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Of Hamsters, Private Jets, and Pets

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Hong Kong’s hamster cull could prove to be the final straw for many. Is this finally it for the finance industry?

Not much background is needed here. Just google «Hong Kong hamsters» and you should get the drift.

Still, the government’s graceless decision earlier this week to cull 2000 of the pets as part of its increasingly draconian zero COVID-19 measures may have served to crystallize many people’s minds.

It is also another salutary lesson in unintended consequences.

Everyone Taken Aback

If the government thought everyone would just meekly hand in their hamsters to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, they appear to be sorely mistaken.

If animal activists hoped that pet owners would hoard their recently purchased Dutch hamsters Anne Frank-like in a safe closet, they were also sorely mistaken.

If everyone in the city thought that the zero COVID policy couldn’t get much worse, they were sorely mistaken.

Hamsters Dumped on Streets

Ming Bao, a local website and newspaper, said there have been ten instances of hamsters being picked up on streets since the government announced the step earlier this week.

Apparently, they are being abandoned as the owners do not want to deal with the administrative hassle involved in returning their pets.

That means it is now potentially likely that COVID-19 is spreading even more widely than would be the case if the government hadn’t made that decision earlier in the week.

Pets on Private Jets

Another unintended consequence of all these zero COVID measures is that many are taking increasingly desperate steps to get their pets, and themselves, out of the city.

According to several international media, many have been pooling resources to charter a private jet and fly pets back home – or at least out of Hong Kong – given there is no other way to do so at the current time. 

Although that can’t directly be blamed on the hamster cull, at least not yet, it is certain to at least increase the demand for such charters.

Win-Win for the Dogs

That means further mixed packs of privileged Siamese cats, terriers, poodles and local adoptee breeds face the rather pleasant experience of drinking mineral water from gilded bowls while perched comfortably on some designer flight recliner upholstered with fine-grain leather.

They are probably the only ones who see this all as a win-win, given they are probably more accustomed to the pressurized area of a commercial airliner’s cargo bay when travelling.

It is also another unintended consequence, or possibly, even an intended one, should the intent is to scare as many foreign residents away as possible, as a wide number of international media, including Bloomberg (paywall), are currently reporting.

Memes Galore

The day after the cull was announced, memes circulated viciously, and it was the only thing anyone could talk about.

Quite a few passersby could be heard near the escalator in the city’s financial center discussing it in a mixture of mainstream British accents (woke term mine) to local colleagues, asking rhetorically if dogs and cats would be next.

A source employed in the banking industry indicated: «Everybody was sending memes. My WhatsApp was full of memes».

Increasingly Weary

 That source said there is palpable anger at the hypocrisy of the authorities and the steps they are taking. 

«They are hypersensitive about anything not to do with themselves. Bash Cathay (the local airline), hamsters. Lock up buildings for testing. Summarily send people to Penny Bay (the local government run quarantine on a nearby island). But then we have this birthday party and the party goers, because they are high up in the government, only get a slap on the wrist».

He was discussing a recent birthday party at a restaurant where senior government officials were suspended and sent off to quarantine for 21 days. While in quarantine, the time they were required to serve was suddenly cut to 14 days. Also, having had a taste of their own medicine, the government is finally looking at improving the facility’s notorious conditions.

Case Study of What Not To Do

Much of what is happening is anecdotal, of course. But verifiable numbers, such as a continued population drop and low number of new visa approvals, may follow when government statistics are released soon.

Should this be the case, the events of the past week could serve as a great executive summary for some future MBA case study about how to bring down a financial center in short order.

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