Mainland best news beat outside a war zone, says Pulitzer winner

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2007, 12:00am

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mei Fong would like to see more Hong Kong journalists covering news of the mainland.

Being on the doorstep of the mainland, Hong Kong students are in a unique position to straddle two worlds, she says.

Malaysian-born Fong, 35, who is based in Beijing and writes for The Wall Street Journal, is joining five other Pulitzer Prize winners - among them veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett - for a Pulitzer Prize Winners Workshop of 20 lectures starting tomorrow at Hong Kong Baptist University.

'Hong Kong journalism students straddle two worlds,' she said. 'They have had much more western exposure [than their mainland peers], but at the same time are a part of China. They are right on the doorstep and it's very exciting for them.

'China is about the most exciting foreign posting without a flak jacket. There's so much happening here; there are tonnes of stories.'

Fong said she did not think Hong Kong journalism was in decline and praised some of the more aggressive journalists. But she felt there could be more coverage of the mainland on a permanent basis.

There were many stories to cover in the run-up to the Olympics in Beijing next year, she said - not just sports but also the ongoing massive construction projects and human rights issues.

For three years, Fong was the Hong Kong correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. She arrived during the Sars outbreak in 2003, and has reported on bird flu and other issues including the announcement by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa that he was standing down.

Fong was one of a group of seven reporters who won a Pulitzer for international reporting earlier this year. Her story was about a group of construction workers who faced terrible deprivation working round the clock in the pre-Olympic building boom. The story also garnered an Amnesty International Award.

She said it was possible for a Hong Kong journalist to win a Pulitzer.

'What I could teach the students [during the workshop] is that if you look at the list of Pulitzer Prize winners, they are all American and Caucasian. I'm the only Chinese face [on the Baptist University panel] and I'm not American,' she said.

'You do have to work for an American news organisation, but the Pulitzer is not America-centric. It would be great one day to see a Hong Kong face up there.'

Fong cites Britain's Queen Elizabeth as the reason she became a journalist.

'When I was 16, I won a Commonwealth essay competition. Part of the prize entailed a meeting with the queen.'