Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
12-18 October 2003
Sun, 12 Oct
Emily Lau reveals her secret anti-democracy agenda by organizing a rally calling for our visionary Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to stand down – thus depriving Hong Kong of its most powerful advertisement for universal suffrage.  If, God forbid, the crop-haired one were to depart ahead of schedule – being hit by a passing Lexus, say, or succumbing to cardiac problems during his morning Tai Chi – what sort of person would replace him?  Even if the existing nationality and age qualifications were scrapped, any of the 6 billion possible choices would, by definition, be more decisive, more in touch, more politically adroit, more flexible and thus more likely to reduce popular pressure for change. Judging by the low turnout, Hongkongers clearly doubt the motives of Emily Loud (witty pun © David Webb) and her little band of followers.

Mon, 13 Oct
Mr Mike Rowse JP, GBM

Dear Mike,
I think I owe you an apology.  Just a
few weeks ago I might have inadvertently given the impression that you were in some way a lunatic, and that the Government’s decision to underwrite “Harbour Fest” to the tune of HK$80 million was motivated by spite after the Hong Kong people had speedily bounced back from SARS without official intervention.  Having a ticket to Neil Young’s 6 November concert safely in my hands, it is now plain to me that you and your colleagues have been far-sighted in exploiting the Government's natural talent for the rock festival business.  Critics may carp about the Rolling Stones’ non-attendance and the fact that the sum of public funds involved seems to have been rounded up to HK$100 million, but who can seriously doubt that “Gwailo Fest” will go down in the history of government finance as an outstanding example of fiduciary and fiscal probity? 

PS:  Who on earth is the other 6 Nov act, Michelle Branch?
Tue, 14 Oct
It is disorienting – almost disturbing – to see signs of intelligent life in the Hong Kong Government.  But there it is.  Environment and Transport Secretary Sarah Liao, in her usual what-am-I-doing-here? tone, points out that road building cannot continue indefinitely.  We even hear the phrase “electronic road pricing” for the first time in two decades.  Back then, the Mercedes brigade frothed at the mouth in outrage that the Government would invade their privacy.  It was a major civil rights issue – nothing to do with fears that their wives would see itemised road-use bills featuring nocturnal jaunts around Kowloon Tong.  “ERP” – just saying those three letters still sends a shudder down the spine.  It still won’t happen.  But the presence in officialdom of someone who thinks it should is unnerving, a sign that Hong Kong’s planets are out of alignment.  Meanwhile, the Rolling Stones contradict poor Micky Rowse and say “yeah, actually, we are coming” in their mock-working-class accents.  Yet another humiliating slap-down for our punch bag of an Administration.  Comforting evidence that the natural order of the universe is perhaps unchanged, after all.
Wed, 15 Oct
Can there be any doubt as to the magnificence of the Mid-Levels Escalator?  Mainland infrastructure projects are invariably money-wasting failures – the Great Wall failed to keep barbarians out, Zhuhai Airport failed to bring them in.  The Statue of Zeus, the Gardens of Babylon and the Lighthouse of Alexandria are all dust.  But the Mid-Levels’ wondrous series of covered walkways goes from strength to strength, conveying the cream of Hong Kong’s overtaxed, disenfranchised middle class between their residencies and their offices in blissful comfort. Two new features in Escalator Land now enhance the local feng shui and property prices.  The first is an MTR “cheap scumbag magnet”, a device perched on the walkway above Hollywood Road.  Commuters airily wave their wallets or purses over the pad, which issues a satisfying beep as their magic Octopus Card receives a HK$2 discount on the next train journey made that day.  A scientific test I made last Sunday – a trip to Causeway Bay – proved that it works.  The amusing part is that a certain type of person is walking up the walkway each morning, getting their discount, and then going back down – an uphill detour of at least 200 yards.  I will trail these people at some stage in order to
discover just how far members of our lower orders will walk for a pitiful sum of money.  The second great leap forward is the long-overdue opening of a decent supermarket – a branch of City Super in the IFC Mall.  Pate, cheese, plus such North Asian delights as Meltykiss, shashimi and fresh kimchee straight out of a wooden barrel.   With prices for standard goods at least double those of Park N Slop and Wellcome, it is very much a “cheap scumbag repellent” and will no doubt send our low-income friends scuttling faster than ever up to Hollywood Road for their HK$2 MTR fare rebate.  Life is perfect, and the Mid-Levels is truly the Elysium of the East.
The glorious motherland’s first astronaut, Lt Col Yang Liwei, has now been in orbit for some four hours.  What we all want to know is – did they think of everything?  Facilities-wise.  The plucky 38 year old – “Buzz” to his friends – has another 17 hours to go up there.  Is Shenzhou V equipped with what he needs?  Or is he clutching his thighs together and thinking “God, I wish I hadn’t had that fourth cup of chrysanthemum tea.”  Xinhua News Agency will obviously not divulge such sensitive information on its website. And, typically, the South China Morning Post’s fawning coverage of this noble feat of decades-old Soviet technology fails to enlighten us about these important details.
Thurs, 16 Oct
An early meeting with Polly the lipstick lesbian and favourite married couple Lincoln and May for a pre-launch check of our latest business venture, Rosso – an
exceptionally tacky, reservations-only, singles bar.  Strolling round the premises, I feel nauseous.  “Are you absolutely sure this is what the target market wants?” I ask May, looking askance at the bright pink velvet furnishings. “Oh yes,” she declares.  “This is for people who are getting over Hello Kitty and aspiring to golf.  To them, this is really sophisticated.”  Pink seats.  Pink flowers.  Numbered tables.  Waiters acting as go-betweens.  And more pink.  It’s so putrid it can’t fail to make us money.
Fri, 17 Oct
South China Morning Post has wedged its tongue so far up Beijing’s backside this time that it can’t get it out.  Yesterday’s “souvenir edition” eulogizing the launch of Shenzhou V was so embarrassing that it leapt into the waste bin of its own accord.  To do another one today about the astronaut-hero’s return indicates a serious problem requiring medical help.  Reading Dr David Munter’s fascinating paper on rectal foreign bodies while enjoying my morning congee and noodles, it occurs to me that Beijing deserves sympathy for suffering this unpleasant encumbrance.  As he advises hospital staff, “Refrain from making disparaging or comical remarks concerning the nature of the problem.”  The owner of the tongue, meanwhile, has stooped to humiliating new lows in grovelling and shoe shining.  How can any self-respecting journalist work for the rag?  The answer – as a glance through its pages shows – is that none do.  As always, the saddest part of the story is that such obsequiousness consistently fails to bring any reward.  The Mainland’s leaders know wanton toadying when they see it, and it doesn’t impress them. Samuel Johnson wrote, in his Rambler essay 106…

It is necessary to the success of flattery, that it be accommodated to particular circumstances or characters, and enter the heart on the side where the passions stand ready to receive it."

Not, in other words, from the rear.