By Hans Ebert

The news that a 16-year-old player from Nepal-Sandeep Lamichane will join the Kowloon Cantons at this weekend’s DTC Mobile Hong Kong T20 Blitz tournament has not gone unnoticed by those in this city who fear that we might be seeing Trump-like xenophobia creeping into the mentality of some.

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With the well-known great divide between many of the locals and the mainlanders having reached a point of no return, there are those making dangerous noises about how the 11,000 asylum seekers, mainly from the sub-continent, need to be singled out for particular scrutiny and questioning. Some have suggested setting up a special internment camp to keep these “pariahs” at bay. And though Hong Kong has far more pressing problems to tackle, this 11,000 elephant in the room refuses to go away. In fact, it sits there and gets bigger.

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Absolutely unqualified reports that this particular group consists of “robbers, rapists and murderers”, and these idiotic claims being handed out to passersby in leaflets as “fact”- and even outside a mosque- is huge cause for concern. This insidious attempt at creating another divide in a city already divided and being pulled apart by those insisting that they’re fighting for the “betterment” of Hong Kong shows hypocrisy at work along with more than a touch of showboating.

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Of course, how the government has allowed Hong Kong to balloon out to become home for 11,000 asylum seekers is something that no one can answer without some furious back peddling. If these rumblings from some newbie local politicians needing a soap box to make a name for themselves become louder, and a new racist bandwagon gets into top gear, Hong Kong could be looking at a complete face change. The word “cosmopolitan” could no longer be used to describe this city. And which is why, the inclusion of Nepalese Lamichane in a game of international cricket in Hong Kong, no matter how small a move, and to do with a sport that’s hardly a priority, or even understood in this city, should not go unnoticed.

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Yes, Hong Kong has far greater priorities to tackle than some junior or wannabe “politicians” trying to make a song and dance about the “containment” of asylum seekers though, to be fair, the brazen selling of drugs by, supposedly, pushers from Gambia down Wyndham Street, Pottinger Street, and Cochrane Street continues unabated despite various raids and arrests. Why this has not been reined in after almost five years of Business As Usual remains a mystery along with who is really running these gangs along with the working girls from Africa in Wanchai. None of this contributes towards a very picturesque and welcoming postcard from Hong Kong to the rest of the world.

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As for cricket in Hong Kong, it’s playing catch-up and ride on the coat tails of how the sport has managed to reinvent itself around the world by being played quicker compared to the five-day Test series, made more exciting because of these shorter matches, and with a far more international ‘look’ to the game where some of the biggest names in cricket from the not too distant past play in superstar teams alongside young new talent.

Unlike horse racing in Hong Kong that has a captive market and has been intrinsically woven into the very fabric of the city’s lifestyle, cricket is still to be accepted. Why? At least in Hong Kong, and with the local Chinese audience, the game is seen as one played by Asians- Asians from the sub-continent. This immediately pigeonholes cricket into a sport for a minority group.

Though the upcoming DTC Mobile Hong Kong T20 Blitz tournament between four teams and set to blast off at Mission Road from tomorrow has attracted such a well-known name as former Australian captain Mike Clarke, below, plus a wonderful back story where, largely, a group of Hong Kong-based Indian ladies have come together to actually own the side known as Kowloon Cantons, creating awareness of cricket is limited to the occasional article in an English language newspaper and sporadic mention on what’s passed off as “social media”.

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Most recently, came the news that Hong Kong-born Li Kai-ming, below, has been drafted by the GH Lantau Galaxy Riders, the sole Chinese player in the tournament, who will play alongside cricketers recruited from Delhi.

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To those managing the sport in Hong Kong, the chess pieces are being moved along the board at a rapid rate. For it to move faster, it needs to court the Chinese media, and it needs some rapid-fire sixers hit out of the ground. But right here and right now, a game of cricket has done more to retain the cosmopolitan image of Hong Kong than any politician.

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Hong Kong needs more of these Feel Good stories no matter how small they might be. Stories like this are new beginnings desperately needed by a city under siege by negativity. Well done to all concerned.

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