In the depths of the 2003 SARS crisis, Mike Rowse, a career Hong Kong civil servant, was handed the poisoned chalice of HarbourFest, intended to be (and which in many ways was) a psychological and commercial shot in the arm. Politics, as it often does, took precedence over sense, and Rowse was scapegoated for the perceived failings of this attempt to pull off a world-class entertainment festival in only three months. Rowse endured disciplinary hearings and ended up taking the Hong Kong Government to court. He won. This True Story of HarbourFest is not just an insider's account of the workings of the Hong Kong Government; it is also a thoughtful treatise on the drawbacks of the Ministerial Accountability System, a system which failed HarbourFest and Rowse, there being No Minister who ever took responsibility.
There was very little springlike about Hong Kong in March 2003: the city was in the grip of the SARS epidemic. We had, I remember, gotten the Literary Festival in just under the wire: the extent and seriousness of... [ Read full review ]