July 7th, 2011
10:16 PM ET

Harry Potter and the Decade-long Obsession

Before I have even written a word, there it is, laid out for all to see, in that picture: I am a huge Harry Potter geek.

I am one of those fans who pre-ordered the books and stayed up all night to finish them so no-one could spoil the ending for me. I have seen all of the films on their opening weekends, even taken days off work to see them on opening night, and I have seen most of the movies more than once in the cinema. But there is more. I have hung out in the crowd of not one, but two of the London premieres, snapping pictures of the stars. I own all the DVDs (including double copies of some) and yes, this weekend I am hosting a Potter viewing party.

So, as you may well imagine, this month's release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" is both a source of great excitement and gloom for me.

Why? Well, because to quote the tagline of that film for all you Muggles out there, "It all ends here." The final instalment of a film franchise that has clocked up more than a thousand minutes of screen time and over $6.3 billion at the box-office to date premieres on July 7th, and is released worldwide on July 15th. Four years have already passed since the last in JK Rowling's best-selling series of books was published, and with the author swearing she has no more books in the pipeline, this is the end of an era for fans of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Hogwarts.

But before regaling you with how the wizarding world has become nothing short of an obsession, I have a confession to make.


Post by: ,
Filed under: General • Personal musings
July 7th, 2011
11:13 AM ET

In China, censors on overdrive to stop Jiang Zemin rumor mill

Beijing is insisting that reports of the death of Jiang Zemin are "pure rumor." Xinhua issued a terse denial that the former Chinese President had passed away.  A ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson curtly refused to comment on the talk.

The rumors began on Friday when Jiang failed to attend the 90th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, and speculation has been swirling on Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese microblog.

Weibo is doing its part to quell the speculation.  As of 4:30pm HKT, the following words have been banned on the site:

• Names of Chinese leaders including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao
• The words "breaking news" in Chinese
• "Jia beng" – the honorific used by Chinese to describe the death of an emperor or king
• "Three represents" is also banned. The term refers to the political roadmap drafted by Jiang Zemin

When you search for any of the above terms, you get the following message: "According to the relevant laws, regulations and policies, the results of this search cannot be displayed."

Interestingly, a number of related terms are still searchable on other top Chinese Internet destinations like Baidu, the search engine giant.

On Baidu,  you can search for the following:

• "River" or "jiang" in Chinese, which sounds like Jiang Zemin's last name
•  "Jiang Zemin." Chinese Netizens can still search his name and information related to the former Chinese leader, even access reports about the rumors of his death.

In Hong Kong, broadcast ATV led last night's newscast  with a report that Jiang died citing unspecified sources.  The report did not mention key details like the time or cause of death.  ATV has since issued a statement apologizing to viewers and the Jiang family about the report.

The news is also leading today's local papers with The Standard saying "Jiang 'Critically Ill' and the Apple Daily showing, above the fold, a photo of both Jiang and current president Hu Jintao

Such speculation is unlikely to end anytime soon, unless Jiang Zemin makes a public appearance.