Sloppy reporting hurts Hong Kong

Recently, the Washington Post incorrectly posted that Hong Kong was the most racist place in the world, thanks to some sloppy research in which “yes” and “no” were swapped via mistranslation (not that the question was particularly neutral in its original Chinese either).  According to blogger Badcanto, the journalist responsible for the article had ignored his request for correction and it was only several days later that the error was acknowledged.  The affair also involved Richard Lai, himself an editor for Engadget Chinese and the first to report on the flawed survey, and Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok.  (No one is saying that racism in Hong Kong isn’t bad, but number 1?  Seriously?)

Although the Washington Post had corrected the mistake, it never issued an official apology.  Still, the Washington Post has done better than other sites such as The Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle, Fairfax New Zealand, and the Daily Mail, all of which have failed to update their original articles.

The fact that no one even batted an eye when seeing that “Asia’s World City”, Hong Kong, was somehow pinned as the most racist place in the world shows just how little the world cares about Hong Kong since the “handover” (i.e. annexation), and how sloppy foreign reporters are when reporting about Hong Kong and China in general, often taking whatever Beijing’s despots give them at face value.  Fortunately, the Washington Post’s own former Ombudsman, Patrick B. Pexton, called out his own newspaper on this issue, although it apparently didn’t prevent the current gaffe (emphasis mine):

So, The Post submits written questions — already a far cry from a live face-to-face unscripted interview with journalists — and the Chinese say, thanks, but we don’t like your questions, so we’ll provide our own questions and answers. Take it or leave it.

The Post took it. I think it should have left it.


It is also good to remember that The Post is tied to China through advertising revenue. Once a month The Post prints “China Watch,” an advertising supplement in English that consists of stories aimed at a U.S. audience but written by China Daily, the house organ of the Chinese government. And The Post’s Web site hosts a regularly updated version of China Watch.

That’s the thing about China, whether you are The Washington Post, the U.S. government or Apple computers. There is interdependence in the relationship, and constant negotiation and compromise. The Chinese know it, and they take advantage of it.

The Post’s job is to point that out, be transparent about it and report the truth regardless.

Yes, an American newspaper makes money off of reprinting Chinese propaganda.  Be afraid, be very afraid.

But back to Hong Kong.  To further my argument of Western apathy towards the city, when I searched today in Google News for “hong kong filibuster”, hoping that at least one foreign news agency would have reported on the recent filibuster on the Appropiation Bill 2013, it turned out that the only non-Hong Kong written articles I could find on the matter were a single article from Singapore-based Channel News Asia, and a condemnation of the affair from propaganda mouthpiece China Daily itself.

Even more recently, the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the Light Rail derailment in Tin Shui Wai, one of the few foreign-written articles not copied from the AP or AFP,  was both ridiculously short and initially contained a baffling error:

Corrections & Amplifications
Hong Kong’s secretary for transport and housing is Anthony Cheung. An earlier version of this article called him Albert Cheung.

(Albert Cheung is a radio personality and former Legislative Councillor.  He was once the victim of a brutal, potentially politically motivated attack in 1998 that saw no arrests to this day.)


Source: Lakeland Ledger – Jan 9, 1996

Some people have said that when the UK “returned” Hong Kong to the PRC in 1997, it hoped that it could “wash it hands” of Hong Kong for good (see above image).  I only hope that Hong Kong can prove not as easy to forget as the West would like.


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