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

20-26 June 2004

Mon, 21 June
The once-Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club is whining about reduced revenues from horse racing.  It is an inevitable demographic trend.  Their main customer base – the mentally feeble working-class men who enjoy watching herds of dwarf-bearing ungulates run round in circles – have always had a high mortality rate owing to malnutrition and stress related to non-payment of debts, but now old age is eroding their numbers.  The younger folk prefer gambling on soccer.  Can I trust
The Standard when it reports a 9 percent decline in racing turnover last season?   They tend to underestimate numbers by a fifth…
[Jockey Club boss Lawrence] Wong attributed the drop to four causes: rampant illegal betting; the weak economy in recent years; customers' reduced means; the club's launch of football betting; and changes in consumers' lifestyles and preferences.
A lunchtime phone call from buxom Administrative Officer Winky Ip, urging me to show some Confucian respect when mentioning our senior citizens.  While she blathers away, it occurs to me that the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong also has a problem with the grim reaper steadily hacking away at its core support.  Many of the DAB’s ‘iron votes’ come from simple-minded geriatrics who will do anything they are told with a ballot paper in return for a free lunchbox and a bus ride with some singing on the
way.  The remainder are dull-witted, pasty-faced failures, suspicious of the technology and the young and the foreigners that have left them behind, and flattered that the communist-funded party workers actually acknowledge their almost pointless existence.  Either way, it is a declining constituency.  DAB former boss Tsang Yok-sing calculates his party’s core electorate to be 20 percent of the Hong Kong population.  “We will work hard to get more people from the 80 percent to move closer to our values,” he tells the South China Morning Post. In an attempt to at least sustain its 20-percent level of support, the DAB has unveiled a youth wing, headed by the sort of oleaginous, odious little creep you would expect – one Horace Cheung, photographed taking on Democratic leader Yeung Sum in the form of boxing gloves.  I can tell, from one look in his eyes, that Horace’s mother never breast fed him, his father was distant throughout his childhood, and he was bullied at school until he bought off his tormentors with White Rabbit candy. 

I hear Winky mention the word ‘psephology’.  From the Greek word for pebbles, which the old Athenians would throw at people running for election to make them go away.  I look forward to greeting Horace should he come anywhere near Perpetual Opulence Mansions canvassing for votes in September.
Tue, 22 June
An interesting start to this Tuen Ng, after I emerge naked from the bathroom to find the two Filipino elves staring at me.  Within three nanoseconds they avert their gaze and flee to the living room, making signs of the cross and shrieking pleas for forgiveness from the Virgin Mary for laying eyes on what they have seen.  After I dress and they have calmed down, it transpires that there is more than one impressive slab of meat in Perpetual Opulence Mansions this morning.  Opening the refrigerator, they show me a plastic bag containing at least five pounds of lamb.  It’s the latest display of their amazing knack for scavenging unwanted items from various employers and acquaintances.  And yet another reward for my generous offer to give them some empty cupboard space where they can store such cast-offs before shipping them to impoverished relatives in the Philippines.  Being soft-hearted can pay.  My kitchen would not otherwise have as-new juicers, blenders, an electronic wok and other devices I would never bother to buy.  There is no other reason my apartment would usually have inessential but harmless fresh floral arrangements – courtesy of a friend of theirs who works in a Wellington Street flower shop.  And my liquor cabinet would certainly not contain such curiosities as Amarillo, Kahlua, Harvey’s Bristol Cream and pineapple vodka, if the elves did not retrieve them from dinner parties at which they moonlight as waitresses.  The lamb is from a Middle Eastern restaurant down the hill from Soho, which employs a friend of theirs.  Apparently, the chef throws out this much at least weekly because it is too much trouble to trim.  It will take the elves 10 minutes.  I instruct them to divide it into generous single portions and freeze it, replenishing every few weeks until the highly unlikely day I get sick of kebabs, kofta, meatballs and
my special stews – which will taste all the better for being made of free meat.
Wed, 23 June
Walking along Queen’s Road, I encounter wild ex-Mormon friend Odell weighed down with shopping – pink plastic bags of mangoes, greens and prawns from the street market, yellow plastic bags containing cleansing materials from Wellcome, and a shiny dark green bag from the Body Shop. “Beeswax and cod-liver ankle lotion,” he says as I peer into it.  “Really expensive.”  Not in the dog house by any chance, are we? I ask.  A poignant shrug.  “Yeah, on fatigue duties until further notice – all the shopping and washing-up.”  It all started, he explains, when his Thai wife Mee caught him having impure thoughts about a group of shalwar kameez-clad Muslim schoolgirls strolling through IFC Mall.  Never having mastered the art of furtive observation, his response to passing pulchritude is to stand with his eyes bulging and his drooling tongue hanging out, oblivious to the presence of his possessive and suspicious wife at his side.  “So to make up I decided to buy her a ring,” he tells me.  “To make sure I got the right size, I took one from her jewellery box.”  Sounds sensible, to my non-ring-buying ears.  “But um…” he puts on a pained expression. “I lost it.”  I try to look sympathetic.  “You’re in luck,” I tell him.  “There’s a new item of jewellery that will melt any woman’s heart.  You’ll be back in Mee’s good books instantly.  When you come home with lipstick on your shirt, she’ll run up to you and say ‘darling, it would be a privilege to wash that off, though I am not worthy’.  She’ll be eating out of your hand.”  He looks at his watch and wearily picks up his shopping.  “Really,” I assure him, as he turns to head home.  “It’s platinum!  Encrusted with 167 pink and black diamonds and seven pearls.  You can’t go wrong with the
Hello Kitty 30th anniversary tiara.”   He sighs and trudges off towards the Mid-Levels Escalator.  I can’t help grinning.  There’s nothing like a friend’s gloom to brighten up the day.
Thurs, 24 June
It may be some legislators’ idea of entertainment, but I am not impressed with the latest
diversion in the circus.  InvestHK boss Mike Rowse is paraded in chains before the baying crowd.  He is tied to a large stake in the pit.  Chili powder is blown up his nose and he is prodded and poked with a variety of sharp and blunt instruments.  After the now-enraged, bellowing civil servant has been smeared with cow’s blood and chicken fat, the bulldogs are brought out, one a time, first tethered and only allowed to take quick bites, then unleashed and permitted to gorge themselves.  So portly is the bureaucrat that even a dozen ravenous hounds can’t do him justice, leaving a pile of bones still intact and meaty.  The problem with this spectacle is that the very amusement it provides distracts our attention from more profound matters.  I recall the hubristic Rowse around a year ago pompously telling everyone trapped on a luncheon table with him that he was asking Legco’s – yes, Legco’s – Finance Committee to let the Government get its grubby paws on a billion Hong Kong Dollars for purposes of helping the Big Lychee ‘recover’ from the SARS ‘crisis’.  Before a penny could be spent, of course, the arrogant and ungrateful multitudes of Hongkongers shrugged off the outbreak unaided and got back to business as usual, leaving officials with no choice but to pour the cash down whatever toilets they could find, hence Harbour Fest, embarrassing ad campaigns and other horrors.  Our executive and legislative branches were obsessed with throwing my money at problems real or imaginary.  As they sweep up Mike’s remains for the pigs, they still are.
I believe I have solved the problem of how best to extend a friendly Mid-Levels welcome to the DAB Youth Wing leader Horace Cheung, should he venture into the neighbourhood canvassing for votes.  Indeed, it is something for the man who has everything (including a deep loathing of pheasants and grouse) – the automatic shotgun. A tribute to American engineering, the firearm comes with a 32-round drum magazine and fires at a rate of 6 rounds a second.  According to the specifications, it “can be operated and fired easily by a small stature person,” thus enabling householders to delegate the handling of smarmy-looking election candidates to even the most diminutive Filipino elves.  Would it work on members of the Liberal Party?  The manufacturer doesn’t say explicitly, but does state that “…some principles normally perceived of shotguns designed for sporting use do not apply to this weapon” – which I find rather encouraging in its wry understatement.
Fri, 25 June
An email from Polly the lipstick lesbian to a long list of people she is rounding up for the 1st July march.  She instructs everyone to bring a litre of water, an umbrella, a fan, spare batteries for the fan, energy drinks,  ‘James Tien for Mensa Chairman’ T-shirts, CB walkie-talkies in case the mobile phone networks are overloaded like last year, and – most of all – more people.  She is worried that Beijing’s current
charm campaign, including even sweet words of approval for Martin Lee, will succeed in dissuading the masses from turning up.  Maybe.  It was impossible to walk along Des Voeux Road this morning without tripping over olive branches.  But I wonder how convincing it is.  One minute, Zeng Qinghong, Jiang Zemin’s representative on Earth, is the vitriol-spitting leader of the struggle to defend the glorious Chinese civilization from the bananas and traitors of Hong Kong.  The next minute he’s calling for peace, love, harmony and the usual, enormous quantities of communication.  Will we see a few home visit permits being thrown around – or offered with only very few strings attached – before Thursday? 

Meanwhile, David ‘Flying Pig’ Chu has been to Beijing with a list of 20 pro-democracy individuals he knows personally and believes are decent folk the Central Government would get on with wonderfully if they sat down and had a few beers, invited a few girls round and got the old karaoke machine out.  It occurs to me that Chu will need to run for a geographic constituency seat if he wants to remain in Legco after September, when the Election Committee’s six seats are phased out.  Rita Fan will need to do the same, but her high profile as Legco’s even-handed and ever-so-tolerant President assures her of a win.  Chu is best known for bringing a not entirely sane dash of living-life-to-the-full to the Beijing camp.  I will keep my fingers crossed.  The circus would be a duller place – think Democratic Chairman Yeung Sam times 60 – without Chu paragliding between the press and public galleries and revving up his Harley in the lobby.
On the subject of electability… It was exactly one year ago tomorrow that the Liberal Party announced a revised platform.  The previous one, drawn up under founder, former member and subsequently radio talk show host Allen Lee, said “we will actively strive to ensure that Hong Kong shall have a fully democratic government” and called for “a more rapid pace for the development of democracy”.  In the new platform, Party Chairman James Tien Pei-chun decided to backtrack by replacing these promises with such words of originality, insight and wisdom as “gradual and orderly”, “interests of different sectors” and “actual situation”. 

The next day, Lee declared that he saw no future for the party, lamenting that it had reduced itself to a voting machine.  Four days later, half a million marched against the Article 23 security legislation.  A few days after that, Tien flew to Beijing, where it is understood he sold his grandmother to a cat food company.  Back home, on the evening of 6 July, he pulled the plug on the Article 23 law by quitting Tung’s cabinet and withdrawing party support for the bill, due to go before Legco for second and third readings on 9 July.  Under James Tien, the Liberal Party has become not only increasingly pro-cartel but steadily more slimy and unprincipled, to the extent that it probably has monopoly rights to purvey lubricant to Hong Kong’s brothels. 

Tien is still pondering running for election in a geographic constituency.  If I smoke enough opium, I find Rita Fan and David Chu have some redeeming features.  But the idea that the good people of New Territories East, or wherever, would vote for a shallow, back-stabbing smear of pond sludge like Tien is distressing.  If he lost, it would convince Tien that democracy is a bad thing.  If he won, it would convince everyone else.