Update from Hemlock

It is almost 24 hours to the minute since I became trapped in this elevator at the new Government Headquarters at Tamar. I had a quiet night spent dozing on the floor, sipping occasionally from my Hello Kitty water bottle and working out a way to keep my laptop battery from dying. At long last, I can hear footsteps and voices above my head – a rescue team coming to save me from this dangling tomb.

The access panel in the roof suddenly opens, and I find myself staring up a Dolce & Gabbana mottled grey skirt enveloping a very shapely pair of legs, with voluptuous thighs and dainty, lace-trimmed undergarments (pale blue). With a swirl of unlined wool, the limbs shift aside and an even more charming sight presents itself as radiant Administrative Officer Winky Ip peers into the lift.

“Sorry it’s taken so long,” she says. “All hell’s broken loose here with this Legionnaire’s Disease thing. People are wearing facemasks, washing door handles with rubbing alcohol, gargling with boiling bleach. Just like old times!”

Ah yes… SARS. Without which there would have been no Rolling Stones and Neil Young Harborfest concerts on this very site, and – very likely – no grandiose, two-legged Government Palace here today, either.

“The workmen will get you out soon,” the opulently clad bureaucrat tells me. “And, um… what have you done with Ricky of Constitutional and Mainland Affairs?” She points at the Deputy Principal Information Officer (Sichuan). With his left hand clamped over a grille to ward off deadly bacteria, a finger of his right hand jammed into a power outlet near the ceiling, and a toe taped to the plug of my charger, he does look rather odd. I assure Winky that he’s fine, and indeed admirably conductive. “Well I have to go and fill in my air-conditioning allowance claim form,” she says. “Oh, and I thought you might like this.” Today’s Standard drops through the hole. Starved of news from the outside, I hungrily devour it.

It is amazing how the world seems to change in just a day when you have been trapped in an isolated metallic cave suspended eight floors up. Yesterday, Hong Kong people denounced government infrastructure projects as worthless, environmentally damaging and designed primarily to channel public wealth into the pockets of the tycoons. Today, the Standard eagerly reports, they are marching in the streets chanting “Death to dolphin scum!”, “We want more aircraft flying in and out!” and “Give HK$136 billion of our money to the construction industry now!”

Another big turnaround concerns one of Hong Kong’s most cherished historic monuments. Just a week ago, we all assumed its days were numbered; after many decades of service, it was physically crumbling and considered beyond repair. Now, a thankful city learns, visionary, innovative, lateral-thinking Education Secretary Michael Suen is out of hospital and looking forward to serving the community for another 51 years.

The elevator jolts slightly and descends a few feet. To the sound of gently sizzling acne, Ricky the Deputy Principal Information Officer (Sichuan) slides to the floor. A crowbar is working the door, and through the widening crack I can see the corridor. An elderly man with white whiskers is doing cartwheels and shouting something about how everything is fine because all the correct procedures were followed. And as I prepare to regain my freedom, I see that some things never change. A time-honoured Hong Kong tradition, granted UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status along with Mongolian circular-breathing song and Iranian Lenj boats proudly continues: landing on passers-by

Click to hear ‘White Room’ by Cream!

 

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16 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Bytch Browser says:

    Following news through the Hong Kong Standard is like watching Fox News to find out about the Middle East. Pointless.

    Also, local girls in my experience always wear sub- standard underwear bought from the Chinese department stores. Filipinas may wear rags on top but the lingerie is always first-class. More verisimo please!

  2. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    A fine Hong Kong tradition that was exported a few years ago to one of the Chinese suburban enclaves of Sydney, Australia: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/sixfloor-fall-onto-woman/2005/09/23/1126982233628.html

  3. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Also, I thought the proper tiu lao ettiquette these days was to throw your daughter over the edge first so people knew you’d be coming: http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=30&art_id=94250&sid=26989751&con_type=3

    Hong Kong bureaucrats need to implement a public education campaign: “If you are going to tiu lao, be considerate”

  4. darovia says:

    Ha statistics. Who was surveyed? How many of them live in Tung Chung and don’t work at the airport? How many dolphins were included? How many flying grannies were harmed in conducting it?

    With 73% of 24,000 in favour, a total of 17,250 people must have admitted that they would like a shiny new runway. A whopping 0.27% of the population. A big thumbs up indeed – Up where? one asks.

  5. Stephen says:

    It was always a given that HK would build its 3rd runway. However considering that the “evil Civic Party” has failed in their campaign to stop the bridge to nowhere, alright, Macao and Zhuhai isn’t it reasonable to re-consider this given.

    Back in the ‘90’s when it was fashionable to have shiny new airports Macao and Zhuhai got one too. Problem is no one used them. Fast forward to today and HK / Southern China already has runways 3 and 4 and will have a swanky new bridge to connect them all up.

    So why the ckuf do our unelected Muppets (Government) deem spending $130B of our oh-so-precious reserves, let alone the damage done to the environment, air quality and marine life, on this concrete pouring, tycoon wealth expanding exercise so vital ?

  6. Probably says:

    Why is it that Gatwick Airport near London with a single runway can handle more take off and landings per day than HK airport can with 2 runways?

    Having admitedly not read the analysis what is the economic justification for an extra runway? If there is one it will become self-financing without the need for fleecing taxpayers.

    Or is it really all just smoke and mirrors to put more public money in tycoons pockets by crooked officals?

  7. Joe Blow says:

    what exactly is wrong with a 3rd runway ? why are you suddenly so concerned about those 3 gay Flippers that are still flip-flopping in the Pearl River while they could make a delicious sushi platter instead ?

  8. Real Tax Payer says:

    Sometimes your prose, Dear Hemmers, is funnier than the actual news . You should have become a speech writer for Mr Bean

    @ Darovia : yes I agree . Who were those 24,000 polled ? No-one polled me and I use the airport 6 x per month to fly to China

    I would have thought that my Marco Polo gold card number, dating back 20-odd years would have put me at the top of the polling list

    ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY SIX FUCKING BILLION ?? !! and we still can’t afford to pay for enough good air traffic controllers and we still have people living in cages ?

    No wonder superman LKS was portrayed as a devil in last 1 July march

    Oh – sorry – I forgot that Cheung Kong employees get the first 23,000 poll forms and New World the next 900.

    ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY SIX BILLION DOLLARS ? !

    And we still cannot afford afford to pay air traffic controllers enough to stay, and we still have old people living in cages and we still cannot build enough hospitals and we still cannot solve our air pollution…..

    No wonder superman Li was portrayed as a devil in last 1 july’s march

    He must have a conscience shrouded in molybdenum steel

    And as for Donald the duck: wish you had told us that the job you meant to get done was to stuff the property developers up to the neck like bloated turkeys till the day you finally leave office

    I’m all for a huge change and so I vote for C Y : better a cunning wolf who will eat few property developers’ privileges than a bloated pig that feeds from the same trough

  9. darovia says:

    @real tax payer
    As a frequent traveller you will also have passed, I am sure, the lavish new offices that the CAA is building along the coastline next to Dragonair HQ. A coule of billion there as well I suspect. Who needs air traffic controllers when we can have a lovely new office?

    The airport is a concrete pourers’ dream.

  10. The Regulator says:

    AAHK’s total borrowings amounted to HK$7,086 million at 31 March 2011 (2009/10: HK$8,193 million). Total borrowings comprised unsecured bank loans and medium- to long-term fixed-rate notes and bonds. A significant portion is MPF sourced 20 year money @ 2% p.a. simple interest and fixed. Allowing for the MPF intermediaries fees, in other words, MPF members are subsidising the existing AAHK runways and can be expected to be the primary funding source and subsidy for the 3rd runway.

  11. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ The Regulator

    Sh1t, damn b***er, so that’s why my MPF is worth less than if I had puit the money in the bank.

    The moment I retire in 2013 I will take out every cent and put it into some meaningful investment – or charity

    @ Darovia : You kid me not !? Yet we had the air traffic scare a few months ago which the controllers openly attributed to under-staffing of the worst degree. Again Sh1t, damn, b***er and worse.

    Come my retirement when I will become a PAST tax payer I will really start to hound those devils of hell in high places

    Watch this space …

  12. Probably says:

    To help answer the question of whether or not we need a 3rd runway, why not try to squeeze your way through the swathes of thronging crowds at Terminal 2?

    Maybe someone should direct our (independant and incorruptable) civil servants to do so as they obviously do not use the same airport as I do?

  13. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Probably

    Oh…….. is there REALLY a terminal Two ?

    I never saw anyone get off the right side of the airport express

    Nor have I ever seen Terminal one crowded

    Methinks I live in a parallel world when it comes to air travel in HK

  14. sen says:

    I have used T2 only once late last year for a TG flight I think, took me over twenty minutes to find my way from T1 and it was quite empty except for a few forlorn counters being open.

    One floor up however was a packed food court, I have never seen so many eateries cheek by jowl, and brimming with clientele.

    The trick to finding T2 is to ignore the signs and trust your instincts- and avoid entering from the ground level.

  15. darovia says:

    T2 is great and although I fly regularly by CX I go to T2 for security checks and immigration after checking in by machine in T1 – never any queues at security. The low-energy way to get from T1 to T2 is to wait for the airport express at the T1 departures level and walk through the train to exit on the T2 side – which is what a lot of the airport staff do. Eateries in T2 are plentiful but avoid office lunchtimes as most diners are airport staff (who qualify for big discounts on their grub). Well worth a visit – Where else in HK can you see such a vast empty space with a roof?

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    Got it…….

    Changing minds
    Chang Ping says the question of whether revolution or reform is more suitable for today’s China fails to consider realities on the ground, and it overlooks the importance of one influencing the other
    REVOLUTION OR REFORM

    Jan 03, 2012

    Three recent blog essays by the young writer Han Han – on revolution, democracy and freedom – sparked a fierce debate on the internet. Among his views, his support for reform over revolution was the most contentious. Han’s popularity is of course one reason his postings ignited such a debate. But the fact is, the subject resonated because China stands at a crossroads.
    The relevance of revolution in today’s society was a hot topic among scholars three months ago when the centenary of the 1911 revolution rolled around. Law professor Xiao Han declared China today to be ripe for a revolution, and believed a revolution was inevitable. He said he did not hope that violence could be avoided, but suggested it should be justified.

    Philosopher Li Zehou took the opposite view. In his argument for a “farewell to revolution”, he said any regime that seized power through violent revolt would itself cling to the use of violence to maintain power. Yet another tyrant or autocratic government would be born, inciting yet another revolt. This was the vicious cycle of violence that accompanied the rise and fall of China’s dynasties, he said. No matter which held power, it was the people who suffered. Notions of democracy, freedom and the rule of law would be mere slogans, for there would be no room to develop them.

    Han made the same argument. Besides, he said, Chinese people on the whole were not well educated and, in the chaos of a revolution, there would be nothing to stop villains and opportunists from taking power.

    One observation is left unsaid: the history of the Chinese Communist Party proves this argument right. The party led a violent revolution holding aloft the banner for democracy and freedom for an oppressed people. They seized the so-called “political power that comes from a gun barrel” and founded a new China. Sixty years on, not only has democracy failed to arrive, the rights of freedom of speech, publication, association and protest have all deteriorated. A person could be arrested today for voicing support for the values widely trumpeted in the 1940s.

    The advantage of reform over revolution can’t be as handily illustrated, but it, too, has historical precedence. Before 1911, two generations of Chinese had worked to put in place innovative reforms. If social justice could be achieved without bloodshed, only the bloodthirsty would not attempt to do so.

    The question is: how can reform be made possible? Li Zehou advocated letting the ruling authorities dictate the pace of change and making sure their interests were not threatened, and reform would come. In this view, history is written by the social elites, and ordinary people may only await their fate. Historical change will come at the expense of people’s rights and interests.

    Han Han understands the importance of individual resistance. In his third essay, he urged authorities to relax censorship controls on media and the arts. And if things did not improve in two or three years, he said, he would stage protests at the annual conferences of the Chinese Writers’ Association or the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

    Will this work? Such a protest is likely to be dispersed by the police. Some protesters may even be arrested and jailed, as activist Wang Lihong was after she protested outside a court in support of three bloggers on trial. If replicated in China, Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent resistance – openly defying the colonial government, repeatedly organising sit-in rallies, even tearing up his identity card – would unfortunately invite the same punishment from officials as a violent protest.

    It is worth asking if the recent stand-off in Guangdong’s Wukan village is a revolt or reform. Out of concern for their own safety, the villagers denied they led an uprising. But the fact is they fell out of government control for three months, and formed their own governing body based on clan relations and elections. This would be considered illegal, and reason enough for a government crackdown. Yet the Wukan villagers mobilised to set up road blocks in open confrontation with armed police, and eventually forced the government to recognise its “illegal organisation” and even negotiate with it. This was a fundamental breach of government; we’d only be fooling ourselves by calling it “reform”. Put another way, can such “reform” be promoted elsewhere? Or, if it were a revolution, how was it able to maintain order and achieve success?

    Guangdong officials who took part in resolving the crisis now take credit for it, and it is possible they would set it up as an example of the Guangdong government’s “humane treatment of its people”. But it should be clear that without the people’s refusal to back down in the face of police force, and their determination to hold even bigger rallies, the government would not have instituted change.

    Where does the impetus for reform come from? I asked this question of several people familiar with government thinking, and their answer was: not from any belief in just rule, but from the pressure to maintain stability. Where does this pressure come from? Clearly, not from scholars’ rational and constructive criticism, but from mass movements that threaten violent disorder and social breakdown.

    Binary thinking of reform or revolution is to my mind somewhat misguided, and does not accord with the realities of China’s underclass. It lacks awareness of civil rights. Effective people’s resistance is likely to be a combination of both: the fear and pressure of revolution giving the impetus to reform, and progressive reform leading to systemic change that is nothing short of revolutionary.

    Chang Ping is a current affairs commentator writing on politics, society and culture. This commentary is translated from Chinese

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