These are sensitive times. And it is not only journalists who find themselves haunted by the spectre of self-censorship. One reporter quizzing a not-so-junior police officer about a relatively trivial matter was rebuffed with a worrying reply. The conversation went something like this: Reporter: 'So did the whole incident take place near the car or somewhere else?' Policeman: 'Look, the sort of times and atmosphere we are living at the moment, I don't want to say.' Reporter: 'Er . . . sorry?' Policeman: 'Ask me what colour my shoes are and I'd have to consult my bosses.' He was deadly serious. University of Science and Technology Professor David Zweig spoke at the Foreign Correspondents' Club on the important subject of liberalisation and China's future. The speech was more about economics than politics, and even ventured to debunk the perceived wisdom that liberalisation of the economy would eventually lead to liberalisation in politics. Introducing him, FCC board member Michael Mackie said the professor would talk about 'liberalism' in China. Even in a town where the party of big business called itself the Liberal Party, this seemed a strangely archaic use of the word. Most people nowadays associate liberalism with a small 'l' with social democracy, not with market capitalism or socialism with Chinese characteristics. Professor Zweig was too polite to say anything. A story from the dog-eat-cuddly-pet world of capitalism with American characteristics reaches Quarry Bay 's terminal. Giant pet-supplies distributors Central Garden & Pet Co. have been sued for patent infringement by Real Animal Friends, or RAF, a maker of leashes for iguanas, ferrets, rabbits, lizards, cats and other small animals. RAF owner Richard Gordon told the news agency Bloomberg he had sold leashes worth US$1 million since 1955. But it was not the rights or wrongs of the dispute that caught our attention; it was Mr Gordon's blunt explanation for his action. 'What am I going to do, just sit there and let them eat my lunch?' he said of the defendants. 'No, I'm going to eat a piece of their breakfast.' He had probably spent too much time watching his pets. We were encouraged to hear that Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa is ready to learn from his own mistakes. He is now banning foreign political contributions, because he once contributed GBP50,000 (HK$627,000) to the Conservative Party and is 'particularly sensitive that this should not happen in Hong Kong'. We can see why he would be worried. After all, the chairman of the Conservative Party (and therefore chief fund-raiser) at the time of the donation subsequently turned up in Hong Kong as governor. Is it possible the cheque was handed over to Chris Patten in person?