China picks endangered dolphin for HK symbol

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The Independent Online
If symbolism tells us anything about the future of Hong Kong, the outlook is very disturbing. Earlier this week the committee responsible for the celebrations marking the resumption of Chinese sovereignty over the colony next year decided its symbol would be the Chinese white dolphin. The committee seemed unaware this species was threatened with extinction in Chinese waters by the end of the century.

The committee also decided to place this alongside a new symbol for the future Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong - the Bauhinia flower, which the writer Jan Morris once described as "a sterile hybrid which produces no seed".

So Hong Kong will march into the future under the symbols of an endangered species and sterility.

The fate of the white dolphin is poignant. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, only 80 are left in the waters around Hong Kong. Their extinction is being hastened by vessels entering the bustling container ports and killing them, and by the destruction of their habitat during the construction of the territory's new airport.

"If nothing is done to save them," says Alex Yau of the WWF, "the species cannot go on for more than three years."

The committee preparing the celebrations seems oblivious to this. Its convenor, Raymond Wu, believes the friendly dolphin will appeal to everybody, especially children. Its leaping movement, he says, symbolises Hong Kong's vibrancy.

The sterile Bauhinia became Hong Kong's national flower during the colonial period. It will replace the royal crest and other imperial symbols which still litter the colony.