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The Escape of the Rabbit

By Chip Tsao | Feb 10, 2011

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For those who have enough money to live like a Hong Kong SAR snob, it has become fashionable dinner table conversation in the Hong Kong Club to reveal your Chinese New Year plans a few weeks before the holiday. A family skiing trip to Aspen while visiting a son at UC Berkeley is most classy. A doctor told me his choice of escape is the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. A magistrate judge texted me his kung hei fat choi message from a colonial heritage hunting lodge on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, I spent my Chinese New Year in London, which made me feel very inferior, for my friends in the high circle of Central must have taken pity on me for being so close to the Chinese slum called Gerrard Street.

Can you blame us, the last bourgeoisies of Hong Kong who insist on living a life of highly selective and refined tastes after the handover, for viewing such bad old habits like staying in Hong Kong for CNY as top behavior of disgrace?

First the idea of a trip to the “Far See” (the Chinese New Year Flower Market) is most haunting. You don’t call it a celebration to be one of the million faceless, languid souls crawling inch by inch down a narrow path through Victoria Park cordoned off and guarded by the police. No, it is kindergarteners filing out for recess, or a march of prisoners en masse for a breath of fresh air (and more ironically, the air near the Maidstone Prison in the UK, any British expat would agree, must be fresher than that over Victoria Harbour).

Perhaps the Chinese love it this way—could they decide if it were a relaxing moment if it were not being heavily managed? Also the HKSAR government is under constant fear that, unelected by the people, they will eventually become the target of an ocean of angry public abuse if crowds were not cordoned and monitored. After the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, even Chinese crowds could become potentially more dangerous than ever before. This anxiety is now displayed in the inscrutable face of our Beijing Masters. You do not have to be Donald Tsang to discern that.

To be financially able to stay away from Hong Kong for Chinese New Year is an enviable privilege not far from owning a couple of flats on Robinson Road. Not until I received a few patronizing kung hei fat choi text messages sent from all exotic corners of the world did I realize that my holiday escape choice this year was a bit boring. These days, so many mainland Chinese can afford to go on a shopping spree in London, and I to some extent share their peasant-like taste. I have to explain to my friends that the Chinese shopping crowds were here only before Christmas, and the London skies are as blue they can be.   

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