We read the tabloids so you don't have to In the movies an actress can select her roles, but in Hong Kong's tabloid soap opera you have no say in how you're cast, and for actress Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi the script is turning nasty . . . UNHAPPY BIRTHDAY A month ago, Three Weekly magazine's fung shui man predicted Cecilia would commit suicide some time in June. This week, on the occasion of her 23rd birthday, the tabloids appeared to be doing all they could to push the nervy It-girl to the brink. Her apparent crime - apart from being beautiful and the best actress Hong Kong has produced since Maggie Cheung Man-yuk - is her rudeness to the reporters who hound her. Her real crime, of course, was being dumped a few months ago by Cantodom's most eligible bachelor, Nicholas Tse Ting-fung. She has since been forced into the role of the 'spurned woman' and is portrayed as a Canto version of the bunny-boiler from Basic Instinct. On Saturday, the eve of her unhappy birthday, the press lined up with especially venomous offerings. Cecilia was appearing at the 1:99 charity show at Hong Kong Stadium. The tabloids played down the fact she appeared for free and that she recently donated $100,000 of her own money to a fund for the elderly. They also made no attempt to share in the spirit of the occasion. 'Cecilia showed her true colours backstage,' reports Oriental Sunday, 'flirting with any man she could'. Its cover story, 'Five hours of sneaky backstage pictures', doesn't provide much evidence to support this claim beyond a long lens shot of her vest as she bows to the crowd. 'Cecilia exposes half a breast sphere,' runs the caption. You can't blame other Canto-stars for giving Cecilia a wide berth. Those who do talk to her find themselves written into the tabloids' Cecilia script. Is she hitting on Hacken Lee, wonders one magazine. Look at her flirt with Aaron, declares another. Even her ex-boyfriends from years ago find themselves being stalked by Express Weekly's paparazzi for a story which describes the 'fun everyone else seems to be having without Cecilia'. INCONVENIENCE STORE At 2am on the morning of her birthday Easyfinder catches up with the star in the 7-Eleven near her Tai Po home. She has added a mask to her stage clothes in a hopeless lunge for anonymity. She is alone and she is buying a loaf of bread. 'What a tragic birthday,' sneers the magazine, reminding us just one year ago she had a pink Mini Cooper for a birthday present from Nicholas Tse and the city at her feet. (This year, according to Oriental Sunday, Nic sent her a lemon.) Cornered by the paparazzi in the 7-Eleven, Cecilia freaks out - 'Why can't you leave me alone?' - and reportedly kicks a packet of noodles at the press. They get their revenge when Cecilia - still carrying a loaf of bread - climbs into the taxi. The picture and its flash of panties is used as another exhibit in the Cecilia 'slut-nut' story. 'Maybe she's wearing red panties for good luck,' muses the magazine. Truth, of course, never gets in the way of a good tabloid story. And this week, the twisted facts and exaggerations are not limited to Cecilia. Apple Daily runs a long story on Operation Unite's plan to stage a large-scale concert at Chek Lap Kok in June to celebrate the lifting of the World Health Organisation's travel advisory. It lists basketball superstar Yao Ming, actor Chow Yun-fat and celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma as performers. Two days later The Sun quotes an organiser of the event: 'They just made up that list . . . we haven't invited anyone yet.' In the fantasy world of the glossy news magazines retractions are rarely printed. Stories that make the front cover one week simply vanish into thin air the next. Recently, the tabloids reported singer Sammi Cheng Sau-man had split with her actor boyfriend Louis Koo Tin-lok and turned to God. This week Next magazine let slip that the couple are still united and shooting a new movie together called Love You Back. Two weeks ago Next reported Gillian Chung Yan-tung 'can't wear trousers' because 'elephant legs are her new trademark'. This week we read in Express Weekly magazine that Twins are suddenly 'super slim'. All year we have been reading that Tony Leung Chiu-wai is going to abandon his actress girlfriend, Carina Lau Kar-ling, for Maggie Cheung. This week Three Weekly says Carina may be expecting his baby. In this gaudy soap opera, time and truth count for little. Instead - as Cecilia knows too well - it's all about the role you are cast. ROLE-OVER Teresa Cheung Siu-wai knows this too. For the past three years she has played the recession-battling babe who won't let her $250 million property debt ruin her party. This week, however, with her Galleria boutique set to close, her role has passed to Rain Li, the singer whose father lost it all on the stock market and has helped him pay back more than $1 million. 'I've kept all this bottled up inside me for so long . . . ' she tearfully told the assembled press in an interview that amounted to a handover of roles from one actress to another.