Hemlock's Diary
7-13 September, 2008
Mon, 8 Sep
The ineffable slime that is Hong Kong’s Liberal Party is unceremoniously
tossed to one side as the Big Lychee goes to the polls.  Despite a low turnout of 45 percent, plus their own cannibalistic election strategies and redundant single-issue mania, the pro-democracy camp performed adequately, while the obedient patriots of the Democratic Alliance for the Blah Blah of HK mobilized their unquestioning, senile and infirm legions with ruthless efficiency.  Marxist revolutionary Long Hair won more than any other pan-democrat in his constituency – suggesting that the ragged, starving, inflation-ravaged masses are beginning to lose patience with the pearl-spangled, upper-middle-class professionals who fly in from Hong Kong Island in pursuit of their votes.  The Standard this morning comes up with an intriguing solution to the problem of squeezing the phrase ‘ineffable slime…’ on its tabloid front page.   Just put a nine-letter word in, doesn't matter which.

The scene outside my polling station yesterday was, by Robinson Road standards, slightly raucous.  A group of protesters waited to greet dashing Chief Executive Donald Tsang, the neighbourhood’s star resident.  On their own, they would have made the barest commotion, but when you add the usual Hong Kong ratio of three reporters and five police officers for every one demonstrator it adds up to quite a crowd.  Inside, the distribution of humans was a bit different – for every 10 civil servants to usher citizens from ID check to polling booth to ballot box, there were four officers handing out the ballot sheets and just two actual voters.  Sir Bow-Tie, in a booth at the far end, perusing the ballot with evident distaste, as if wishing he could banish them all from existence, and me, too idle to get my reading glasses out in the gloom, quite possibly voting for the wrong list.
Up in New Territories East, Long Hair came second out of 10 lists, to the DAB.  On this, the decidedly more fragrant side of the harbour, fearsome former Security Secretary Regina Ip came second out of 10 lists, to the bourgeois pro-universal suffrage Civic Party.  Is this a wondrous electoral system or what? – it is hard to believe no other place in the world uses it.
Tue, 9 Sep
After its embarrassing
Chicago Trib moment, the Standard withdraws from its parallel universe back to the world more or less as it is – a planet where directly elected members of Hong Kong’s Liberal Party are extinct

The Liberals are clearly perplexed about it all.  The grouping is anti-democracy, anti-consumer, anti-competition laws and anti-people who didn’t inherit Daddy’s garments sweatshops – bloated with profits after colonial officials granted precious textiles quotas in exchange simply for being groveling Shanghainese rather than shifty-looking locals.  Among its more memorable policies are keeping penalties for running red lights low, to spare minibus drivers undue hardship after having to disentangle mangled schoolchildren from their vehicles’ axels.  And then there was James Tien’s highly original proposal to cut the tax on luxury sports cars to boost their numbers on our streets, thus making the Big Lychee look more prosperous – a sort of 100mph Potemkin metropolis. 

What on earth is there not to vote for here?  Burning with humiliation at having this cornucopia of political genius spurned, the Liberals are now muttering about becoming more vehemently anti-universal suffrage, more cantankerous and uncooperative with the Government, more self-interested, greedy and callous and more prone to stealing things from small school kids and kicking cats, old women and beggars in the street. 
There is even talk – and the Big Boss at S-Meg Holdings himself is being approached on the subject – of a new ‘pro-business’ party rising from the ashes.  It will, unless certain individuals calm down, be a group that says, “No more Mr Nice Guy,” takes the kid gloves off and gets serious about seeing the distribution of power, opportunities and wealth as a pure zero-sum game in which the idle grassroots, the grasping elderly and infirm, the whining middle classes, the smart-ass multinationals and the malingering civil servants must surrender totally to the mighty industrialists of Hong Kong.  The We Hate Everybody Party.

Wed, 10 Sep
“Well, one hesitates to say ‘grotesque’.  One will only say ‘perverse’… Surely physical competition is about finding the best – the fastest, strongest, highest, all that.  It is not about finding someone who can wobble his way around a track in a wheelchair, or who can swim from one end of a pool to the other by Braille.”
Lost, underemployed souls who dare to put pen to paper still shudder when they recall the lynching of Mary Ellen Synon all those years ago.  According to Henry David Thoreau, “the only way to speak the truth is to speak lovingly.”  But he never had to consider James Tien and the Liberal Party.  Nor did he have to endure months of Olympics hype involving lithe, under-aged, doped-up, perfect physical specimens smashing world records at running, leaping and throwing, only to find the whole thing being repeated by people who are in most respects far more normal and thus uninteresting – save for physical disabilities that leave them barely able to run, leap, etc.
Discussing the para-equestrian events now in progress up in sunny Shatin, an RTHK reporter said, in essence, “paralympics dressage is actually more interesting than the regular event.”  Out of the mouths of babes and innocents…  Nothing could be less interesting than normal dressage, of course – but even allowing for that, there must be something undeniably fascinating about watching a rider with no arms steer a horse around with the reins between her teeth.  I would like to think that paying money for a ticket to witness the spectacle doesn’t increase the thrill in any way.  But it is not something you often see.  Ditto the blind playing soccer. 

Exercise is important and enjoyable for everyone, and disabled people who make a point of doing it are fully justified in sneering at all the slovenly masses who don’t.  If some of them want to take it very seriously and take part in big organized competitions, good for them.  If they don’t find themselves noticing that, as Paralympics events in Beijing have
shown, the events attract little attention from spectators and media, perhaps that’s just as well.  If they do notice – which surely they must – but don’t find it embarrassing or humiliating in any way, I am glad to hear it.  And if they don’t think the organizers and government leaders who appear to be so earnest about it all aren’t being outrageously condescending, then that’s brilliant.  I couldn’t be happier.

There.  Thoreau would be proud.
Thurs, 11 Sep
There is something for everyone on Google News this morning.  Hong Kong’s middle class are warming to Beijing, according to on-line publication Asia Times.  No, replies, the Wall Street Journal, the election result was a slap in the face for the anti-democrats. 

Both sources have their eccentricities.  Many
Asia Times articles are polemic rants by self-described freelance writers no-one has ever heard of.  Gold freaks blather on about fiat currencies, America-haters froth at the mouth with glee at any bad news from Iraq, Afghanistan or Georgia, and Indians and Pakistanis rave about the tedious Kashmir issue as if anyone outside their two woefully under-performing (except in culinary respects) countries cares.
The Wall Street Journal is at the other end of the scale, taking venerable, well-heeled conservatism to the point of self-parody.  Few other places in media land still, in the modern era, carry op-ed pieces by Democratic Party founder Martin Lee – and certainly none with the reverence due a holy relic.  (The on-line articles do a curious and irritating ‘bounce’ a few seconds after downloading.  At first, I thought it was a bug they would fix, but I am getting the impression that it is intentional and maybe even supposed to help the reader in some way.  An idea that didn’t work but, for the sake of someone’s pride, can’t be scrapped.)

The reason for the dichotomy?  The
Asia Times writer holds that functional constituencies – in which pro-democrats lost several seats – are “largely the preserve of the middle class.”  This isn’t true.  Many of them are occupied by chairmen or CEOs (often also owners) of big companies, with individuals often wielding multiple votes in very limited franchises of a few hundred non-human electors.  Some FCs supposedly represent portions of the proletariat, like labour unions or district councils, but are rigged in such a way as to return pro-Beijing legislators.  The FCs where pan-democrats lost belong to doctors, IT geeks and accountants.  While certainly middle class, their elections revolve around professional rivalry, backstabbing and bickering in overcrowded races where a few votes can make all the difference. 

So Beijing’s bourgeois bonus is debatable at best.  That said, Hong Kong's chattering classes are probably less suspicious towards China’s leaders these days, but that is outweighed by the need to give priority to… 

I was about to say ‘hanging, drawing and quartering our very own, local Crap Government’, but this being National Thoreau Week, I have to think of a sweeter-natured way to put it.  As if on cue, a (far from interesting) PR
presentation on the Big Lychee’s exciting future as a bustling port falls open on page 34.  And at the bottom is the euphemism I seek. 

...outweighed by the need to give priority to…
Fri, 12 Sep
How devious is our dynamic little bundle of visionary leadership, Chief Executive Donald Tsang?  After having their political lives spared by popular despair at the Government – plus the throw-of-the-dice nature of our election system – the pan-democrats are now thinking of semi-castrating themselves by
running a candidate for President, or speaker, of the Legislative Council.  If Donald is cunning, he will think about letting them win the post and taking one of their fractious number out of the business of speaking in debates, moving or amending motions and, except in a tie, voting in divisions.  But as a born cronyist, he will see the position as a high-profile reward for selfless submission to the Will of the Bow-Tie, and probably give the job, as widely expected, to the DAB’s Tsang Yok-sing.  I knew Machiavelli, Chief Executive, and you’re no Machiavelli.

A more pressing question is – when will they take the wrapping off the tastefully designed Made in China children’s playground equipment at Cyberport’s Bel-Air No 8, where residents instill their offspring with love for the Motherland at an early age, so the kids can climb it and say, “Ha!  Useless Mainlanders.  Everyone knows you spell it W-e-l-l-c-o-m-e!”
Available from


Dymocks, IFC Mall
& other HK Dymocks
some, probably, maybe)

Hong Kong & worldwide
USA & worldwide