THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

“Whaaaat? You speak English?!? You call me one more time and I will KILL you, you hear?!!!” That was a friend reacting to another of those many cold calls one receives these days if in Hong Kong from phone numbers usually starting with the number 3 and where females rabbit on in Cantonese or Mandarin like gremlins trying to sell you everything from skin cleansers rejuvenation products to fitness centres and everything in between.

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These cold calls have been coming through thick and fast, but with still no telecommunications service seemingly able to block them. You blocking them is useless. They simply switch numbers and so it goes on.

One has to wonder if the government has even considered having one of its very many departments- most of them useless and please don’t let us mention the flaccid CreateHK con job again- has been put in charge of ridding the city of this nuisance. One would guess not- not when CreateHK continues to plod along with its “dynamic” and “visionary” leader about to strap on his golden parachute and soon leave for his million dollar retirement home. Congrats on a job well done where one does basically nothing and receives one of those nice, fat government packages, perk and all.

Though those emails from Nigerian scammers informing you of a long lost relative has passed away leaving you billions seem to have disappeared, there’s a much darker side shadowing some who receive cold calls, and always from Mainland China.

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These are usually made to the more elderly and nervous about anyone finding out about their relatives’ finances and how this was made and “dispersed” to Hong Kong for safe keeping. The callers, pretending to be anti-corruption officials, know everything about these financial dealings whether with Bitcoin or other methods to get money out of Mainland China and so want these relatives in Hong Kong to pay up unless they want this information taken to a higher court. And we all know what that means: Disappearing acts happen.

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It’s blackmail of sorts or just a business transaction where both sides are guilty of something. These people are not all “scammed” as has been reported. They’re paying off to make a problem go away.

It’s like the story a few months ago where a 75-year-old woman in Hong Kong received a call from unknown parties about the “safety” of her relatives on the Mainland. She immediately visited four different banks, withdrew HK$5m from each- in cash- and must have made the problem go away as there’s been not a word since. And how can there be? There’s been no crime committed other than wondering how on earth someone in their Seventies and living in the bowels of Kowloon could have HK$20m in almost spare change. But like the Season Of The Witch, these are the days of the fakes and cons.

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Cons are everywhere- everything from all the ways to launder money from- where else?- Mainland China, Macau, and, surprise surprise, Russia, to the chump change of foodie sites preying on Hong Kong’s smaller restaurants absolutely paranoid of any bad publicity and hinting that advertising on their sites could help bad reviews fade away. Follow this advice and more often than not, a two star restaurant gains four star status and fawning reviews that lack all credibility. These do more harm than good.

Having dinner the other night with a shareholder with one of the more successful restaurant groups in Hong Kong, he pulled out his iPhone and showed the laundry list of diatribe about their restaurants. He laughed them off. “Sure, we’ve been approached about advertising with this site, and others, but our clientele don’t need a website and reviews to tell them what’s good and what’s not so good. They’re well travelled and loyal regulars who are secure in knowing what they want. They don’t mind paying extra for quality and venues that attract like-minded people. Elitism? Possibly. But since when didn’t elitism work in this city? It’s the difference between pulling up in a Ferrari and struggling to hail a taxi.”

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This is Hong Kong today- still one of the best cities in the world despite a very lopsided “class” distinction that is evident in every business and where there’s a huge chasm between the Haves and the Have Nots and the Wannabes and the Worker Bees.

The biggest problem with many? Caring and talking too much bollocks about others based on the local rumour mill or Google and happy to pour cold water on the success of others without looking at the brush fire running through their own backyards.

Jealousy is a horrible disease. It leads to terminal pettiness.

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