In a week dominated by fears about the Greek debt crisis and Chinese stock market crash, I took a holiday in London, where the only thing that really bothered me was a tube strike.
Dubbed the worst in London in 13 years, the strike by workers on the London Underground lasted over 36 hours, which left me stranded on the street until almost midnight but also got me thinking about Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Unlike what would have been reported in the Hong Kong press had the union action occurred in our city, the strike was treated in London almost like a non-event.
Not just because Londoners are prone to strikes, but also because it could no nothing to upset their summer mood.
On a beautiful day, with the temperature at 25 degrees Celsius, no one minded walking an hour to the office.
And when they finished work, they could still reach home before sundown, which only occurs after 9 p.m.
This apathy of the Londoners caught me off guard.
I decided to venture to the West End, knowing that the strike would be over by the time the show ended.
Unfortunately, I did not know that strikes in London, like the weather, are unpredictable.
The strike went into extra time, and I was stuck in the middle of Piccadilly Circus with no cab in sight.
Taking a bus was an option, but after two fully loaded buses passed me by in 30 minutes, I gave up.
People were still quietly waiting on the street.
I hailed a tricycle rickshaw, but the rider wanted to charge me 45 pounds (US$69.80), triple the price of a cab ride.
So don’t blame Hong Kong taxi drivers for overcharging you during typhoons – they are all the same.
I decided to walk to my hotel, which would have taken an hour.
However, I managed to jump in a cab after a tiring 30 minute walk.
The next day, I met two Hong Kong friends who had settled well into London.
Both were taken aback by the calmness of Londoners in this difficult period.
“Imagine what would have happened if the MTR had stopped for just two hours,” one said.
The answer is, of course, that CY Leung would be asked to resign.
That is the repeated call by Hongkongers, who are in uproar basically every week, most recently when they lambasted the Hong Kong Observatory for hoisting the No.8 signal for a typhoon that turned out to be a damp squib.
Even in Singapore, where the media is less vocal, similar calls for accountability from senior government officials have been heard when the MRT system breaks down.
Why are Chinese people outside mainland China growing more impatient with their governments?
They seem to have forgotten what the old colonial government taught us.
In this part of the world, the culture of complaint is becoming more prevalent because the media is ready and willing to highlight complaints from the public.
By contrast, it is rare to see Britons shouting at a firm’s employee even if they are not happy with the service.
They will patiently wait an hour in a line-up at HSBC without asking for a cup of tea.
In this light, spare a thought for CY Leung, who has rarely seen a day without a bad headline three years into his term of office.
The unpopular chief executive, who is widely speculated to be leaving his job early next year because of his poor relationship with the pan-democrats, will probably find it more relaxing in the home of the former colonial power.
There he could buy a palace with the payout he received upon the sale of DTZ and live happily with his three kids, enjoying the respect he deserves, in the world’s most tolerant country.
– Contact us at [email protected]