A transgendered woman claims she lost her job at a hair salon after being pestered by Next journalists Social rights activists have reopened the issue of media ethics in Hong Kong after a woman who cross-dresses and is planning to have a sex-change operation says she lost her job after being stalked and photographed by journalists. Louise Chan, 31, who has applied for sex reassignment surgery at Queen Mary Hospital, said reporters from the Chinese-language Next magazine sent her messages through ICQ, the computer chatroom, also pretending to be transgendered (someone who wants to be of the opposite sex). When she declined a date, a magazine reporter pretended to be a customer at the hair salon where Ms Chan worked and secretly took pictures of her, she said. He then followed her for hours after work. A subsequent article reproduced photographs of her dressed as a man that were taken from her website without permission. The reporter called Ms Chan a couple of days before the article was published asking for her comments, but she was too shocked to say much. The article was published last week. Ms Chan said she decided to speak to the South China Morning Post because she wanted to show she was not ashamed of being transgendered and wanted to protest at the way the magazine handled the issue. 'The whole time they were cheating me, spying on me and then they called me to say that I might as well tell them everything because they'd already got so much personal information on me. They were bullying me,' she said. Ms Chan started cross-dressing when she was about eight and was beaten and scolded by her parents, although they have now reluctantly accepted her lifestyle. Her boss was understanding until the article appeared. Ms Chan was fired from the hair salon because she says her employer was worried about being hounded by the paparazzi. A report by the Law Reform Commission in October 2000 proposed criminalising stalking. The report was attacked by media groups as an attempt to gag legitimate news gathering. The debate was revived last year after a series of run-ins and rows between media photographers and stars such as Nicholas Tse Ting-fung, Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi and Jordan Chan Siu-chun. Roddy Shaw, of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversity, said the article simply served to fuel already strong social prejudices. 'The article portrayed transgendered people and cross-dressers as having a psychological problem and suggested sex was the most important thing in their lives,' he said. Mr Shaw said such journalism also made it difficult for employers of transgendered people. 'Often, the employer actually does not want to discriminate but is just worried that certain people will attract undesirable attention from sensational media,' he said. The article also quoted legal sources as saying that cross-dressing in public could be an offence - a misconception that could make life even more difficult for such people, Mr Shaw said. James To Kun-sun, a lawyer and member of the Democratic Party, said: 'It is perfectly legal for a person to cross-dress provided that they do not go into the toilet of a different sex.' Mr To said what the Next reporters did was unethical but not illegal. 'They didn't break any laws, except perhaps copyright infringement when they took contents from her website,' he said. Mr Shaw has filed complaints on behalf of Ms Chan to Next magazine, the Press Council and the law firm that made the comments about cross-dressing being illegal. Next did not return calls.