep all night and I work all day. I cut down trees, I eat my lunch and I go to the lavatory. On Wednesdays I go shoppin’, And have buttered scones for tea.”
It was a feature of the opening credits of ‘Monty Python’ that a graphic Big Foot, overflowing with bizarre items, would descend and crush whatever was going on beneath. Now, the government’s Big Foot is stomping on the West Kowloon Cultural District.
Down from heaven is coming a replica palace of dead potentates’ pots and pans, possibly designed as a foot by predestined architect Rocco Yim. Who’s to know? It will crush a mega performance facility which will have been planned for in excruciating detail over the hundred years it has taken to get the WKCD this far.
A second rank exhibition of jugs and jars (all the imperial good stuff is in Taipei) will now squat in the middle of a performing arts paradise. That is what the Big Foot is all about. It makes no sense and it doesn’t matter, both at the same time.
The fake chunk of the Forbidden City could be a patriotic gift to the people of Hong Kong by presumed CE candidate Carrie Lam, who is also dispenser or denier of performance venues, depending on the weather. Or it could be an offering of Hong Kong patriotism to Beijing.
The wind of celestial favour is often difficult to track but, whichever way it is blowing, it has backfired amongst Hong Kong ingrates worse than a firecracker up a car exhaust.
Still, thanks to the certainties of authoritarianism, the pots and pans palace will drop into place, nonetheless. This is alarming other CE candidates who are frantically looking around for ceramics to throw at this situation.
Regina Ip is said to want to scrap the Central police station restoration project in Hollywood Road, build a replica of the Temple of Heaven there funded by the Rotary Club, and use it as a police station.
Escapee from the retired judges’ facility on Hei Ling Chau, Woo Kwok-hing, has plans to recreate the Great Wall along the New Territories boundary with Kowloon, funded by the Heung Yee Kuk, of which he seem inordinately fond. Behind it, a variation of Sharia law will operate whereby every child of an indigene gets a land grant and the right to park anywhere he pleases.
Fuming by now, politically constipated John Tsang is about to reveal plans for a rebuilding of the Summer Palace on the Kai Tak site, paid for by the Hong Kong government, as a cold weather shelter for old people.
About the Roccoco cups and saucers palace in Kowloon, there will be heard the groan of a thousand schoolteachers across Hong Kong, facing years of supervising patriotically correct visits by groups of uncontrollably bored school kids.
Like Hong Kong Disney, some locals may go once, marvel at the clear-out from the back of Pu Yi’s kitchen cupboards and thrill to a mangy stuffed Qing sofa with yellow anti macassar. Then — yes you can hear the mantra already — it will become a valuable tourist attraction. Mainlanders will flock south and foreigners will roll in from overseas to see stuff that the Beijing curators decided they could do without.
If Jasper Tang does decide to make a last minute bid for CE, I have one for him: Shenzhen knock-offs of the Terracotta Warriors lined up on a Lantau reclamation. A month’s expenses allowance from each Legco member should sort that out. The job will be his.