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

8-14 September, 2002
Tue, 10 Sept
Finish my holiday reading – Stella Gibbons' classic 1932 satire of the sub-Hardy genre, Cold Comfort Farm. Is it just me, or is the main character, Flora Poste, a dead ringer for a sufferer of Asperger's syndrome?

An email from Jenny, the girl from Beijing-but-she's-got-a-US-passport, who was introduced to me by Rosabelle Lam at her otherwise tedious orgy a
few weeks ago.  She has passed through Hong Kong between business trips and is slightly irate about the fact that I am hard to get hold of. Pardon me for not being at your beck and call 24 hours a day, but as it happens, to quote Number Six, I am not a number – I am a free man. Is there such a thing as a woman who, like Beijing's "three no-sticks" pudding, does not cling?

Few things are as silly as a provincial newspaper getting above its station and pontificating on international events, as today’s
Morning Post editorial illustrates.
“…if Iraq is trying to produce nuclear weapons, it is not the only country in the region doing so.  Israel has a sophisticated nuclear programme, and is widely believed to have developed nuclear weapons.  Does Mr Bush intend to do something about this?  Clearly not…” 
Of course he doesn’t, you retards.  Israel is a democratic country with rule of law, a free press and the world’s least ambiguous foreign policy – hit us, we hit you.  Saddam Hussein is an evil tyrant who murders his own people and will attack his neighbours without provocation yet again if not dealt with.  There is no moral equivalence.  And who the hell asked you, anyway? 

Encounter the new HK$10 banknote, specially printed so the lower orders will not starve after having to put HK$20 bills into
lai see packets at Lunar New Year.  Rather than giving the appearance of cash, the purple note looks more like an admission ticket to a lame, HK Tourist Board-sponsored event for children.  What drugs was the designer on? 

Wed, 11 Sep
Can our dashing but over-50 financial secretary Antony Leung satisfy the physical needs of his exceptionally lithe wife, Olympic diver Fu Ming-xia?  Like many professional athletes, Ms Fu is probably a late developer physically and at the age of 23 may only be starting to feel urges that, assuming she is as other women, will grow ever-stronger for at least the next 20 years. As her appetite grows, his interest and ability will surely wane.  I find myself wondering about this when I bump into them this morning, taking what I believe is an obscure breed of aardvark for a walk.  Ms Fu is vivacious (though uncertain) when I ask whether the Mainland government's decision to ban access to Google might be related to the fact that the internet search engine has thoughtfully cached my diaries. Antony, meanwhile, appears exhausted even before I implore him yet again to rid the stock exchange of KC Kwong and install a world-class chief executive – yes, with round eyes if necessary – following the inquiry into the penny stocks fiasco.  I worry about this lovely couple.

Grossly incompetent at most things, the Hong Kong civil service excels at producing unintended consequences.  The Mid-Levels Escalator is a prime example.  It totally failed in its intended purpose of reducing the amount of traffic on the roads, but inadvertently became a tourist attraction and the catalyst for the transformation of a sleepy, inoffensive neighbourhood into a gwailo-infested entertainment district with scores of overpriced restaurants and pretentious furniture stores. Another example is the Number 8 Typhoon Signal, hoisted at 1.40 today. As always, it totally fails to keep people indoors – they all make a beeline from office to pub.  Yet it succeeds brilliantly, once again, in driving away the bad weather.  After a few hours of rain, calm descends on Central, and the deluge of death and destruction we were promised for the evening, night and following morning fails to materialize.

Thurs, 12 Sep
Academic and
Morning Post columnist Tim Hamlett sadly succumbs to the avarice and self-interest we normally associate with Hong Kong's airlines, retail cartels and Liberal Party. Public-sector workers not covered by civil service rules must consent in writing to a pay cut, he laments. They are being forced to break a contract, he despairs. He is not sure what happens if they refuse (I can tell him – statutory notice and layoff).  He refers to it as "steal[ing] from staff" and likens it to pickpocketing. Apparently, the news that public- and private-sector prices (pay levels, in practice) have gone up 12% and down 11% respectively since 1998 has not reached Baptist University.  The pocket that is being picked  – plundered, indeed – is the reserves, wealth created by the private sector, now being transferred at a frightening rate into the bank accounts of public-sector workers, a process given the sanitized name of "running a deficit".

A Mr Lee, of the Korean Consulate, drops by S-Meg Tower on a brief courtesy call to the Big Boss. As I escort him out, he express great alarm about the fact that dismal writer Simon Winchester is currently in Hong Kong, believing him to be a potential threat to virtuous Korean womanhood.  I find this puzzling.  Winchester's main claim to fame is that in the late 80s and early 90s, before being deported from Hong Kong, he committed the unpardonable crime of wearing ridiculous safari suits.  He also wrote a column for British children's publication
The Guardian, containing frequent, bizarre references to rickshaws and "coolies", and followed this up with probably the worst novel ever written about Hong Kong (no mean feat), Pacific Nightmare.  Cathay Pacific, displaying uncharacteristic good taste, banned him from their flights for a while after he spilt the beans about their cabin crew.  But a menace to Korean women?  Intriguing.

Poke my head round the door at City Hall in the evening to have a quick look at the 9-11 commemoration.  A foreign official eager to make small talk by stating the obvious mentions to me that the international community is "well-represented"
; I congratulate him on finding such a diplomatic way of noting that the non-international one is more interested in buying Mark Six tickets.  I make a quick exit when a woman starts to deliver a tortuous rendition of the unbearable dirge "Amazing Grace".