The Headline News in Hong Kong - Part 1
This post will be yet another illustration that English-language readers will never really be able to figure what is going on in Hong Kong, because their souces of information are 'filtered' either by deliberate design or lack of access. This item did not appear to be in the front of every Chinese-language newspaper. Certainly, at the newsstand this morning, I saw that Oriental Daily had more important fish to fry -- an Indonesian housemaid has put a curse on her employer's family! Neither local English-language newspaper would stoop so low as to cause panic among their readers.
Ah, but let us get on with this story which actually received international coverage a few days ago. What will an English-language reader find out? Going to the South China Morning Post, they will read:
A Baptist University professor, who was released after nine days of police detention in Beijing, has admitted he signed a confession saying he visited a prostitute - despite his earlier denials. Social work academic William Wong Wai-lim said the confession was one of several he signed during his detention.
Dr Wong, who went missing after attending an international academic congress in Beijing on July 7, was released on Friday after intervention from the Hong Kong government and the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. News of Dr Wong's disappearance caused a stir among government officials and the media last week, when his family said they had lost contact with him.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his release, Dr Wong, who described his detention as "a bad dream", said he had no idea why he was arrested by public security officials. "I like watching films ... I cannot imagine that the drama of 'Wong is missing' would evoke so much curiosity," he said. He denied his detention had anything to do with politics or espionage.
Dr Wong claimed that his ordeal started on July 7 when he took a taxi to a Beijing hotel after having a massage at a health centre. He said a woman jumped into the back of his taxi, which was then intercepted by police who arrested him and the woman. He was then asked to sign several "confessions", including one with the charge that he had visited a prostitute. Dr Wong claimed he signed all the documents, hoping that he would be released. He did not press for access to a lawyer or to alert Hong Kong authorities because he was "stressed" and "could not communicate" well in Putonghua.
Fair enough, this reads like another story about big bad public security bureau people entrapping honest Hong Kong citizens to squeeze some bribe money. For validation, the English-language reader can proceed to The Hong Kong Standard and find:
Academic William Wong, back in Hong Kong after being held in custody in Beijing for 10 days, admits he had signed a confession soon after being arrested by mainland police during an anti-vice sweep. What started as an ordinary journey to attend an academic conference became a traveller's worst nightmare. In the course of a fortnight, the Baptist University social work assistant professor was arrested with a prostitute in his taxi and spent 10 days in custody without being charged.
He was freed only after his wife travelled to Beijing and enlisted the help of Hong Kong government representatives. He has had to explain his actions to his employers, and on Wednesday - with his wife in the audience - held a press conference at the university, admitting he had confessed to the allegations.
"No threats were made to induce me to sign the confession that I had hired a prostitute. The public security bureau officer treated me very well,'' Wong said. Wong said he had signed the document on the day of his arrest, July 7, thinking he would be released immediately. Instead, Wong was held for 10 days and released on July 16. Speaking for the first time after returning to Hong Kong on Saturday, Wong denied media reports that he was trying to engage the services of a prostitute at the time of his arrest.
Wong, who appeared distracted, said he was stressed to the limit by his current ordeal. He at first said he wanted to tell reporters everything but asked for understanding for "the difficult situation'' he was in. When challenged later, Wong said he had no secrets.
Wong had arrived in Beijing on July 7 to attend the International Institute of Sociology's world congress, which ended on July 11. That night, he dined in the tourist district of Wangfujing. At about 9.30pm, Wong said he took a taxi to a massage parlour where a blind masseur worked on him for an hour. At about 11pm, he hailed another taxi to return to the Gloria Plaza Hotel.
Wong said the taxi suddenly stopped after going a short distance before suddenly stopping and a middle-aged woman jumped in, sitting on the back seat. Wong said he was in the front. About five or 10 minutes later, the taxi was intercepted by public security bureau officers and Wong was taken to the police station.
Wong said he failed to understand why the woman jumped into the taxi, and failed to answer why he had not asked the woman to get out. He replied cryptically: ``The earth is rotating and is round. Under such circumstances, I don't know whether the earth is rotating and is round or whether it is flat.''
When questioned if he had asked the woman what she was doing in his taxi, Wong said: "I had. But my Putonghua is poor and I could not understand what she said.'' Wong also did not say whether the location where the taxi was intercepted was a red-light district. His friend and colleague To Yiu-ming, a journalism assistant professor, said the taxi was intercepted near Chaoyang district, a bar and entertainment area.
Wong also had not sought advice from lawyers or other people before signing the confession, but had shown the officer proof that he was an assistant professor. "If I had sought help, I would not be sitting here [telling you what had happened].
"I was alone and had no contact with a lawyer or family. I just wanted to leave the police station as early as possible, and so I signed the confession. I was never threatened or beaten,'' Wong said. "But I feared they might.''
A person caught paying for sex on the mainland would normally be detained for about two weeks and asked to pay a fine of several thousand yuan. Wong said he was not asked to pay any fine. Wong said that apart from the various documents he signed in custody, he was not formally told what he had been detained for. Nor was he told why he had been released.
"I think intervention by the SAR government office in Beijing and the fact that I had confessed may have led to my release,'' he said. Asked whether he felt he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice in signing the confession, he replied, "I did not say it was a miscarriage of justice. That is only your description.''
Wong gave an account of the incident to university president Ng Ching-fai on Monday, followed by a written report on Wednesday. Wong said he was mentally exhausted, and was glad to be back. He said he needed time to contemplate what follow-up action to take.
To said Wong needed psychological counselling. He said Wong's friends were planning to complain to local deputies of the National People's Congress. But Wong could file lawsuit in Beijing courts if he found police had abused their powers, the source said.
University president Ng said he understood that Wong needed a few days of rest. When Wong returned, the dean of social sciences and the head of department of social work would have further discussions on his report with him.
Meanwhile, a source told Sing Tao that the public security bureau officers were ``shocked'' to discover at the time that Wong was an assistant professor. But Wong could file lawsuit in Beijing courts if he found police had abused their powers, the source said.
Now, you will note that The Hong Kong Standard is referring to the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily. These two newspapers belong to the same media group. But they are clearly not sharing all the information, because Sing Tao Daily also has the detailed story from the public security bureau.
The specific sequence of events according to William Wong is as follows:
On July 7, William Wong arrived in Beijing from Hong Kong to attend the 36th World Sociology Conference.
On the evening of July 7, William Wong ate dinner at the Donglaishun restaurant on Wangfuqing Street.
After dinner, at 930pm, William Wong took a taxicab and visited a health center for a one-hour massage session given by a blind masseur to treat his sore neck.
At 1100pm, he took a taxicab to return to the Hyatt Hotel. He was sitting next to the driver.
After the taxicab moved for a while, it stopped and a middle-aged female entered and sat down in the backseat.
The taxicab moved again but was stopped by another car about 10 minutes later.
Two persons who identified themselves as public security officers came over and took the female into custody on the car. The taxicab was driven back to the public security station.
During the period of detention, William Wong signed multiple documents, including an admission for soliciting the services of a prostitute, in the hope of being released quickly.
William Wong was detained until July 16 before being released.
William Wong believes that the authorities in Beijing are investigating the public security bureau.
The specific sequence of events according to the public security bureau is as follows:
On or about 11pm of July 7, William Wong left the Hyatt Hotel and got into a taxicab. (technical note: this assertion was based upon the testimony of the taxicab driver and not by direct observation of the public security bureau officers; please note the taxicab departed from the Hyatt Hotel and it was not going towards the Hyatt Hotel from some other point).
At Jingguang Center, a taxicab was observed by public security bureau officers to have stopped and then a suspected prostitute got in. The public security bureau vehicle then followed the taxicab for a while.
On or about 1145pm, the public security bureau stopped the taxicab near Quanlun Hotel and arrested the taxicab driver, passenger William Wong and the female. (technical note: The newspaper included a map which indicates that the point of interdiction is going directly away from the Hyatt Hotel at about the same distance; in other words, the taxicab was not returning to the Hyatt Hotel)
At the public security bureau, William Wong admitted that he was "soliciting the service of a prostitute" and signed his name to a confession. In the signed confession, William Wong admitted that he got into a taxicab from the Hyatt Hotel where he was staying and he asked the driver about prostitute services. The taxicab driver took him to the area near the Jingguang Hotel. Since Wong's putonghua was not very good, the taxicab driver negotiated with the female on his behalf about the price of the service. After Wong agreed to the price, the female got into the taxicab. Then Wong handed over the 150 RMB and they proceeded towards the female's home to complete the transaction. But they were stopped and arrested by the public security bureau officers.
The testimonies of the taxicab driver and the female are also on file, together with the 150 RMB as evidence.
The public security bureau source said that William Wong can litigate against them in Beijing for abuse of power and misconduct. However, if William Wong chooses to make claims against them in Hong Kong contrary to the evidence, they will sue him in Hong Kong for libel.
Ming Pao had some jaw-dropping quotes from William Wong's press conference:
Question: Why were you
Answer: I really don't know. I have wondered. I don't know if the earth is round, or that it rotates on its own or that it is flat. I don't know! 「我真的不知為什麼，我有懷疑過。地球是圓的、自轉還是在平地的，我也不知道﹗」
Question: Did you sign
the documents under coercion?
Answer: "This is a very big ..." (note: he just stopped there and did not say anything else) 「呢場係好大……」
Question: Did the
public security officers demand money from you?
Anwswer: I only had a few hundred dollars on me. They didn't seem to be asking for money. Is money really so useful? Otherwise, I wouldn't be sitting here today? 「我身上只有數百元，他們好像沒有要金錢，錢真是那麼有用嗎﹖如果不是，我今日還能坐在這裏﹖」
Question: Will you
complain about this matter?
Answer: I live in a possible world. I live in a believable world. I did not complain to the Hong Kong-Macau office. I am quite happy to be back. 「我活在一個可能的世界，我活在相信的世界。我沒有向港澳辦投訴。我回來了已經很開心。」
Question: Will you resign
from your job?
Answer: What would you do if you were me? You've got your job and I've got mine. 「如果你是我你會怎做﹖你有你的工作，我有我的﹗」
What really happened? How would I know? I am just a blogger who reads the online newspapers. But this is really asking for the suspension of a lot of disbelief ...