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

22-28 August 2004

Mon, 23 Aug
I wake up feeling less than perfect.  Yesterday’s events slowly come back to me as I shower.  Ex-Mormon friend Odell and his Thai wife Mee dragged me over to Lantau Island’s picturesque leper colony, Mui Wo, where we visited a proletarian Brit called Jack and his wife Pak – another Thai.  Odell forewarned me that the pair originally met as customer and employee of a Wanchai girly bar.  “Dancer,” he corrected me when I suggested that this man had married a hooker.  She turned out to be a nice girl and kept us plied with beer throughout the afternoon while attending to the couple’s two little children.  Jack spent the entire time in an easy chair explaining his theories about the role of extra-terrestrial life forms in the construction of Stonehenge and the pyramids.  In my struggle to find relief, I admired Jack’s collection of Kenny G CDs, I drew monsters for their three-year-old, and I played with their pet hamster, whose Sanskrit name, Sanmukhapati, means spreader of knowledge.  But mostly, I drank.  So I start today feeling fragile.

A woman galumphing down the Mid-Levels Escalator sounds like she is wearing medieval armour. 
Clang!  Clang!  Clang! After I give her one of my hard stares, she apologetically mumbles something about wooden-heeled shoes.  Can’t she afford proper footwear?  As if this clatter doesn’t ruin my hangover enough, I must also deal with foul-breathed, greasy-haired canvassers for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, who seem to imagine that someone in this prosperous neighbourhood might vote for them and their policies – free lunches for the lower orders across the harbour and instant fellatio on bended knees for any passing Mainland official.  This is what happens when fashion-crazed bimbos go Third World-ethnic and start wearing clogs.  On a brighter note, it seems Edvard Munch’s ugly expressionist painting The Scream has been stolen in Oslo.  Unfortunately, there are several other versions, and it appears on millions of coffee mugs and T-shirts, but it’s a start. 

The three most important things happening in the world today, according to the front page of the
South China Morning Post – President Hu Jintao praises Deng Xiaoping’s legacy, a Mainland girl wins an Olympics gold metal, and someone has invented a virtual girlfriend with whom people (the SCMP fails to warn us who) can have a fantasy relationship via a 3G phone.  Meanwhile, on planet Earth, Mainland officials have framed and jailed without trial a Democratic Party candidate in Dongguan, the price of oil could hit US$70 a barrel, and the Bush-Kerry race in the US is getting gorgeously dirty as the draft-dodger’s campaign belittles the war hero’s medal-a-month Vietnam record.  How can people who work at the SCMP live with themselves?  Jack’s wife, in her days gyrating on a stage before ugly, leering rejects, had more integrity and honour.

Tue, 24 Aug
It is not often that the senior management team at S-Meg Holdings feels genuine and profound sympathy for the conglomerate’s tyrannical and cantankerous Chairman and Managing Director.  But it happens at the morning meeting today, when the Big Boss relates the torment and suffering he endured at yesterday’s ridiculous Hong Kong Economic
Summit at the Conference and Exhibition Centre. It could have been me, we all think to ourselves, as the tycoon describes the tedium of hearing Government officials and business bores trot out mind-numbing blather about restructuring and pan-Pearl River Delta integration.  “Complete waste of time,” he splutters, flinging a pile of papers in my direction.  My heart sinks as I note the gathering’s theme – ‘Leveraging on the Mainland & Engaging Ourselves Globally’.

Flicking through the speeches and presentations in my office, I see page after page of evidence that the Big Lychee is in danger.  One speaker after another pleaded for grand economic blueprints and plans, under which civil servants would manage the economy and replace entrepreneurs as investment decision-makers.  A few sane voices – HSBC’s
David Eldon and HK University’s Professor Richard Wong – struggled to remind everyone that small government and free markets are not reckless, perverted British vices.

My pity for the Big Boss grows deeper as I pick up Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s
keynote address.  People had to sit and listen to this – the demented ravings of a man who has no confidence in Hong Kong or its people, no faith in our traditional values, and who seeks to spread pessimism and fear in order to convince us that only Beijing’s loving embrace keeps us from ruin.  Reading his obsessive ramblings on CEPA, I shake my head in disbelief.  Goods given privileged treatment under CEPA accounted for 0.132% of total exports from Hong Kong to the Mainland in the first half of 2004.  If CEPA vanished today, no-one would notice.  It is of no meaningful economic significance.  Yet to hear tofu-for-brains tell it, CEPA is driving our economic growth.  This publicity gimmick – indeed, propaganda campaign – is purely designed to convince our innocent and credulous people that we owe our prosperity to favours and aid from Beijing.  Favours and aid, it doesn’t need to be added, that can be withdrawn.  I suddenly realize why I read the appallingly bad Hong Kong novel High Degree of Atrocity by one Jay Scott Kanes in one go.  The author can’t write, but who can resist indulging their deepest and darkest fantasies by reading a story in which the SAR’s Chief Secretary assassinates the Chief Executive?
Wed, 25 Aug
I write an email to Yeung Sum, the Democratic Party leader whose charisma and beautiful skin detract voters’ attention so effectively from the group’s inability to produce a single coherent policy.  I remind him how the party has become curiously accident-prone in the run-up to the Legislative Council elections on 12 September.  Candidate Alex Ho, a frequent visitor to the Mainland with no record of trouble, is incarcerated without trial in Dongguan.  The aroma of dead skunk is overpowering, but if his colleagues want to see him anytime soon they can’t even whisper ‘blatant frame-up’.  Even our patriotic Justice Department
can’t bring itself to consider him imprisoned, so he stays in the election race – might be worth some sympathy votes if he is in jail on election day.
And now, Sing Tao mysteriously unveils a ‘scandal’.  How much digging did it take someone to unearth the fact that James To four years ago was using his Legco allowance to pay a generous rent for a property in which he had an interest?  The people behind the Democrats’ mishaps obviously have plenty of resources – though probably not enough to name the dozens of members of Legco’s landed gentry who claim expenses for using their own company’s office space.  It would be naïve to assume that more little accidents will not happen, I tell Mr Yeung.  What you do now is go on the attack.  Go for the jugular.  I even provide him with an example – a cheap-to-produce leaflet that his campaign workers can distribute wherever the Liberal Party canvassers are at work…
                                                                The Facts

        Ten Things You and Your Family Should Know About James Tien

1. James Tien has said “HK is a business city… it should be led by elites”

2. James Tien has said “If you ask whether we should elect the Chief Executive by one-man, one-vote or by a group of 800 elites now, I prefer the 800” 

3. James Tien’s Liberal Party scrapped a call for universal suffrage in 2007 from its platform in June 2003

4. James Tien’s Liberal Party strongly supported the Government’s Article 23 legislation until July 2003, when it stabbed Tung in the back

5. James Tien, far from being a hero for this action, is a shallow, unprincipled pile of opportunistic slime

6. James Tien sold his grandmother to a pet food factory

7. James Tien supported a levy on foreign domestic helpers that hurts amahs, employers and HK’s reputation while raising little revenue, because he thought being nasty to brown people would make him popular

8. James Tien proposed cutting tax on luxury cars on the cretinous grounds that the sight of many of them on the streets enhances HK’s image

9. James Tien collects luxury sports cars and can remember how many he has, but admits that he doesn’t recall how much he pays his foreign domestic helpers

10. James Tien is a toad-sucking hyena with the intellect and spine of a nematode.  He is the greatest threat to you and your children in Hong Kong today.  Voting for him will give you cancer.

Produced by Concerned Citizens for Mental Hygiene, Decency and Motherhood
There you go, I tell Mr Yeung.  Scrap these defensive, namby-pamby press conferences and get the meat cleavers out.  Start managing events rather than letting them manage you.  It’s basic.
Thurs, 26 Aug
A Greek
tragedy.  The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is grim.  People look down, choke back tears and remember a time when the sun shone, children laughed and butterflies flittered between the palm trees, as a slightly faded but dependable banner of blue, white and red wafted in the breeze.  Can there be any more compelling metaphor for the decline and fall of Hong Kong since the British left than Lee Lai-shan’s disastrous performance in the Olympics windsurfing competition?  Could there be a more potent symbol of the decay in our city’s abilities than former gold medal winner San San’s shameful incompetence at the surely simple task of standing on a board and being blown along by the wind?  Does any of the Big Lychee’s numerous humiliations and dashed hopes since 1997 better encapsulate the collapse of our society than the Cheung Chau belle’s inelegant aquatic bungling, in full view of the world?  I think not.
Word reaches me that at least one English-language publication in Hong Kong has decided against reviewing the so-bad-it’s-un-put-downable Hong Kong novel High Degree of Atrocity by Jay Scott Kanes on the grounds that it would be ‘cruel’.  I see their point.  But then, any author has to be prepared for notices that are less than rapturous – it’s an occupational hazard.  And surely, the reading public has a right to read a third party’s opinion of a work before deciding whether to buy a copy.  As a public-spirited citizen, I am left with no alternative but to put a review of my own at the disposal of the community.

Fri, 27 Aug
The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator is less depressed this morning, as Hong Kong’s middle class decides to look on the bright side.  There is always someone worse off than you – that’s what they used to tell us at school as they ladled maggot-ridden gruel into our bowls, which we ate in silence as boys who had wet their beds were tied naked and screaming to the refectory wall and thrashed. 

Example number one.  We could be the subject of this morning’s headline ‘Woman in suitcase was financial consultant’, referring to the discovery of charred limbs in Yuen Long.  Reading between the lines of the
SCMP story, it becomes apparent that she was basically an insurance salesman.  Her sad fate perhaps becomes that little bit more understandable.  It is a tribute to Hong Kong people’s forbearance that it doesn’t happen more often. 

Example number two.  We could be Singaporeans, cowering in a tiny outpost of civilization surrounded by an untamed jungle teeming with Malay malevolence.  Hectored and cajoled by a senile despot into deference, obedience, chewing-gum abstinence, bartop dancing and selective breeding.  And now they are to be
re-brainwashed to procreate in quantity.  “If you don't have a family and don't have children, I think you're missing something,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien-loong on his National Day speech.  Indeed – you will be missing the US$10,000 bribe the Lion City will give you as part of its ‘BratBonus’ incentive scheme.  But it will be worth it.  A bargain, now I think of it.

Example number three.  We could be working for the
SCMP, writing earnest, adulatory coverage of Deng Xiaoping’s 100th anniversary, heaping endless praise on the glorious motherland’s latest Olympic victory in the women’s 10-metre water pistol target shooting event, or tut-tutting  about the Democrats’ supposed scandals when the real story is that they happened because someone wanted them to happen.  A horrifying thought.  I would rather be a butchered insurance salesman from Singapore.