The Horse Race

Anh-thu and I enjoy some killer fresh spring rolls at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club and catch up on the latest buzz in Hong Kong. Phony 1,000 currency notes (worth @ $130 USD each) have been discovered floating around the city, and they’re such high quality counterfeits that some have ended up in bank machines. Now no Hong Konger will be caught dead accepting one, which effectively takes the $1,000 banknote out of general circulation. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, just before yeh mah –“evening horse”, the weekly nighttime horseraces at Happy Valley–the police discovered some mysterious “devices” buried under the turf.
    What were they? The police are being closemouthed about the investigation, and the news reports are sketchy. Some papers say they were “explosive devices”. Others describe the buried booby traps as “projectiles”. Now they are testing the strange liquid found inside the devices.
    Surely, Al-Qaeda has not decided to turn its terrorist gaze on the most fanatical community in Hong Kong: turf aficionados.
    No, it’s probably worse than that, says Anh-thu. “Somebody wants to fix the race.”
    The fix is already in on the Donald Tsang-Alan Leong Chief Executive election race. Of course it has been in from the very moment the Civic Party decided to put their candidate into an “election” that’s decided by around 800 representatives, most of whom are vetted by Beijing. For the last month, the papers have been filled with coverage of this theatrical pseudo-campaign spectacle straight from the annals of Baudrillard.
    But now, as we’re down to the final stretch (the votes will be cast this Sunday morning), the campaign coverage has suddenly dropped “below the fold”, as we say in the newspaper biz.
    No surprise there. A mystery sabotage at the mah cheung is a far more compelling read than a re-hash of an election that is about to hit the finish line in a thunderous anti-climax.
    Roland at ESWN and others are wondering about the odd results of public opinion polls taken after the Donald Tsang-Alan Leong TV debates. How can it be that the Hong Kong public thought Leong was better in the debates–but still overwhelmingly supports Tsang for Chief Executive?  Were the polls faulty?
    Perhaps. But I don’t see any contradiction in the results at all. Hong Kong people aren’t fools when it comes to the art of do mah, placing their bets. You watch two horses warming up on the turf. Doi Gan, “Pocket Hanky”, has a fresh healthy glow, and he’s frisky and chomping at the bit. Clearly, he’s a more attractive horse than the lumbering, predictable Bou Taai.
    But you’ve been on the phone with your bookie, who’s tipped you that Mainland operatives have planted mysterious projectile devices under the election venue at Asia Expo Convention Center. In this race,without a doubt, Bou Taai will come in first.
    No respectable Hong Konger is going to throw money at the fresh, frisky horse that’s a sure loser.
    So when the call comes from the researcher at Hong Kong University, or Polytech, asking you which candidate did better in the debates, you might want to jaan, to praise and show appreciation to the energetic contender on his fine showing. In which case, you respond: “Alan Leong.” But then, when the pollster asks who you support, you’ll put your real money on the winner: Donald Tsang.
    I am completely sure of this. And I’ll bet you a crisp new $1,000 bill straight out of the cash machine that I’m right!


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