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

22-28 February 2004

Sun, 22 Feb
A warm evening, and therefore an excuse to break into the Hong Kong Duty Not Paid bottle of chilled Vinho Verde that represents the sole benefit of Friday’s trip to Macau with the Big Boss.  Seven Up for adults.  For the first time in 2004, I turn on the air-conditioning, and I perform the associated annual ritual.  What does the phrase Triad Grafton bring to mind?  Out of context, it could be a misspelt reference to the tentacles of criminal gangs.  I had never noticed it before, but it is the division of HarperCollins that published my copy of Han Suyin’s
A Many Splendoured Thing, page 298 of which I turn to on this occasion every year to mark the official end of winter and the onset of large electricity bills.
O sea-wet rock thronged, thronged and swarming with hunger and misery and wealth and want and abundance and waste, vice and purity and corruption and law and justice and privilege, charities and private property and Monopoly and Big Business and rackets and tuberculosis and beauty and horror; window of democracy Hongkong, haven of Shanghai racketeers and American missionaries and Chinese professors and international businessmen and out-of-job Kuomintang generals and Peking prostitutes and London marriageable girls and Mainland opium addicts.  Refuge of refugees and political exiles, end-of-the-road to so many rejects of the New World and relics of the Old fusty order, Grand Hotel of men at a loose end and men on the make and men with nowhere else to go; outpost of Empire Hongkong, excrescence off China with two million four hundred thousand Chinese, communists and Nationalists and nothing-ists and so many many many sitters-on-the-fence; deep roaring, bustling eternal market Hongkong, where life and love and souls and blood and all things made and grown under the sun are bought and sold and smuggled and squandered, spring is come home to you.
Mon, 23 Feb
Spend the morning emailing my answers to the
fascinating questions set before us by the Constitutional Development Task Force.  It’s good to see the Government taking public consultation so seriously, exploring every tiny detail as meticulously and painstakingly as possible, allowing us all the time we could possibly need, and then some more to be safe.  Who knows what obscure complications, barriers, restrictions and new meanings for words we might find if we search hard enough.  And it’ll take everyone’s minds off whatever the underlying subject was.  What should "actual situation" constitute? Sounds like something from a Bishop George Berkeley treatise.  How thoughtful of the Constitutional Affairs Bureau not to have insisted on a deadline for this survey!  Based on Mr Ji's explanation in 1990, how could the development of Hong Kong's political structure: (1) Meet "the interests of the different sectors of society"? (2) "Facilitate the development of the capitalist economy"? Maybe the taxi drivers and McDonald’s staff who took exception to our fragrant former Security Secretary Regina Ip’s doubts about their interest in public affairs would care to respond.  Should the phrase "subsequent to the year 2007" be understood to include 2007? That one again?  Since the replies will be published, I am sure people will think carefully, even patriotically, before clicking the "send" button.
Tue, 24 Feb
More proof, as if it were needed, that the people of Hong Kong are too immature for elections. They have voted the sparrow – surely the most pathetic flying creature on the planet – their
most popular avian.  The only redeeming feature I can see in these drab little beasts as they hop around mindlessly on the sidewalk is that they are tame enough to stamp on.  Looking out of my office in S-Meg Tower, admiring the view of the perfumed harbour in its glowing sulphurous glory, I am often visited by one of the majestic pterosaurs that swoop between the skyscrapers of Asia's financial hub.  Screeching for raw flesh, he soars down to the window; he rears up, talons dripping blood, eyes piercing the reflective glass, observing me for a dispassionate moment before diving away in the direction of Exchange Square, where no doubt he will grab a light-framed Nepalese cleaner for a quick snack.  Like Homo midlevelsus, these raptors glide down into Central in the morning to forage for food and later get a free ride back up – on the escalator in the case of humans, and on thermals created by traffic and air conditioning in the case of the magnificent black kites.  They came in a miserable 12th position in the favourite bird poll, with just 4 percent of the vote.  Can there be any graver warning of the mayhem that awaits us if the rabble get universal suffrage?
Wed, 25 Feb
People are so cruel.  No sooner on Sunday had Dr the Hon Tsang Hin Chi GBM finished delivering his rousing rendition of
No Communist Party, No New China to the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce than callous brutes started to mock him, jeering that the patriotic song had been an embarrassment for decades.  Don't they realise that they could end up like that themselves one day?  We all get a bit absentminded over time.  Like being
convicted twice for possession of goods with falsified trade documents, as poor Dr Tsang was in the 1970s – it could happen to anyone.  And don't these doubters realize just how in touch with the young swingers of today he really is?  Don't they know Dr Tsang's trendy fashion company Goldlion ("It's a man's world") is the epitome of "hip" and "groovy" leather ware and tie designs?  Don't they remember how eager the Congressional Committee on Campaign Finance and Reform was to talk to him about his Clinton-admiring friend, Ted Sioeng?  Haven't they heard that he has an asteroid named after him?  Have they forgotten that he gave China's heroic astronaut Yang Liwei a gift of HK$1 million?  Don't they know his youngest son Ricky is married to canto-chanteuse Vivian Lai?  As the "with it" young folk would say, Tsang Hin-chi is one cool dude, daddy-o.
Never in the field of human diatribe has so much froth issued from so few mouths over such irrelevant and boring people.  Except 10 years ago, when we went through all this the first time.  Xinhua’s latest outburst against those who seek to overthrow the Central People's Government – like ancient, gap-toothed classical poetry fan Szeto Wah – makes Emily Lau’s deranged rants look meek.  Delving deep down beneath the waves of rabid foam rolling over the border, it seems someone is trying to tell us that neither Mr Szeto nor Emily will be allowed to be Chief Executive of Hong Kong – something of a relief to anyone who likes their policymakers to be economically literate.  I’m sure a boring day’s stock market activity will make everyone feel better.
Thurs, 26 Feb
How badly does Executive Council member and crasher of property markets Leung Chun-ying want to be the next Chief Executive?  Somewhere between ‘badly’ and ‘very badly’, judging by his obsessive
witch hunt against Emily Lau.  Look at me, he says to Beijing, I can sniff out a non-patriot and force her to confess her demons.  But doesn’t CY Leung also have, as they say, something of the night about him?  He keeps it well-hidden, probably tucked away with his Communist Party membership card, but it’s there – a hint of darkness in his demeanour.  It reminds me of the quiet evil that lurked in the eyes of Chief Executive
hopeful Lo Tak Shing, the sinister lawyer who funded pro-Beijing English magazine Window and mysteriously acquired a PRC passport before Hongkongers were eligible for them.  Then as now, the merest hint of cross-strait heresy was considered the mark of the devil.  TS Lo cheerfully assured us that the press would be free after 1997 to report the arrest of people supporting Taiwan independence.  He was supported by the gruesome Li Peng’s faction in Beijing and vanished.  Today, Google struggles to acknowledge that he ever existed.  CY Leung still has fights ahead before he can replace CH Tung as madly popular Chief Executive.  Chewing Emily into little pieces and spitting them out all over various passing members of the grassroots, middle class and professionals is just the next step.
Fri, 27 Feb
The on-line
dating service that I joined at the suggestion of Ben, Hong Kong’s second most obnoxious expat, proves to be an astounding success.  I have posted a photo of Gustav Holst on the website, with a description of myself as a chiropodist who enjoys reading, cooking soufflés and helping the elderly, and who is the only son of a property millionaire.  How can any woman resist the vulnerable intellectual type – especially if he can sort out their endless foot problems?  And maybe – just a slight off-chance – there might be one or two who find that an immense inheritance gives a man a certain something.  Indeed, I have obviously made myself far too attractive!  This morning alone, I receive emails from a plump 24-year-old girl in Osaka who describes herself as a dog hairdresser, an unbelievably voluptuous-looking divorcee in Vladivostok and a Hong Kong-based Korean housewife urgently wanting English lessons at my place on weekdays.  I think I will tweak my personal profile a bit to calm them all down.