A Pompous Quagmire

Here is my translation of a post titled “Pompous Property Sales Ad” by 肥醫生@西九龍貧民區:-

“There is a property ad in one of the advertisement light boxes at MTR stations that says the property project being sold is located at the ‘fourth station of the West Kowloon Railway’, which project 'enjoys proximity to the urban centre'.

Where on earth does the ‘West Kowloon Railway’ come from?

I know about the ‘East Rail’, and I know about the ‘West Rail’. It’s the first time that I have ever heard of the name ‘West Kowloon Railway’. If the advertiser is not trying to obfuscate the truth, I can’t think of any other possible motive. The whole length of the so-called ‘West Kowloon Railway’ is totally unrelated to Kowloon. The terminal is at Nam Cheong, which is in a remote area and is a long way from urban areas like Shamshuipo or Tai Kok Tsui centre. The second station is at Mei Foo and the third station is in Tsuen Wan, which is already in the New Territories, and the Tsuen Wan West Station is at a 15-minute walking distance at least from the Tsuen Wan city centre. The fourth station is in the far away Kam Tin area. So, how ‘urban’ can it possibly be?

There are two major problems with property sales advertisements these days: the first is that all properties being sold claim to be ‘urban’ projects, and the second is they all pretend to be ‘luxury’ properties. Properties are given names that are almost illegible but are deemed erudite. They claim to be entirely separate from old districts and should thus be regarded as heaven. You won’t see normal people in the sales ads – you will only find foreign models who symbolize glamour and wealth. Since when has living space become so unreal and impalpable?

The names of a city’s residences can reflect to some extent the degree of pomposity of that city’s people. When the top floor of a Shamshuipo residential project is called ‘the Presidential Level’ and when it is the norm to have a price per square foot of HK$10,000, it is about time for us to consider whether we should move away from this city.

Will there be a day when the ad for the location of your ashes will say ‘at the fourth station of purgatory’ and ‘enjoys proximity to life’? And will there be a day when the coffin shop will be selling ‘No. 1 Silver Coffin’?”

A reader of the above post, K. Lau, has the following comment, which cuts to the heart of the matter:

“There is nothing wrong for people to look for better living while our Hong Kong people are just too ready to accept the reality of our misfortune in being exploited by those GREEDY developers - exaggerate saleable area, hard sell ‘elegance and luxury’ to the general public (hotel lobby, 5-star club house, but we only get a small and miserable living place with 20 years mortgage). Good thing is there are now so many self-proclaimed luxury flats all over Hong Kong and more people just feel good, similar to the ‘title inflation’ in the job market. We try to get rid of the labeling effect in our education but in reality we love ‘being labeled’. We are now addicted to high property price and we cannot afford to have the bubble burst - the only way to justify the price premium is to sell us a dream. What medicine should we take to allow us to face the reality?”

Adding my own two cents to the above viewpoint, I think Hong Kongers pay far more than just the property price premium. What about relentless, rent-induced consumer price hikes that we have had to live with? Extortionate commercial rents have to do with the monopolization of valuable commercial sites by the few powerful property titans, which tends to spike the general rent levels and drive up overall consumer prices of goods and services. Thus consumers are forced to pay pompous prices for even basic necessities because of the ubiquitous high rents. Retailers are no less vulnerable – a baker in Central being forced to close shop because of a tripling of rent is a case in point. Big landlords will definitely use Donald Tsang’s inane tourism policy meant to hike the number of mainland tourists and shoppers as a perfect excuse to raise shop rents.

How are ordinary Hong Kong citizens supposed to benefit from yet larger swarms of mainlanders clogging already congested streets and walkways and using our public transport and facilities day in, day out, one wonders? But I digress.

Can anyone think of a way out of this pompous quagmire?