Hemlock's Diary
The ravings of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat
22-28 September, 2002
Sun, 22 Sept
Bump into defrocked Mormon missionary Odell and his innumerate Thai wife, Mee – just back from their honeymoon at Mee's family seat in a jungle halfway between Bangkok and Laos. He seems to have hit it off with the in-laws, who no doubt imagine that the
farang will be delighted to subsidize their Mekong whisky and cock-fighting habits for life. He seems most distraught at having missed last week's concert by Asian babe/soft-porn star/violinist Vanessa-Mae, whom he says he once "did" late at night on the economy class deck of the Star Ferry. Intricate details about how, lacking a condom, the pair used Saran-brand cling-film would suggest that Odell got up to something with someone during a cross-harbour trip, but it would not be out of character for him to be confused about his partner's precise identity a few years on.

Mon, 23 Sept

The Holy Romans' big boss in Hong Kong, Cardinal John Baptist Wu, finds out whether the big gamble has paid off and eternal joy in heaven really does follow a lifetime of dressing up in strange clothes and performing nonsensical superstitious rituals. The death of our top Catholic paves the way for Bishop Joseph Zen to take over, and before long this will lead our confident and decisive Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to echo Henry II's question "Who will rid me of this
turbulent priest?" For Zen is what they politely call "outspoken".  He hates communists and their toadies, and he has no qualms about denouncing government policies.  And he expects his flock to follow him in taking their uncompromising, fundamentalist faith to its logical conclusion.  Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang, who nips into church for a quick one every morning, will not be the only local Catholic awkwardly trying to reconcile the demands of God and Caesar.
Tue, 24 Sept
Bishop Zen's first target may well be the government's proposed laws against treason, secession, sedition or subversion against Beijing, and links between local and foreign political forces.  Or perhaps it will be the other way round!  Zen is, after all, an agent of the Vatican, banned from visiting the Mainland.  The laws are required under Article 23 of the HK Basic Law, despite the fact that Hong Kong's dissidents are too inept to initiate a revolution in the doorway of the Excelsior Hotel. Although it is unprecedented, it may well be that Tung Chee-hwa will not on this occasion lead us firmly and resolutely into an inadvertent screw-up.  If necessary, I will march down the street proclaiming "Vive le Tibet libre!" as an experiment. The proposals are due out soon. Having fallen asleep during a briefing on them yesterday, I await them with barely mild interest.

My unusual acquaintance A-Hing, the "Mid-Levels dog poisoner", is in the news again after an unsuccessful attempt to dispatch a two-year-old Siberian husky.  I still have the little plastic envelope of carbofuran that he gave me.  For some reason, my neighbour's canines have reduced their yapping markedly since I received it. Maybe they can smell the deadly purple crystals, or perhaps they sensed that my patience was wearing thin.   
Wed, 25 Sept
"Everyone's being told to talk this up," says the Big Boss at the morning meeting, tossing a copy of the
consultation paper on the implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law in my direction.  "Read it and tell me why I support it."  Damn – I was hoping to take the afternoon off with a short spell of dengue fever.  Holding it up to my nose, I detect a faint but unmistakable hint of Kwong Sang Hong florida water, a sure sign that Regina Ip, our wonderfully forthright and shapely Secretary for Security, is passing the document out to tycoons in person.
Thurs, 26 Sept
It takes a strong stomach to invest in Hong Kong these days.  Build nice offices with all the latest network technology in an affordable neighbourhood with good transport connections and local infrastructure, and they will come.  But then they will go, as Swire Properties found in Quarry Bay, with tenants
lured away by government-subsidized rents at Cyberport. Poached by a demented civil servant who thinks she can create a local Silicon Valley by bribing computer companies to congregate in a construction site that doesn't even have mass-transit. Who would dare invest in logistics or tourism-related areas, when six months later you might find the government going into business against you?  Who will buy an apartment today when they haven't a clue what the government's housing policy will be tomorrow?   In an attempt to answer this last question, or maybe just to keep us on our toes, our leaders shift policy direction and decree that property prices shall rise – "a bit".  The outcome is predictable: a continued slump in the market until the government's measures start to take effect at the same time as the economy recovers, producing a sudden shortage of housing. 

Rest in peace, Mr Cheung King-to, who died at the autumnal age of 63 in his flat in Kowloon City after choking on a mooncake.  Let his death not be in vain.  As we mourn this innocent victim, let right-thinking people throughout Hong Kong resolve to eradicate this vicious and evil foodstuff from modern society.
Fri, 27 Sept
The impertinence of people too stupid to get out of jury service!  The rabble empanelled by a Hong Kong Coroner's Court rules that two doctors were negligent and contributed to the death of a woman last year by diagnosing her cerebral malaria as flu, and prescribing Panadol instead of something called Artesunate.  The medics' main mistake, says the jury, was not asking the woman where she had travelled recently.  As if our selfless general practitioners, dedicated to the relief of suffering while struggling to make ends meet, have the time to remember every possible permutation of obscure ailment and barely-pronounceable medicine, let alone indulge in vacuous small talk about patients' trips to pestilential vacation spots. 
For accurate, personal guidance through life, is there a source more trustworthy than Edwin Ma, the South China Morning Post astrologer?  If you were born in the year of the goat (1943, 55, 67, 79), he predicts, "You might find yourself wanting to socialise and enjoy yourself tonight..." On a Friday of all nights?  But then we all know people born in those years are perverts.  Today is a bad day for weddings, he cautions, apparently unaware of the fact that people arrange these grievous and shockingly-hard-to-cancel rites weeks or more in advance..