July 31, 2006

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You are what you report

China's former president, Jiang Zemin, has written a travel diary amid much fanfare in the state-owned press...which seemingly includes the SCMP, given they have both a front pager with the stunning revelation that Beijing didn't want God Save the Queen playing just before midnight at the handover and another large article a few pages later lauding the tale of a Chinese President strutting the world stage. Mind you this is the same paper that every few months sends a report to Wanchai to report on the seedy underbelly of life in Hongkie Town. This time the intrepid Barclay Crawford braves Fenwicks and finds hookers selling coke. It's a difficult job:

Wan Chai does not sleep, and even at 1am on a Wednesday the first thing that strikes you in Fenwick the Dock is the swirl of humanity on the dance floor. The largely besuited crowd of drunk, desperate and dateless have long forgotten their wives or girlfriends at home as they gulp their drinks and cavort with women for sale from across Asia and, more recently, South America.

A girl dripping in makeup grabs your bottom, laughs and shows off her surgically enhanced cleavage beneath a tiny top. She is from Venezuela, her friends are from Colombia. She prefers Japan but there is money to be made in Hong Kong.

This may be Hong Kong, but you could be in Latin America judging from the row of tables filled with girls chatting in Spanish at this large disco at the bottom of the East Town Building in Lockhart Road. The girl in green tells you she only knows how to speak English un poquito - a little - but she certainly knows how to order her drink from the scowling bar tender - "tequila rock'n'roll".

You collect the $110 bill, of which she pockets about half, smiles, and asks whether you would like cocaine. "We have the best. Colombian," she says, eyes rolling back in her head, imitating the effect. She asks for $1,500 but you say you've only got $1,000 - the same price she whispered previously in your ear if you want to take her home.

A number is dialled, you make out "coca, coca" and the deal is done, the delivery is on the way. Britney Spears covering I love Rock'n'Roll blasts from the DJ's booth in what could be a cue to the girls, and she asks you for another drink - along with $1,000 for the cocaine.

But don't worry....
The reporter did not buy drugs for this story.
I'd still love to see his expense report for this story. And Fenwick's doesn't even have to pay for this kind of advertising...or was this done on a comp basis?

All of which leads to an interesting new news site set up by a few ex-Standard editors and Philip Bowring: Asia Sentinel. With competition like the SCMP, they should do well.

posted by Simon on 07.31.06 at 08:34 AM in the Hong Kong category.


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Tequila rock 'n roll costs $140 at Fenwick, not $110 - unless the writer received a discount out of professional courtesy* or in exchange for the positive review. (The girl gets $80 commission on the $140 drink.) Just goes to show you can't believe anything you read in the scmp.

(* as in "why won't a shark eat a lawyer?" "professional courtesy")

posted by: Spike on 07.31.06 at 12:05 PM [permalink]

That only adds to the humour of the situation. Perhaps our intrepid reported had had one or two already? Or do "good" reviews only cost $30 in the SCMP?

I especially like this in the main article in the SCMP:

One owner of the disco, who asked not to be named, said he would be shocked if there was drug dealing and that care was taken to maintain the image of the club.
Shocked I tell you, shocked.

posted by: Simon on 07.31.06 at 01:52 PM [permalink]

Didn't the Standard do a similar story about a club...kind of similar.

And now that the editor has gone across the waters, there is another such story.

coincidence? I think not!

posted by: flabberwally on 07.31.06 at 03:34 PM [permalink]

A similar story in The Standard? flabber, do you mean the one written by Doug in last December?

posted by: Gloria on 07.31.06 at 04:39 PM [permalink]

Yes - the one about Laguna. Such a shock - go to a wanchai nightclub and find lots of hookers - who would have thought.

posted by: Phil on 07.31.06 at 06:06 PM [permalink]

flabber, no coincidence? So you mean Mark Clifford likes sending reporters to the pubs in Wanchai to see how hookers work? Interesting.

posted by: Gloria on 07.31.06 at 06:27 PM [permalink]

no, hthat's not what i mean, and i think to say so would be an exaggeration of my intention. I think that mr. clifford likes to wonder why the police don't do hteir job.

Mr. Crawford, on the other hand, must avoid cliches like ''swirl of humanity.''

hw about being more specific?

the first thing you notice when you arrive in Fenwicks are hundreds of hookers and their clients.

and they have forgotten their wives adn girlfriends at home?

sorry, but every man in a suit in wan chai cheats on his wife or girlfriend???

posted by: flabberwally on 08.01.06 at 08:32 AM [permalink]

It smacked of rookie reporting to me too.

posted by: BWG on 08.01.06 at 05:30 PM [permalink]

Mark Clifford has sent many reporters off to cover hookers but he doesn't like those stories one bit. And didn't Peter Kammerer stumble into Fenwick's with a similar story not long ago? And the Standard did Laguna because it was owned (shamefully) by an ESF principal. They also did a general piece on Wanchai hookers from the Phils etc. Pus a thing on Macau hookers. Sex sells.

posted by: preposterous on 08.02.06 at 08:58 AM [permalink]

Mark Clifford sent no reporters to cover any hookers. His subordinate editors did (over his objections, in at least two cases).
Mark Clifford seems to regard sex in general as shameful and tawdry - at best a messy necessary evil in order to procreate - whether it's paid for or free.
The school principal had/has a partial interest in Laguna. He didn't/doesn't own it.
The real story in Wanchai is the 7-Eleven House O' 24/7 Debauchery at which a certain underage offspring of a certain editor of a local English language paper has been seen bleary eyed, tongue tied and painless more than once in early a.m. hours.

posted by: Keef on 08.02.06 at 01:50 PM [permalink]

It seems that we're having more inside stories here.

posted by: Gloria on 08.02.06 at 03:05 PM [permalink]

no shit, gloria. hong Kong is filled with inside stories that never get reported.

at the end of every one of barclay crawford's stories, I always tag on: ''the reporter did not purchase any drugs for this article.''

it's kind of like the game we used to play in the primary school. put ''in bed,'' at the end of every sentence.

I am going to have an omlette, now. In bed.

posted by: flabberwally on 08.03.06 at 08:24 AM [permalink]

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