SHAGGY-HAIRED rocker Zheng Jun, whose CDs sell in the hundreds of thousands in his native China, is unapologetic about his scathing opinion of Hong Kong. 'I don't like the place,' he says of the SAR during a recent trip to New York. 'It's like a desert of culture. They don't like serious things there - especially good rock music.' His dislike runs so deep that Zheng, 33, plans to snub the SAR in the future. Neither is he enamoured with Hong Kong's pop stars, calling them bland and unexciting. 'Hong Kong people like stupid little bands and performers,' says Zheng, dressed in a black 'War Is Over' T-shirt, big sunglasses and his trademark skin-tight black jeans. 'They have no taste.' But Zheng, who recently returned home from a business trip to the US, does not reserve his spite just for Hong Kong - he isn't too keen on New York, either. Voted the mainland's favourite rocker at this year's MTV-China Awards, he was invited to attend the glitzy MTV Music Awards in New York on behalf of the Chinese music industry. There he partied with Western megastars such as Britney Spears and Eminem at the historic Radio City Music Hall. 'Beijing is the best city,' says the Xian-born performer. 'Even in the US people are not as cool as they are in Beijing. I suppose I am just a Chinese hippie.' A college dropout, Zheng developed a passion for rock in the same manner as many of his Western peers. He grew up listening to the Beatles and Bob Dylan and other bands from the 1960s and 70s, yearning to be just like them. He learned to play the guitar and began performing gigs to largely Western audiences in the tourist bars and clubs of Xian. In the early 90s he teamed up with Kok Jialin, the impresario behind the mainland's leading rock band of the day, Black Panther. He encouraged Zheng to aim high and helped him record his first album, With Nothing, in 1994. It was an immediate hit and the follow-up, 1995's Back To Lhasa, with its Tibetan chants and instrumentation, cemented his reputation as China's leading alternative rock star. Zheng's most recent release, One-Third Dream, was released in July. Although he has yet to crack the overseas market, he says he is in talks about taking his brand of rock abroad. 'I would like to play in America, but I am not sure how many people would come. I have been to the US a couple of times, but this is the first time I have come here for work,' he says, refusing to discuss details of what sort of work he has been doing. Despite poor CD sales outside China, the diminutive Zheng claims he has fans in the US. 'I am always surprised when I go to Chinatowns in other countries that there are people who recognise me,' he says. New York's bustling Cantonese-heavy Chinatown is no exception, he insists. 'There were a few girls who called out to me. That was fun.'