It must have been a let-down for many of these western reporters. Nothing much seems to have changed.The immigration stamp on their passports to register their departure is still the same. It just says “Hong Kong Immigration'' not SAR for Special Administrative Region.
And certainly not the People's Republic of China although there are now more splashes of red in Hong Kong as Chinese flags fly side by side with the SAR flag. Against a backdrop of Asia's most stunning skyline, the world's media were here to cover the end of a part of the British empire and the raising of the Chinese flag.The western media had expected more.
They were ready to record the chaos and panic among locals as the People'sLiberation Army and their tanks entered the city.
They expected screaming pro-democracy protesters to be clubbed and dragged away by baton-waving policemen under political pressure from the Chinese might. All that didn't happen. And most of the western reporters who came to record the biggest hyperbole must have been disappointed.
It would have been difficult to explain to editors in some sleepy towns in the United States that the rain-soaked Hong Kong folk were actually waving tiny Chinese flags to welcome the PLA.
Surely, there must be a mistake somewhere. Those money-minded Hong Kong people were supposed to hold placards and candles to protest against the “massacre'' at Tiananmen Square.
Yes, there were some protests after all, protests are still allowed in Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems'' policy.
The scare campaign against China and the SAR flopped. None of the western newspapers, despite their claims to tell the truth, will admit that the response from the Hong Kong people to the protests was feeble.
The protesters were sparse and they were having a good time taking pictures of each other to record their “contributions'' to the historical occasion. The truth was that the locals had a great time playing mahjong or watching the celebrations on TV.
Many were out on the streets watching the fireworks just like Americans do on Independence Day.The July 1 “super holiday,'' as the locals dubbed it, was also the best time for shopping another favourite pastime in this consumer society.
The ringing of cash registers, since June 30 midnight, for the Great Handover Sales had never been sweeter. Who cared about demonstrations?
That would be really tough to explain to western editors who wanted follow-up stories about Hong Kong in danger,the doom of democracy, self-censorship of the press and the end of civil society.
CNN, despite its international reputation, was equally guilty of lop-sided reporting for it was more concerned with its largely-American audience.
Anchorman Bernard Shaw, an African-American, showed his ignorance of East Asian politics and even disrespect to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. At one point, Shaw told Tung “to cut out the modesty'' when, in typical Asian humility, the latter played down his clout.
The sad part was that even a leading local English daily in Hong Kong was lapping up the western influence by carrying reports and editorials similar to that of western publications. The contrast has never been greater. Western TV was showing a Hong Kong and Southern China “gripped with tension'' while Hong Kong TV had scenes of celebrations.
The western media referred to Tung as “Beijing-picked'' and by an “autocratic government.'' No one referred to Governor Chris Patten as “London-picked'' or “appointed governor.''
Who are we to believe? The western press which spoke only to the likes of Democratic Party chief MartinLee who are British-trained and liberal, or the local media which listened to the Cantonese speaking locals who read racing tabloids passionately while eating chok (porridge) for breakfast?
The truth, as they say, is somewhere out there.