By Hans Ebert

THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 1

Robert DeNiro showed up. So did Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese. In fact, Scorsese even directed and produced a video/documentary/commercial for the event. For a price, of course. Brad Pitt is said to have desperately wanted to show up, but filming commitments kept him away.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 2

Of course, he desperately wanted to show up; like the other Hollywood A-Listers that did for the opening of the US $3.2 billion Studio City in Macau, he would have made a cool US$100m, the figure reportedly paid to his pals. Mariah Carey showed up, but she had to, because soon after her divorce from Nick Cannon, the ageing pop diva hooked up with James Packer, the co-owner of this latest paean to access- a casino resort or resort casino or resocas- with Lawrence Ho, son of ailing casino magnate Stanley Ho.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 2b

Yes, yes, there were other stars making appearances and keeping up pretences, but these were only paid US$20m bracket- chicken feed and chump change- and, of course, there were all the beautiful people from Hong Kong and other parts East and West who just had to be there.

Why did they have to be there? Because it was built and they had to come. Why? Because this was the new place to be and something and somewhere to show that they are almost famous. And now what? Well, the odds are that someone will build a bigger buffet of ostentatious access- probably also in Macau- and the same game of show and tell with the ghost of Robin Leach introducing us to The Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous- this grotesquely shallow world that many so desperately wish to partake in- will continue unabated. Why? Perhaps many of us are just shallow people needing plenty of hugs and reassurances about everything and needing to keep up with the Kardashians, the Chans, the Wongs and the Dim Sums and Char Siu Baos?

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 3

The wife of a friend was telling me on the night of Le Orgy d’Access going on in Macau that she and her husband were leaving Hong Kong after over twenty years here to settle down in Melbourne. As she explained, this city had lost its middle class. There were the very rich and the very poor and a huge chasm in the middle. For the money they cannot even afford to buy a shoebox in the city, she and her husband can purchase a house in Melbourne.

middle-class

While she continued to expand on the financial futility of trying to make ends meet living in Hong Kong as it was simply surviving with nothing to show for their hard work, a Chinese gentleman at the next table was heard telling his friend that he was moving most of his money out of Hong Kong- at least he had money to move- while those at the table across from me were discussing the spate of robberies and kidnappings “trending” in what we like to believe is the safest city in the world. One guesses that’s the only good thing about being poor: You’re safe because you have nothing worth stealing.

Payday

These recent kidnappings of obscenely wealthy people like Wong Yuk-kwan, the former chef turned property magnate-aren’t they all?- who was only recently released after 38 days in captivity and following a covert operation between the Hong Kong and Taiwan police, of course made the headlines and, of course, is the talk of the town, but not because of any sympathy for the people involved. It’s about the wealth they have amassed and how they managed to obtain this wealth.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 4

The vast majority of Hong Kong people- the Have Nots- don’t give a rat’s arse if an ear or toe or any other body part of someone kidnapped is sent to their families along with a ransom note. They want to know how their fortunes were made and why they were left out.

to have and have not

It’s like former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui being jailed for graft. It’s like his immediate boss and former Chief Executive Donald Tsang facing his own graft charges, and it’s like a former Peking opera star, despite being warned that she’s part of a scam, insisting on immediately withdrawing money from four different banks to pay off $20 million to whoever it was who called to say that they had information about her and her family’s business dealings in Mainland China.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 5

Guilt- and silencing all traces of guilt- has opened up a huge new “business model” for some, knowing that, unlike Robin Hood, they can target and fleece the rich and the guilty- and with many- far more than reported- nervously happy to pay a few tens of millions of dollars just to make the bogey men go away. The Have Nots watch all this unfolding and coming apart at the seams and there is no sympathy and zero tolerance for the corrupt.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 6

Whether Occupy Central or the Pan Democrats running around like headless chickens, and the calls for more democracy, the basic underlying root of the problem is the backlash of having watched for decades the rich get richer, how power corrupts, how, like a fish, a government, going back to the colonial days, can stink from the head down. There’s the six or far less degrees of separation between the über rich of Hong Kong, who everyone knows are also the most rotten to the core, and those with the power to offer them a passport to wheel and deal for a “rebate” on profits earned.

Yes, Hong Kong might be one of the safest cities in the world- for the poor- it’s fast-becoming dangerous for those who once were allowed to rape and pillage with no questions asked- and those who enjoy flaunting their wealth. They know they’re being watched, tailed and targeted. Security companies are suddenly in big demand.

money-laundering

All the toasts to excess like what happened in Macau at the opening of Studio City, the constant talk of the millions of dollars being paid out or siphoned off and money laundered through a finely tuned global network of pilfering is all out there.

What happens in Hong Kong doesn’t stay in Hong Kong. It travels to Eastern Europe, makes a stopover in Mainland China for refuelling before snaking its way into Vancouver, Vegas, Seychelles, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and, yes, even Melbourne.

The Robin Hood genie is out of the bottle and doesn’t wear green tights, travel with merry men with a Maid Marion on the side.

the-real-robin-hood-statue-wincham

These are technology savvy Robbing Hoods prevalent in every industry in the world and with a well thought out business plan that takes no prisoners.

money isn't everything

As for Hong Kong, all these gauche and constant excesses in rampant showboating of riches is something no longer admired or accepted. It’s being challenged under various guises.

line-in-the-sand

The bottom line, however, is the line drawn in the sand between the Haves and the Have Nots and the latter group finally having their Howard Beale Moment.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 7

It will get much worse before the word “better” makes a comeback. Hollywood Excess right on our doorstep does not help. The timing is all wrong.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN HONG KONG 8