Hemlock's Diary
9-15 Dec 2007
Mon, 10 Dec
In the ground floor foyer of S-Meg Tower this morning, the Pakistani security guard greets the Company Gwailo with a cheerful salute.  Freddy Mao, the Big Boss’s Mainland fixer, is leaving as I enter and also gets a friendly wave from the smartly uniformed sentinel.  We ethnic minorities enslaved by the Cantonese family firm stick together.  I step into the elevator with one other person of exotic extraction – a young Filipino lady who presses the button for one of the lower floors occupied by other companies.  She has an envelope tucked under one arm, so I guess she is running an errand.  She starts jabbing the Close Doors button, but to no avail.  After a few seconds she turns to me with a frustrated look.  “It won’t shut,” she complains.

“OK,” I tell her, standing back and facing the front of the lift square-on.  “Let me try something.”   I take a deep breath, close my eyes for a few seconds and then raise my arms up, pointing my fingers towards the open aperture, as Harry Potter would when faced with an evil, four-headed, death-eating witch disguised as a giant toad.  With an air of intense concentration, I slowly sweep my hands together and hiss, “La porte – fermez!”  Within a split second, the doors slide together.  I look at her with a polite smile.  “There you go.”  Judging by the way she stands petrified, staring and open-mouthed and darts out the second we get to her floor, she has not been in this building before – or indeed any with a 15-second delay on elevator doors.

READING THE news in the gwailo’s lair, I find you can hand a child over to the Government if you don’t want it any more.  This is exciting.  I always imagined you were essentially stuck with them, or at the very least heavily obliged to support them financially up to age 18 – one of the main reasons, if I am to be honest, that I have never felt inclined to procreate.  Presumably there is some paperwork involved, just like you need the receipt when you return goods to a department store, but nothing too onerous, judging by the local case of the European diplomat and his wife who decide after nearly seven years that life with the kid
“had not worked out.” I’m not saying I now definitely want a baby, but let’s say I find the idea a lot less intimidating.  Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?
Tue, 11 Dec
What more pleasant subjects can there be to ponder over breakfast than Legislative Council member Mandy Tam and menstruation?  As I dollop chili sauce over my rather oily fried noodles in the Foreign Correspondents Club, shapely Administrative Officer Winky Ip shows me a motion our lawmakers will be debating tomorrow calling on the Government to make the world such a wonderful place that newly arrived immigrant mothers suffering from domestic violence will always have plenty of women’s restrooms.  Her colleagues have piled in with other suggestions – like all-women MTR carriages (courtesy of Choy So-yuk).  The cherubic  representative of the Accounting functional constituency has amended the motion to call for women to be given one or two days off a month when they have their periods.
“They do that in Korea,” Winky says.  “One day a month.  But it’s no longer paid leave, and there’s talk of phasing it out altogether.”

“Interesting that they have it in such a famously sexist culture,” I reply.  “Because if you think about it, it’s a huge insult to women.”  I explain to her that if women are incapable of working for one day a month, it casts into doubt their fitness to vote, sit on juries, drive a car, fly an airplane, perform surgery, or, for that matter, legislate – at least at certain times of their cycle.  “Or assist senior officials in policy formulation,” I add.  This prompts an Oh-I-see-that’s-a-joke smile. 

dear,” Winky says, “do you know why this is a stupid idea?  Because if you take it to its logical conclusion, men would get every day off work.”  I am now getting the wagging-chopstick-in-face treatment.  “Yes, half the population might be a bit distracted or undependable on one day a month.  Guilty.  But... the other half’s like that every day.”

Wed, 12 Dec
At street level,
maggots breed in old folks’ noses, while 20 floors up newborn babies are flung from the window, their umbilical cords still intact.  Down the road an 18-year-old, sole support for his mentally handicapped mother and younger sister, commits suicide after the Government demands the return of excess welfare payments.  While these and the rest of Kowloon-side are still waiting for Christmas to arrive, the more prosperous and cosmopolitan members of the community luxuriate across the harbour in their island cocoon, indulging in seasonal theological debate.  Which can be summarized…
Wild American friend Odell   Of course Mormons are Christian you dickhead!  How can you say we’re not?
Noted scholar of religious issues Hemlock   I’m a lapsed Catholic – I know exactly what I’m talking about.
Odell   Well, I’m an ex-Mormon, and I can tell you Mormonism is the correct, perfected version of Christianity.
Hemlock   Perfected?  Joseph Smith – some conman farmer polygamist from New York – was a prophet on a par with Moses?  Faked scriptures?  The Garden of Eden was in Missouri?  Jesus visited America?
Odell   That’s just it.  The other churches are less Christian because they don’t accept those things.  They went wrong after Jesus died – LDS puts it right.
Some confused ramblings about the holy trinity and vague references to Neuhaus follow.  The cause of this is Mitt Romney, the presidential wannabe who looks overall to be the least risky, wacky, power-crazed or otherwise dubious of all the Republican and Democrat hopefuls, except for one fatal problem.  He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and therefore a Serious Creepo.  Mike Huckabee, the creationist, witch-burning snake-handler from Arkansas, looks acceptable in comparison.  Barack Obama, the Muslim-sounding, half-black writer of frightening kindergarten essays from Indonesia, and Hilary Clinton, wild-eyed megalomaniac paranoid, look comfortingly normal, savaging each other to shreds over barely distinguishable health care reform proposals that won’t work. 

Odell, suffering the effects of a late night and standing outside Exchange Square swinging a Welcome supermarket bag containing eight tall cans of San Miguel, laments the injustice of it all.  “The only candidate who’s not dysfunctional!  Where’s the justice in that?”  He burps and leers at a passing office worker in a short skirt and black stockings.
WHAT WILL Santa Claus be bringing the Big Lychee’s pro-democracy campaigners this year?  The answer appears to be an extra-large portion of Yuletide mendacity, as Chief Executive Donald Tsang announces that he is sending a recommendation to Beijing that Hong Kong implement some degree of constitutional reform for 2012.  It is clear, reading between the lines, that Sir Bow-Tie is setting the stage for an epic struggle in the next few years between himself and such nearly unconquerable forces as ‘the need for consensus’.  Exhausted and bleeding, he will eventually return in triumph with the dripping head of the vanquished beast and news of a major breakthrough – a package of exciting reforms.
Amid the hullabaloo, some skeptics will take a close look at this grand prize, won with such dash and dare, and they will start pointing at it with disappointed looks on their faces, and they will start to complain bitterly that despite all the apparent drama and conflict, the result will be no more than the continuation of the current system for at least another 10 years, and only cosmetic changes after that.  In response, Donald will use every tatty, hackneyed and predictable trick in the book to fool the pro-democrats into allowing themselves to be portrayed as the main obstacle to progress, and in this he will partly succeed because that’s how stupid they are. 

The best thing for them to do would be to grab the recent opportunity handed them by pro-Beijing elements who are adamant that there is no linkage between democratization and livelihood issues.  A reasonably bright 14-year-old high-school debater could make a powerful case for the exact opposite.  Look around you! she would cry.  The evidence is everywhere.  We are being run by and for a small group of bureaucrats and tycoons.  A broader-based political structure means broader-based economic opportunities.  How tragic that the pro-democrats don’t have any reasonably bright 14-year-old high-school debaters. 

An interesting bit of wording…
… opinion polls have shown that implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive election first in 2012 is the expectation of more than half of the public. This expectation should be taken seriously, and given consideration. At the same time, implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive election first, by no later than 2017, would stand a better chance of being accepted by the majority in our community.
How can ‘more than half of the public’ be outweighed by ‘the majority in our community’?  Or does Sir Bow-Tie’s ‘our community’ not actually encompass ‘the public’?  Stupid question.
Thurs, 13 Dec
The Big Boss, dutiful Friend of Donald, has a stab at learning his 27-page Line To Take on the Chief Executive’s
report to Beijing on stringing out Hong Kong’s constitutional development until everyone has expired owing to old age or sheer boredom.  “How am I supposed to memorize all of this?” he splutters.  I suggest that getting the gist of it is more important than reciting the Government’s official answers to potential questions word by word. 

“So, for example,” I explain “if someone claims that the Green Paper public consultation was rigged, you don’t have to reply…”  I run my finger down the propagandists’ suggested response.  “Um… ‘The HKSAR Government is the most impeccably trustworthy, sincere, diligent, transparent, unimpeachable and generally wonderful leadership in the entire history of human events and would never in a million years so much as dream of…’ and so it goes for seven paragraphs.”  The Chairman of S-Meg Holdings is starting to get inpatient.  “You just have to say something
like that.  It can be much shorter.”

“OK,” he says.  “So I could just say – ‘Ha!  I hardly think Donald would do that!’  Hmm?”

I think he’s got it.
Fri, 14 Dec
In a world where people face beheading for giving a teddy bear a wrong name, it is comforting to know that there is at least one religion whose adherents counter criticism with a sense of proportion.  This occurs to me as my second-favourite Mormon emails me an
alternative view on his faith’s Christian-ness with the comment…
Richard John Neuhaus can shampoo my crotch.
If only such refreshing candour extended to Hong Kong’s tortuous debate about universal suffrage.  Back in the 1980s, the British and Chinese negotiating the Big Lychee’s post-1997 future assured a nervous citizenry that an eventual move to democratic government would be part of the deal.  This was confirmed in the 1990 Basic Law, which described universal suffrage as the ‘ultimate aim’.  Although this promise was qualified with vague blathering about progress being ‘gradual and orderly’, China’s Hong Kong affairs boss Lu Ping declared in 1993 that after the first 10 years following the handover, Hong Kong would be free to develop democracy as it wished. 

The first sign this was not going to happen came straight after the handover, when the new regime reversed belated 1995 colonial reforms that had made Legislative Council elections more democratic.  In 2004, Beijing issued a proclamation that the whole matter lay in the hands of the Central Government, and no meaningful reform would be permitted in 2007.  Since then, Beijing and its local supporters have contrived and employed every excuse, subterfuge and distortion they can to justify continued delay.  The current exercise is formal abandonment of 2012 as a target date. 

As Malcolm X in 1964
told Black Americans expecting to be granted equal voting rights, “Oh, I say, you been misled. You been had. You been took.” 

Only a fool will believe the vague promises for universal suffrage in 2017.  It should be dawning even on the most obtuse pro-democrats that when China’s leaders refer to themselves as the Communist Party, they mean it.  It is a one-party state.  They don’t do democracy and they are not going to.  Yet still our pro-democracy camp doesn’t get it.  They imagine the tank- and gun-owning black hair-dye brigade up in Beijing will be receptive to logic, legal arguments, polite debate or tantrums.  Or that the UK or US can or will twist someone’s arm.

Donald Tsang’s report cites in its nebulous way some sort of intention, need or desire to deal with reform of Chief Executive elections ‘first’.  This is code for leaving the Legislative Council’s functional constituencies intact for as far ahead as most of us can be bothered to look – a couple of decades, say.  This is because devising a rigged Chief Executive election system in which we can all cast a make-believe vote in 2017 is fairly simple.   To Beijing, reforming Legco is more troublesome.  Under the current system, China commands an inbuilt body of corporate lawmakers with a veto over the directly elected ones.  It wants that to continue.

In return for their loyalty, these Legco members can influence local Government policy.  Thus, in a city with year-long waiting lists for medical procedures and hardly any urban parks, the people’s money is frittered away on pointless infrastructure projects, tourist attractions and other multibillion handouts to vested interests. While they should be getting the populace mad about this borderline corruption, the pro-democrats waste their time on their laughable mission to convince Communists to allow opponents to run the country’s richest city.  And how such self-indulgence suits the tycoons and bureaucrats.  However shallow, grasping, arrogant or self-centred our self-described elites might be, no-one beats our opposition for stupidity. 

To my surprise and delight, an opportunity to use my new-found favourite phrase presents itself sooner than I had dared hope.  Anson Chan, Martin Lee, Margaret Ng, whoever runs the Democratic Party, Ronny Tong, Audrey Eu and Emily Lau can shampoo my crotch.
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