A demonstration yesterday against creeping self-censorship in Hong Kong gets international coverage. The target of the protest is not an easily identifiable government propaganda department, but editors’ or writers’ insidious tweaking of copy at the behest of media owners eager to shoe-shine Beijing. An example in the Wall Street Journal link is a journalist being pressured to stress the supposed economic damage that will result from the Occupy Central pro-democracy civil disobedience movement.
A variant of the phenomenon amusingly also presented itself yesterday in the South China Morning Post’s book reviews. Reviewer Cary Huang gave 4 stars out of 5 to a collection of former Premier Wen Jiabao’s speeches over the years at the World Economic Forum at Davos, published by Chinese University of HK. If the review is online, it’s buried deep in the website (the SCMP is the only paper in the world with no arts section). The point is that the review is ludicrously fawning, given that most compilations of public speeches rank alongside astrology and self-help in terms of literary respectability, and most readers would rather get stuck into Working Class Cats.
Among others at the press-freedom gathering was a group of independent commentators, including former establishment figures who bravely attempt to occupy an elusive middle/neutral ground between openly pro-democrat and slavishly pro-Beijing. The rally also prompted a thinly attended counter-demonstration by the sinister-sounding Council on Media Conduct Supervision – a group of mouth-frothing ‘patriots’ who probably worry even the United Front puppet masters in Beijing’s Liaison Office. You have to give them credit for thinking out of the box: creating and publicizing a movement that supports, even maybe demands, self-censorship takes a bit of imagination.
Which brings us to the subject of marketing. We are told that Mainlanders are following the rest of the world and starting to see through the designer-label luxury-tat scam perpetrated by conglomerate-owned pseudo-brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, etc. Wouldn’t we love to believe it? In the event that these tacky mega-brands go the way of the dinosaur, some very odd fashion/design concepts are evolving in low-rent malls away from Central, ready to take their place in the retail ecology.
For example, there’s something called either Chelosophy or BSX, seen on a ‘coming soon’ ad pasted over a unit under renovation. They are ‘looking at the bottom part of town’ and ‘talk to many beggars’, while their noses ‘inhale attentively the misery’. I think they’ll be selling clothes, as is the outlet opposite, called Fingercroxx. Can’t wait to see these freaks wipe the floor with Gucci. Next door, there’s a store selling face towels ‘with further options’ – sadly unspecified.
We began with Chinese University plumbing the depths of marketing by publishing their SCMP-endorsed boot-licking collection of Wen Jaibao’s scintillating speeches at the Davos bore-fest. We also have Hong Kong U joining them, advertising (in the Standard) a Master’s degree in Buddhist Studies as if it were some sort of feminine hygiene product. I mean… that pink typeface. In fact, it’s not advertising the degree – a course, no doubt, of rigorously objective inquiry into an Asian philosophy-cum-belief system – but the eternal and heavenly rewards and ‘Sustainable Happiness’ allegedly enjoyed by devout followers of the faith. Can’t wait to see their ad for the Master’s in chemistry.
We end on a happy note: crummy – or at least slightly clunky – marketing for a product that actually turns out to be pretty good. After walking past Mr Bing a thousand times, I go in and try. I guess, it’s too late to ditch the irritating cartoon ‘red chef’ logo, but they could amend the motto about crepes, which is a nasty over-blown French pancake. This is based on Beijing jianbing: fast-food fit for human consumption, and yummy. Plus you get to see this performance, which is worth HK$25 alone.