Albert Cheng was lucky not to start DBC in Chongqing

Blink and you’d have missed it: a precisely scripted and performed piece of theatre leaves the world none the wiser as to who did what, where, when or why. Our local press report the trial of Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced ex-Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, as if the pouring-poison-into-mouth account is factual, and they might as well; there is nothing else to go with.

All we can really say is that this is largely a human-interest story to divert attention from the real issues. How extensive was Bo’s reign of terror over Chongqing’s business community? How many local businessmen died, were jailed or tortured, or fled? How many billions in assets did Bo and his henchmen appropriate for the municipality, for their friends and families, and for themselves? How typical is this behaviour among Politburo-level officials and top-ranking provincial-level leaderships? What equivalent crime and corruption goes on among lower levels of government? How the hell can a country be run like this? Wouldn’t it all make a really cool Moral and National Education case-study for Hong Kong schools?

An aside… Anyone brought up on Little Bo Peep instinctively pronounces the name ‘boe’ rather than ‘baw’. Less forgivable is the pronunciation of ‘Beijing’ with a soft, mushy, almost French ‘xing’ or ‘zhing’ (in the non-pinyin sense) second syllable. As they sometimes do on RTHK’s English Radio 3 service’s news show in the morning (‘President When’ is another of their lapses).

Throughout the English-speaking world, newscasters have come to pronounce ‘Beijing’ in a way that is not only wrong in Mandarin but in English itself. You don’t sing ‘xinglebells/zhinglebells’ at Christmas, so why put the consonant into the name of China’s capital? The Atlantic has been pondering this question for ages. One theory is that, in the speakers’ minds, ‘all foreign languages are French’. A more serious explanation is hyperforeignism, in which people try too hard to make a foreign word sound suitably alien; a related phenomenon is the sort of hypercorrectness that leads Anglophones with a bit of high-school French to pronounce a rather nasty shade of blue-green ‘turquWAAZ’ rather than the ‘turqWOIZE’ the well-bred among us were taught. A third explanation is that these RTHK newsreaders are ignorant and in need of remedial national education. I would hate to have to start naming and shaming them.

The other big story today is the demise of businessman and broadcaster Albert ‘Taipan’ Cheng’s Digital Broadcasting. In his over-frequent South China Morning Post column, he claims that his investors have been scared off by interference from Beijing’s local officials, who dislike the station’s anti-government stance. This sounds perfectly believable, but so does the argument that broadcast media today is a money-loser. The Standard’s ‘Mary Ma’ makes a case for internal feuding.

If it really is politics that kills off DBC, it would be because politics started it. We may recall that during the height of Donald Tsang’s disastrous spell as Chief Executive, radical activists demanded the right to acquire a broadcasting licence so they could launch a legal on-air radio station. This led to pointed questions about why Hong Kong had a (half Li Ka-shing-owned) commercial radio duopoly. And voila – something called DBC suddenly got the go-ahead.

The founders were a group of friends, shoe-shiners and hangers-on of Sir Bow-Tie himself. Cheng is an old buddy; Wong Cho-bau was later to offer Donald that luxury apartment in Shenzhen; banker David Li had been Donald’s self-appointed ‘campaign manager’; Arthur was David’s brother; Allan Wong was a businessman on the Executive Council; Ronald Arculli was an all-purpose lackey who supported anything Donald asked him to. They might as well have called it Radio Donald.

Or Tang Dynasty Radio, because of course the thing would start operations around the time the new administration – then to be under Henry – took over. It was as if the bureaucrat-tycoon nexus was to have its own propaganda machine. Round-the-clock coverage of Chamber of Commerce bore Anthony Wu’s views on the aging population and why we need a 12-lane bridge to Hainan Island.

Yet it was not to be. The lesson is worth endlessly repeating: those who live by the shoe-shine die by the shoe-shine.

I declare the weekend open with Headline of the Day: Paediatrician accused of waterboarding daughter … “known for his research into near-death experiences of children…”  They do say father-daughter relationships can be complex.

(Anyone with an interest in the art of documentary film and/or intergenerational child abuse with 75 minutes to spare should see the little-known Just, Melvin – Just Evil, directed by a victim who manages to use ironic humour to introduce his thoroughly messed up but hilarious family, culminating in the main perpetrator’s funeral, at which a stunned pastor pleads with mourners to say something nice about the deceased – here.)

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22 Responses to Albert Cheng was lucky not to start DBC in Chongqing

  1. Old Timer says:

    It always irks me when CNN and BBC newsreaders say things like Kim Yong-Il, as if he were German rather than North Korean. Mah-Yong for Mah-Jong is another. A Jungian slip?

    Anyone see Ren Cancan get demolished in the Olympic boxing ring last night? Every TV journo in the world seems to think she’d be more at home in the Moulin Rouge. Altogether now: “Tsantsan” (or thereabouts).

  2. Bela Pixton says:

    Most expatriate businessmen in China should be killed off. Good on yer Gu!

    You can’t kill off DBC. It never got started. Advertised as a multi-ethic platform, it had no English content. How racist can you get? Can we use the free channels for a real classical music station please. No, of course I don’t mean RTHK4. If I hear that clarinet jingle filler before the news again, I will die again.

    I had a near-life experience once.

  3. Real Tax Payer says:

    Good one today Hemmers

    I too, as a fluent Putonghua speaker , and well-trained in the phonetics of Pin- Yin ( which is as precise a system as German pronunciation if you understand and follow the rules), am flabbergasted at how awfully our own western-born news readers and commentators on TVB and ATV pronounce Chinese pin-yin spelt names. I can understand the Olympics English language official London-commentators getting the pronunciations wrong , but surely not our own HK- based commentators.

    But anyway, for those of us who do enjoy the Olympics once every 4 years and are willing to get up in the middle of the night for some exciting races ( eg Bolt’s 200m yesterday) the joint TVB and ATV time-share / dual language system is a dream and one wonders why they have not thought of doing this before.

    …Except that both channels still insist to break off every 15 minutes or so for the inevitable advert slots, even though quite often they have no paid adverts so they fill out their slots with useless self-ads for next week’s TV programs or Pearl’s “Summer of Fun, or even more silly : govt community information ads.

    Last night in the middle of the 10 m diving we were treated to a govt advert telling us that we “must learn to live comfortably with the trees in HK” Now there’s a thing ! ( But in view of the “Great Root Rot Epidemic Cover-Up” , as per front page of today’s SCMP , maybe this is a subtle move by the govt to appease its corporate conscience and make up to the trees in case they also have a vote in their geographical constituencies .

  4. Regislea says:

    I think you should be a little careful about English language pedantry. As far as I’m aware, Arthur Li still is David Li’s brother – and presumably vice versa.

  5. Old Timer says:

    “… the joint TVB and ATV time-share / dual language system is a dream”

    Yes, if you want to watch 130 hours of badminton and ping-pong, while the rest of the world looks at the main events in the big stadium.

  6. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Old Timer

    I agree. I was in India for part of last week and all we got was hockey ( fortunately there’s no Olympic cricket…. yet)

    And as for Olympic tennis … f*%# d&^% b*^&&$# s#*@ !

    As if we don’t get enough tennis 24/7 the rest of the year

  7. Stephen says:

    On a different note.

    We may recall that during the height of Donald Tsang’s disastrous spell as Chief Executive …

    Spot on. So disastrous that Hong Kong fell out of love with its tycoons, the nation, politicians (i’m pretty sure the percentage of those voting in the upcoming Legco elections will bear me out) etc. A tipping point perhaps?

    A book perhaps showing how the inept little twerp went from hero to zero. I’m way to lazy but you’ve done it before – what about it Hemlock ?

    Note to RTP – If you must watch the Olympics then watch it on the BBC the technology is widely known that even a luddite like me can use it.

  8. Older than Old Timer says:

    One first began to hear the melodious pronunciation ‘Bay-zhing’ back in the early 1970s. Before that it was ‘Pee-King.’ The timing is the clue that seems to be forgotten today and is the give-away as to the origins of this highly irritating pronunciation.

    Actually one person — whose name we all know — does sing ‘zhinglebells’ at Christmas time. Henry Kissinger cannot pronounce the English letter ‘j’ properly. After every one of his historic diplomatic visits to China, he would brief the world press about the mysterious goings-on in ‘Bay-zhing.” Many of his assistants, like Winston Lord, were putonghua speakers but zealously sycophantic repeating his mispronunciations in order that he not lose face or heaven forbid, contradict anything the great man said. Kissinger was seen by the American media as thee China expert of that time. If he said ‘Bay-zhing,’ this was what it was. Pretty soon, the whole world was mispronouncing the name of China’s capitol, and the mistake took on a life of its own. It may turn out to be Kissinger’s most enduring achievement.

    Turning to our very own home grown Henry here in Hong Kong, I believe the Falun Gong have long since laid claim to the name (New) Tang Dynasty TV and Radio. You don’t think Henry has been a secret supporter all these years, do you?

  9. PropertyDeveloper says:

    And if Heywood was poisoned, why, apart from racial stereotyping, was it reported as death from over-drinking?

    Is Chinese world domination even taking over the English language? We don’t say Pa-ree, so why should we introduce tones into place names, Cantonesify mainland names or ignore spelling and pronunciation conventions?

  10. darovia says:

    Luv the way Ms Bo is taking the fall to spare everyone the inconvenience of a factual account – and her husband’s further humiliation – how familiar is this? How much closer can you be to murdering someone than actually pouring poison down their throats? And of course because he was a European he had to be drunk at the time and (because he was British) drunk and vomiting. Waiter, three pints of truth over here please!

    BTW I agree with Bela today and the need for a real classical music channel rather than the trash can for banal chatter, crappy jazz and ‘ethnic’ music that is R4. My favorite API was the one that told us we can’t see through walls – RTHK please bring it back.

  11. Headache says:

    If the Administration had any interest in serving and improving HK, it’d implement the recommendations of the 2007 report (summarily dismissed in 2009) for the creation of an independent public service broadcaster.

    Yeah, right.

    Classical music, seriously? Could you be any more banal or irrelevant? Go and buy or download that stuff for practically nothing and leave our airwaves free for something with a pulse.

  12. Dr. Ruth says:

    “Many of his assistants, like Winston Lord, were putonghua speakers but zealously sycophantic repeating his mispronunciations…”

    I am pretty certain that Winston Lord never achieved anything above elementary-level Chinese. I remember reading and hearing stories about how he was badly resented for two reasons by some China-stationed foreign service officers in the 80s.

    First, his wife is an ROC citizen and still had/has relatives on the mainland. Foreign Service Officers with such family ties are NEVER allowed to be posted in China. As a political appointee, Lord was not required to meet this security clearance requirement.

    Second, being married to a Chinese woman, Lord seemed to think he had some kind of profound knowledge of Chinese culture and thinking. However, he could not speak Chinese, or at least not at a level where one could claim any sort of cultural literacy.

    But yes, I’ve cringed whenever hearing Kissinger or Lord use any kind of Chinese names.

  13. Luddite aka Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Stephen

    Many thanks for the tip , but can this work on wide screen?

    If so, please DO share the tip

    Self-confessed Luddite

    @ All : the Mrs Bo trial really flabbergasts me. So concern for one’s son’s safety and “possible” temporary mental imbalance is NOT a valid reason for not getting a bullet in the back of one’s head ?

    Although I think the USA legal system is shot to hell, I would prefer it to this

    And as for passing the buck to one’s spouse, ‘enery has been downgraded to bronze and Bo Xilai takes gold at the 2012 Olympics at buck-passing. SH1T .

    I just hope that the BD and ICAC finally indite ET and his wife and send them both down to clink, together with the kwok bro’s and H Hui.

    Serve them right ( so speaks an honest HK tax payer )

    Back to the Olympics on wide screen

  14. Will.I.Am says:

    Ooooooooooooooh…. THIS is where all the fluuuuuuuuuuuuuent Chinese speakers have been hiding out. And Korean too! I’m so impressed. Amazing how evasive this polyglotudinous species of kwailo actually is when seen in the wild.

  15. Joe Blow says:

    Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, looks far too relaxed for a person facing life in prison.

    A deal has been made. It is fair to assume that a powerful person like Bo knows too many secrets about too many senior party officials.

    Don’t be surprised if Madam Gu will be released from prison within 2 years for ‘health reasons’ and will be allowed to join her son in the US. End of story.

  16. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Joe, Are you sure they’ve got the right Madame Bo-Gu?

  17. Headache says:

    Polyglotudinous isn’t a word.

  18. David Mok says:

    It’s Peking, not Beijing.

  19. The Book Of Bela says:


    “Verily those that despise classical music shall be known as anathema and be outcasts in the societies of men.

    ” Even their oxen, asses and all that is theirs including their crappy boomboxes and Japanese earrings with low-fidelity iPods attached will be cast into the pit and deafness will fall upon them, or even worse, in all eternity until the end of days they will be forced to listen to Ray Cordiero and RTHK Backchat.”

    Thus endeth the Curse of Bela on Philistine audiophobes. Hear and shake.

  20. Probably says:

    Forget more radio stations, why can’t we just get RTHK3 (with all it’s accepted flaws) on FM?

  21. Iffy says:

    Bela: tedious, overblown, anachronistic, irrelevant; now who or what might I be talking about?

  22. stanley gibbons says:

    @ Iffy. Bela? and now by association, yourself?

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