Hemlock's Diary
23-29 Mar, 2008
Tue, 25 Mar
A lazy morning goofing off from the office because the Big Boss is away, and there is little to be done at work, and of course if I stay at home it will save the environment and prevent global warming.  Except the Mid-Levels Escalator and S-Meg Tower lighting and air conditioning will be working at full power regardless, so I will actually impose a bigger carbon footprint on the planet than if I went in.  A lazy morning goofing off, anyway – that’s the main thing.

Standard, presumably via its Sing Tao stablemate, scores a scoop by publishing the ramblings of Chief Secretary Henry Tang under the influence of hallucinogenic substances – probably psilocybin mushrooms.  Most people indulging in mind-expanding drugs rant about how everything has gone cube-shaped or colours are making sounds.  Our officials, however, tend to perceive a glistening palace or even a bustling city where there is in reality a large pile of toxic mud. 

The Lok Ma Chau Loop will be a base for innovative technology, Henry claims, the logic being that it will be expensive to develop, therefore it must have a high-value use.  The mysterious grip the desolate, Shenzhen-owned dump has on our leaders when they are in this distorted state of mind is fascinating to behold.  So is the way they claim to see the minutest detail in everything they look at.  Innovative technology, we are told, comprises precisely
11 areas, including automotive parts, textiles and clothing and the inevitable Chinese nano-medicine supply chain management.  It is run by a shadowy organization known as The Commission, which like all innovative technology bodies the world over, has a Supervisor of Typing Services

Voices outside my apartment.  The demographics of Perpetual Opulence Mansions have changed over the years, with some older Chinese moving out and younger Westerners replacing them.  But that’s an over-simplification.  To my joy, my neighbours with the yapping dogs vanished over the weekend.  No longer will I peer through the peephole as the drab number-one daughter pouts down the hallway towards the elevators.  No more will I longingly finger the bag of carbofuran kindly given me by A-Hing the Mid-Levels Dog Poisoner (who celebrates 20 years of public service killing canines in 2009), as I wonder, unsuccessfully, how to deliver the lethal purple crystals to their targets. 

Pressing my ear to the door, I can make out a conversation in two dialects.  A deepish female voice – a woman from the Owner’s Committee – is answering questions in Cantonese, but a high-pitched girlish tone is asking them in Mandarin.  Occasionally, when a frown or shake of the head indicates a breakdown in communication, they resort to verbs and nouns in English.  The Putonghua speaker, dressed in up-and-coming investment banker black suit, appears to be the new resident next door.

Back to Henry Tang.  “The best thing is to attract mainlanders to invest and buy property in Hong Kong.”  Wow.  Cosmic.  The voices outside the door have gone away.  Or were they really there?
Wed, 26 Mar
There was a time when Hong Kong would be plunged into near-suicidal mass despair on hearing that the Mainland might build a Disneyland.  It was the era of Tung Chee-hwa, SARS, Article 23, deflation and intense self-pity.  Many residents of the Big Lychee simply assumed that the crop-haired one, implementing a Central People’s Government decree that Shanghai was to ‘take over’ from us, was deliberately and systematically wrecking their city.  No other explanation made sense.

Since then, the Mouse that Ate Western Civilization has opened for business on Lantau and has proved, predictably, to be a disastrous and embarrassing
waste of public wealth.  So tedious and unpleasant is a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland that going to Ocean Park to watch a pair of somnolent panda bears chew bamboo and stare morosely at their porn movies seems fun by comparison.
Now Shanghai – the world’s only bustling, dynamic international financial centre with exchange controls and skyscrapers sinking into the ground – looks ready to go one better and host a bigger Disneyland of its own.  I spy an opportunity here.  Our Northern friends will be in the market for a quantity of fake-looking, pre-fabricated castles, some tacky rides and a ton of Snow White costumes (slightly used).  Ship it all up there, and Hong Kong has over 300 acres of empty flat space with a dedicated railway line to play with.  Some cattle trucks and barbed wire, and it would make a perfect internment centre for golfers and dog lovers.  Then, when the new Disneyland-on-Yangtze opens and the initial problems with the Maglev, striking staff, ticketing, crowd control and Tibetan arsonists have been sorted out, Hongkongers can go up there on special Good Riddance Mickey tours, stroll around, lift their kids up in the air, pull down their pants and let them have a big pee-pee all over the flowers.  It’s yet another ‘win-win’.

Thurs, 27 Mar
A silly oval cardboard insert promoting Cathay Pacific is tied to my copy of the
South China Morning Post this morning.  As with the glossy brochures on spas, women’s shoes and luxury property that often come with the paper, it leaps from my hands into the nearest bin before I have time to pay it much attention.  But as I stroll through Central’s throngs of marketing floozies, secretaries, HR bunnies, meandering middle managers, grotesquely oversized Westerners, leprous beggars, Filipino maids on the lam and lost tourists, it occurs to me that it must have been something to do with the imminent annual influx of bulky Fijians and other exotic types who enjoy ramming their heads between each other’s thighs while thousands of inebriated Brits and hangers-on stare open-mouthed, overcome by the brilliant atmosphere.  It is the first sign that I have noticed that the Rugby Sevens is approaching.  Yet, in the gwailo’s lair on the top floor of S-Meg Tower, I Google the thing and find that the tournament of tedium takes place this very weekend. 

Where are all the chubby, red-faced expatriate regional distribution managers and quantity surveyors who fly in every year from Australia, Bangkok and Dubai to parade drunkenly and noisily around town in their colourful sports shirts?   Far fewer of them seem to be around this year.  Maybe the sub-prime loan credit crunch crisis has depleted their numbers, free time or spending power.  Or perhaps, after a quarter of a century or so, the message is finally getting through that there are only so many times in your life that you need to watch swarthy South Sea Islanders jam their faces between each other’s buttocks for hours on end, and even the most easily amused and undemanding fans are finding that the novelty is wearing off.  If so, perhaps we can bundle the event into the Disneyland package and sell it to Shanghai or some other loser city desperate to attract an annual migration of raucous consumers of sausages and mashed potato to show how international it is. 

But not so fast!  The
Standard warns of another barbarian threat to the Big Lychee’s peace and harmony.  Activists will be ‘obliged’ to disrupt the incredibly exciting Olympics-related ritual in which someone runs around with a burning stick while millions look on in awe at the most thrilling thing they have ever seen apart from scantily clad New Zealanders clutching bloated Tongans’ posteriors with their sweaty hands.  Obliged, that is, unless China refrains from committing further human rights abuses.
The Standard’s front-page graphic shows the two sides squaring off.  On the left, we have eagle-eyed, valiant and utterly ruthless Sergeants Lam, Ng and Chan of the famous G4 VIP protection unit.  Trained to leap in front of flying bullets and catch them in their teeth, they will protect the solemn-looking athletes who carry the plucky little Olympic flame as they run in such a fascinating and thought-provoking way from country to country for month after month.   On the right, we have Ben and Joe, vegetarian members of the International Alliance of Moral White People, who worry about GM crops, whales, Tibetans and much more.  They are determined, whatever the cost, to pounce on the carbon-emitting, ice cap-melting beacon as it is transported up and down Nathan Road, to get the word out to the world that President Hu Jintao deserves a good spanking.  With a contest like this, who needs the Sevens?
Fri, 28 Mar
Martin Lee, the saintly martyr to the cause of democracy in Hong Kong, backs out of September’s Legislative Council election citing his age and his desire to make way for new blood – but not his total lack of achievement in improving governance in the city since the handover in 1997.  His most dazzling success was establishing his profile overseas and making himself the darling of both the liberal and red-baiting wings of America’s politico-journo-policy wonk caste.  His dream, shared by many other pro-democrats, was that the Western world would be kind (not to say potent) enough to pressure Beijing into keeping its implicit pre-1997 promises about political reform in Hong Kong.  The reality, from the minute the UK began negotiations with newly emerging China in the early 1980s, was that the civilized world’s power holders were interested in Mainland trade and investment opportunities, not high-minded principles about the Big Lychee’s constitutional arrangements.

In the decade since the handover, it has become increasingly obvious that, whatever the theory, universal suffrage even in just one city is simply not compatible in practice with one-party rule over the nation.  But the pro-democrats have stuck at it, tirelessly demanding the realization of fine-sounding abstract concepts, leaving the bureaucrats and cartels free to merrily pursue their material interests at the expense of the Hong Kong people.  They could have called (say) for the transfer of ownership of public housing to tenants as a way to reverse the wealth gap, but they didn’t.  They could have itemized and denounced – in attention-grabbing style – the waste and virtual corruption inherent in the constant flow of free lunches to tourism, construction and real estate interests, but they didn’t.  They could have researched and broadcast the high land price policy’s true impact in terms of inadequate housing, psychopathic planning and the concentration of economic opportunities in the hands of a favoured few.  But they didn’t.  Instead, they wrung their hands and bleated about an unattainable ideal.  What a waste of 10 years that was.  The best hope in September, deranged as it would once have sounded, is probably to vote DAB or even new-look, trendy, friends-of-the-people Liberal.  The worst-case scenario would be no change.  Except for less bleating.
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