Noad show

One thing I distinctly remember about those trips I made with my family to China during the Cultural Revolution days was the announcements and propagandas blaring from the PA systems in public places. Even though I was a small child then, I had the feeling that the country made heavy use of public broadcasts to achieve certain purposes, such as exerting control.

It never occurred to me that today, years later, Hong Kong would be polluted by this abuse of the PA system. But then, come to think of it, one shouldn't be surprised. Given the nature of the Chinese and Hong Kong people, such evolvement is only too natural.

There are two kinds of such abuses that I find particularly intolerable. One is the video shows on public transport. The other is public announcements which are completely unnecessary. Of the former, the worst is the so called “Road Show” broadcast on buses. However they try to package it, the “show” is nothing but badly produced advertisements repeated over and over again. Years ago, some people tried to fight for the right not to be forced to listen to those noisy messages by lodging complaints, and the bus company backed off a little by turning down the volume. But they had time on their side and the pressure gradually wore off. The helpless public now appears to have accepted the inevitable and the bus company can now blatantly transgress our peace and irritate and intoxicate us with whatever rubbish they like.

The other kind of abuse is no less annoying even though it appears to be more innocuous. These days, whenever we take the escalator at the subway stations, we hear non-stop messages, delivered in Cantonese, English and Putonghua, to remind us “Please hold the handrail”. Some people see nothing wrong with these well-meaning reminders which probably stemmed from some previous accidents, but I can’t help lamenting how Hong Kong has degraded into a nanny state. Apart from this “soft reminder”, other examples that make me cringe include some classic scenes of the equally “well-intentioned” public service announcements produced by the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government of the People’s Republic of China”, such as the one showing the wife of a middle-aged couple covering the eyes of her husband to prevent him from watching something undesirable on TV.

I’ve always heard it said that there is something about the Chinese culture that makes the people easy to govern. I would venture to add: easy to fool too.

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