From Publishers Weekly
Introductory chapters on Hong Kong, mainland China and the dualistic political concept that now defines, however precariously, the Special Administrative Region contextualize this diary-format account of one year in postturnover Hong Kong. In the end, Fenby (France on the Brink) concludes that, while life goes on more or less prosperously, after July 1997, "[t]he spirit which could have made something exceptional out of one country, two systems... has been stifled, without the people who could have given it life being allowed to make the difference." At their strongest, the diary format and Fenby's journalistic outlook lend power and immediacy to the often dramatic events transpiring on both sides of the border within one year: the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, suppression of Falun Gong, actions by Hong Kong's Triad gangsters, major business negotiations, labor injustices suffered by Filipino servants and dangerous hurricanes. Often, however, these accounts amount to merely a journalistic salad of anecdotes that verge on the indulgent and of gratuitous statistics (e.g., China manufactures half of the world's kettles and its Communist Party membership equals the population of France). Caught in the dichotomy of "here" versus "there," Fenby seems overly concerned with a narrow idea of defiance and disappointed when the local psyche favors pragmatism. Bent on finding "superlatives" and "contradictions" in the glittering metropolis, Fenby rarely penetrates its surfaces, and his role as the English editor of the South China Morning Post often looms so large that one wonders if the quaint title isn't more applicable to his own tussles with the beasts of journalism, rather than to Hong Kong's unique negotiations with the mainland.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The formula of "one country, two systems" under which Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997 promised to preserve the capitalist economy and personal freedoms of this vibrant South China metropolis, which had long flourished under British rule. As editor of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's leading English daily, from 1995 through mid-1999, Fenby was in a unique position to gauge whether the formula was working. His kaleidoscopic insider's view of Hong Kong during the year 1999, arranged chronologically in diary form, covers numerous events, including local politics, the media, crime, China's suppression of the Fa Lun Gong, and the handover of Macau. At one level, it is fast-paced, informative, and entertaining, but it is also a deeply disquieting report. Fenby details how Beijing-appointed Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa steadily eroded the rule of law. Hong Kong's autonomy and democratic prospects were sacrificed in order to appease Beijing's authoritarian rulers and the equally imperious local business elite, who consider the city their fiefdom. The result is engaging if sobering reading. For all academic and larger public libraries. Steven I. Levine, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.