Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
9-15 November 2003
Sun, 9 Nov
The news today has a pale tinge to it.  Here in Hong Kong, the death of Merrill Lynch executive Robert Kissel, and his wife's subsequent arrest on murder charges, has gwailo tongues wagging. "Miss Scarlet, with a candlestick, in the conservatory?"  Roughly.  The chatter so far is of Mrs K and a golf club… but where?   The body was found rolled up in a carpet some distance from the couple's Parkview apartment. I ask acquaintances of the unfortunate banker if they had shared with him my cautionary description of the life cycle of an expat wife, which I distributed on 20 June.  It seems not.  Meanwhile, in a distant barbarian kingdom, a future monarch's reign has possibly been done to death. It is easy to see why Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, is against genetically modified crops.  The poor man's entire family is a centuries-long experiment in selective breeding that went horribly wrong.  And now, there's a claim that a valet delivering breakfast to his room found him in bed with another male servant ("no physical activity but you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to work out what was going on").   The other servant has taken out an injunction forbidding the press from repeating the rumour, thus ensuring that everyone knows about it. Could it be true?  Anyone who can have sex with Camilla can probably bring himself to do it with any suitably sized mammal, not to mention various types of earthmoving and farm equipment.

Mon, 10 Nov
What’s that scratching noise? Why, it’s the sound of someone’s name being removed from the invitation list for Christmas drinks at Government House.  Which name?  That of Michael DeGolyer, HK Baptist University political scientist and all-purpose talking head.  And why is he being crossed off?  Poor grammar – up with which our bilingual officials, mindful of the need to maintain educational standards, will not put.  DeGolyer recently
said of visionary Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa “Politically he's not just dead meat. There's flies all over him.”  As we all know, that should be “…There are flies all over him.”  Disgraceful.

Tue, 11 Nov
Mid-morning at the Mandarin Hotel coffee shop with Morris, Glasgow’s gift to Hong Kong law-enforcement. He is bemused by the
story from Singapore about a policeman being jailed for receiving oral sex.  “The courts say it’s an unnatural act,” he says, “but it’s legal if you go on to have straight, full sex.  I can’t get my head round it.”  Well, who would want to?  What a contrast with Hong Kong, where, to the delight of prurient South China Morning Post reporters, vice officers are required to indulge in intimate acts with ladies of the night in order to collect evidence.  “That’s no fun,” claims Morris.  “Oh aye – they’re mangy dogs.”  He tells me about a recent visit he made to a women’s jail full of hookers.  “Actually, it’s more of a drug rehabilitation centre,” he says.  “All these girls drink methadone out of little plastic cups, to wean them off heroin.  They’re pretty ill.  When one of them vomits, the others drop to their knees and lick it up.”  I put down my teacup.  “Why not give them gin and bitters?” I ask. “Just convert them into functioning alcoholics, so they can fit into normal society.  They could join the police!”  He is clearly impressed by my lateral thinking.
In the IFC Mall, the CitySuper Customers’ Liberation Front strikes another blow for life, liberty and consumer rights when I tire of waiting in line at the checkout, dump my basket of perishable goods and walk off.  I am not alone in protesting in this way against the shortage of serving staff at what must be one of the most expensive supermarkets in Asia.  At my urging, several patrons of the up-market store are now following my example and leaving baskets of unbought kimchee, ice cream and cheese to fester in the aisles.  Who do the management think we are?  The sort of riffraff who will wait in Park N Shop for hours?  We have things to do.  Ulrike Meinhof and Patty Hearst got it right – urban guerrilla tactics are the only way to deal with these fascist pig oppressors of the people.
Wed, 12 Nov
“Tell me if there’s anything interesting in this rubbish,” says the Big Boss, passing me a booklet of background material on the 2004-05 Budget.  The Government is sending a copy to all of Hong Kong’s great and good to make them feel important.  Is there anything interesting in it?  Flicking through the pages of recycled paper, I soon find a fascinating example of stupidity...
“The slowdown in economic activities caused by the outbreak of SARS earlier this year has made it unrealistic to stick to the original [balanced budget] targets by 2006-07.”
But over the page we are told the opposite…
“Following the outbreak of SARS, we adjusted in August 2003 the forecast for GDP real growth downward from 3% to 2%.  Since then, there has been a visible upswing … our latest forecast is for the economy to grow by around 3% for 2003.”
A few pages later, after a bit saying that we can’t be bothered to fix the budget deficit at Lexus-speed because it’s just too much like hard work, the booklet gets round to the really interesting question – who’s paying for this bloated public sector?
“The share of [salaries tax] revenue contributed by [the top 100,000 payers] increased to 62.1% in 2002-03.”
That’s out of 1.25mn taxpayers, themselves a minority of the 3.2mn people in work. I won’t mention it to the Big Boss.  It would vex him.  Personally, I see nothing wrong.  With the sound of Neil Young and the Rolling Stones still ringing in my ears, I regard it as a pleasure and a privilege to carry the corpulence that is Mike Rowse on my shoulders all day, every day.

To the Circus in the evening, to see the clowns perform.  How difficult would it be to draft a Legislative Council motion supporting the “ultimate aims” mentioned in Articles 45 and 68 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law?  A mildly dim 12-year-old could do it.  No-one would dare vote against such a
de facto call for universal suffrage.  Unfortunately, there are no mildly dim 12-year-olds in the Democratic Party, so they put forward a motion drafted clumsily enough for the forces of darkness to have no qualms about defeating it.  Still, this bodes well for those of us looking forward to serious mud slinging and negative campaigning at next year’s elections, and I can’t help but grin broadly at the ridiculous James Tien as he extends his charagma-etched hand to vote against.

Thurs, 13 Nov
Australian crocodile hunter John Lever is
flying to the rescue of Hong Kong, a city living in fear after being terrorized for more than a week by Bo-Bo the vicious man-eating reptile.  Having met one of these latter-day dragon slayers many years ago in a certain Dick’s Hotel in the charming Sydney district of Balmain, I am well aware of the fate awaiting the overgrown lizard.  Lever will stalk the beast by moonlight, wading purposefully through Yuen Long Creek in his akubra hat and night vision spectacles, while assistants on the bank cover him with a half-inch machine gun.  On finding Bo-Bo at rest, Lever will stealthily approach the ferocious brute and club it repeatedly in the kidneys with a large boomerang.  Writhing in agony, the crocodile will rear up and lunge at the valiant Aussie, who will fearlessly and determinedly thrust his entire upper torso deep down the creature’s throat while kicking its private parts with his RM Williams boots.  After a minute or two of thrashing and flailing in the muddy darkness, Bo-Bo will have choked to death.  Extracting himself from the dead monster’s maw, the courageous Queenslander will brush aside onlookers’ concerns about his scratches and bruises and join his assistants in dragging the corpse onto land, where they will hang it from a bauhinia tree and skin and butcher it with a view to giving Bo-Bo a new existence as soup and elegant footwear.  Looking on from afar, shame-faced Hong Kong officials will cringe as they see yet again how easily success comes to those not touched by the Curse of Tung.

Fri, 14 Nov
How much cheaper things are over the border in Shenzhen!  There is obviously no way Hong Kong can compete with a place where a
kidnapped baby goes for just RMB1,000.  I am tempted to nip over there and pick one up myself, just for the frisson of making such a bizarre purchase – like the time cousin John Quincy Hemlock and I bought a cheap, subsequently buried, 38-calibre revolver for kicks.  But perhaps the low prices reflect market weakness.  Who on earth wants a baby?   The answer, we are told, is farmers – presumably ones whose spiteful wives have consistently refused to bear the all-important male heir.  Further evidence that Shenzhen is more exciting than Hong Kong comes in reports that police there have arrested a couple for luring a dozen job-seeking women to their deaths for their belongings.  As with the babies, this is a low-margin business.  Chopping up and disposing of a body is hard work – hardly worth the lunch money, mobile phone and pair of shoes bequeathed by a peasant girl looking for factory work.  Still, if criminals across the border are inattentive to return on investment, at least the Shenzhen authorities recognize the importance of image management.  Relatives of the dead women are under house arrest there, lest they talk to the media and confuse ill-informed Hongkongers about the enticing prospects of cross-border integration, cooperation and partnership.