"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
"They'll ignore government advice, the sage words of scientists and hard data, but the possibility of a free iPhone will get them moving."
The Hong Kong public has finally woken up to the need for vaccinations. A surge in jabs means we could hit 70% coverage by September. Maybe they've seen the data from the U.S., where 99% of Covid deaths are unvaccinated.
I doubt it. More likely, the incentives offered by various lucky draws are the motivation. An apartment, a new Mercedes Benz, free flights, iPhones, gold, frankincense and myrrh are all on offer.
I applaud these private sector lotteries, but what does it say about Hong Kong people's mentality? Of course, they'll ignore government advice, the sage words of scientists and hard data, but the possibility of a free iPhone will get them moving.
None of this should come as a surprise, given the long queues every time McDonald’s offers a free piece of shitty plastic with a burger.
Back in the day, I policed those lines. And the McDonald’s cohort, while eager, couldn't match an army of pensioners scrambling for free rice distributed by local charities. Every hardened police officers stomach knotted in anxiety when 'Rice distribution crowd control' appeared on the duty list.
But, let's be clear. None of the old folks are hungry nor anywhere near what could be considered destitute.
Yet, that didn't stop decades of imprinting — when free food is on offer, you dash in. The years of famine in China left a deep scar; thus, it often took a platoon of the Police Tactical Unit to hold back the charging geriatrics.
I reckon dealing with a football crowd was easier. After all, you can't use pepper spray to hold back a marauding mob of rampant grannies. The optics are unfavourable.
A line of barriers, batching the crowd, and some humour usually did the trick. A gregarious Gwailo cop, using broken Cantonese, to entertain the crowd also helped.
Thinking back, the smell of those events lingers — a mix of musty moth-balls, burning joss sticks, with a hint of Pak Fah Yeow — all mixed in that signature Hong Kong confection.
Somebody should bottle and market it — Perfume de Sham Shui Po! For the discerning.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.