Hemlock's Diary
The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
24-30 July 2005

Sun, 24 Jul
The easily amused, the less-than-original and the plain bored have long enjoyed lists entitled ‘Ten ways to tell you’ve been in Hong Kong too long’.  Now it’s time for ‘Ten ways to tell you will die here’.  This occurs to me as I watch wild American friend Odell in his apartment unpacking large boxes sent from Utah, containing all the books, records and other possessions of his junior, teenage and college years.  His parents are moving to a smaller place, and this museum of Mormon childhood has to vacate the basement.  It is the ultimate break.  The objects are leaving home – and they are coming home.  “Oh wow!” he exclaims every time he recognizes some dusty artefact. “I remember this!”  And out comes another relic from those simpler times, before the 24-hour lesbian wheelchair wrestling satellite channel was just a click away on the remote control.  The record collection is especially intriguing.  An organist with no hands.  The Braillettes – three blind girls.  Patriotic songs by dwarfs and reformed drug addicts.  And I thought I was abused as a kid by being given
Sparky’s Magic Piano.
Mon, 25 Jul
The working week begins with a leisurely – or is it just fatalistic? – perusal of the world’s news.  The Brazilian Government has strongly protested to the UK about the shooting of one of its citizens wrongly thought to be a suicide bomber, as if it were a deliberate assault on the proud, coffee-producing, soccer-playing nation.  Perhaps the Rio de Janeiro police could give their London counterparts some advice on
sensitive law enforcement.
The Nancy Kissel murder trial enters its eighth week, with the defence piling on the evidence that the accused’s husband Robert viewed pornographic websites featuring black gays and Taiwanese actresses (studiously ignoring one another, presumably – or at least sitting around looking embarrassed and trying to make awkward small talk in mutually unintelligible dialects).  Since his client is pleading not guilty, I would have thought the deceased’s web-surfing habits were irrelevant – she is innocent regardless of what he looked at on the Internet.  Or maybe the defence team is about to drop a bombshell on the court.  After Robert Kissel failed to pay the subscription fee for his favourite website, a squad of leather-clad, ebony beefcake and petite but loud Chinese women in frilly panties kicked his apartment door down, bludgeoned him to death and bundled him up in a carpet.  This is one of the advantages of having a defence team that is paid by the hour – they won’t cut corners while building up to the Big Revelation that gets their client off. 

It would make a wonderful plot for a heart-warming animated film for children.  Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Bambi and our other favourite characters get together to round up flea-ridden, disease-spreading beasts roaming wild at their new home in the Big Lychee, and dispatch them with strawberry milkshakes, or five shots to the head with a Glock 9mm.  Our heroes triumph, thwarting an evil anthropomorphic Western woman who plans to use the canines in research on owners growing to look like their pets.  There might have been times when my comments in this diary have appeared not totally supportive, even doubtful, of the Disneyland project as a use of Hong Kong taxpayers’ money.   Some would argue that HK$500 million per culled canine is a bit steep, but I call it public funds well-spent.
Tue, 26 Jul
Ever eager to encourage harmony and unity in Hong Kong, the Central People’s Government resorts to
humour.  Chen Zuo-er, Deputy Director of the Department for Monitoring Formerly Barbarian-Run Territories, regales us with one of the funniest jokes we have heard for a long time.  “Have you heard the one about certain members of the pro-democracy camp?” he asks.  “They’re subversive and threaten national security!”  I can’t help laughing, and it’s not just the way he tells them.  The idea of someone as politically inept as Saint Martin Lee subverting his way out of a wet paper bag brings tears of mirth rolling down the cheeks.  Here comes another.  “Why won’t we let Long Hair visit the Mainland?”  Why?  “Because he’s a communist!” 

FURTHER NORTH, our dashing Chief Executive emerges as the star of the exciting Second Pan Pearl River Delta Regional Cooperation and Development Forum in Sichuan Province, fearlessly posing pointed questions and spelling out
plain truths

“Why,” he asks the gathering of southern leaders, “are we meeting in Sichuan, which borders Tibet, and has nothing to with the Pearl River Delta?  Who invited the governor of Yunnan, an impoverished province of drug addicts and smugglers adjoining Burma?  Let’s be honest,” he implores them, “the Pearl River Delta is basically Greater Hong Kong.  Half a dozen cities and counties clustered around Asia’s leading international money-grubbing hub, each catering to our needs and whims in its own way.  Macau, for money laundering, whoring and African chicken.  Shenzhen for clerical work and foot massages.  Dongguan for factories churning out an entire planet’s supply of Christmas decorations, American flags and designer label nail clippers.  These provinces we’ve never heard of before…” he pauses to look at his notes.  “Guizhou – is that how you pronounce it? – I mean, you’re a bunch of losers.  You’ve nothing to do with us!  Your nimble-fingered peasant girls come and work in our factories in Foshan, or whatever.  That’s your role – end of story.  You get up on this stage and blather on about ‘co-operation’, ‘partnership’, ‘integration’ – I know exactly what you’re after.  You’re after our money.  And you’re not getting it.”  And with a contemptuous shrug, he leaves the podium, leaving the conference hall in stunned silence.
Wed, 27 Jul
Hallucinogenic drug use appears to be reaching new heights in Hong Kong’s bloated public sector with the bizarre announcement that the waste-of-space HK Productivity Council is to
manufacture cars in the Big Lychee in conjunction with the Mainland’s Geely Automobile, whose main claim to fame is producing models with quasi-Mercedes radiator grilles and built-in karaoke players.  Do I detect Tung Chee-hwa’s fingerprints all over this deranged idea?  I can picture the scene – odious parasite in a sharp suit sitting in the Chief Executive’s office, swinging a watch on a chain before the crop-haired one’s puffy, clueless eyes.  “Mr Tung, you are feeling sleepy.  Out of the kindness of our hearts and in a spirit of partnership-cooperation-integration, we can make Hong Kong into a car manufacturing hub, and create jobs.  All you have to do is grant us a few billion dollars worth of public land.  Hub.  Jobs.  Hub.  Jobs…”  According to its official history, in 1997 ‘Geely set its foot in Automobile Industry’. What has the Productivity Council set its foot in?
Thurs, 28 Jul
After a brief, early-morning flick through the headlines, I step into the elevator at Perpetual Opulence Mansions with an inexplicable and intense hankering for bacon and pork sausages.   Brian the British stock analyst joins me on the 12th floor.  His puce tie hangs undone around his unshaven neck, in the style favoured by the financial sector’s mangier breed of pack animal on sweaty days when they are running late and have barely enough time to get to Starbucks.  He is extremely busy, he says, but he could murder a plate of chipolatas for breakfast – maybe with some ham on the side.  Thus we start the day at the Foreign Correspondents Club, gorging ourselves on swine flesh. 
I ask him where he thinks the market is heading, and he adopts a very serious look.  “Oh, we see the Hang Seng Index reaching 17,000 by end-year,” he tells me, nodding.  “We’ve absolutely no doubt.  Get in now.”  This confirms what I have been thinking for a while.  It is time to start taking some profit.  Not a lot – maybe trimming 10 to 20 percent off holdings in companies that have doubled in value since SARS, or trebled since 9-11.  When people like Brian say ‘buy’, start locking in some gains and building up a bit of cash.  Who knows – maybe even a Big One is on the way.  Sudden fears that the rosy economic outlook is actually a bubble created by Alan Greenspan.  Another 1987 crash that creeps up from behind out of nowhere.  Or… a deadly mutant virus, carried by livestock, covered up by Mainland officials, suddenly spewing over the border.

Fri, 29 Jul
Breakfast, for the second day running, in the Foreign Correspondents Club.  I notice that
The Hong Kong Standard is finally acquiring the art of writing sales-boosting headlines.  ‘Hong Kong to become philanderers’ paradise with five nubile babes chasing every guy’.  But that’s the way it has been for years.  So what, exactly, is the Big Lychee really going to become?  And will its male population live to tell the tale – or will we be ravaged into exhaustion and extinction attempting to satisfy thousands of desperate females’ animal urges?  Reading between the lines of the article, I foresee a less exciting future.  On average, the additional surplus women will be 85-year-old, calcium-deficient Mandarin-speakers.  Plus a few more Southeast Asian domestic helpers, with their scintillating conversational talent.  And then – ever to be left on the shelf – the occasional buxom Administrative Officer…

Winky Ip sits herself down opposite me and apologizes for being late.  After ordering our congee, I find myself getting a sharp rap on the knuckles with a chopstick for saying rude things about the Olympic Games equestrian events.  “It’s nothing to do with Tung Chee-hwa,” Winky says.  “You don’t know the full story.”  She fills me in.  “The fact is, Beijing seriously wanted the horse-jumping held up there,” she explains.  “They went to enormous lengths to sort out quarantine problems.  They argued like crazy.  But the Olympic people were adamant – no horses could go to Beijing.  Or anywhere on the Mainland.  So it had to be Hong Kong, or somewhere outside China.”  She sips her tea.  “So – big humiliation.  But Hong Kong comes to the rescue.  We agreed to put on this huge act, begging to be allowed to host the event as a massive favour, a wonderful economic boost, a great privilege, blah, blah.  Then, to save face, Beijing generously ‘consents’ to us having it.  So then we jump up and down with extreme delight.”  Speak for yourself.  Our Government went into embarrassing paroxysms of orgasmic joy.  The rest of us just stood and watched, trying to work out what the fuss was about.  So now we know.

This less-than-fascinating tale is interrupted by the deafening crash of breaking crockery.  A middle-aged barrister several tables away keels over onto the floor.  His arms and legs convulse, his eyes bulge and his face starts to turn black.  Green froth oozes out of his mouth, as club staff try to assist him.  After a few minutes, he is lying still.  The manager arrives and consults his people.  As the security guard pulls the unfortunate lawyer away by the legs, waitresses dash round, hurriedly whipping plates away from under members’ noses.  A minion runs off toward the kitchens raising the alarm – “
Pork is off the menu with immediate effect!