|27 November-3 December 2005|
|Sun, 27 Nov
To Macau again to see Jenny the girl from Beijing-but-she’s-got-an-American-passport. We wander round the little city and discuss...
|...the sophisticated culture...||...the environmental awareness, especially the commitment to the use of biodegradable materials, of everyone at all times...||...the quaint architecture...|
|...the way a tacky fake lamppost turns a third world hovel into a quaint tourist attraction...|
|...the quaint government habit of not letting developers tear down all the quaint architecture...|
|...the quaint government habit of preserving quaint historic features amid ugly towers ...|
|The quaint creative spirit of local young people...|
|...and the primeval murkiness of the town’s politics...|
|Mon, 28 Nov
Following an uneventful morning meeting in the conference room on the top floor of S-Meg Tower, the Big Boss pours out his woes to me. He is having little success in convincing moderate members of the pan-democratic camp to support the Government’s political reform package. In fact, the harder he pushes them, the more resolutely they refuse. He promised dashing Chief Executive Donald Tsang that he would deliver two particularly spineless and unprincipled legislators to the administration’s cause. “They’re old friends,” he laments, “but they’re just waving me aside.” He fidgets with the ceramic three-legged toad that sits on the conference room table. What started off as a sure-fire way to ingratiate himself with Sir Bow-Tie is turning into an embarrassment. The only good news is that he is not the only tycoon unsuccessfully leaning on members of the opposition.
I put it to our visionary Chairman that this is the problem. Universal suffrage in Hong Kong would mean a transfer of power from civil servants, property developers and cartels to the middle class, consumers and competitive companies. The eagerness of the former group to support the Government’s package tells the latter group all it needs to know. If the proposed reforms win the strident approval of a property king like Stanley Ho, they obviously have no bearing on how Hong Kong will be run. The day a proposal meets fierce resistance from the bureaucrats and barons is the day the pro-democrats will vote for it. The Big Boss starts to mutter something about consensus, but thinks better of it.
In truth, is this in the hands of any mortal soul? Ten years ago, we were given to understand that Hong Kong would be able to decide for itself on its electoral arrangements from 2007-08. Then, early last year, we were told that Beijing alone had this right. Now, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam reveals that God rather than men will ultimately determine how Hong Kong's political system develops. I was taught that God knows what will happen in future on Earth but does not actually influence it – but then I was brainwashed in these matters by Catholics. Obviously Mr Lam, an adherent of an obscure congregation that drinks goat’s blood and speaks in tongues, knows better. And who can doubt the credibility of someone who essentially argues that his own high-paying job has no purpose in this world?
|Tue, 29 Nov
An email from Polly the lipstick lesbian reminds me and dozens of other recipients of the importance of joining the ’12-4’ pro-democracy march. Unlike the 7-1 demonstrations, we should actually have pleasant walking weather, so I suppose I have no excuse. My sixth sense tells me the turnout, as measured by the number of people making it as far as Central Government Offices, will be modest. It doesn’t help that the route goes straight through Wanchai, with its myriad diversions and attractions for thirsty and tired people. Government officials are under strict orders to say nothing inflammatory. Members of the Hong Kong Association of Neanderthal Reactionary Plutocrats are largely behaving themselves, give or take the odd outburst from Sir Gordon Wu and the senile ramblings of the drooling Dr Stanley Ho. The 98-year-old casino king advises pro-democrats to ‘act like patriots’. So presumably Margaret Ng and Audrey Eu need to adopt the sour-faced, spiteful and venomous demeanour of such loyalists as Tsang Hin-chi and Raymond ‘dog biscuits’ Wu. These gentlemen’s psychopathic loathing of Hong Kong and its people would increase the turnout on Sunday – but they too have been brought to heel and muzzled. Who says these marches don’t achieve anything?
|(A picture of Raymond Wu appears in the 2001 World Mental Health Day Report.)|
|Wed, 30 Nov
An email from cousin John Quincy Hemlock titled, ‘That was close’. Barely a couple of days before getting his lethal injection and becoming the 1,000th person executed in the US since 1976, Robin Lovitt gets a reprieve from the Virginia Governor. Oddly enough, considering its gun-wielding, inbred, semi-literate reputation, the American Hemlocks’ Monongahelan neighbourhood does not have capital punishment, so death watch aficionados monitor cases in adjacent states.
|Just like the Big Lychee! With no hangings since the 1960s, we can only look on from afar as less civilized societies perform the ultimate act of retribution on criminals. In the Mainland, felons are dispatched with a 7.62mm pistol shot to the back of the head, unless someone wants some corneas, in which case the executioner aims a couple of inches further down. Relatives are sent the bill for the bullet – in the fevered imaginations of Western journalists, at least. In Thailand, with its higher per capita GDP, they give convicts several rounds of far more expensive ammunition from a machine gun.
Why have the death penalty? In the US, the reason is simple – it helps state governors win elections. In Asia, the explanation is more pernicious. It is a way of conditioning people to understand that they are subservient to the state, not the other way round. Nowhere is this truer than the warped, socialist, authoritarian experiment that is Singapore, where officials are resisting Australian calls to spare the life of drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, or (full marks to whoever thought of it) at least let his mother hug him.
|Could it be compensation for our poor rhythm and weak mental arithmetic abilities? Whatever the reason, white people rarely seem to be executed – apart from the educationally sub-normal. So it’s unlikely I will ever have to face the quandary. But I still ponder it. Everyone wonders what they would have as a last meal, but what I want to know is – would I take the trouble to brush my teeth afterwards? I definitely wouldn’t bother to floss.
THE GOVERNMENT announces a sudden, ‘in-the-works-for-about-a-month’ meeting between Hong Kong politicians and Beijing officials in Shenzhen for Friday, so there’s obviously no need to march on Sunday. How can you tell when Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam is lying? Answer – his mouth is open. Or, perhaps, he really is in the habit of inviting people to gatherings arranged a month earlier just two days before they take place. In which case, dinner parties chez Lam must be a bit chaotic, with RSVPs still arriving after the entrée is served. Liar or cretin? Either way, he brings amusement into our lives and is it is an honour to pay his salary.
|Thurs, 1 Dec
The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is bemusement – at Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s impromptu TV address to the people last night. RTHK describes the broadcast as ‘unprecedented’ – a polite way of saying ‘desperate-looking’. But is there more to it than that? His appeal for public support for his political reforms was anodyne, but the fact that he barged his way into the city’s living rooms unannounced can only focus interest on the 12-4 pro-democracy march. On balance, he will induce more of his fellow citizens to make than cancel plans to go, which raises the intriguing question – how many people would Sir Bow-Tie like to see on the streets on Sunday?
A hint of Kwong Sang Hong florida water on the cool breeze brings back memories from late June, 2003. Then-Secretary for Security Regina Ip told the press that people would march on 1 July as “a kind of activity because it's a holiday,” rather than out of opposition to the Article 23 national security legislation. The comment must have added 100,000 to the crowds on that sweltering day, and as a highly intelligent woman, the iron butterfly must have known that it would.
|Would it occur to Qiao Xiaoyang that our British-trained colonial civil servants might be tempted to employ people power in the convoluted struggle between one country and two systems? Of course. Beijing doesn’t trust Donald an inch. So what message will the Deputy Secretary General of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress give our politicians in Shenzhen tomorrow? As the man charged with giving Basic Law interpretations a warm and cuddly feel, Qiao’s wit and wisdom will be awaited eagerly on this side of the border. “Failing to maintain the balanced participation of the industrial and business sector in the political system would fail to maintain Hong Kong's original capitalist system,” he said last year. A startling admission that without a more democratic political structure, the Big Lychee’s economy is doomed to stagnate under the weight of propped-up sunset industries and property, distribution and other cartels. Can his rhetorical powers inspire us to stay at home in three days?
Fri, 2 Dec
Great moments in investigative journalism come rarely. The UK had the Profumo affair. The US had Watergate. Now, courtesy of the Hong Kong Standard, we have the ESF-Laguna Scandal, in which we finally get an answer to the question – what do the English Schools Foundation’s grossly overpaid teachers do with the millions of dollars they receive for educating the Big Lychee’s expat and returnee brats? The answer, if you are deputy principal of Kennedy School Paul Hamblin, is you invest your wealth in a Wanchai disco dungeon, in which the beer-soaked, tattooed, overweight, ageing dregs of our male population philander and grope their way through Southeast Asia’s air-mobile fallen women – haggard, nubile, fake-boobed, stretch-marked, underaged, overaged, fat, thin, clean, diseased – but in all cases repulsive to any man with a shred of self-respect. (Will The Standard now blow the lid on how any of these putrid, predatory hordes, of either gender, get through Immigration?) Some observers will be shocked that a gentleman who works with young folk has helped to finance such an unwholesome and depraved establishment. But I fear they miss the point entirely. As a dedicated people-watcher, with a particular fascination with the depths to which some segments of humanity can descend, I find my occasional visits to these caverns of shame and despair to be highly instructive and thought-provoking. Isn’t this what deputy principal Hamblin, being dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge and enlightenment, surely intends?
|POLLY THE lipstick lesbian drops by S-Meg Tower to give me a ‘James Tien for Mensa Chairman’ T-shirt for the Sunday march. We wonder what the turnout will be. My guess is 75,000, with the Police saying 914 and the organizers saying 2 million. Leaving my office, she tosses me the latest edition of the proto-political party Article 45 Concern Group’s newspaper A45.
The last two issues have had articles on former Chief Secretary Anson Chan and the current one, Rafael Hui. At this rate, I assumed, they would soon be publishing the profound thoughts of David Akers-Jones. But I was doing them an injustice. David Tang – purveyor of dayglo cheongsams to the gentry – sticks a solid silver Shanghai Tang knife into the groveling, pro-British tycoons who metamorphosed in 1997 into shoeshining, patriotic Chinese, when their only loyalty is to the protection of their wealth-sucking monopolies. And one Mark Jones discusses Donald Tsang’s sudden conversion to the idea of a competition law to reduce the burden of these cartels on the honest, wealth-creating and disenfranchised middle class and small/medium enterprises. I’m not sure if I really need a Christine Loh-Chris Patten interview at this time of the morning, however.