Flat Earth

On the buses

One of Hong Kong's most celebrated characteristics - its love of ostentation - threatens to make a mess of things tomorrow night, when Britain attempts to get out of here with as much dignity as the Chinese will allow us.

With so many security-conscious heads of state in town, not least China's President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Li Peng, the authorities are shutting off streets and urging local guests at the handover ceremonies to come on official buses. But demand for bus passes has been conspicuously thin - no self-respecting Hong Kong taipan is going to leave his Rolls at home and come by public transport, and afterwards the streets are expected to be full of chauffeurs looking for their masters. Add the possibility of demonstrations and a cloudburst of the kind that has people outside my window scurrying for cover, and you could have the mother of all traffic jams.

It's no problem for Chris Patten or the Prince of Wales, who will sail off in the Britannia, but the handover itself may look a bit under-rehearsed. There has been so much squabbling between Britain and China - the British and American consuls, for instance, learned from the radio that their governments had decided to back down and send them to the swearing-in of China's puppet legislature - that there has not been much time to practise the ceremonial.

Good riddance

What T-shirt sloganeers are calling, with various degrees of wit, the "Great Chinese Takeaway", the "1997 Hong Kong Hangover" or "The Last Night of the Poms" is just one big excuse to party for thousands of young British expats. All the twenty and thirty-somethings who have seized their last chance for permitless work delivering sandwiches or pulling pints will be out on the street from Lan Kwai Fong to Causeway Bay, drinking themselves to oblivion with their American, Canadian, Aussie and South African chums, not to mention friends from home who have just flown in - after a panic caused by their own greed, the hotels now report 93 per cent occupancy.

It must be these types that the Hong Kong Standard columnist Bernard Fong has in mind when he speaks of locals dismissing Britain as "irredeemably irrelevant" and tiring of its nationals "abusing their hospitality". But his main attack is on Hong Kongers recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, who will receive their awards from Prince Charles during his visit. These "nonentities and lackeys whose collective betrayal of Hong Kong down the years for career and profit is an art form", he writes, are "relics queueing to receive badges of shame from the Prince of Wales, here to fold empire. This in contrast to the Princess of Wales, who uplifts by promoting haute couture and banning landmines."

That last bit is a joke - isn't it? Either way, I predict a bright future for Bernard's somewhat incoherent polemics under the new order.

A plaque's place

When Saigon was on the point of collapse in 1974, a loyal Vietnamese employee unscrewed the brass plaque at the entrance to the Reuters bureau and carried it to safety, lest it fall into the hands of the Communists. It found its way to the walls of the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong - which is about to fall to the Communists.

So where should the plaque go now? To Singapore? In theory, at least, there will be more press freedom in Hong Kong after the handover than there is in Lee Kwan Yew's nanny state. To Seoul or Tokyo? A bit lacking in the romance of Saigon or Hong Kong. Manila? Too far off the beaten track.

Of course, Reuters is back in Ho Chi Minh City, as we must learn to call Saigon, so the brass oblong could always go home. But until the People's Liberation Army storms the bar of the FCC, the plaque will stay where it is.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing