The Doggies of Hong Kong
Years ago, in an Asiaweek.com article, Yulanda Chang summarized:
For unmitigated gall, it's hard to beat Hong Kong's tabloid-style dailies. Their paparazzi are unrelenting in chasing down a whiff of controversy. A celebrity tiff? Parties to the feud are likely to be shadowed from home to work to shopping malls, with the media pack only just prevented from invading the intimate restaurant where one may be dining. No detail is too trivial and (almost) no VIP too important to be pursued. Last month, Justice Secretary Elsie Leung's skin-care regime became the focus of another tale (a wrinkle-removal cream, according to reports; an anti-allergy treatment, says an irate Leung).
Some stories resemble something out of the U.S. National Enquirer, but few take them seriously. One paper "interviewed" a deceased socialite about her (living) husband's affair with another celebrity--through a psychic, of course. And then there are those reports which deal with half-truths. Most notoriously, the Apple Daily last year paid a man to be photographed in bed with prostitutes just after his wife committed suicide--and ran it with a front-page report on the "heartless" widower. A judge who criticized the Oriental Daily News's aggressive tactics found himself being hounded by its aptly named doggie teams, as the paparazzi are known in Cantonese. The editor involved has since been jailed for contempt of court.
Well, if you want to live a long and healthy life, you might want to treat the doggie teams with some humor. Such was the case with the economist Steven N.S. Cheung, who reported in this week's Next Magazine:
Two weeks ago, East Week posted yours truly on the front cover with a woman who is identified as my wife. The accompanying article contained some old information that is passed off as news. It is impossible for their research to have yielded so much wrong information, and incredibly wrong at that, so they must be making stuff up. Friends in the know were all astonished. Is this libel? Several lawyer friends all agreed that there was no doubt about it. The more interesting question is why East Week did it.
Several months ago, a veteran press friend joked that the only things true in some magazines are the names of the subjects while every other sentence is false. This time, East Week broke that record because not even the name is correct as my wife became someone else. At the time, my wife was not in Shenzhen and she asked a woman to help me clean up my stuff. So this woman made it onto the front cover. Afterwards this woman called me to apologize. I asked: "Why apologize?" The reply: "I did not put on make-up that day, so I didn't look good."
The East Week reporter who made up the report is a female. On March 21, she spoke to my wife and said that her name is Chan Ming-wei. Four hours later, a reporter by the name of Chan called a friend of mine for information. My friend asked her from where she got the telephone number, she replied that my wife gave it to her. That was a lie. Two hours before that, a male and female appeared on the 11th floor of the West Coast International Building to 'visit' while trying to take photographs steathily. They were discovered, and the two of them fled down the fire escape stairs. The female then returned to the 11th floor, where she was asked why she was there. This female claimed to be a student of Professor Cheung and came to see him. That was a lie. The lawyer said that this may be a crime.
If all three of the above persons is Chan Ming-wei, then this is quite pathetic. This woman has to create Heaven and Earth like God every morning and then she has to look in the mirror and practice lying in the evening. I wonder how anyone could live like that. Is it really that hard to earn a living? Are these acts representative of the special media culture in Hong Kong?
Why would East Week pick on an economist, as famous as he is? Eh, surely this has something to do with the fact that Cheung writes for its more successful rival Next Magazine. There is nowhere for East Week to go but up ... eh, or was that low? Here is another famous series from East Week. These are photos of the actress Bai Ling opening her hotel door to pick up the champagne that she had ordered to celebrate her best supporting actress award at the Hong Kong Film Awards. What happened here? Someone for East Week booked the hotel room across her, set up a camera and waited for her to open the door ...
Representative acts of the special media culture in Hong Kong? It is true that the subjects may sue for libel or invasion of privacy, and some have done so and won. East Week has even been suspended by the government for a while for showing the nude photos of a kidnapped actress. However, the magazine simply factors the penalties as the cost of business. Supply meets demand, and then let us celebrate freedom of press ... NOT!