Last week's Sunday Morning Post had an exceptionally silly news story claiming it was no longer fashionable for local Chinese women to have Gweilo boyfriends, accompanied by all manner of tosh about the difficulty of cross-cultural relationships.
They quoted from a newspaper column written by Chip Tsao, who had plenty of rude things to say about Gweilos:
"The ones who stayed behind were left to fend for themselves. They had no choice but to move to dorms on Lamma Island or to rent stone houses that people in Sai Kung use to house pigs," his column said.
The full article is at Madame Chiang, and reaction can be found at Hongkie Town, Simon World, BWG and elsewhere.
It appears that the SCMP got plenty of letters from readers complaining that this was racist nonsense, so this week they followed up on the story. Entertainingly, the columnist is defending himself by saying that he was being ironic:
Tsao hit back at the criticisms by saying: "I am deeply disappointed that western readers, especially those from the United States and the United Kingdom, could not read between the lines and find the sarcasm in my statements. I have always been provocative." He said he was simply writing something "juicy" to reflect a common theme that already existed in the Chinese-language media.
"If these people saw what Apple Daily and the rest of the Chinese-language papers write, they would not have been so shocked by my column. Hong Kong papers nowadays are always talking about how these foreigners are old and penniless. I find their comments racist.
This doesn't reflect very well on the SCMP. The readers who were offended would presumably be those who don't read the local (Chinese press), and so are not familiar with Mr Tsao's work - which would be almost all of them (including myself, of course). Hence the job of the SCMP is to provide some background and give readers a clue whether Tsao really was being ironic.
Clearly if I read a comment such as Tsao's one about dorms and pigs in Hemlock's Diary, I would know that it was intended as irony, whereas a casual reader might well take it seriously (much to Hemlock's delight, I would imagine). If a newspaper quoted Hemlock's comments as if they were a serious commentary on life in Hong Kong, I would instantly know that the journalist had missed the point, and I would stop reading (unless I was desperate for material to use here). Which is pretty much what I did with that article in last Sunday's paper, but mainly because the other source was a dating agency who claimed that Chinese women no longer wanted to meet Westerners.
Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't a news story.