Hemlock's Diary
30 September-6 October 2007
Tue, 2 Oct
With no cleaners on duty over the three-day weekend, the Mid-Levels Escalator has accumulated a noticeable veneer of dandruff, so I stroll into Central this morning by a detour that takes me through Lan Kwai Fong – the world’s only nightlife district with a constant stream of garbage trucks trundling in and out.  Peering through the door of Hardy’s, the neighbourhood’s last authentic pub, I see piles of cash all over the floor and, in the gloom, the manager still counting the takings from Saturday night, when the establishment closed for ever.

What will replace the earthy, unpretentious, 22-year-old institution?  Of the rumours floating around, the most intriguing is that it will become a self-described ‘exclusive’ members-only club, with all-blonde, Western waitresses and a lengthy waiting list of extremely inadequate people with shriveled genitalia clamouring to be seen within its high-class, marble-clad portals.  Whatever the location’s fate, the result will be fake and overpriced, and therefore in line with the vision of Allan Zeman, who set off the process that turned the area from a neglected collection of godowns – I recall the days when bales of cloth sat in the middle of the street – to a brand name that attracts tourists.  Up and down they wander, clutching their maps in one hand and their faces in the other, as the huge, aromatic vehicles haul another load away from the glamorous Refuse Transfer Station.
Zeman is a prominent supporter of Regina Ip’s campaign for the Legislative Council by-election in December.  According to the editorial signed by one ‘Mary Ma’ in the Standard, “Zeman’s history and strong association with the middle class will help strengthen Ip’s appeal to ordinary voters generally in the Hong Kong Island constituency.”  The paper does not say why.  Presumably the reasons are too numerous and extensive to accommodate on one page.
Wed, 3 Oct
Global, esoteric fads always arrive late in the Big Lychee.  We were among the last cities in the civilized world to get sun-dried tomato, the girl’s name Fionnuala and all those serious-looking Indian shysters peddling bizarre variants of yoga.  So it is little surprise that in 2007 we have only just succumbed to the mental health problem known as ‘climbing Mount Ararat to find Noah’s Ark’.  The tragic victim of this affliction is one Andrew Yuen of Media Evangelism, the company whose Creation TV on Cable channel 15 would no doubt inspire me with greater forbearance through its divine grace if only I had a television. 

Like the countless thousands of deranged pseudo-archaeologists who have ascended the Turkish peak before him, Yuen has selfishly desecrated what should in theory be a scientifically valuable, not to say sacred, site by helping himself to what he claims is petrified wood from the vessel that carried all those animals two-by-two 4,000 years ago.  Hong Kong Baptist University is hosting his display, presumably so its biogeologists can investigate how wood can petrify in less than millions of years.  Bearing in mind Noah’s advanced age at the time he built the boat, academics must also want to know more about a 600-year-old’s carpentry skills, let alone his methods of
collecting and housing so much livestock.

Standard quotes Yuen as saying, in essence, that his discovery could bring the theory of evolution into doubt.  Millions of years of natural selection should surely have enabled us to develop brains capable of rational and enlightened thought.  So maybe he’s right.
Thurs, 4 Oct
How dirty could the two-month fight for the Legco seat get?  Pro-Beijing elements are already digging up the immensely tiresome Kwok Ah-nui case from 1986, in which then-Social Welfare Director Anson Chan ordered that a small girl be forcibly removed from her home.  Then, as now, I failed to understand what all the fuss was about.  In a society where the taxpayer is expected to pay to clean up the mess left by incapable parents, the state has a fiduciary duty to break down bad families’ doors and take children away.  Ideally, the kids will be given to nice, barren middle-class couples to bring up, while the deficient mothers will have their tubes tied so no more burdens on the public purse spring from their loins.  But when the normally mild-mannered Choy So-yuk of the Democratic Alliance for the Blah Blah of Hong Kong talks of Anson’s
“utter disregard for the basic tenets of human rights,” I must be missing something.  As apparently is the girl herself, whom Dame Conscience says has since thanked her for sending the jack-booted social workers in.
A little DAB’ll do ya.  Anson’s critics are also trying to smear her with Chek Lap Kok’s woeful opening in 1998, when the new airport’s systems failed, toilets backed up and cargo rotted on the ground in a vivid, internationally embarrassing metaphor for the decline in Hong Kong’s quality of governance under Chinese sovereignty.  To quote the good book
This has the potential to get interesting, with Anson and the pro-democrats piling in on everyone who obeyed orders from Beijing and publicly supported the crop-haired one right up to the day he fell from official grace, when they all airbrushed him from their mental photos.  “We were saying he was an idiot  while you Communist-controlled zombies carried on cheering him,” they could say.  But life rarely gets that entertaining. What is more probable is that, a few weeks before the poll, Anson will be photographed by Public Security Bureau officers in bed in a Shenzhen hotel with a virile and muscular 26-year-old surfer guy, some crushed tissues and a miserable look on her face.  Even that is not especially likely.  Unlike the Democratic Party’s hapless Alex Ho, unveiled by Mainland authorities with a prostitute on the eve of the 2004 election, Anson is far too smart to give her enemies ammunition on a plate.  Or would it boost her popularity – revealing a more human, fallible, Clintonesque and anarchic character behind the smarmy, goody two-shoes façade?

AS USUAL, I have been given the job of setting the questions for this evening’s South China Association of Millionaire Playboys pub quiz.  And, as always with a SCAMPS night out, subjects will be not be merely intellectual but downright obscure, testing participants’ tolerance and patience as much as their general knowledge.  I wonder if anyone will get this one…
Who said the following? [Quote] “…Hong Kong stands out as an eminently suitable candidate for democratization, by virtue of it being an urbanized, postindustrial society without any sharp ethnic, linguistic or religious divisions; the presence of a substantial and sophisticated middle class; a vibrant free press; strong Protestant influence and rule of law as part of the British heritage; and its position as a Special Administrative Region of China, giving Hong Kong people the new-found opportunity to rule themselves.”
Fri, 5 Oct
My question-setting skills must be weakening.  Even Percy Ratbone’s quiz team last night managed to identify Stanford University master’s degree candidate
Regina Ip as the author of the moving assertion of the Big Lychee’s suitability for democracy. 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s highly accountable and visionary leadership cuts and pastes from a month-old press release in order to provide our elected representatives with the official, definitive
explanation of one of its more recent unfathomable acts of weirdness…
The increase in the Government’s shareholding in HKEx is a strategic use of the Exchange Fund to enable the Government to contribute, over the longer term, to HKEx’s development, particularly in the development of strategic partnerships and links with other institutions in the region, including pursuing initiatives under the Action Agenda proposed by the Focus Group on Financial Services under the Economic Summit on “China’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan and the Development of Hong Kong” (the 11-5 Action Plan).
An interesting way to pass the time comes to mind.  Remove the phrase ‘HKEx’ from the above passage and insert something else – ‘HSBC’, ‘Chong Hing Bank’ or ‘The Tak Wah Pawnshop on Connaught Road’ – and see how it sounds.  And what about other agendas proposed by other focus groups under the Economic Summit on “China’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan and the Development of Hong Kong”?   Remove ‘HKEx’ and insert ‘Cheung Kong Holdings’, ‘Cathay Pacific Airways’, ‘Sogo Department Store’ and so on.  Endless fun for all the family…
The increase in the Government’s shareholding in Neptune II Disco is a strategic use of the Exchange Fund to enable the Government to contribute, over the longer term, to Neptune II’s development, particularly in the development of strategic partnerships and links with other institutions in the region, including pursuing initiatives [etc].
I was lying awake last night worrying that the Tsang Administration might run out of ideas on how to control and micromanage every aspect of Hong Kong business, social and cultural life.  But things always seem brighter in the morning, and I am delighted to find that Donald’s supporters in the Bauhinia Foundation are working overtime to feed the ravenous interventionist beast. 

Some might complain that the think-tank’s
recommendations on making Hong Kong a creative metropolis are noteworthy for the sheer lack of imagination that has gone into them.  Essentially, they propose that the Government do what local communities, civic groups, volunteerism and public-spirited companies do everywhere else in the developed world, plus “Use Cyper Port also as a knowledge incubator,” and “Take a top-down approach.”
However, I suspect the researchers are in fact being fiendishly clever.  They calculate that presenting us with suggestions of such dreariness and predictability is the most eloquent way of underlining the desperate need to make our city more original and innovative.   There is a vicious assumption in some quarters that civil servants – which most Bauhinia Foundation staff used to be – are congenitally incapable of original thought.  But I know that within every bureaucrat there is a dazzling lateral thinker struggling to get out.  Only an authentic intellectual rebel could devise some of the more Dadaist-tinged phrases in this report – “Strengthen the city’s institutional thickness,” and “Family units should and could function as ‘cultural incubators’.”  This is, after all, the same civil service that enabled a committee to act as an incubator and give us the architectural jewel that, being located in Causeway Bay, was named Central Library.

Sesame Street today was brought to you by the word ‘incubator’.