Hemlock's Diary
The ravings of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat
3- 9 Mar 2002
Mon, 4 Mar
There is a rumour going round that our valiant financial secretary Antony Leung is going native and will chicken out of cutting civil servants’ pay in his budget speech on Wednesday.  Give him a call.  Get through to his assistant Winky, who asks me to call her Florence from now on – not a good sign.  Eventually Antony comes on the line.  He mumbles something about the Task Force on Civil Service Pay not reporting until later this year… don’t want to pre-judge the outcome…blah blah.  “Look,” I tell him, “do you want 90 percent of the people to hate you, or just 10 percent?”  Silence.  I think that might have done it.

Tue, 5 Mar
Dinner in a quiet corner of Le Tire Bouchon with lipstick lesbian friend Polly and favourite married couple, Lincoln and May.  I have a pretty good carré d'agneau à la fleur de thym, with a mustard crust.  Chateaubriand for Lincoln, and the girls have duck.  Also on the table: Lincoln’s laptop, showing a spreadsheet.  We discuss business. 

A few months ago, we put equal amounts of money into a reflexology clinic start-up. Reflexology is about healing parts of the body (kidney, sinus, or whatever) by manipulating a corresponding part of – would you believe – the foot.  The expert practitioner we hired explained it all with a large chart showing a pair of feet, which we adapted for use on an advertisement now displayed near the mid-levels escalator.  (She was not impressed when I asked which part of the sole she would massage in order to cure athlete’s foot; she just blathered on about “chi”.) 

Obviously, this is a load of new age baloney – but a surprising number of gullible people with money believe in this sort of stuff.  Lincoln proves this with the first set of accounts.  The likely annual return on our investment?  A cool 50% (and Lincoln says that’s conservative).  That’s what I call paranormal.  Apparently, there’s more where this bilge came from.  Something called reiki, and some other nonsense called shiatsu, offer some interesting prospects for expansion of this highly lucrative enterprise.

Wed, 6 Mar
Budget day.  No hint of the lower orders having to start paying some tax, of course.  And although Antony budgets for a civil service pay cut, it’s only a measly 4.75 percent, maximum.  How spineless he has become after just 10 months in the government.  Probably something they put in his tea.  

In the last few days the government deficit drama has unfolded thus:
Antony’s deputy, the luscious Denise Yue [panic-stricken]: “We’ve got a terrible structural budget deficit.  We’re doomed unless we slash spending and increase taxes.”
Chief Executive CH Tung [avuncular and reassuring]: “But we can still afford to throw $600 billion down the toilet on pointless capital projects.”
Antony [putting down calculator]: “Anyway, we’ll just grow into it.”

In which case it’s not structural. Cutting these people’s pay doesn’t come into it.  We shouldn’t be paying them anything in the first place.

Thu, 7 Mar
A phone call in the evening from a friend at Cathay Pacific with some sad but not totally unexpected news.  Peter Sutch, former chairman of Swire, has died.  Just 56.  What the hell is it with prostates?  Three things I remember about him: He used to call messengers “sir”.  He wore plain short-sleeved shirts, rather than the ridiculous things with cufflinks that lesser men wear in an attempt to convince us (or themselves) they are important.  And he used to say, “no-one said life was going to be fair.”

Fri, 8 Mar
Go to a Government/business reception for the consular corps in lieu of the big boss, who has an assignation with his mistress in Beijing – sorry, “is attending the annual plenary session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference”.  Most enlightening!  While most people in Hong Kong oppose CH Tung’s mad plans to blow our reserves on Stalinist, white elephant, public works projects, the people from the consulates of the Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia and Pakistan are all wildly in favour. Their countries will supply the labour, so these lunatic schemes represent big foreign exchange bucks to them. Maybe we should just send them the cash and avoid covering Hong Kong with more concrete.

Sat, 9 Mar
On the subject of migrant workers - wake up next to one.  Selly, by name.  A nice girl, who sympathises when I explain that the secret nature of my work forbids me to reveal my telephone number to anyone.

A quiet day in trying out my new
harissa recipe while listening to Haydn piano sonatas and Bach cello suites.  The latter are not enhanced by the neighbour’s dogs yapping.  Will call my strange friend Ah-hing – who poisons dogs in the Mid-Levels as a hobby and a public service – for advice.