Hemlock's Diary
13-19 Apr, 2008
Mon, 14 Apr
The Hong Kong Government will be
“serious and responsible” about its involvement in the extremely exciting Olympic Games, declares Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing.  This is a pity.  It would be entertaining to see our leadership display the same degree of sincere commitment to the games as it does to political reform or air pollution, or match the sensible, clear-headed performance we so enjoyed during avian flu, SARS, Article 23 and other memorable great moments in governance.  But we must accept that Beijing 2008 is on an altogether different level of importance.
Hundreds of officials have spent months applying their planning and logistics skills to the eight-hour Big Lychee leg of the Olympic Torch Relay.  Thousands of law enforcement officers will line the route to ward off Falun Gong and other troublemakers, while such renowned athletes as Chief Executive Donald Tsang and local Olympic Pomposity boss Timothy Fok jog earnestly with the flame from Bauhinia Square to the border and back.  We are spending hundreds of millions on lavish, air-conditioned accommodation facilities for horses taking part in the compelling show jumping.  Our former Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung has been appointed Deputy Mayor of the Olympic Village in the nation’s capital.  It will be the first time in the history of the games that the rules of the athletes’ compound will be subject to a National People’s Congress Standing Committee interpretation.  Fok, meanwhile, is inspiring us all by going for the Gold in endurance oozing – slobbering all over immensely eminent Olympics administrative types who are visiting Hong Kong to confirm that the city really does have hotels and conference halls, as it claims.  If we are sufficiently obsequious towards them and generous with taxpayers’ money, they might grant us the right to host a large gathering of people as interesting and important as themselves in 2011, and we will be able to puff our chests out and strut around saying, “Look at us, we’re more important than Durban, South Africa.”

And this is before the actual sport begins.  It’s a while since I paid much attention, but I might watch some of it this time around.  The synchronized swimming, the famous
eventing event, and of course the whole underlying reason for this four-yearly extravaganza – the scantily clad, supple and nubile young Nadia Comaneci spreading her thighs apart right in our face.  If that isn’t worth being serious and responsible for, what is?
Tue, 15 Apr
After three years out of the spotlight, milkshake once again makes a pink, syrupy, front-page splash.  More than the Rolling Stones and Pui Pui the Yuen Long crocodile, it was Nancy Kissel who from late 2003 helped Hong Kong shed its international image as the helpless, fearful, masked city of SARS, abandoned by tourists and quarantined by its neighbours.  Overnight, the world forgot the pestilence and started to see the Big Lychee as an exotic, thrilling place of drug-laced strawberry drinks and bludgeoned husbands wrapped up in carpets.  Now, two years after being convicted of murder, the American ex-housewife is appealing.

Her lawyers seem to be claiming that the judge’s two-and-a-half-hour summing-up at the end of the 2005 trial left the poor jurors dazed and insensible to Kissel’s plight on that fateful day, trying to protect herself under threat from her baseball bat-wielding, cocaine-crazed, anal sex fiend husband.  Which is where her ‘secret recipe’ comes in.  The beverage would have left Robert Kissel comatose and harmless.  They might have been better off pleading that her husband’s abusive wickedness had driven her nuts, but the earlier communication with her blue-collar lover back in the US and the effort involved in obtaining the Rohypnol suggested a non-diminished responsibility.  I would have thought that being married to an investment banker would be a perfectly adequate defence in itself, but it is too late now for her counsel to make up for their oversight. 

Still, it must be a welcome change to get out of Tai Lam Women’s Centre and come into town every day.
Wed, 16 Apr
CNN, widely vilified by China’s xenophobic on-line youth for its supposedly biased Tibet/Olympic coverage, hits back by declaring the Chinese to be goons and thugs, and the country’s products junk.  Beijing’s official spokesmen
respond with the usual tear-jerking ‘hurt feelings’ bed-wetting, while the nationalist netizens pile on even more venomous hysteria.  The remarks, which topped off a fairly uninteresting discussion, were clearly aimed at the Communist leadership, but why let that spoil a good orgy of mouth-frothing about racism?  Anti-foreign public opinion is a tiger, which the Chinese Government is riding and mischievous Westerners are baiting with sharp sticks – and the entertainment gets even better in a few months when barbarian medal winners whip out Tibetan flags on the podium. 

What better time, then, for Hong Kong to renew its enthusiasm for
‘national education’?  To the traditional pro-Beijing community, whose relationship with the Party is a quasi-religious experience, this is a euphemism for ‘making Hong Kong people more patriotic’.  To the British-trained secular or even skeptical bureaucrats, it is a euphemism for ‘making Beijing think we are making Hong Kong people more patriotic’.  The focus is on the younger generation, because, as Ancient Greeks, Jesuits, Red Guards and others knew, that’s where the malleable minds are.  Young Hongkongers, who flock to Shenzhen discos at weekends for the cheap drugs, will no doubt be fascinated to learn how the glorious motherland has opened up since 1978.  Their parents – whose own parents ate grass and tree bark and swam through schools of sharks to get to the Big Lychee, and didn’t let them forget it – are the ones that see the Mainland as a dark place of unshaven, squatting, spitting, littering, line-breaking, baby-stealing, night-soil-collecting, chain-smoking despotism and despair. 

So national education will soon become as typical a part of Hong Kong life as counterfeit Hello Kitty dolls, Canadian passports and overpaid civil servants with so little to do that they concoct
sprawling memos pleading with busy educators to disrupt school schedules and get the kids to line the route of the Olympic Flame relay, studying the rules of eventing and singing Light the Passion, Share the Dream, and (in Appendix 3) suggesting a wide variety of stimulating and vividly imaginative learning activities.

SOMBER DUTIES await many time zones away.  Would things have been better if a particular doctor’s prognosis had been more accurate?  Would it have been easier if the quack had added that, when he said my father had a relatively short time left to live, by ‘two’ he meant ‘ten’, and by ‘months’ he meant ‘days’?  Maybe not.  One thing my father loathed was fuss and drama.  Now I think about it, he might well have directed the helpless healer to exaggerate his life expectancy so he could avoid the tiresome farewells and zip out smartly when everyone’s backs were turned.  In fact I am close to certain about it.  Good idea.  So entries to this diary will be sporadic over the next week or two – and that’s assuming a flawless first experience of Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
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