In this series, we explore Cantonese expressions seen in everyday life and others with more obscure origins.
Every summer, Hong Kong is typically graced by a string of typhoons.
In modern times, we’re lucky enough not to suffer too much from these natural disasters. The Typhoon No. 8 signal — and the day off it guarantees the city’s worker bees and students — are almost something to look forward to.
That’s also why disappointment tends to wash over us when a typhoon touches the city — but not quite enough at full force. And that kind of thing is happening a little bit too much for our liking.
Between 2005 and August 2007, the city was hit by nine storms of various strengths, yet the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) didn’t hoist a single T8 signal. The lack of T8 happened again in 2010. A look into some of these tropical storms seem to show them curiously avoiding Hong Kong head-on and taking a different route instead.
Unable to explain this weird phenomenon, people began to speculate that there could be other reasons at play. The HKO is under the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, leading to rumors that there are financial considerations behind the hoisting of T8 signals. This is where the Li’s Field conspiracy took shape: netizens began jokingly theorizing that Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest and most powerful tycoon, had built a barrier that repelled typhoons away from Hong Kong. Why? By preventing a T8 and a loss of productivity in Hong Kong, it’s said Li can then protect his interests in his vast business empire.
Even though Li’s Field had begun as a joke — and we’ve had a few T8s since — it persists to this day. Over the years, the HKO has had to answer for why it didn’t raise a T3 to a T8 in many instances. Hongkongers are particularly incensed when a T8 happens to take place overnight, with the HKO lowering it to a T3 again just as the work day or school day begins.
Last year’s super Typhoon Mangkhut, which ravaged the city in early September, happened just six months after Li Ka-shing went into retirement. Coincidence? You decide.