HK Magazine, December 15, 2006.

Roland Soong is one of the most influential bloggers in the greater Chinese world. His blog, EastSouthWestNorth (zonaeuropa.com), which translates Chinese news articles and blog posts into English, is an essential feed for journalists in the east and west. He talks to Zach Hines.

I was born in Shanghai in 1949, before the liberation of China. My family decided to come to Hong Kong in 1967. I studied at La Salle in Kowloon Tong.

My parents sent my sister to France, and me to Australia, where I finished high school and university in Sydney. I went on to work in New York.

New York is very cosmopolitan. It・s not like in the midwest where you・d feel out of place.

I can・t say I like New York because I stayed there for 30 years. Sometimes, when you stay in a place for too long, you start thinking that you don・t like it much.

In 2003, my mother became ill and I moved back to take care of her. So here I am, in Hong Kong.

Advertisers do not care about circulation anymore. It is the type of readership that matters.

The sense of satisfaction is probably not the reason why I am doing the translation and running the blog. I derive satisfaction from my audience・s recognition. There is a reason why they keep coming back to my blog.

Mainstream media is the media that 95 per cent of the population chooses; and I don・t think South China Morning Post is one of them.

The South China Morning Post is doing a horrible thing because its online newspaper is behind the subscription wall. You can・t read it, and you can・t talk about it.

When I was in New York, I didn・t buy the paper because I could read it online.

There are two sides to the media in Hong Kong. On the one hand, you have the political news, which just tells you exactly what happened and who said what. Then you have Apple Daily who would say whatever they want to say. It is quite absurd.

The two newspapers that have the largest circulation are the Oriental Daily and Apple Daily, and they hold opposite political views. I don・t think anyone would get anywhere in Hong Kong without partisanship.

You need to have a consistent position in everything. I have no position. I only have conclusions. I am really skeptical when people discuss historical events because I have been through a few topsy-turvy cycles in history.

I・m not affiliated with the Republicans or the Democrats because they are only labels. I don・t owe them anything. I・m trained to be a mathematician so I tend to look at things in a cold, less enthusiastic way.

Democracy is made possible through election or universal suffrage. But who wins election? People who are good at winning elections!

You have to keep an eye on those politicians. If you catch them doing something wrong, hold on to it. Don・t let them spin out of it.

People should participate in the decision-making process of selecting a chief executive.

I want some peace; I don・t want to kick butts. In a complicated issue like the West Kowloon Cultural district, I keep my mouth shut.

Should there be a canopy in West Kowloon? I don・t know. Will that bring in more tourists? How would I know?

I try not to be a forecaster because I know I would look so bad if I did a back cast.

I think the [Mainland] government has overestimated their ability to comprehend the internet users.

Even if the government knows something is going on, what can they do? Shut down the internet?

Ten years ago, only a small number of people could use the internet. They either worked for a foreign company or at a university. Now migrant workers are hanging out in internet cafes.

Thank God for the internet; now I don・t have to go out every day and buy 10 newspapers.

Someday, the Apple Daily in Hong Kong will become the Apple Daily in Taiwan.

Apple Daily in Taiwan went from nowhere to the number one selling newspaper. It is not pro-blue or pro-green: It reports on the corruption of government officials, which is why it got up there.

Apple Daily in Hong Kong is unabashedly pushing forward the agenda, pushing for universal suffrage. So it is a newspaper for the people. But on the day that universal suffrage is achieved, it will switch its stand to neutral.

I am lucky to be able to read Chinese. It struck me that even for the same story, different newspapers have different ways of interpreting it. Sometimes you have to step back to see what the facts are.

What is information? Information is something that makes a difference to your life. Unlike celebrity gossip.


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