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July 2, 1997

British and Chinese Flags After more than a century and a half of British rule, Hong Kong has been returned to China. Not surprisingly, quite a few Hong Kong-related Web sites have cropped up; of these, one site stands out as making especially effective use of the Internet to enhance users' understanding of the changes taking place: PBS's Hong Kong '97: Lives in Transition.

diarist "Lives in Transition" is a more creative project than many other Hong Kong sites, which often consist simply of stockpiled "Hong Kong Handover" information. Seventeen thoughtful and articulate Hong Kong residents from all walks of life have been selected by PBS to send in "diary entries" in which they reflect on how their daily lives are being affected by the handover. A young legal secretary remarks on the fact that in recent years fluency in Mandarin diaristChinese rather than English has become the prerequisite for getting a desirable secretarial job. A Filippino chef complains of continuing discrimination in favor of whites in the job market. An artist displays a painting expressing her feelings about the Asian-Western schism in Hong Kong culture. And so on.

The result is a dynamic, ongoing "new-media historical document" of sorts: as political and cultural developments in Hong Kong continue to unfold, each participant's commentaries are woven into the developing stories of fellowdiarist participants.

Whatever transpires in Hong Kong in the coming weeks and months, "Lives in Transition" will offer a variety of real-life perspectives. It also offers new-media developers an example of how historical and political reporting on the Web can and should mean much more than dumping facts, figures, and documents online.

Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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