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• Sandy

Burton Honoured

• MSF: An

Unusual Life




From the Presidents


Cover Story – Indochina: The Ties That Bind – Ghosts of Saigon – 30 Years at 300 Millimetres – Cambodian Sideshow


Media – Honouring Sandy Burton


Media – The Democratisation of Information


Media – FEER: A Protracted Farewell


Media – Stiletto by Max Kolbe


Charity Fund – Hands On Help and Language Centre


On The Wall – An Unusual Life


Book Reviews


Travel – Australia’s Ghan


Feature – Other People’s Luggage


FCC People and Around The Club


Professional Contacts


Out of Context – Ian Smith

It’s not the US Embassy

Meet the new President

Sinclair publishes 20th title

Three men and the Rock



Club Activities

> FROM THE OUTGOING PRESIDENT THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB, HONG KONG 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2521 1511 Fax: (852) 2868 4092 E-mail: <> Website: <> President: Ilaria Maria Sala First Vice President: Jim Laurie Second Vice President: Kevin Egan Correspondent Member Governors Paul Bayfield, Keith Bradsher, Mike Gonzales, Ernst Herb, Keri Ann Geiger, Ramon Pedrosa-Lopez, Chris Slaughter, Rob Stewart Journalist Member Governor Mark Clifford, Francis Moriarty Associate Member Governors David Garcia, Steve Ushiyama, Andy Chworowsky, Ralph Ybema Hon. Secretary Ramon Pedrosa-Lopez Hon. Treasurer Steve Ushiyama Finance Committee Convener: Steve Ushiyama Professional Committee Conveners: Jim Laurie and Ernst Herb House/Future Premises/Food and Beverage Committee Convener: Dave Garcia Membership Committee Convener: Steve Ushiyama Constitution Committee Convener: Kevin Egan House/F&B Committee Convener: David Garcia Freedom of the Press Committee Convener: Francis Moriarty Wall Committee Convener: Ilaria Maria Sala General Manager Gilbert Cheng

The Correspondent © The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong The Correspondent is published six times a year. Opinions expressed by writers in the magazine are not necessarily those of the Club. Publications Committee Convener: Paul Bayfield Editor: Diane Stormont Editorial and Production ltd Tel: 2521 2814 E-mail: Printer Hop Sze Printing Company Ltd Advertising Enquiries Sandra Pang Pronto Communications Tel: 2540 6872 Fax: 2116 0189 Mobile: 9077 7001 E-mail:

Cover picture: AFP



t gives me great pleasure to report that the past year has been good for the FCC on several fronts and I am pleased to say we are handing over the reigns to the incoming board with a solid surplus on hand. This year was a relatively smooth one in terms of governance issues and operational issues. The Charity Ball was a resounding success and this year’s Charity Ball looks set to beat last year’s fundraising totals. The Jazz Festival was a hit and we have had several exhibitions on the wall that have garnered the Club some well-deserved attention and praise. Membership has been strong, so much so that we’ve instituted a waiting list. Perhaps more importantly, the Board, after much debate on all sides of the issue, has instituted a special one-time promotion to bring in more journalists and correspondents in order to stay true to the founding purposes of the Club. The premises have been maintained, although the incoming Board may have some tough decisions to make regarding renovation of the roof. We have a new che who has made good progress in raising the standard of the food we serve. Gilbert Cheng, out morethan-able General Manager, has made great strides in enhancing the quality and training of the Staff. Thanks to the work of Keith Bradsher on the Professional Committee, the FCC has maintained its

Corrections and clarifications Correction – Apologies to contributor Tom Fawthrop, author of the article Mingling in Mongla (The Correspondent, Jan-Feb 2005). He was incorrectly bylined Tom Fawcett.

high standards in attracting a broad range of speakers at Club Events and Luncheons. With the untimely death of Sandy Burton, the Board recognized her outstanding contributions to the Club and to the field of journalism by renaming the Albert Room the Burton Room in her honour. Overall, it was a relatively smooth year for the FCC and I am pleased to be able to hand over to the new Board a Club with wonderful leadership in place, both on the board level and the staff level. I would also like to take the opportunity here to express my deep and abiding thanks t the members of the outgoing Board for their services to the Club. I would also simply say to Gilbert and the entire staff of the FCC that you will always have my thanks and appreciation for making my job as President as easy and fulfilling as you have. Without Gilbert, and witout the Staff, the FCC would not be the second home that you have made for myself and for other members. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Matthew C. Driskill

Letters welcome The Correspondent welcomes letters (by e-mail please to or It reserves the right to edit letters chosen for publication. Anonymous missives will be rejected. For verification purposes only, and not for publication, please include your membership number (if applicable) and a daytime telephone number.


Back row: Ralph Ybema, Ramon Pedrosa-Lopez, Steve Ushiyama, Dave Garcia, Paul Bayfield, Keith Bradsher, Mark Clifford. Front: Kevin Egan, Ilaria Maria Sala, Jim Laurie.



o have been elected as President of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong is truly an honour, and even more so after such a hotly contested election. So first of all I wish to thank those who have supported me. I would also like to thank all members of the FCC because it is the contribution of each and everyone of us which makes the Club such a great place for fun and for work. I am truly looking forward to a busy year, listening to all members, working with you and with our excellent staff. We are lucky to have such a well-oiled machine! We can look forward to many interesting luncheons and press events, music, serious discussions and fun parties – and also great food and great drinks. The new Board has some familiar faces and some new additions and all are full of enthusiasm and desire to give their best to the Club. At the end of the year Hong Kong will host the World Trade Organisation summit, which is going to bring hundreds of correspondents into town, and I believe this will be a great occasion for us to host particularly meaningful speakers, and to provide the hospitality we are famous for to visiting journalists. But boy, has this Presidency started with a bang! Our colleague Ching Cheong’s detention on the mainland, on “espionage”



charges, has reminded us all, should there have been any need, that being a journalist in China does present extraordinary challenges. The case has sparked a lot of debate and interest in Hong Kong, since Cheong, a senior writer for Singapore’s Straits Times, is a well-known veteran of the Hong Kong press corps. His judgment has been trusted for decades by all those who know him. We have added our voice to those who have written to the Hong Kong’s and mainland authorities asking for this case to be treated transparently and with full disclosure of the evidence against Cheong, if any. Should such evidence not be forthcoming we have asked for the prompt release of our colleague, one of many journalists currently imprisoned on the mainland. Our sympathy and support goes to these brave professionals, and to their friends and families. We look forward to the day, hopefully near, when this case will be solved for the best, and for the time when the press will finally ENRICO SUTTI be free on the Mainland. We are once again reminded of what a special place Hong Kong is, and of the unique role our Club plays in this amazing city. Do let me count on your advice and support for the coming year, which certainly promises to be an interesting and stimulating one! Ilaria Maria Sala


Cover Story


The Ties that Bind

Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, the war in Indochina continues to exert a hold over the journalists who covered it, Saul Lockhart reports. 4


t was a fellow journalist who popped the question. “Why had we come?” It was a good question. Why had most of us come not just once, but three times to Ho Chi Minh City for reunions on the 20th (in 1995), the 25th (2000) and the 30th (2005) anniversaries of the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975? Denis Gray, the AP’s long-serving Bureau Chief in Bangkok, was interviewing us for a story on this third reunion. The gathering was a magnet to more than 100 journalists from 14 countries – megastars as well as those of us who were not top dogs – for the largest gathering of the three.

Gray’s questions that second night on the rooftop bar of the Rex Hotel had all of us debating the reasons we had returned. No one ever really answered the questions and the Voice of America’s Alisha Ryu’s comment just compounded the problem: “I’d never go back to the hellhole Baghdad for a reunion!” Let me officially state, before I get into real trouble, that Alisha is far too young to have covered ‘Nam. The former FCCer is VOA’s East Africa Bureau Chief in Nairobi, covers Iraq and holidays in Vietnam which is how she came to catch up with old friends at the reunion.


Are Alisha’s views in accord with the new generation of journos – those who covered Somalia and the other horrors of Africa, Beirut, Kosovo, Iraq War #1 and of course the latest horrors in Iraq and the ongoing mess in Palestine? I can’t answer that. Who would go back to a hellhole for a reunion? Many would, as the 60th anniversary reunions at Normandy in 2004 and this year’s VE Day celebrations show. But that’s the soldiers. What about the journalists? Methinks there were reunions for those covering WWII and Korea. Many hellholes there. Gray quotes Kurt Volkert, a German-born television cameraman who covered the Vietnam War for CBS, as saying, “We probably all loved Vietnam despite the problems. It had a certain magic and we never forget that….Iraq won’t do it.’’ The Saigon of old during the days of the American war was never as dangerous as Baghdad, even though there were street bombings. It was crass, corrupt, obnoxious and crime-ridden. It was packed with soldiers and military vehicles and weapons of all sorts, and as you would expect, with bars and brothels. The city was hated by many. In spite of all that it, had a certain charm. There was something special about the place and the people. Despite the war, Saigon had an enjoyable ambiance. Did I feel that way when I was there in the late 60s, or is this a revision of history with the inevitable mellowing of time? I honestly cannot say. I know I hated Saigon at times, and yet enjoyed myself thoroughly when there, particularly when I was speaking French and partaking of “the other Saigon”. I enjoyed my time in Vietnam. Yet, I feel guilty amid the death and destruction that I felt excited and alive; that I had good times and have good memories. I revelled in the cama-

Of course. But other wars have and had camaraderie. What’s so special about the Vietnam War’s version? Part of the explanation must lie in the sheer length of time involved. The American phase of the war lasted for well over a decade. Thousands of correspondents passed through Vietnam and there were a couple of hundred who were there for very long stretches. Saigon was incongruous. Some correspondents brought their families. I remember renting an apartment over the garage attached to Don North’s villa. The exFCCer who worked for ABC lived there with his wife and three small kids. Annie van Es, ex-FCC president Hugh’s wife (he of that famous helicopter evacuation photo) also lived in Saigon. In the morning they both went to work; Annie to an office, Hugh to a battlefield. Vanity Fair contacted Edie Lederer, the AP’s UN correspondent in New York who organised all three anniversary events with former colleague Horst Faas, to cover the third reunion. (For the June issue, if anyone’s interested.) They took a photo of people they called the “icons”. People such as AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winners Horst Faas, Peter Arnett and Nick Ut (who took the famous “napalm girl” photo of girl naked and badly burned running down Route 1), prize-winning photographers Hugh van Es and Tim Page, photojournalist Dirck Halstead and Joe Galloway (then of UPI, now Knight Ridder) whose 1965 account of the Ia Drang campaign in We Were Soldiers Once…And Young was made into a film starring Mel Gibson, among others. To be truthful, we were all a bit astounded and flattered. There’s always been press coverage – wire service stories, a few features in magazines – but it was all rather spontaneous. But a

I still haven’t answered the question of why we return. Could it be guilt? That’s possible. Could it be remembrance? The service at the Cathedral where the names of the dead were read out was very moving. For the record, 320 media people on all sides lost their lives in both the French and American Vietnam Wars.


raderie that is only found in times of stress. I enjoyed the city. I grew up in Vietnam. I am not certain I really wanted to grow up then and there, but I did. I felt I was part of history and a witness to history. Is that too grandiose a sentiment for a lowly freelance reporter covering his first war? It can’t be just the charm of old Saigon that draws us back decades later. After all, Beirut was a wonderful city before it was torn apart by war. Baghdad too, to a lesser extent. Maybe a charming city with a bit of personality is not the only answer. There has to be something else. The camaraderie? Yes.


Cover Story

big time photo-shoot with some of the world’s most famous photographers and writers as subjects? Well why not? In fact, the press so mobbed the group that Edie declared that on the second night, between 6 and 7 pm, the press would be allowed into the party to interview anyone they wished. The press was there covering the press. Hugh van Es and Vietnam-born Nik Ut were mobbed like movie stars by the Vietnamese media. I still haven’t answered the ques-

tion of why we return. Could it be guilt? That’s possible. Could it be remembrance? The service at the Cathedral where the names of the dead were read out was very moving. For the record, 320 media people on all sides lost their lives in both the French and American Vietnam Wars. However you look at it, Ho Chi Minh City of today has fought back, not from physical ruin á la Berlin, but from political defeat. But it is a very

different place now from the rather decadent and exciting city of the 50s, 60s and 70s. The country too has changed…its move into what Deng Xiaoping called “Market Socialism” is evident. The victory parades this year in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were low-key, with the emphasis on participation by school groups and floats, less so on the military. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai will be visiting the U.S. soon. How’s that for change. I wonder if he’ll be invited

Ghosts of Saigon Memories of the Past That Should Not Be Forgoteen BY JIM LAURIE

School – a thoroughly modern gesture in a very traditional home. “Let flew back to Vietnam in April the students learn something from with the intention of attending this old corpse – if they can!” he had a reunion of old colleagues with exclaimed with a hearty laugh to his whom I had covered the war. youngest daughter. AFP/HOANG DINH NAM Instead, I ended up at my As Ong Ngoai was taken father-in-law’s funeral. “Grandaway, my tearful wife cried out: father Vo” or “Ong Ngoai,” as “Father’s spirit is here, I can feel my son calls him, led a full life; it. He’s watching us. He remains his death at 90 should not have in this house!” The family quickly been a shock. And of course it assembled a shrine which grew was. in size day-by-day and drew a Ong Ngoai’s body, careparade of tearful mourners fully washed by his children, who lit incense and prostrated dressed in his finest silk pyjathemselves before Grandfather’s mas, and covered by a simple photo. but sparkling white sheet, was Born in Central Vietnam near laid out on the hardwood bed Qui Nhon, Ong Ngoai joined the in which he had slept for years. Vietminh in the 1930s to help The children placed buckets of expel the French from Indochiice under the bed to keep their na. When the French were gone, grandfather cool. he refused to join the Viet Cong The family gathered in the resistance to the Americans. He Saigon house that had been had become disillusioned with his home since the early 1980s. the communists, and wanted to Some arrived from the Central provide a good life for a growing Coast – Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, family, which by 1960 numbered Cam Ranh. Others, once the nine children. refugees of the 70s and 80s, Handpainting the Vietcong victory in Saigon Still, always a practical man,



flew in from Montreal, Tampa and Los Angeles to pay their respects, to show their love, to say goodbyes. Ong Ngoai willed his body to the Ho Chi Minh City University Medical


to Dubya’s ranch and we’ll see photos of him in a 10-gallon hat. The headline in The Economist summed up this anniversary: “America lost, capitalism won.” But that still does not explain our fascination with the country. Why do we return? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer that question. Saul Lockhart was the previous editor of this magazine and served several terms on the FCC Board of Governors. He now lives in Australia.

Grandfather quietly stayed in touch with his older brother who had gone to Hanoi to work his way up as a party apparatchik. With independent South Vietnam developing a capitalist future, Ong Ngoai turned his sharp mind to business and built a prosperous trade in hardwood timber for the Japanese market. He bought homes for his large family in Qui Nhon, Nha Trang and Saigon. During the war, all three of his sons served in the South Vietnamese army. All of them made it home. Outside the home where incense burned for grandfather, thousands of Vietnamese rehearsed celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. They marched about the city centre. This year’s was not like the usual military parades that I have watched on past anniversaries. This year, thousands of young people, none with any memory of war, assembled a flotilla of floats celebrating commerce, technology, the IT revolution, foreign investment and tourism. In front of the old French Opera House, extraordinarily lithe and handsome fashion models strutted around Lam Son Square. Down near Doc Lap (Independence) Palace (renamed Reunification Palace by the communists), an army of young men representing the hotel and restaurant industry shouldered seven-foot high papier mâché forks, knives and spoons.


Some relics of the war

I imagine Ong Ngoai’s spirit soaring above, observing all this. I can see him stroking his straggly Ho Chi Minh-style beard, chuckling at this glorious socialist-capitalist nonsense. Right up until a week before his death, Grandfather walked the streets of Saigon with a sprightly step. He smiled at the pretty girls in their ao dais. He noted the city’s vigour, its renewed prosperity. His children and grandchildren who once fled Vietnam had returned to invest in local business and buy property. Ong Ngoai also knew that many Vietnamese are afflicted with a collective amnesia about their recent past. But grandfather was not one to forget. He knew that for most Vietnamese, much of the last 30 years were times of profound suffering. During a dark period of total mismanagement, Hanoi’s intransigent mandarins insisted on forced collectivisation and punishment for anyone who had enjoyed the advantages of life under the old Saigon regime. Modelled after China’s economic policies, Vietnam’s reforms came late—only in the past ten to 15 years. Only in very recent years have businessmen received some measure of respect and have overseas Vietnamese been truly welcomed home. They now bring to the Vietnamese economy at least US$3 billion each year. Before 1990, Grandfather and other capitalists, their businesses shut down, their properties confis-

cated, lived as pariahs in Vietnamese society. Immediately after the fall of Saigon, grandfather, fearing arrest, fled his home and with his youngest son, went into hiding in the forests which for 20 years had supported his timber business. He emerged years later, contacted his brother in Hanoi, and managed to find an accommodation. By keeping quiet, he was spared further reprisals. By then, his daughter (my wife), and other children had fled the country. They became part of a flood of boat people that reached a horrible climax in the mid-1980’s. Ong Ngoai’s oldest daughter died a painful death on an Indonesian island after a harrowing boat journey from coastal Vietnam. As I look back on the 15 years I knew him and the 30 years since I watched North Vietnamese forces capture the city of Saigon, I imagine the spirit of Ong Ngoai hovering above the spectacle of modern Vietnam, urging the young generation not to forget the past. Jim Laurie was President of the FCC from 2001-02 and is currently 1st Vice President. He worked for NBC News during the later stages of the war and was the only American television network correspondent to remain behind to cover the North Vietnamese victory in Saigon in 1975. This article is reprinted with kind permission of the Asian Wall Street Journal.


Cover Story







hirty years ago I was fortunate enough to take a photograph that has become perhaps the most recognisable image of the fall of Saigon – you know it, the one that is always described as showing an American helicopter evacuating people from the roof of the United States Embassy. Well, like so many things about the Vietnam War, it’s not exactly what it seems. In fact, the photo is not of the embassy at all; the helicopter was actually on the roof of an apartment building in downtown Saigon where senior Central Intelligence Agency employees were housed. It was Tuesday, April 29, 1975. Rumours about the final evacuation of Saigon had been rife for weeks, with thousands of people - American civilians, Vietnamese citizens and third-country nationals - being loaded on transport planes at Tan Son Nhut air base, to be flown to United States bases on Guam, Okinawa and elsewhere. Everybody knew that the city was surrounded by the North


Not the US Embassy roof, 2005: van Es with the helicopter inserted for perspective. Vietnamese, and that it was only a matter of time before they would take it. Around 11 a.m. the call came from Brian Ellis, the bureau chief of CBS News, who was in charge of coordinating the evacuation of the foreign press corps. It was on! The assembly point was on Gia Long Street, opposite the Grall Hospital, where buses would pick up those wanting to leave. The evacuation was supposed to have been announced by a “secret” code on Armed Forces Radio: the comment that “the temperature is 105 degrees and rising,” followed by eight bars of “White Christmas”. Don’t even ask which idiot dreamed this up. There were no secrets in Saigon in those days, and every Vietnamese

and his dog knew the code. In the end, I think, they scrapped the idea. I certainly have no recollection of hearing it. The journalists who had decided to leave went to the assembly point, each carrying only a small carry-on bag, as instructed. But the Vietnamese seeing this exodus were quick to figure out what was happening, and dozens showed up to try to board the buses. It took quite a while for the vehicles to show – they were being driven by fully armed marines, who were not very familiar with Saigon streets – and then some scuffles broke out, as the marines had been told to let only the press on board. We did manage to sneak in some Vietnamese


civilians, and the buses headed for the airport. I wasn’t on them. I had decided, along with several colleagues at United Press International, to stay as long as possible. As a Dutch citizen, I was probably taking less of a risk than the others. They included our bureau chief, Al Dawson; Paul Vogle, a terrific reporter who spoke fluent Vietnamese; Leon Daniel, an affable Southerner; and a freelancer working for UPI named Chad Huntley. I was the only photographer left, but luckily we had a bunch of Vietnamese stringers, who kept bringing in pictures from all over the city. These guys were remarkable. They had turned down all offers to be evacuated and decided to see the end of the war that had overturned their lives. On the way back from the evacuation point, where I had gotten some great shots of a marine confronting a Vietnamese mother and her little boy, I photographed many panicking Vietnamese in the streets burning papers that could identify them as having had ties to the United States. South Vietnamese soldiers were discarding their uniforms and weapons along the streets leading to the Saigon River, where they hoped to get on boats to the coast. I saw a group of young boys, barely in their teens, picking up M-16s abandoned on Tu Do Street. It’s amazing I didn’t see any accidental shootings. Returning to the office, which was on the top floor of the rather grandly named Peninsula Hotel, I started processing, editing and printing my pictures from that morning, as well as the film from our stringers. Our regular darkroom technician had decided to return to the family farm in the countryside. Two more UPI staffers, Bert Okuley and Ken Englade, were still at the bureau. They had decided to skip the morning evacuation and try their luck in the early evening at the United States Embassy, where big Chinook helicopters were lifting evacuees off the roof to waiting Navy ships off the coast. (Both made it out that evening.)



Not the US Embassy roof, 1975. If you looked north from the office balcony, toward the cathedral, about four blocks from us, on the corner of Tu Do and Gia Long, you could see a building called the Pittman Apartments, where we knew the CIA station chief and many of his officers lived. Several weeks earlier the roof of the elevator shaft had been reinforced with steel plate so that it would be able to take the weight of a helicopter. A makeshift wooden ladder now ran

the Pittman Apartments, I could see 20 or 30 people on the roof, climbing the ladder to an Air America Huey helicopter. At the top of the ladder stood an American in civilian clothes, pulling people up and shoving them inside. Of course, there was no possibility that all the people on the roof could get into the helicopter, and it took off with 12 or 14 on board. (The recommended maximum for that model was eight.) Those left on the roof

I grabbed my camera and the longest lens left in the office – it was only 300 millimetres, but it would have to do – and dashed to the balcony. Looking at the Pittman Apartments, I could see 20 or 30 people on the roof, climbing the ladder to an Air America Huey helicopter. from the lower roof to the top of the shaft. Around 2.30 in the afternoon, while I was working in the darkroom, I suddenly heard Bert Okuley shout, “Van Es, get out here, there’s a chopper on that roof!” [Ed- This is a sanitised version of what was actually said.] I grabbed my camera and the longest lens left in the office – it was only 300 millimetres, but it would have to do – and dashed to the balcony. Looking at

waited for hours, hoping for more helicopters to arrive. To no avail. After shooting about 10 frames, I went back to the darkroom to process the film and get a print ready for the regular 5 pm transmission to Tokyo from Saigon’s telegraph office. In those days, pictures were transmitted via radio signals, which at the receiving end were translated back into an image. A 5-inch-by-7-inch black-and-


Cover Story

white print with a short caption took 12 minutes to send. And this is where the confusion began. For the caption, I wrote very clearly that the helicopter was taking evacuees off the roof of a downtown Saigon building. Apparently, editors didn’t read captions carefully in those days, and they just took it for granted that it was the embassy roof, since

from the embassy, each accompanied by two Cobra gunships in case they took ground fire. After a restless night, our photo stringers started coming back with film they had shot during the late afternoon of the 29th and that morning – the 30th. Nguyen Van Tam, our radio-photo operator, went back and forth between our bureau and the tele-

About 12.15 Mr. Tam called me and with a trembling voice told me that that North Vietnamese troops were downstairs at the radio office. I told him to keep transmitting until they pulled the plug, which they did some five minutes later. that was the main evacuation site. This mistake has been carried on in the form of incorrect captions for decades. My efforts to correct the misunderstanding were futile, and eventually I gave up. Thus one of the bestknown images of the Vietnam War shows something other than what almost everyone thinks it does. Later that afternoon, five Vietnamese civilians came into my office looking distraught and afraid. They had been on the Pittman roof when the chopper had landed, but were unable to get a seat. They asked for our help in getting out. They had worked in the offices of the United States Agency for International Development, and were afraid that this connection might harm them when the city fell to the Communists. One of them had a two-way radio that could connect to the embassy, and Chad Huntley managed to reach somebody there. He asked for a helicopter to land on the roof of our hotel to pick them up, but was told it was impossible. Al Dawson put them up for the night, because by then a curfew was in place; we heard sporadic shooting in the streets, as looters ransacked buildings evacuated by the Americans. All through the night the big Chinooks landed and took off


graph office to send the pictures out to the world. I printed the last batch around 11 am and put them in order of importance for him to transmit. The last was a shot of the six-storey chancery, next to the embassy, burning after being looted during the night. About 12.15 Mr. Tam called me and with a trembling voice told me that North Vietnamese troops were downstairs at the radio office. I told him to keep transmitting until they pulled the plug, which they did some five minutes later. The last photo sent from Saigon showed the burning chancery at the top half of the picture; the lower half were lines of static. The war was over. I went out into the streets to photograph the self-proclaimed liberators. We had been assured by the North Vietnamese delegates, who had been giving Saturday morning briefings to the foreign press out at the airport, that their troops had been told to expect foreigners with cameras and not to harm them. But just to make sure they wouldn’t take me for an American, I wore, on my camouflage hat, a small plastic Dutch flag printed with the words Boa Chi Hoa Lan (Dutch Press). The soldiers, most of them quite young, were remarkably friendly

and happy to pose for pictures. It was a weird feeling to come face to face with the “enemy”, and I imagine that was how they felt too. I left Saigon on June 1, by plane for Vientiane, Laos, after having been “invited” by the new regime to leave, as were the majority of newspeople of all nationalities who had stayed behind to witness the fall of Saigon. It was 15 years before I returned. My absence was not for a lack of desire, but for the repeated rejections of my visa applications by an official at the press department of the Foreign Ministry. It turned out that I had a history with this man; he had come to our office about a week after Saigon fell because, as the editor of one of North Vietnam’s military publications, he wanted to print in his magazine some pictures we had of the “liberation”. I showed him 52 images that we had been unable to send out since April 30, and said he could have them only if he used his influence to make it possible for us first to transmit them to the West. He said that was not possible, so I told him there was no deal. He obviously had a long memory, and I assume it was only after he retired or died that my actions were forgiven and I was given a visa. I have since returned many times from my home in Hong Kong, including for the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the fall, at which many old Vietnam hands got together and reminisced about the “good old days”. Now I am returning for the 30th anniversary reunion. It will be good to be with old comrades and, again, many a glass will be hoisted to the memories of departed friends - both the colleagues who made it out and the Vietnamese we left behind. Photographer Hubert van Es, FCC President from 1982-83, covered the Vietnam War, the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Reprinted with kind permission of The New York Times.


Cambodian Sideshow The 30th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on 17th April, 1975, attracted only a handful of correspondents, despite the horrendously high death toll of journalists there, reports James Pringle.


n contrast to the high turn-out in only some who died but not othSaigon, only three journalists rath- ers. Yet few can forget photographers er forlornly appeared in the Cam- Sean Flynn, and his companion Dana bodian capital in remembrance of the Stone, who vanished in 1970 at a Vietwar that spread into the Southeast cong roadblock on Highway One. Asian nation in 1970 – correspondent They were apparently handed Elizabeth Becker, photo-journalist Al over to the Khmer Rouge, which was Rockoff and me. It was, to be truthful, as good as a death sentence, and a bit of a damp squib. never heard from again. There were so few of us that Whereas the war in Vietnam itself we could easily have squeezed really did end in 1975, despite later into the crowded bar of the For- Khmer Rouge and Chinese incureign Correspondents’ Club in Phnom sions, and the Vietnamese thrust Penh, as journalists had in the into Cambodia, in Cambodia it never past. However, the Phnom Penh did. Even today the Cambodian popFCC has become entirely the haunt ulation is still traumatised by the of tourists, looking for a supposed experiences of the Killing Fields. glamour, and some NGOs and diploCambodia is well worth visiting mats, and has nowadays no real con- for the chance to see Angkor and nection with journalists at all. other temples, but its people are All this is a little sad, because the not the same as those we rememwar, or wars, in Cambodia had been bered from the 70s. They are not particularly dangerous for correspon- the warm and welcoming, trusting, dents and photographers. Prince naive and courteous folks we knew Norodom Sihanouk, as he was then, before. They have lost their relaxed did not encourage journalists’ visits – one of his major errors, I believe – and it was not until the coup against him on 18 March, 1970, and his overthrow, that the press had easy access. It was a double-edged sword, however, because it was a deadly access. By the end of 1970, 25 foreign journalists were dead or unaccounted for in Cambodia. It is perhaps unfair to mention the names of Khmer Rouge troops roll into Phnom Penh


charm. This is hardly their fault. It is the fault of the horrors of life under Pol Pot, and the fact that there is still no good governance. Becker, formerly of the Washington Post, but now with the New York Times, gave a lecture to Cambodian university students about her visit to Cambodia towards the end of Khmer Rouge rule, just before the Vietnamese intervention, when one of her party of three was murdered by an intruder inside the state guesthouse. She spoke of her interview with Pol Pot, the late Khmer Rouge leader, and described him as a terrifying figure. “I was afraid of him, and shook like a leaf throughout the interview,” she told students. Rockoff, who bravely stayed behind after the last helicopter lifted off, was there when the Khmer Rouge entered the city and took some historic pictures of the new masters and their victims. He achieved more fame when he was portrayed in the movie The Killing Fields and for the past 20 years has been working on a book of photographs of Cambodia. Thankfully, those colleagues who died in Cambodia, including all the Cambodian journalists, were not forgotten by fellow correspondents. Their names were read out in front of the cathedral in Saigon, along with those who died in AFP Vietnam. Among them was my own reporter/ interpreter Sok Ngoun, bludgeoned to death for having worked for a western news agency. Such was the fate of Cambodians who tried to bring news of their suffering country to the world. James Pringle covered the wars in Cambodia for Reuters, Newsweek and the London Times.



Matthew Driskill (top) and Robert Delfs (left) at the unveiling ceremony.

Honouring Sandy




e gathered on April 22, upstairs at the FCC, to honour the late Sandra Burton at a ceremony in which the Albert Room was renamed The Burton Room. The Philippine Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Order of the Golden Heart, a massive gold chain awarded posthumously to Sandy, is the centrepiece of a selection of photographs showing Sandy as we all knew her best: working and laughing. In one image, she is walking out of a Mindanao Islamic Liberation Front base at Camp Abu Bakar in southern Philippines. In others, she

is with then Philippine Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos. With colleagues from Time magazine she is seen in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. The shot of her with a Burmese dancing troupe highlights her sense of humour. Dearest of all to those who knew Sandy is the portrait of her enjoying her beach life in Bali with long-time partner Robert Delfs. The commemoration ceremony was simple, but true. Robert held his nerve, just, as he recalled first meeting Sandy in these same rooms of the FCC. Former Club President,


colleague and friend Philip Bowring explained why Sandra Burton meant so much to journalism. He noted she was not the high-profile, celebrity type of hack we see all too many of these days. Instead, Sandra Burton “was the sort of journalist we should all admire the most,” he said. That’s because she combined the three key qualities a good journalist must have: she was extraordinarily competent, she was honest and moral, and she was good fun, too. That’s why the FCC now has The Burton Room. – Vaudine England

Friends and colleagues honour Sandy.




The Democratisation of


The process started with Gutenberg, whose printing press put the Bible into the hands of the common man, and continued when cable TV ended the era of big-network dominance. Today, the democratisation of information has reached a new level, with the growing popularity of the web log, or blog, argues Chris Dillon.


logs first appeared in the late 1990s as on-line journals where people posted entries about their experiences, opinions or hobbies. Initially, this required some programming skills, but as easy-to-use software and cheap broadband access became available, blogging entered the mainstream. Today, there are millions of blogs devoted to everything from aboriginal art to zoo-keeping. And while the United States is home to the largest number of blogs and English remains the dominant language, blogging is rapidly becoming a global phenomenon. Directory site Blogwise (www. lists blogs in 186 countries, including more than 100 in Hong Kong and over 220 in China. Some estimates put the number of blogs in China at over a million. Like everything else on the Internet, blogs vary wildly in quality. Some are so mawkish they would make an angst-ridden teenager blush, while others are so extreme they would test the conviction of the most ardent free-speech advocate. Many simply fade away as the author loses interest. But there have been some interesting and unexpected developments. The rise of corporate blogs is one. Technology companies are in the forefront of the corporate blogging movement. Microsoft’s Robert Scoble ( is among the best-known corporate


bloggers and over 3,000 IBM employees now maintain blogs on topics ranging from autonomic computing to software architecture. Boeing, General Motors, Google, HP, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo! all publish blogs, and consultants now offer guidance to CEOs who want to join the blogosphere. The emergence of corporate blogging surprised many people, because the speed and spontaneity of blogging challenges the traditional command-and-control model of corporate communications. However, many organisations have found that this risk is offset by the ability of blogs to rapidly disseminate information and gather feedback. And because blogs bypass intermediaries like media outlets and market research firms, they allow companies to interact directly with their audiences. Blogs also promote openness. Companies have discovered that audiences ignore – or worse, ridicule – blogs that are sanitised by lawyers or filled with

PR platitudes. By recognising mistakes and sharing lessons learned, blogs put a human face on the company and deepen relationships with customers and partners. This openness does have limits, however. Earlier this year, the word “dooced” was coined to describe the act of being fired for blogging about your job. Sites such as Instapundit (www., which combine original commentary with links to other blogs and news stories in the conventional media, are another departure from the blog-as-diary model. Run by Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, Instapundit is one of the most popular sites in the blogosphere, receiving over 120,000 visits each day. Instapundit brings an element of serendipity to its readers by linking to less well-known sites run by people with special expertise. Vice Squad (, a blog published by a group of Chicago academics with an interest in public policy on alcohol, tobacco, drugs, prostitution, gambling and pornography is one such site. The Volokh Conspiracy (, founded by UCLA Law School Professor Eugene Volokh – an authority on free speech law, copyright law, the law of government and religion – is another. Instapundit also highlights emerging issues that have caught the attention of left-leaning bloggers including Eschaton (http://atrios.blogspot. com) and the Daily Kos (http://www. or their right-of-centre peers Little Green Footballs (http://


or Power Line ( as these stories make their way into the mainstream media. For example, in 2002 Eschaton played a key role in publicising a speech by Republican Senator Trent Lott that endorsed the segregationist views of Senator Strom Thurmond. Continuing coverage by Eschaton, Instapundit and others kept the story alive until it was picked up by the Washington Post and New York Times. This sparked dozens of other articles and op-ed pieces calling for Lott’s resignation, which he tendered on December 20. Last autumn, a report on CBS’s 60 Minutes II alleged U.S. President George W. Bush received preferential treatment when he served in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1970s. The claim was based on what the TV network said were newly uncovered National Guard memos. Within hours of the broadcast, posts appeared on Power Line and Little Green Footballs stating that the memos were forgeries. Typography experts soon proved the memos could not be genuine because they had been produced using Microsoft Word. Ultimately, blog coverage resulted in the resignation of veteran news anchor Dan Rather. More recently, Captain’s Quarters (http://www.captainsquartersblog. com), a site run by a Minnesotabased call-centre manager, sparked an uproar in Canada by leaking the proceedings of an inquiry into alleged misdeeds by the governing Liberal Party. The blogger’s reports, which circumvented a nationwide publication ban, may yet result in early parliamentary elections in Canada.


Incidents like these and bloggers’ enthusiasm for chasing down and critiquing stories in the mainstream media have provoked animosity between the two camps. Bloggers have been called unprofessional, conspiracy theorists and a lynch mob, while bloggers accuse journalists of incompetence, arrogance and liberal (or alternatively, conservative) bias.


hings have become more complex as the line between bloggers and journalists begins to blur. Several mainly conservative newspaper columnists have taken up blogging and in March, Garrett Graff became the first blogger to receive a White House press pass. Bloggers have also begun posting first-hand accounts of unfolding events, in what has been dubbed the Citizen Journalist movement. Blogs such as Iraq the Model (http://iraqthemodel.blogspot. com) and Hammorabi ( have been well received in the West, where people have been hungry for news about Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Blogging is also taking off in Iran, with sites such as Iran Focus (http:// and Regime Change Iran ( covering developments in that country. This coverage has not been welcomed by the Iranian authorities, which recently sentenced blogger Arash Cigarchi to a 14-year prison term for expressing his opinions on the Internet. Closer to home, Chen Jiahao, a 23year-old Singaporean student living in the U.S., shut down his blog after a

Singapore government agency threatened to sue him for defamation. A*STAR, an agency focusing on science and research, withdrew its threat of legal action after Chen closed his site and apologised for his remarks. In addition to making governments uncomfortable, some see citizen journalists as a challenge to global newsagency giants such as Reuters, the Associated Press and AFP. Los Angeles-based blogger and author Roger L. Simon ( has suggested that, in addition to providing a fresh perspective on events in the Middle East, citizen journalists could displace foreign correspondents. Simon believes that bloggers’ superior local knowledge, language skills and ability to operate without guides or interpreters gives them a tremendous advantage over foreign correspondents. Liveblogging – posting commentary on a blog while an event is occurring – is also blurring the distinction between journalist and blogger. Events ranging from the Academy Awards to President Bush’s last State of the Union Address have been liveblogged, a trend that is fuelled by increasingly ubiquitous wireless networks, mobile phone technology and bloggers’ desire to test the limits of a new medium. Organisations are also experimenting with liveblogging as a way of publicising their activities. In official blog coverage (http:// us_troops_ta.html) of a World Economic Forum session in January, CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan, “asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted.” Forum participants and bloggers quickly demanded that Jordan substantiate his claims. On February 11, CNN announced Jordan’s resignation citing concerns that his remarks “threatened to tarnish the network he helped build.” So will blogs put the mainstream media out of business? Probably not. While they offer a growing volume of original reportage, the bulk of the



news found on blogs continues to come from the mainstream media. And despite fabricated quotes, plagiarism and other scandals that have hit some of the world’s largest media outlets, these companies still command levels of trust and brand recognition that blogs can only dream about. Then there is the question of money. Advertising and reader contributions provide some revenue, but the vast majority of blogs are labours of love, not businesses. Steady, sustainable revenues may eventually come from initiatives like Pajama Media Partners (which is developing an ad network for Internet advertisers, feeds blog content to mainstream media and the public, and is developing systems to help the public find blog content) but this is still some way off. In the meantime, blogs will be constrained by the reality that, as a wise person once noted, “Opinions are free, but facts cost money.” Rather than spelling the end of the mainstream media, blogs are more likely to be a complementary source of information, much as cable TV programmes supplement those on network television. Blogs also have a valuable role to play as a watchdog, scrutinising coverage in the media. These functions are likely to expand, as podcasting, photoblogging, videoblogging and other multimedia techniques become more common. One thing is certain, however. As technology becomes even more powerful, the cost of data storage continues to plummet and wireless networks proliferate, the blog genie is unlikely to climb quietly back into its bottle. Chris Dillon is the principal of Dillon Communications Ltd. He doesn’t publish a blog, but he does like to read them. He cites Jazz great Thelonius Monk as saying: “Writing about jazz is like dancing about architecture.” Magazine articles about blogging are equally awkward. For an online version of this story, with hyperlinks to the each of the blogs mentioned in the text, visit the Dillon Communications site at


A Protracted Farewell P

erhaps the most surprising aspect of the recent series of commiserations over the death of the Far Eastern Economic Review was that it was remarkably civilised. Indeed, shouting matches were rare, sordid gossip was kept to a minimum and blatant hostility largely kept under wraps. (Well, a senior Dow Jones editor was asked how he had the “unmitigated temerity” to attend the Wake, but hey, let’s be nice!) Warm fuzzy feelings spread across three days and nights of convivial drinking (and eating), and it seemed the widespread desire

was to stop lamenting the heinous crimes of the past and to enjoy the friendships of the present. Could it be that the Review was mellowing just as it died? Was its cult status as the seat of ferocious intelligence and vitriolic political incorrectness at last on the wane? Or was everyone just a little bit tired and emotional as the days and nights wore on? Certainly the schedule was gruelling for those who stayed the course. Many former staffers and contributors to the once great magazine pitched up at the Club on Friday,


April 22. The Main Bar that night was, as a result, a heaving zoo. Most of them then managed to pour themselves on to the ceremonial junk trip arranged to Po Toi the next day, a replay of the Derek Davies boat trips of old. The trippers reported that their day was one of catching up on the years, even decades, gone by. It was a relaxed crew who adorned the bar that night. The official Wake began on the Sunday night. Club staff must be commended for putting on a fantastic spread for the occasion. Initial ceremonials were heartwarming. The central cog of the Review, Lily Kan, was rightly honoured for her work over the decades. She was given a framed cover of the


Review featuring herself in true Morgan Chua cartoon-style, as befits a legend in her own time. Most recent former editor, David Plott, then gave a rendition of his views which were neither short nor wholly sweet. He sounded a cheer for the most recent decade of the Review and castigated Dow Jones directly for failing to devote adequate resources to market the magazine and to build circulation. His claims that the magazine was not “dumbed down” in recent years were rather more controversial and sparked some spitting of tacks, at least in the ladies loo later on. But then, tribalism often does get messy. One could go on into all the details of why and how the magazine died

and who is to blame. But few people that night were in the mood. More important was the human dimension, stressed by former editor Philip Bowring. He reminded us of Arun Subramaniam, the Review’s man from Singapore who has done more time in prison for the magazine than anyone else, and Sayed Kamaluddin of Dacca, the longest-serving writer. Thanks are due to Barry Wain for his brilliantly witty contribution. Poking fun was long a part of the real Review and the only complaint from the Wake is that there should have been more of that. As for where regional media left after all this, we can only rely on one of the clichés of modern reporting: “Your guess is as good as mine,” said one insider. – Vaudine England.



Journalists living dangerously


arely since the end of the Cold War have we experienced such a blatant deployment of Stalinist-style media management as in Uzbekistan in May. The black art began with filling the state television airwaves with hours and hours of classical music. Next in the bid to stop news of the unrest in Andizhan from reaching the outside world, the authorities shut the city down, ordered all new arrivals to register and threw out journalists with a reputation for being a nuisance And the excuse? Well apparently Andizhan is a dangerous place and those marvellous people in charge of security were concerned for our safety. Obviously these caring actions had nothing to do with the massacre that was about to be committed. And the concern about the bodily safety of hacks was obviously a genuine reason for later preventing reporters from getting to the morgue to count bodies. Besides who needs to visit the morgue when you can rely on Uzbek television for the official news? After all, it should know. The station is controlled by President Islam Karimov with the same cultural aplomb as the stuff served up by Kim Jong-il to the North Koreans. After broadcasting folklore programme after folklore programme, it broke into another programme about local folklore with a short announcement that 30 people had been killed by Islamic terrorists. Given his regime’s penchant for using deadly force to suppress protests, and news that the death toll has exceeded 740 – some witnesses put it a great deal higher – one can only admire Karimov’s brass neck when he pleaded innocent. *** In Africa a Kenyan magistrate


from China, which has denounced NTDTV as a Falungong mouthpiece.

STILETTO BY MAX KOLBE has blocked a cameraman from suing the wife of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki for allegedly assaulting him and breaking his camera. This was apparently Mrs Kibaki’s way of saying: “I don’t like the way you treat my husband.” A rather angry Lucy Kibaki, surrounded by muscle, stormed into the offices of the Nation Media Group and confiscated journalists’ cell phones, their cameras and notebooks and then allegedly thumped the cameraman and damaged his kit. It just so happens that the melee erupted after critical media reporting of Kibaki’s attempts to spoil a farewell party for the outgoing country director of the World Bank. Apparently the party-goers were having too good of a time of it so he ordered a stop to the party. *** It would appear the Hong Kong edition of a newspaper linked to the Falungong has been saved after a company stepped in to publish the daily when its previous printer, some say, bowed to political pressure from China and pulled the plug. Cheryl Ng, editor of the daily Epoch Times, told the local media that a new printing company had been found and agreed to work with them temporarily. But she declined to elaborate further. One fears that the independent Chineselanguage New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) may not be so lucky after Paris-based satellite provider Eutelsat decided to raise its fees. Eutelsat has rejected previous claims that it was attempting to silence NTDTV following pressure

*** And here’s to the columnist of a Philippine tabloid who exchanged gunfire with two gunmen in another attack on a journalist in that country. Yes, we all know that hacks should not carry guns or participate in battles, a hot topic in recent years given America’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan. But let’s face facts. Outside the Middle East, the Philippines is the most dangerous place for journalists on the planet. As I mentioned in the last edition of The Correspondent, Reporters without Borders calculated that eight journalists were murdered there in 2004, many of them radio broadcasters who were “gunned down in retaliation for their work.” Since January, another five journalists have been killed and many more wounded. One recent attack involved a giftwrapped bomb sent to the home of a radio announcer in the southern Philippines. It exploded, killing a teenager and wounding another. Not one person has been convicted for the killings so perhaps we should not judge Pablo Hernandez from the Bulgar (Expose) tabloid too harshly for shooting back when two men opened fire on him. According to the Philippine police there is no evidence to support suggestions that journalists are being systematically targeted. *** Nor are they being targeted in Nepal. Well, that’s what King Gyanendra and his band of loyal cops reckon despite a rare protest by international photographers who staged a march demanding action against police who beat them up while covering a previous demonstration. It was a silent march with a nice bit of artistic flair added in. The demonstrators waved placards bearing cartoons of a Srinigar policeman smashing a photographer’s camera with a gun.


Charity Fund

Hands On Help T

he success of the FCC Charity Ball over the past few years has been a team effort. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people have given freely of their time, expertise and talent. In this edition of The Correspondent we talk to two of the individuals who have made invaluable contributions: Hong Kong artist and radio celebrity Mary Cheung, and the hostess of CNN’s Talk Asia, Lorraine Hahn. Mary, the hostess of Metro Radio’s Merry Mary radio show, is the inspiration behind the Ball’s goal of helping children of the Po Leung Kuk gain access to tertiary education. Mary herself was a resident of the Kuk, which was founded in 1878 to protect youngsters and women from abduction, slavery and worse. Today, it Mary Cheung offers a safety net for the underprivileged. At the age of just six years the Hong Kong Polytechnic University old, Mary was rescued from the streets after attending classes for years partof Hong Kong, where she had survived time as an adult. for about two years, and taken to the She values that education, but is Kuk’s residential home in Causeway wistful about having missed the social Bay. She spent 14 years there. Today, and civic activities that her youngshe still calls the Kuk home, and the er classmates – those who enrolled hundreds of children in care there, her full-time right after secondary school sisters and brothers. – enjoyed. “University life is not just “I always consider myself lucky studying. It’s (also about) social skills, that I was sent to the Po Leung Kuk,” preparations for life,” Mary says. Mary says. But she does have one So when FCC Charity Ball coregret. There was no way for her founder Dave Garcia mentioned to attend university after she left the Mary that the Board of Governors Kuk’s care at the age of 20. Even so, was considering a charity event, she she went on to become Miss Hong had an idea ready for him. Raising Kong 1975, an internationally-known funds to help disadvantaged stupainter and photographer, the owner dents from the Kuk’s residences and of her own media consulting and secondary schools go to university training business, as well as the proud and college. mother of two. And that’s where Lorraine Hahn As for her education, she also came into the action. She agreed to succeeded there, too. She obtained a become the Ball Committee’s volundegree in marketing from what is now teer public spokeswoman. Her inter-


national media profile, and what she modestly calls her “horrible Cantonese” proved to be great boosts to the fund-raising efforts. Lorraine, a Canadian by way of Singapore, has spent her journalism career in Hong Kong, and in addition to hosting CNN’s popular Talk Asia show, also has her own media consulting business. The first Ball, in 2002, raised enough money to provide scholarships for four youngsters. But six months later, when the scholarship committee interviewed the candidates, they found six who truly deserved help – including one hoped to complete the fiveyears required for a career in medicine. Just before the 2003 Ball, Mary invited Lorraine on to her radio show to talk about the Kuk and the FCC’s big bash. As they chatted, the topic of the two students who couldn’t get scholarships came up. Very quickly, there was a phone call to the Metro Radio studios. In a gesture that is typical of Hong Kong’s generosity, a listener was offering HK$400,000 – enough to pay for the education of the other two students – including the wouldbe doctor. “To this day, I really think that whoever donated that $400,000 really just wanted to get me off the air,” Lorraine cracks. Last year, Mary again invited Lorraine to her show for a chat about the Ball, and as a result $150,000 more was added to the scholarship fund, Mary says. And both women have tapped their vast lists of friends and wealth of contacts to buy raffle tickets or contribute to the Ball in other ways. Lorraine says she finds the effort worthwhile – because the money is going to kids who need the help. “You’re giving them a future,” she says. Mary, though, says she hopes that the Charity Ball’s efforts also go a


Charity Fund

bit beyond opening wallets. She hopes the Ball will encourage FCC members to become more involved with the Kuk’s children. She urges members to join the many volunteers who visit the Kuk to play with toddlers, read to children or tutor students. “Attention, caring, love, I think this what our kids need,” she says. And many of the older ones can use a helping hand in entering adult life. Mary says she appreciates the efforts of FCC members to find internships and

mentoring partners for students leaving the Kuk’s schools and residential facilities Lorraine Hahn and Mary Cheung say the FCC Charity Ball is about more than dancing all night at the biggest party of the year. They see it as something natural and easy to do – helping the FCC help kids. Although Lorraine does wish she could avoid one really tough part of the job – “having the sweat of the one hour of a Cantonese interview” on Mary’s radio programme.

Lorraine Hahn

FCC Language Training Centre Opens


group of members gathered at the Po Leung Kuk headquarters in March for the launch of the FCC Language Centre. Short speeches and some wonderful performances by children that highlighted their English and Mandarin skills were followed by an official ribbon-cutting ceremony, as Thomas Crampton recounts. After six months of hard work by FCC and Po Leung Kuk volunteers and staff, the language centre designed to provide many underprivileged Hong Kong children with a brighter future is up and running, FCC Charity Fund Co-Chairman David Garcia told those gathered. The FCC Language Training Programme at the Po Leung Kuk aims to equip youngsters in the care of the kuk with the language skills needed for careers in Hong Kong and China in the 21st century by ensuring they can read and write in both Chinese and English and speak Cantonese, Putonghua and English. In practical terms, the programme has: • Supplied computers • Started to provide books, magazines and comics. • Hired storytellers so that every child in residential care of the Po Leung Kuk can hear tales in English or Putonghua at least two nights a week.


• Hired native English teachers, native Putonghua teachers and teaching assistants for face-to-face teaching of kindergarten and younger primary school pupils. This is only the first step. So far the programme has raised a total of HK$1.4 million for 2005. The FCC Charity Fund provided funds of $550,000, the Po Leung Kuk has matched that donation and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation has donated $400,000. This was enough to launch the programme for the younger kids but not for the older ones. For now, face-to-face language teaching for older primary school pupils (approximately 100 kids aged 9 to 12) and the 60 or so youngsters in secondary school aged 13 to 18 remains unfunded. It is estimated that to extend the programme to all of them will require an annual expenditure of $3.1 million. The younger kids, some 300 of them ranging up to the age of about nine, however, will benefit from a storytelling programme and the face-to-face language lessons. They will receive hands-on, and hopefully fun, exposure to language from two storytellers who will visit each dormitory twice a week. Five part-time storytellers will rotate around the fifteen “small group” homes outside the Kuk’s main premises where kids live with “housemothers” and

“housefathers” telling stories on two nights each week. The storytellers are provided with laptop computers, plus a stock of books and comics, cassette tapes and CD-ROMs. The children will also get three hours of face-to-face teaching in English and one hour of face-to-face teaching in Putonghua each week, supplemented by homework, often online as children get older, and supplemented by storytelling. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has agreed to become academic partner of the Language Training programme to safeguard standards. It has already given invaluable assistance with the curriculum, staff selection and resources as well as tools to evaluate and verify the improvement in language skills. In order to extend the programme to the older children, the FCC Charity Committee is continuing to approach corporate donors. It also plans to approach the Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged, announced in the Chief Executive’s Policy Address in January. That fund has earmarked $200 million to promote a tripartite partnership between the Government, the business community and the welfare sector to help the disadvantaged. For further information please contact the FCC Charity Fund. E-mail: Tel: 2521 2814.


On the wall

Dr Lasserre (centre) at the Shell Hospital in Sumatra, 1966.

An Unusual Life H



is body was wasted by cancer, but Dr Raymond Lasserre’s mind was as alert as ever, and his wise, soft-voiced conversation was laced with humour, with no trace of fear or self-pity. He spoke to The Correspondent a few days ahead of the opening of the FCC exhibition displaying his remarkable photographs. Dr Lasserre opened the interview by apologising for his lack of mobility – he was stretched out on his bed in his Tsim Sha Tsui flat, spectacles and medication close at hand. He knew he was near death but he said, with humbling conviction: “I am very serene about this. I have accepted it.” He then remarked that he had led “an unusual life for a Swiss physician”, a

typical understatement for this extraordinary human being, who as well as being a physician has been a freelance journalist and author, as well as a gifted photographer. Trained in Geneva, he shunned the soft option of working in a medical practice in Switzerland. Instead, since shortly after World War II, he set forth, mainly to the Third World, working for health, charitable and research organisations, dispensing care to the needy and less privileged. Even at the age of 82 and racked by disease, he remained an active member of the Board of Médecins sans Frontières in Hong Kong. Throughout the interview, Dr Lasserre was far more interested in discussing the


Public letter-writer, Tinerhir, Morrocco, 1955 (top). Project Concern, Hong Kong, 1967-74 (bottom).

world’s medical problems than his own. In particular he lamented that the amazing technological advances achieved in medicine had been matched by a decline in human contact between physician and patient. He cited his own experience in a Geneva hospital where, admitted for an emergency cancer operation, he spent 12 hours undergoing tests but during that time had virtually no personal contact with the staff treating him. “Was it a hospital or a garage? My conclusion was that it was a garage. Patients are very well repaired, but they are repaired as if they were a car, not like they were human beings with their own feelings.”



On the wall

In what he described as an amusing experience in Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth hospital, which he also entered for treatment, a hospital staff member placed his food tray at the end of the bed – even though he was far too weak to reach it. He said he felt like a god in Greek mythology, nourished by the fumes from sacrificed animals. After a while, the tray was removed untouched and Dr Lasserre had to go hungry. “It was the first and last time I felt I am Zeus.” He said impersonal medical care was prompting terminally ill patients to shun hospitals, and increasing numbers of people were inclined to try out treatments such as aromatherapy, because at least they received

Project Concern Hong Kong, Kai Tak Nullah, 1967-74.



personal attention. “It may not do them much good but at least they will be comforted and feel more secure.” Finally Dr Lasserre asked when the interview would appear in The Correspondent. When told it would be in the May/June issue his response was: “So, I will not see it, probably.” He was right. He missed the opening of his FCC exhibition on April 6 because he had to return to hospital. And just minutes after the welcoming speeches had ended at the launch of the exhibition of his superb images, Dr Raymond Lasserre’s “unusual life” ended. Dr Lasserre’s book, Médecin Sur Tous Fronts, is on sale at the Club and at Parenthèse French bookshop, 2/F, 14 Wellington Street.

Rice fields near Kathmandu, Nepal, 1961.




Shallow Roots

apart, despite frequent visits, means we are thinking as individuals instead of as a couple. We have to consider each others’ needs and tastes again.” That the McTavishes raised three fine kids who have gone out into the world, and are still together, means the sacrifices were worth it. Or as Wendy puts it: “Peter and I have come full circle. Our children have left home and we regional insurance inspector in out- are a couple again and still in Hong back Queensland to the manager of Kong.” Wendy pointed out that that a one-man insurance brokerage firm circle “included 17 major moves”. in cosmopolitan Hong Kong….at our Wendy is quite hard on herself as young age in our home country, we well. She speaks of pushing for an would never had had access to vice apartment they couldn’t afford and of presidents and presidents of com- tearing into Peter when he’s been out panies. Senior executives and any with the boys. In the chapter called celebrities or attractive “Hard Yards” late in personalities would be the book, Wendy’s lead entertained by employis: “If in reading so far, ees higher up the food you’ve found this book chain.” amusing now is the Compare the above time to quit. The funny comment with one stories are few and far some four decades and between from here on 200 pages later: “Peter in. If however, you have and I would never have viewed me as a spoiled suited the corporate life bitch or silly cow then no matter how much read on because you we may have envied its will see that I get my recipients on occasion. comeuppance and you Expat: Opinionated We liked the freedoms can smile quietly to memories of forty years available to the small yourself.” in Hong Kong entrepreneur; freedom For those us who By Wendy McTavish to take risk, exercise have known Wendy over Inkstone Press (A division independence, start the years as I have, she of Chameleon Press), work when we like and is indeed a tough lady. Hong Kong, 2005 finish when we like; to One who can be kind ISBN: 962-86740-5-6 go on vacation as often and caring one day but PB.250 pages. HK$175 as we like for as long as acerbic and angry the we like in the knowlnext. I always thought edge that the only person with his foot it was the pressure of work because on our neck is the client. We often paid through it all, Wendy was, and still is, a price for this.” an astute businesswoman. I was correct. One price the family paid was the Her first business venture was Expat problems of a split family. Several Junque which dealt in used furniture. times, Wendy went back to Australia She then started Expat Services, a propwith the children while Peter hung erty company. The tales that she relates on in Hong Kong nurturing one of the of being in business in Hong Kong, of five different companies he set up. the successes and at the same time the Wendy pulls no punches. Speak- horrific problems – particularly expat ing of her latest return to Hong Kong: staff coming in to learn the business “Both Peter and I have some adjust- then quitting to start a competitive ments to make. Three years of living business, complete with poached staff

Long-time FCC member Wendy McTavish has written a very “opinionated” memoir of her four decades in Hong Kong. Saul Lockhart reviews the book.


enjoyed Wendy McTavish’s trip back in time. We overlapped in Hong Kong so I can relate personally to some of her memories and adventures. But for those whose experience in Hong Kong is shorter, the McTavish adventures, their trials and tribulations can be a real eye-opener. Hong Kong was a very different place for expats in the 1960s and this short personal history is almost as good as reminiscing with Wendy in the Main Bar. Peter and Wendy McTavish’s first arrival in Hong Kong was by ship, in those days a mode taken by many young Australians looking for adventure. They sailed here on the good ship Galileo in 1966 and had their excitement tinged with the romance of arriving in the Fragrant Harbour the proper way – by sea. They arrived for their new life with no jobs and their life savings: £100. Hong Kong of four decades ago was very colonial, very structured. I have no particular memories of my time at Chungking Mansions, but Peter and Wendy McTavish made friends with the Shanghainese family who ran their guesthouse and upon moving across the harbour, their first step up the ladder, were invited back for a Chinese New Year dinner. Back then, the McTavishs were able get instant credit at a Mid-Levels corner store (Charn Kee) “in spite of (them) not knowing us”. That sort of personal business and trust is very rare nowadays since the proliferation of supermarkets and credit cards. What still exists in Hong Kong is the entrepreneurial attitude to business, and the opportunities it presents. “Peter had gone from being a




– would be enough to make someone a bit tetchy now and again. How she came to write her memoirs is also an interesting yarn. After admitting to a need to “reinvent herself” she credits Peter, in a backhanded compliment, with her transformation into a writer. He “unaccountably resent(ed)

me filling my days with bridge, (and paid) for me to attend a writing seminar conducted by well-known Hong Kong author (and fellow FCCer) Nury Vittachi.” The rest is history. Lest you get carried away with the romance of this adventure, Wendy brings us all back to earth with a

Easier Said Than Done Ever since Lynne Truss’s packed-out luncheon talk at the FCC in August 2004, which had enough overflow to have her speak again at dinner, former Correspondent editor Saul Lockhart has been musing about the concept of everyone being an editor thanks to the magic of modern technology.


while back, Truss’s book, Eat Shoots & Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, would have been of interest only to professional writers and editors. But the fact that it shot to the New York Times best-seller list proves that more people than ever are interested in words. By default of the technological age we live in, you may find yourself a de facto writer and/or editor. For those starting out, or for those who haven’t had the benefit of hands-on professional training, why not learn to do it properly? Not only will you learn to avoid the common pitfalls but your general writing – everything from reports and articles to diaries and letters – will improve. And if the muse strikes, you may even give yourself a step-up should you want to write a book that doesn’t make the copy editor shudder. There is no magic potion or pill, but there are books available. The Editor’s Companion by Janet Mackenzie, published by Cambridge University Press, is a case in point. Writers as well as editors – and that includes those editing themselves in the first instance – will find the book useful. The book ranges from basic


editing tips (including rules, common errors, lots of how-to’s) to chapters on books and technology. If you are going to get serious about this writing business, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage by Professor Pam Peters of Australia’s Macquarie University (the book is about mainstream English, not Strine, just in case there’s any doubt) is a useful asset to any library. This book includes everything from style and structure of writing to editorial style to basic grammar, set out in a dictionary format. Then there is Style, published by News Ltd, for toilers on Rupert Murdoch’s 120 or so newspapers around the world. There is an interesting yarn behind the just published third edition. The company’s editorial training manager, Lucinda Duckett, noticed that she was getting more and more The Editor’s Companion By Janet Mackenzie Cambridge University Press PB. 280 pages. HK$240 (approx) ISBN: 0-5216056-9-5

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage By Pam Peters Cambridge University Press HB. 620 pages. HK$450 (approx) ISBN: 0-52162-181X

thump in her closing paragraph: “Now we spend our time between Hong Kong and Australia. We are never completely happy in either place. We need both yet we cannot be truly Hongkongian because we are not Chinese, or truly Australian because we spent so many years out of our country.”

requests from outside the company for the handbook. She reckoned there was a much wider market for Style than just Rupert’s army of journos, so she alerted News Custom Publishing and the book is now available to the public. Style answered one mystifying practice for a newcomer like me to Down Underland. That is the absence of apostrophes in so many place names. Sydney’s Kings Cross and Crows Nest are two cases in point. Well, it seems that the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales deemed apostrophes unnecessary in place names. I can only assume that the decree for Australia’s most populated state has taken hold across the country. If you’re going to be professional about this, you will also need to know just where you stand with regards to the law. So, to find your way around copyright, defamation, contracts and money matters, turn to Between the Lines: A Legal Guide for Writers and Illustrators by Lynne Spender. Armed with these tomes, or tomes like these, you will become a professional in your writing and editing, regardless what your profession is. And most important, you will learn to take responsibility for your words. Style Edited by Kim Lockwood News Custom Publishing PB. 216 pages. HK$150 (approx) ISBN: 1-876176-54-7

Between the Lines: A Legal Guide for Writers and Illustrators By Lynne Spender Keesing Press (Australian Society of Authors) PB. 272 pages. HK$240 (approx) ISBN: 0-9752083-0-6


Points of View Journalist, publisher, author and FCC member Kevin Sinclair has just published his 20th book, making him one of Hong Kong’s most prolific writers. Suzanne Dennis talks to Kevin about his book and how he manages to fit so much into his workday.


t is appropriate for a man with such strongly-held and often stridentlyexpressed opinions as Kevin that his landmark 20th title celebrates the voice of the ordinary man and woman. Points of View; A Century of Letters to the Editor of the South China Morning Post, is a revealing and insightful collection of thoughts, opinions and demands expressed by Hong Kong residents over the decades. “Researching this book was both fascinating and fun,” Kevin said. “Some of the readers who wrote indignantly in 1904 about dirty rickshaws could well be the grandfathers of readers in 2004 who complained about grubby taxis.” Kevin’s career has been by any standards a long, varied and, at times, very colourful one. It’s undeniably worthy of its own dedicated edition in the (seemingly unlikely) event that he ever decides to retire. The work ethic of this selfdescribed “hack” would put many of us to shame. Rising before dawn, Sinclair’s creative juices at this uncivilised hour result in productivity that many of us mere, and still unconscious, mortals can only dream of – and that is before alarms rudely awaken us at a more luxurious hour. By any standards, the former copyboy from Wellington has been a major contributing force to Hong Kong journalism since his arrival in 1968, when he was appointed news editor of the now long-defunct newspaper, The Star. He went on to hold similar positions at both the Hong Kong Standard and the South China Morning Post. Since embarking on a freelance career in 1986, Sinclair has continued to report Hong Kong news, while voicing community concerns via his


Kevin Sinclair: 20 titles under his belt newspaper columns and features. He has discoursed on the finer points of food and wine, authored books and to top it off, in 1993, together with public relations practitioner Susan Field, he launched the region’s first dedicated hotel trade publication, Asian Hotelier. Quite a career for an average person let alone one who underwent radical throat surgery for cancer in 1979. In addition to his print journalism writing, Kevin has recently added a high-tech outlet to his repertoire. He now hosts twice-weekly realtime On the Spot chat sessions with South China Morning Post subscribers. One enthusiast contributes regularly from Arkansas to the Wednesday morning session, a cross between a debate, a dialogue and agony aunt session. His Friday sessions concentrate on topics close to his heart and stomach. Eating and drinking and, by extension, coverage of Hong Kong’s burgeoning, if

somewhat bureaucratically-governed hospitality industry. A replacement, for his Sunday wine column, Kevin has nevertheless not abandoned his personal quest – the tracking down of decently-priced, readily-available and very quaffable wines. Kevin’s professionalism was acknowledged in 1983, when, accompanied by his wife Kit and children David and Kiri, he travelled to Buckingham Palace to receive his MBE (Member in The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from the Queen. The award was made for services to journalism in Hong Kong. Over the years Kevin has witnessed considerable change in Hong Kong. So did Points of View reveal anything surprising about the place, its people and its development into one of the powerhouses of Asia? “Some readers were proud of Hong Kong, others shamed. Some were happy, some depressed, some boisterously confident, others fearful of the future. Some seemed simply mad. Some complaints seem universal and eternal. What bothered people 100 years ago and caused them to dip their steel nibs into inkwells were issues like transport, education, housing, the cost of living and the ineffective actions and policies of the Hong Kong government.” “What’s new?” Sinclair laughs. “In 1906, people didn’t write about terrorism, but correspondents had ample scope to vent their anger and impotence about the persistent threat of piracy against vessels on the China coastal trade and river steamers heading up the Pearl.” Long before SARS, the community was justifiably fearful of tuberculosis, diphtheria, cholera, the plague, leprosy and influenza. Epidemics periodically afflicted the city. Kevin’s more sentimental side, however, reveals itself by way of his final comment on this latest publication. “I am, however, still pondering what response ‘Broken Hearts’ got in reply to his 1936 letter in which he asked: ‘What is love’?”




On the road again – at last T Three veteran Asia hands partake of Australia’s newest attraction, The Ghan, all by their lonesomes. Former Correspondent editor Saul Lockhart reports


he ladies did not take much convincing. That alone should have been suspicious, but I suspect that our better halves – who dubbed us the “The Three Stooges” – were happy to get us out from underfoot for a spell. Be that as it may, our oft-discussed reunion-on-the road became a reality when we stepped aboard The Ghan, short for Afghan (see box), in Adelaide’s Keswick Station for the 48-hour rail odyssey to Darwin, some 2,979-kilometres north in the Top End of Australia. We had talked longingly of another such trip after our first foray into the unknown in 1992 when we drove the Alaskan-Canadian Highway north to south in convoy for a camping

adventure. On that occasion we had two wives plus various kids in tow. We Three Stooges consisted of Alan Daniels, formerly with the old Sunday Post-Herald in Hong Kong in the late 1960s and the recently retired Transport & Tourism Editor the Vancouver Sun. Alan is now Editor-in-Chief of Canada’s Nationwide News Service. Then there was Ashley Ford, the Asian Business and Travel Columnist for the Vancouver Province. And finally, yours truly. Our journey started in Sydney with an overnight journey to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific, the famed EastWest rail link to Perth which crosses the Nullabor Desert on what is billed as the longest stretch of straight track in the world – 478 kilometres long.


(The Melbourne-Adelaide route is called The Overland.) As all three routes are owned by the same company, Great Southern Railway, which owns the cars and leases the locomotives and track, they are interlinked. The 24-hour jaunt to Adelaide gave us a chance to familiarise ourselves with rail travel Aussiestyle. We found it to be laid-back and tinged with humour, as well as being efficient. It also helped to acclimatise our natural vibrations with those of a train. Our trip on The “Legendary” Ghan, as it is known Down Under, began upon our arrival in Adelaide, a couple hours before we were due to depart. There on the platform to greet us “already weary” travellers – we had celebrated our first night of freedom with unbridled enthusiasm – were exFCCer Paul Lloyd, also formerly of the Sunday Post-Herald, and currently with the Adelaide Advertiser, and ace FCC photographer Bob Davis, coincidentally on assignment there. A couple or three cold tinnies to wash away the trail dust and prepare our palates for bottles of fine South Australian bubbly, all courtesy of Lloyd’s tailgate bar in the parking lot next to The Ghan, were just what we needed to set the pace for our journey to the Top End. The chance to relax in air-conditioned comfort, supping on fine foods and quaffing equally fine Australian vino on a transcontinental rail journey with some of the most spectacular scenery shooting by, is something not to be missed. We considered our Ghan expedition to be an adventure. But let’s face it, it only takes one look at that terrain zipping by to realise how pampered we were compared to the explorers hoofing it across the country, and the settlers of the early 20th century who travelled by horse or camel. Regardless of the class one travels, the Ghan is comfort personified. Rail travel is more comfortable than its counterpart in the air, the food’s better and it is more fun!


Stopover: Uluru


he most popular stopover on The Ghan is Alice Springs because from there you can spend three to four days visiting Australia’s most famous landmark, Uluru (Ayers Rock), some 450 km southwest of the city. (Don’t panic about the distance – the road is excellent and most of it does not have a speed limit.) Located deep in Australia’s Red Centre 2,200 km from Sydney, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a World Heritage Listed Site. The beauty of Ayers Rock is not to be missed. In practical terms that means views at sunrise and sunset. Ayers Rock/Uluru rises a steep 348 metres into the sky, but it is estimated that most of it is underground, down to a depth of

As befits venerable members of the Fourth Estate, we chose to be pampered in the Gold Kangaroo Service which meant we had berths and access to a lounge/bar car and a dining car. Had we had the moola, we could have taken a suite, or travelled in the Chairman’s Car, which sleeps eight and has its own lounge and dining facilities. Or had we been seriously loaded we could have taken over the entire train. Alas, we’re poor journos and could not partake of such ultra-luxury. But we did travel one step up from the Red

6 km. Of more practical interest is its 9.4 km perimeter all of which is walkable. Up close, Uluru has the pockmarked surface of a red moonscape. From a distance, it is a flat-topped, red-hued giant that changes colour with the passage of the sun. Ayers Rock was named in 1873 by William Christie Goss, the first European to reach the area. He named after Sir Henry Ayer, the Chief Secretary of South Australia. In October 26, 1985, the rock was handed back to its original owners, the Anangu tribe, who reverted to the Aboriginal name, Uluru. These days, you’ll find both names in use to describe the monolith. – Saul Lockhart

Kangaroo Service, which is divided in two: daynighter (aeroplane) seats or a sleeper cabin, plus a Lounge Car and a Diner/Buffet Car. When it came to dining, we chose the second sitting because it allowed us to linger both before dinner in the lounge and after dinner at the table – and linger we did with the port and cheese. There was white linen and proper silverware (none of that plastic airline cutlery). I’d like to say we planned this civilised manner of dining but what really happened is that in the late afternoon, well before the first


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sitting, we rolled up into the lounge car for a cleansing ale or three, and lingered away until our 8 o’clock sitting. The menus offered a wide range of options, ranging from Aussie favourites such as leg of lamb for dinner or chicken pie for lunch, to ambitious Asian dishes such as steamed kingfish with lemongrass-coconut sauce (dinner) or beef rending (lunch), all prepared fresh by chefs en route. Desserts could range from a chocolate mousse to a parfait. Though it was not on the menu, we managed to score a selection of cheese to go with our port which certainly was on the menu. The tucker was good as was the dining car service. The Ghan’s Gold Kangaroo cabins are small but efficient. In the twin accommodation, the upper berth packs away during the day and there is a bathroom with a pull-down sink, pulldown toilet, and shower. Remind you of the old Pullman cars? It should. These are refurbished Pullmans. My only criticism would be the lack of domed observation cars. This Red Centre of Australia is a landscape that cries out for special viewing cars. At the beginning, some of the European and American passengers on board were critical, comparing The Ghan unfavourably with the Orient Express. It is an expensive mode of travel, to say nothing of the cost of getting to Australia in the first place. Great Southern Railway now makes it very clear – and did so to us in a background briefing – that their train is not a Down Under version of the Orient Express and it has no intention of becoming so. Rather, The Ghan is a “true-blue” Aussie-style train, so do not let the art deco design on all the advertising bumf confuse you.

The Ghan is a “true-blue” Aussie-style train not a Down Under version of the Orient Express

The Legendary Ghan Linking the north and south by rail was a dream dating back to Federation in 1901 and the first link came in 1929 with the Adelaide-Alice Springs Service. More than a century later, on February 1, 2004, the Alice to Darwin route opened. The name Ghan comes from Afghan, the first cameleers in the Top End. Those beasts of burden opened the north and there are still 600,000-700,000 feral camels roaming the area. (And you can take a camel ride at Alice Springs or Uluru if you want to see just how uncomfortable that mode of transport is.) Website: for the latest information and bookings. Air links: and



Other people’s luggage Since leaving Hong Kong, Ken Jackson has been dividing his time between rural southwest England and even more rural southeast America. It was in America that he discovered what happens to lost airline luggage


icture Mr and Mrs Smith and their six-year-old daughter, Suzie, from Cairo, Illinois. They have just finished their dream vacation touring Britain on a motor coach. A London taxi deposits them at Heathrow Terminal 3 where they check in for their flight home. They hand over their bags to the counter agent, take their boarding passes and proceed through immigration and customs to their departure gate where they board their on-time flight and return to the comforts of middle America without incident. Their bags are not so lucky. In an honest mistake, the counter agent directs their luggage not to the American cornbelt , but to the capital of Egypt, where it festers in a storage room long enough for its legal status to change from “Lost” to “Unclaimed”. At this point, Mr Smith’s new sports jacket and slacks, his wife’s best pants suit and sensible shoes and little Suzie’s favourite stuffed bear and well-


thumbed copy of It Takes a Village, emerge along with the unclaimed baggage of other unfortunates from around the planet at a warehousesized store on the edge of a small agreeable town in the hilly northeast corner of Alabama, USA. The store is named, appropriately, The Unclaimed Baggage Center. The town is Scottsboro. The Unclaimed Baggage Center occupies a city block of floor space and has been selling the lost belongings of the world’s unhappy air passengers since 1970. During that time, shoppers from every American state and more than 30 other countries have travelled to Scottsboro to comb through the loot. Entering the Center from its abundant parking lot filled with chartered buses, you walk under a gazeboshaped archway embellished with the names of the world’s popular travel destinations, like Cairo. Anyone who has ever entrusted their possessions

to an airline, must, upon entering this shopping sanctum, feel a slight twinge of affinity for the former owners of the thousands upon thousands of pieces of merchandise on sale. With more than a million items passing through the Center annually, it is a fair guess that most serious frequent flyers have contributed. So many dispossessed travellers have contracted the Center to ask if it can help them find their goods that the Center’s website responds under its FAQ. The short answer is: regretfully no. “By the time luggage reaches us, every effort has been made by the airline to find the rightful owners,” it states. This takes three to four months. “That means the baggage that arrives at The Unclaimed Baggage Center is anonymous and up to 120 days past the travel date. Further, the volume of products coming through our store on a daily basis – much of it bought by shoppers within hours of reaching the sales floor – would make it a virtual impossibility to track any one item.” Rough translation: Once it gets here, it’s not your stuff any more. A couple of exceptions to this hard rule were a misplaced Space Shuttle camera, which was returned to NASA, and an overlooked F16 fighter jet guidance system, which was returned to the U.S. Navy. I know…don’t ask!


However the goods arrive, the Center has well-organised them for shoppers’ convenience. It distributes a helpful Store Directory, which shows bargain hunters where to find what they are looking for, and if that fails there is even a concierge service for especially tricky requests. Among the most popular items at the Center are cameras – just about every tourist takes one along. I don’t know what happens to the undeveloped snaps of the family at the beach, or the tree-line, boulevard leading toward Notre Dame Cathedral, or Uncle Mack chugging that jug of margaritas, but by the time the cameras go into the Center’s display cabinets, those recorded memories are forever gone. Near the cameras, lost spectacles are sold. In fact so much lost eyewear is sold the section is divided between designer eyewear and ordinary eyewear. Why so many travellers would put their glasses in their checked luggage is one of the many imponderable questions the Center inspires. Another important section near the eyewear and the cameras is devoted to sporting goods. Skiing equipment predominates and one seasoned shopper explained: “You can get some really good deals on skis here. These Alabama folks may know everything there is to know about pricing Minoltas and Nikons, but they don’t do a lot of snow skiing.” A former employee told me that the Center once found the ash remains of someone’s dearly departed. Presumably whoever gave grandpa to the baggage handlers wasn’t too happy with the will. Jewellery is extremely popular at the Center. In fact the web site reports finding a 41-carat emerald and a 5.8-carat diamond ring in lost bags. Whoever checked that diamond ring cleverly concealed it in a sock to foil larcenous baggage handlers, but somehow still lost it…go figure. Anyway, even the less illustrious jewellery on regular offer is pretty stunning. The array of gold bracelets and necklaces, gemstones and watches


could readily be found on the shelves of top-rate jewellers. The shoppers at this counter show a different level of intensity and sophistication than the ones sorting through other people’s baseball caps in the next room. For one thing, no one is using a jeweller’s loupe to examine the stitching on the Al Unser Racing Team cap. From scouring the items like jewellery, cameras and eyeglasses, items which had no business being checked in in the first place, the bargain hunters can move into the much larger clothing sections. Every conceivable item of formal, casual, sporty and intimate apparel is arranged by size. Women can browse for cocktail dresses, business suits, blouses, skirts,

ter box. The thoughtful shopper who visits this exhibit and who is not still worried about whether to take the red or the black 34C may possibly ask: “How could anyone lose something that valuable?” And then ask: “How is it possible after at least 90 days of intensive tracking by the airline that the rightful owners of these extraordinary items could not be found?” The Center provokes many such thoughts. Even in the midst of the shopping frenzy, it would be the very hardened bargain hunter who was not a little saddened by some of the personal losses on display. The most obvious are in the children’s sections. A favourite doll or stuffed animal dragged lovingly around on a family

A former employee told me that the Center once found the ash remains of someone’s dearly departed. Presumably whoever gave grandpa to the baggage handlers wasn’t too happy with the will. sportswear or that 34C lacey red brassiere. Men can buy tuxedoes, suits, sports coats, athletic nylon or leather motorcycle jackets, socks, ties or a pair of Jockey briefs the size of a spinnaker at a rock bottom price. Between the ladies’ and men’s clothing section is the Center’s Art Department. A nearby sign reports that one unrecognised art treasure was sold for US$50, but the lucky buyer later discovered it was worth more than $10,000. That picture may not, however, have much resembled the Tijuana black felt portraits I thumbed through looking for my own personal fortune. Before the happy but harried shoppers line up at the cash registers, they are encouraged to visit the small alcove which forms the Center’s museum of Astounding Unclaimed Baggage. A violin made and signed by a student of Stradivarius, a 3,500 year-old Egyptian artifact, an original Jim Hensen lifesized puppet from a feature movie, all found their way to this dead-let-

vacation had vanished into oblivion. A bedtime storybook, ritually re-read so often the exhausted mom recites it in her own sleep, is just gone. But even if a young person or single adult misses the small sorrow of a child’s tiny loss, almost everyone who has sufficient consciousness not to buy someone else’s Jockey briefs will pause a moment in front of the lost wedding dress display. Did the bride lose it on her way to the wedding? When the baggage carousel finally stopped turning and the last piece of luggage was trolleyed off, was she standing there alone? Did the lost luggage agent tell her not to worry? Did he assure her it would be on the next plane? Did he tell her: “Worst case, honey, it’ll be here tomorrow, never you mind!”? But it wasn’t there on the next plane. And it wasn’t there the next day. And as any visitor to The Unclaimed Baggage Center could have told her: the “worst case” can be very much worse than that.


FCC People

On The Fast Track


CC Member and racing driver Matthew Marsh is poised to fulfil a childhood ambition by taking part in the world’s greatest sports car race, the Le Mans 24 Hours. Matthew is spearheading an ambitious project which will see a Hong Kong-owned, sponsored and driven car compete in the endurance classic for the first time. “It’s all systems go – we have an agreement for the car, we have secured the bulk of the sponsorship and we are in the process of finalising the three-man driving team,” says Matthew, who is the current Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia champion. “We intend to prove that Hong Kong can compete on the world stage. It is an enormous challenge, but we have the drive, the ambition and the talent to succeed.” Matthew’s team, Noble Group-GruppeM Racing, will be driving a Porsche GT3 RSR with a distinctive yellow, white and red livery that features a large bauhinia on the roof. The road to Le Mans will begin with four races this year in the Le Mans Endurance Series in Europe – each event is 1,000km and lasts about six hours – followed by a trip to the 12 Hours of Sebring race in Florida next March. Positive results will secure an invitation to the Le Mans 24 Hours in June 2006. Matthew, a 14-year Hong Kong resident who is engaged to Singaporean model Jessie Leong, has previously taken part in 24-hour races in Germany, Belgium and Australia. “Le Mans is the ultimate test for a sports car driver,” says the 36-year-old Briton. “It will be a dream come true for me


Left: Matthew and Jessie. Top: The Porsche GT3 personally but, more importantly, it will be a team effort. This project will put Hong Kong motorsport in the global spotlight.” The project is being backed by two Hong Kong companies – Noble Group and the William E Connor Group – and the Chinese-owned GruppeM Racing team based in the UK. FCC member and GR Asia racing team owner Tim Huxley, who helped Matthew put the project together, adds: “This is more than just a race, it’s a massive adventure which we hope all Hong Kong’s sports car enthusiasts will get behind. “Our priority has been to put together the most competitive and professional package possible, and we believe we have achieved that. Over the course of this year, the team will gain the experience and credibility to do the job at Le Mans next June.” With Le Mans entries divided into four classes – LMP1 and LMP2 for prototypes (cars designed specifically for racing) and GT1 and GT2 for modified

road cars, Matthew and his team are aiming for GT2. Matthew explains: “One of the factors that will be important to the race organisers is that drivers are competent in the category they’re in. Myself and the other drivers can clearly demonstrate that we’ve done a lot of driving in Porsche GT3s and that we’ve done quite well in them. “It makes perfect sense for us to go in at this level, because the key point is that this is not the last time we will be racing at Le Mans. What started off, for me, as the ultimate objective, simply to compete at Le Mans, has changed. Now the project is happening, I’m thinking about a five-year programme in which we move up through the classes. “The other key point about starting in GT2 is that we really can say we are going there with the intention of doing well in our class. Even in GT2 there are some world class drivers, but the cars will all be pretty equal, we are going to be fully prepared and we will have three drivers who are more than capable. Put it this way, we’ll be going there to get on the podium.”


Around the FCC

Racing First


CC members David Ferraris and Anthony Delpeche made Hong Kong horse racing history in April when the trainer-jockey pairing won both the Hong Kong Derby and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in a single season, a double first. Never before has either a trainer or a jockey managed to chalk up such a victory. The fact that the pair teamed up to win the double makes the victory particularly sweet. Kudos, too, to the champion horse, Vengeance of Rain, a four-year-old bay gelding. The line-up in the $1.8 million QE II Cup, the first leg in the international 13race World Racing Championship, which also includes the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Pam and David Ferraris, Candice and Anthony Delpeche and Breeders’ Cup Turf, was reported as the “strongest international meeting of staying horses ever fielded.” Vengeance of Rain’s victory came on the heels of his 23/4-length win over Russian Pearl in the Hong Kong Derby on March 13 at Sha Tin. “He’d come along so nicely from the

Derby, I was confident before the race and even more so in the run,” said jockey and new FCC member, Anthony, after the victory. Trainer David was also full of praise for Vengeance of Rain. “He’s a lovely horse and a late maturer. We haven’t seen the best of him yet.”


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Professional Contacts FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHERS BERTRAND VIRGILE SIMON — Editorials and corporate brochures Tel: 2526 4465 E-mail: Website: WWW.RED-DESERT.COM.HK RAY CRANBOURNE — Editorial, Corporate and Industrial Tel/Fax: 2525 7553 E-mail: ray_cran BOB DAVIS — Corporate/Advertising/Editorial Tel: 9460 1718 Website: HUBERT VAN ES — News, people, travel, commercial and movie stills Tel: 2559 3504 Fax: 2858 1721 E-mail:

Royal Asiatic Society The Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society welcomes new members interested in the culture and history of Hong Kong, China and Asia. We arrange monthly talks, local visits and overseas trips to places of historical interest. An annual Journal and a bi-monthly Newsletter are published. For information: Tel/fax 2813 7500, email or go to

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Out of Context

What members get up to when away from the Club

Our man in Macau Jonathan Sharp talks to Ian Smith


an Smith, who believes he is the only active FCC member resident in the “other” SAR, is a busy man. He averages up to 10 days each month on the road, selling his environmentallyfriendly fragrances blended from essential oils to hotels throughout the region, manages to patronise the FCC regularly and still finds time to tend the Protestant Cemeteries in Macau, a job he has held for about 12 years. “I was asked by the Bishop’s representative if I would look after the maintenance and upkeep of two cemeteries and the Morrison chapel. It’s a pretty simple job. I represent the UK, the Americans, the Germans and the Dutch as their representative in Macau for the Protestant cemeteries,” he says. “Basically what I do is attend meetings twice a year and I ensure that the chapel and the cemeteries and the surrounds are kept in good order, making sure that the gardens are kept in good condition, the trees are pruned, and everything is spick and span.” The result are havens of peace and calm which are to be increasingly treasured amid the cacophonous construction boom that has transformed drowsy Macau into what Ian calls “crane city”. “The other thing we do in the cemeteries is every five years we paint all the inscriptions, so you can read them… It’s very pleasant. It’s probably the most tranquil place in Macau at present.” By far the best known of the cemeteries is the Old Protestant Cemetery,


next to the chapel named after Robert Morrison, who translated the Bible into Chinese. Morrison and his family are buried in the cemetery, as are a number of notables closely associated with the 19th century China coastal trade. Holding pride of place is the

Other worthies include Lord John Spencer Churchill, ancestor of Sir Winston. But a large number of the graves are of much less grand folk – seamen, traders and the like – marked by simple, poignant headstones. Many of them died young, from disease or accidents. One reads: “John P. Griffin Seaman Born in New York and died on board the US Ship Plymouth in Macau Roads by a fall from aloft…” “I find them all interesting,” says Ian. “It’s one of the beautiful places in Macau, the one people interested in history should visit at least once.” Also under Ian’s watchful care is a more recently established cemetery. “We have approval for 50 burial sites, and 15 memorials, but they have not been all used because the population of Macau is (predominantly) Catholic, there are not many Protestants.” While the Old Protestant Cemetery is listed in guide books, there is no attempt – or wish – to promote it as a tourist attraction. There are no tour groups. “It’s never crowded. You can go and sit there, meditate, think, read without interruption – unless there’s some more piling nearby.” Macau’s breakneck development as it aims to overhaul Las Vegas as the world’s largest gaming market has not yet encroached on Ian’s precious oases of tranquillity. But in place where planned exotica include an artificial – but working – volcano and an underwater casino, one wonders if anywhere – including a cemetery – can remain sacred.

“I was asked by the Bishop’s representative if I would look after the maintenance and upkeep of two cemeteries and the Morrison chapel. It’s a pretty simple job.”


tomb of painter George Chinnery who died in 1851 and whose inscription – as well as including a typo – describes how he proclaimed the Christian Message “by word and by brush”.



The Correspondent, May - June 2005  
The Correspondent, May - June 2005