For the third day running, Hong Kong wakes up to find that CY Leung is still Chief Executive-elect – and mobbed by adoring crowds, to boot. And the truth gradually dawns that the city is returning to its customary trivial and banal normality. The big tough macho Privacy Commissioner issues an ‘enforcement notice’ against two of publisher Jimmy Lai’s gossip rags for printing photos of TVB ‘stars’ taken through the windows of their homes, enabling the Standard to declare ‘Sex snoops slapped’ – despite an absence of any real reproductive activity.
I thought the Privacy Commissioner existed to stop organizations like the MTR’s Octopus Card selling customer data to scummy companies hawking such undesirable merchandise that it takes huge junk mail and other desperate marketing campaigns to sell it. But no. It seems they keep themselves busy by probing Google and, as now, decreeing the limits of the media’s ‘noble purpose of public scrutiny’ by insisting that privacy is of equal value to freedom of the press. Which of course you would say if you’re in charge of privacy.
This is not Rupert Murdoch News International-style cop-bribing and phone-hacking. Jimmy Lai’s paparazzi photographed their targets from more-or-less public places, though the Commissioner maintains that the public would not normally be in those spots and would not normally use powerful telephoto lenses, so the people photographed would not expect anyone to be able to see them. It would be interesting to see how this would stand up in a real court as legitimate, if childishly prurient, exercise of a free press.
The ‘victims’ are personalities manufactured by TVB; they have groveled and done God knows what else to become TV stars, world famous from Yuen Long to North Point. Bosco Wong had no clothes on when he was snapped in his Fo Tan home. Vincent Wong and then-girlfriend Yoyo Chen were cavorting in various states of undress in a Tseung Kwan O apartment. Would there be such a fuss if the stars had been clothed and reading a book? Perhaps Jimmy Lai’s real crime is to have exposed the performers’ dirtiest secret: living in downmarket, unglamorous neighbourhoods.
It is traditional in these cases to point the finger of blame at the gossip magazines’ 6.9 million readers for demanding such salacious material in the first place. (What would aliens from the Planet Zarg be thinking as they emailed their reconnaissance report back home? “Attached is a picture of male Earthling Bosco Wong. Other Earthlings pay money to see blurred asteroid-like photos of him in the nude.”) But maybe Hong Kong’s urban geography has a lot to answer for.
Our closely stacked tower blocks with windows required on three sides and convenient adjacent mountains make peeping-tom reporting more cost-effective than other types of journalism. If we lived in a flatter, more spread-out environment, the costs of photographing celebrities inside their humble curtain-less apartments would be far higher. Magazines would find it more profitable to publish in-depth investigative reporting on bear-bile farms, good corporate citizenship and sustainable energy. It’s just economics.
And if you think Bosco in the nude is mundane, try this: Legislative Council committee spends 26 months and HK$1.57 million producing 479-page report on a highly forgettable lawmaker who fired an assistant whose name we never even learned in the first place for some reason no-one else thought worth mentioning. Oh for the days of Henry’s basement.
Separated at Birth 1. Bosco Wong (left) and an asteroid (right)…
Separated at Birth 2. Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect CY Leung (left) and French actor Louis Jourdain in the James Bond movie Octopussy (right)…
Jourdain, as we all know, appeared in the BBC’s Count Dracula. And he refused to appear in Nazi films during World War II and joined the Resistance. Proof, surely, that carriers of the ‘creepiness’ facial gene have a hereditary predisposition to oppose dictatorship and tyranny.
Here’s a wicked new game for you.
Just as certain people walked up to the British expats and asked them gleefully from 1995 onwards:
“Are you going back to England after 1997?”…
….walk up to a few of the old tycoons and ask them, in view of the impending ass-kicking CY Leung regime:
“Are you going back to Shanghai/Shandong/Malaysia/Canada etc… now?”
It’s fun for all the family!
My father is a criminal defense lawyer in the USA. As a girl, when I accompanied him visiting his clients in their homes, I was impressed by the thickness and opacity of their window curtains, and how even on sunny and beautiful days, the curtains were ALWAYS kept closed.
TVB personalities (which I believe is an oxymoron) aren’t paid particularly well and so have to live in the same shoeboxes as the rest of us hence, as Hemmers rightly points out, the ease of taking photos. Although the sort of vainglorious types they are the curtains were probably left open on purpose.
To prevent these evils what is needed is more and better spaced housing which leads me nicely onto today’s’ tip of the day for CY to improve his public popularity – why not allow rezoning of all the empty ex-industrial / commercial buildings in places like Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay such that they can be converted to accommodation? Not quite New York style warehouse loft apartments I know but surely it will relieve the pressure on the housing market and with that good old rule of supply and demand will bring down housing costs. And it doesn’t involve pouring billions of taxpayer’s dollars into tycoon’s pockets!
Why do Bond villains always wear Nehru jackets ?
Why are Bond girls always [semi-] naked ? Remember that Ursula Undress….
@probably I would really like to know where all these empty industrial bldgs are, you will be hard pressed these days to find anything to rent <$10 sq.ft from Kwun Tong to San Po Kong even in the darkest factory buildings.
Vacant factory buildings are a myth, gentrification of old factory buildings into commercial space are the reality, leaving small companies that actually do still manufacture in HK (Yes Jake VDK it does still exist) to pay exorbitant rents and get squeezed further and further away from HK island.
Probably, while it is a good idea to rezone those industrial buildings, it requires a change of use, adaptions of fire regulations and all other red tapes which will take a long time, thus it requires a change of the current government system to work more effectively, and it also requires a change of the civil servant system to make them a little less laidback. That’s a hell lot of work and difficulties, because people already assume Leung is a totalitarian which basically rules out any radical change in a short time. Tread carefully!
@probably Tycoons will welcome your suggestion as many if not most of those ex-ind bldgs are already in their pockets under cover.
And there’s me thinking that Bosco was “on the other bus”
One part of me feels its a put up job so that C-lebrities can get a bit of exposure. Remember Yumiko and the trapeze act that went wrong where she lost her drawers live on TV? Im not sure it was as coincidental as it seemed certainly no one remembers the girl for her talent.
However, seriously, a man should be able to walk around his own home in the buff without a picture appearing on the front page of some sordid magazine, you know the ones, pictures of starlets getting out of a cab or eating fish balls at 3 am. The media here are jackals, which unfortunately, also suits certain performers.
ah, guys..there are manufactured celebs…they don’t deserve privacy since they (or TVB) use the media to promote themselves…
you can’t have it both ways to use the media to promote the celeb while pissed at the media showing that celeb having sex in his living room
in both cases, there are curtains or polarized glass, use them…
there goes press freedom in HK.
You have to feel for the press in HK. It must be very difficult to go through celebs trash here with everything put into bins in common areas, or worse still, down a chute.
@ Bela Lugosi
Judging by this afternoon’s late breaking news it seems we might be better to ask some tycoons “are you going back to prison? ”
Talking of prison, : has the Buildings Dept at last managed to catch up with Mrs Tang ?
I see no evidence that anyone is seeking to restrict press freedom. In fact, the press in this town enjoy free reign to do just about anything they wish without considerations of ethics, proportionality or simple common decency. Take the fact that they publish photographs of dead children at the scene of road accidents, without so much as a concern that the parents suffering is being compounded. I believe in a strong free press, that holds government to account, but I also believe in human dignity and decency, which is lacking in certain sectors of the Hong Kong media.
The Late News read by C Y Leung…
SHK Kwoks and Rafael Hui arrested.
One down and three to go, my children.
It’s going to be more and more interesting. LKS already said he supports the gov. to build more affordable housing. Yet, I doubt that CY has anything to do with it. He hasn’t officially taken the post. And ICAC said they’ve investigated the Kwoks and Rafael for a good while.
“I have worked with Mr. Hui for many years. I know him well. He has the insight, ability and commitment to serve the country and the Hong Kong people,”
Donald Tsang 2005
Nice one ICAC, finally some serious players. Makes a change from arresting supermarket staff for selling milk powder out the back door to mainlanders.
I was beginning to think that with the CE election out of the way things may quieten down and then this comes along … my word, Hong Kong is buzzing again.
A brace of Kwoks and a Hui. The smell of corruption and tumbling tycoons. The timing is perfect.
Change. Bring it on.
I read that as a brace of Ewoks and was momentarily thrilled. Kwoks, not so cuddly.
An amazing development! I hope Hemlock can give his usual unconventional analysis of the issues tomorrow.
The legal system is under siege; and it’s produced the result I expected a while ago about the desire of dark-skinned HKers to be treated like human beings.
Now it just remains for people to start whispering that the ICAC represents foreign and colonial values; was only set up for a particular short-term objective; does not conform to civil-service standards; and provides relatively poor value for money. Remember what happened to RTHK?
The retirement of Kemal Bokhary (and to some extent Andrew Li) and the ascension of the likes of Andrew Cheung and Robert Tang (and to some extent Geoffrey Ma) mean that the Judiciary is entering an era of unprecedented deference to our tiny-minded municipal executive and the central powers.
Commerce in HK will largely be business-as-usual, but for the man (or maid) on the street, the rule of law is dying a slow death. If it wasn’t for an ethically spotless DPP we’d probably have a full-blown police state already.
The universities and the TV companies went a long time ago; and even the DPP is not independent, as Glenville Cross has often lamented. The process is incremental, like boiling a frog: by the time most of the public realise, it’s too late.
“Municipal” is indeed the word, to praphrase one of Thatcher’s comments. Just as theorists have argued that Cantonese is a language, not a dialect, so HK was in the past described by some as a state but not a nation.
But since then it/she? has progressively been downgraded, from a near-country to a territory, to a region, to a city. Cities of course have no countryside, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
@PD, I agree with you and IG Cross on the independence of the DPP, and (despite public statements to contrary) it seems that the SJ might too: he’s publicly recused himself from the decision whether to prosecute Raffy Hui and placed it in K Zervos’ hands. The precedent is now set for future prosecutions of officials and tycoons on corruption charges…