Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
2-8 November 2003
Sun, 2 Nov
Enjoy a 3am visit to the Science Museum, which is being kept open for 24 hours a day to let patriotic Hongkongers inspect the Shenzhou V re-entry capsule.  To think that Colonel Yang Liwei, China's first spaceman, spent over 20 hours cooped up in this large washing machine, clutching his sick bag and wishing he'd brought something to read!   He is truly a hero –  or perhaps just extremely desperate for attention.  You wouldn't get me up in that thing.
Shenzhou V
Eager to avoid the patriotic crowds dancing in the streets and hurling flowers and girls' panties in the path of the visiting heroic astronaut, I stay at home and try to visit every English-language Hong Kong blog I can find.  Asia is full of English blogs.  Most are written by expatriates, who describe their experiences abroad with insight and sensitivity, thus deepening their readers' appreciation of the region's exotic and historic cultures – Why Japan Sucks being an excellent example.  Finding fewer HK blogs than I expect, I take the opportunity to compile The World's Most Authoritative Guide to Hong Kong Blogs as a public service.

Mon, 3 Nov
Yuen Bun Keung, the fat-faced, smug-looking Democratic candidate for Central Constituency in the District Council elections later this month, lurks near the bottom of the Mid-Levels Escalator.  He has been campaigning for a week or so, and his technique intrigues me.  He hands out glossy brochures to prospective voters as they come downhill in the morning, until a Westerner or other non-Chinese comes along, at which point he scuttles round a corner until they pass.  But not today.  Ben, Hong Kong’s second most obnoxious expat, is with me after staying the night at Perpetual Opulence Mansions.  He spies the would-be politician and approaches him.  “Don’t you want me to vote for you?” he demands loudly – an academic question, since Ben is registered miles
away in Sai Kung.  “People with white skin are still allowed to vote, you know.”  An open-mouthed Mr Yuen stands blinking.   Ben takes one of the colourful leaflets.  “This is all in Chinese,” he says, affecting an appearance of total stupefaction.  “Half your voters in the Mid-Levels can’t read it.  Couldn’t you find a schoolboy or someone to help you translate it?  Maybe your Filipino maid.”  The luckless candidate stutters. “So you don’t want me to vote for you,” concludes Ben, with an exaggerated shrug.  “Fine – I’ll vote for somebody else.”  And off we stroll.
Tue, 4 Nov
The Hong Kong Government’s tireless search for pointless and inane ways to dispense with taxpayers’ wealth yields one triumphant success after another.  The last chords of Harbour Fest are yet to echo around our fragrant, reclaimed shores.  A year or so later, and we will have the World Trade Organization summit, featuring overpaid, trade-negotiating bores of all nations, plus assorted rioting whale-huggers, teenage Italian anarchists and Amazonian Indians with quaint wooden lip implants.   And now –
Bing! goes the cash register, as our malevolent officials reach into the till for HK$80 million with which to pay for something called the East Asian Games.  What will we get for our money?  Regiments of bumptious, empire-building sports administrators will ooze around town wearing silly blazers, imagining that their favourite contrived physical activities have a grain of meaning in the universe of human existence.  And, of course, the athletes themselves – state-subsidized, steroid-pumped, uneducated freaks of nature, running, jumping and throwing without reason.   Hong Kong will win a bronze medal in the women’s 3,000m freestyle backwards cycling.  I call shapely Administrative Officer Winky Ip to bounce an idea off her.  “I think Hong Kong needs a clinic to treat compulsive spenders of other people’s money,” I tell her.  “I’ve even thought of a name for it – the Mike Rowse Rehab Centre.  There’s a serious need.”   She chatters excitedly to someone in her office.  “You’re in luck!” she says.  “I’ve got Marvin from the Home Affairs Bureau with me. He thinks he can find 200 million dollars in his budget for that.”
Wed, 5 Nov
Another day, another daunting challenge for our hard-working and visionary Government.  Organize rock concerts at short notice so we can “bounce back” from an epidemic that finished months ago.  Emasculate the Equal Opportunities Commission so it won’t force officials to obey their own laws.  Fill in 18 hectares of harbour overnight so no-one notices.  Announce meaningless plans to “co-operate” with Mainland cities whose corrupt officials hate us and will fleece us at the first opportunity. And now – catch Bo-Bo the
rampant crocodile, whose cheeky grin and defiant swagger has won him the hearts of millions.  Bo-Bo was surely raised by a family in Fairview Park, a sinister community where everything – homes, backyards, food portions and, sadly, cranial capacities – are two-thirds the normal Hong Kong size.  In sight of Shenzhen’s skyscrapers, residents pedal along the curving streets on canopied tricycles, snakes slither in the grass, and visitors from Central enjoy the novelty of changing a ceiling light bulb without using steps or a stool.  Astounding his owners by growing to be over 3 feet long, Bo-Bo was released to frolic in the wetlands of Yuen Long, where he now amuses himself, and the rest of us, by taunting the police and dog catchers trying to tempt him into traps baited with steamed garoupa with ginger, barbecued duck with chilli and plum dip and large quantities of mango ice cream.   He’s smart enough to be the only reptile in town not running as a Liberal Party candidate in the forthcoming District Council elections.  Who can doubt that the Government has met its match in plucky Bo-Bo?

Thurs, 6 Nov
A horribly early start to the day, at a mutual shoe-shining breakfast with the Big Boss and a visiting diplomat.  The self-importance of the two great men is a wonder to behold.  The Hong Kong tycoon, dropping names so rapidly I find myself discreetly picking them out of my congee, brings the Company Gwailo as quiet testimony to the dynamic, thrusting, multinational nature of S-Meg Holdings. The ambassador, casually mentioning children at top-tier American universities, brings a bulky, bejewelled lady of consul rank to fawn and emphasize his status.  Who would imagine that the corporate titan’s strategic vision is no more than third-generation, Canto-capitalist, high-stakes, opportunistic asset-trading?   Who would have thought that the courtly diplomat, gold cufflinks shining, represents a Third World dump where chickens, naked children and sewage run down the streets?  At the far end of the quiet, formal restaurant sits more imaginary magnificence – a pair of former
Financial Times/Economist/Dow Jones scribblers who have used the smallness of the fragrant fishpond to re-invent themselves as noted gurus on almost anything.  Albino baboon meets good tailor, becomes millionaire consultant.  Full details at ten.  Back in the office, the South China Morning Post offers a more disposable form of self-importance, a centenary edition with calligraphy on the cover – baak nin.  “Reprints of today’s cover can be purchased on higher-quality paper, with or without a frame,” announces a pompous ad under the heading “Your chance to own a piece of history”.  Maybe I should join in the fun and market personally signed, limited edition Hemlock coffee mugs, T-shirts and screensavers to adoring admirers.  But then I could never look at myself in the mirror again.  An unthinkable sacrifice – life wouldn’t be worth living.
Fri, 7 Nov
Wild American friend Odell holds his choc-chip and coconut soy drink up to the light outside Pacific Coffee at the IFC Mall.  “God, it looks like santorum,” he says.  He cautiously sniffs it.  “It
smells like santorum.”  Slowly, nervously, he raises the straw to his lips and sucks.  He gently swills the liquid round in his mouth and finally swallows.  “Naah,” he announces.  “Tastes fine.”  Well, that’s a relief. 
Reading Tung Chee-hwa’s horoscope in the
SCMP, I am struck yet again by the eerie ability of astrologer Edwin Ma to see things that are hidden to the less metaphysically gifted.  “You will be popular today,” he writes of our highly admired Chief Executive and others born in the Year of the Ox, “as your magnetism draws people to you.”  This makes sense.  Who can deny that CH deserves a pat on the back after last night’s Harbour Fest concert, featuring Neil Young and Crazy Horse?  It was the best use of taxpayers’ money since my friend Morris, the greatest living Scotsman in the Hong Kong Police, was sent on a special course in the humane destruction of animals and started enthusiastically despatching New Territories canines with his 12 gauge.

However, not all the entertainment news is good.  Michael Wong, head of the Equal Opportunities Commission, has
resigned just a day before a pack of rabid legislators was to be unleashed on him.  What a letdown.  Why isn’t Tung standing by this repulsive-sounding creep, digging both of them into a deeper and deeper hole?  Could the crop-haired one actually be learning something at this late stage in life?  If so, Hong Kong will be so dull we’ll have to spend the Government's entire reserves on Neil Young concerts.