Will winter in Beijing save Hong Kong’s fortunes?

Event planners and business leaders in the Chinese SAR have spoken out in vain on continuing travel restrictions. Martin Donovan says the Beijing Winter Olympics offers the only clues

ONE OF Hong Kong’s quirkier tourist attractions back in pre-Covid days was fortune telling – a tradition taken rather seriously by local folk, whether young or old, affluent or of more modest means.

Hoping the horse you punted on wins the 3:30 in Happy Valley? Put your transistor radio (or mobile live-stream these days) near to a deity’s statue at Wong Tai Sin Temple – and… they’re off! I’ve seen this done, but I wouldn’t recommend; though it’s more fun,  and arguably more reliable, than the newspaper form guide.

Yearning for your boyfriend to get down on one knee and do the decent thing? Head over to Che Kung Temple in Sha Tin, tap a bell three times and get one of the fortune tellers to find out whether the reluctant suitor is suitable or not.

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Hong Kong’s events industry has been snarling at the bit of late, or at least the handful around town who refuse to be muzzled as highly vaccinated Singapore takes steps towards reopening to international events and they watch P&L sheets drip red.

Hong Kong’s leaders have ditched the much heralded travel bubble with Singapore in favour of stricter quarantine and a reopening of the boundary with mainland China now a priority.

Leaders of multinational companies in the city and European Union consul generals have donned surgical masks and sat down with SAR government ministers to little or no avail.

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Perhaps they’d have been better off lighting incense at Wong Tai Sin or looking up adoringly at the Southern Song dynasty general Che Kung.

For Hong Kong, at least, it looks like we’re in the present battle for “zero Covid” till March 2022, leaving international business event organisers little else to do but read the tea leaves or gain clues as to what Beijing is doing, particularly as the Winter Olympics approaches.

China sent a delegation to Tokyo to assess how Covid safety protocols and events were managed at the Summer Olympics. The idea being mooted is that local spectators may watch the outdoor events on site while tighter restrictions will be imposed indoors. How the Winter Olympics goes will indicate the way in which Beijing and therefore Hong Kong responds to travel restrictions.

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Don’t be grabbing your snowboard or ski sticks just yet. Scenes of packed soccer stadiums in England and rock concerts in the US have earned the wrath of China’s former health minister Gao Qing.

Writing in the People’s Daily, Gao admonished the idea of living with Covid and accused Britain and the US of “disregarding people’s health and safety” by relaxing restrictions.

As if seething between his teeth, the great health cadre wrote: “This is a failure of epidemic prevention decision making caused by the defects in the political systems of countries like the US and the UK, as well as an inevitable result of their promotion of individualistic values.” Ouch.

In Hong Kong, you can still try your luck at Happy Valley race meetings, or if you’re Nicole Kidman even be welcomed with a full film crew as a boon to the economy. For event planners it’s wait and see with an eye on what plays out on the snows around Beijing.

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