Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat

10-16 November 2002
Sun, 10 Nov
A clear blue sky and a mild breeze – a perfect day for a barbecue at fragrant socialite Rosabelle Lam’s place on the Peak.  The sad demise of Frou-Frou last week (nothing to do with A-Hing, it seems) hasn't fazed her, judging by the way she personally doles out hunks of kangaroo, emu, tuna and swordfish. Rosabelle's mind is on the rumours starting to trickle down from the Hong Kong delegation to the 16th Party Congress in Beijing.  She has heard that Li Peng, the misunderstood National People’s Congress Chairman, will retire next door after he stands down early next year.  “Imagine – next year we will have the son of a revolutionary martyr with us, right here!” she gushes. I mention the drawbacks of Li as a neighbour.  He might bug the barbecue, I point out, reminding Rosabelle of the Boeing 767 Jiang Zemin never used. His family’s businesses might fall into disfavour, and he might end up under house arrest – secret police swarming all over the place, and murk oozing under the garden fence.  And what if Tiananmen Square activists break in and Li ends up dangling from a lamppost?  “Rubbish,” she says, dumping a chunk of medium-rare wildebeest on my plate. “He’ll do wonders for property prices.”
Mon, 11 Nov
Feel my front tooth getting looser and looser… It falls out.  Go to the dentist.  She is entertaining guests in her surgery while attending to me.  Everyone is having good fun.  Being tired, I have a nap while she is poking around in my mouth.  When I wake up, she still hasn’t fixed the tooth, but she has given me a haircut, leaving clumps of hair all over my clothes and on the floor. This time, I really do wake up.  That will teach me to swipe gorgonzola from people's barbecues for a late-night snack.  Interesting. If it weren’t for teeth falling out, I would have nothing to dream about.

Theft is rife, and anger is mounting. The civil service’s plundering, month after month, of Hong Kong’s hard-earned reserves cannot continue.  There is no room for consensus here – it is a simple matter of public-sector pus versus the other 6.8 million of us.  The choice is so stark that even our infantile political parties find themselves making genuine policy proposals, just like big grown-ups.  I encounter Tsang Yok-sing, leader of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, on his way to help valiant Financial Secretary Antony Leung prepare next year’s budget. Tsang wants a 10% cut in civil servants’ numbers over three years.  I give him a pat on the back.  Actually, it’s pathetic – it would barely make a dent in the overmanning.  They still have
typing pools, for heaven’s sake. Huge rooms full of middle-aged women reading magazines all day. Put them on the night shift at 7-11.  Make them pose for some depraved, minority-interest pornographic website. Anything.
"He who will not economize will have to agonize." - Confucius
Tue, 12 Nov
Theft was big in the 1990s, when property developers helped themselves to most of the middle class’s entire earnings for the next 25 years, yielding profit margins of 50% or more.  Now, the same developers are
complaining about the electricity cartel charging them too much for over-cooling their tacky, neon-covered buildings.  Such breathtaking audacity is a wonder to behold. How can Hong Kong be finished when our robber barons, not content with dictating Government land policy, manage to ask for more – with perfectly straight faces – through their over-stuffed maws?  This is the spirit that made Hong Kong great.  The spirit that said “This is a nice island – we’ll have it”. It is alive and well at Sun Hung Kai, Swire and Wharf.  We do have a future.
Wed, 13 Nov
How can the government of an impoverished country best use some spare funds it has lying around?  Return the money to the people through tax cuts? Build basic infrastructure to develop rural markets?  Boost primary education and health facilities?  Our Central People’s Government knows better –
put a man into space, thus rocketing the PRC into the same league as the USA and the late USSR.  Foreign forces that resent the rise of New China will carp.  They will say that this is a 1960s-era, low-tech stunt that Belgium or Australia could pull off if they wanted.  But Belgians and Aussies wouldn’t reward their rulers with unquestioning adoration for bringing such glory upon their respective motherlands. And so, sometime next year, we will wake up one day to be told that a Mainland astronaut is in orbit.  Or maybe we won’t.  Mindful of the distress caused to viewers by the sight of space rockets flying into villages, Mainland TV will not broadcast the launch live.
Out of gratitude for being taken seriously by the Hong Kong Government, the Heritage Foundation yet again grants the SAR the title of world’s freest economy.  However, the affable libertarian cranks are causing some irritation among our officials, who – unlike their incompetent British predecessors – are gifted with the ability to foresee and guide Hong Kong’s future economic development.  While the Brits recklessly hoped for the best, our all-knowing and omnipotent Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has decreed that Hong Kong will be a high-tech hub, a logistics hub, a tourism hub, a cruise liner hub, a sports and culture hub, and a Chinese medicine hub.  Meanwhile, our visionary Minister for Commerce, Industry and Technology, the horse-faced Henry Tang, plans to lure sweatshops back across the border, restoring Hong Kong to its rightful position as plastic flower hub, cheap t-shirt hub and opium den furnishings hub. The Heritage Foundation is blind to the skill involved in such detailed economic management.  Is it any wonder the rest of the world ranks the freest economy awards on a par with the All-Asia Tiddleywinks Championships?

Drop into the circus to marvel at Secretary for Housing and mesmerist Michael Suen’s
performance. He seeks to convince the audience that the price of small concrete boxes worth HK$500,000 should stabilise at their current HK$1,000,000 – or maybe even rise to HK$1,002,000 – in order to make people who paid HK$3,000,000 for them feel happy. If this produces recovery, as promised, a Nobel prize for economics will be in order. The Administration will also further bankrupt itself by refraining from selling land next year. As a bonus, however, unemployment will rise in the construction industry, inducing some of our surplus, low-value, human resources to go back to their Mainland pig farms, or resort to the charcoal exit strategy.
Thurs, 14 Nov
Start the day differently, drinking a cup of hot, brown, water-flavoured liquid at Pacific Coffee, watching the world go by, and pretending not to notice the mildly lustful glances of passing secretaries, marketing floozies and bean counterettes in their smart jackets and dark stockings. It occurs to me that the same vivacious female office-slaves must walk past at the same time every day, and the sight of me through the window would soon become the highlight of their morning if I were to make this a regular practice.  Before long, they would start leaning through the door and tossing me small items of intimate clothing with telephone numbers written on them. What a pity the coffee is so insipid.
Fri, 15 Nov
The Big Boss has an uncontainable urge to shoe-shine
Hu Jintao, new Communist Party boss.  Ideally, he would follow the example of Narikot wives in Nepal, who wash their husbands' feet and drink the water as a sign of respect.  Mr Hu would remember that.  But it is difficult.  Every sycophant in the middle kingdom wants his tongue up the imperial posterior right now.  And the poor Big Boss takes a lower precedence than at least a couple of dozen of Hong Kong’s great and good, let alone all the Mainlanders standing in line. So he has to offer congratulations by letter, a masterpiece of calligraphy and classical style that we admire in the morning meeting before it is couriered to Zhongnanhai, to be lost among thousands of others. 

Would “Hu Jintao and the Three Representatives” be a good name for a rock band?  I will register the name, just in case.