The morning starts with my first visit to the new Government Headquarters at Tamar. I have been looking forward to seeing Rocco Yim’s newly opened HK$5.5 billion complex and its amusing-sounding teething problems. The two towers joined by a crossbar at the top bring to mind the image of a pair of deformed legs, perhaps dangling from a tree branch after a lynching. I’m sorry – I’ll rephrase that: the two towers joined by a crossbar at the top bring to mind a doorway, representing the openness and accessibility of the Big Lychee’s government. That’s it.
The security system is dedicated to countering the threat of news reporters sneaking in to show how pitifully inept the security system is. After a minute or so, I am admitted in good time for my 9am appointment with ever-enchanting Administrative Officer Winky Ip on the 10th floor, where I intend to investigate the inhabitants’ morale.
Apparently, the civil servants who have been transferred here from the old CGO on Lower Albert Road are deeply unhappy. Some of the mid-ranking ones no longer have parking spaces for their black, seven-seat, luxury ‘Alp Hard’ mega-vans. No longer can Mr Important Official clog up the streets while looking immensely smug inside his cavernous lounge-on-wheels. It has shattered their self-esteem. Meanwhile, some smaller departments now have to share facilities. Mighty section bosses who used to be able to display their power and influence by commandeering a meeting room at the snap of a finger must now wait until it suits some cunning, empire-building fool from a rival department hungry for other people’s budgets. The loss of face before underlings is intense. In short, I have been drawn here by the bureaucrats’ misery. It gives me a warm, inner glow – a conviction that there is, after all, both a God and a Santa Claus. I have even brought some presents: plastic bags of charcoal briquettes, with the suicide-prevention phone numbers erased.
But disaster strikes. As it rises between the sixth and seventh floors, the elevator makes a strange screeching noise, shudders, and grinds to a halt, swaying slightly as if in a breeze. All is silent. An acne-racked Deputy Principal Information Officer (Sichuan) from the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau stands frozen in the corner, his mouth agape. A metallic voice from downstairs comes on the intercom to curtly announce that help is coming, then disappears with a click.
I am stuck, with nothing but a copy of today’s Standard for approximately intelligent company.
The front page tells the distinctly news-free story of a woman who will donate part of her liver to save her baby, the operation to be performed by a Queen Mary Hospital surgeon called Chan…
Chan said the baby has an 80 percent chance of survival. But if he gets through the initial period and takes his medication regularly there will be no impact on his growth and intelligence.
I must say, I am somewhat concerned about whether an eight-month-old can be trusted to take medication regularly, especially straight after major surgery. But I am especially intrigued by the doctor’s last comment, at least as reported by the Sing Tao people. By ‘…no impact on his intelligence’ I take it that the little mite will get into the right kindergarten, thence to the right primary and secondary schools, and so on to a suitable university, followed by a career as a high-flying accountant or lawyer. It is a huge relief and very moving, even though the family are strangers.
Over on page 5, TVB is whining about the fact that Mainland censors have banned highly intellectual drama series When Heaven Burns from Chinese television screens. This is a country where people who write essays complaining about persecution by corrupt officials are imprisoned for a dozen years for subverting state power, and you complain because your soap opera (apparently conceived with the 1989 Beijing massacre in mind and featuring, as you would expect from the city that brought the world Womb Ghosts, cannibalism) has been pulled mid-season by communist control freaks? The sense of entitlement among Hong Kong’s tycoon-owned semi-monopolies is a wonder. Screw the dictators of 1.3 billion desperately trying to keep their regime from crumbling – where are our advertising revenues?
Page 6, and with a Year of the Dragon approaching, young couples eager to rear budding accountants and lawyers who play piano and own big apartments are preparing to have babies. More words of wisdom from our healthcare professionals…
“Couples seeking medical advice for pregnancy have increased by 20 percent these past few months,” obstetrics and gynecology specialist Anita Chai Hei-lam said. “However, I strongly recommend that couples think twice before planning to have a child as being parents is a lifelong responsibility.”
How true. They seem so cute and cuddly when you look at them in a shop window, don’t they, with those cheeky grins, pleading eyes and wagging tails, but when you get them home…
Hang on – what was that I saw back on page 3? A familiar looking building, and the headline ‘Ancient civil servant succumbs to deadly Tamar pestilence’. Legionnaire’s disease, right here in this very building, in which I am trapped in this lift.
Taking a close lose look at the small ventilation duct, I notice a strange mutant greenish-slime colour. I remove the Deputy Principal Information Officer (Sichuan)’s spectacles and take a closer look. And there they are. Millions and millions of nasty microbes, wriggling about and multiplying.
I try pressing the emergency buzzer, but the people at the other end have gone to apply for their kids’ overseas education allowance or something. I could stuff the air vent with the Standard. But that would be a waste. I move the Deputy Principal Information Officer (Sichuan) over to that side of the elevator, and place his hand flat over the grille. Now all I can do is record these events for posterity on my laptop, and wonder… will I be rescued by this time tomorrow?