Flat White

Those nosy neighbours are watching

13 May 2020

5:45 PM

13 May 2020

5:45 PM

“They’re not happy with you.”

My friend Mary takes a sip of her green tea and beams. I don”t know the word for schadenfreude in Chinese or even if there is one, but I think it’s what she’s feeling because like many newish Australian citizens Mary is divided in her loyalties. She loves her former homeland but would never return to live there

And so she’s giving a warning, tactfully, that going to Hong Kong or mainland China — even if that were even possible — would not be a good idea in the near future.

So why have I been noticed, maybe even blacklisted by the Chinese embassy in Canberra? “It was what you wrote.”


Another big sip of green tea.

“You said it in Chinese.”

My last piece in The Spectator Australia has somehow been read behind the near-impenetrable walls of the Chinese Embassy, a miniature copy of the Forbidden City in Yarralumla.

And yes, I had written that Australia had the food that fed China’s wealthy middle classes and their “princeling” babies.

Somehow, someone had read the story and reported it. Mary herself?

Paranoia is something all journalists know only too well and suddenly I’m remembering that she went to Hong Kong about a year ago to bury a relative. The ceremony had to take place in Macau since the family burial ground had been taken over by the local state government. The family had paid local bigwigs generously to allow the necessary.formalities to proceed. All part if the network.

I finish my tea.

“You know Mary,” I say. “I don’t think you’ve ever told me your real name.”

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