Amazingly, the "nude photos scandal" is still front page news in Hong Kong newspapers. The latest non-news is that Edison Chen has admitted he did take the photographs, and also announced that he will quit showbusiness "indefinitely". Beats me how that is worth more than a few paragraphs in a gossip column, but the SCMP has given the story half of the front page of the main paper and all of the front page of the city section, and most of page 3 as well. And not for the first time, either.
This follows on from the blanket coverage given to the death of "Fei Fei" (Lydia Shum) after her "long fight with cancer" as the SCMP put it. I felt sure it had been a "courageous battle", but what do I know?
Anyone, everyone knew that she was seriously ill, so this was not a shock by any means, and yet there was a huge (and very undignified) media scrum at the hospital on Tuesday, and it occupied the first 7 minutes of Cable TV news (with a long follow-up item later in the bulletin). Both TVB and ATV cleared their schedules for tributes in the evening, so we were able to see what a warm and truly funny person she had been. The SCMP filled us in on her career (and numerous health problems):
Shum, who was also known as Lydia Sum, was a much admired Hong Kong comedian and actress – famous for her plump size and dark-rimmed glasses. Hong Kong people affectionately called her Fei-fei (Fatty).
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he was greatly saddened by Shum’s death and extended his condolences to her family.
Liberal Party’s Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said: “She was such an important and talented actress in Hong Kong. Her positive, happy image always set a great example,” she said.
And there I was, thinking she was just a jolly, fat, woman who made people laugh.
Shum was born July 21, 1947 in Shanghai. She made her film debut in 1960 with the Shaw Brothers. She became well-known in widely televised TVB variety show Enjoy Yourself Tonight, first singing with the female group Four Golden Flowers in the 1970s.
Shum subsequently established herself as predominantly a comic and dramatic actress, appearing regularly in films over the past 40 years. These included The Lotus Lamp 1965, Three Women in a Factory 1967, The Country Bumpkin in Style 1974 and more recently In-Laws, Out-Laws 2004 and Where Are They Now? 2006, among others.
Somehow I seem to missed those cinematic classics. Except that it's possible that The Country Bumpkin in Style was the film that ATV showed on Tuesday night, and I did catch 5 minutes of that.
Yes, I'm afraid that I just don't get it. Why does TVB fill its schedules with variety shows peopled by their roster of artists doing unexceptional things with enthusiasm and little more. How did Shum win"Best Comedy Performance by an Actress" award at the 2003 Asian Television Awards (for Living with Lydia).
I feel like the bewildered foreigners in London in September 1997 who must have wondered why "Diana mania" seemed to have overtaken the whole population.
Back to the other big story, the one that Albert Cheng rightly called "nothing but a farce".
The newspapers look foolish because they have devoted huge amounts of space to a story that is really very trivial. When things like this happen in the USA or UK, you can read about it in the tabloids for a few days and then the story goes away.
The police and the Department of Justice look foolish because Chung Yik-tin was charged with "publishing an obscene article", only for the Obscene Articles Tribunal to determine that the picture is indecent (legal, but subject to restrictions) rather than obscene (illegal). I would hazard a guess that several of the photographs would be classified as obscene, but this individual apparently only uploaded 20 of them, and the police didn't check with the OAT how they would classify them.
The weird 'star system' in Hong Kong doesn't come out of this very well either. Of course there are "manufactured" pop stars all over the world, but normally they fade away quite quickly, and no-one really cares about them. Yet in Hong Kong this week, thousands of people complained about Gillian Chung performing at a charity show on Sunday night. She clearly hasn't done anything wrong, but it seems that people are upset because the photographs are so much at odds with her public image (of a young, wholesome, singer). Good grief - this is a 27 year-old woman we are talking about. I just hope no-one tells these people that Gillian Chung isn't really related to the other one in Twins, because I think would be the final straw for them.
Asia Sentinel has an interesting theory (The sleaze behind the sleaze of Hong Kong’s sex photos):
Don’t expect Hong Kong’s overheated media to give a full account of the so-called Internet sex photos scandal, despite the fact that local newspapers have been repairing their balance sheets with it for weeks and giving the public a liberal daily lacing of all the titillation fit to print.
The real scandal is not the perfectly normal, if somewhat energetic, sexual activities of singer Edison Chen and his various singer/actress girlfriends. There could even be more to come, but who in Hong Kong truly believes that “innocent looking” girls in their early 20s in the entertainment business (or anywhere outside a convent) are virgins? If they were it would be a man-bites-dog story.
The real scandal likely cannot be told because it lies buried in the obscure but crucial relationships between Hong Kong’s entertainment industry, organized crime, the government and police. This was the very police force that started arresting a few Internet users who had passed on the sexy pix to their friends despite the fact that the photos had not been ruled obscene. Subsequently the relevant Hong Kong panel ruled the pictures indecent rather than obscene.
So maybe this is an interesting story after all...