A Bitter Aftertaste — Let Them Eat Coronation Quiche!

Hong Kong Apostasy



King Charles III will be coronated on Saturday [6 May 2023], and you’ll never guess who China is sending for the occasion: Vice President Han Zheng, the former head of Beijing’s Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs. He’s the Communist Party man who led China’s repudiation of its treaty with the United Kingdom over its former colony. …

The U.K. now says it considers China “to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration” as it uses the law “to harass and stifle voices critical of China’s policies, and limit political participation.” Authorities have arrested some of the most outspoken defenders of freedom, including the brave newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, who may spend the rest of his life in prison.

[Note: See The Passion of Jimmy Lai, 21 April 2023.]

Opposition leaders have been imprisoned, disqualified from holding office and driven into exile. More than 160,000 Hong Kongers have sought to flee to the U.K. amid China’s crackdown, and the city is now holding their pensions hostage.

The U.K. may fear a diplomatic incident if it excludes senior Chinese officials from the coronation. But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak or the palace could at least include some of the Hong Kongers who have taken refuge in the U.K. That would embarrass Mr. Han in the same way Mr. Han’s presence is embarrassing King Charles.

The Editorial Board, China Embarrasses King Charles at His Coronation
The Wall Street Journal, 4 May 2023

Lord Chris Patten, the last UK governor of Hong Kong before the territory was handed back to China, said the choice of attendee showed China does not give “two hoots” about Britain.

Lucy Fisher, UK presses Beijing over Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang
The Financial Times, 6 May 2023


Duchess of Cornwall calls on all generations
not to ‘be bystanders to any kind of injustice or prejudice’

‘Let us not be bystanders to any kind of injustice or prejudice. Let us learn from those who bore witness to the horrors of the Holocaust, and of all subsequent genocides, and commit ourselves to keeping their stories alive, so that each new generation will be ready to tackle hatred in any of its terrible forms.’

Camilla, HRH Duchess of Cornwall, 20 January 2022


It is over half a century since I first cocked a snook at the descendants of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. It was an adolescent and feeble anti-monarchist gesture. Our English teacher took our high-school class to the cinema in Bondi Junction, Sydney, to watch The Loved One, a 1965 film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel of the same name, which we had been studying in class. As was universally customary at the time, the theatre played ‘God Save the Queen’, which was also the Australian national anthem. Our clutch of friends rejected the prevailing custom and refused to stand to attention as the droning anthem played over the theatre’s Tannoy (loudspeaker system) and despite the frustrated, and increasingly angry, exhortations of our teacher. We luxuriated in the sense of rebellion since it was the first time any of us had refused to stand for Elizabeth Windsor, the distant monarch of the commonwealth realm of Australia. It was a perfect prelude to the dark humour of The Loved One, the opening lines of which were:

Flight Attendant: We are now about to land in the world-famous city of Los Angeles. Its name, translated from the ancient Spanish, means ‘City of the Angels’. It is also the home of the American motion picture industry.
Dennis Barlow: [reading James Thomson’s poem The City of Dreadful Night; voiceover] ‘The City is of Night; perchance of Death.’
Flight Attendant: Twenty thousand people arrive here to settle every week.
Dennis Barlow: [voiceover] ‘They leave all hope behind who enter here: / One certitude while sane they cannot leave, / One anodyne for torture and despair; / The certitude of Death.’

And how we guffawed at the exchange between Messers Barlow and Kenton, played by Milton Berle and Robert Morse respectively:

Dennis Barlow: Which service have you decided on?
Mr. Kenton: Well, I dunno.
Dennis Barlow: We can give you entombment, empyrement, dissemination or eternalization.
Mr. Kenton: I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.
Dennis Barlow: Well, that would be embalmed, buried, scattered, or burned.
Mr. Kenton: Burned! That’s good. Burned.

It was the first time I’d seen Liberace (who played Mr Starker, the casket specialist) not wearing sequins and sans piano and candelabra. The characters Mr Joyboy and Aimée Thanatogenous were also unforgettable.

A subplot of The Loved One is the scheming perfidy of a British ne’er-do-well. This theme readily comes to mind as Prince Charles, the representative of the British Crown at the fall of Hong Kong on 30 June 1997, ascended the Throne of England on 6 May 2023. Given Charles Rex III’s penchant for Shakespeare, it also seems fitting to recall ‘An Appeal to British Justice’, an unsigned adaptation of Mark Antony’s speech from Julius Caesar published by South China Morning Post in June 1989.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
6 May 2023
Big Gay Diana Day

Remembering Lee Yee


The 1st of July 2022 marked the halfway point of the ‘fifty years without change’ proffered by Beijing in its negotiations with the British government in the 1980s. The changes began immediately following the 1 July 1997 handover and have continued apace during the Xi Jinping era. From 1979, Lee Yee was something of a Cassandra. From the earliest days, Lee Yee tried to warn anyone who would listen about what the future held but, like the mythical Trojan prophet, it was his fate not to be believed.

For more on Hong Kong in China Heritage, see Hong Kong Apostasy. The following commemoration, published on 1 July 2022, is an appendix in the series Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium. See also ‘You can’t rebel, you can’t start a revolution, and you can’t be independent.’ — How Ni Kuang saw the future of Hong Kong, China Heritage, 4 July 2022.

‘Atteeeention! Let us take the Royal Gewgaws Coronation Homage of Allegiance!’

First Dog on the Moon

‘Atteeeention! Let us take the Royal Gewgaws Coronation Homage of Allegiance!’ (detail), by First Dog on the Moon, The Guardian, 5 May 2023


Let them eat quiche

Lucy Corry

22 April 2023


Forget ‘let them eat cake’. ‘Let them eat quiche’ is the 2023 update, at least if you’re a subject of soon-to-be-crowned King Charles III.

Buckingham Palace has kindly shared a recipe for a Coronation Quiche to mark the big day on 6 May — with the idea that people will make one to share with friends and neighbours. Judging from the feedback, most people wouldn’t thank for you for turning up with a quiche featuring polarising broad beans and spinach (and that’s before they find out that the pastry recipe contains lard — otherwise known as rendered pig fat).

Quiche — widely agreed to be an open pastry shell with an egg custard filling seasoned with a variety of other ingredients — is commonly associated with French cuisine but it in fact originated in medieval Germany. The word itself comes from the German kuchen (a nice tie-in with the King-in-waiting’s German ancestry, as long as you Don’t Mention The War).

Quiches have been part of English cuisine since the 14th Century, but it’s a bit of a stretch to consider them part of the current culinary landscape. There was no sign of a quiche of any kind in a 2019 YouGov poll looking for the most popular British foods of all time.

Instead, Yorkshire pudding, Sunday roast, fish and chips, crumpets, a full English breakfast and bacon sandwiches made the top tier.

Coronation chicken, a dish of cooked chicken in a creamy Indian-inspired sauce that was invented for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, didn’t appear anywhere on the list either, even though it still appears as a filling option in most British sandwich shops.

While making a Coronation Quiche might seem like a lot more hassle than calling in some takeaways, it’s a more economical option than some of the other recipes that Buckingham Palace have kindly shared with the hoi polloi.

A delicious-sounding Coronation roast rack of lamb with Asian-style marinade by chef Ken Hom requires two 750g racks of British lamb at a cost of about GBP55, or $110, to feed four to six. A recipe for prawn tacos with pineapple salsa by celebrity chef Gregg Wallace requires GBP5 ($10) of king prawn meat – for just three tacos.

Even if money was no object, you’d need the best part of a day (and 10 eggs) to prepare Adam Handling’s strawberry and ginger trifle.

The coronation may be a rare celebration, but these recipes leave a bitter taste in the mouth when set against reports that the UK’s rate of food poverty is among the worst in Europe. Millions of people struggle to access the food they need or lack the facilities to cook or store food safely. In February, a poll found that 14 percent of Britons had to skip meals in the last 12 months because they couldn’t afford to eat.

There are other problems, too. During a national shortage of fruit and vegetables due to climate-disrupted harvests in Europe and Africa earlier this year, British supermarkets restricted what people could buy. At the time, environment secretary Therese Coffey sparked an uproar when she suggested that Britons ‘cherish’ and eat homegrown produce like turnips instead.

Perhaps the future king, who is well-known for his interest in farming and the environment, might do well to learn from lessons of the past. In 1381, major socio-economic problems saw major uprisings across England and several nobles lost their heads.

A bit less of ‘let them eat quiche’ and a bit more ‘let’s help them eat better’ might help Charles III enjoy a more positive relationship with his people.

Lucy Corry, Let them eat quiche: Royal recipes leave a bitter taste, Radio New Zealand, 22 April 2023

Fear and Loathing in Hong Kong

If the Peking Massacre [of 4 June 1989] had occurred before 1984, the Joint Declaration transferring sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 might never have been ratified. …

The crucial question for Hong Kong, and for all civilized nations and peoples, must certainly be: Should Britain still honor the Joint Declaration and hand the six million people of Hong Kong over to a Communist government that has shown itself to be no better than the murderous regime of Pol Pot? If Britain decides to betray the people of Hong Kong by doing so, then it will have to live with the crushing moral responsibility of stage-managing one of the great tragedies in the history of this tragic century.

Lee Yee, June 1989

[Note: For more essays by Lee Yee on Perfidious Albion and the fate of Hong Kong, see Hong Kong Apostasy.]


Et Tu, Britain?

As it became increasingly clear that the British government had no intention of granting more than a select handful of Hong Kong citizens the right of abode in the United Kingdom, and as Peking’s promises to respect Hong Kong’s “prosperity and stability” and to impose “no changes for fifty years” rang more and more hollow with each act of interference in the territory’s political and economic life, it seemed to some Hong Kong people that they had been sold out—even stabbed in the back—by the British. The following unsigned adaptation of Mark Antony’s speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar appeared in the English-language South China Morning Post in July 1989.


An Appeal to British Justice

Friends, ministers, Englishmen, lend us your ears;
We are here to bury Hong Kong, not to praise it.
The evil that colonies do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their demise;
So let it be with Hong Kong.
The noble Thatcher Hath told you Hong Kong was a burden.
If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
And grievously hath Hong Kong answered it.

Here, under leave of British freedom—
For the British is an honourable race—
Come we to speak in Hong Kong’s crisis.
It was our home, faithful and just to us,
But Thatcher says it was burdensome,
And Thatcher is an honourable lady.
It hath brought many merchants home to England,
Whose fortunes did the general coffers fill.
Its sons along with British soldiers fought;
A loyal fief in turmoil and in peace.
You all did cheer when on its very soil
Her Majesty presented it her goodwill,
Which it did graciously accept.
You all did love it once, not without cause;
What cause withholds you, then, to save its people?
O Judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason!

But yesterday the people of Hong Kong
Have gladly shared their glory: now lie them stricken
And none so fair to give them shelter.
O fellow subjects, if we were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
We should do Howe wrong, and Howell wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men.
We will not do them wrong; we rather choose
To wrong the fallen city, to wrong ourselves and you,
Than we will wrong such honourable men.

But here’s a parchment with the seal of Great Britain.
We saw it signed in China-’tis its will.
To every Briton and Hong Kong citizen it gives,
To every several man, fifty years of prosperity.
The dragon’s open arms, and new-discovered market,
On both sides Lowu; it hath left them you,
And to your heirs forever—common riches,
To trade and seek a fortune for yourselves.
Here was a colony! When comes such another?

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all know this harbour. You heard how
The first time ever Elliot lorded over it.
“Twas on a summer’s evening, upon his frigate
That year he overcame the Dowager.
Through this the much-esteemed Westminster stabbed,
And Westminster, as you know, was Hong Kong’s angel.
Judge, O you gods, how deeply Hong Kong trusted them!
This was the most unkindest cut of all.

Good friends, dear friends, let us not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of anger.
They that have done this deed are honourable.
What private griefs they have, alas, we know not,
That made them do it; they are wise and honourable.
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.

We tell you that which you yourselves do know;
Show you how we were cheated.
Poor poor stifled mouths,
We bid conscience speak for us.
As we are fellow creatures,
Would ruffle up your spirits; and put a tongue
In every man of good intent, that should move
The hearts of stone to justice and righteousness.

 from New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese Rebel Voices, New York, 1992, pp.425-428

一帆風順, ‘smooth sailing’, or ‘bon voyage’, in the hand of Xi Jinping, n.d. Source: Ta Kung Pao


Such is the End of Empire

June 1997

Chris Patten, Governor of Hong Kong

Sunday 29 June

I did several interviews, including Breakfast With Frost before we went off to our last 9:30 mass at the Catholic cathedral. It’s the feast of St Peter and St Paul. Lavender and I are asked to do the readings. The second reading is from Paul to Timothy and is all about ‘fighting the good fight’ and ‘winning one’s crown’. I ask Lavender to do that one!

The priest, Father Hanley (with whom Peter Barry concelebrates), preaches a nice sermon about love and service and ends with a story which is his response to questions about the future of Hong Kong.

A small boy approaches an old man with cupped hands held in front of him and says, ‘I have a small bird here. Is it alive or dead?’ The old man knows that if he answers ‘alive’, the boy will crush the bird, if ‘dead’ the boy will open his hands and that the bird will fly free. So the old man says, ‘You have the life of the bird in your hands. You can crush it. Or if you want, it can fly.’ Thus the responsibilities that belong to the people of Hong Kong. …

Monday 30 June

As I looked at these clapped-out old tyrants, I thought to myself, ‘Why do we allow ourselves to be bullied by these people? Most of them are not remotely impressive and are scared stiff of the world. All they can do is bully.’ …

And last, the handover itself. A stiff little ceremony, best got over with as quickly as possible. I looked back at the senior guests on the Chinese side, arranged in their egg box stand, the coelacanths of Leninism, rich, mighty, a bit seedy, cruel, corrupt, depressingly unimpressive. Jiang shouted his guttural speech, clapping himself and being clapped dutifully in all the right places by the Chinese guests.

Then the Chinese honour guards goose-stepped about and, with our flag lowered and theirs raised, it was time for us all to shake hands and for us to get out as quickly as we could…

from Chris Patten, The Hong Kong Diaries, Penguin Allen Lane


Prince Charles, representative of the Crown

During another reception aboard Britannia, everyone the prince spoke to was “thoroughly optimistic” about Hong Kong’s future.

“But in the background was the sneaking worry about creeping corruption and the gradual undermining of Hong Kong’s greatest asset — the rule of law.”

Charles also fretted about the arrival of the People’s Liberation Army in the bustling territory, which at the time of the handover enjoyed a higher per capita GDP than Britain.

He predicted “irresistible temptations to intimidate or threaten local people when the soldiers discover that a glass of beer costs about as much as their weekly salary”.

“One can only hope they are confined to barracks in Hong Kong.”

Vividly describing a pre-handover banquet for 4,000 people in the Hong Kong Convention Centre, Charles said he sat next to the Chinese foreign minister “who must have had considerable difficulty knowing what to make of me”.

He did not name the minister, Qian Qichen, who was also a vice premier.

“After a lot of toasting we left the dinner and just waited around until we could go through the ridiculous rigmarole of meeting the Chinese president Jiang Zemin without loss of face to either side,” he wrote.

“For the handover this hall had been transformed into a kind of Great Hall Of The People of Peking.

“After my speech, the president detached himself from the group of appalling old waxworks who accompanied him and took his place at the lectern. He then gave a kind of propaganda speech which was loudly cheered by the bused-in party faithful at the suitable moment in the text.

“At the end of this awful Soviet-style display we had to watch the Chinese soldiers goose-step on to the stage and haul down the Union Jack and raise the ultimate flag.”

The “ultimate horror”, in the prince’s eyes, was the artificial way in which the British and Chinese flags were made to flutter enticingly by a concealed wind tunnel.

“The ceremony ended with us all being photographed in a group, shaking hands and marching off through different doors. Thus we left Hong Kong to her fate and the hope that Martin Lee (outspoken leader of the Democratic Party in the legislature) would not be arrested.”

Back on board Britannia, “I stood on the deck gazing at the departing skyline of Hong Kong and telling myself perhaps it is good for the soul to have to say goodbye and (to) the dear yacht in the same year. Perhaps.”

from Dear Diary: I’m not in first class, AFP, 23 February 2006

[Note: On June 1997, see also A Love Letter to a Lost Hong Kong, China Heritage, 14 June 2021.]

A faint whiff of Eau Sauvage

[S]o many of Charles III’s chosen works echo with melancholy, a sense that he has arrived past the point in history at which he would have liked. Perhaps the new king feels like that other uneasy head of a family, Tony Soprano. “It’s good to be in something from the ground floor,” reflects the mobster soon after we first meet him. “I came too late for that – I know. But lately, I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.”

Marina Hyde, A day for Charles, our mournful monarch, The Guardian, 5 May 2023


He is wise enough to know that, in almost any room he enters other than one occupied by members of his family, he is likely to be the only person present whose power and influence derive entirely from his birth. Indeed, if Charles checked his privilege, there would be nothing left of him—just a crumpled pile of ermine and velvet, and a faint whiff of Eau Sauvage.

Rebecca Mead, The Self-Justifying Philosophy of King CharlesThe New Yorker, 8 May 2023


Liu Chan’s Calligraphic Comment

8 May 2023