Thursday, February 14, 2008

Made in Hong Kong

C’est un véritable cyclone qui s’est abattu sur Hong Kong, l’ancienne colonie britannique, depuis quelques semaines, soulevant des protestations, et des commentaires de la part du nouvel archevêque de la ville: John Tong. Coupable: Des stars du cinéma et de la chanson "involontairement" promues à Très Grande Vitesse par Internet le 26 janvier dans le monde entier. Des geeks sans scrupule et la culture de l'image personnelle de la citée territoire ont fait le reste. Avancée de l'ordre moral Pékinois dans l'enclave du sud? Règlement de comptes entre gros bras des parrains des Triades locales? ***

Gillian Chung

Des photos dénudées, représentant l’acteur-chanteur Edison Chen (qui aurait joué le rôle glauque du photographe de ses copines), Gillian Chung, l’actrice Cecilia Cheung et l’actrice Bobo Chan, sont la cible des policiers et de la rumeur. Photos qui furent premièrement déclarée “fausses”. Fausses? l'actrice Chung n'a pas démenti ni confirmé que ces photos ont été faites volontairement. Edison Chen (l'acteur) a en effet connu une histoire d’amour avec ces trois jeunes femmes et d'autres.

Edison Chen

D’après la police, les photos auraient été copiées de l’ordinateur de l’acteur quand son PC fut envoyé en maintenance chez eLiTe Multimedia Ltd au tout début de 2008. Technicien indélicat? La semaine dernière, Edison Chen a pourtant issu un communiqué d’excuses sur “YouTube”. Reposée de nouveau la question de l'utilisation sur Internet de photos "crues" d'actrices mais aussi les âpres rivalités nées de la concurrence entre maisons de productions "Made in Hong Kong" comme l'écrit le NY Times:

"HONG KONG — A series of arrests here for posting sexually explicit images of what appear to be some of Asia’s best-known pop stars has led to a division among Internet users over free speech, and questions of selective police enforcement of obscenity laws." (Lire l'article sur ce sujet en cliquant le lien du NY Times)

«J’admet [longue pause de plusieurs seconde] avoir été naïve et idiote dans le passé … mais j’ai grandi (…) cet incident a causé une grande frustration dans mon entourage, des personnes en sont blessées (…) je remercie ma maison de disques pour son support, ma famille, mes amis, pour leur gentillesse (…) je regrette sincèrement les impacts de cet incident (…) dans le futur, je continuerai mon travail de manière positive (…) merci également à mes fans de toujours croire en moi…» a indiqué Gillian Chung, 27 ans, au cœur de la polémique, durant son discours d’1minute et 20 secondes précisément.

Les enquêteurs du NT times ont une version de l'affaire, mais sans trop l'avancer formellement: "The current scandal has led Hong Kong tabloids to run reports in the last several days of supposed plans by gangsters to “teach a lesson” to Mr. Chen and perhaps even kill him. Organized crime has long played an important role in Hong Kong’s entertainment industry."

Et le nom du tycoon "Albert Yeung" est prononcé dans les arrières salles de Mah-jong de Hong Kong. "He is the chairman of Emperor Group, a huge Hong Kong consortium involved in real estate, financial services, watches and jewelry, publishing and entertainment"

Albert Yeung et Jackie Chan

Pourquoi le nom de l'homme d'affaires Albert Yeung?

" Apparently the photos Chen had snapped of him and the starlets, Gillian Chung, Mandy Chen and Candice Chan, in addition to Bobo and Cecilia, plus his 18-year-old girlfriend, Vincy Yeung – the niece of Emperor Group tycoon Albert Yeung doing all manner of things motivated the police to look for the culprits".

La méthode utilisée sans que n'apparaisse la thèse "Triades":

"An employee of the shop eLiTe Multimedia spotted the photos, said to have been taken between 2003 and 2005, and copied them. From there it was but a short trip to the Internet, to the presumed embarrassment of Chen and certainly the women, some of whom cultivate a public image of chaste cuteness. In the process, a lesson has been delivered: be careful what you film because it will appear on the Internet."

"Informed source said that the technician only intended to keep the material for his own enjoyment. Then one day he invited some friends over to his Ma On Shan apartment to play mahjong and he casually mentioned that he had some "good" stuff to show them. When his friends saw the material, they were astonished and lobbied him to post to the Internet. He did not want to do so himself, because he knew that Edison Chen has his contact information. So finally a female friend agreed to undertake the task of posting onto the Internet. That was how it happened.

Police also added that the nabbed computers contained some 1,300 racy private shots of celebrities, including six women, two of whom had yet to be identified. In the meanwhile, public sentiment appears to have turned against Edison, who is now accused as the culprit in the scandal. The Straits Times reports that in a 'Who's guilty in the photo scandal' poll on the Hong Kong Discuss Forum on Sunday, about 76 per cent of voters said the photographer was guilty and 12 per cent pointed to the ones who uploaded the photos. Police now need only get hold of Edison's computer to verify that he was actually the source of those pictures.

Les utilisateurs d'Internet se sont déchaînés contre la police de Hong Kong en manifestant dimanche pour la "liberté de parole et de l'information" qu'offre le "Web Boulevard"! Les médias parlent plus simplement du plus grand scandale de photos légères d'artistes jamais survenu à Hong Kong.

Tempête dans un verre de Baijiu (Liqueur chinoise Maotai) ! Mais sur Hong-Kong la presse est vigilante, au cas où... au point de jouer le rôle d'entremetteur de faux scandales avec de vrais artistes pas toujours "clean" comme le sieur Chen.

Bilan: Cet article du Asia sentinel.

"What happened next has demonstrated beyond any doubt the complete inability of anything besides a society as closed as Burma to police the Internet, and rendered Hong Kong’s colonial-era obscenity laws irrelevant, as well as raising questions over everything from intellectual property theft to police overprotection of media stars to the morality of the territory’s Cantopop stars. Whatever else it has done, it has preoccupied Hong Kong’s media to a remarkable degree and presumably galvanized Internet users in one of the world’s most wired cities into a full-on chase for celebrity smut. "

*** Sur les Triades et les confréries en Asie: Lire l'excellent ouvrage de notre collègue Bertil LINTNER "Blood Brothers, the criminal underworld of Asia". (Editions Palgrave Macmillan, New York.)

(Texte et agences)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Namdaemun fire: aching Korean hearts

The fire broke out Sunday night and burned down the wooden structure at the top of the 610-year-old gate, which once formed part of a wall that encircled the South Korean capital.

The fire collapse of Sungnye Gate better known to Koreans and foreign tourists as Namdaemun, or "Great South Gate" has litteraly stoned and shocked the country. "The Republic of Korea could not even defend its national treasure No. 1!" one front-page newspaper headline lamented, using South Korea's formal name. "With this fire, our national pride was burned down as well," said Lee Kyung-sook, top aide to President-elect Lee Myung-bak, who rushed to the scene of the blaze Monday.

Namdaemun, made of wood and stone with a two-tiered, pagoda-shaped tiled roof, was completed in 1398 and served as the main southern entrance to Seoul, which was then a walled city. It was the oldest wooden structure in the country, an iconic reminder of old Korea in this modern Asian city, the capital of South Korea, and a major tourist attraction. The gate survived many Chinese and Japanese invasions that devastated the city. It was repaired several times, most recently after the Korean War of 1950-53.

When the South Korean government catalogued its national treasures in 1962, it gave the gate the No.1 ranking. Some historians opposed that designation because Japanese invasion forces had passed through it in the late 16th century to destroy Seoul. The site is now surrounded by a bustling commercial district. The gate had lately been used as shelter by homeless people. Namdaemun succumbed to the very thing it was designed to fight off, according to Korean legend: fire. Korean kings chose the site in the belief that the gate would protect the national capital from the fiery spirit of a mountain south of Seoul, historians say."

"The suspect has confessed all of his criminal acts to police," said Kim Yong-Su, captain of Namdaemun police station, announcing the arrest on Monday evening of a 69-year-old man identified only as Chae. Chae had been arrested in 2006 for trying to start a fire at the city's Changgyeong palace over the same grievance. He was fined and given a suspended prison sentence, Kim told a press conference.

Chae was angry at insufficient compensation following the compulsory purchase of his home a decade ago. He chose Namdaemun gate for his attack because it was poorly guarded, according to senior city detective Nam Hyun-Woo. Nam said Chae had at one time considered launching a terror attack on mass transit systems but abandoned the plan for fear of causing human casualties. Chae's family apologised to the nation.

"My dad has had a deep grudge about compensation, often talking about 'bad guys' in his sleep. But it was too burn the nation's assets," his daughter said. Yoo Hong-Joon, head of the Cultural Heritage Administration, offered his resignation to take responsibility. Local authorities were denounced for posting no night-time guard at Namdaemun and for not installing a sprinkler system. Firefighters were criticised for failing quickly to chop into the roof to tackle the seat of the fire, with the Korea Times blasting them for "amateurism".

Even North Korea's state-controlled media reported Tuesday about the fire. The report carried by the (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station said a fire broke out on the two-tiered wooden roof of the structure on Sunday. It said despite efforts by firefighters, most of the the 610-year-old landmark collapsed early the next day. It said Namdaemun, built in 1398, is a source of pride and a valuable cultural legacy for all Koreans.

Though it now lies in ruins, the Sungnyemun will keep its status as the nation's no. 1 national treasure, the Chosun Ilbo writes (Click the title to access the report), and restoration is naturally considered by Korean authorities.

Namdaemun Gate before arson.
(text and agencies)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

G-7 Finance in Tokyo: So-li-da-ri-ty !

G7 Tokyo

- The ghosts and the actors of the main lobby at Mita Kaigisho had three concerns: avoid the press, avoid the questions, avoid the words: recession and depression. So what we had here was: a show of solidarity. Helped by their hosts of the Japanese authority of the Finance ministry (entirely devoted to heal the pains of the foreign journalists gathered in the huge press room serving tea and cookies and chocolates), the press gatherings were distilled with parsimony. Probably the reason why one of the staff of the ministry got nearly assaulted by the crowds of reporters (agencies are thirsty) when the final declaration came out from her hands.

I saw two similar scenes and the staff, a lady, was equally submerged by a wave of dark suited journalists, steaming with fury and a not so sincere exaltation after rereading the first lines of the G7 Tokyo finance ministers and central banks governors. To avoid your pain in deciphering the report, I'll go to the essential with a couple of quotes:

- "The leaders likely intended to stave off a growing gloomy outlook for the world economy. But they failed to specify concrete fiscal and financial measures, and the statement failed to offer anything new". Daily Yomiuri.

"Although the G-7 leaders were concerned about the world economy, which has seen a slowing in growth, they failed to take concrete action for policy coordination. Their achievements from this viewpoint must be seen as inadequate for ensuring market stability." Yomiuri

"The world economy remains vulnerable to downside risks stemming from tighter credit, a deterioration of the US housing market, higher oil prices and rising inflation, according to G7 finance ministers gathering in Tokyo on Saturday."

"Although “long-term fundamentals remain sound” and recession in the US and elsewhere could be avoided, according to the final communiqué, the world’s richest nations said they stood ready to “take appropriate actions, individually and collectively, in order to secure stability and growth”." FT.

"Le marché immobilier résidentiel américain devrait notamment subir "une plus ample détérioration", craint le G7. Pour faire face à cette mauvaise conjoncture, les pays du G7 se disent prêts à "prendre les actions appropriées, individuellement ou collectivement, de façon à assurer la stabilité et la croissance de (leurs) économies" et celle des marchés financiers. Les pays du G7 ont également exhorté les agences de notation financière à" empêcher les conflits d'intérêt potentiels". Les agences de notation sont chargées d'évaluer les capacités de remboursement des entreprises et des institutions publiques qui s'endettent." Afp.

"The Financial Stability Forum called on financial institutions and credit rating agencies to improve their information disclosure practices to fight growing market uncertainty". Nikkei where there is still no report on the G7 meeting 24 hours after the "event".

- Bon et alors? Branding a summit is one thing, succeeding in answering world populace is an other. Equally surprising the lack of respect of some officials in charge of the press briefings. Some could attend some other media could not. We will long time remember the clash between a dozen journalists duly accredited and one IMF officer refusing to let the press go to ask questions to his boss Mr. Strauss-Kahn, all except one financial paper. But this happens all the time in Japan as there is this difficult press club system, made to discriminate and censor the free flow of information.

- On other subjects, the thing we certainly heard, is that French minister Christine Lagarde said that she would not resign contradicting a rumor spread just before her departure for the G-7 related to difference of views with President Sarkozy on some issues. Quite nasty news just before an international summit. "Fariboles" she told me as I interviewed the French minister just after the summit "communiqué final."

FR: "Je travaille, je travaille dur pour défendre les principes, idées et propositions de mon président. Et il n'y a pas la moindre différence entre ce que sont ses vues et les miennes", m'a-t-elle déclaré, au micro d'une grande radio française. Selon elle, le G7 Finances de Washington avait été "celui du diagnostic", et celui de Tokyo celui du "plan d'action". "Le travail que nous avions amorcé dès le 15 août avec la lettre du président de la République à la chancelière Merkel, dans laquelle figuraient déjà un certain nombre de points concernant la gouvernance, la transparence et la régulation (...) a poursuivi son chemin" pour aboutir à une "convergence très forte de vues sur les mesures concrètes" nécessaires pour faire face à la crise des subprime. La ministre a toutefois laissé entendre que la crise des "subprime" n'était probablement pas terminée: "il y a encore un delta qui n'est pas encore attribué, évalué. C'est le sens de notre appel à la transparence sur les pertes des banques et leur exposition aux prêts hypothécaires à risque américains, figurant dans le communiqué final. "

Christine Lagarde, la seule femme de ce G7 (G7 teinté de sinistrose), elle, est aux commandes... et tout le reste sur sa démission, c'était donc des "fariboles?" [Faribole: Définition: nom féminin. Sens: Propos sans valeur, frivole. Familier: bricole. Anglais: nonsense. Synonymes baliverne, billevesée, bricole, calembredaine, fumisterie.]

- One day and 104 years ago, it was the war between Russia and Japan kicked on February 10th 1904. Coincidences, the Russians were not invited at the G-7 Finances summit, this is why it is a G-7 and not a G-8 but some others were invited, Chinese, Indonesians, etc. Nevertheless a Tupolev did invite itself to Japan for 3 minutes flying over the Pacific. A bit too close to Japan's territorial waters, prompting 22 Japanese military aircraft to scramble, including a squadron of F-15, who asked the bomber to "go away." Flying from north-east to south west, the "Soviet-era" Tupolev Tu-95 bomber flew over the rocky island of Sofugan, some 650km south of Tokyo, in the Pacific ocean, for about three minutes from 7:30:36, sharp! I imagine the panic at Ichigaya's ministry of Defense underground headquarters, early morning of the G-7 summit, an authentic Soviet Russian bomber. Holly smoke, a real one or a TU sold to a Sovereign Funds' billionaire and Soviet era collection's lover on his way to Bali?

Be "Wa", be Samurai is the trendy pattern.

Be "Wa" ! Have good manners, generosity, patience and be cool, calm and collected. Manage "harmony"! These days in Japan, it is said to be trendy to share these attitudes. Attitudes or characteristics of a society such as the contemporary Japan doubtful and recreating old pattern?

Japan reviews its love for the samurai, according to the Mainichi who has been reading Japan Weekly Playboy which says, "that bushido is back on young trendsetters". "Samurai" has become a "watchword for hot in Japan in recent months", with samurai movies drawing fans into theaters, video games featuring swashbuckling sword wielders racing off shelves, comics devoted to stories of feudal-era heroes selling like hot cakes and a new magazine devoted to bushido ("the way of the warrior") coming out at the start of the year.

But people aren't just talking about samurai, the Japanese men's edition of the weekly says, "they're also talking like samurai, using an archaic form of Japanese like the warriors of old", language that would sound something like to Shakespeare for English speakers or Rabelais for France contemporary fellow men.

"Samurai are supposed to be strong, quiet types, right? So they sit there with their arms folded, saying nothing. After about an hour, they'll come over and pay, handing out their cash without showing their wallets. A modern wallet wouldn't match their image. The otaku girls in (the Tokyo shopping district of) Akihabara really like these guys."

Ah, this is what it is to be a contemporary Samurai? So the Geisha boom is trendy too... desu ne?

I did enjoy the scenic of the movie (photography was magnificent, not much the interpretation of Japanese history) of the "Last Samurai" of Edward Zwick with Ken Watanabe and... (yes I know) the real life zapper Tom Cruise. Director Zwick is "no stranger to epic or to fantasy" according to a critic of The Independent, A. Quinn, but as the script writer of the movie said, it is rather how each second of life is really lived that it makes a samurai loving life. Kurosawa also studied and described in his movies the concept of honour in a changing world. So Japan is changing, you know...

The article carries on like this: "We're seeing the active adoption of 'wa' (Japanese-ness), which has been going on in Akihabara and other places for a few years now. More characters appearing in Akihabara are wearing Japanese-style garments, Japanese style items are becoming hits and more men and women have taken to wearing kimono. These things have accompanied the booming interest in the Japanese language. People are discovering that the charms of "wa" (harmony) are not just in objects, but also in the language itself," Yuki tells Weekly Playboy. "People are using samurai language, discovering how much fun it can be and getting hooked to it. Because it's a language that is limited to use among friends, it also helps to create a bond. Using samurai Japanese is fun. From a psychological viewpoint, it's a manifestation of craving for intimacy. They want to belong to a group and are satisfying their need to have like-minded others around them. From a psychological viewpoint, it's a manifestation of craving for intimacy. They want to belong to a group and are satisfying their need to have like-minded others around them." End of quotes.

I'd better study my stoicalness and persuade myself that only virtue in accordance with nature is sufficient for happiness, as Zeno of Citium the Greek wrote long, long, long time ago in the birthplace of western philosophy...