By Hans Ebert



The recent news that one of the most polarising figures in Hong Kong’s F&B community has managed to stage a comeback after yet another fall from grace by persuading an investor new to this industry to back his latest project- apparently, an organic restaurant- has had heads shaking and tongues wagging. How does this larger-than-life character who has been unceremoniously dumped by a number of other investors, who eventually saw the light and didn’t like what they saw, keep persuading so many to part with their money?


Well, anyone who has listened to the man knows his skills of persuasion, aka bollocks, along with a personality that has been perpetuated to almost Wolfgang Puck proportions over the years by a naive and malleable media, has certainly helped. Like blowing hot air kisses across the room and socialites past their prime holding on to past glories for dear life, the art of talking bollocks goes a long way in easily gullible Hong Kong.


Listen to the absolute crap we hear every day from those we are paying to manage this city. And yet, we allow them to continue, and will eventually replace these empty vessels with more making the most noise. It’s like one long and loud game of mahjong where the only loser all the time is the taxpayer.


Our beloved government aside and its fearless and stoic leader, one can’t help but think just how many flim flam men from overseas have cut a swathe through this city by conning so many with dreams and schemes of upmarket fitness centres- and long before the current pandemic of this business being unmasked as the cons they are today. Anyone remember that high-profile husband and wife double act in the fitness game? And then, poof, the marriage tanked, and they both pulled a disappearing act owing millions. But, at least, she dressed well. Not surprisingly, he dressed like Huggie Bear, the pimp in “Starsky And Hutch”.


Then, there have been those that made a mint here, and later in Shanghai, with private clubs that fed on the egos of superficial individuals longing for a sense of “status” and “belonging”, and so many others with vague ideas, but which so many have been happy to throw money into with little or no due diligence.


Bollocks, bullshit, bending the truth, pipe dreams, call it what you will, has always worked in Hong Kong. It must be something in the water. Or the dim sum, but so many have historically been dazzled by bullshit. Bullshit is fast-becoming the city’s only USP, and a legacy now in the hands of a new generation of supposed entrepreneurs, who talk in billions, constantly find investor groups for their restaurants, bars, clubs, cigar divans etc etc, and see nothing wrong in straddling that fine white line between what’s legal and what’s not. As Bruce Springsteen wrote, they’ve been blinded by the light.


“Why and how has he been able to do it?” asked a friend when talking about the latest resurrection act by the restaurateur and media-made chef mentioned earlier. Let’s not be coy: a white skin still goes a very long way in Hong Kong, and it’s quite extraordinary that, despite all the talk of gloom and doom and an economic downturn, people are still brought out here on exorbitant expat packages- the apartment in, at least, the most expensive areas of the Mid-Levels, the domestic helpers, the company car, the chauffeur, the various memberships for the wife, the kids and mistress to private clubs etc.


It’s really not that much different to the Eighties and Nineties when the Hong Kong advertising industry was finding its feet. Smelling money, in sailed what were known as FILTHs- Failed In London Try Hongkong- though, to be fair, these opportunists included South Africans, Australians. Canadians and Americans. Did these people bring anything to the table? A few did while others parlayed their white card into executive roles while all the time using their positions to open the doors to their wives, mistresses, broke friends from whence they came, and those greasy little local sycophants who had perfected the art of furious shoe shining. Don’t think this has gone away. If anything, the shoe shining is more obvious- and vigorous. It’s about survival.


While every dirty secret about every high profile Hong Kong businessman is known to all, and with many having been handsomely paid off to keep the wolves at bay- blackmailing the rich and famous has become big business today and categorised as “entertainment”- what’s lacking in this city are heroes.


Hong Kong is Gotham City without Batman- and one can hardly expect Little Richard Li to assume the role of Bruce Wayne.


Though no Batman to clean up Gotham City and with it, Mongkok, Wanchai, Causeway Bay and TST East that’s back and working under the radar to find its feet again, we have our own versions of The Joker, The Riddler, Mr Freeze, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, The Penguin, Scarecrow etc.

Yes, there’s no Batman, no Police Commissioner James Gordon, no Boy Wonder named Robin- Teddy Robin doesn’t count- but just a cast of villainous and vile characters, who wear many faces, plunder this city with no guilt or hesitation, and are allowed to get away with it. And people wonder why Hong Kong has dropped below Libya in the UN’s Happiness Report and why The Long March out of here continues to places one would have never considered before- Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and even Indonesia? Meanwhile, Australia awaits with open arms and a great big red carpet.


Hong Kong has managed to royally screw itself through an arrogance that it had no competition, and by complaining from one side of the mouth, but more than happy to sell itself out to the highest bidder.


Somewhere along the way, this great city was led astray and has never found its way back again. Unlike the Tin Man in “The Wizard Of Oz”, Hong Kong never found its heart. Maybe it never had one.