CHAPTER EIGHT NOT The South China Morning Post
When US President Bill Clinton arrived in Hong Kong at the end of his June 1998 trip to China, chances are he read or at last glanced at the South China Morning Post, arguably the best English-language newspaper in Asia and as a matter of record the most profitable newspaper in the world.
On the other hand, there is scant chance that Clinton clicked on the Internet site "Not The South China Morning Post" (http://netvigator.com/-adamspub/index.htm), which has monitored with stinging satire the state of freedom of the press in Hong Kong since last July's handover from British colonial rule to Communist Chinese rule.
NTSCMP and its founder, acerbic Briton George Adams, have ruffled official feathers and attracted enough Internet-wide attention to be counted as "one of the 50 most important international Web sites" by the Online Journalism Review (www.ojr.org) of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication.
The urbane Fenby, to his everlasting credit, switched from his early tactic of ignoring Adams to engaging him in online debate. Now even top editors at the Post are said to sign on for the dialogue which undoubtedly has helped Adams gain notoriety.
Responding to a recent Adams barb, Fenby complained: "It really would be nice if you would read the paper more closely before firing off your darts or had the decency to admit your mistakes. But I might as well wait until pigs fly over Lantau (island near Hong Kong where the new white elephant Check Lap Kok airport is located), I suppose."
Adams has had plenty of ammunition to use in criticizing the Post. After the handover, there was a rash of firings, the disappearance of features like the cartoon World of Lily Wong, which referred to ex-Premier Li Peng as the "butcher of Tiananmen," and the banishment of "dissident" writers and editors like the irrepressible Nury Vittachi. A creeping self-censorship has been accompanied by more coverage of Beijing causes like harsh criticism of the film Seven Years in Tibet the week it opened in Hong Kong. And a former China Daily (the English version of the Communist People Daily) editor, Feng Xi-liang, was hired as a "consultant" at China's behest to sit in a special office next to Fenby's.
Adams was in Tokyo recently attending a seminar on (what else?) "Press Freedom in Hong Kong."
He told Editor & Publisher that he has been "overwhelmed" by the response to NTSMP and credits Fenby with inadvertently boosting the popularity of the site.