David Price offers some humorous prophecies for Hong Kong’s year ahead.
- The opening of a road tunnel to ease downtown traffic – the Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor Link – is further delayed as its name is deemed to be too short. A task force its set up to lengthen it.
- The Transport Department announces an extension of the MTR out to Sai Kung. The project cost is put at HK$13.63 billion with an expected completion date in mid-2024.
- Southern District Councillor Paul Zimmerman is appointed to Exco.
- Paul Zimmerman is fired from Exco. He is replaced by entrepreneur Allan Zeman. A government spokesman issues a lengthy statement that, in summary, says ‘we meant him all along’.
- The ICAC is disbanded on account of its name being too short.
- Chinese New Year is one of the coldest on record. To de-ice aircraft wings, police water cannons are deployed at Hong Kong’s airport, their tanks primed with boiling water. An extra $45 departure tax is charged. Riots ensue.
- The number of licenses for ‘dwelling vessels’ in Hong Kong is increased from four to seven.
- A local national anthem law is put before the legislature. Members burst into spontaneous but respectful applause before debating the bill’s finer points. The requirement to shed tears as the ‘March of the Volunteers’ is played is replaced by the phrase ‘at least look misty-eyed’.
- Forty thousand people are arrested after the national anthem is played on the Sunday of the Rugby Sevens.
- The Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor Link Belt and Road Extension Hub Highway at last opens. There’s traffic gridlock in Central as assorted luminaries and construction tycoons are chauffeured in to cut ribbons. The next day, responding to the now smooth traffic flow, the Western Harbour Tunnel doubles its toll.
- Chief Executive Carrie Lam announces her retirement, with immediate effect. In a moving speech before the cameras, Ms Lam cites ‘exhaustion’ before declaring Exco Member Starry Lee as her successor. Answering a question from the press suggesting that surely there are election procedures to go through first, Ms Lam replies in the negative, saying: “It’s in the Basic Law.” This surprises some people, but not legal experts in Beijing.
- The first private car owner to assemble all the required permits to cross the Hong Kong-Zuhai-Macau Bridge makes his tentative way over. The vehicle is met by marching bands in the huge car park in Macau. Supplements appear in local newspapers celebrating the event. It is noticed that the length of the bridge is exactly the same as the distance of a marathon run.
- A marathon run over the bridge is organised for October with a winner’s prize of US$2 million. The whole of Hong Kong gets into training.
- ‘Outbound Travel Alerts’ issued by the Security Bureau advise of an explosion occurring in Mindanao, a confirmed case of whooping cough in Seoul and elections in Italy. Travel agents suggest alternative destinations.
- Any leave for ticketing and immigration staff at the Kowloon West Railway Station is cancelled. Fights break out as Hong Kong residents clamour for tickets to holiday in Dongguang.
- A banner is hung upside down on Lion Rock in simplified characters. No one knows why or what it means.
- The United States includes Hong Kong in its ‘tariff wars’. In response, the government threatens to delink the local currency from the US dollar and deport every member of the US Chamber of Commerce. President Trump backs down, the Hang Seng Index climbs to 31,000 and a mansion on the Peak – with ‘four-and-a-half bathrooms’ – sells for $612 million to a bitcoin miner in Java.
- The US$2 million ‘Bridge Marathon’ is called off as the Signal 3 is raised on the approach of a typhoon. Instead, the 19,000 competitors run around the streets of Tung Chung. Local residents complain.
- Chief Executive Starry Lee gives her first policy address. To the surprise of all, it only lasts five minutes, as she relinquishes the platform to the Director of the Liaison Office of the People’s Republic in the Hong Kong Special Administration Region. Huge cheers break out in Legco at the length and clear enunciation of this title. The Director talks for three hours about the need to quell/eradicate free speech (nuances of meaning were only clarified later).
- Hong Kong Island trams are converted to diesel engine propulsion.
- North Korea wins its bid to host the World Cup in 2034.
- The MTRC comes before Legco to explain why the Sai Kung extension will now cost HK$35 billion and not be completed until 2030.
- A tiger shark is spotted off Repulse Bay beach. A task force is set up to advise on how to catch it.
- Work begins on a huge technology hub that will be built on reclaimed land co-joining Lai Yeu Mun and the Kowloon peninsula. Work is suspended as green lobbyists and local shipping magnates point out that this would block the eastern approaches to the Harbour. A government spokesman issues a lengthy statement that, in summary, says ‘well, shipping can always go around the other way’.
- Starry Lee makes the cover of Time Magazine as ‘Woman of the Year’. This hurts the feelings of the people of Hong Kong.