Fifteen minutes of world fame for downtrodden Hong Kongers

Hong Kong handover:The media have hit the ground running, and amongst those trampled is Stephen Vines

I have the scars of battle which prove that yes, indeed, I am covering a very big story. They come in the form of crushed toes slowly recovering from the boots of over-anxious television cameramen who will tolerate no obstacle to what is known as a better angle.

Some 8,000 journalists have registered with the government to cover the big story of the Hong Kong handover to Chinese rule. Believe me, a gathering of this size is an awesome sight. The late Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping used to joke that he couldn't visit Hong Kong because he was scared of the colony's press pack.

The truth is that the far from shy members of the Hong Kong press corps are no more than novices in the aggression stakes compared to the full, sweaty, international hack pack in search of a story.

The level of frustration is proceeding steadily towards full boil because of a number of factors. Top of the list is the unavoidable reality that not only has no one been killed during the course of the big story, but, worse - from the cynical viewpoint of the international press - no one is likely to die.

Then there's the problem of the main players. Those who talk, are interviewed out. Allen Lee, the leader of one of the main parties, told me the other day that he seriously doubted whether his throat would survive the barrage of interviews he was obliged to give. Was he not also worried about having to answer the same question far too many times? Mr Lee's eyes rose in a skyward direction; he was too exhausted to reply.

Chinese officials have largely solved the interview problem by remaining silent, although it is just possible to get them on record by working to a prepared script, submitted well in advance. The press minders in the office of Tung Chee-hwa, who will head the first post-colonial government, admit that they do not even have sufficient resources to read the avalanche of faxes requesting interviews. I am assured that they have been filed somewhere.

Even some lesser forms of pond life, who fulfil the essential requirement of being English speaking, have discovered what it's like to have a tad more than Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame. I bumped into a friend, a businessman, the other day. He uttered a single word: "don't". That meant don't ask me anything, don't give anyone my phone number and don't you ever again mention me in an article because it only incites other journalists to hit the phone in hot pursuit. "These guys don't seem to realise I have a business to run," he said plaintively.

It's not just the famous, almost famous and aspirant famous who are having problems. Spare a thought for Hong Kong's cagemen, the poor fellows who live in tiny confined bed spaces surrounded by a metal cage. For many of the visiting hacks the cagemen are the "real" story simply by virtue of being at the bottom of the pile and not part of the government's lavish media programme.

If the small army of government press officers had had any sense they would have put them on the official visits programme and thus have instantly consigned these unfortunates to a less interesting status. However, it is an iron rule of journalism that that which is somehow hidden is inherently more interesting than that which is clearly visible.

It is churlish to complain about the efforts of a government that has dished out shoulder bags filled with freebies which impress even hardened attenders at big events. Had the dog not got at it, I would be the proud owner of a souvenir designer watch, alongside a fine polo shirt, a baseball cap, five free rolls of film and, of course, many tons of bumf about Hong Kong.

Journalists are notorious complainers. We are not happy when nothing is happening; we complain when too much is going on; and we are more than ready to proclaim that more or else anything is "boring".

Actually this is not boring. Anyone who is bored by the story of the world's last major decolonisation process should be in another business. The real problem is not quite knowing where to start ,and once started, how to avoid bumping into colleagues and rivals at every twist and turn.

This raises the dread prospect of us all producing the same story - the ultimate sin in Western journalism. (Although I'm told by Japanese colleagues that the ultimate offence in the Japanese media is to report something different from the pack consensus).

That's why I'm keeping the Chris Patten Ate My Hampster story all to myself.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn