A giant Ferris Wheel will be the talk of the town when it opens in Hong Kong in about two weeks, potentially pushing the Occupy campaign off the top headlines in local media.
Well, that is what top government officials, including Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, will be hoping as they seek to steer the conversation, at least for a while, away from the pro-democracy protests.
The giant observation wheel, Hong Kong’s answer to the London Eye, is getting ready for a soft launch at the Central waterfront, providing a distraction to the public.
In a closed-door meeting last weekend, Leung is said to have told 200 of his supporters that he will launch a citywide campaign to reduce public tensions by offering some fun activities.
The Ferris Wheel is obviously part of such efforts. The giant wheel will take passengers 60 meters up the air and give stunning views of the city’s famous skyline and Victoria Harbour.
There will be 42 gondolas, each holding eight to 10 passengers, in the structure which is expected to become the next big tourist draw in the city.
Swiss Aex, which operates a similar observation facility in Bangkok, won a three-year contract from the Hong Kong government last year to operate the Hong Kong Ferris Wheel. The company will charge HK$100 per 20-minute ride, and expects over a million passengers in the first year.
As the Occupy clearance operation is likely to cause chaos and violence, as we have just seen in Mong Kok, it is clear that the Leung administration wants to offer some sweeteners to the public and divert their attention in the run-up to the festive season.
The Ferris Wheel launch is seen as a hot idea after the surprising success of the Wine & Dine Festival earlier this month. The festival, organized by Hong Kong Tourism Board, had to be moved from Tamar site to the Kai Tak area but still enjoyed a record high turnout.
The initiatives are no doubt well-timed, but the government will still need to think beyond short-term relief measures for local citizens.
Despite a slight improvement in his popularity, as per the latest poll, Leung has upset many students by suggesting that it is difficult to please the youth whatever the administration does.
Further, the leader’s comments in relation to the lack of social mobility and high property prices may just be oversimplifying the reason why the youth have launched their street protests.
The students have made it very clear that they reject the electoral framework that has been outlined by Beijing. Also, there is underlying anger at how a handful of business tycoons have managed to get a stranglehold on the city’s resources and wealth.
Now, coming back to the Ferris Wheel, let’s just hope it won’t become an “Occupy Wheel”.
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