Hemlock's Diary
20-26 May 2007
Mon, 21 May
Old ‘Lulu’ is back. Lu Ping, boss of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office back in those happy-go-lucky days before the handover, gives a timely interview to Cable TV.  He was widely seen as one of China’s few good guys at a time when Beijing’s tactics towards Hong Kong were essentially ‘bad cop, psycho cop’.  He came across as a genial and patient older uncle assuring us that all would be well after 1997.  “You will still find a lot of blonde haired, blue eyed tourists at Lan Kwai Fong,” he told us in the mid-1990s.  How our hearts sank – but he meant well.  Although he lapsed into occasional fits of mouth-frothing at the sight of Chris Patten, he was a ray of sunshine compared with such malevolent presences as his counterpart at Xinhua News Agency Zhou Nan, the sinister, scowling Stalinist whose finger-wagging diatribes about the yoke of colonialism on the evening news gave thousands of Hong Kong youngsters nightmares.

Some of Lu’s comments – such as his claim to have all but devised the dollar peg – seem to suggest the sad onset of dementia.  Nonetheless, so delighted am I to see his smiling face again that I feel inspired to buy myself a suitable 10th anniversary memento.  Already being in possession of
the obvious – I will go for a strikingly beautiful Caran d’Ache limited edition Hong Kong 1997 commemorative writing instrument designed by the world famous Tao Ho, currently on sale to discerning members of the gentry at a slightly tacky stall in IFC Mall.
Tue, 22 May
I am mortified with shame and consumed with guilt.  Over the years, I suspect I might have given some friends, acquaintances, admirers and innocent bystanders the impression that I believe the Liberal Party does not have quite as much integrity as it could have.  It is possible that – through the use of such terms as ‘shallow’, ‘unprincipled’, ‘slimy’, ‘reptilian’ and ‘nematodes’ – I do not entirely consider James Tien and his followers to be at the pinnacle of respectability.  If this is the case, I clearly owe everyone concerned a sincere apology.  At a time when the Government is determined to stuff yet more money into its overpaid workforce’s bulging savings accounts, only the Liberal Party seems to have the honour and courage to protest.  Four years after
an objective survey found the civil service to be over-remunerated by a factor so embarrassing (200 percent) that they had to cover it up, we are told bureaucrats’ incomes have mysteriously fallen behind those of the private sector.  Even the civil servants’ union leaders, whose entitlement mentality is rivaled only that of the property tycoons and public housing tenants, can’t believe it.
After briefly pondering what method of death would be sufficiently slow and painful for Leung Chau-ting, many Hong Kong people will find it natural at times like this to seek more details about their leadership’s policymaking process – specifically to ask, “Are these people on drugs or something?”  I would hesitate to leap to hasty conclusions.  But I can’t help noticing that while they were announcing this continued feathering of public-sector nests, they were also signing an agreement on a Shenzhen/Hong Kong Knitting Circle, involving comprehensive promotion and enhancement of collaboration and dynamic activities under the collaborative framework of the Mainland/Hong Kong Science and Technology Co-operation Committee through a Steering Group on Shenzhen/Hong Kong Co-operation in Innovation and Technology that comprises representatives of relevant departments and will focus on closer co-operation, concrete measures and strategic proposals drawn from the Economic Summit on “China's 11th Five-Year Plan and the Development of Hong Kong” to achieve regional, national and international co-operation, to strengthen exchange and sharing of innovative talents, along with various enhancements and collaboration by riding on the existing public technology platforms, and producing copious amounts of deliverables. 

I think that’s a ‘Yes’.
Wed, 23 May
Cable TV’s interview with poor old ‘Lulu’ continues to dribble out over the airwaves, with the increasingly senile ex-official lapsing into
a central planner’s reverie about Hong Kong entering into ‘partnership’ with Mainland cities.  These cities’ gruesome bosses loathe the Big Lychee and would like nothing more than to interject themselves into its money-making activities, if not get their grubby little paws directly into our public coffers in the name of some cross-border infrastructure projects that increase cooperation and integration.  Hong Kong is not being marginalized yet, mumbles Lu.  Bad news – we’re obviously not trying hard enough.

One of the few things our post-1997 leaders have largely done right is to keep us free of such entanglements, restricting their involvement to incessant politically correct Pan Pearl River Delta conferences, forums, councils, knitting circles, etc, where people wear ludicrous bouquets in their buttonholes and grin a lot. 

One of the funniest things the Hong Kong Government did to keep relations with the greasy haired municipal cadres on a suitable level was to broadcast a series of TV commercials a few years ago to educate its own citizens about the Basic Law.  One of them stressed, with all the subtlety one would expect from a Hong Kong public service announcement, that that the city enjoys the great privilege of not having to pay a single penny to the Central People’s Government in taxes.  The ad naturally permeated the ether and cable networks of Shenzhen, Donguang and Guangzhou, towns regularly plundered by Beijing’s revenue men, and of course made the local mayors, party secretaries and other bureaucrats admire and adore us even more.
Thurs, 24 May
Forty years ago, a youthful Donald Tsang would have sat down daily for a family meal in his parents’ apartment at the Aberdeen Street police barracks.  While they ate, his station sergeant father would no doubt have ranted on occasions about the evil communists setting bombs off in Hong Kong at that time and killing some 50 people, including more than a few cops.  As he rose through the ranks of the colonial civil service, Donald would probably have maintained a fervent hatred of the leftists, who remained suspect in the eyes of the establishment and shunned by the community as a whole. 

While mainstream society has never forgotten or forgiven, the new-look post-1997 establishment has had to adopt a revisionist attitude towards the old Maoist warriors.  Thus, with a straight face, Chief Executive Sir Bow-Tie now has to hand out medals to former terrorists and their supporters and issue expressions of grief when they go to that great struggle session in the sky.  Still, anyone with an eye for thinly disguised distaste will notice that there are limits to how convincing an act they can put on…
CE saddened by death of Lee Chark-tim

    The Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, today (May 23) was saddened to hear the death of Mr Lee Chark-tim.

     "Mr Lee has devoted his life striving for labour interests. He is a sincere and respectable pioneer in labour movement. While serving whole-heartedly for the grassroots, Mr Lee has been able to balance the overall interests of the society. He has also made selfless contributions to Hong Kong’s reunification with the motherland," Mr Tsang said.

     Mr Lee was a member of the HKSAR Preparatory Committee, and was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal (GBM) in 1999.

     Mr Tsang offered his condolences to Mr Lee's family and believed that people of Hong Kong would fondly remember this outstanding labour leader.
One perfunctory, blather-filled four-liner courtesy of the duty ghostwriter – skip the proof-read – and a closing sentiment so obviously the opposite of the truth that it is borderline sarcasm.  A classic.  Worth every penny of the taxpayers’ money.  Why didn’t they praise Lee’s sartorial elegance while they were at it?

There is a school of thought that the likes of Lee deserve to be rehabilitated.  Their excesses were driven not by malice towards their victims so much as fear that they themselves would be persecuted – probably killed – back across the border for not displaying sufficient zeal for the Cultural Revolution.  The Hong Kong Government has a more prosaic view.  Tossing the old thugs a few medals and laughable press releases mollifies the broader patriotic camp.  After seeing the colonial and capitalist regime go in 1997, the DAB et al have had to stand and watch obediently as Beijing has handed control of the city to British-trained bureaucrats and local tycoons whose only ideological loyalty is to the pig trough their snouts are in.  So the party faithful get their little pat on the head from time to time.

Fri, 25 May
On average,
a survey tells us, Hong Kong teachers work up to 115 hours a week.  I’m not sure how ‘on average’ here relates to the phrase ‘up to’, but who am I to question the statistical probity of research carried out by the Big Lychee’s numerous civic groups?  Assuming that they have weekends off, this means our educators spend 23 hours on the job every working day.  The Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Catholic Diocese – who commissioned this report – are obviously the sort of namby-pamby do-gooders who will include commuting time, lunch breaks and restroom visits as ‘work’.  So this leaves a solid 60 minutes’ sleep every night, not to mention plenty of time for a good lie-in on Saturdays.

This might seem demanding for some in the public sector, where entire typing pools of dozens of women have had no duties to perform for the last 15 years.  But it clearly leaves the pedagogues with enough free time to provide whining answers to leading questions from self-important busybodies spreading peace and justice throughout the diocese.  Having obtained the shocking data, the Commission (naturally uninfluenced by the fact that many of its hangers-on are also members of the HK Professional Teachers’ Union) then urges the Government to implement small class teaching and reduce classroom admin work.  Some cynics claim that these demands are self-serving.  They dismiss ‘small classes’ as a euphemism for creating jobs for teachers in a city where a birth rate of 0.7 kids per woman has left them redundant.  They suspect the detested administrative tasks just so happen to gauge teachers’ effectiveness.  The Justice and Truth Commission, accustomed to
facing down such foes as the WTO and the Israeli Consul General, quite rightly brushes such contemptible nastiness aside.

A guaranteed hour’s slumber in every 24 is not the only luxury our teachers enjoy.  They are also allowed, in practice, to delegate most of their job to others.  Standing in front of a class of eager, bright-eyed youngsters, they read out the contents of a text book.  This is what the children must learn by heart at home this evening, and it is the parents who must oversee this part of the process.  It is a wonder more of us do not clamour to join the profession.