THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

There might be new fool born every minute, but there’s also a new con being hatched every nanu second with most of these being splattered throughout Hong Kong.

PRETENCES 1

Only the most dumbed-out Pollyanna would refuse to admit that Hong Kong is in free-fall with the luxury sector, especially, being hit so badly that some of the biggest international brands are going through massive cost-cutting exercises including layoffs starting right at the very top.

PRETENCES 2

Of course, this has had a top-down effect and Hong Kong is not immune to the economic tsunami that has spread through most of Europe, but, here, with Mainland China’s “austerity measures” and serious crackdown on corruption and graft, reining in what had become the almost obscene spending spree of Mainlanders, and which has had a huge domino effect on the profitability of every casino in Macau. Even the Eastern European working girls have skid addled- to Dubai- or back home. Walking those Macau streets are no longer paved in patacas. Only chump change from the sympathy of strangers.

PRETENCES 3

The strict policies of the new Mainland Chinese leadership means an end, at least for the near future, to money from the motherland leaving the country, and right here and now, the results are being felt as many hit panic stations and Hong Kong becomes Hong Con.

PRETENCES 4

Of course, the con has been worked in the city for decades though much of this was hidden as being “entrepreneurism.”

The late and wonderfully eccentric Daniel Ng was a bona fide entrepreneur who made Hong Kong accept McDonald’s and Big Macs.

PRETENCES 5

Alan Zeman was an entrepreneur who took a neglected rubbish site and turned it into Lan Kwai Fong, and before he and “McDaniel”, came visionaries such as Runme and Run Run Shaw, Raymond Chow and Li ka-shing.

PRETENCES 6

PRETENCES 7

PRETENCES 8

Today, what Hong Kong is seeing are a pocketful of mumbles that are sometimes promises- different types of cons in varying degrees of size that run through the F&B industry, where, depending on the area, 2-3 groups own and control the majority of the restaurants.

PRETENCES 9

Even if most of these are losing propositions, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about “creative accounting” where even when you lose you win as if you’re “the house” and the house always wins.

PRETENCES 10

Though for years, local films have been produced at a loss, “artists” signed to music companies with million dollar non-recoupable advances, and thousands of money losing shows, what happened in Hong Kong was the shady work of those who lived and worked and did their dirty laundry in Hong Kong. Many of us knew what was going on and who were pulling the strings, but as long as it didn’t affect us, it was business as usual even when high ranking government officials like now-jailed and former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui was involved.

Rafael Hui

What we have today, however, is a “foreign influence” seeping into Hong Con- flim flam people- men and women- from the bankrupt cities of Europe, Nigeria, Eastern Europe by way of Shanghai which has begun “Little Russia”, and others from around this region.

“Trending” in Hong Kong five years ago were the carrots dangled to invest in private members clubs, the mining industry, mainly in Inner Mongolia while some were sold on the dream of owning mines in the Philippines, which, after five years of digging and more and more money sucked into a very large “Feed Me!” hole, didn’t even yield a plate of adobo.

PRETENCES 12

These days, the cons are a buffet of daftly different investments offered by strangers who come at you with guns blazing- but no name cards or real cash- and talk of making, not “just” millions, but billions by setting up clubs (more clubs???), the buying and selling of second-hand luxury cars, fitness centres, yoga centres, cigar members clubs, purchasing the Victoria’s Secret brand for Asia, buying into football clubs, joining “sure win” off-shore computer betting syndicates and “living the dream.” But with what?

PRETENCES 13

What Hong Kong is also seeing is a drop in tourism- 8.7 percent last month. Word travels fast and the word these days is that this city has become a centre for, yes, parallel imports, cripplingly high rents and “protests movements”, but to tourists, the feeling that the days of the bargains have disappeared and replaced by inflated prices, quality control of everything has fallen, and a distrust of that stranger sitting next to you and trying to be your friend. They must want something. Even if they don’t, sadly, trying to be friendly to strangers is taken the wrong way. Hong Kong was never ever like this: paranoid.

PRETENCES 14

It’s what happens when you’ve been burnt once too often by those even supposedly closest to you and part of that Hong Kong Hustle known as the Hong Con.

What matters these days is Keeping up with the Joneses, the Chans, the Wongs and always keeping up pretences that you’re doing bigger and better than the person next to you- even if you barely have two cents to your name and are living a hand-to-mouth existence while waiting for the next sucker to come along.

Hong Kong has become as cheap, nasty and desperate as terrestrial local television station ATV that has been allowed to plod along despite giving nothing back to this city except some of the worst programming.

PRETENCES 15

Hong Kong can no longer afford to take in the strays and turn a blind eye to what’s going on under their noses every day- Nigerian cocaine dealers here on refugee visas allowed to openly conduct their business along Wyndham Street, very off-kilter and racist immigration policies, the broke and bereft expats from Shanghai snaking their way into Hong Kong, the emergence of an Eastern European mob mentality, and a city under siege by those might talk the talk, but whose every word is a lie and where con jobs are becoming part of daily life.

PRETENCES 16