Sherlock warned us about this Asian rat

Central Station | Nury Vittachi 24 Jan 2020

Hong Kong's medical super-brain Malik Peiris was flown to Geneva this week for a top level emergency confab.

This charming Sri Lankan scientist [who used to be one of my neighbors], is one of the planet's top experts on animal-to-human viruses.

They are checking out the theory that the corona virus came from a Wuhan shopkeeper illegally selling meat from the bamboo rat.

That news caused my eyebrows to rise - could the Wuhan virus be the mysterious disaster that famous detective Sherlock Holmes predicted more than a century ago?

In one novel, Holmes says to Watson that there was one "story for which the world is not prepared." He revealed only a few details of the tale that could not be told: it involved death, travel, and "the Giant Water Rat of Sumatra"--which is another name for the bamboo rat of Wuhan.

Strange coincidence.

* * *

Protesters in Hong Kong were yesterday distributing a new poster making political capital out of the killer virus in Wuhan. "Wuhan Pneumonia: presented by the great nation of communist China," it says. "Stay tuned for more."

* * *

I keep telling foreign correspondents that Hong Kong's protest movement is more of an anti-China movement than a pro-democracy one, and they are FINALLY starting to get it. Also, the sheer number of posters that are in English only (and correctly spelled at that) is a bit of a giveaway about foreign involvement.

* * *

This city will become the richest district of a super-wealthy, country-sized world-changing metropolis, Hong Kong children predicted yesterday. We'll solve our housing problems by spreading north, but we'll struggle with climate change.

Judges of the Young Writers Award (which includes this columnist) challenged youngsters to write about the future. Given the youth-dominated protests, we expected hundreds of dystopian nightmare stories set in police states. But we opened hundreds of entries yesterday to a nice surprise.

The vast majority of children wrote imaginative, intelligent sci-fi tales of Hong Kong in 2070 or 2080, presenting it as the thriving capital of the bay area.

There's hope!

* * *

But not for everyone.

Several Hong Kong recruiters have found a sneaky way to weed out protesters from this year's job applicants.

They have moved their interview sessions over the border to branch offices in Shenzhen.

That city is only an easy MTR ride away from Hong Kong - but local young people who have a problem working in mainland China don't [or can't] turn up.

As we said in this column on Wednesday, recruiters aren't hostile to protesters - but the big hiring companies don't want staff who can't [or won't] visit the mainland.

* * *

They can start their own businesses instead. The Hong Kong government's investment in technology may be finally paying off. "The number of start-ups in 2019 reached 3,184, up 21 percent year on year," said InvestHK executive Charles Ng this week. "Importantly, the number of people working in the start-up sector grew 31 percent to 12,478."

Venture capitalists in Shenzhen had a really bad year so we may be catching up. Go, Hong Kong!

* * *

Returning to rodents for a moment, I think we should hire a group of ferrets to follow rally organizer Jimmy Sham around. Every time he blithely claims that "one million" or "two million" people are at his protests, the ferrets would hold up little signs saying: "Seriously, dude?"

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