Hemlock's Diary
The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat

4-10 July 2004

Sun, 4 July
Were I not so self-assured, I would still be smarting slightly after being defeated last night by a confusing piece of new technology.  It was a bra strap, wrapped around the back of a lady who, having begged unsuccessfully for my company while I was taking a break from Thursday’s march, had finally won ingress to Perpetual Opulence Mansions.  The strap had no hooks, clasps, buttons or even Velcro – just a small shiny metal disc, like a watch battery.  After the sort of fumbling associated with callow teenage boys, I declared myself at a loss.  Did she want it undone or not?  The secret, it seems, is to twist the little buckles on either side of the disc.  Presto!  The space-age device separates into two parts, held together by a surprisingly strong magnet.  Science marches on.

It is Independence Day.  How dismaying that few people in the Anglo-Saxon world know about the ideological and philosophical origins of the American Revolution.  Who today understands how it was a civil war – not the first – in which an oppressed people rebelled against their government to defend their rights as Englishmen?  I am tempted to consider the parallels with the situation today in our own former British colony.  However, I am distracted by a few bottles of Jever pilsener in the refrigerator.  Now on sale in Wellcome, with a magnificently bitter, hops-laden aftertaste that real men – the sort who can undo a bra with one hand without the wearer noticing – appreciate.  I spare a thought for the Appalachian branch of the Hemlock clan, who will be celebrating today with Budweiser-brand toad urine.
Mon, 5 July
Further evidence that Hong Kong is in the midst of simultaneous political decline and moral decay comes in the form of an
on-line portrayal of our valiant Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s buttocks.  Does Hong Kong really want to see such filth over its congee first thing in the morning?  I have a good mind to inform the relevant authorities.  Mainland intelligence personnel would surely take an interest in such subversive pornography if they could handle the workload – but how can they if, as the Standard claims, only 100 have infiltrated the Big Lychee?  Perhaps that number comes from the police or Xinhua.  It sounds like a wild underestimate.  Looking around Private Office in S-Meg Tower, I see Freddy Mao, the company’s Mainland fixer, with guanxi oozing out of his filing cabinets and address books, and I see Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary, with her access to everything and her suspiciously good Putonghua.  That’s two, in one middle-tier listed company.  There are at least 100 British moles in town, blending in with the scenery by doing The Times crossword, not to mention the legions of American spooks fantasizing that someone of rank in Washington is reading all the finely crafted reports they write.  And what about all the dastardly Belgian operatives silently oozing their way unseen into every corner of our society?  Perhaps the newspaper itself is complicit in spreading this disinformation.  Red hands’ tat – anagram.

Tue, 6 July
Why did I use the word ‘oozing’ twice yesterday?  It must be a sign that I need a break.  Not only am I repeating myself, but I need to be reminded in an email from Walter W Wilde Esq, the hermit sage of Lam Tin Valley, that the exploitative, Zionist, capitalist Western World is the cause of all our planet’s evils.  For some reason this is constantly slipping my mind, and I find myself imagining that people in ‘differently developed’ countries hack each other to bits, murder their unsold daughters, decapitate infidels on video, blow up buses full of children and live in poverty and corruption because they are in need of enlightenment, in the form of liberal democracy, rule of law and free markets.  I must take a few days off, fly away somewhere, catch up on some John Pilger or Noam Chomsky, and get it into my head once and for all that everything is our fault.  Indeed, I am probably personally culpable – more Rwandans lie in rotting piles and more flies swarm around the mouths of Sudanese babies, with every cup of coffee I drink.  But where?  It must be no more than three hours away.  Bangkok?  Nothing of interest but food.  Malaysia?  Ditto.  Singapore?  Ditto.  We have food here – freshly prised, no doubt, from the fingers of injured children in fetid Gaza hospitals.  Vietnam?  Can’t be bothered to get a visa.  Phnom Penh?  A possibility, though I’m not really in the mood for slumming it.  Shanghai?  Such a pathetic attempt to be Hong Kong it’s depressing.  Taipei?  Been fairly recently.  Kaohsiung?  Now, that’s an idea.  Less than an hour’s flight.  Totally devoid of any tourist attractions or charm, and thus the objectionable people drawn to them.  Just a big, working city full of normal people who I am sure will be delighted, if not flattered, that I have chosen to visit their unpretentious land.  I will check to see when the Big Boss will next be away negotiating deals involving the output of sweatshops staffed by underpaid labour or the destruction of pristine environments full of endangered wildlife.

After a deferential knock on the open door, an epsilon enters the company gwailo’s hallowed office and reverently deposits a large white Legislative Council envelope on the desk.  As the minion retreats backwards with his head bowed, I take a glance.  ‘To Mr Hemlock. FYI’ says the yellow sticker on top of the label addressing the package to the Big Boss.  I pick it up, find it already opened, and pull out the hefty Legco Select Committee report on the executive’s handling of the SARS outbreak.  I flick through detailed descriptions of events at various hospitals and at Amoy Gardens.  Names of doctors and nurses mingle with words like ‘SaO
2 level’ ‘diarrhoea’, ‘rats’ and ‘mucous membranes’.  The conclusion – the crop-haired one gets a pat on the back for keeping out of everyone’s way and not wetting himself too much.  On the other hand, EK Yeoh, emperor of our sprawling public health sector, gets a ‘not satisfactory’ for keeping too cool a head – crossing his fingers in early 2003 and telling us all that the mystery illness being covered up by Mainland officials was not a big deal.  Wrong call.  One of the pseudonyms used in the report to protect the privacy of victims and their families is ‘M’, except it is not a person but a hotel, and the whole world knows that it is the Metropole.  I sigh. All over now? A heavy report, it makes quite a bang as it hits the bottom of my bin.

Wed, 7 July
To celebrate Gustav Mahler’s birthday – he would have been 144 – I play his First Symphony quietly in my office.  He was not the only one to come into the world on 7 July, though the others come a little further down the talent scale.  Our visionary Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa is 67 today, even if his attitudes date back to the early Ming Dynasty.  Only a heartless sub-human with ice for blood can fail to feel some sympathy for poor old tofu-for-brains.  He can’t run Hong Kong any more than he can perform brain surgery, fly an aircraft, shear a sheep or play the violin.  It is painful watching him blunder from mishaps like SARS to futile obsessions like CEPA to misjudgements measureless to man – all with that childishly simplistic sense of duty.  Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, our snappily-named Communist Party front, celebrates its 12th anniversary today, though it has a mental age of 2.  As does the average DAB voter, who is poor, senile, incontinent, has bad breath and needs help crossing the road.  The DAB are toast.

In the US, avuncular, experienced John Kerry chooses youthful, fun John Edwards as running mate.  A smart move – they almost look electable.  No sooner do I type that last word than luscious and shapely Administrative Officer Winky Ip calls with the latest rumour about the only election that matters – Big Lychee ’04. 
Kenneth Ting, the barely visible Legco representative of the Industrial (First) Constituency might run for direct election in Kowloon East.  He would join his fellow Liberal Party reptile, the ridiculous boss James Tien, who is said to be running in New Territories East.  Presumably, they are leaving their safe functional constituency seats for the democratic jungle at the behest of Chief Executive-in waiting Henry Tang, who wants to build up the pro-cartel, pro-sunset industry presence in our legislature.  Even in Kowloon, home to the dregs of humanity, will anyone vote for such clowns?  The smell of toast is going to be overpowering in September. 

Thurs, 8 July
What’s that scraping sound coming from Lower Albert Road?  Why, it’s Tung Chee-hwa reaching deep down to the bottom of a barrel labeled ‘people stupid enough to join my cabinet’.  Meanwhile, the Hong Kong people proudly display their third ministerial scalp – EK Yeoh’s.  At least, that’s what they think.  In fact, fragrant former Security Secretary Regina Ip had already decided to resign several months before her departure nearly a year ago.  But even so, Lexus-loving Financial Secretary Antony Leung and now poor Dr Yeoh isn’t a bad score for a 12-month period.  At this rate, there will be at least another half dozen heads rolling down Battery Path before the crop-haired one’s comedic reign comes to an end in mid-2007.
Pain-in-the-rear, lateral-thinking gwailos screw up plans for Kowloon ‘culture hub’ white elephant.  Full details at ten.  Swire Pacific’s proposals for the Kowloon reclamation spread the museums around the harbour and leave a large proportion of the area as open, green space – with all the nasty insects, rotting vegetation and putrid squirrel excrement that entails.  The other developers are offering concrete, glass, concrete and more concrete, in the form of vast shopping malls full of designer label golfing wear, handbags and skin-whitening cream, and towers of luxury flats that block everyone’s view of the mountains – so much more safe, wholesome and hygienic.  Swire Properties also want to use the Tamar site, oblivious to the fact that tofu-for-brains has a hankering to turn it into a parade ground for patriotic gatherings of smiling, flag-waving children, marching military bands and sour-faced men with black-dyed hair.  Obviously, the proposal will get nowhere, but as a shareholder of Swires, I am disturbed.  Whoever heard of a property company suggesting that people be given a park?  Have they lost their minds?
Fri, 9 July
A call from the curvaceous Winky Ip, sitting in her lair in Central Government Office’s Main Building with nothing better to do than surf the web.  “You’re writing complete rubbish this week,” she informs me.  “And why are you saying the Chief Executive’s birthday was on Wednesday?  According to the official bio, he was born on May 29.”  I check and find
she’s right.  “Well,” I tell her, “my source was the South China Morning Post.  They mentioned it at some length.  They even pointed out it was the same day as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.  You know, seven-seven.”  She mutters ‘Luguoqiao’ – the beginning of the Japanese war.  “Exactly,” I reply.  “Not an auspicious day to be born on, is it?”  Winky laughs.  “Are you saying he’s covering up his real birthday?  And the SCMP somehow knows the truth?”  More laughter.  I shrug.  Burma’s Ne Win insisted on banknotes in denominations of 45 and 90 kyat.  The Central African Republic’s Bokassa ate schoolchildren.  Tung is obsessed with Feng Shui and all the other voodoo nonsense.  Everyone knows that.  “Come on.” I tell Winky, “you’ve been to his office.  All those clocks everywhere, red panels on the wall for no good reason, funny little carpets at odd angles by the doors, no-one’s allowed to walk diagonally across the room.  And you know all their domestic staff have to have the same blood group.”  Winky allows me a ‘Mmmm’.  She is not convinced.  “You’re assuming the SCMP is a reliable source of information,” she says.  “Well,” I counter, “you’re assuming the Government is.”  We reach stalemate, and we are none the wiser.