How does the United States deal with those problems?  Here is a Harris Poll via

Q: Do you think that the Bush administration generally provides accurate information regarding current issues or do you think they generally mislead the public on current issues to achieve its own end?

  Total Republican Democrat Independent
Generallly accurate 32% 68%   7% 25%
Generally misleading 64% 28% 91% 73%
Not sure/refused   4%   4%   2%   2%

Does anyone get into trouble for being "generally misleading?  Here is the latest amazing adventure by former FEMA director Michael Brown (The Guardian):

As director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, [Michael Brown] became a national joke soon after Katrina made landfall. As stories emerged of hellish conditions at evacuee shelters, and images of poor, mostly black citizens of New Orleans begging for food hit television screens, Mr Brown seemed eerily detached.

In television interviews the Fema director said he was unaware that hundreds of people were marooned at the New Orleans convention centre. "Don't you guys watch television?" the exasperated anchor asked.  ...  He was relieved of his managerial duties on September 9 and resigned three days later, barely a week after Mr Bush publicly praised him for doing a "heck of a job".

Mr Brown's reputation since has not been improved by the release of personal email by a congressional committee assessing the government's response to the hurricane. On August 26, as the hurricane bore down on the Louisiana coast, he emailed his press secretary, asking: "Tie or not for tonight? Button-down blue shirt?" The requests for wardrobe advice continued after Katrina hit the coast.

Michael Brown, the bureaucrat who headed America's response to Hurricane Katrina and himself became a symbol of man-made calamity, is going into the disaster management business. He is setting up as a consultant, marketing his expertise on coping with catastrophe - natural and self-made.  "Look, Hurricane Katrina showed how bad disasters can be, and there's an incredible need for individuals and businesses to understand how important preparedness is," Mr Brown told the Rocky Mountain News.

A respected Japanese scientist, who works with the World Health Organization, says 300 people have died of H5N1 bird flu in China, including seven cases caused by human-to-human transmission.  He says he was given the information in confidence by Chinese colleagues who have been threatened with arrest if they disclosed the extent of the problem. 

Masato Tashiro, head of virology at Tokyo’s National Institute of Infectious Disease – a WHO-collaborating centre for bird flu – told the meeting of virologists in Marburg, Germany, on 19 November that “we have been systematically deceived”. His comments were reported in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.  He told the stunned meeting, called to mark the retirement of a senior German virologist, that there have been “several dozen” outbreaks in people, 300 confirmed deaths and 3000 people placed in isolation with suspected cases.

In Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung via ProMED-mail, the quote was:

Dr. Masato Tashiro, a Japanese WHO consultant, believes that China has had 300 human deaths from avian influenza and is hiding the true extent of the disease from the rest of the world. Dr. Masato Tashiro, Director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Influenza at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, and head of the Department of Virology of the National Institute of Infectious Disease (Japan), astonished colleagues with this information.

In turn, Masato Tashiro posted a response at ProMED-mail:

I am surprised to read the report in ProMED-mail, Avian influenza,human - East Asia (180): China, RFI [part 1] {archive number 20051123.3399).  

First of all, it is not correct. Therefore, I would ask you to correct it.

In my presentation at the meeting in Marburg, I stated that WHO's official numbers of H5N1 human cases are only based on laboratory confirmed cases. It should be therefore an iceberg phenomenon. Due to poorly organized surveillance and information sharing systems in many affected countries including China, it is reasonable to consider that more cases have occurred actually. We have heard many 'rumors' or unauthorized information which we cannot confirm. In this context, I talked about a few examples of non-authorized information and rumors about Asian countries which I received through private channels. I clarified that I do not know the original sources and I cannot confirm whether they are true, how these numbers were derived and what laboratory tests and epidemiological investigation were done.

What 300 hundred deaths?  You have already read all about it here at EastSouthWestNorth on November 15, 2005 at The 'True' Statistics About Avian Flu In China.  If you tally up the number of deaths in the statistical table, the total is 310.  Those were the '300 hundred deaths.'  As I pointed out in that post, this is totally unverified and unconfirmed, and I suggest that any reader can fake any set of numbers, send it to the same channel and it will be published.

Here the chain of custody: Unverified Chinese web posting (at Boxun) of a statistical table that did not even look good; an off-hand mention by a scientist as an example of unverified data; report by a mainstream newspaper; magnification by a popular scientific journal; prominent publicity from Boxun as proof that an experts support the 300 deaths figure (see Boxun); an angry denial from the scientist.  The only remaining question is whether Boxun will publish the denial and identify the data source (namely, itself) and explain why scientists would find it inadequate.

EastSouthWestNorth is a breath of fresh air. Looking for Chinese news in English is pretty frustrating. There is Xinhua, the CPC mouthpiece, and it's outlets like the China Daily. The fluffy Beijing Today isn't much better, geared more towards vapid expats. For an interesting take on China from a Chinese perspective, EastSouthNorthWest translates news from independent Chinese sources to give a picture of China inaccessible to the foreign ear. Everything from religious and press freedom to magical man tubers is covered.

“How sad,” [Venezuela president Hugo Chávez]  told the viewers of his weekly chat with Venezuela’s popular classes, Alo Presidente, “that the president of a people like the people of Mexico [a nod to Villa’s virility] lets himself become the cachorro of the empire.” Fox demanded an immediate apology, Chávez refused, ambassadors were pulled and here we are.

I leave the word cachorro in Spanish because it is subject to competing translations. The English-language press, firmly backed by all the Spanish-English dictionaries, goes with “puppy.” Nothing wrong with that except that it loses the fine sense of insider irony and political association that Chávez’s remark contains. I’ll go with “running dog.”

Those of you who remember the late Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung only for his brutal sweeping of all suffering humanity into his version of the ineluctable logic of history may not remember that Chairman Mao also had a way with words, one of which was zougou, “running dog.” My online English dictionary defines running dog thus: “noun: A servile follower; lackey; from Chinese zougou, from zou (running) + gou (dog), apparently as an allusion to a dog running to follow his or her master's commands.”

Back in the days of the Chairman’s outsized global influence, the term zougou was used to characterize his enemies, as well as the enemies of the Revolution. It was always translated as “running dog” in English but simply cachorro in Spanish. Over time, it was so widely and indiscriminately used that it became subject to a certain nuanced style of mockery and inverted meaning.

There is a delightfully sardonic oppositional (English-language) Chinese Website by that name whose commentaries suggest that Running Dogs who call themselves Running Dogs acknowledge both an unwillingness and an inability to carry out their prescribed roles in a set of authoritarian relationships ...

Yes, we live in a globalized world in which some comment on Mexico-Venezuela politics could refer to a blogger in China ...

For comparison, there is one and only post at The Water Crisis in Harbin.  It is a collection of government announcements, overseas website reports, local BBS posts and email from local observers coming in English or translated from Chinese.  This is precisely the type of event that western media find it difficult to cover: a complicated sequence of events with twists and turns over many days.  Any report must summarize the preceding events, and therefore the depth of coverage is shallower overall.  As time goes by, the summaries get more brief.
By comparison, the ESWN blog post has no spatio-temporal limitations and continues to accumulate the information.  There is also no attempt to impose a single thesis about what happened; instead, disparate and contradictory factoids are presented from different sides for the readers to draw their own conclusions.  And this is what attracts the people who want to know more.  You can click through everything above, and I think that you will decide that a blog is better at it.  You can really get that sense of confusion, panic, betrayal and disappointment.

I never thought that I would be able to sneak into the church.

Although my alarm was set for 6am, I woke up at 5am.  I only slept for three hours.  I thought that it would be better if I get there earlier.  I ate some congee, I took my camera and I headed for a Sunday mass with Comrade Bush.

On the way, I saw the police cars heading towrds that direction.  It was truly first-class police action.  When I arrived at the church, there was a bunch of believers lining up to enter.  I joined the queue.  An old man behind me was a f*cking nuisance because he called out, "This man does not have a bible in his hand."  F*ck!  What does it matter if I didn't have a f*cking bible!  So I switched to a different line and I started to talk to the other believers with my limited knowlege of Christianity.

I entered successfully and I went up to the security.  They said, "No cameras."  I had to find a place to leave my belongings.  I went over to the command center of the Americans and I wanted to leave my stuff there.  The American siad, "NO!"  I said, "I am a reporter.  I want to leave my stuff here for a while." I showed my reporter's identification card.  But suddenly, a Chinese traitor (汉奸) showed up and said that no Chinese reporters shall be allowed to enter.  F*ck!  It was all screwed up by this Chinese traitor!  "You must leave!"  So I went out of the door.  I found a place, I left my stuff there and I told the attendant, "I'll come back later for this."  F*ck!  I left more than 20,000 yuan of equipment there.  I am f*cking gutsy!

Then I got back to the end of the queue.  I entered the church.  I sat in the middle.  I have not sang with so many other people for a while.  Ever since junior high school, I have not had music training.  I am not so lucky as these Beijing children.  I sat next to a 12-year-old, who was baptised at 10.  His mother works in the church and so this was a family gig.

At 730am, Bush arrived.  Very much on time.  He was nicely dressed.  He is a sleazy person, but he looks nice and clean when well-dressed.  His wife was dressed in light-brown colors, her ears were shining and quite impressive.  When Bush entered, he said, "Morning everyone!"  An American politician!  Everybody paid him respect and replied.  Rice was also there.  She was not as ugly as seen on television.  She even looked good, and that is not bad for a black person.

Then we sat down and sang.  I must be talented because I could sing without having learned the songs.  These are the same old hymns with some new verses.  It was easy.  My voice was especially loud and moving and I looked sincere, and that convinced the believers around me that I must have been around for years.

That little boy was naughty, as he played my PALM all the time and did not sing.  But I used his bible for disguise.  When Bush sang, his head bobbed and weaved and he was really into it.

When Bush left, he shook hands with the believers on both sides.  The people kept clapping.  I have seen this type of scene often enough.  When Lian Chen came and when Li Ao came, the Chinese people who have been devoid of political experiences and whose desire to express themselves have been suppressed too long therefore felt excited when they see political figures show off.

I was sitting in the middle, so I felt too embarrassed to rush forward.  So I shoved the little boy to move forward to shake Bush's hand.  When Bush saw the little boy, he was delighted.  He went up, grabbed the boy and spoke the very officious "Thank you."  Although he had the sincere look, he said nothing more.  So my plan failed.

"His hand was very hairy," the little boy yelled out to me in delight!

Reuters Photo:  Where are the reporter and the little boy?

How was Mr. Tan located?  Probably either through the real-name registration system or information provided by Shenzhen Hotline on the IP number which was traced through the Internet service provider.  I'll leave you to decide whether Mr. Tan (and Mr. Huang)'s rights to privacy were violated.  Do you really defend their inalienable right to spread unfounded rumors to cause public panic?  And should Shenzhen Hotline and the ISP have refused to cooperate with the police?

Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and independent Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) yesterday continued bickering over whether Hsieh had mentioned "the empress (皇帝娘)" -- referring to first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) -- during a phone conversation with Chiu.

"I swear. If Hsieh never said so, as he claimed, I will immediately resign. Also, if I'm lying, I will be struck and killed by a car once I step out of this door. However, if he is lying, I think the premier should step down," Chiu said.

Chiu was not hit by a car yesterday.

There were quite a few more of those in this duel.  (ET News)  Chiu Yi swore that if he lied, then may the whole family perish.  When told by reporters, Frank Hsieh laughed and said, "I've seen an Internet joke about this.  The whole family refers to the reporter's family.  His own family is going to live until they are a hundred years old.  He is taking advantage of the reporter."  Frank Hsieh goes on to question the definition of Chiu's family: does that include his two divorced wives?  And Chiu also does not have the right to ask other people to die.  "If Chiu Yi wants to swear, he should swear that he will lose every election, lose all his assets and die a horrible death."

(BCC)  Here is what Chiu Yi said: "如果謝長廷沒有說『皇帝娘』,而我冤枉他的話,我出去馬上被車撞死,橫屍街頭!說謊的人就給車撞死,謝先生你聽到了嗎?" (translation: If Frank Hsieh did not say 'the empress' and I misspoke, let me run over by a car as soon as I step outside and let my body lie in the street!  Let the liar be killed by a car.  Can you hear me, Mr. Hsieh?")  So it should be noted as well that Frank Hsieh was not hit by a car yesterday.

(TVBS)  This matter yet go the path of a lawsuit.  History showed that Frank Hsieh had sued Chiu Yi six times before and lost each time.  But Hsieh's legal bill was paid by the city of Kaohsiung where he was mayor, whereas Chiu spent NT$400,000 of his own money for those cases.

Some friends recently asked me why I hadn't set up a blog, you know, a personal Web site that a lot of folks these days use as a diary or to advocate a political viewpoint. I admit that I've entertained the thought of setting up a blog, usually when I'm ranting at TV newscasts or shouting about something I've seen in the day's newspaper. And as I get older, I realize that my opinions have gotten stronger, even if my journalistic experiences have become less varied.

Before I had children, I was the kind of run-and-gun journalist who lived for adventure--riots, earthquakes, forest fires, you name it. If it was jumping off within a thousand miles of me, I was there. But one of the biggest lessons I took away from the many years I've spent in newsrooms is this: Without editors, you are dead, specifically without a copy desk. You might as well be standing in your living room, ranting away, facts be damned.

That brings me back to my point about blogs. Not all blog readers know the difference between pure unfiltered, unedited opinion and good old-fashioned solidly reported news. Yes, I know that bloggers lately have been credited with everything from drumming up mainstream media interest in the overlooked plight of missing black and Latino women to exposing any number of government hacks and mischief-makers. But much of what appears on many blogs is speculation, however well-informed.

At Huffington Post, Marty Kaplan wrote on Journalism: R.I.P.:

Mainstream journalism has cancer. The diagnosis – stage three, terminal – was made this week, by anyone with eyes to see ...

If the Judy Miller saga left anyone wondering what high-church journalism’s standards are about sourcing, confidentiality, and citizen responsibility, the Bob Woodward tale now makes it clear: They make the rules up as they go along. Guidelines and handbooks are for rookies and chumps. If you’re a diva, if you’re working on a book, if you don’t feel like being served with a subpoena, if you think you know better, if don’t want to piss off a source – well, then, you do what you damn well please. It turns out that investigative reporters have the same right to clam up or spin when journalists ask them questions as do White House press secretaries, oil barons or starlets.

We also know now that the MSM is largely useless for adjudicating between conflicting claims and establishing what the facts are. The Bush/Cheney onslaught against its critics is being covered lavishly – but only as theater. Look at the Democrats cry “manipulation”! Look at the Republicans cry “treason”! A war is at stake. The nation’s reputation around the world is at stake. Lives hang in the balance. And all the media can do is cover tactics, politics, the melodrama of thrust-and-parry. The rare reporters who have attempted to create a useful scorecard are battling their weasel-minded editors’ insistence on a bizarre postmodern notion of balance. You know the CYA drill: if you say a good word about Darwin, ya gotta juxtapose it with some intelligent design whackball’s counterquote; if you say Cheney lied about the Saddam connection to 9/11, you’ve still got to dredge up every nutjob’s assertion that the Atta meeting in Prague can’t be disproved.

... What does it say about the news profession when most of the voices determined to ensure accuracy are onliners working without benefit of staffs below them, editors above them, or brand-name seals of approval from the priesthood?

"The government is trying to amend the law to ban adjectives on cigarette packets that imply a brand is less harmful to health than others.  Japan Tobacco has been selling its Mild Seven cigarettes in Hong Kong for 20 years ... 

The company commissioned a survey of 1,026 people, both smokers and non-smokers. It said 98 per cent of respondents to the question "What does the English brand name 'Mild Seven' mean to you about the cigarettes?" said the words were unrelated to health.  

Ronald Hinckley, president of Research/Strategy/Management, a US-based research company, said: "These results clearly show the brand name Mild Seven does not create the impression that the cigarettes are less harmful than others."  

But medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki dismissed the survey. "This is a study carried out or paid for by the company. It cannot prove to us that it is unbiased," he said.

How different will the survey answers be if the question was just slightly different, as in "What comes to your mind immediately when you hear/see the English cigarette brand name 'Mild Seven'?"

I know that Japan Tobacco wants to save a brand name whose equity was carefully built up over many decades.  But the brand was probably named 'Mild Seven' for precisely the reasons behind the proposed government law amendment (i.e. to imply a brand is less harmful than others, as in a 'milder' version of 'Lucky Strike' (='Lucky Seven')).  There should not be a grandfather clause to protect that.

This study compared patterns of sexual behaviour and determinants of unsafe sexual behaviours amongst the Chinese and non-Chinese residents of Hong Kong. Of the 2,060 respondents (2060/4157; 50% response rate), 73% identified themselves as being ethnic Chinese. 

Overall, having a non-regular partner was more common amongst the non-Chinese (36%) than the Chinese (17%) respondents. 

Chinese people who were at increased risk of having had sex with a non-regular partner included social hygiene clinic attendees and airport travellers, males and ever smokers. For non-Chinese this was inconsistent condom use and being aged 18–45. 

Predictors of inconsistent condom use for Chinese included being aged 18–45, never having been married, and having had sex with non-regular partners; for non-Chinese the predictors were being aged 18–45, having had sex with non-regular partners and being unafraid of AIDS. 

We conclude that there are similarities and differences in sexual risk-taking behaviours between Chinese and non-Chinese residents in Hong Kong.

Ming Pao also quoted that AIDS Care has targeted these groups: male homosexuals, truck drivers who go between Hong Kong and China, youth and patrons of prostitutes.  On a technical note, it is hard to see how a 50% response rate from a representative sample could result in only 73% ethnic Chinese.  There must be something special about how the sample was selected.

President Hu persisted in his decision about Hu Yaobang's birthday even though four of the nine members of the party Politburo's standing committee, the top ruling body, expressed concern that the move could threaten stability, said people who had been told about the debate.  The four, one of whom was Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, were said to have different reasons for their opposition. But all were said to have argued that the move could risk giving people the idea that the circumstances surrounding the 1989 demonstrations, which the party has condemned as an antigovernment plot, might be open for discussion.  

Opposition to the commemoration was first reported earlier this month by Open, a political magazine based in Hong Kong, and was confirmed by people close to the late leader's family.  President Hu is said to have overruled the objections and ordered the commemoration to proceed, arguing that while students may have invoked the late Mr. Hu's name when their protests began, the former leader had no responsibility for the demonstrations.

True or not, here is what was reported in Yazhou Zhoukan (November 20, 2005 issue) in a very different reporting style.  This alternative version is interesting because you can learn a lot about management effectiveness by a careful reading.

When the subject was brought up at the meeting of the Poliburo Standing Committee, Huang Ju, Li CHangchun and Luo Gan brought up: "We can commemorate Hu Yaobang.  What about June 4th then?"  Wen Jiabao brought up: "What about Zhao Ziyang?"

Hu Jintao said: "Let us not talk about June 4th for the moment.  Please give us your individual opinions on Comrade Hu Yaobang first."

Huang Ju and others: "We did not have dealings with Comrade Hu Yaogang.  We have no opinion."

Hu Jintao said: "Since there are no opinions, then we should do it."  With respect to Wen's issue about Zhao Ziyang, Hu Jintao said: "Comrade Hu Yaobang passed away 16 years ago.  Zhao Ziyang just passed away.  We can let it go for now and talk about it later."

The nine members of the Poliburo Standing Committee signed their names on the document to indicate their agreement about the memorial rite.

Wasn't that deftly done by Hu Jintao?  He brought up the subject of Hu Yaobang and asked for opinion.  People mentioned June 4th and Zhao Ziyang.  He refused to be sidetracked and forced everyone to state their positions with respect to Hu Yaobang.  When no one had anything bad to say, it was a done deal by itself.  Then he looped back and deferred debate on the other issues. Very slick, indeed.  It should go right into the Harvard MBA management case studies.

I use "true or not" because the proceedings would have to be leaked by one or more of the attendees or perhaps a record-taker.  These people are not known to be in the habit of leaking information, and it would have to be really 'leaking state secrets.'

There is a 'petition village' near South Station in Beijing, and it is no secret.  No matter what the reasons why the people there want to seek justice via petitioning, there is no doubt that they are the most socially vulnerable group.  From the first day that they decided to petition, they have lost their source of livelihood, even their families, houses and all basic necessities.  The implication of petitioning is that they have lost all legal protection.

The winter in Beijing is bitterly cold, and it is even colder for those people who have no suitable shelter, no adequate source of warmth, no food and no basic medicine.  I recall that the temperature in Beijing reached record lows in 2003.  When the first winter snows came, seven corpses were found in this spontaneously formed village.  Those people did not obtain the justice that they hoped for, and I don't know if they found peace in the other world.

Between the end of December in 2003 through January of 2004, some ordinary netizens such as ourselves pleaded for help from everybody to give those people some human warmth in the severely cold season.  The result was astonishing: netizens from around the country sent through the mail: clothing, medicine and food and we had to get a vehicle from a moving company to get everything down to the petition village.  On Lunar New Year's Eve, the Beijing netizens donated enough materiel that it required two bread vans to cart everything away.  According to what I know, some petition village people relied on these donations to survive that winter.

Winter will be arriving in Beijing soon.  Although the national government has tried to improve the conditions for petitioning, there are still a lot of people staying there.  As individuals, we do not want to discuss the pros and cons of the policies, and we do not want to discuss the reasons why people have to petition.  We only want to invoke the most basic humanitarian spirit to ask our Internet friends: give them piece of clothing that you don't wear anymore, give them a common medicine or food item, and let them feel some warmth during this Beijing winter.

We know that we quarrel with each other unceasingly on the Internet, but in our hearts we care about this worlds.  A friend said: act and bring about change.  So be it.  At this moment, let us put aside our quarrels and clashes: act and bring a little bit of change to his world.

[Details of donation follow]

This post appeared on November 13 11:16:00.  By November 15 23:56, it had been seen by 14,765 netizens with 551 comments.

News about the virus often takes a detour to reach domestic audiences: it is first covered by foreign media, and then picked up by domestic press. Journalists sent to infected areas also say that local officials have not been cooperative enough.

For example, the government briefed the OIE on October 24 about infections in Anhui and Hunan, yet the news first ran exclusively in the Farmers’ Daily, on pages 2 and 4, over the next two days. On the newspaper’s Web site, the items were not even posted. Only after the Foreign Ministry spokesman and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government Web site confirmed the infections, and foreign media had widely reported on them, did the official Xinhua News Agency get the word out on a broad scale domestically.

The mysterious death of a 12-year-old girl in Xiangtan, Hunan, also appeared first in the overseas press. Official domestic media did not run the news until after Beijing notified the WHO of her death, and sent a taskforce to Hunan to investigate. When other domestic press, including Caijing, sent journalists to Xiangtan, they met many obstacles in gaining access to the case. 

So how did Ming Pao come up with something like this on October 27: "An anonymous Hunan province health official said that the girl and boy both tested negative for the avian flu virus ..."  What is so special about Ming Pao that a health official would talk to them and not Chinese media?

The long translation of Chu Hoi-dick's Criticizing the Hong Kong Media from InMediaHK offers a clever (but also pathetically sad) possibility about Hong Kong reporters on the China beat:

There are several admirable China section colleagues.  There are only a few of them, and they have to gather information from Hong Kong.  So they have to resort to lying a lot of times.  They may call up a certain government office and speak with a Beijing accent.  When the other party asks who they are, they may claim to be from Beijing Youth Daily, Guangzhou Daily or Southern Metropolis Daily.  Their fluent language can fool a lot of people.  Sometimes a major incident breaks out somewhere and they know enough to call up people randomly in the vicinity for information.  One time, a reporter was arrested by the public security bureau, but he talked his way out with the director and they even became friends.

That does not mean that the foreign media always get it right.  This methodology is premised on lying to get what you want and you should not be surprised that people lie to you as a result and you cannot verify what you were told.  For example, the business about the pigs with avian flu virus appears to have vanished, but it need not have occurred at all if the transparency was there to begin with.

(SCMP)  The strength of the case for universal suffrage in Hong Kong should not be judged by the turnout for next month's pro-democracy march, former governor Chris Patten said as he bade farewell to the city yesterday.  "Certainly it is very unlikely the turnout will be the same as for the marches over Article 23," Lord Patten said, referring to the shelved national security law.  Half a million people took to the streets in Hong Kong two years ago, forcing the government to drop the proposed legislation.  "[It will be] unwise, either for Beijing advisers to think that you can judge the case for democracy on numbers, or for those who actually organise the demonstration," he said. 

(The Standard)  The democratic aspirations of Hong Kong should not be judged by the numbers who turn out at the planned December 4 rally, former governor Chris Patten has said.  While predicting that next month's rally is "very unlikely" to have a similar turnout as the historic July 1 protest where an estimated 500,000 took to the streets in 2003, Patten said in an interview with Cable TV Sunday it will be "unwise for Beijing advisers to think that you can judge the case of democracy on the number of supporters."

There are two things that the demonstration organizers should do.  One, do not set up a target to define success/failure.  Already the government has put up an estimate between 50,000 and 100,000.  Do not take the bait.  In a previous comment, I argued for using public opinion polls instead because it has the highest support level (consistently around 60% for direct elections).  The demonstration is just a reminder of that level of support, not the quantitative proof.

Two, do not fool around with the number of demonstrators as they did on July 1, 2004 and 2005 (see comment again).  If you fool around with the number again, the entire project gets kidnapped and you have to fight the academic researchers and you will lose once again.

A poll has seen the Hong Kong public give Legco a "satisfaction" rating of 28%, as opposed to 23% dissatisfied with Legco. Chief Executive Donald Tsang's satisfaction rating is 58%. What headline would you come up with on those stats? The SCMP came up with this:

A record-high 1 in 4 happy with Legco

Completely factual, completely besides the point.

A record-high?  The complete HKU-POP survey results are here.  As noted by HKU-POP director Robert Chung, "People's satisfaction with Legco members in general has increased to a record high for this session, but at a much slower pace than that of the SAR government as a whole. The government led by Donald Tsang is now about 30 percentage points more popular than Legco members. Since the popularity base of the legislature is lagging far behind than that of the entire government, which comprises the executive, the legislature and judiciary, its ability to check and balance the executive arm may be handicapped."

But that page also contained the identical results for the First and Second HKSAR Legislative Councils.  In April 1999, the all-time-high "satisfaction" rating was 29.8%.  From July 1998 up to now, the HKSAR Legco has never achieved a "satisfaction" rating better than 30%.  Maybe an organization that has never achieved a 30% rating from 1998 up to now should be scraped altogether?  Again, Robert Chung explains: "It should, however, be noted that the overall performance of Legco members includes those returned by geographical as well as functional constituencies, and it is not a direct measurement of individual Legco members' performance."  But then overall performance of the government includes the executive, the legislature and judiciary too, including some current liabilities such as the Environment and Food Bureau.  Perhaps that is because the executive and judiciary arms are cooperative, where the legislative arm is famously divided and combative, and the difference in ratings is the inevitable outcome.

The appeal of El Chavo del Ocho, the most popular sitcom in the history of Mexican television, might seem mystifying. The show, which first aired in the 1970s, follows the allegedly humorous exploits of a street urchin who lives inside a barrel, played by then-fortysomething comic Roberto Gómez Bolaños. His pals, including the spoiled Quico and the crafty La Chilindrina, are similarly played by adults, who shriek inane catchphrases while bouncing around a set befitting a community theater production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The gags usually involve someone getting bonked in the head with a hammer or brick.

But 27 years after the last of its 1,300 episodes taped, El Chavo is a cable hit in the United States. Currently airing on Univision-owned Galavision, it's consistently the No. 1-rated Spanish-language cable program, often taking eight of the top 10 Nielsen slots. And in one amazing quarter last year, 48 of the top 50 Spanish-language cable shows were El Chavo repeats. ¿Por qué?

Largely because the people who watch Spanish-language TV are often looking for a hit of nostalgia. According to a Pew Hispanic Center survey, about 75 percent of Hispanics in the United States are at least very proficient in English; for those born on American soil, the figure is over 90 percent. When watching English-language TV, these viewers favor shows like CSI, Desperate Housewives, and Lost—that is, the same fare as non-Hispanics.

So when they switch over to broadcast stations like Univision or Telemundo, or cable alternatives like Galavision, Hispanics crave the sort of programming they can't see on ABC or Fox—shows that provide a cultural fix, or at least a sweet reminder of bygone days. And that means lots of telenovelas, or melodramatic soap operas, and vintage Bolaños comedies like El Chavo and El Chapulín Colorado. (Bolaños' performance in the latter show inspired the Bumble Bee Man character on The Simpsons.) Television viewers generally look to cable for comfort programming—TNT's incessant Law & Order reruns always do well—but not nearly to the extent that Spanish-language viewers do; sports aside, the cable ratings are usually dominated by wrestling, Lifetime Original movies, and mature fare like Nip/Tuck.

But why El Chavo, rather than another 1970s sitcom? The show has the advantage of having been a hit throughout Latin America, not just in Mexico. About 60 percent of Hispanics in the United States are of Mexican descent; that means millions of viewers with roots in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Peru, or Colombia crave televised nostalgia, too. Fortunately for Galavision, 1970s households in Lima or Santo Domingo were likely to be tuned into El Chavo's first run. (Dubbed reruns of the show remain such a hit in Portuguese-speaking Brazil that when the network SBT threatened in June to quit airing them after 21 years, hundreds of fans marched in protest; SBT relented.)

Strong cross-generational appeal works in El Chavo's favor, too. Because it depicts the hijinks of child characters—albeit played by adults—the show does well among grade-schoolers; it is, in fact, the No. 1-rated Spanish-language show among American viewers ages 6 to 11. Their parents, meanwhile, have no qualms about plopping Junior in front of the television for back-to-back episodes from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., familiar as they are with El Chavo's G-rated content. (At 7 p.m. sharp, however, the TV is likely switched over to Univision's flagship broadcast station, where telenovelas such as Inocente de ti dominate the prime-time Nielsens.

I am willing to bet that Brendan Koerner must have come across my post in researching for that article.

I hope that you see why I feel that I have neither the need nor competence to wrap all these things up for you.  Without doing too much work, I will provide a couple of English-language links which I would call 奇文共賞 (translation: Remarkable writings for popular enjoyment).

These are examples of what you do if you were ordered to make up reasons to squash the freedom of press.

According to a certain bookstore manager Guo in Zhengzhou, a shipment of 100 copies of "Conscience and Truth" was received in early October.  At first, only single copies were sold.  Then on October 18, a man who came by car showed up and ask if the bookstore carries that title.  Guo told the man to find it on the shelf.  But the man said, "I'm asking you how many copies you have in total."  Guo said, "83 copies."  The man bought the whole lot.  Guo reflected upon this and thought is strange enough to call up the author Hu Zhenjie.  Hu said that he had just heard that a bookstore in Sanmenxia had ordered 500 copies and after selling more than 100 single copies, someone had gone there and purchased all the remaining copies for unknown reasons.

Hu Zhenjie had reasoned the book collected a number of major exposés in China (note: the list is omitted here) and a number of important and influential people were named ... Hu Zhenjie said that everyone who has any conscience or sense of justice should be able to read the truth contained in the book.

At this point, a cynical person might decide this was an author's (or his promotional specialist's) publicity stunt to get people to rush out and buy any copies still left in the bookstores.  Not so easy, though, because the author encourages anyone (whether they want to buy the book or not) to visit the website Zhenjie to read the book for free.  That is correct -- for free.

If true, then this is sweet revenge.  Someone has paid money to buy more copies than the book was probably expected to sell (e.g. the 500 copies in the Sanmenxia bookstore would be a phenomenal number).  Meanwhile, more people will have read the book as a result of the Internet publicity.  In fact, this may be a new business model.

Q: Do you know that there will be a WTO conference in Hong Kong from December 13 to 18?
A: Yes: 70%; No: 30%

Q: Do you think Hong Kong is prepared to deal with the anticipated demonstrations during the WTO conference period?
A: Yes: 78%; No: 22%

Q: Do you agree with the statement: "Free trade benefits most countries and peoples in the long run"?
A: Agree a lot/Agree: 49%; No opinion: 36%; Disagree a lot/disagree: 15%

Q: Do you agree with the statement: "Free trade causes rich countries to benefit but small and poor countries become even poorer"?
A: Agree a lot: 16%; Agree: 20%: No opinion: 38%; Disagree: 19%; Disagree a lot: 6%

The response to the second question has no doubt been pumped by the endless pronouncements from the Hong Kong government about preparedness.  Of course, this is setting themselves up for a potential big fall.  If there were truly a large number of professional demonstrators out there, they would have studied all those pronouncements and do the unexpected.

The last question shows that the Hong Kong government's WTO ads with the mobile phones and oranges may not have worked well.  This assertion is unproven since the Synovate survey is one moment in time.  Had the same survey been done six months ago, we would have been able to detect shifts.

The Chinese University poll, conducted by the institute between October 25 and last Friday, took in 1,006 people.

Of these, 69 percent wanted to see the introduction of universal suffrage either in 2007/08 or 2012 while 65 percent said a timetable for universal suffrage should be set now. Only 26 percent felt a timetable was not necessary.  

On the question of universal suffrage, 34.2 percent said it should be introduced in 2007/08 despite the decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee to rule it out, while 34.8 percent said full democracy should be granted by 2012.  Only 18.1 percent of the respondents thought it should come after 2012 while just 6.1 percent said no timetable should be set.

On the government's reform package, 58.8 percent said yes and 23.6 percent said no. Of the yes votes, 32.8 percent said they accepted the package readily, 27.7 percent did so reluctantly and 36.8 percent said there was no other choice.  Wong said that of those who did not accept the package, 33.9 percent, or 8 percent of all respondents, said they will join the December 4 protest rally.  "According to our experience, that 8 percent could represent tens of thousands of people," he said. 

Please note that there were in fact two major questions within this poll -- one about the introduction of universal suffrage (and the time table) and the other about the government's proposed reform package.  Now I will walk you through the headlines in the Hong Kong newspapers.  What headline would you have written?

Like many Chinese twenty-somethings, Lu Ruchao loves to surf the Internet. He often visits a local chat room to sample the neighborhood buzz. One day, Lu noticed that Netizens were complaining that local police often drove down the main street of Suquian with sirens blaring, disturbing half the city. Lu, himself a policeman, jumped into the e-fray. He tapped out a defense of the police, arguing that a cop car sounding its siren is responding to an emergency and shouldn't be criticized. But Lu isn't just any cop. He's one of China's estimated 30,000 to 40,000 e-police who collectively serve as an Orwellian Big Brother for the country's nearly 100 million Internet users. "We have to face knives and guns while on duty every day," Lu explained later to the Chinese publication Southern Weekend. "How can they criticize us?" ...

Southern Weekend reported Lu's story, saying the Jiangsu city of Suqian hired him and 25 other e-cops last April to form its "Internet commentator team." (The Southern Weekend later censored itself by removing the article from its Web site.)

Actually, you can find the full translation of the Southern Weekend article here at ESWN on May 21, 2005.  This is very old news indeed.  But anyway, that is not the true issue of this post.  What Lu Ruchao said about the police sirens may actually be truthful as well as constructive.  But this is not what it is all about.  There are other instances in which I would really start worrying about Big Brother.

I will give you one instance in which a forum commentator was surely an Internet police agent.  This goes back to the case of Lu Banglie and what happened to him in a certain village in Guangzhou province.  If you refer to The Chronology, you can find the official statement of the Panyu district government circa October 15:

On the morning of October 10, the [ Zhijiang City people's congress standing committee] brought Lu Banglie to the Zhijiang City People's Hospital for further examination while asking the legal medical expert of the Zhijiang City Public Security Bureau to be in attendance.  After repeated examination, except for the legal medical expert identifying the light scratches on his arm (believed to have been caused during the pushing and shoving with the villagers when Lu insisted on entering), Lu was deemed to be normal otherwise.  Afterwards, Lu Banglie signed his name on the town and city hospital examination results.  Therefore, the "bloody incident" in which Lu Banglie was beaten or killed was fabricated.

So now I find an attack on Lu Banglie's account at this forum posting, and it is accompanied by this:

So what kind of Internet commentator has access to a scanned copy of the medical examination record from the Zhijiang City Public Security Bureau?  Need we say more?  More interestingly, do you think that they win because they control all the information?  Well, actually, the more information that they provide to bolster the case, the less capable they seem.  Certainly, I don't see any space to which Lu Banglie attached his signature in this document!

Dear Chinese friends:

The Chinese are a great people.  To my mind, the Chinese are hardworking and wise; that is until I accidentally came across what angered me the most since arriving here: in that Super Girl program, a singer named Li Yuchun held the microphone and jumped around singing the song Zombie with a big smile.  I was stunned!  Then I got angry!

Li Yuchun covered this song.  She used a light beat to describe how the butchers massacred children and abused their mothers.  She used her bright voice to sing: "Another mother's breakin'. (又一位母亲被强暴) (translated into English as: Another mother's being raped)."  Dear kind Chinese people, she was having fun!!

This is an insult to the Irish.  It blasphemes music which is supposed to represent humanistic culture as well as universal conscience and spirit.

A soulless woman brought us an increasingly pointless visual display.

"Li Yuchun, you are making fun of the pains of a people!! Do you realize the creative background and political situation behind Zombie?  If someone sings about the 9/18 incident or the Nanjing massacre with a smile, how would a Chinese person feel??  This is an insult to an entire people!!  The Irish people had lived under the high pressures of war for the longest time with their lives always at risk!"

As an Irish person who has lived in China for a long time, I am deeply appalled by this type of ignorant entertainment!

This item must be classified as 'suspect' because of the phrase that was shown in translation above.  According to the lyrics of the song, the sentence is this:

Another mother's breakin',
Heart is taking over. 

Thus, "breakin'" is an adjective for the noun 'heart' referring to the broken-hearted mothers of the murdered children.  An Irish person should not have mistaken this to mean 'being raped.'

President Chen Shui-bian yesterday said that all illegalities involving companies, such as unacceptable capital structures or activities to evade taxation, have to be investigated according to the law.  However, Chen said that the government has to follow the principle of proportionality, which is embedded in almost every legal system when taking disciplinary action against companies that commit unlawful actions.  "However, we have to be careful when considering closing a television network. During my presidency, I will never let it happen," Chen said.  

He said the government would never close any TV station or newspaper, because Taiwan is a democratic country ruled by law.  The freedom of the press is especially important for Taiwan -- a country just transformed from an authoritarian system into a democratic one, he said.  "I urge all media agencies to disseminate information, in the form of either news or commentary, based on factual events," Chen said.

Are the people of Taiwan reassured?  Did they think that this is doubletalk?  Apple Daily interviewed 422 persons 20 years or older via computer-assisted telephone dialing on November 1.

Q1: President Chen Shui-bian said that no television station will be closed during his term.  Is this statement sincere with respect to protecting freedom of press?
- Yes: 30.8%
- No: 50.2%
- Don't know/no opinion: 19.0%

Q2: Do you believe that President Chen Shui-bian's statement can calm down the controversy brought up by the debate over TVBS's license?
- Yes: 28.0%
- No: 54.5%
- Don't know/no opinion: 17.5%

Meanwhile, here are the latest television ratings from the night before.

(Apple Daily)  On one side, the program "2100 Speak To The People" on TVBS achieved a 2.36 rating which projects to 504,700 viewers on the average.  Meanwhile, FTV's program "Challenging the Policies" featured Premier Frank Hsieh could only garner 36,400 viewers on the average.  That program on FTV is sponsored by the Democratic Progressive Party with a budget of NT$1 million, of which NT$700,000 will be paid by the DPP party central as well as donations from supporters and NT$300,000 will be paid by Frank Hsieh himself.

(China Times)  In a poll of 511 persons 20 years or older, China Times found that 42% opposed the GIO's actions against TVBS, 12% supported it and 35% had no opinion.  By political affiliation, more than 80% of pan-blues supported TVBS, 40% of the pan-greens supported the GIO.  Among independents, 40% supported TVBS and 10% supported the GIO.  Do the respondents trust the president's guarantee?  24% (3% definitely believe and 21% believe) trusted the president, while 47% either did not believe or definitely did not believe the president.  Will this an impact on the upcoming election?  51% said that it will have negative impact on the pan-greens, 6% said it will have positive impact, 13% said no impact and 30% had no opinion.

I know that they are all in Chinese, but sometimes you don't need to read Chinese to have fun.  Take, for example, this Anti post: there are two photographs of the control room inside a North Korea factory which was supposedly built with Chinese aid.  What is wrong here?  For starters, why would you put an air-conditioning unit on the floor inside the room?  Why do people wear helmets inside the control room?  Would you configure your computer this way (e.g. the keyboard is at arm's length; the CPU is all the way around on the other side (so try inserting a CD!); why are there windows without shades to let the sun rays heat up the equipment?)?  And so on.  (Postscript: I regret to say that you can no longer find the Anti post because MSN Spaces had deleted the entire blog at the request of the Chinese government)