Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat

8-14 December 2002
Mon, 9 Dec
Walking to work, I find my bare arms attracting admiring glances from delectable female office fodder, as the mercury drops to around 50 degrees, or 10 Centigrade � the temperature at which Hongkongers die of hypothermia unless they are swaddled in at least eight layers of wool, fur and down-filled jackets, freshly retrieved from summer storage.  The aroma of mothballs thus mingles with the unmistakable smell of gangrene, as ill-clad street sleepers exposed to the ravages of the icy northern monsoon succumb to severe frostbite. The first reports of cannibalism will soon start coming in from the New Territories.  In fact, I am no more used to the cold than anyone else, but I have an advantage in having just read Apsley Cherry-Garrard�s classic,
The Worst Journey in the World � an account of the Scott Expedition to the Antarctic, written in the days before the crossing at Lo Wu from Shenzhen to Hong Kong became such a torment.  Not only does the book make Hong Kong�s weather seem pleasant, its portrayal of the complete loons in charge at the South Pole puts our leaders� mental health in perspective.  A true "feel good" book � and thus an excellent solution to that annual "what-to-get-CH-for-Christmas" problem.

Tue, 10 Dec
An email from The
South China Morning Post's SAR Column...
We would like you to make a nomination in our search for Hong Kong's Person of the Year. Can you take a minute to say who you would like to receive the award and give a short reason why.
I am, of course, flattered. But why do they even ask? The only possible choice is Regina Ip, our outwardly uncompromising, even severe, but inwardly sensitive and tender-hearted Secretary for Security. Indeed, "Person of the Year" hardly comes into it � we are talking about the next Chief Executive here.  I take decidedly less than a minute to tell them as much � you have to state the obvious with some people.  Give our Iron Butterfly the award, I say, or you'll wish you had.  Send a "bcc" copy to the SCMP's publisher gently pointing out how well this will go down in the imperial court.  He, too, needs it spelt out to him.  Make yourself useful, I tell him.  Stop shoe-shining Beijing, and start managing the expectations of the Hong Kong people ahead of 2007  That's what they appreciate up there � not ridiculous grovelling about Shanghai beating some village in Ecuador for the right to host the 2010 tiddlywinks championships.

Unless... Who else could it be?  Nicholas Tse's car mechanic?  Mr Cheung King-to, who so nobly gave his life in the struggle against the
dreaded mooncake menace?  Or Decima, the sado-masochist who inflicted such gratifying pain and humiliation on the police and Justice Department geniuses who wasted HK$3 million prosecuting Festish Fashion?  Or, of course, my strange acquaintance A-Hing, the so-called Mid-Levels dog poisoner? All worthy, but no.  Another "bcc" to Regina to let her know it's in the bag.

So spineless is the current leadership of Hong Kong that China's premier Zhu Rongji has to announce that the civil service boil
needs to be lanced before the public sector pus poisons our fiscal system beyond repair.  Tung, meanwhile, peers round nervously from behind him.  Next, the crop-haired one will rely on the United Nations to announce the new garbage collection schedule in Tuen Mun.
Wed, 11 December
Secretary of Constitutional Affairs and ringmaster Stephen Lam plans to introduce some new acts to the circus by including the witchdoctors and voodoo priests of "Chinese medicine" in the GPs and dentists' functional constituency. This should be entertaining.  Medicine is a science, so "Chinese medicine" makes as much sense as Chinese chemistry or Chinese mathematics. But it is politically correct to treat this mishmash of folk remedies, superstition and quackery seriously. The real medics treat the herbalists and bone setters with disdain, while welcoming the extra business the "traditional" medical practitioners send them after inflicting eye, liver and other damage on their peasant clients. The "Chinese" medics meanwhile seethe with resentment at their scientifically trained rivals' vastly superior financial, educational and social status. Email Lam to congratulate him on his cruel sense of humour.  If it goes ahead, this will be more exciting than tying a cat and a dog together.
Thurs, 12 December
I have long assumed that our intrepid Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa had ignored my suggestion a few years back that certain senior officials receive treatment for their inexplicable and irrational fears.  But to my amazement it seems I was wrong.  Two months ago, after several years' intensive therapy, one of them began to gradually overcome his morbid dread of restaurants putting tables and chairs outside. And today, we find that months on the psychiatrist's couch have paid off for another one. The border with Shenzhen is to be open 24 hours a day, a stark reversal of the obsessive need to
"reprimand each inmate who's in late" and has the nerve to spend money outside HK by locking them out for the night. Next, CH himself must tackle his phobia about Government House.  The first step will be admitting that the mansion of post-colonial shame exists.  If he can manage that, who knows?  Maybe he can come to terms with the idea of using it for something useful  � a tourist attraction or museum, say. The abuse he suffered as a child, when he had the most horrible haircut inflicted on him every two weeks, has injured him deeply �  but if others can recover, so can he.

Drop by the circus to see the rhetorical trapeze artists and clowns debate Article 23's threat to our freedoms.  The Government is doing an excellent job of arousing suspicions worldwide that it is meticulously plotting the gradual absorption of HK into the Mainland.  Paranoids and even foreign businessmen are genuinely concerned, while the professional China-baiters at
Dow Jones are having a field day, interpreting the Administration's bloody-minded obstinacy in the face of reasonable requests for a white bill as stealth.  And officials can't utter the simple truth that would set hearts at ease � "We are far too incompetent to meticulously plot anything properly, so don't worry."

Fri, 13 Dec
Christmas cheer comes early to S-Meg Holdings with the news that the Big Boss is in hospital!  Apparently, his jealous wife, intolerant of his cavorting with a Mainland actress, shoved him down the stairs at their Peak mansion last night and he is in a coma. It is unlikely that any brain damage will worsen his mental abilities. Everything is being hushed up. We won't see him for three weeks, at least, so I won't be setting foot in S-Meg Tower again until 2003. The sad part of it is that he fell onto a lovely 15th Century Ming vase, which is now in pieces � unlike his marriage, which will remain outwardly blissful in the interests of keeping face and family fortune intact.