Word Parsing in Hong Kong

Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghung was in Venezuela, and spoke to the press about Hong Kong.  Here are several reports from the worldwide press:

(Associated Press)  January 30, 2005.

In remarks during a visit to Venezuela, Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong described Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa's policy address earlier this month as "lacking," Hong Kong government-owned radio RTHK reported.  In his speech, Tung admitted that he had not properly listened to public views and announced new measures to boost the territory's economy.  Zeng called the address solid, responsive to popular opinion and said it drew from experience, but added that it was still lacking, RTHK reported. 

(AFP)  January 31, 2005.

Zeng's statement was interpreted in The Standard newspaper as an indictment of efforts by Tung to atone for his shortcomings during a major speech earlier in January.

The paper said the vice-president -- who heads a secret panel that has begun the selection process for Hong Kong's next leader -- had described Tung's speech as "lacking" and called on him to grasp the political opportunities offered by the city's economic recovery.

Now that was pretty important news when Hong Kong heard about it.  This was contrary to all other previous indicators, and it would be bizarre for Zeng to undermine a speech which was presumably cleared by him.  At the time when the news broke, it was in the middle of the night in Venezuela.  It took some time before Zeng's words could be verified from the recorded tape.

Here is the deal.  Zeng supposedly said this about the Chief Executive's policy report:

報告總結了經驗和教訓 ... 還有不足

[translation]  The report summarized the experience and lessons learned ... plus the inadequacies.

Instead, some of the media quoted Zeng as having said:


[translation]  The report summarized the experience and lessons learned, but it is still lacking.

The insertion of an extra 'but' () was enough to completely alter the interpretation.  I doubt that this was deliberate.  The RTHK spokesperson said: "We had a reporter at the scene.  He made a report based upon what he heard.  I don't think that is a problem.  When the government made clarifications, we reported that too."  But It was an astonishing sight to see how much was being inferred from a transcription error.