Hemlock's Diary
The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
20-26 February 2005

Sun, 20 Feb
The AEIOU stalks the world again.  I have never met him in person, but I feel I know him well.  I recall my first encounter with the Academic (Expat (Insane (Outraged (Unhinged)))) in the late 1980s.  A head of department at Chinese University showed me a file of 40 faxes received in a five-day period from a Canadian teacher he had turned down for a job.  Each individually typed vitriolic fax heaped invective, obscenities and curses on the faculty and the institution for not appreciating the crazed writer’s pedagogical talent.   The next time I came across AEIOU was when a journalist showed me a 12-page letter sent to every senior Government official and newspaper editor in town from a British lecturer at a local college.  The ranting teacher insisted that the Inland Revenue Department was engaged in a sinister, personal vendetta against him by asking him to pay his salaries tax. 

My third glimpse of AEIOU was when an assistant to a member of the Legislative Council asked me to look at a professionally bound collection of emails, memos and diatribes that a lecturer at a vocational college had sent to every legislator.  This Westerner had been fired for being an insufferable and disruptive paranoid, obsessively disputing everything and everyone.  His 100-page mailing – words
LIBERALLY gilded WITH coloured highlighter to reflect a multi-layered hierarchy of mouth-frothing anger – was conclusive evidence that he was a nut.  Then there was Hugh Tyrwhitt-Drake, who wrote and published an entire book, Web of Deceit, about his inability to get on with anyone at Hong Kong University.  As I wrote in mid-2003, “a believer in speaking in tongues, he describes his persecution by colleagues in such mind-numbingly minute detail that you wonder they didn’t lynch him.”

And now I discover what must be the classic of the AEIOU genre – Uriel Wittenberg’s
Inside China's Diplomacy School.  English teacher at college in Beijing upsets everyone and knows it’s their fault – and insists you know it too, writing over 120,000 words all about it.  Who needs Cervantes or Dostoevsky?  No-one can portray madness as disturbingly as the AEIOU.
Mon, 21 Feb
The Filipino elves arrive while I am still in the shower, eager to transform my corner of Perpetual Opulence mansions from mild post-weekend disarray to sparkling wholesome order.  After I dress and emerge, I see they have brought two mysterious companions with them.  One is the Virgin Mary who glows in the dark and whose eyes flash when she is plugged in.  She has been here before.  The other is a mutant, silken-haired, alien life form, some eight inches tall, from the planet Zarg.  It sits in the kitchen, eyeing me malevolently while I eat my banana and yoghurt and check my email.  I am bombarded with complaints from expat academics past and present, incensed at my callous treatment of their fallen comrades.  Apparently, the insanity they exhibit in their writings is a
result of their torment at the hands of bosses and colleagues, not the cause.  This puts a new slant on this Uriel character’s 93-chapter output.  Had he written two more, he would have matched Martin Luther – whose revolt against authority was considered the act of a madman, and whose persecution by the evil Catholics led to excommunication.  And how did Luther publish his 95 theses?  By nailing them to the door in the church in… Wittenberg.  Cosmic or what?  Turning to the newspaper, I read that George W Bush admitted using marijuana in conversations taped by a man called Wead.  Or did he admit to using weed in conversations taped by a man called Marijuana?  It is too early in the morning.
RIP DR Hunter S Thompson (1937-2005).  Self-inflicted gunshot to the head – his .44 magnum perhaps?  My favourite books of his were the Rum Diary, Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72.  He is now ripe for a revisionist debunking by some self-important, humourless lickspittle, as he would put it.  And here it comes! That was quick.  He would have been flattered. “He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.”

HST in
Rolling Stone, 1992
Tue, 22 Feb
Sitting in my favourite corner of the Foreign Correspondents Club, I spoon peanuts into my congee as virginal Administrative Officer Winky Ip explains Hong Kong’s demographic problems.  By 2030, she tells me, 25 percent of the population will be over 65, compared with 12 percent today.  The average woman in Hong Kong has 0.9 children, compared with the 2.1 needed to maintain a population level.  Hence our Chief Secretary’s suggestion that we start
breeding like fruit flies, lest Homo lychiens becomes extinct.

“Donald Tsang is mentally diseased,” I inform the buxom civil servant.  “The average family in Hong Kong lives in a 400 square foot apartment.  Where the hell are they supposed to put three kids?”  She puts down her chopsticks and looks away, lost in thought.  Stupid lateral-thinking gwailo decimates visionary Government policy for breakfast.  She was born in a 200 square foot public housing unit, she starts.  “Yes, yes,” I interrupt.  “Eight to a room, shared toilets and kitchen, school on the roof, everyone assembling plastic flowers all night, scholarship to Hong Kong U – the great Fragrant Harbour success story.  Well done.  Heard it before.”  She nods.  “It’s OK for us,” I go on.  “We’re single and get lost in our 1,000 square foot Mid-Levels flats.  Mr and Mrs average middle class have less than half that space for themselves, her shoes, his DVDs, a five-year-old who needs somewhere to do his homework.  Where do two more brats go?  In the cupboard under the kitchen sink?  No!  There’s an Indonesian girl who sleeps there.” 

Winky sighs and picks up the newspaper.  “At least
San San is having a baby,” she says.  I look at my peanuts floating in the porridge as the awful, revolting truth dawns on me.  Someone had sex with San San.  I push the bowl aside.

Wed, 23 Feb
I am not alone in the elevator in Perpetual Opulence Mansions this morning, so I stare at the ceiling.  The building management should follow the example of the Foreign Correspondents Club, which posts the front page of the
Asian Wall Street Journal above the urinals in the men’s room, so people have something to read while studiously ignoring others.  Descending to the ground floor with me today are the trendy Mainland couple from the 25th floor, muttering to each other in their curious northern dialect.  “Urrrrrrr Zhrrrrrrrr Hwoooaaa Dzrrrrr Ghrrrrrr.”  On the 12th floor, a gwailo gets in.  Late 20s – a fresh, dynamic, ambitious investment banker, judging by the puce tie.  Probably just moved to Hong Kong.  Doesn’t understand the local etiquette. Please God, don’t let him talk to me.  But the Almighty has just wiped out hundreds of people in an Iranian earthquake.  He won’t spare me.

“Morning!” announces the stranger with an grin.  The idiots from Beijing smile and say ‘morning’ back, so I have to make eye contact.  “You live here I take it?” he asks me.  What can I say?  Well, no actually – I’m a gigolo, and I’ve just spent the night here servicing an extremely wealthy 72-year-old Mongolian widow for 10,000 dollars. 

As we leave the building, I show him the place where I once nailed a Jehovah’s Witness by the ear to a wooden bench.  “Alternatively,” I advise him, “you can strip them naked, tie them up and leave them for the red fire ants.”  He thanks me for the tip and flags down a taxi.  As he closes the door he cheerfully shouts something about how it’s good to see another white man.  No.  It’s not.
Thurs, 24 Feb
To my delight, I bump into Chief Secretary Donald Tsang during my early morning stroll along Lower Albert Road.  He is excited about his bold and farsighted plan to force us all to have three children.  I mention the problem about small apartments.  I point out to him that tax incentives to breed are pointless when only 17 of us actually pay tax.  I remind him that people have only one child so they can afford to keep their offspring out of Hong Kong’s wondrous public education system.  He waves my objections aside.  “Nitpicking over details,” he assures me.  He has a gleam in his eyes.  “When I rule Hong Kong, the mother will be the most important citizen.  We want
Gebärmaschinen to make a biological vote of confidence in the SAR.”  He shows me a copy of Eugenics For Dummies.  “We can create a new Hong Kong man!” he declares.  “A genetically hygienic specimen of unprecedented intelligence, strength and business acumen.” 

The first step, he explains, will be to make marriage compulsory.  I mention Singapore’s SDU – the
Social Development Unit affectionately referred to as ‘Single Desperate and Ugly’, which dedicates itself to pairing university graduates off and encouraging them to have lots of obedient, Confucian, high-IQ, non-Malay babies.  Donald shrugs.  “You know what their quota is?” he asks me.  “Just 5,000 registered marriages a year.  Pathetic.  We’ll have that many every weekend in mass ceremonies in Queen Elizabeth Stadium.  And then, babies!”  He grins broadly.  “We will ban condoms and the pill.  The use of contraceptives is a violation of nature, a degradation of Cantonese womanhood, motherhood, and national destiny.”  I look at my watch and make an excuse.  As I hurry away, he calls after me, “My message to Hong Kong men for the Year of the Cock… Keep It Up!”
Fri, 25 Feb
Steven Vines joins the Donald Tsang population policy debate, warning us of “…burgeoning political megalomania… Nazis in Germany… increasing the size of the Aryan race…” and so on.  Finding this an increasingly crowded bandwagon, I telephone the delectable Winky Ip in her lair at Central Government Office and ask her what bow-tie man is really up to, scaring the citizenry by announcing such a sinister policy initiative out of the blue.  She has been asking the same question, she tells me.  The answer is so mundane, it’s embarrassing.

“On Sunday,” Winky explains wearily, “Executive Council member Bernard Chan gave
a talk on RTHK3.  He mentioned that the population is ageing, and we’ll have a shortage of young people.  He mentioned a decline last year in the number of Mainland immigrants.”  I stifle a yawn and ask her to get on with it.  “Well, this fall in the number of one-way permits was public information, but for some reason no-one had noticed it.  The press got really excited.  Then Donald Tsang was asked about it in an interview.  He didn’t know much about it, so he made his comment about three kids – trying to be funny.  Then the press went back to Chan, and to the Financial Secretary and the Health Secretary, asking about tax breaks for having three kids, and so on.  They didn’t want to contradict Donald, so they treated it seriously.  Next thing, people think it’s a carefully coordinated, professionally planned policy announcement.”  All becomes clear.  It’s a mistake.  How else would this Government do something that looks carefully coordinated and professionally planned?  We can all breath easy.  Our sperm and ova remain ours to do with as we see fit.