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

7-13 March 2004

Mon, 8 Mar
The Sunday
New York Times rightly declares the Mid-Levels Escalator to be one of the great wonders of the world, surpassing ancient temples and hanging gardens in terms of technology, beauty and plain usefulness.  Our visionary Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa finally falls into line with my economic growth forecast of 6 percent or more, while awkwardly maintaining that we should concentrate on our terrible economic problems rather than dwell on political reform.  Meanwhile, in Beijing, excitable Vice Minister An Min lashes out at Martin Lee’s late father, noted KMT General Li Yin-wo.  And Saint Martin himself returns from Washington to be
greeted at the airport by uglier-than-average senior citizens waving placards denouncing him as a traitor.  Is the inevitable end approaching?  Is Hong Kong about to go the way of Ephesus or Babylon, a pinnacle of civilization crumbling into dust?  Some of us are already giving up hope.  Passing the Natural Health Organic Food store this morning, I see the staff inside having Egg McMuffins and Coke for breakfast.  How much longer before the elevated walkway that passes the shop collapses into a heap of rubble and rusted escalator machinery – "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" inscribed on a fallen pillar?
Tue, 9 Mar
All of which brings me rather neatly to the subject of pyramids, several of which can be seen from parts of S-Meg Tower, adorning the roofs of nearby buildings.  Strolling this morning through an open-plan office with such a view, I note the little electrically powered water wheels and fountains that brainless, superstitious staff have placed next to the window to absorb the evil influences emanating from the dreaded triangles.  I will arrange for a memo to be sent out banning these devices as unhygienic – breeding grounds for bacteria, dengue fever, legionnaires disease, cholera and so on.  The fight against feng-shui must continue.  My last real success was the removal of the huge fish tank on the 12th floor, which had a disastrous impact – within weeks, three octogenarian grandparents had died, several children had failed their exams, the office horse racing expert lost his prophetic powers, and a secretary’s engagement fell through.  Since then, I have been twisting the little square mats outside lift doors 45 degrees, so the negative influences pouring out of the elevator shaft are not bounced back but deflected at right angles down the corridors.  People soon twist them back, however, so disappointingly little carnage seems to result – a few investment losses and, on one occasion, a miscarriage.

What does the Big Boss know?  Apparently, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is "not only an enormous pool of talents, but also a brain-bank".  I will cut out the
People’s Daily article to show him when he gets back from Beijing.
"CPPCC members, enjoying a high prestige among the Chinese people, are mostly leading brains in the industries, professions or areas where they are from. Learned and proficient, rich in experience and unique in vision, they are quite familiar with the real situation of the nation, people, areas and the jobs they are engaged in. So they usually have remarks profound and right to the point on some issues in China."
Did the praise lose a little fulsomeness in translation?  Either way, the Chairman of S-Meg Holdings will be delighted to know that he hasn’t been attending a ridiculous, time-wasting, shoe-shining exercise after all.

Sad news.  RIP
Spalding ‘you’ve played with my balls’ Gray (1941-2004), monologuist and author of Swimming to Cambodia. Or should that be monologist?
Wed, 10 Mar
Budget day, in which equine-visaged Financial Secretary Henry Tang will stand up in the circus and announce the following good news.  First, we are enjoying an unexpectedly strong economic recovery, expertly engineered by our visionary, miracle-working Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and assisted by CEPA, under which the Central People’s Government generously allows Hong Kong-made pearl-handled earwax removers to be sold tariff-free in the Mainland.  Second, the HK Government bureaucracy has been streamlined following the early retirement of Ms Gloriana Chan, Carbon Paper Manager at the Rickshaw Drivers Licensing Office typing pool.  Third, thanks to rising tax receipts, the Government will not have to plunder our reserves quite as much as beforehand to provide the world’s 400,000 most overpaid public-sector scum with the lavish conditions and perks to which they laughably claim to be entitled under the Basic Law.  Fourth, our disenfranchised middle class will not be expected to pay any new taxes in 2004-05, in recognition of their sterling work maintaining dozens of heavily cartelised industries, several million subsidy-addicted lower orders, plus the aforementioned civil service in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.  Fifth, we might want to think about having a sales tax one day, or maybe not.  He will then sit down to widespread applause, while joyous citizens dance in the streets.
Thurs, 11 Mar
Breakfast with voluptuous Administrative Officer Winky Ip at Yuet Yuen, purveyor of fine congee and noodles to the gentry.  "I do wish you’d stop referring to us as parasitic public-sector leech scum," complains the shapely civil servant.  "You wouldn’t last five minutes in the government – strolling off at three every afternoon."  I put on my best 'contrite' face and change the subject by remarking how it has suddenly gone very quiet.  "You could hear Tsang Hin-chee’s false teeth drop a mile away," I say.  "Just as we were getting to the ear-splitting crescendo of patriotic, anti-traitor, anti-democrat screeching… it stops."   Winky nods.  "Someone’s told them to shut up," she says.  "Perhaps they noticed Hong Kong has a different culture.  They think they can isolate opponents by denouncing them – but the opponents just get public sympathy."  An interesting clash of cultures.  A totalitarian central leadership and a pluralistic citizenry trying to make sense of each other.  "The local pro-Beijing crowd look more stupid than ever," says Winky in a low voice.  "They know those tactics don’t work here, but they went along with it anyway.  Pathetic."
What a nerve - "…strolling off at three every afternoon."  The Company Gwailo at S-Meg Holdings is not paid to slog.  He’s paid for occasional flashes of brilliance.  As with the Big Boss’s annual report to shareholders gestating on his hard disk.  In goes...

We fired Sandra Leung, her three assistants and their 24 support staff on the 10th floor and outsourced that bean counting stuff to Shenzhen

...and out comes...

The trading division’s contribution to group profits was further enhanced by a consolidation of its accounting operations. 

'Consolidation'?  Or should we say 'streamlining'?  I’ll decide by three.

Fri, 12 Mar
In Madrid, Basque and/or Muslim terrorists kill some 190 in train bombings.  In Hong Kong, fanatical chicken vendors wanting to import Mainland produce hope to bring us to our knees by going on
strike and forcing us to eat pork, prawns or – unspeakable horror – frozen poultry.  A fresh, still-warm bird in every pot is the shibboleth of Hong Kong nationalism.  The right of the people to kill and cook chickens shall not be infringed.  Who will cave in first?  The chicken sellers, watching in agony as housewives spend the family budget at the meat and fish stalls?  Or the Government, its dedication to fighting avian flu crumbling at the first sign of protest from gap-toothed old hags who insist on seeing their dinner’s throat slit before their eyes?