Update from Hemlock

On the top floor of S-Meg Tower, deep in the bustling heart of Asia’s dynamic financial hub, the minions, managers and monarchical Chairman and Chief Executive of Hong Kong’s 37th biggest family-run conglomerate are all, in their own way, trying to flee.

The three Stanleys in the mailroom and Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary have not come in today. Instead, they have sent a group of similar-sized and similar-sounding individuals wrapped from head to toe in psychedelic Eskimo costumes of pink fur and Burberry. They are huddled together in the pantry clutching cups of tea for warmth and perusing a pamphlet advertising immigration opportunities in Iceland. Who can blame them? Hong Kong’s usual two-week January cold spell seems to have been going on for months now. As the Wall Street Journal headline says, ‘Hong Kong was Warmer under the British’. Or are we just getting old?

The senior executives of S-Meg Holdings are also seeking refuge, but not from the freezing weather afflicting our once sub-tropical city. They are desperate to avoid the Big Boss, who is looking for people to blame for the disappointing financial results he must announce in the next few days. Of course, he doesn’t use the word ‘blame’; he says ‘punish’. Business trips, client meetings and – for the truly wretched – parents’ illnesses are mysteriously requiring them to be away from the office.

And so the morning meeting presents our visionary corporate chieftan with disappointingly few people to shout at. A female psychedelic Eskimo with lime-green earmuffs waddles in to tell him his 89-year-old Aunt from Singapore is waiting outside. She has come to berate her nephew about the company’s dividends, on which she and her loyal Malay elves must survive, and she can get violent. But the Big Boss doesn’t simply want to escape from her; he wants to get away from the whole mess unfolding in Hong Kong. As other managers make their excuses and slink out of the conference room, he starts to unburden himself on the Company Gwailo. The self-pitying lamentations of a tycoon begin.

Of course he signed up to back Henry Tang for Chief Executive, he says. Who didn’t, apart from a handful of malcontents and losers? That was what we were supposed to do. And now the entire community of inherited corporate wealth in Hong Kong is being tarred with the same brush.

“These people Henry and Donald hang out with,” he splutters, “Who are they? Look at them!” He fiddles with the northward-facing ‘good feng-shui’ ceramic three-legged toad that sits on the table. “Drinking wine with Peter Lam. I mean… Peter Lam?” he asks scornfully, clearly seeing his counterpart at Lai Sun, the faded and pathetic 63rd biggest family-run conglomerate in town, as a second-rate nonentity in our plutocratic hierarchy. He, the Big Boss, doesn’t hobnob with the likes of Lam – why does our basement-building supposedly next Chief Executive?

“And that, that… whoever he is with the private jet. Cheung. Ghastly Chiuchow fellow. He was a nothing 10 years ago, and all of a sudden he’s flying Donald around.” He screws his face up in disgust at the idea of Hong Kong’s leader fawning over the owner of the city’s 297th biggest family-run conglomerate. Our top politicians are slumming it with low-class riffraff tycoons, while the real elite of the business community are accused of collusion and biting the heads off babies. You would be bitter, too.

“Still, not long to wait now, and we can disappear for two weeks.” He is referring to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and National People’s Congress sessions, when Hong Kong’s great and good decamp to Beijing. They usually resent it, but this year it will be a relief.

A petite, white-haired lady in an elegant cheongsam appears at the door, swinging her handbag menacingly. I hide behind a South China Morning Post double-page feature: spot the CE candidate who doesn’t think he needs much of a policy platform… 


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16 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Thought For The Day formerly known as Rinky Dinky says:

    Patten put up the duty on wine because, he said, he likes to drink it too much.

    Tang abolished duty on wine as he likes to hoard and speculate on it.

    Says it all ?

  2. Maugrim says:

    The end of days must truly be nigh. As a sign there was a traffic warden planted not only in front of the Fuk Lam Moon yesterday but, gasp, she did her job with impunity and no cars parked there. Our oligarchs must surely be waiting for the plagues of frogs because as we know, the locusts are already upon us.

  3. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Maugrim

    Really? I must go and check the FLM this lunchtime to see if that’s still the case. It’s my daily jaunt-and-taunt exercise these days at lunchtime … goading the wardens to nab a few tycoon-tanks.

    BTW : Hemmers is correct about the clothes HK people ( especially the pretty little secretaries ) . I can always tell the “impression” HK girls have of the weather by what our receptionist wears on her feet as soon as I come in dressed in my usual T-shirt and light sweater regardless of the weather ( I need the sweater for the air-con indoors)

    Ms Reception was wearing snow shoes today 🙂

    PS : Nice one from Mike Chugani today in the SCMP – or rather nice for the plebs to read cos it was real nasty re the tycoons

  4. Big Al says:

    “… spot the CE candidate who doesn’t think he needs a much of policy platform…” Maybe he doesn’t? Maybe, just maybe, BJ will stick to Plan A and stick two fingers up at Hong Kong? Maybe all the hopes for CY (or anyone non-Henry) are just that – hopes that in reality have no hope? Maybe we are deluding ourselves out of sheer desperation? The trouble is that no-one really knows what BJ is thinks about the next CEO or HK – it’s all just guesswork 🙁 God help us!

  5. Mary Hinge says:

    Good old Henry. You can always count on him to put a generously-sized space under everything.

  6. PropertyDeveloper says:

    The art of politics, whether it’s the boot in, the thousand cuts or the loss-leading giving of face, is all in the timing, and this appplies to both the Chinese govt and the people doing the juicy leaks. So, like the games of chicken on the single-track main road from China, this one may go to the wire.

  7. Real Tax Payer says:

    Todays report from the FLM :

    ‘Tis true – a fairly efficient traffic warden backed up with a huge 6 foot tall traffic motor-bike police man in full ” death squad” regalia ( the kind of motor bike kind that you just know is going to book you he he flags you down)

    The sad thing is that the delivery vans are also being moved on, which makes their job tough.

  8. Joe Blow says:

    I am mildly comforted by the fact that Henry has no ideas or platform. That means he cannot screw them up either.

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Mary and Joe Blow

    Love it……….. 😀

  10. Probably says:

    Does the glaring space in the horseman’s policy platform represent the vacuuesness of his policies or the vacuum between his ears?

  11. Incredulous says:

    Vacuum soon to be under his mansion?

  12. Chopped Onions says:

    Maybe he’ll blame this huge space underneath him on his wife as well.

  13. Real Tax Payer says:

    Gentle reminder to one and all….

    We are still waiting to hear whether the horse and/or his wife illegally did NOT declare the underground pleasure cellar when the building plans were approved in 2007 ( of course they f*******g didn’t declare it. Who is fooling who ? )

    Or will it be another of those ” 39 Conduit Road” police investigations that go on for the next 20 years till we have all died off?

    And as to fixing the cellar – I guess ole enery must fill it up with sand. If so , that’s 200 dumper trucks of sand coming to 7 York Road PDQ. Hope the gutter press are pressing to see them arrive ……

  14. Real Tax Payer says:

    Literary addendum :

    The Chinese for ‘vacuum’ is 真空 = ‘ real nothing’

    Guess that sums up both enery’s policies and what he has between his ears

  15. PropertyDeveloper says:

    I don’t know what happens in other countries, but here we would just use a few lorry-loads of reinforced cement. Of course, watering it down in the usual proportions might spin out the process a little — and leave a margin in case the cranes get in the way.

  16. Spud says:

    RTP – no I don’t think it will be another 39 Conduit Road scenario, more like the TST Marine Police HQ where the lands dept. “accidentally” measured the site incorrectly and gave LKS a major windfall by selling it to him at a low price.

    I am just waiting for Carrie Lam to say that the Tangs were overcharged and so they will get a refund…

    Joking aside I went to this 1881 over the weekend for the 1st time. It is an absolute disgrace how they raped the poor old place and made it into a hollywood film set.

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