Hong Kong’s soft drink bottle cap awards

October 08, 2020 06:00
Photo: HK Government

Bravery should be rewarded. I salute our leader for doing that last week with the annual Honors List. A record 687 awards were given this year. Police officers received 94, about 14 percent, for their bravery and meritorious service in cracking down on last year’s democracy protests.

I congratulate these police officers, especially those heroic ones who used teargas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and knee-holds on the necks of young protesters. They should proudly display their medals in their homes for family and friends to admire.

Such medals are described as soft drink bottle caps in Cantonese, a sarcastic description that dates back to colonial times when notable locals received awards in the Queen’s Honors List. Neither the colonial government nor the post-reunification government had considered me worthy of an award.

That’s why I will console myself by considering displaying a real soft drink bottle cap in my home for friends to admire. Police officers who didn’t get awards but feel they deserve medals should consider doing the same.

I cannot understand why the three policemen who pinned a 12-year old girl to the ground, and the policeman who knocked down and pepper-sprayed a pregnant woman, didn’t get bravery awards. Was it an oversight by our leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor?

I did suggest in a previous column they should be rewarded. Maybe Lam didn’t read it. I apologize to them on her behalf. I will gladly send them soft drink bottle caps. They just need to tell me whether they prefer Coke or Pepsi.

It disappoints me that this year’s Honors List failed to recognize many people who deserve awards. The policeman who blinded an Indonesian journalist’s right eye during last year’s protests should have been rewarded for his skillful use of a projectile.

Another glaring example of a policeman not being rewarded is Senior Superintendent Vasco Williams. He should have been awarded a medal for skillfully brave use of words when he described an elderly man in a yellow vest being kicked by policemen during last year’s protests as “just a yellow object”.

I looked through the list of 687 awardees several times but could not see justice secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah on it. If anyone deserves a medal, it’s our brave justice secretary who fell and suffered a minor wrist injury while being jostled by protesters in London last November.

Our leader called it a barbaric attack and said Cheng suffered serious bodily harm. If that’s the case, then surely Cheng deserves the top award – a Grand Bauhinia Medal, especially because after a brief hospital stay in London, she flew directly to Beijing instead of Hong Kong for more treatment.

Such patriotism in trusting mainland doctors more than local ones should not go unrewarded. Lam owes Cheng an apology for not giving her an acting award for stoically suffering feigned pain. If Lam had awarded her, my advice would have been for Cheng to mimic her boss by wearing a cheongsam when receiving the medal. As we know, Lam loves to wear a cheongsam at mainland-related events, like she did at the National Day celebration last Thursday.

A cheongsam-wearing chief executive presenting a cheongsam-wearing justice secretary with Hong Kong’s top award at Government House would have been a great photo opportunity. My only suggestion would have been that Cheng not wear a yellow cheongsam. Some unkind people may mistake her for a large yellow object.

It is not customary to give yourself a medal unless it’s a real soft drink bottle cap, which I plan to give myself. The Queen would never put herself on her Honors List. But an exception should be made in Lam’s case for bringing normalcy back to Hong Kong.

No one could have achieved the mission impossible she achieved. Her now-dead extradition bill motivated two million Hongkongers to protest peacefully against it. When she ignored them, some turned violent, forcing her to declare the bill dead. But not before our brave police officers became trigger-happy with teargas. Hongkongers young and old, have now tasted teargas.

To make sure true democracy can never happen in Hong Kong, Beijing used the protests caused by Lam to impose a national security law. The law’s vague red lines, plus the coronavirus, have halted protests. Lam, along with Beijing’s liaison office boss Luo Huining, boasted the law brought back normalcy.

I congratulate Lam and Luo for re-defining normalcy in a way the Oxford Dictionary would not. No dictionary would define the Hong Kong we knew as normal when 6,000 police officers set up roadblocks, check identity cards of shoppers, and detain young people for peacefully shouting protest slogans on National Day. Wikipedia would likely describe it as martial law.

Lam deserves to award herself a medal for an extradition bill that changed a semi-democracy Hong Kong to an authoritarian Hong Kong. The Bauhinia awards should have a new category higher than the Grand Bauhinia Medal. I suggest a “Selling Out Hong Kong Award”, with Lam as its first recipient.

I know it will never happen, but if Hong Kong ever has a chief executive with a true conscience, I hope that person will give an award truly meaningful to the people. Not a Bauhinia soft drink bottle cap but a “thank you” salute to the two million who marched peacefully against Lam’s extradition bill.

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A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.