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HONG KONG


June 1997: the very worst time to find oneself writing about Hong Kong; the city was the focus of a journalistic feeding frenzy; so it had to be; and besides it is, at the level of idle journalism, such an easy topic: so emblematic, so easily evoked photographically: that panorama, that audacious airport, the Daimler, the governor's daughters, the tattered Union Jack. And what poor journalism so much of the time. One has to know so little about a topic for the paltry shifts of journalism to show; but my poor four days there? Yes even they qualified me to see the inadequacy of the Hong Kong article. And not least in the foreign press. For the Corriere della Sera it just had to be a Rolls Royce that left the Governor's mansion for the last time (it was a Daimler) PJ O'Rourke has to have it "as both an American and a mick to boot" (his words) that the Chinese in HK hated the Brits; that, after all, is what Americans like to say about the Brits; indeed the only thing they have to say about the Brits, such is their relief at having retained, in a climate of craven political correctness, one nation they can slander all they wish. So its "HKers hate the Brits" Er, except the ones that wept when Patten left; or the ones that mobbed Blair; but hey, this is journalism, so don't worry overmuch about facts.

The tiresome Theroux (also American and also, no doubt, claimant to some cute ancillary nationality) has published a carefully scheduled novel called Kowloon Tong in which (of course...how could it be otherwise?) he has exerted himself no further than to represent the pre-handover British as hopelessly lost and still calling the Chinese "chinky chonks".

I am in conversation with a friend, the head of Brazilian Globo TV in London. I tell him that many patriotic British people are delighted to see Hong Kong go. This is the first time he has heard this; to give him his due he revises his Rio-destined wrap up of the handover to incorporate this astonishing fact.

   
 

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