My how times change.
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As a Hong Kong Government accredited journalist, I have privileged access to the Information Services Department 'Digital Photos System', or DIPS as it is called. If you are bona fide member of the media in Hong Kong you are supplied with a username and password, which is very useful for when a big news story breaks here. This is if, for some reason, the media are not granted access to the scene, and only the official Government photographer is allowed to be there. Think Police or Customs & Excise operations, incidents airside at the airport, that kind of thing. So as a reporter, you can go into their system, download their pix, and file them as Hong Kong Government handout photos. But a lot of the day-to-day photos on the site are extremely ho-hum to say the least. The usual images are dull pictures of, say, Hong Kong Government officials shaking hands, (or "strengthening ties and fostering economic cooperation and partnership"), with some poor sod from elsewhere.
But whilst having a good old rummage on DIPS tonight, (something I'd been meaning to do for ages), I found a wonderful archive of stock photography of all kinds of things from Hong Kong. From bridges, ports, roads and tunnels, to stock brokers, dragonflies, temples, skylines and wetland marshes. A veritable cornucopia of the corporate, corny and cheesy. The archive is as picture postcard perfect as it is huge. And of course being such an incurable sharkaholic, I just couldn't resist a search for term: 'shark'. And what exactly did that trawl up from the archive? An AFCD photo of dead whale shark caught in a fisherman's net, a few other juvenile shark beach strandings, some minor government officials inspecting shark nets on Silverstrand beach... and the above photo dated 01 June 1997. A beautifully staged and lit PR photo promoting that king dish of all Chinese luxury cuisine, shark fin soup. Shot on film, (you can just tell), with no camera data available in the IPTC field in the 'File Info' when opened in Photoshop.
Now fast forward 13 years from the date of the photo in question, and despite the gargantuan efforts of just about every green group in town to get the Hong Kong Government to take shark fin off the menu at it's official banquets, and the widespread international condemnation of the cruel practice, Chief Executive Donald Tsang made no mention of shark fin at all in his 2010-2011 Policy Address on the 13th October. The status quo remains as is. All our efforts sank without a trace. Donald effectively raised his middle finger to the WWF, the SPCA, Greenpeace, the Civic Party, Hong Kong Shark Foundation, Shark Savers, Oceanic Love, Shark Rescue, Bloom, GreenSense, Clement Lee's 3,000 anti-shark fin Facebook mates, et al.
But there is no denying that public opinion in Hong Kong is leaning towards a ban on shark fin. Chinese people are getting fed up with it - just like they did with bound feet a few decades ago. Just like the way westerners turned the tide against slavery and, to a lesser extent, the fur trade. It may be some way off yet, but things in Hong Kong are definitely moving in the right direction on shark fin.
However, to show just how out of step the Government in Hong Kong is on this issue, it's interesting to see that this photo is still readily available for reporters to download from the Government website. As if promoting shark fin as a tourism draw is still somehow okay. Bad PR? Maybe. A bureaucratic overisght? Probably. It will be interesting to see how long this photo remains available.
If anyone knows where this is 'feast of fins' was shot, please do let me know. I am guessing from the funky interior decor of the restaurant, that it was at one of the Chinese Restaurants on the Jumbo floating restaurant, but I could be wrong. To see the image large, to be able to decipher the text on the bronze wall plaque, (and the morbidly curious should), please click on the last image in my 'Shark Finning' slide show (Screen 6 of 6) in the portfolio section of this website. And make sure to click on the full screen icon - you may have to wait a few seconds for the 1.2MB full size image to load.
Just look at that poor stuffed and varnished tiger shark on the wall! And the huge whale shark fins too. It's as unbelievable as the 80's hairdos of the poor couple pictured...
ALEX HOFFORD : HONG KONG CHINA SHARK FIN PHOTOGRAPHER.