Hemlock's Diary
28 Oct-3 Nov 2007
Mon, 29 Oct
Everyone seems to be frothing at the mouth.  Cardinal Joseph Zen
lashes out at the great Martin Lee Olympic Traitor Outrage contrived by our friendly local United Front Mouth Frothing for the Motherland Committee.  It makes a change from their usual mantra about the importance of social harmony.

Two American visitors, Paul and Richard, have been found similarly afflicted in a room at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. 
White froth, the IHT helpfully informs us.  Being dead, the pair are unable to say exactly what the problem was.  But then, it is elementary, my dear Watson, when we consider that their lodgings are just a few minutes’ walk from downtown Wanchai, which hosts such refined and exclusive nightspots as Fenwick’s, which in turn are full of charming and sociable ladies from many lands, all of which happen to have annual per-capita GDPs in the low four-digits at best. 

Wild American friend Odell claims that he was barred from Fenwicks – one of his more outlandish boasts, given the massed human gruesomeness that parades into the place unhindered by the security guards’ door policy.  Personally, I would have to be paid to touch any of the exotic, heavily scented, vividly lipsticked and otherwise artificially enhanced females that fill the place at night, and even then only with one of those wire loops on a long stick dogcatchers use.  But this is a subjective matter.  One man’s grotesque and unthinkable proposition is another man’s lucky break. 

A quick call to Morris, the greatest Scotsman serving in our once-Royal Hong Kong Police, confirms that misfortunes do indeed befall some of the men who frequent such hostelries and fall for the women’s allures.  “Oh aye, a few years ago there was this case down there.  Some Mainland woman was knocking out guys and emptying their bank accounts.”  Apparently, she would look over the shoulders of the client at the ATM en route to the hotel, memorize the PIN number – talented or what? – put the now-drugged dupe to bed and, quicker than you can say ‘Hong Kong Will Take Your Breath Away’, avail herself of our electronic banking network’s famously high maximum withdrawal limits.  “You wake up,” Morris goes on, “and when you get home, your wife’s just found that there’s a hundred thousand bucks missing from your joint account.  Try explaining that!”  Put that way, killing the victim might be an act of mercy.
Tue, 30 Oct
The Great Martin Lee Foreign Interference Olympic Treachery Massacre of 2007 gets bloodier as the
Wall Street Journal – publisher of the tedious article at the heart of the affair – berates Hong Kong newspapers for joining the gang that attacked the mild-mannered, bespectacled martyr of democracy with choppers last week.  As is always the case with these assaults, the idea is to mutilate rather than kill, as a warning to others.  And, as always, it is impossible to trace the incident back to the shadowy figure responsible for ordering it, though we all know who it is. 

While the Big Lychee’s garish popular periodicals look as if they have been designed by a deranged child let loose on an Apple Mac, the USA’s most eminent financial daily sticks to its black-and-white, pictureless 19th Century layout.  They are poles apart in every other sense, and the Americans’ criticism will largely go over the heads of
Ming Pao, Sing Tao and Oriental Daily and their readers.  But the Dow Jones folk also highlight the role of our senior Government officials, who stood by and watched as the henchmen sank their meat cleavers repeatedly into the defenceless, eloquent, pro-human rights torso.  Despite their superficial attempts to emulate their British forebears’ effortless superiority and calm nonchalance, people like our dashing Chief Executive Donald Tsang and Chief Secretary Henry Tang are insecure and self-conscious little men who crave the approval of rarified Western institutions like the Journal.  As the blood trickles into the gutter and the assailants deliver their final blows, this will force them to confront their contradicting loyalties and instincts and upset them.  Meanwhile, the rest of us can look on in wonder and delight as once again we witness Hong Kong achieving one of its greatest claims to fame – production of the world’s biggest storms and biggest teacups.
Wed, 31 Oct
Breakfast of
cha siu bao at Yuet Yuen Restaurant, and shapely Administrative Officer Winky Ip shudders as she describes the dreadful, nightmarish fate that potentially faces her and her colleagues.  “Really – there’s a whole group of legislators demanding we transfer offices out to Tin Shui Wai.  I mean, I’m not going to be affected if it’s something like the Immigration Department.  But what if…”

Tin Shui Wai is ‘hot’. It’s ‘in’.  It’s cool and groovy and the fashionable thing to care about.  It used to be Ethiopians, then whales, then Tibet, then AIDS orphans, then polar bears or something.  And now, a densely packed, high-rise city of impoverished families prone to domestic violence, suicide and murder on a patch of reclaimed fishponds in the most desolate northwestern corner of Hong Kong our sadistic planners could find.  A long line of chauffeur-driven Lexuses and Mercedes snakes along the road leading into the estate from the main highway between the elegance, prosperity and civilization of Yuen Long and Tuen Mun. 

Politicians have come to be photographed hugging the wretched refuse – the Mainland women who married a highly eligible Hong Kong truck driver back in the days when the Big Lychee was paved with gold, only to find years later they were to be shacked up with an unemployable brute in Dregs Park public housing estate.  Senior Government officials are on the scene to make important pronouncements about social harmony, various sectors and plans to swamp the place with help until each resident has a personal social worker 24 hours a day to tie up their shoes, spoon congee into their mouths and counsel them into gentility.  And up-and-coming civil servants are turning up, with their rent and school subsidies, health care privileges, pensions for life and air conditioning allowances, to advise the residents on how to be more self-reliant.

Fingering her pearl necklace in anguish, the Liberal Party’s token Person Who Gives A Damn About Anyone Else has a stab at solving the problem…
I can do better. 

“God – I’ve got it!”  I tell Winky.  “The answer to the whole thing.”  She eyes me with well practiced skeptical condescension.  “Rather than eradicate communities in Wanchai, Central or Mongkok, why doesn’t the Urban Renewal Authority knock down Tin Shui Wai?”  Her instinct is to role her eyes in disdain at yet another stupid suggestion from me, but she stops and thinks for a few seconds.

“Mmm... They couldn’t send us there then.”

Thurs, 1 Nov
“Is it just me,” I ask wild American friend Odell as we watch the day begin outside the IFC Mall branch of Pacific Coffee, “or is the chamomile and organic fig cappuccino a bit off this morning?”  He picks up my morning brew, sniffs it briefly and assures me it’s supposed to be like that.  Then he urges me to continue answering his question – what is Tin Shui Wai actually like?  Along with 99 percent of Hongkongers, he has never set foot in the place.

“Well,” I tell him, “imagine Shatin.  Now think of somewhere even more like that.”

He struggles to get his mind around the idea.  “Holy shit.”

I am eager to change the subject, however.  I hate to disappoint my ex-Mormon friend, but the truth is that I am among the 99 percent myself.   I have passed Hong Kong’s infant-defenestration capital
en route to and from Fairview Park – a genuinely weird settlement where all the homes, yards and interiors are two-thirds the normal size, like something out of Alice in Wonderland or Gulliver’s Travels.  I have also beheld the soaring, tightly packed tower blocks of the City of Wife Beaters across the water from the prosperity and safety of Shekou, south of Shenzhen’s Nanshan district.  In other words, north of the border – in the Mainland, whence many of Tin Shui Wai’s residents fled in search of material betterment, only to find cruel irony.  Should have stayed put. 

I ask Odell whether he has joined the slowly growing mini-herd of wimps selling their Hong Kong stocks.  His own portfolio consists of a much-cherished board lot of CNOOC and a Mark Six lottery ticket. 

Despite its boring decade-or-more outlook and value-driven, buy-and-hold strategy, the Hemlock Fund is starting to take some of its money off the table at the Hang Seng Casino.  But it is trimming rather than dropping the old Swire, Henderson and HSBC, because the dividends are nice and what do you do with the cash?  Wary of putting more into the market for some time, I am already sitting on a fair bit, stuffed into Swiss Francs, Yen, Renminbi, Euros, Pounds and – yes – gold, waiting to dive in when the Big Crash comes, and Central overtakes Tin Shui Wai in the bodies-falling-from-windows league.  And, while my Mainland oil stocks are touching ludicrous valuations courtesy of the Shanghai bubble, I can’t resist keeping some in case the US whacks Iran.  If that happens, oil companies would leap in value, upon which I would sell, and switch into airlines, which would have plummeted.  A few months later, when the dust has settled and airline stocks are back up and oil ones back down – switch back.  It’s the prospect of such simple pleasures that makes investing fun.
Fri, 2 Nov
Personally, if I were the law-and-order genius running the Organized Crime Bureau down at Asia’s Finest, I would have taken a bit of legal advice first and then, if appropriate, picked up the phone and had a chat with the people at fashion retailer Goods of Desire.  But such a measured approach is obviously nowhere near enough fun.  Nor does it waste public resources.  And it won’t get you in all the newspapers and assure citizens that they can sleep easy at night, safe in the knowledge that the valiant boys in blue stand ready at any time to
launch simultaneous raids on trendy clothing stores and arrest the staff to keep everyone safe from dangerous T-shirts. 

Is this part of the creeping Singaporeanisation of the Big Lychee – the gradual encroachment of nanny-authoritarianism, the instilling of fear, the suffocation of creativity, the displacement of questioning with obedience?  Or is it one of those seasonal outbreaks of exceptional stupidity – something to do with sunspots, perhaps – that seizes parts of the Hong Kong Police at times?  One of the GOD stores raided yesterday was on Hollywood Road, just off the Mid-Levels Escalator, very near the site of a similarly embarrassing and expensive episode, in which undercover sleuths infiltrated bondage soirees at kinky leatherwear outlet Fetish Fashion. 

Or could this in fact be a very clever marketing gimmick by media-savvy
GOD, to remind us all that their often-quirky, Giordano-meets-Shanghai Tang designs make excellent gifts for rarely-seen people far away and Christmas Is Coming?  Watch their sales figures shoot up this weekend.