Cos I can read and write English and most of the cell cannot; and cos all the Court documents are in English, I am a translator, guide and tactician for some of the others. Most criminal remands are legally-aided (arranged by the tireless Welfare Officers and paid for by the Government) but the gulf between client and adviser is hard to bridge. The legal aid application forms are curious. They expect honesty and disclosure of facts. Good. But they look at past income to look to the future. By definition, a prisoner has no future income only a past one. So if the past one was big - legal or not - then no legal aid if it passes a threshold magic figure. I have no easy answers to this unless you stay here until the past income date-line is passed.

A smuggler of industrial plant has served 2 1/2 years in Guangdong. On his release and expulsion he was arrested on the border by the Hong Kong Immigration Department computers. His arrest was for "wilfully"  breaking an old Court Order of 4 years before in a related civil claim now defunct. He is due to serve another 9 months. The claimant went into liquidation years before. The Law must prevail though. I suggest a plea of impossibility of compliance. The Law thinks of this and graciously reduces his sentence to 3 months so free in week. Hooray!

Another is gaoled under Rule 49B of the Rules of The High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China which allows a creditor (a local formerly enthusiastic mortgage lender bank) to gaol its customer if it pays the cost of HK$660.00 per diem. The onus is on the wretched debtor to show that he did not dissipate his money to avoid his debt. He has no money cos the property market boom after the 1997 handover has flopped. The bank wants to bankrupt him too. It is self-evident that neither of these interesting legal techniques will produce money for the bank. The bank will pay for the lawyers too. The Law must prevail though. I suggest a plea of complicity. The Law does not think of this. It's the money, see. He goes bust. The bank gets nothing. The lawyers do. Clang.

Another is a 73 year old man who has taken a concubine and has a house in the New Territories for himself and his extended family. Dignified, gracious and courteous as only the Chinese can be, he is however in a fix. Rather than being awarded a gold medal for the concubinage he is imprisoned by a jealous estranged wife who disregards his age and health. His 50 year old son visits him with a Court document which neither can understand because it is in English. The son and all just want Dad home. But the Court has decreed that Dad must find several millions to pay face money to the estranged wife (herself housed on Hong Kong Island in her own flat with an income). They seem to think that Dad's 9 month civil sentence will expunge the liability. I disabuse them of this notion. The Law must prevail though. Dad will go back and back and back to prison until he comes up with several millions or persuades the Court that the Order can be set aside. I suggest a plea of compassion. They think that a poor idea and plump for Chinese-contrition. That works, but only after 6 months so Dad is home finally. Dignified, gracious and courteous throughout.

There are others gaoled in similar jealous circumstances for anything up to 2 years on claims for millions and millions.

My conclusion is that in English law when money is lost or claimed the rule is "Whoever has it now shall pay" cos England is rich. In a place like Australia (whose laws were once English) the rule is "Whoever took the money shall pay" cos Australia is bent. In a place like New Zealand (whose laws were once English) the rule is "Is there any money left over?" cos New Zealand is poor. By the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China all these places provide supernumary judges to The Court of Final Appeal of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China.

In Hong Kong the rule seems to be "He has no money, M'Lord." The Rules of The High Court definitely favour the money lender or claimant. Restrict 'em then gaol 'em and restrict 'em, all by ex parte. No need to listen to the likes of 'em. Before anything else is done, M'Lord. Sod the Merits. Rely on an affirmation (no Bibles needed here) by a solicitor who regularly appears before the judge and a barrister who discusses his holidays and divertments and agonies of appointment clashes when seeking to gaol the wretch. The wretch has no money. He is "wilfully" breaking the Order or is sure to do so, M'Lord.

Costs please. Thank you. Clang. 


Official prison Visits are made by a Justice of the Peace. It is unclear what the criteria are for appointment of one to this office. Many JPs in Hong Kong are also members of A Famous Company Board or are Consuls to Places In The Caribbean or Vice-Chairmen of Government Advisory Boards or belong to A Ball-Giving Photo-Op Charity and so on. But not all, by all means. However, I suppose that each of these classes of JPs Visits a prison.

One famous JP is a member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council and famous for being, therein and thereout, a consummate speaker of uncomfortable truth. The famous One recently upset the whole prison system by just turning up for a Visit. Do Not Do That Here. It Is Bad For Morale.

Our Visitor today has by prison Rules arranged a Visit and looks nervy and accountantish. I faintly recognise him. He looks at me steadily for that extra second as if he recognises me. Where was it? A formal reception years ago ? A glance at a reception? A glance in the street in the village that is Hong Kong? The Visit to our cell is short, concluding with the latrines. He goes through each bit of the prison, including the kitchens. One can tell where he is according to the hyper-activity level of the radio traffic of our cell-keep's terrified handset.

The JP says nothing in our hospital ward but each prisoner is invited to ask questions or comment to him. I do so. I want to make a freedom telephone call on the coming public holiday on Saturday, short-circuiting the tedious process of writing it all down in the cell-keep's book and waiting a day at least and the then cell-keep's later radioing down to reception and my numbing my waiting bottom and then shouting down the phone amidst the week-day's clanging din and clamour sufficient to appall the stoutest of hearts. Do you get the picture?

This is not quite what the accompanying Prison Superintendent had in mind; but he graciously accedes to my request which I made to him, as a sort of translator to the Visitor. As he mentions on the Saturday, it does mean that he, the Welfare Officer, has to come to work on his holiday to supervise my solitary telephone call. But there you have it.

At least the Visitor can relate what he sees to someone: but to whom and in what form? There is no public record of these Visits and their reports that I have seen. But that is not to say they do not exist. The Visitor is, I believe, unpaid and does not need to do these things. I am puzzled by the idea of these Vists. Perhaps it is a sort of supervision of the prison authorities. They certainly rush around beforehand and during.


Today I reconsider the finances of my gaolers. I therefore apply some serious thought to the problem, provided you are looking for one. The problem and solution with reasons for summary judgment are set forth in not too much detail, since that is to be discouraged.

It goes like this. Hereabouts the word "general" is in general use far too generally. Many jobs in ex post facto British Hong Kong still carry the expletive-adjunct "general" in their title. Having read a "Guide for Prosecution Counsel" published by the Attorney General of The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China, which thereby demands of prosecutors a virtual guarantee of criminal convictions; and having reviewed the "Contempt of Court" set piece in the Rules of The High Court; one wonders if the entire firing squad could not be supplemented, if not supplanted, by an Inquisitor General. There is precedent and profit.

Almost precisely 500 years before Hong Kong abolished imprisonment for debt, in 1481 the whole bothersome business was solved in one of the world's foremost leading jurisdictions with at least one world-class city. That year, the Spanish Inquisition was reorganised and began to function by one Tomas de Torquemada, a lawyer and Inquisitor General. Splendidly named, with a name redolent with innuendo, he's dead so the litigation lawyers can't. The Inquisition first descended on Seville. This had been one of the centres of the old Moorish culture. It was therefore held to be a hotbed of racial impurities and heresies. In the middle of the thirteenth century it had been definitely captured by the Spaniards. Almost half a million Muslims had fled. Though enough remained to make them a problem, provided you were looking for one.

Torquemada was doing exactly that. There was gold in those old Moorish mansions and he meant to get it. Once more, those who could escape left the city and left in a hurry. The vital statistics relating to Torquemada's activities during the fifteen years that he was Inquisitor General are very contradictory. In 1792, almost 300 years after his death, a Secretary of the Holy Office (as it was known) published some figures on the subject which were claimed  to be based on official archive records. He reached a total of ten thousand people burned and seven thousand others burned in effigy, for those who had made good their escape were burned in effigy and lost their estates. But that was not all. Another ninety-seven thousand suspects had been persuaded to confess their errors and had been readmitted to the fold.

That gives us an average of about six thousand convictions per annum or twenty per diem, allowing for Sundays and public holidays. Robespierre (another lawyer who also used the expletive-adjunct "general" in his job description) sometimes reached a higher daily record with Madame la Guillotine during the height of the Terror in Revolutionary France. But Robespierre functioned at this rate only for a few months, whereas Torquemada kept it up, as it were, for fully 15 years.*

*[I am disregarding the many instances of planned and incidental mass killings  made possible by Western military technology in most of Asia and most of Europe and most of Africa and most of South America in the 19th and 20th centuries, on the ground that the idea of "convictions" was superfluous. That whole bothersome business was paraphrased by Bertrand Russell in his book History of the World in epitome  published by Gabberbochus Press, London in 1962 on the occasion of the author's 90th birthday and at the height of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He wrote: "Since Adam and Eve ate the apple mankind has never refrained from any folly of which it is capable." - that being the entire content of his book..]  

Let us compare this conviction rate with the throughput of the Lychee Tree in Butterfly Valley. There are scant statistics available on Criminal Bankruptcy Orders by which the convicts' estates can vest in The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China. But the throughput in itself certainly ranges well above twenty per diem. The "Guide for Prosecution Counsel" sheds no light on this absorbing topic but, in my judgment, the population under the guidance of Torquemada was not dissimilar in number and relative wealth and standing to that of modern Hong Kong. 

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China wants to introduce sedition and treason laws - the modern version of heresy. There is a definite Government proposal, too, to build a "super-prison" in Hong Kong. Opposite the Lychee Tree in Butterfly Valley to take up the slack one imagines. How will it pay for itself?

Well, take America. That is a land of 40,000,000 laws to administer the Ten Commandments said Anatole France the famous generalist. America has 2,000,000 lawyers and 2,000,000 prisoners and rising said Janet Reno the currently-famous American Government lawyer and yet another user of our by-now-favourite-expletive-adjunct "general"; and also that America has for-profit prison companies. America is much admired in Hong Kong which wants to build a Hong Kong Disneyland for instance.

So there is precedent and profit, as I say. It follows that there is a prima facie case for establishment of the office of Inquisitor General in Hong Kong. The clincher for The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China is that the Holy Office really paid for itself. Spain became SERIOUSLY RICH even if (and here, I confess, the prima facie case wobbles a bit) Torquemada once, only once, came up with the novel excuse to His Majesty King Ferdinand of Spain that the expenses of the Holy Office were almost as great as the revenues. This thinking is, however, heresy in Hong Kong.


It being a public holiday everyone stays locked-up. I am whisked through the relative calm of empty asphalt and silent concrete to the telephone, just for me. More progress but for my conversationalist it had meant a trip of 1,000s of miles to solve another problem which had cropped up in the midst of the titanic struggle going on in his world itself 1,000s of miles from me. How can this be? What lunacies are ranged against one? When does sanity return? Soon. This concept of "soon" grates cos my gaolers use the concept of "later" a lot to answer requests.

I busy myself afterwards with planning the gameplay to be played out over the next months. Not surprisingly, it is all about control of money and a reminder that so often bulls**t beats brains. Not surprisingly too, I am certain that my gameplay has been blessed by the Archangel Gabriel.


Marxist doctrine has it that religion is the opium of the masses. Marxism is the opium of the intellectuals. That is the view of a thoroughly-out-of-fashion Frenchman Raymond Aron who called his slashing critique of Marxism just that. He also predicted the collapse of Marxism and communism from its inherent rottenness. He wrote his main work in the 1960s and was derided.

Long-ago in childhood days of excitedly listening to an ancient short-wave wireless driven by valves and steam and rubber bands we tuned in by a 40 foot aerial to The People's Republic of China foreign language broadcasting service amongst others. The arid Marxist intones remembered from those days cannot begin to compare with the thundering delivery of the prophets in the Bible and by Isaiah in particular. Take for instance my present favourite Chapter 33 Verse 1 of the Book of Isaiah. The more modern and rightful annual protests of the Chinese Government against the grotesque mindless insane bushido doctrine of the Japanese so fully exhibited in World War 2 and since barely take on the same definiteness of purpose that Isaiah did when he wrote his words.

In any event, I had more understanding of the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell's explanation of Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity in my formative years than I could ever hope to understand about something Marxists call "dialectical materialism". (I still don't know what that is.) Hell had more meaning for me, too. At least I understood that devil-worship was a real laugh a minute cos it was so silly. But you got to take your clothes off or something slightly delicious and it was not so much banned as a bit off. And I do think that the modern abandonment of the concept of hell and the devil whilst pushing on with Heaven and God is very odd. Man is half spirit and half animal said C. S. Lewis the famous children's author. I agree and it is self-evident that man has a consciously evil side to his nature. But I reject Bertrand Russell's atheism and his courageous view that one is alone in a cold and alien universe. (Confucianism also teaches that the here and now is it, fullstop. So I reject that bit of Confucius's teaching, too.) Philosophers do tend to arrive at those views after spending too long studying atoms or pernicious things and not enough studying humanity's innate godliness.

On the other hand I feel that the details in Ezekiel and Exodus on matters electrifying are so explicit - how to build a capacitor with gold, brass, silver and wood for instance - that we really do overlook the obvious in favour of the mysterious in the Bible. Examine Chapters 25, 26 and 27 of Exodus for instance. Here is a prescription for a powerful condenser using ductile and very conductive metal in gold and silver and available material being brass and a particular type of wood growing locally. The prescription uses available technology rather than for instance attempting to build a plasma bottle (being the physical and not medical variety). The condenser is a big blighter too, to be set in a place (the tabernacle) itself with explicit design instructions for positioning and retaining the condenser (the ark) and to be approached with care and reverence. You are told how to pick it up, use it, discharge it and recharge it and how to put "God's testimony" - Moses's legal tablets for one thing - inside.

All this detail so you don't blow the place up and yourself and everyone else too. Only the gentiles are to be blown up. Torquemada would have had me in pieces and himself in stitches.


The Law must prevail. This morning it is not found in an ark but in the minds of legalistic scribblers and wasters. Having learnt of the devices of the Law I am unshaken to go to reception to hear that the Court has made a "Body Order" for me to attend Court on a costs hearing of all things. Bizarre name that: Robespierre wrote many a "Body Order" before his own was written for him to attend before Madame La Guillotine.

I had previously written to the Court's taxing Master (the official who allocates and quantifies costs) saying that I have no records available to me and my imprisonment puts me at a disadvantage in making any submissions at all; and requesting an adjournment till I am no longer a prisoner. In any event the Master's chambers are not equipped for prisoners to appear. This is disregarded by those who obtained the "Body Order". They insist that I attend. This should be interesting: to see how the latest waste of Court time and resources is handled. Shall I rub my prisoner's shoulders with costs clerks and upright solicitors in natty suitings waiting for their own costs hearings in their normal and learned world? Has the Registry found procedural precedent in the Court's scribbletorium that houses the phenomenal quantities of A4 one-sided 2 spaced typed up legal devastation leaning on trolleys and off desks? Let's find out.

So I am handcuffed and driven to Court in an enormous fast bus with stiff seats and metal bars all over the show. My technique for hanging on round many sharp corners is much improved by employing the centrifugal force of the 3 pound cuffs on outstretched arms as not so much a cyclotron but more a gyroscopic stabliiser against a stiff seat. One wrist has a large ganglion from sports days long gone and the cuffs bump against it, reducing its size and strength. For that I am grateful to my driver for the half hour massage of same. (The alternative over the years has been to uselessly hit my ganglion with a dictionary - which did the book no good at all and made me shout.) The bus ride is therefore an efficient use of my time and available resources on the way to Court.

There I wait in a dungeon to be summoned. Fading messages of innocence sprawled on the pale walls also wait, some telling of vital evidence wanted. Time passes 6 hours slowly without sun or clock. I have not worn a watch for years cos the watch strap irritates. In any event, no prisoner is permitted a watch - he is watched all the time. But then the time sitting or standing in the tiny cell seems like 3 hours or even less and so is a valid example of tensor behaviour in Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. I do not remember my reverie there. Lunch was surprise: it came so soon after my arrival but was in fact hours later. No sleepy bean soup here: just lashings of white bread and tea.

Greatly cheered by the dungeon keepers' need to hurry me through furtive Court antechambers and up in dark lifts and in and out and round about, I remind the Court staff that they have had to clear at least 3 floors of the whole Court complex and lock off dark lifts as a decontaminant. Blank looks all round. Do not speak to us thus, thou accursed one. The very sight of a gorgon - a handcuffed prisoner attending a costs hearing - is rivetting unusual if not unique in the genteel costs world. My 4 guards are unsure about cuff protocol for their little journey through the maze of this unfamiliarly public and deserted gathering place. So I am lead variously cuffed or un, eventually through the front door of a spare Court room which does at least have attached a holding room for the repose of the ungodly, namely me. My shirt cuff buttons popped when my shirt cuffs became tangled when the detachable metal variety were re-affixed for 5 minutes then undone then re-affixed and undone and so on: so I rolled sleeves up ready for action.

The action lasted about 10 minutes. Case adjourned till I was out. No Order as to costs of the costs hearing, the cost of which I estimate runs to thousands. My guards (reduced to 3 in number, 1 having detailed off) in Court gave me a minute cardboard calendar printed in microscopic Chinese so I could pick the next hearing date which I could not so the Master guessed. Exeunt stage left.


My family is much to me and I think of them. Different to home once upon a time now I am in an all-male place here.

Home was all-female. I arrived home one night and fiddled pointlessly and noisily with the door knob to indicate that I had indeed arrived and wished to make an announcement. I announced that I lived in a female house: my managing director (domestic and bar) was female as were my daughters as were the 2 maids as were the cats and dogs but one was a bit AC/DC cos it kept rogering lamp-posts or any available vertical - legs not being uncommon - instead of cocking its leg or squatting or something. The goldfish were female too: I could be sure of this cos I had watched. But all in all I had few complaints and was too diplomatic to mention any anyway but had learnt over the years for example of splendours of the colours lilac and pink and of estimable qualities of frilliness in clothing and of economic ability of daughters to occupy 4 warm telephone lines all at once and of last year's current gossip about a b*y and how my palms were always soft and lanolin-lovely-nice after a sudsy bath and how my razor blades were never blunt and how the beer of human kindness could always wait another 5 minutes for the bathroom thunder-box seat down or not. However, I did particularly want someone with whom to watch the football on the telly. So they got me a hamster. Regrettably, he died mid-season. 

Most prisoners who can hide their imprisonment from their families. A Chinese CJ told his Mum that he was away on business for a few months even if his wife knew. For the Chinese, the wrench from family seems greater often than for other races. The American drug dealer was convinced that he could pretend for the next 4 years. And so on. Misleading letters by the hundred on this account are stamped with free postage by The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China and duly sent off from this place but written by the prisoner as if from another address.


We the Other Nations contingent have agreed that we prefer the drugs in the Chinese tea to the drugs in the English tea.

It may be observed at feeding time in the main dining hall - a rackety place with non-stop telly showing giggling game shows and otherwise earnest costumed sword-wielders who fly and frown - that about 20 minutes after feeding the whole place is more or less asleep heads and jaws and any truant limb astride the plastic tables.

I noticed this phenomenon too in the hospital ward when out of 32 inhabitants one day 30 were sound asleep after luncheon, the awake being me and the warder. I had drunk water not tea as an experiment. Jolly nice water it was, too.

But if I want to sleep or relax, I drink bean soup and Chinese tea. My kidneys flush the unwanted surplus but experience dictates that a good slug of bean soup and tea will send you off to dreamland like clockwork.