Hemlock's Diary
The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
13-19 March 2005

Sun, 13 Mar
Is it a vulgar and cynical marketing ploy – a tawdry bit of money-grubbing opportunism?  Or is it an imaginative, witty and stylish gesture to mark a historic event?  Whichever it is, the decision by Durex to celebrate the departure of Tung Chee-hwa by rushing lychee-flavoured condoms onto the market is bound to make money.  Spotting these inspired souvenirs of our politically charged times in 7-Eleven today, I decide to enter into the entrepreneurial spirit and buy the store’s entire stock of 100 cartons.  They will be worth millions one day – either for their curiosity value to future generations, or simply as a hedge against the day Sir Acting Chief Executive Donald Tsang does his duty as a Catholic and bans contraception.  Do they really impart the zesty aroma of
Litchi chinensis?  I will leave it to a lucky female visitor to Perpetual Opulence Mansions to find out when I invite her to discover the delights of the real Big Lychee.

RIP DAVE Allen (1936-2005). 
A little black guy moves to Belfast, and after a week or so he wants to pray.  So he goes out, walks the streets, and he finds a church.  And he goes in, kneels down.  And he’s about to start praying when the Reverend Ian Paisley comes out from the back.  And Paisley goes – “What are ye doing in my church you horrible little man – get out of here right now.”  And the black fellow runs out.  A week later he really feels he should pray, so he goes back and sneaks into the church again.  He’s about to start praying when Paisley comes out again.  Same thing happens.  “What are ye doing here again?  I thought I told ye… Be off with ye this minute!”  So off he goes.  Another week passes, and he really thinks he has to say his prayers, so he goes out, and this time he finds a different church.  He goes in and kneels down.

“Dear God,” he says.  “I’m really sorry I haven’t prayed to you for so long.  But the thing is, I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to get into the Reverend Ian Paisley’s church.”  And a bright light shines in through the window.  And a deep heavenly voice booms out – “Two weeks?  I’ve been trying to get in there for decades!”
Mon, 14 May
“You won’t have Tung Chee-hwa to kick around anymore,” I remind myself as I sit at my desk on the 20th floor of S-Meg Tower and give my fertile and frenetic mind its weekly pointless exercise – compare and contrast our former Chief Executive with Richard Nixon.

- Crook

- Intelligent, cunning, unloveable, paranoid
- Extremely sensitive to press criticism
- From humble origins, resented the ‘elite’
- Got a big kick out of visiting China and hobnobbing with communist leaders
- No respect for democratic process
- Thought that ‘When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal’
- Pardoned by successor to heal wounds

- Not a crook (rumoured, run-of-the-mill business-related murkiness aside)
- Obtuse, indecisive, likeable, guileless
- Totally insensible to press criticism
- Born into ‘elite’, respected Confucian order
- Got a big kick out of visiting China and hobnobbing with communist leaders
- No understanding of democratic process
- Thought that ‘When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal’
- Pardoned by successor to heal wounds
When David Frost asked him about the firing of Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Nixon quoted Gladstone – “…the first requirement for a Prime Minister is to be a good butcher .”    Step forward Donald Tsang…
Tue, 15 Mar
From her 1950s schoolgirl’s hairstyle, through her lace-collared blouse and calf-length skirt, right down to her sensible shoes, Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung is everyone’s favourite kindly, patriotic aunt.  She is the last person I would expect to see twisted and splayed across the office floor next to her rosewood desk, with her right leg behind her ear, and her left arm under the other foot.  Such contortions would be impressive if they weren’t so undignified.  How, she is being asked, can the Government say the next Chief Executive will serve a
two-year term when just months ago it was adamant that the Basic Law stipulated five years? 

“At that time,”
she explains breathlessly, “we applied the common law rules of statutory interpretation and considered that, generally, clear and unambiguous provisions should be interpreted according to their literal meaning.”  She grunts slightly as she bends her back up from the Ningxia carpet.  “After thorough study and deliberation,” she continues, wincing slightly, “the Government has adjusted its understanding of the provisions of the Basic Law on the term of the Chief Executive.”  She gasps under the strain as she wedges an elbow behind her knee.  “We agree that the term of a CE returned in a by-election is not five years but is the remainder of the term of the outgoing CE.”  Exhausted, she collapses in a blue-stockinged heap, a slight hint of sweat mingling with the scent of Kwong Sang Hong florida water.  

So in theory, according to this Basic Law that makes no reference to by-elections, if a Chief Executive stands down at the right time, someone could end up being elected to a one-day term.  Inspired by poor Elsie’s gymnastic feats, the citizens of Hong Kong will surely grapple with, and maybe conquer, their incredulity.  Only the most churlish of brutes could treat the old girl otherwise.
Wed, 16 Mar
Hong Kong lies still, wondering what will unfold this afternoon when Financial Secretary Henry Tang hides his bitter disappointment and humiliation at being passed over in favour of Sir Bowtie for the top job and reads out his budget speech.  I place my fingers to my temples and peer into the crystal ball on my desk.  I see the future.

He will start off by reminding us of the horrors and misery to which fate has cruelly subjected the Big Lychee since the late 1990s, neglecting to consider the fact that the economy has grown by well over 20 percent in real terms.  He will talk about economic restructuring, even though we did that back in the 1980s.  He will blame it for unemployment, even though job creation is at an all-time high, and the rise in the number of unemployed correlates neatly to the numbers of unskilled peasants arriving from the Mainland.  He will then announce that a recovery is beginning, even though we are finishing our seventh straight quarter of growth.  Oblivious to its cyclical nature, he will attribute this to the generosity of the motherland in opening up obscure markets through CEPA and letting us be swamped by hordes of unshaven, nylon-clad Mainland tourists. 

Turning to the Government’s plans for 2005-06, he will announce that he is valiantly bringing the budget deficit under control.  On the revenue side, he will continue to bleed Hemlock and the city’s 16 other taxpayers dry without mercy.  On the expenditure side, he will dedicate more resources to those dependent on public welfare – namely our bloated civil service and the infrastructure fetishists of the construction and engineering industry.  If there is anything left over, it will be handed out to the lower orders in their rancid public housing estates to gamble on horses.  Quoting a Cantopop lyric, he will raise the possibility of a consumption tax, on the assumption – Madam President – that such an oppressive levy will provoke famine, riot and a popular uprising that leaves Chief Executive Sir Bowtie dangling from a meat hook.

A PHONE call from delectable Administrative Officer Winky Ip, or
WINKY_IP/CEO/HKSARG@cannot-reply.gcn.gov.hk to her colleagues.  “I’ve just been asked to head up a really, really important special emergency project!” she tells me excitedly.  I say nothing.  “Top secret – very sensitive!” she adds.  I stay silent.  Seconds pass.  I stay silent some more.  “Well?” she asks.  “Don’t you want to know what it is?”  I yawn loudly.  I doubt it’s all that interesting.  “You do want to know – I know you do,” she tells me.  I decide to take a chance and ruin her morning.

“Let me guess,” I reply.  I think for a moment.  “You’re going to try and soften up public opinion – scare us about a constitutional crisis – so there’s popular support for an ‘interpretation’ of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, so the Hong Kong courts can’t address the two-year term issue.”  Stunned silence.  She demands to know how I found out.  Bingo!  “I’m really sorry, Winky,” I tell her in my best tone of profound regret, “but I can’t tell you.  Top secret – very sensitive.”

Thurs, 17 Mar

A distant rumble echoes through the streets of Central this morning as waves of collective cretinism approach.  It is St Patrick’s Day, when unquestioning, lemming-brained non-Hibernians see fit to drink green beer in a contrived commemoration of a distant, drab and backward island of self-pitying Anglophobes and lost literary genius.  Then, starting tomorrow, Hong Kong celebrates Gwailo-Free Weekend, when every Westerner in town – save for a tiny elite – is confined to a stadium to watch mentally deficient antipodeans run up and down a field in the ever-tiresome Rugby Sevens.  I console myself with the thought that observing this event has led scientists to make two valuable discoveries.  First, as with many other spectator sports, the male audiences are entirely composed of repressed homosexuals, who use the game as an excuse to admire the muscular male form they subconsciously lust after.  Second, after drinking a gallon or two of beer, if people repeat “the atmosphere’s brilliant isn’t it?” enough times, they actually believe it.
SITTING AT my desk in S-Meg Tower, I open up the magic envelope and find… Yes!  My budget predictions are spot on.  From the inane economic ramblings, to the continued leeching off our downtrodden middle class, to the free lunches for infrastructure merchants and the plot to hoist Donald Tsang by a sales tax.  However, my crystal ball obviously needs a polish.  I missed the scrapping of estate duty.  This is a welcome and long overdue proposal, as thousands of lawyers and accountants who make their fortunes devising complex trusts in Caribbean tax havens will lose their jobs and starve on the streets, first stumbling, then sinking into the putrefaction of the gutters from which they once emerged.  Slimy idiot savant James Tien, boss of the Liberal Party, welcomes the measure because it will ‘attract capital’ – indeed ‘hot money’ – to Hong Kong.  How this will help our economy, which is awash with capital, he doesn’t say.  It is clear that he imagines property speculation to be ‘investment’.  To say this ridiculous man has the depth and economic literacy of a gecko is an insult to reptiles.
Fri, 18 Mar
Have I made a mistake in turning down an invitation to join the new
People’s Party?  They wanted a white face – preferably exceedingly handsome – to bolster their image as a modern, cosmopolitan and inclusive political group, and maybe ‘attract babes’, as they put it.  Lo Chung-hing, a GM at state-owned Bank of China (HK) and former deputy boss of the Airport Authority.   Shirley Cheung, boss of a chain of cosmetics stores and former actress.  Peter Lok, a standard-issue, bumptious, former civil servant.  Maybe they should call it the Former People’s Party.  A mildly pitiful-looking bunch of wannabes and has-beens.  Vaguely Beijing-friendly, but not given to the tycoons’ unseemly shoe-shining or the patriots’ pathological kowtowing.  The acceptable face of the moderate core of sensible centrism.  Not enough inherited wealth to be in the absurd Liberal Party.  Far too comfortable and educated to mix with the greasy haired urban peasants of the DAB.  Not stupid enough to join the social outcasts and lost cause zealots of the Democratic Party. 

Oh dear – the
South China Morning Post reports that they have attempted to produce a ‘policy’.  I try to avert my eyes but I am too late, and it leaps off the page at me.
“The party said it supported setting up an economic zone on the outskirts of Hong Kong with preferential tax, immigration and planning policies to attract investors from overseas and the mainland.”
Why not make the whole city into such a zone?  Indeed, isn’t it virtually one already?  Ever since 1842.  No – they are just another little band of self-important attention-seekers, desperate to be taken seriously by people who pretend to be significant.  They might make a good fan club for Sir Bowtie.

AFTER DECIDING that this weekend will officially commence at 1.30pm, I count down the minutes by browsing my favourite newspapers. 
Smooth operator takes helm in Hong Kong.  Who needs hallucinogenic drugs when there’s China Daily?
“Donald Tsang, acting chief executive of HKSAR, laid out his goals as Hong Kong's new leader in the language of a practiced statesman, in which no problem seems beyond solution if the right committee is formed. ”
Indeed.  A classic colonial civil service success story – take a barefoot kid off the streets and mould him into the ultimate Nietzschean ubermensch, exerting his will to power, growing inexorably in strength and conquering opposing forces by forming the right committee.
“…He sought to reassure the world that Hong Kong was still on the path to rule by law and greater democracy despite the sudden departure of his predecessor Tung Chee-hwa… ”
An excellent start to the weekend!  I find I am not alone in having this problem of trying to type the letters ‘o’ and ‘f’ and accidentally hitting ‘b’ and ‘y’.  It especially happens on Lenovo keyboards.