Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
7-13 December 2003
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Sun, 7 Dec
An interesting weekend.  On Friday, the Curse of Hemlock strikes in Quarry Bay.  Exactly eight days after I put a spell on the South China Morning Post, publisher Tad Bezcak becomes ex-publisher "�to pursue other personal goals."  There must be more to come.  Or maybe I didn't stick enough pins into the voodoo doll.

Yesterday I see what must be the saddest sight of the year. Stephen Vines, standing next to the Mid-Levels Escalator, overseeing girls in bikinis handing out free copies of his magazine
Spike to the masses gliding their way up the hill.  Not the latest issue (number 3) � unsold copies of the first one.  Not a good sign.

Another spike in the coffin?  Familiar with the ramblings of designers and techies who think they can write, I seek the opposite � good writers who think they can do html code.  And, to my delight and amazement, I find that the sick and demented
Not The South China Morning Post has risen from the dead. They're back�

Jehovah's Witnesses prowl once more around Perpetual Opulence Mansions, providing an opportunity for me to perform a scientific experiment.  I have often wondered if it is true that if you leave a tooth in a glass of Coke overnight it will rot away.  I have therefore hung a pair of pliers on my apartment door, with a view to obtaining a few molars from the next religious lunatic to come knocking.  Swinging the door open as someone passes, I am disappointed to find that it is simply the Canto-bim next door, pouting her way to the elevator, presumably off to meet her boyfriend and give him the usual hard slap on the face for not being rich enough.  What an irony � on the one occasion I actually want a Jehovah's Witness, there isn't one.  God's idea of a joke, perhaps. 

Mon, 8 Dec
More evidence that Hong Kong is dismissing Tung Chee-hwa as a bad memory and getting on with its life will come today when hordes of mentally deficient housewives, taxi drivers and secretaries
snap up shares in China Life Insurance.  There are enough application forms for a third of our fair city�s men, women and children.  The money-crazed mob will be inspired by the example of Li Ka-shing and other tycoons, who are buying into China Life�s IPO for the same reasons they did with Bank of China (HK), which followed its Hong Kong listing last year by upholding traditional Mainland standards of management probity.  The first Mainland life insurer to be floated here, like the first bank, is the cream of the crop.  If the tycoons do their patriotic duty now, they have an excuse to shy away when Beijing floats the real dross.  They hope.  Insurers do make money. I will stick with my investment in Manulife, which like most things Canadian is law-abiding, safe and boring, as shares should be � despite the outrageous witholding tax imposed on dividends by Ottawa's baby-eating bastard Satanist revenue officials.

Tues, 9 Dec
Breakfast with Winky Ip, the most delectable Administrative Officer to grace the corridors of power at Central Government Offices.  She mentions that Shanghai, the city that displays its regional supremacy by taking over from Hong Kong and sinking simultaneously, is shutting down calcium carbide workshops in order to prevent trains, lighting and other services
collapsing.  With my extensive knowledge of calcium carbide workshops, I instinctively know that Hong Kong needs them.  �This is a classic opportunity for pro-active, market-enabling policies,� I tell her as she stirs her congee.  �The Government should be offering free grants of public land, generous tax breaks and loose women to attract them here.  How can this be a world city, with no calcium carbide workshops?�  Her patient nodding leaves me in no doubt that she is convinced.

Unlike me, Winky is excited by the prospect of China overtaking the UK as the world's fourth-largest economy.  �The word is, there�ll be another space shot to celebrate,� she tells me.  Naturally, I admire and respect the glorious motherland and her 29,000 years of continuous civilization.  They were inventing the electric toothbrush when the rest of us were in caves experimenting with the use of twigs to extract lice from each other's armpits.  But I find this elevation to fourth place a slightly underwhelming achievement when I recall that the two countries' populations are 1,300 million and 60 million respectively.  The average Brit spends his time stuffing chocolate bars in his face and watching meaningless sport on TV.  It takes 20 Mainlanders to create as much wealth as he does?  And the Chinese blow it on pointless manned space flight.  The UK buys submarine-launched cruise missiles with detailed maps of Middle Eastern cities in their guidance systems � much more useful.
Wed, 10 Dec
The Company Gwailo will be wheeled into action later today to teach the Big Boss how to say "Jojoba-Gonzalez", "Petruskianovich" and "Alloyes" � visiting European trade delegates whose names he inexplicably feels a need to pronounce correctly.  Which means I will not make it to the circus to watch one of our finest clowns perform � Dr, or at least "Dr", the Hon
David Chu.  The flying pig.  The anti-dog meat protester, Chinese patriot, Harley-Davidson fan and general-purpose loon who once paraglided backwards to the Diaoyutai Islands is introducing a motion urging the Government "to expeditiously introduce a series of effective long-term measures with the objective of supporting the middle class".  That's it � he spares us all the tiresome detail about how or why.  It would take all day to list the needs of these exploited and disenfranchised citizens.  An emergency dish-washing service for people whose domestic helpers are away.  Statutory four-day weekends for all salaries tax payers.  Exclusive MTR cars, off-limits to the malodorous Kowloon rabble who change trains at Admiralty.  How can the Mid-Levels resist voting for Chu when his LegCo seat is abolished next year and he has to run in a real election?
Thurs, 11 Dec
One of Hong Kong�s most interesting features is its extremely comfortable, restful fences.  Exactly one week after I predict that Ma Lik, should he become the new DAB boss, will try too hard to please everyone, he launches his party chairmanship by
saying "�whatever the circumstances, we will not become an opposition party, nor will the DAB be a pro-government or government party."  It�s good to see that he�s absolutely, categorically definite about that.

Fri, Dec 12
S-Meg Holdings shares Hong Kong's broadly Buddhist-Taoist-Confucian outlook.  Different creeds deliver different material blessings, so the company hedges its bets, combining red-lit altars with feng-shui and a patriarchal management style.  And today, Yuletide decorations go up, to bolster the company's cosmopolitan image and perhaps as a sop for those members of staff who adhere to the barbarian belief system that makes you wait until you die before you can have everything.  Almost entirely female, they gather in small, inaudible prayer groups at lunchtimes while their colleagues slump across their desks in sleep.  In the reception area of Private Office, an epsilon installs a white plastic tree and plugs it in.  Lights flash, and a tinny rendition of
Jingle Bells commences � until, after two long minutes, the responsible component suffers irreparable damage at the hands of an irate Company Gwailo.  On a wall, tinsel, shiny Merry Xmas greetings and a poignant plastic model of Santa Claus nailed to a crucifix fill another corner of Asia's financial hub with Christmas spirit.