News agency finds a tail worth telling

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 November, 2000, 12:00am

Lai See salutes the men and women of Xinhua.

Their job isn't easy. Working for China's official news agency means having to churn out a constant supply of stories, while filtering out any references to human rights violations, oppression in Tibet, or embarrassing behaviour by Chinese leaders.

To give you some idea what that leaves, Lai See passes along an article headlined 'Cow Breaks its Tail In China'.

We repeat, word-for-word, this breaking news from the world's most populous nation:

'A cow in east China's village entangled its tail in a cluster of cane and snapped its tail, said the cow's owner.

'Zhou, the owner of the cow in Zhongzhai Village of Duntou Town in Lanxi City in east China's Zhejiang province, grazed the cow on the mountainside at noon. It was hot when flocks of bees attacked the cow which sheltered in the canebrake. The cow kept waving its tail to disperse the insects but its long tail hair knotted with the canebrake. With a fierce tug, the cow broke off more than half its tail.'

Dark moment: Dao Heng Bank is holding a gift-with-gold-card promotion. Among the list of choices is a clothes brush - the kind used to sweep lint from lapels.

Envisaging a posh, wooden-handled number, a new card holder opted for one of those.

But the object that arrived wasn't quite what he had pictured.

The brush takes the form of a plastic black man (see picture far right). His eyes and stomach bulge. His lips are a fat slash of lurid orange. He is naked but for a yellow grass skirt, which doubles as the brush bristles. When used, the little racist stereotype appears to dance across the surface of lint-flecked jackets.

Lai See was more than a little shocked. We can only imagine the uproar that would follow if Standard Chartered's London branches began doling out Chinese coolie brushes, complete with pigtail and exaggerated eye slant.

All very shocking. But when Lai See 's contact showed his gift to the company receptionist, her only response was 'So cute! That's my bank - why didn't they give me one' before calling the bank to complain.

Apparently, some people don't feel bad about having a brush with racism.

House of mirth: Good to see politics and a sense of humour aren't always mutually exclusive. This quote from the British House of Commons made it onto the RHF Joke site:

During the Prime Minister's question time in the UK's House of Commons on November 15, William Hague, the leader of the Conservative Party, was questioning Prime Minister Tony Blair on his views concerning Britain's role in the European Union.

Trying to catch Blair on his description of Europe as a 'superpower' - that is, suggesting that this 'superpower' would just engulf the United Kingdom if it ever came to exist - he had this to say:

'And now that he has argued for a superpower, all that he can say when the German foreign minister called yesterday for an elected head of Europe was that 'the time is no right' for this idea.

'Can he think of a 'superpower', as he would have it, that has not had an elected head?'

Whereupon several male members (of Parliament) shouted out, 'America!'

Graphic: whee27gbz