Wednesday, March 08, 2006

 
A Legal Matter
There have been moments in court during the headless Annie inquest where I've felt briefly like I'm in the middle of a Grade-B Hong Kong crime flick.
First there are her two sisters who -- because the HK tabloid and TV papparazzi are seemingly camped 24/7 outside the courthouse waiting for them and others connected with the case -- wear surgical masks to protect their identities. This is not unusual in Hong Kong which has what I've dubbed the ''surgical mask culture fetish'' meaning that even a sniffle or a sprained ankle seemingly triggers the compulsive urge to don one and look like an intern on Scrubs or a makeshift bank robber. But they wear theirs even in the privacy of the courthouse and courtroom where supposedly someone was trying to sketch them from the public seats during the start of the trial.
Despite the masks, they clearly enjoy the attention from the HK press and basking in the light of their wildly incompetent, though quite famous (and possibly clinically insane) attorney. More about her later. It all makes me a little queasy though, thinking that they're essentially exploiting the sad, lonely death of a wayward sister for whom they now demand a measure of justice (and no doubt a lot of money in a civil suit later) but from whom they were estranged at least two years before she vanished. The family never even bothered to file a missing person's report.
The court building is also a haven for "nutters" as the Brits say. I was buttonholed last week by one guy who'd been watching the case who told me he had an "important" law suit that my paper might be interested in. Turns out he's a disbarred lawyer who is suing the HK legal establishment for (it's from his suit) ''exposing their private parts, to whit their full assholes, to the bright sunshine of Hong Kong.'' Two days later he showed up in the court gallery decked out in full Arab regalia -- a burnoose, robe and Raybans. None of us dared looked him in the eye and fortunately he had apparently decided to let his costume speak for itself, though its message was known only to him and the little men who live in his fillings.
Then there's the lawyer for Annie Pang's family. She's an Amerasian named Mary Jean Reiner who is a former HK child and young adult TV star. She got her law degree about four years ago, about the time that she made headlines when a man she was having an affair with jumped out the window to his death from an apartment the two had rented in which to ''study. '' She was -- and is reportedly still -- married to a man two or three times her age whose claim to fame is choreographing, directing and acting in chop sockey flicks. He was the one beating on the door when her lover, with no place to hide and no kung fu skills, jumped.
Though now a lawyer she apparently still believes she's performing on TV and is given to daily courtroom drama accusations such as ''I put to you that you arranged the death of Annie Pang!'' without a shred of evidence and despite the fact that it's not a criminal trial. She has told the Pang family that her solutions come from Annie's ghost who visits her regularly with updates on her demise.
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