Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat

15-21 December 2002
Sun, 15 Dec
A perfect afternoon at home, listening to Bach's English Suites, sipping Rioja, and perusing new acquisitions from the second-hand book shop in Lan Kwai Fong
: Stephen Vines' Years of Living Dangerously, Jerome K Jerome's Three Men on the Bummel (follow-up to �in a Boat) and General Sir John Hackett's Third World War � a bit of Cold War nostalgia. This bliss is rudely shattered by a ring at the door. Find myself staring at a Chinese woman and a Filipina, both clutching leaflets and smiling.  The last three times Jehovah's Witnesses ruined my peace they got a taste of the old pepper spray.  Decide to be less subtle.  Grab the Chinese girl by the throat and march her into the apartment, through the living room and into the office.  Pin her to the wall with one arm while pulling my trusty Browning 9mm out of the desk drawer. Press the muzzle right under her nose, briefly wondering and then not caring whether there is a round in the chamber.  The terrified look on her face suggests that I have her attention. "Do you know a man called A-Hing?" I ask.  Shakes head.  "Also known as the Mid-Levels Dog Strangler."  Shakes head again.  "He asked me recently if Jehovah's Witnesses are edible."  Muted sobbing.  "If any of you people knock on my door again, ever, I'll hand you over to him.  Understand?"  Petrified nodding.  Let her flee. Should run after her shouting "Excuse me but you've forgotten these 50 copies of the Watchtower," but can't be bothered.
Mon, 16 Dec
Yesterday's march against Article 23 attracted 12,000 or 60,000 protestors, according to police and organizers' respective estimates.  The five-fold magnitude of difference neatly reflects the distance between the perceptions of the government and the concerned public of the issue's seriousness � one believing it to be of no practical consequence, the other seeing the end of the world.  The true turnout must therefore have been around 20,000-25,000.

An email from S-Meg Tower.  The Big Boss will be out of action until mid-January.  Wonderful!  Can't leave town, in order to pull a little weight representing the Big Boss at a few functions, but basically have nothing to do. Will make the next four weeks a "rehearsal for retirement", to quote the late
Phil Ochs.

Tue, 17 Dec
What to do, with no Big Boss and no need to be in the office?  Take an early morning stroll and bump into socialist Financial Secretary and Olympic diving fan Antony Leung, who rubs his hands with glee telling me that
unemployment has fallen from 7.2% to 7.1%.  "Thanks to the Government's efforts," he proclaims proudly.  Only in Hong Kong would officials think they're being clever "creating" jobs by paying Nepalese to spend the day scrubbing sidewalks with nailbrushes.  Back home, all becomes clear.  Disgraced Mormon friend Odell calls to beg me to lie to his wife. "If Mee asks, I spent the nights of November 18, 19, 24 and 28 on your sofa, OK?"  Unless they are carefully planned and executed, lies are grave-digging devices, so I don't commit myself.  But this explains the slight surge in demand for labour in Hong Kong last month. After several months' restraint as a married man, Odell has relapsed into his pre-marital, feral ways, and the GDP of Wanchai has noticed the difference. The "multiplier effect", indeed.
Wed, 18 Dec
What is this strange odour in the air in recent weeks? The putrefying corpses of dengue fever victims in their mass graves?  An attempted comeback by stinky tofu salesmen?  Catch a particularly strong whiff of it this morning in Central.  It is the unmistakable smell of conspiracy. Whisper who dares...  The last "Dump Tung" campaign, four years ago, ended with a sharp rap on the knuckles for tycoons suspected by the imperial court of being less-than effusive about the crop-haired one.  Their punishment was to be lined up in Beijing in their suits and photographed looking gormless.  Now, the whispering is back. As before, there are resentful mutterings about Li Ka-shing's apparent privileges � this time, it's his power monopoly's right to suck the blood from fellow property magnates.  The timing is as good as it will ever be.  The Government is cringing and exposed, under siege for its pitiful handling of Article 23, and there has been a recent burst of sunspot activity, which always makes Tung more panic-stricken than normal.  Do these toads have the spines to have a go, that's the question.  And the answer, of course, is no.
Strolling the streets, I find a store selling movies on disc.  Mostly Hollywood garbage � car crashes, etc � but I do find Otto Preminger's flawed epic Exodus, which I grab for HK$20.  Well, I think so.  The blurb on the back of the box is rather ambiguous�
  Walt Disney's fourth full-length animated feature, Dumbo remains one of Disney's greatest
  masterpieces [ � ] The whole family will enjoy the touching story of a brave elephant with big
  ears, and an even bigger heart!
Thurs, 19 Dec
Only days into my rehearsal for retirement and I miss having a routine.  Wander down to Wyndham Street Post Office, where I send a copy of the
Exodus VCD box cover to Sotheby's for a valuation. Probably worth millions.  Then to Olivers to pick up the ingredients for an experimental chicken and vegetable curry I have in mind. Returning to Perpetual Opulence Mansions, I encounter a policeman arguing with a large, middle-aged gwaipo who has parked her SUV on the sidewalk, which she clearly imagines to be her personal property. Take the valiant constable to one side and tell him that if he shoots her I will testify in court that I had seen her apparently pulling a weapon.  After giving the matter careful consideration, he shakes his head, but says he is most grateful.  I really wonder why I pay tax sometimes, but I suppose he's right � less paperwork with a parking ticket. 
A contrived pro-Article 23 mob will march this Sunday.  It will be interesting to see which tycoons stay away.  Those who take part � the ridiculous Liberal Party chief James Tien, for example � can safely be assumed to be outsiders and not in on The Conspiracy.  How many protestors will come in total?  My hunch is slightly more than 12,000.  Drag a free lunch box through a public housing estate and you'll be surprised what turns up.
Fri, 20 Dec
Email our bumptious Education Secretary Arthur Li giving him full marks for floating the idea of
scrapping Government funding for the English Schools Foundation.  Will he have the backbone to ignore the squeals from well-heeled expats demanding that their brats' education be subsidized by hard-working taxi drivers and shop assistants?  "Hong Kong will no longer be an international city," they will wail.  "We'll have to go elsewhere."  Fine.  The airport's that way.  Meanwhile, as one of just 17 people who actually pay salaries tax in this town, I have to send a cheque for an outrageous sum of money � today � to our voracious Inland Revenue Department. Apart from expat brats high on Ecstasy, I have BMW-owning public housing tenants, companies too lame to get commercial loans and the world's first state-owned Disneyland to support..