I’m not sure who we are supposed to complain to: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange or the US Foreign Service? Either way, I am thinking of asking for my money back. The quality of dirt and tittle-tattle in the latest batches of filched American embassies’ diplomatic cables is, if my recent random sifting is anything to go by, disappointing. ‘France and Brazil: the Start of a Love Affair’ anyone? I think I’ll just wait for the movie to come out.
For scandal, however, we need look no further than the French mission right here in Hong Kong. Eyebrows were raised last week when Consul-General Marc Fonbaustier a été brutalement suspendu et rappellé à Paris. Dragged off in chains back to the Quai d’Orsay for committing an unspecified misdemeanour.
What, tout le monde wondered, had he done? The French authorities muttered something about how he had perhaps ‘failed to meet the requirements of professional conduct for one of their diplomats’. Meaning what? Had he failed in an attempt to blow up a Greenpeace boat? Not offered a big enough bribe to some despot to win an order for lethal military hardware? Or could it be something embarrassingly lame, like pushing a visa application through for his slinky Mainland mistress’s niece? Or – and I shudder at the idea – had he succumbed to the peculiar Hong Kong barristers’ vice of stealing women’s underwear?
It now transpires that he stole a couple of bottles of wine. If it was some Chilean chardonnay from Park N Shop, that would be hideous and worthy of whatever the French do for harakiri. But of course it wasn’t: he helped himself to some 5,000-Euro Burgundy well beyond the means of a Consul-General, which sort of makes it alright (though of course we know it doesn’t really), and it was at the Hong Kong Country Club, which in a hard-to-define, je-ne-sais-quoi, roundabout way almost makes him and his deed all the more sympa, non?
Still, maybe Fonbaustier remains in the Big Lychee in spirit – or more precisely on a video available in the on-line archives of The Asia Tatler, in which he regales us with news of Le French May in that pseudo-Gallic accent people from that part of the world have thought it amusing to use ever since it was popularized by Peter Sellers in the Inspector Clouseau movies. (The reporter, by the way, is one Meimei Song – a name so ridiculously Tatler-esque that I have to suspect it is as contrived as the now-disgraced diplomat’s vowels.)
But let us not remember the oeno-klepto Fonbaustier as a man without a conscience. Getting his flu jab during his time here, he was quoted as saying: “Je considère que c’est un manque de civisme de ne pas se faire vacciner” – I consider it a lack of public-spiritedness not to be vaccinated. Who cares about a few crumbs from snooty clubs’ wine cellars when he so clearly put the community’s health first (and wasn’t indulging in endless gossiping like the backstabbing, nattering old women up in the US bunker on Garden Road)? I say put up a statue to him.