Pity the fool who plays tricks on Beijing

This time last year, a parrot named Cory that once belonged to Ferdinand Marcos revealed where the dead dictator had stashed his missing millions.

BBC World Service reporter Firlo Lopa brought this news to a breathless public.

Also on this date, Wonderbra announced it had developed a talking bra that said: 'Hello, boys'.

Meanwhile, Eyecare Information Service unveiled a survey showing that eye tests make people sex mad.

And London's Daily Mail newspaper revealed that Egyptian archaeologists had discovered a 4,603-year-old teddy bear in an ancient toy cupboard while excavating the Pyramid of Cheops near Cairo.

Yes, it's April Fool's Day.

And Hong Kong is no stranger to it.

In 1994, the Lamma Gazette announced that the island was to become an independent republic.

The new regime would boast hemp farmlands, tax-free tobacco and alcohol, and herds of newly imported llamas.

But the antics seem to have subsided since the handover.

If history is anything to go on, Beijing doesn't like it.

In April 1993, a mainland newspaper condemned the day of trickery as a dangerous Western tradition which was aimed at spreading lies and deceit.

'Plainly, April Fool's Day is Liar's Day,' the Guangming Daily raged in an April 1993 commentary.

'From Spring Festival to New Year's, we Chinese have many holidays which are rich with inner meaning. That should be enough.

'Tricks like this which cheat people . . . are an extremely bad influence.' The tirade followed a China Youth Daily publication reporting on real estate speculation on the moon and an improvement project which would pipe draught beer into kitchens.

The paper was forced to print a front-page apology for running a whole page of April Fool's Day stories.

A Hong Kong pro-Beijing newspaper, the New Evening Post, picked up one of the joke stories and reported it as fact.

The offending article said the mainland would reform its birth control policy to allow PhDs in hard sciences to have a second child.

Lai See agrees with the Chinese Communist Party on this one.

News reporting is a huge responsibility, and not something to be taken lightly.

We journalists are entrusted with the truth. The public depends on us deliver it in a fair, balanced fashion.

To turn the whole thing into a joke, even for one day, is an abuse of our power.

We feel strongly about this. Our column may be humorous, but fabricating the truth is no joke.

So as a sign of protest, Lai See will be spending the day in a Cory-the-Parrot costume.

April Fool.

Looks like cloning technology is being harnessed to crank out police line-ups.

Hong Kong's police commissioner yesterday sent out a 'Tender Notification' to let trade types know his department was seeking 'Provision of Persons for Identification Parade'.

Any 'manufacturers' wishing to participate in the tender should contact the Procurement Unit, Police Stores.

We hadn't realised 'persons' could be manufactured with such ease.

Lately, the force has been having a little problem with people dying in its custody.

Perhaps the police are trying to make up for it by buying some new ones.

Having a sleazy affair? Drinking under the legal age? Driving drunk? All three at once? Don't worry.

The United Nations is looking out for your best interests.

The body has enshrined your right to an international driver's licence.

Staff at the 'International Licensing Bureau' seem to think they've also enshrined your right to purchase a fake identity.

According to their on-line ad, anyone can order an international driver's licence that can never be revoked.

And there appear to be no questions asked as to your real name.

The licences double as ID cards that 'protect your privacy and hide your identity'.

This is handy in hotels and nightclubs, the ad says.

The service is also ideal for people who can't be bothered with mandatory driver's education.

Just call 1-937-586-9313 and they'll have sort you out in a jiffy.

The United Nations 'gave you the privilege to drive freely throughout the world!', the bureau ad informs us.

These were apparently enshrined via the 'Convention on International Road Traffic of September 19, 1949 & World Court Decision, The Hague, Netherlands, January 21, 1958'.

The ad urges you to 'Take advantage of your rights'.

Lai See is not sure the UN would interpret the Hague decision in quite the same way.

It seems the bureau people are taking a bit of licence.