Sunday 30 March 1997
Visiting Hong Kong 100 days before the big Chinese takeaway, I was on the look-out for signs of self-censorship in the media, but they were not always easy to spot. Public affairs in city-states (Singapore is another example) tend to combine the world-historical with the achingly parochial, so that human rights and rubbish collection not infrequently find a place in the same speech. It appeared to me that any criticism of Tung Chee-hwa, the man who will be in charge after 30 June, tended to be safely municipal in character, but that could just have been an impression.
A useful test, however, was provided by the first visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama. Tibet's exiled spiritual leader keeps the Chinese in a permanent fury, much to the satisfaction, probably, of the Taiwanese, who do the same. Hong Kong newspapers knew they could not ignore the event, but treated his arrival on the island as neutrally as they could, mostly by running straight news agency reports. No such pussyfooting, though, for TVB, one of Hong Kong's main channels: it robustly excluded the Dalai Lama from its main evening news.
Tirana's the place to be
The question one asks with most press releases is why the organisation responsible imagines its announcement is of the remotest interest to anyone but itself. Not so with a release which has reached me from World Trade Centers Association, Inc. Here the question is: have these people watched the news lately?
The New York-based association blithely announces that a new centre - sorry, center - is being built in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and burbles on: "The Tirana World Trade Center is the latest in an expanding network of major real estate projects that are using the World Trade Center hallmark to position themselves at the forefront of their prospective markets."
I shouldn't imagine that anyone is particularly desperate to position themselves at the forefront of the Albanian market right at this moment, unless they are organisations dealing in disaster relief or international peacekeeping. Still, perhaps they are looking to the long-term.
OJ in the bunker
The sad, sordid OJ Simpson saga continues. Bailiffs have been seizing his possessions to satisfy the $33.5m (pounds 20.5m) court order against him, but some more valuable items listed by the judge were missing, including his football Hall of Fame ring, an Andy Warhol silkscreen painting of him, and a $64,000 Chevrolet Suburban.
There was something cruelly revealing, though, about what was seized, including a signed photograph of California's former governor, George Deukmejian, a painting of disco queen Donna Summer, and dozens of wall plaques, sporting trophies and old football shirts. They portrayed a B- list celebrity obsessed with past triumphs. Also taken were six golf bags and 51 clubs, depriving him of his only pastime, apart from looking for the real killer of his ex-wife and her friend.
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