Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat

24-30 November 2002
Sun, 24 Nov
faux occidental cuisine served in Western restaurants aimed at Hongkongers is notoriously inauthentic. Borscht unrecognizable to a Russian soup consumer, steaks that are spongy, and salad limp with thousand island dressing. The idea of outlets deliberately serving such mock-gwailo delicacies in the West would be laughable.  Yet that is effectively what has happened in Staunton Street, where I find a UK-style Chinese takeaway called Gourmet Kitchen.  In the interests of research, take a chop suey back to Perpetual Opulence Mansions and find it to be a highly faithful version of the quasi-Cantonese dish served in Chinese fast food outlets in Britain or the States. It even comes with a choice of chips or fried rice for oil-addicted members of the Anglo lower orders passing through Soho who can't handle steamed rice.

Mon, 18 Nov
"SAR used to recycle funds", reports an excited
South China Morning Post on the front page, referring to the practice of "round tripping" Mainland domestic investment through Hong Kong so it attracts the perks given to foreign direct investment. How long as this been going on?  Ten years? Fifteen?  Would have a word with the editor to explain the difference between "news" and "history" – but they don't have an editor. Could it be that Thaddeus Bezack, the bean counter at the top at the SCMP is deranged enough to imagine that this looks like a crusade against Mainland tax-dodgers and will therefore win approval in Beijing? Shiners of Beijing shoes are so naive that it is not impossible. The glistening of the toe caps they polish blinds them to the fact that they clumsily insult the intelligence of the shoes' owners.
An old "that's not funny, that's sick" cartoon from the late, great National Lampoon magazine comes to mind this morning at the Foreign Correspondents Club.  In the cartoon, a wealthy, white, blind man has a little black boy in a harness to serve as a seeing-eye dog. Life imitates art at the FCC, where 90-year-old and virtually sightless former war correspondent Clare Hollingworth OBE is now guided by a Filipino domestic helper.  The helper also relieves club members of the chore of reading the newspapers to the old lady, and as a result probably has the best knowledge of world affairs of any maid in Hong Kong.  A valuable asset to our quiz team, perhaps – assuming we can get the collar and chain off her.

Tue, 26 Nov
A call from Heung Kwok-leung, the king of the seriously sub-prime personal loans scene in Tuen Mun and proud owner of a luxury mansion in Kowloon Tong, a gold Mercedes and some hideous facial scars. He wants some advice on probabilities.  We eventually settle on the following:
   1 to 8 Government narrowly succeeds in legalizing soccer gambling after heroic struggle against tiny group of religious nuts and educationalist rabble
2 to 15 Jockey Club gets soccer gambling monopoly, offers lame betting system, KL Leung and Triad buddies continue to make big bucks
7 to 4 Sales of charcoal increase by 50% or more 12 months after legalization of soccer gambling as ruined grassroots families choose peaceful suicide over slow starvation
12 to 5 Pro-legalization members of Legislative Council Home Affairs Panel pelted with eggs by nuns frothing at mouth
17 to 2 Five or more members of the Society for Truth and Light and/or guitar-playing pastors are hospitalised after going on a 3-hour hunger strike in protest against soccer gambling 
9 to 1 Government acts like a grown up, comes clean, and calls it “legalization” rather than “regulation”, “management” or other spineless euphemistic nomenclature
34 to 1 Chief Executive CH Tung gets tough, tells anti-gambling lobby to get a life - “this is Hong Kong and people can live their lives how they want”
I waive my consultancy fee, preferring my money untainted.  Risk management. Chances of being caught are tiny – the odds of sharing a cell with Nicholas Tse probably a million to one.  But why tempt fate?  "Send a donation to the Community Chest for me," I tell KL. "They can help orphans of expired compulsive gamblers."  Charity is its own reward, though I'd prefer it tax-deductible.
Wed, 27 Nov
A procession of shoe-shiners is passing through S-Meg Tower this week, leaving trails of greasy obsequiousness on the carpet as they seek the Big Boss’s vote in the forthcoming National People’s Congress
elections. He is one of some 900 electors, with a choice of 78 candidates.  That means 70,000 grovelling visits or phone calls.  But each candidate
needed 10 nominations beforehand, and then there is all the canvassing being done on behalf of other people – and there are two rounds of voting for Hong Kong’s 36 seats. It adds up to hundreds of thousands of odious, slimy solicitations going on all around us. In most places, it would be noticeable.  In Hong Kong, the additional begging and toadying amounts to a single, oily drop in the city's regular ocean of ooze.
Thurs, 28 Nov
Day off.  Have a leisurely breakfast while catching up with some
on-line reading. A very pleasant morning – despite kedgeree dropped in computer keyboard – until the phone goes, and I find myself talking to an anguished Regina Ip.  Our voluptuous and forthright Secretary for Security is slightly tearful, owing to her declining performance in opinion polls conducted among hordes of toothpick-chewing Hello Kitty fans in darkest Kowloon. She asks if she can come round for a cup of tea, but I make an excuse.  The only way I know to cheer her up when she is in this mood is to let her practice her “subject control – removal of concealed weapons” technique with me on the bed.  Something from her days at the Immigration Department.  She is a magnificent sight, straddling you with her hair in a mess and a smirk on her face – but the two Filipino elves are due to come round to do the cleaning.  They might not understand.

Fri, 29 Nov
Read all of Frank Ching’s column in the
SCMP apart from three paragraphs in the middle and the last two sentences. This is the best I have managed so far, and quite an achievement considering that the subject matter – which now escapes me – was of less-than-average interest. He was relatively readable when he confined himself to doing a piece every Sunday, but serving up three or four a week and making them interesting is obviously proving a challenge for him, as no doubt it would be for many people. I find it helps to imagine him reading it out loud in his funny, high-pitched voice, and I will mention this trick to him – he might want to advise readers to do likewise.

To the dentist, where I get an injection
behind my two top front teeth, where the gum is so hard you assume it's bone. "This'll hurt a bit," says Dr Amy KK Au-Yeung BDS DPDS, her ample womanhood pressing against my shoulder.  With that out of the way, I have an hour of bliss as Hong Kong's shapeliest dentist leans into me and puts my root canal to rights.