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JUNE 23, 1997

Features

What's happening in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong by Guy Searls, Northwest News's foreign correspondent in Hong Kong
Residents of Hong Kong have not forgotten that the main raison d'etre of their territory is to make money. And so they are using the pending "Handover" of Hong Kong--from British to Chinese sovereignty--to make more money.
   This started with selling items of memorabilia as souvenirs. Almost anything with a Hong Kong label is sure to sell, but if the label includes the designation "Royal" and/or includes a picture of the Queen, the value is enhanced. Insignias from uniforms of the Royal Hong Kong Police or other disciplined forces have ready markets.
   One British resident ordered several hundred Hong Kong flags made in China and had them sold out in a matter of days. He bragged to me that he had made a 400 percent profit. (The official Hong Kong flag has the Union Jack in the upper left corner and a Hong Kong insignia on a field of blue).
   The most astonishing bit of profiteering I have seen was the 1,000 percent being made by a flea market hawker who was selling Hong Kong one-cent notes for HK$10 each. The notes are no longer being printed but are still legal tender. They are printed on one side only and include a picture of the Queen. They are normally used only as a formality in making interest payments that are calculated in odd cents.
   Printed T-shirts and sun-visor caps are perhaps the most common Handover souvenirs. There are also key rings, and a pair of spectacle frames--shaped in the year date, 1997. For creativity, however, the prize must go to publisher C.P. Ho, who has created a souvenir that at first glance looks like a plastic egg. When put on a table, it opens itself up and up pops a little plastic dragon waving the Hong Kong and China flags.
   The greatest opportunistic exploiter of the Handover appears to be the Hong Kong Post Office with a series of new stamps without the Queen's portrait.