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

11-17 April 2004

Mon, 12 April
To Sai Kung, to see a distraught Ben, Hong Kong’s second-most obnoxious expat.  He is convinced that, out of deranged hatred towards him, his vicious ex-wife back in England is slowly poisoning their eight-year-old son to death with arsenic.  “That’s how much she hates me,” he laments, blinking back tears over a bottle of Beaujolais.  “I noticed his hair was falling out when I saw him last Christmas.  I’ll probably never see him again.”  He is shocked when I express mild scepticism.  “You think no mother would do that?” he retorts incredulously.  “You don’t know women.”  As I leave he lends me a pirated copy of The Passion Of The Christ, Mel Gibson’s blockbuster on the fate of the second-most persecuted man in history.  The former altar boy in me hesitates before accepting it.  Surely the Seventh Commandment applies to intellectual property, even in Hong Kong.  What would Jesus do? I ask myself.  I conclude that he would see Gibson’s US$350 million box office takings in terms of camels and eyes of needles, grab the disk, and dismiss worries about not getting the crown-of-thorns refrigerator magnet.  And anyway, who would turn down a chance to see a movie about oneself?

Tue, 13 Apr
For those in need of a daily dose of mayhem to put their slightly cluttered lives into perspective, where better to turn than to the
City section of the South China Morning Post, with its lurid reports of the degeneracy, evil and depravation that is Kowloon and the New Territories?  ‘Newborn baby left in rubbish bin’ reads one headline.  How often do we have to read this story?  It seems to appear on a weekly basis, and I think I know why.  Waste bins – or at least the better class of garbage receptacle found in well-ordered neighbourhoods like the Mid Levels – invariably have signs attached warning passers-by not to deposit certain items in them. No dog mess, children’s bodily output, recycle-able glass and paper, used face masks, construction materials, unsold copies of Spike magazine – the list goes on.  But no mention of babies.  Not difficult to rectify, I would have thought.  Over the page we are told that ‘4pc of teenagers repeatedly attempt suicide’.  Again, I think I can see the problem.  These young people are useless and fail at everything they try to do, so in despair they decide to kill themselves.  Being useless, however, they fail.  Thus, more despair, followed by more attempts to despatch themselves.  A vicious cycle.  Maybe someone should tell them that the first time in their lives they are successful at something will be their last.  It will give them an incentive either to try harder or learn to live as contented under-achievers like all the other happy, ginger-haired youths on that benighted side of the harbour.

Having sorted out those little problems, I find I am briefly tempted to reward myself by renting a weekend getaway in the form of the 6,000 square foot
townhouse (with 3,000 square foot garden) at 40 Peak Road.  It seems a snip at HK$350,000 a month – though there are hidden extras.  The monthly management fees top HK$25,000, and the multitude of elves needed to clean the place would cost more again.  The air-conditioning bills would be sado-masochistic enough to make an appearance in The Passion Of The Christ – a Roman messenger could deliver one to Jesus in mid-scourging.  And then there’s that garden, with unhygienic invertebrates crawling around the nasty, smelly vegetation.  Or are tenants allowed to pave it over with decent, clean concrete?   It all sounds like too much of a headache.  Thanks to my genetic predisposition to own rather than rent property, the urge soon passes.

Wed, 14 Apr
An early morning phone call from Polly the Lipstick Lesbian, who has been up all night dancing, inviting me to breakfast.  Over our noodles, she chastises me for not attending last Sunday’s protest against the NPC Basic Law interpretation.  Marches, I tell her, should be big and infrequent to have an impact.  She is too tired to argue, so I flick through the paper.  Never quite having forgotten the day I was turned down for the post of Vice President of the HK Girl Guides Association, I am pained to see a picture of the man who got the job – Sir David Akers-Jones, former colonial Chief Secretary and acting Governor, and the coiner of the memorable phrase, “The Chinese have no objection to elections, provided they know the results beforehand.”  His ‘vision for electoral change’ as the
SCMP’s drug-addled headline writer puts it, is to political reform what homeopathy is to medicine – so heavily diluted is the treatment that there is virtually nothing there.  His central proposal is to expand (“within reason”) the number of people who elect the 800-strong committee that elects the Chief Executive.  To encourage a real race, he suggests that would-be CEs obtain exactly 200 nominations from Election Committee members, thus preventing the shoe-shining herd from backing one man, as happened last time.  “But this raises the Anson Chan problem,” I tell Polly.  “What happens if someone with a 75 percent public approval rating scrapes together a nomination, and then loses the election 600-200 to a pro-Beijing halfwit who inherited a cartel from daddy?”  Polly tries not to yawn and grins.  “Mmm, we get a seriously, massively big and infrequent march,” she says.  Yes – a good way to get a million people on the street.  Sir David’s other proposal is to abolish functional constituencies in the circus to encourage development of a proper political party.  Sensible enough, I shrug, before noticing that Polly is dozing over the table.  This could be interesting.  Woman, 38, drowns in own congee while friend reads newspaper.  Full details at ten.
Thurs, 15 Apr
By S-Meg Holdings standards, the departure of Human Resources Manager Ms Doris Pang turns out to be low key.  No tantrums, no tears, no defenestration.  Just a simple announcement from the Big Boss in the morning meeting that she has sadly decided to leave us at the end of the month for health reasons.  Fingering her knuckle-duster, the sour-faced harridan stands up and tells the management team that she is already assembling a shortlist of possible replacements.  “I know one potential candidate personally,” she informs us in a menacing tone.  “She started her career in the Correctional Services Department and she went on to gain an excellent record of maintaining staff discipline in leading local companies.  In her current position, she has ensured total…” she glances briefly at me “…– and I mean total – obedience of rules concerning working hours, dress code and behaviour in the office.  She has reduced levels of sick leave by more than half through the use of negative incentives.  She implemented pay cuts for four successive years.  And she does not tolerate…” another glance at the company gwailo “…laziness, wilfulness or non-conformism.  She is maybe not as soft as I am, but that is probably what S-Meg needs at this time.”  The Big Boss nods admiringly.  Without a smile, Ms Doris Pang sits down, flattens her black skirt and crosses her calves so her right shoe – the one with the poisoned spike that springs out of the front – points in my direction.
Fri, 16 Apr

Office of the CE, HKSAR

April 15 2004


I beg to submit my most reverential greetings.  I am CH from Hong Kong.  I am honoured to have been asked to
report to the National People's Congress Standing Committee on whether we in the SAR should have political reform.  Of course, it is entirely a matter for your good selves, and not for me to say.  Without wishing to appear impertinent, however, and having given the matter extensive consideration for a whole week, I would like to respectfully suggest to your very good selves that perhaps Hong Kong does need to change its election system for 2007-08, but only in the tiniest and most imperceptible manner possible.  This is, of course, simply the humble and worthless opinion of a loyal servant who knows his place.  Your very very good selves are far better qualified than I to decide on the matter. 

I give you my deepest and sincerest assurances that whatever course of action your excellent selves may choose - if any – will be treated with the utmost respect, deference and admiration by all 7 million HK compatriots and the barbarian friends who live among us.  I know I speak for all of them when I say that we fully accept that we are inconsequential and scarcely worthy of more than the fleetest consideration from your very excellent selves.  Your willingness even to accept this letter is evidence of your wondrous selves’ boundless munificence. 

On behalf of the Motherland’s loyal and insignificant subjects in Hong Kong, I prostrate myself on the ground in awe of your magnificence.