By HAN DOVER
Two Systems Correspondent
HONG KONG – Events marking the 15-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the mainland were overshadowed this weekend by the arrival of an ominous personality vacuum.
Streets were cleared and shops shuttered yesterday, as the black-suited typhoon – dubbed ‘Hurricane Hu’ – gusted through the semi-autonomous southern financial centre at a stately six miles per hour.
Last night, the dancefloors of Lan Kwai Fong were deserted, as party-goers battened down the hatches in anticipation of the buzz-kill.
The normally crowded Victoria Park, the site of a June 4 memorial this year that attracted some 150,000 supporters, resembled a “Nevada desert shooting-range,” according to one resident.
“It’s populated,” he observed. “But only by morons who don’t know what’s going on.”
Local media say they are struggling to cover the ramrod-backed mainland front.
Counter-directional questions on matters such as rule of law, the June 4 verdict and universal suffrage were strongly buffeted, as reporters took cover from Hu’s icy glare.
By this morning, the city’s normally efficient metro system – deemed by many the best in Asia – had descended into well-mannered chaos.
Tense queuing was marked with excessively polite apologies and one man, reportedly found openly eating a burrito, was quickly surrounded by irritated commuters, all urging him to refrain from anti-social habits.
Experts say the vacuum could bode an ill wind for Hong Kong.
Meteorologists admit that they have not experienced such a phenomenon this side of the Kowloon peninsula since 1997, when sales of custard tarts dipped to an all-time low.
Then, the royal barge of departing British governor Chris Patten left the city harbor under the gaze of a force-six waxwork grimace from the incoming administration.
Today, the after-effects could be even more pervasive.
“Forces such as Hurricane Hu tend to herald a decline in democratic rights and freedom of speech,” said Professor Daniel Chung of Hong Kong University, who has dubbed the controversial effect “global chilling.”
Mainlanders, meanwhile, were happy to get on with celebrating the historic occasion.
At a remote PLA barracks in Sheung Shui, around 40 Chinese tourists were treated to a feast of chicken feet, sponsored by Louis Vuitton.
The buffet was followed by a celebrity flag-raising ceremony, with Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan struggling to hit the high notes of “I Love My Motherland Even More Than My Mother,” as the typhoon-force tropical depression Doksuri began to hit the city-state.