Like the flavour of tomatoes, the sunniness of summer days and nostalgia itself, Hong Kong’s English-language news scene seems always to have been a shadow of its former self. But this time, maybe, it really is in genuine decline.
Every time I switch on RTHK Radio 3’s morning news, it’s the Ray (or Roy?) Jovanovich (or something) phone-in, featuring this guy calling in from somewhere droning on endlessly in the most inane detail about this or that player for the Detroit Pistons or Denver Broncos. I switch it off, have a shower, come back, gingerly switch the radio back on – and he’s still there. They have digital broadcasting now, haven’t they? They can give this person – who’s no doubt very nice and all that, but in all honesty is surely one of the greatest bores who ever lived – his own channel.
The Standard last week treated readers to in-depth coverage about a ‘marriage of scions from two wealthy families’. Specifically: Kent, the son of the newspaper’s own proprietor Charles Ho, and Emily, daughter of Lai Sun Development boss and ‘entertainment mogul’ Peter Lam. “We met at the Grand Hyatt Hotel when we attended an annual seven-day investment industry conference.” (Seven days? I suppose it was either Charles Ho’s son or slash your wrists.)
Before you can say ‘pass the sick bag’, you get episode two of the nuptials saga, in which the action has shifted from the making-tea-for-the-in-laws thing to the over-the-top-gala jollity. Guests included: former Hong Kong Chief Executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang, Macau’s current and former bosses Fernando Chui and Edmund Ho, Beijing emissary Zhang Xiaoming, Sun Hung Kai Property’s Thomas Kwok and Emperor Entertainment boss Albert Yeung. The paper calls the event both ‘wedding’ and ‘social gathering’ of the year; ‘sleaze-fest’ would be more like it.
The South China Morning Post seems to be lurching ever more clumsily into unabashed love-the-sacred-Motherland and worship-the-Party patriotism, depending, perhaps, on who’s watching at the time. A recent analysis (using the word loosely) says pundits are ‘intrigued’ by President Xi Jinping’s assertion that ‘Chinese blood has no DNA for aggression’ just as the country is moving a drilling rig into Vietnamese waters – and blaming the US for it. He is speaking at the China International Friendship Conference, naturally. By ‘intrigued’, the writer presumably means something between ‘freaked out’ and ‘wondering if some idiot in the PLA has a death wish’.
Then, the next day, SCMP editor Wang Xiangwei bashes out a fulsome endorsement of Chairman Xi’s otherworldly remarks, including an embarrassingly literal interpretation of the stuff about genetics, hinting that the Han have been selectively bred only for trade and culture, as opposed to the Mongol and Manchu barbarians with their inherited propensities for violence and savagery. Which is scarier: that he actually believes this stuff, or that he – presumably/probably – doesn’t and is writing it because he sees no choice?
Can we imagine in the midst of this desolate media landscape a Hong Kong English-language news source with some guts? One that, say, resolutely declares the bridge to Zhuhai to be ‘unnecessary’ and asks whether the MTR is failing because it no longer has ‘quality people from all around the world’? Or one in which an activist for Pink Alliance denounces the way Christian fundamentalist wackos abused Sunday’s International Day of the Family to promote homophobic ‘hogwash’? It’s all here, in… China Daily.