Media getting it wrong again (and again, and again…)

Like every other city in Mainland China, Shanghai is going to have a Special Magic Economic Zone (in addition to its existing ones).  The creation of districts where the usual laws and regulations don’t apply is by definition an admission that you can’t compete with Hong Kong, but no – an unquestioning press can’t stop itself from reporting that this latest contrived hub might ‘take over from the Big Lychee’, like all the rest were supposed to.

Our media show a similar gullibility over the news that the government is turning down Henderson Land boss Lee Shau-kee’s offer to donate land for affordable housing. No doubt the ranting octogenarian tycoon, with his genetically engineered triplet grandsons, is at best engaged in a cynical PR gimmick and at worst plotting developer-official-collusion-scam #2,931. But it seems likely that part of the problem was the old man’s condition that no land premium be payable. The obvious question here is: why, when homes are unaffordable, does the government insist on slapping a huge upfront tax on them? Sift through today’s news stories and commentary on Fourth Uncle’s offer, and it seems no-one thinks to ask.

One of the biggest instances of the news media’s inability to ask obvious questions must be CEPA, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, the 10th anniversary of which the South China Morning Post is celebrating with a two-part extravaganza. CEPA was an elaborate PR stunt designed to make Hongkongers think Beijing was coming to the rescue in the wake of the SARS epidemic in 2003. Civil servants on both sides of the border drew up a vast list (still going) of supposed favours and concessions for each other’s industries. For example, Hong Kong exports of (say) scrap metal to the Mainland would be subject to a 0% instead of a 10% tariff. Some mugs called it a free-trade agreement, but for the highly protected Mainland to open its doors to free-port Hong Kong would mean opening its market to the whole world. Officials subsequently reported billions of dollars of trade ‘under the auspices of CEPA’, but it would have taken place regardless.

CEPA was a joke because Hong Kong has virtually no local manufacturing industry. So bureaucrats then attempted to incorporate services into the ‘arrangement’. Mainland interests naturally opposed competition from the Big Lychee’s world-class (honest) professionals, so the net result was continued barriers in those sectors. As the SCMP’s headlines show, Hong Kong lawyers, architects and other billable-hours freaks have never stopped whining about it.

In a last-ditch attempt to introduce substance into the hollow shell, officials took the totally separate scheme to allow solo Mainland visitors into Hong Kong and slapped the CEPA label on it. The liberalization of Mainland outbound tourism was nothing to do with SARS or even specifically Hong Kong; Thailand, Malaysia – and today even Europe and elsewhere – were all part of the gradual process. Nonetheless, commentators in the media swallowed it and saw the ‘individual visitor’ scheme as proof that CEPA was real.

And beneficial. Except, now in 2013, the influx of Mainland tourists has so distorted our retail sector and rentals, and so swamped our transport systems and physical space, that it has become a disaster to ordinary Hongkongers’ quality of life and to China’s attempts to win local hearts and minds.

So, as the SCMP won’t put it: happy 10th anniversary, total-absurdity-and-waste-of-space CEPA. 

The great debate continues: is the kid on the popodom packet male or female? It depends whether we are seeing bare hair or a turban. I think the latter (compare with the special July 4 example above right), and that the chomping juvenile is a Sikh boy. Either way, it proves the point about poor popodom-packaging production values.

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31 Responses to Media getting it wrong again (and again, and again…)

  1. Mary Hinge says:

    May I just say to Mr. Alex Lo of the SCMP, who I know reads this: Most perceptive of you to raise the non-local/local “racial supremacy” issue in response to yesterday’s Hemlock, which neither mentioned nor inferred anything of the sort.


    And very nice to have confirmation that you sit on a fence because you can’t find anyone who you agree with.

    Give me Pete Kammerer any day. A hack with vision.

  2. PCC says:

    I think you’re right, it’s a turban. Boy.

  3. Even if it’s a contrived hub, it’s still a hub and thus praiseworthy in my books. We need more hubs. The main hub scam now running, the Kowloon Cultural Hub, is rapidly being exposed and I hear the rustle of ICAC files.

    Fees and charges are there to pay the pensions of fat old expat former Civil Servants now living on the south coast of England. And the bar bills at the FCC who refuse to leave us. Surely you wouldn’t deprive these old sods their last bit of comfort?

    There’s much more interesting news about the SCMP, The new hoarding around their Dungeon Of Shame HQ in Causeway Bay shows blindfolded models (think self-censorship) in what looks like a burnt-out palm oil plantation in Sumatra ( think Robert Kuok). Last month’s display was a man with a pain in the neck. It’s uncanny.

    It’s all a question of how one sees things, don’t you agree?

  4. Fred says:

    We live in interesting times…. Snowden, genetically engineered triplets and CEPA.

  5. Bob the Builder says:

    Did nobody notice the article in the SCMP Property section yesterday which quoted a monthly rental of HK$724,000 being paid by the British Consul General for a flat at the OPUS on Stubbs Road.
    Austerity clearly does not stretch to these people. All you old hacks should send that article to friends at the Guardian in the UK to make some mischief over such scandalous extravagance.

  6. Old China Hack says:

    “All you old hacks should send that article to friends at the Guardian in the UK to make some mischief over such scandalous extravagance.”

    It was in all the UK papers last month, or the month before.

  7. Sid says:

    It could be a turban, which would explain the contraption at the back. But on the other hand, Sikhs tend to congregate in the north of India, whereas the name poppadum is generally used in the south. Also girls are not shown with open mouths, but boys can be — which just goes to show the lack of imagination of the packagers.

    The reason there are land premiums is to try to stop all of the country parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Green Belts being covered with concrete. If the government want to build a new road to serve 3 octagenarians and their dogs, they simply reclaim land from the sea, which then of course is unzoned.

  8. Sid says:

    Sorry to post again so soon, but I just couldn’t make the search engine on the PCMP work.

    I think we got to Alex Lo! He of course couldn’t bring himself in today’s column to mention Hemlock or his website by name; and to get his own back he was reduced to the argument that because Hemlock is not Chinese, he’s not qualified to comment on local affairs.

    That’s racism, pure and simple.

  9. gweiloeye says:

    I see Mr Lo cannot take a bit of criticism. I am still looking for the quote “I have compassion for Hong Kong…” on your blog. Oh that’s right, it is not a quote it solely exists in the imagination of Mr. Lo. What a way to make someone look racist just to cover up their own blatant racism – make stuff up! Textbook “journalism”. I think he must be reading Australian news sites to het hints.

    Why doesn’t he just say what he means, if you want to live here “Shut Up whitey! You have no right to comment on us Chinese even if you live here 30 years.”

    Hemlock do you think a bit of legal action might be in order against Mr Lo and SCMP due to the non existent quote and the resulting defamation. That would be fun to watch.

  10. Real Schnapps Purveyor says:

    Hilarious Hemmers! – certainly hit a raw nerve with that sniping turd Lo – It’s about time he got called out for the divisive tripe he pens. No doubt he was heartbroken but don’t worry Alex – you’ve still got your base – Pierce, Cynthia and Peter must have been swept up in a kind of chip-on-shoulder-hate-fueled ecstasy today. Keep this up and Lau Nai Keung might finally invite you to one those NPCC Bunga Bunga parties.

  11. Chopped Onions says:

    Its definitely a boy. if you look closely you’ll see the lapels of his jacket, something young girls in India just don’t wear. Also as women purchase most of the household food items in India and it is still a country that favours males over females, its saying “your little Raj will love this”
    the rabbit says its totally vegetarian……..dont ask!!

  12. Fred (the RTP) says:

    Don’t be too hard of Alex Lo. He often writes some good stuff.
    And ( like Hemmers) I’m amazed how he can think of something original (or in this case semi-original) to write every day.

    I saw a nice quote the other day to the effect that : “It’s very hard to be nice everyone everyday, but it’s very easy to piss everyone off everyday”

    Oh how I miss Donald and Henry…

  13. Updater says:

    I think it’s Nury.

  14. Claw says:

    An academic interviewed on ATV World (of all places) News last night put his finger on Uncle Four’s apparent generosity. One of the conditions of his gift was that the Government would have to provide the infrastructure to the new developments on the land – roads, sewers etc – which would then make his other plots in the vicinity much more profitable to develop himself.

    It would seem that someone in the Govt was actually smart enough to spot this and to see that allowing a major property developer to make (more) billions on the back of Govt expenditure would generate the wrong kind of headlines.

  15. Old Timer says:

    “Don’t be too hard of Alex Lo. He often writes some good stuff.”

    Aren’t you a Nury fan, too?

  16. Sojourner says:

    Alex Lo has a hissy fit and then the gall to call poor old Martin Lee an “old drama queen”.

    He has so lost the plot.

  17. Joe Blow says:

    A columnist (or whatever) in the South Xinhua Morning Crap actually replying to a blogger (with 15 devoted readers) confirms it: old dead-tree media is finished !

  18. Headache says:

    Gosh, that response from Alex was embarrassingly flaccid and confused. I feel a bit silly for having appreciated his work in the past. It certainly seems to be in a tailspin now.

  19. Fred (the RTP) says:

    @ Old Timer

    Yes .. but for different reasons. (You should read some of Nury’s deeper stuff when he gets into it: like the Palestinian man who refused to hate the Isaelis who killed all his family . He said that “Someone has got to stop the hate cycle”) )

  20. FOARP says:

    Yes, it would seem that ol’ Alex for some reason was caught a bit on the rough by the accusation of being a perennial fence-sitter. Why else would he respond with a “quote” (in “quotation marks” no less) that Hemmers never actually, ummm, said?

    Yes, I know it’s all supposed to be Alex channeling the kind of person he believes Hemmers to be, (“arrogant and possibly racist”), but the evidence which by which he so condemns this blog’s author is not apparent – unless, that is, the sole fact that he is an expat and comments on local affairs is all the evidence needed to make such accusations. If that’s the case, it seems more than a little – yes – racist.

    I guess I shouldn’t worry. No doubt Alex will restore his balance on his precarious perch by banishing all doubts we might have about his views on expats in a piece that returns him firmly to the middle position between those who display excessive deference towards expats and those who regard them as the enemy within.

  21. Joe Blow says:

    To be completely honest, it is of course a fact that most expats in Hong Kong are wankers.

  22. Incredulous says:

    I’d love to see Alex Lo’s CV. Previously edited his kindergarden’s newsletter I would suspect!

  23. Sid (the LTP) says:

    Thanks to Mary for raising this issue.

    It does appear that Lo has made some serious mistakes. To really put people down in these needle matches, you need to (a) concentrate your fire on the opponent’s weaknesses (b) take the high moral ground and (c) win over neutral bystanders by at least seeming to employ reason and moderation.

    Attacking Jimmy Lai, and the free speech he stands for, when he has been recently subjected to four separate acts of violent intimidation, must always be an indefensible error for a journalist.

    And accusing Hemlock of racism and arrogance is the mark of a fool: he can be annoying sometimes for exactly the opposite faults, patiently employing logic and commonsense while trying too hard to see both sides of a question, subtly making fun of the “patriots” and mouth-frothers, but rarely — too rarely? — making a stand on the increasing xenophobia in HK.

    The final mistake was getting into this argument in the first case, which Lo had no chance of winning. The PCMP should have simply spiked it.

  24. redchinamorningpost says:

    Joe Blow — I would say there is an enormous amount of wankerage in Hong Kong regardless of race. I don’t find local Cantonese to be particularly well behaved either. There are lots of nice people in my neighbourhood, but I get the impression that a lot of locals are ill-mannered peasants who do not give a toss about anything or anyone other than themselves. And they are easily bought by the DAB — a racist, xenophobic, sub-unit of the CCP’s cell network in Hong Kong.

    I note too that Alex Lo and Peter Kammerer got caught up in the whole ‘bash expat’ thing several months ago when they proposed that local people should take more videos of expats (i.e. whitey) behaving badly instead of picking on mainlanders. Hilarious. I wonder what the reaction would be if someone set up a YouTube channel entirely devoted to local bad behaviour instead. I live in an area where the police routinely turn a blind eye to maniac driving and cyclists think their bikes are offensive weapons. I’m sure the locals would be screaming ‘racism’ right away.

    Alex Lo does write some good stuff, but I find it common that people here have a chip on their shoulder about whitey. I can see why this would be the case, but it is simply taken too far. And it becomes simply irrational. At times, Lo (isn’t he Canadian anyway?) reminds me of Singapore Press Holdings’ journalists who simply must always appear reasonable while striving to defend the indefensible.

    It is de rigeur of course among these types to bash democracy, criticise colonial privilege as outdated elitism, and write annoying guff about ‘harmony’ since anything “Western” is subconsciously seen as an enemy. The irony of course is that they come across as shrill propagandists for the new elite and their cohorts. And that many of these “Western” ideas have been accepted.

    As for the racism debate, it is a non-starter. Racism is rife in Hong Kong — always has been. It was there in colonial times and many people — including Lo to his credit — have noted how prejudiced and narrow-minded much of Hong Kong is. A lot of Chinese nationalism is plain barmy as well. There is clear racial hierarchy here too and with the whole FDH debate, we actually see it enshrined in law. Lo — again to his credit — also wrote about that.

    Racism is not taken seriously in Hong Kong by either the government or by society in general. So the same old patterns continue — ensuring that there is and will continue to be a lot of wankerage in Hong Kong.

  25. Headache says:

    Great comments by Sid and RCMP and quite a few others too. I’m reminded why I visit this place every day without fail, compared to maybe once a week on average for the SCMP.

  26. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    Why is anyone surprised by xenophobic attitudes in Hong Kong, after all having the right racial credentials is built into the basic law as a criteria for certain government posts. Anywhere else this would be called apartheid.

  27. This is my home. says:

    You’ve brought great shame to a whole host of people close to you Alex,
    I look forward to reading an apology to both the Author and the people of Hong Kong.

  28. smog says:

    That’s not true is it? The requirement for the top posts is that you be a Chinese citizen, hold no other citizenship, be born in Hong Kong, and have lived a certain number of years here. I see no racial element in that, and similar requirements apply to, for example, the President of the USA.

  29. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    Finally managed to read Alex LO’s comments. O dear. Hemlock old chap, you clearly hit a raw nerve. Having said that its telling that the SCMP is reading this blog. They have so few reputable contacts for stories, I suppose fishing here is to be expected.

  30. P.A. Crush (Sha Tin) says:

    @ Chopped Onions:- “It is definitely a boy…. (because of ) the jacket lapels”

    How can you be sure? Cross dressing is not banned in India. Whatever; with fat cheeks like that he/she probably spends far too much time eating junk food in McDonalds.

  31. Andrew W says:

    Fred (the LTP) – the Palestinian:

    He was in Hong Kong recently and is a powerful moral force. Really impress when you read his book (I Shall Not Hate) and see him live.

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