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

18-24 July 2004

Mon, 19 July
Gliding down the Mid-Levels Escalator, Hong Kong’s healthy, fresh-faced middle class buzzes with the news that Legislative Council President Rita Fan will
run for re-election to the circus in a real democratic contest, right here on the island.  The Big Lychee’s hard-working, wealth-creating taxpayers are in two minds about the feisty, well-born academic. 

Some, typically women, are Fan fans.  They approve of the ‘without fear or favour’ image she has acquired as the even-handed speaker of our little parliament, facing down disruptive male legislators with not too feminine a firmness.  They like her moderation and tolerance, a bit pro-Beijing but on good terms with pro-democrats, never mouth-frothing about ‘traitors’.  They like her academic achievements – far more impressive in their eyes than the clumsy management of inherited wealth that passes for success among our tycoons.  And they appreciate her decision to run in a geographical constituency.  Surely, as one 30-something marketing manager tells everyone around her, Rita is “one of us.” 

Others, especially the male of the
Homo mid-levelsus species, are not so sure.  There is something of the cold and cunning mother-in-law about Fan Hsu Lai-tai.  They are not fooled by her.  They recall that she was one of the loyal types who announced that they met with, and were certainly not intimidated by, retired Mainland official Cheng Shousan, whose phone call convinced Allen Lee to stop broadcasting last May.  They know she is running for direct election because she has no choice, her old safe seat being abolished.  They see through her claim to support universal suffrage ‘as soon as political parties are mature’.  They suspect only universal suffrage will nurture real parties, and they know she supports functional constituencies, which encourage small interest groups and hinder the growth of broader-based political movements.  “She is shouting ‘wine’, but she is selling vinegar,” says a banker and fellow inmate of Perpetual Opulence Mansions. 

Still, she has a certain something.  As the moving walkway gently carries us past Fetish Fashion, disturbing thoughts about Rita flash through my mind – driven, perhaps, by the same dark cranial processes that supposedly lead married men to have improper impulses toward their wives’ mothers.  As we approach Queen’s Road, these troubling images pass.  I turn round to the marketing manager.  “Don’t vote for the hag,” I advise her.
Tue, 20 July
An S-Meg epsilon nervously enters my office with an offering, which he deposits in the in-tray before respectfully shuffling out backwards, avoiding eye contact.  What is it?  A glossy booklet laboriously produced by a self-important professional organization for distribution at its annual dinner.  “For your information,” says the attached note from the mailroom.  If in doubt, send it to the company gwailo – the only person in S-Meg Holdings with the audacity and creativity to throw rubbish away, heedless of the risk that the Big Boss might want it one day.  The booklet opens with 12 congratulatory letters, one to a page, each with the writer’s photograph and signature.  Perfunctory good wishes from avuncular Chief Executive CH Tung are followed by longer passages of well-meaning blather from several strata of government and industry figures in carefully arranged order of precedence, followed by lengthy and pompous missives from the
spotty, bespectacled chairs of the organization’s sub-committees.  The rest of the booklet consists of admiration and groveling from sponsors, interspersed with photos of office holders making presentations and keynote speakers dispensing boredom, supported by charts of useless figures and lists of inane accomplishments.  No expense has been spared where pink and yellow ink is concerned.  The one colour missing is white – borders and margins around illustrations and copy have been ruthlessly filled in with busy blocks of pastel and garish photographs of flowers, mountains and trees, none of which have the slightest relevance to the association’s wearisome purpose in life.  All in all, it is a monument to the vanity of dull and obscure little people who have struggled to climb a few rungs of a ladder no-one cares about, and a classic example of the “Canto-psychedelic” output of Hong Kong’s self-trained graphic designers and their Apple Macs.  A valuable exhibit when my planned Hong Kong Museum of Bad Taste and Design opens.
A breathless phone call from fragrant socialite and art gallery owner Rosabelle Lam.  “Hong Kong rejoices, daahling,” she tells me.  “The South China Morning Post have revamped their society column – ‘guaranteed more fawning, sycophantic and shoe-shining than ever!’ don’t you know?”  I promise to check it out.  To my amazement, I find it is on the back page of the business section – surely a first – and has been given the name Lai See, which once adorned a column of markets gossip.  Perhaps they have run out of titles.  Anyway, I can see why Rosabelle is gushing with excitement.  Under the adulatory spotlight today are Henderson Land scion Martin Lee Ka-shing (“…dating svelte model Cathy Tsui…”), SHK’s Thomas Kwok (pat on head for giving staff a bonus) and Bank of East Asia’s David Li (full list of famous relatives – “…consider the gene pool he is swimming in…”).  The ‘in crowd’ will love it, and I’m sure my old friend Jake van der Kamp will be thrilled to be sharing space with such illustrious material.

Wed, 21 July
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which the literary-but-odd vie to concoct the worst opening line for a novel, announces its
2004 results, with the first prize going to one Dave Zobel of California...
She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight ... summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail ... though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism ... not unlike "sand vein," which is after all an intestine, not a vein ... and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand ... and that brought her back to Ramon.
And in Hong Kong’s greatest international feat since San-san won the gold medal for windsurfing at the Olympics, a Ms Siew-fong Yiap of Kowloon scribbles her way to victory in the Adventure category...
The legend about Padre Castillo's gold being buried deep in the Blackwolf Hills had lain untold for centuries and will continue to do so for this story is not about hidden treasure, nor is it set in any mountainous terrain whatsoever.
On to to less weighty matters.  Like all realistic people in Hong Kong, I expect the forthcoming Legco election in September to be underhand and dirty.  I anticipate undignified and abusive language, and all manner of smears, innuendo and black-handed trickery.  Otherwise, I will want my money back.  To get the ball rolling, I anonymously email to various influential people an enchanting photograph of the boss of the pro-cartel Liberal Party, political maggot and slimy idiot savant James Tien, having sex with a large dog. 

Is there anything remotely honourable and honest about the Liberal Party?  Certainly, its name is a travesty whether you translate “liberal’ in the classical free-trade sense or the modern American leftist sense.  Browsing through their website, I find a
speech delivered in the circus last February by Sophie Leung, representative of Hong Kong’s mighty textiles industry.  Employing typical intellectual and ideological substance, she begged the Government to give free lunches to factory owners in the form of land and the right to import cheap Mainland labour.  I trust that the good voters of Hong Kong will not be in the mood to give the benefit of the doubt to dog molesters with inherited wealth next September.
Thurs, 22 July
Breakfast of congee and noodles at the Foreign Correspondents Club with curvaceous Administrative Officer Winky Ip.  I taunt her about how the Home Affairs Bureau, surely the saddest and most pathetic corner of the Hong Kong Government, offered a job to Lui Hau-tuen, of the equally sad and pathetic New Century Forum political party, to dissuade him from running in the Legco election and diluting the pro-Government vote.  “And the ICAC have to tell them
it’s illegal,” I laugh.  Winky doesn’t think it’s funny.  “Absolutely nothing to do with me at all,” she says, dabbing chili on her chow mein.  She seems keen to change the subject.  “Do you want to know a real scandal?” she asks, lowering her voice.  I look at her expectantly.  “Certain people have registered multiple companies in some of the functional constituencies – so they’re getting multiple votes.  All perfectly legal.”  I shrug.  “That’s nothing new,” I say.  I remind her of Sino Land boss Robert Ng, who had at least 17 companies in the Real Estate Constituency and controlled some 5 percent of the votes.  She nods.  “It’s even worse this time.”  Refusing to say more, she leaves in a rush for the other end of Lower Albert Road.  Glancing at the front page of the SCMP, I notice to my dismay that an opinion poll gives the reptilian James Tien 16.2 pecent of the vote – more than enough to win a seat in New Territories East.  That’s Shatin, in plain English.  Gateway to the north, and home, it seems, of the mentally diseased.  Will they learn the truth about this repulsive little creep before September?

Fri, 23 July
All manner of invertebrates creep, crawl and slither out of the woodwork as nominations for the Legco elections start.  To no-one’s great surprise, the lowest life forms swarm around the
Financial Services functional constituency – a 200-strong mafia of local stock brokers, and surely some of the scummiest and most odious vermin to be found scuttling beneath the floorboards in the halls of Hong Kong capitalism.  Welcome back, the people cheer, to Chim Pui-chung, who used to hold the seat before 1998, when he transferred to a different government facility in Stanley after forging share certificates.  I trust that his rivals will not want to draw people’s attention to the fact that while in prison Chim was also convicted of bribing voters and spending unauthorized funds last time he was allowed to run for election.  In fact, I am sure they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. 

With fierce fights for functional constituencies, S-Meg Tower and other corporate lairs will soon suffer an infestation of shoe-shiners and sycophants – phoning, visiting and paying obeisance, begging “can I be assured of your vote[s] on 12 September?”

A call from Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary orders me out of my cocoon, out of S-Meg Tower, down onto the steaming, crowded Central sidewalk to wait for the Big Boss to pick me up in his chariot.  After five minutes, the vast black Mercedes draws up and double parks briefly.  The visionary Chairman and CEO has his wife with him, so I sit in the front next to Parker the driver.  As we pull off, the great man asks me how best he should grovel for forgiveness to a prospective functional constituency candidate who is upset that the Big Boss signed a rival’s nomination form.  He is thinking of pleading forgetfulness, but I urge him to take a more direct approach.  “Say you felt sorry for the other nominee because he’s such an idiot.”  This meets with grinning approval as we arrive at our destination.  “I’ll only be 10 minutes,” he says, leaving factotum, chauffeur and spouse together in the hushed and cramped luxury of the limousine.  Mrs Big Boss breaks the silence.  “Hemlock,” she says in her very genteel voice, “what’s your favourite hobby?”  I turn round, pondering what I like most, second to draping slightly plump ladies over my sofa and giving them a good servicing from behind.  “Cooking,” I tell her, quite truthfully.  She looks shocked.  “Gosh!” she says. “I’ve never tried it.”  I am seized by panic.  I could have sworn I said ‘cooking’ – or did my original thoughts slip out?  “We’ve always had people to do it for us,” she continues.  “I just wouldn’t have a clue.  I mean… how do you
know when water’s boiling?”