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CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB, HONG KONG

THE

ANSON'S

AMBITIONS >> DOES SKYPE LIVE UP TO THE HYPE?


THE

CORRESPONDENT

contents

KEES METSELAAR

Cover Story

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Former Chief Secretrary Anson Chan articulates her ambitions for democracy Speakers

Burma

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Aung San Suu Kyi in cyberspace Debate

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Chris Patten: Diplomacy takes a back seat

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An American in Iran

Then & Now

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20 23

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Chater Garden Out of Context

Turkey and the EU Travel

Feature Operation British Bulldog

Skype: hype or here to stay? Politics

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The Sinking of the Laconia

Is there a case for censoring speakers at the FCC? Technology

Books

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Tom Cord Letters Merchandise Around the FCC Professional Contacts

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COVER PHOTOGRAPH: KEES METSELAAR

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

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Letters From Absent Member George Mackenzie, Leura, NSW, Australia Editor’s note: We are publicly forwarding this letter to Mr Arshad Mahmood of Punjab House as requested.

THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB, HONG KONG 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2521 1511 Fax: (852) 2868 4092 E-mail: <fcc@fcchk.org> Website: <www.fcchk.org> President: Chris Slaughter First Vice President: Ramón Pedrosa-López Second Vice President: Kevin Egan Correspondent Member Governors Paul Bayfield, Jim Laurie, Kate Pound Dawson, Matthew Driskill, Ilaria Maria Sala, Luke Hunt, Keith Bradsher, Keri Ann Geiger Journalist Member Governors Francis Moriarty, Daniel Hilkin Associate Member Governors Andy Chworowsky, Rob Stewart, David Garcia, Steve Ushiyama, Hon. Treasurer Steve Ushiyama Finance Committee Convener: Steve Ushiyama Professional Committee Conveners: Ramón Pedrosa-López, Keith Bradsher, Keri Ann Geiger House/Food and Beverage Committee Convener: Dave Garcia Membership Committee Convener: Steve Ushiyama House/F&B Committee Convener: David Garcia FCC Charity Committee Conveners: Dave Garcia, Andy Chworowsky 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 in the magazine are not necessarily those of the Club. Publications Committee Convener: Paul Bayfield Editor: Diane Stormont Editorial and Production Hongkongnow.com ltd Tel: 2521 2814 E-mail: fccmag@hongkongnow.com Printer Hop Sze Printing Company Ltd Advertising Enquiries Sandra Pang Pronto Communications Tel: 2540 6872 Fax: 2116 0189 Mobile: 9077 7001 E-mail: advertising@fcchk.org

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I was delighted to see your full-page ad on the inside cover of the MayJune issue of the FCC magazine. I had foolishly forgotten all about your tailoring business when I was last in Hong Kong in 2004 for the Rugby Sevens and needed some gear. I tried a new mob on Hong Kong-side for ease and convenience. They were OK ... but not up to your standards. I have to admit, like most young Gurkha officers, I was lured to Sam’s. But Lt Col (ret’d) Ian Tedford told me to go and see Mr Gafoor at Punjab House for some “decent” tailoring. I did and wish I had visited more often. I still have an immaculate and very Scottish “tweedy” suit you made me in 1968. It made me look like a racing “rails bookie” – but we were young then! I also have plus-twos made to go with it and I still wear them throughout the winter season here in the Blue Mountains of Australia, augmented by some copies I had made

From Mark Clifford, Hong Kong I urge the Board to take up Jeff Heselwood’s excellent suggestion in the May-June issue for a no-smoking policy in the main bar, if only initially at lunch. The Board has been reluctant to take up the issue of limiting smoking in the club. This is despite the fact that most of our members apparently do not smoke. The impending legislation referred to in Jeff Heselwood’s article should not be an excuse for dragging our feet.

last year by my good bespoke Italian tailor in Sydney. In fact, I am wearing your 1968 model right now as I type – let out by only one inch by a seamstress friend. No fat, rotund old fart am I – yet! Bloody smart they are and when worn with my Cameron tartan hose, they really cut a dash around here – like the Laird o’ Leura should! Good to see you have new shop in London and at a very swank address, too. I’m sure it will do well. I shall e-mail my many mates and the Gurkha Brigade milap-network to let them know of it. Field Marshall Sir John Chapel, who opened it, was a good friend. Barring accidents and the Good Lord Protector, I hope to be up in Hong Kong for the 2007 Sevens and shall definitely come and see you – with an empty suitcase! I might send measurements in advance or some “actuals” for you to copy and save time. George Mackenzie (late 7GR Fanling and Sek Kong etc and later the Hong Kong civilian “rat-race”) can be reached c/o www.hurlstone.com.

Correction and Apology In the May-June 2006 issue of The Correspondent we incorrectly credited the cover photograph to Kees Metselaar. We are pleased to put the record straight. The photograph was taken by Andrea Rascaglia. We apologise to both Andrea and Kees.

Contributions The Correspondent welcomes letters, articles, photographs and art-work (in softcopy form only, please – no faxes or printouts etc). We reserve the right to edit contributions chosen for publication. Anonymous letters will be rejected. For verification purposes only (and not for publication) please include your membership number (if applicable) and a daytime telephone number. Contributions can be e-mailed to fcc@hongkongnow.com. Disks should be dropped off at the Club or posted to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong and marked to the attention of The Editor, The Correspondent. FTP is also available and is encouraged for large files. Please e-mail us for the settings. The deadline for the next issue is September 25, 2006.

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


Cover Story

KEES METSELAAR

L-R: Board Member Matt Driskill, First Vice President Ramon Pedrosa-Lopez, Anson Chan, FCC President Chris Slaughter

Anson Chan

Lays Out Democracy Plans at the FCC Few retired civil servants can expect to cause an undignified rugby scrum among hordes of reporters when going out. But Anson Chan is not like other ladies who lunch, reports Vaudine England.

KEES METSELAAR

T

rue, her wardrobe of power suits, this time in

deceptively demure blue-ivory brocade, shows she can dress. The perfect grooming suggests she knows how to shop. But when she starts talking, the real differences between Chan and the tai-tais emerge.

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

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Cover Story

KEES METSELAAR

This woman’s voice is wound round a steel core; it’s strong, forceful, determined and sometimes impatient whenever the questions annoy her. Those rumours about her being a tough boss suddenly seem all too true. She may have left the pundits guessing about how far she is prepared to push her newly expressed desire for universal suffrage, but even hardened anti-Chan types discovered the grit behind her grin on July 19 and many admitted to a newfound respect. As the crowds of local and foreign reporters, photographers, TV crews, commentators and the rest all jostled to get near her, Chan smiled and proved wrong those critics who reckon it’s only the mystery of her smile which got her to the top of her profession. The Cheshire cat may have got away, but Mrs Chan

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This woman’s voice is wound round a steel core; it’s strong, forceful, determined and sometimes impatient whenever the questions annoy her. Those rumours about her being a tough boss suddenly seem all too true. told the FCC that she is here to stay. “In Government, as in life, there are times when it is essential to seize the moment in the knowledge that, however worthy the endeavour, there will always be gainsayers with seemingly plausible arguments against going ahead or going ahead now,” she said. “It is vital that Hong Kong people sustain their belief in their ability to shape the future direction of democratic change and to provide, through credible and pragmatic constitutional

arrangements, the capable and committed leaders of the future which they deserve,” said Chan. And she clearly plans to be there, chivvying along the people of Hong Kong. “There is much work to be done and I would like to play whatever part I usefully can in helping to stimulate discussion of the key issues, mobilise the different forces within the community to build confidence and hammer out workable solutions. We need to chart an agenda for sustained prog-

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


KEES METSELAAR

ress towards realising the ultimate aim of universal suffrage. “And so to this end, I am forming a core group to help me formulate more concrete proposals and map out a strategy on the way forward. “I intend to play an active role ... I intend to stay the course and you can expect to hear more from me on this front in the months and if necessary the years ahead,” she warned at speech-end. As widely reported the next day, and on repeating loops on local television, Chan had just made news. Back in December she had joined a demonstration for more democracy. On July 1, she had donned T-shirt and sun visor to join the pro-democracy rally, marching from Causeway Bay to Central in steamy heat, to help put some fibre back into the moral force of democracy. Now she was choosing the Club as her venue to start explain-

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

ing what it was all about. Her talk (which can be heard in full on the FCC website at http://www. fcchk.org/events/calendar.htm) gave a powerful exposition on what had and had not happened so far on the road toward universal suffrage and where the responsibilities lie for the next steps. “In other words, it will be for the government and people of Hong Kong to determine what changes should be made and when they should be brought into effect,” Chan noted. She asked why constitutional reform has become so bogged down, then gave the answers: people have their hands over their ears, new conditions are set to make the goal recede ever further into the middle distance, “unproductive chicken and egg arguments” about political parties and similar nonsense. “I’m sure many of you here are

familiar with the legend of King Canute, the English king of ancient times who famously sat on his throne by the seashore and tried to command the rising tide to go back. Needless to say, he got his feet very wet! So by analogy, I think a vital first step is for our business elite and those other sectors of the community who feel that they have a vested interest in fending off democracy for as long as possible to face up squarely to the fact that the tide of support for universal suffrage will not be turned back and that seeking to maintain the status quo indefinitely is not an option,” said Chan. Coming just one day after another retired civil servant, Regina Ip, had announced she was going to establish a think tank, Chan’s formation of a core group could have fallen flat. As an international news story, alas, it didn’t quite make it.

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Cover Story

KEES METSELAAR

Domestically, reactions ranged from the “Wow, this is going to shake everything up” end of the spectrum, to “ho hum”. Like all good stories, however, this one requires the next chapter to be written. When a group appears with people in it and the beginning of concrete progress, no doubt it will start to make more sense. The FCC’s hacks could not, of course, resist the temptation to try to draw Chan’s fire on the alleged competition presented to her by Ip’s recent discovery of democracy too. Would her core group become a think tank? Or a political party? And would she ask Regina to join? she was asked. “No I do not intend this to be a think tank in the sense that I do not intend to venture far and wide into all sorts of other issues. I am very clear as to my purpose. I want to concentrate on constitutional reform. I want to try and bring the different forces together to make everybody sit down, express their concerns so we can start addressing these concerns ... and hopefully in that process building trust, cooperation ... and the outcome we all clearly want to see is a package of practical, workable, constitutional proposals, that the people of Hong Kong can live with and which we can persuade the Central Government would be in the best interests of Hong Kong and would not be detrimental to the Central People’s Government,” she said. Chan then demonstrated the best (dare one say, British) way to conquer an opponent: rise above and let excessive politeness mask any hint of patronage. “There are in fact already quite a number of think tanks. Of course if Regina wishes to set up another think tank I think that is to be welcomed. But we need to see exactly what sort of tasks this further think tank is going to be concentrating on, what steps will be taken to protect the integrity and the objectivity of the researches that are going to be carried out, what sort of subject areas are they going to venture into ... I don’t at this moment have any intention of inviting Regina to join my core group. I think she will

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KEES METSELAAR

have her hands full with this new think tank that she’s setting up and I wish her every luck.” It is civilised debate that Mrs Chan wants. And she clearly wants civilised people to work with her. Accidentally or not, lots of her requirements for a future chief executive bore a marked similarity to her requirements for future colleagues in her core group – integrity, brains, commitment. What made her talk useful to anyone following Hong Kong’s political

process is her clear focus on practical, workable steps. “What the Government should be doing is to take action to meet the Basic Law requirement of ‘gradual and orderly progress’ towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage by considering, for example, the following: first, removing the corporate votes in functional constituencies; second, widening the voting base of functional constituencies so that more people can exercise their right to vote for their representatives in the Legisla-

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KEES METSELAAR

tive Council; and three, removing the Government-appointed seats in the District Councils.” Since her lunch at the Club, more debate has emerged, with proposals ranging from those of her predecessor as Chief Secretary, David AkersJones, to various university theses on the theme. She wants serious thought on how to make political parties into functioning organs capable of governance; how to specify and then try to assuage the fears of different sectors of society both in Hong Kong and on the mainland about what democracy might mean; and how to speed up a process which appears to have fallen into the doldrums in the nine years since the handover. She was even-handed with the two areas most needy of introspection – the business elite and the political parties. Democracy is good for business, she said, as is proven around the world. “I’m not seeking to play a role in forming political parties but I do wish to, as it were, stir up awareness particularly among our business com-

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

“I’m not seeking to play a role in forming political parties but I do wish to, as it were, stir up awareness” munity that political parties are here to stay whether they like it or not and so they have a chance of either participating in the political process or in the longer run being pushed to one side ... It has been proven time and again that democracy is not bad for business, on the contrary it is good for business. So I want to be able to address exactly what are the concerns of the business community, and dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that still float around town. “We will get nowhere if we continue to hide behind these myths, or continue to hide behind government doing their work for them.” Ouch. “But I also see that one of the problems is that our political parties also need to get their act together,” Chan added.

Her most interesting historical point was that the British never promised democracy (so presumably cannot be blamed for failing to deliver it?). However, the Chinese have promised it, and so should be called on to deliver. “We are now a part of our own country and our country’s government through Deng Xioaping’s concept of one country two systems promises full suffrage as an ultimate aim and I think it is very natural for the people of Hong Kong to place their trust and faith in the SAR Government and the Central People’s Government carrying out those promises in the Basic Law.” Mildly miffed when asked what took her so long to join the democracy movement, Chan is perhaps simply not a joiner. It seems she wants to carve out a space for herself above the fray of party politics, above the ambitions of the Reginas of this world, above the vested interests she sees all around her. She seems prepared to act as a deus ex machina, coming out of the clouds to knock some heads together and see what sparks. Sounds like fun.

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Speakers

KEES METSELAAR

DIPLOMACY Takes a Back Seat

The publication of a new edition of his latest book proved a good enough reason for the Last Governor to pop out East for another visit. He spoke at a Club Dinner, and before and after dinner, on July 24, reports Vaudine England.

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t needed only Patten’s first few words, when he expressed appreciation for his invite to this “temple of innocence and sobriety” for diners and drinkers at the Club to realise his wit has not deserted him over the years. On being informed that Anson Chan’s lunch had sold out in “nano-seconds” whereas seats for his dinner took half an hour to sell out, he said: “I know my place”. He managed to deprecate his nation, which he clearly loves to bits, by talking about football and noting how England are “terrific on paper but not quite so good on grass”. And when he was discoursing on the state of the

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world, he sparked prolonged clapping and cheering at the downstairs bar when he described life in this century under the Pax Americana as having brought us “such joys and beauties as Vice President Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld”. Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone who has authored a book called Not Quite the Diplomat it was Patten’s barbs which caused greatest glee. He referred to the US Ambassador at the United Nations John Bolton as a person “who some may think is himself a bit of a threat to world peace”. While describing the first half of the last century as “pretty awful” he managed a side swipe at the Japa-

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


KEES METSELAAR

Chris and Lavender Patten with the FCC Board

nese attempts to revise their history text books. “And [it was] pretty miserable for Asia as well, particularly for China which found itself torn apart by civil war and dealing with a terrible Japanese invasion in which the Japanese behaved quite as badly as the history books say even though they now deny it,” he said. He gave face to members of the Club audience, notably Anthony Lawrence, formerly of the BBC, and Clare Hollingworth, whose eye-witness report of German tanks crossing the Polish border heralded “at least the beginning of the end of the first half” of the last century. From gulag and gas chamber through Asia’s traumas to Pax Americana, the history came hot and heavy. Patten reckons things might have, but alas haven’t , improved much. America clearly has its problems and Europe is emasculated despite its fine ideals. “Europe which asserts the importance of multilateralism does all too little to actually make multilaterKEES METSELAAR

With Chris Slaughter and Philip Bowring

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

alism work effectively,” said the former Commissioner for External Relations at the European Union. And, “have America and Europe, has the transatlantic community, really got what’s happening in the world, really understood the way things are changing?” he wondered. “There isn’t a single serious problem in the world that we can tackle without India and China,” he noted. What with rising protectionism with new twists – such as the outsourcing of white not blue collar jobs – and the twin deficits of the US, Patten wryly described himself as “Mr Cheerful”. The best news, he thought, was that he was going to France on holiday within days (and indeed the best claps came for his wife Lavender, when she left, mid-anecdote, to catch a plane to France ahead of him). But back to the barbs, which got better when the questions, inevitably, turned to democracy in Hong Kong, or the lack of it. Hong Kong, he said, is “the only example anybody can ever think of, of a free society or a largely free society, which isn’t democratic. You know, do any of us really think that Singapore is more free than Hong Kong?” Was this a sly dig at Donald Tsang who had just returned from that island-state saying there was much to learn from it? Hong Kong, he said, “doesn’t have participative government and it self-evidently should have. How can you say , I mean I read some jerk saying this again the other day, how can you say Hong Kong isn’t ready for it yet. In what sense is Hong Kong not ready but Indonesia is ready? Or Malaysia is ready? Or the Philippines is ready? I mean it’s, it’s complete nonsense.” As for current efforts to introduce a sales tax in Hong Kong, Patten did try to be gentle. “I do wish him [Financial Secretary Henry Tang] well

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Speakers

KEES METSELAAR

in persuading legislators and the business community and the rest of the community that a sales tax would be a good idea. It doesn’t seem to me, just reading the press for three or four days, that he’s entirely got public opinion on his side, but maybe I’ve been misadvised. I do think that it’s always more difficult to do unpopular things if you don’t have a democracy than if you have a democracy.” After dealing with a three-minute long question about learning Mandarin, Patten approached the lyrical, or at least the botanical, in explaining what he thinks is necessary for Hong Kong to get democracy. “I better be careful how I answer this but it seems to me that there’s never going to be a deal in which there is an aspiration but no timetable. I think it’s very difficult to have a deal in which there is an ambition but not a calendar, so my own guess is that the sine qua none, the absolute criterion of a deal, is inevitably going to be, as it would have been with the Democrats and the last colonial power, a commitment to full democracy by a given date. And I can’t see what else anybody would ever find as acceptable. “If you tell people you’re in favour in democracy but like virtue, not yet, maybe next week maybe next year, KEES METSELAAR

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Right: Signing the FCC Guestbook

KEES METSELAAR

maybe when the swallows come, um, people aren’t going to buy that,” said Patten. As for suggestions that Patten’s former chief secretary and now democracy campaigner Anson Chan only found her democratic verve after he left town and she left government, his answer was pretty clear: “No”. His answer to Emily Lau who wondered how Britain could have gone to war for the Falklands but given Hong Kong so little, was more discursive and the barbs went straight back home. “First of all, there were convenient shoe shiners when the Brits were colonial masters, people who said don’t take any notice of these people who talking about democracy... That was patronising and it was increasingly wrong... “Secondly I think that we took as convenience the handover in 1997. And it was particularly true of the Foreign oOfice rather than the Colonial Office. We took the view that, well, there was a bigger game to play here, that the Chinese wouldn’t like it if we started introducing democracy, that they might think it was the first step towards trying to make Hong Kong independent so better not go down that road. So we trundled along until the Joint Declaration and then we KEES METSELAAR

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


KEES METSELAAR

signed things in the Joint Declaration and then some people tried to reinterpret them, so progress towards democracy didn’t really mean progress toward democracy, it meant progress but never democracy. “So it’s not, as I’ve argued, in my judgement the most glorious page in my own country’s history though I think we did plenty here in Hong Kong that was good and that was decent. I don’t believe Britain’s role in China in the nineteenth century was a very noble one either but that’s a different matter.” The point now, said Patten, is that the Joint Declaration requires Britain to keep an active, watching brief to make sure the promises made to Hong Kong are kept. And somehow that reminded him of his visit to a Hong Kong mental hospital. “I’m walking through a hospital, a very bad hospital which we did a good deal to improve. Each ward has a cage around it, a caged garden and there are people standing up against the rails watching me go past, heavily medicated. There’s one guy who’s rattling the bars of the cage. saying very insistently, I remember he was wearing a three-piece suit on a day like this, saying very insistently, Governor Governor, Your Excellency Your Excellency, could I ask you a question. So rather against the advice of my bodyguards and private secretaries I walk across to the cage. And he says to me, Governor can you answer me one question: why is it that a great parliamentary democracy like the United Kingdom is handing its last colony over to China which is not a democracy without consulting the people? And while I never thought that there was any question of anything other than 1997 and the handover taking place I did sometimes muse on the fact that they sanest man in Hong Kong was in a mental hospital.” A few comments on dim and dangerous media bar-

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

KEES METSELAAR

ons later, and it was back to the barbs again, when he was asked if his presence here might not be an unhelpful throwback to colonial times. “Short of not ever coming to Hong Kong again, short of, on my next visit, kissing childrens’ stomachs, giving shoulder rubs, behaving as a sort of international towel flicker, short of, short of that, I’m not entirely sure that I know what I can do to diminish my credentials as somebody who has a certain view about the best way in which Hong Kong might be run. “Nobody I think can argue, whether I was right or wrong, that I didn’t try to do my best for Hong Kong, and nobody can find a single scintilla of a sentence since I’ve left Hong Kong which has been other than supportive. Maybe that’s one reason, as well as the lack of childrens’ stomach-kissing, why people still turn out in large numbers, as I’m glad they do, to see me and buy my book.” The Last Governor then proved he is a man of the people by carrying on drinking in the Main Bar. KEES METSELAAR

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Region

Dissident in

Cyberspace

PATRICK DUNNE

Aung San Suu Kyi, the word’s most famous political prisoner, now has a MySpace.com web page, created by a Washington DC organisation which hopes Internet activists will join the campaign to free her from house arrest in Rangoon and donate money. Richard S. Ehrlich reports.

“F

emale, 61 years old. Status: Single,” says Suu Kyi’s introduction on MySpace, next to her colour photo. The Burmese widow’s British husband died several years ago, leaving their two sons to grow up overseas while she has languished for 11 of

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the past 16 years under house arrest in Burma (Myanmar). “Religion: Buddhist. Zodiac Sign: Gemini. Smoke / Drink: No / No. Children: Proud parent. Education: College graduate,” her page adds, along with other personal data.

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Freedom Campaign established her MySpace page so a relatively young, hip, cyber-active audience can learn more about the Nobel Peace laureate, and pressure the military regime to allow democracy in the impoverished, isolated, Buddhist-majority Southeast Asian country. The site was designed by a San Francisco Bay area company, Bass Web Design, which has worked for the satirical animated television series South Park, among other clients. In her “About me” section, Suu Kyi was described as a heroine, but the word was apparently misspelled, making her sound a bit druggy. “In an increasingly jaded world of political apathy and power-hungry institutions, Aung San Suu Kyi is truly that rare heroin of legend – a symbol of hope – championing the rights of individuals in the face of human rights violations and dictatorial oppression.” MySpace is a free, extremely popular, web site which invites people to create and link uninhibited, personalised pages – including photographs and other information – and write spontaneous “comments”. Suu Kyi’s MySpace page is already a success among more than 160 people who were asked, or inspired, to become her “friends” and link her to their own MySpace pages. For example, Suu Kyi now has an online “friend” coyly named “no commercial potential”, who commented: “Thank you for adding me and thank you for making this page. She is in my heroes list. Burma – no oil there, hence the West didn’t go in. Typical and sad. Pleased to meet you.” One click on “no commercial potential” connects to a MySpace site revealing that person is British, concerned about UFOs, and convinced that President George W. Bush is an “extreme neo-conservative, murderer”, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair is an “extreme brown nose, murderer”. The Brit’s page also displays a news photo of hooded Iraqis in a naked pile being abused by Americans in Abu Ghraib prison, a traffic sign defaced to

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read “STOP BUSH”, a woman wearing an “Impeach Bush” T-shirt, and a fake photo of Bush holding a sign that says: “Will Kill for Oil”. Back on Suu Kyi’s page, an ethnic “Asian” mother named Bunny Ninja, in Big Bear City, California, commented that Suu Kyi’s life was “such an inspiring story – can’t wait to see the

the United Nations to intervene in Burma so Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party can take power. In 1990, during Burma’s last election, Suu Kyi’s NLD won more than 80 percent of parliament’s seats. The ruling military ignored the poll results, and has harassed NLD members ever

Freedom Campaign established her MySpace page so a relatively young, hip, cyber-active audience can learn more about the Nobel Peace laureate, and pressure the military regime to allow democracy in the impoverished, isolated, Buddhist-majority Southeast Asian country. film.” She was referring to Freedom Campaign’s announcement about an upcoming music video, Unplayed Piano by Damien Rice, plus footage from performances by Swiss Chris at the Blue Note Jazz Club and CBGB’s in New York City, dedicated to Suu Kyi. Wendy, 28, in Brooklyn, New York, commented that Suu Kyi was “an amazing woman and more people need to know her name.” Wendy’s MySpace confessed: “I’d like to meet: friends, white people, black people, Chinese, Japanese, hookers, strippers, midgets, dwarfs, hustlers, liars, saints, psychos, homeless, muppets, puppets, dogs & cats, cartoons, celebrities – pretty much anyone that will say ‘hello’ to me.” The page, www.myspace.com/thefreedomcampaign, displays Suu Kyi’s page and links to Freedom Campaign’s web site which asks viewers for tax deductible donations, “to raise awareness for Aung San Suu Kyi.” Freedom Campaign said it was a non-profit organisation incorporated in 1993, and a joint effort between the Human Rights Action Center and US Campaign for Burma. The campaign also wants MySpace viewers to “sign the UN Security Council petition for Burma.” The petition – which the Bush administration also favours – calls on

since, resulting in widespread arrests, abuse, and some deaths in prison of NLD members, according to human rights groups. Burma’s military regime is one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights, according to London-based Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch in New York, the US State Department and other monitors. “The military regime ruling Burma continues to rape, imprison, torture, enslave, and murder its own people,” Suu Kyi’s page says. “Burma, a country rich with natural resources and beautiful pagodas, is home to 1,200 political prisoners and more child soldiers than any other country in the world. It has a proud and dignified history, yet today lives in fear.” Governed by the military since 1962, Burma consistently denies all such reports and allegations, and insists Suu Kyi must be restrained because she is secretly working with Washington to destabilise the country, so foreigners can exploit it. Internet use is forbidden to most Burmese, and the media is controlled by the regime, so Suu Kyi’s MySpace page is mostly for people outside the hermit nation. Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based correspondent. His website is: http:// www.geocities.com/asia_correspondent

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Debate

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here does freedom of expression start and/or end? Would the FCC give, for example, holocaust denier David Irving (currently imprisoned in Austria) a platform to speak? Over the years, the Club has been criticised for its guest list, and indeed been subjected to considerable pressure to withdraw invitations. In the past it has refused to bend to demands, for example, to cancel a showing of a film about the 1989 Tiananmen massacre that annoyed the Beijing authorities. A magazine cover displayed on the wall of the Main Bar showing bare-breasted Polynesian women provoked a long-running row about exploitation of women – and a large bill for replacing said cover which went “missing” more than once at the hands of protagonists from both sides of the fence. This latest debate concerns a speaker’s function in June by Gavin Menzies, a former British Naval Officer who wrote a controversial book claiming that Ming China naval explorers discovered the New World. The controversy has taken on a tilt not seen since Erich von Daniken’s 1968 book, Chariots of the Gods, posited that

Dr Wade’s letter: “I have recently been concerned to hear that Mr Gavin Menzies has been invited to speak on the Club’s premises on 16 June (2006). I find this a saddening comment on the Committee which approved such provision, and urge you to reconsider such if the reputation of the Club is to not be besmirched. As you will probably be aware, Mr Gavin Menzies is the author of 1421: the Year China Discovered the World (or 1421: the Year China Discovered America in the US edition). This claims that Chinese mariners circumnavigated the world, reaching the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, the South Pole and so on. The work is completely without any academic merit and it has been roundly condemned as fiction by every scholar who has bothered to comment on it. A few examples of the reviews can be found here: ◆ http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ jwh/15.2/finlay.html ◆ http://thehallofmaat.com/modules.php?name=Articl es&file=article&sid=91

14

aliens from outer space brought arts and science, including the engineering knowledge behind pyramid-building, to prehistoric man. Like von Daniken, Menzies proffers ancient artefacts to bolster his case. As in von Daniken’s case, the physical evidence has failed to impress academics, many of whom have labelled him a charlatan. This begs the question: should he have been allowed to speak or not? Are his views, no matter how preposterous to the mainstream listener, so dangerous that he should be suppressed? Are FCC members so dumb that they need someone else to protect their ears? Or is it more prosaic than that? Is there a real danger that a guest appearance at the FCC can be translated into some form of endorsement? Does that mean the FCC’s name is at risk of being hijacked by any guest? Should we take a safe line? Particularly if the guest in question is known to be quick to take to the courts over perceived slights? Former Hong Kong-based academic Geoff Wade, now a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, wrote to the Board urging members not to permit Menzies to speak. We publish extracts from his argument below and invite all FCC members to contribute to the debate. A forum has been set up at www.fcchk.org/forums/ for responses.

◆ http://www.kenspy.com/Menzies/review2.html ◆ http://www.kenspy.com/Menzies/review1.html Failing to please the critics is indeed no crime, and opinions will certainly differ greatly on any issue. However, the basis on which the book was produced is of great concern to many. The so-called evidence Mr Menzies proffers is entirely fabricated. The voyages did not and could not have taken place, and the “evidence” provided was fabricated to suggest that they did. Specific fabrications are detailed here: ◆ http://www.maritimeasia.ws/topic/1421bunkum. html This intentional creation of “evidence” has marked all of the actions and claims of Mr Menzies since he published 1421. A range of further lies and fabrications, and scholarly reactions to them, can be found here: ◆ http://www.danbyrnes.com.au/lostworlds/articles/ issues.htm

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


The claims made, all on the basis of ongoing fabrication of materials, have become continuously more ludicrous (or offensive) in order to attract more attention. Unfounded claims of Chinese shipwrecks evolved into claims that Chinese scholars did not know anything about their past. His claims of global circumnavigation by Chinese mariners in 1421 evolved into assertion of Tang dynasty Chinese settlement of New Zealand, and that the Chinese settlers were eventually killed by invading Maoris. The harm such intentional fabrication and myth-making can give rise to need not be further described. A recent example can be seen in New Zealand where Mr. Menzies’ claims are being used to question the indigeneity of the Maoris: ◆ http://www.nzcpd.com/weekly15.htm Mr Menzies is today also a pariah within China, first because of his fictionalising of the Chinese past, which has resulted in many people outside China now calling into question the entirety of the voyages of Zheng He and his commanders, and second because of his collective and repeated denigration of Chinese scholars. His only apparent ally in China is Mr Liu Gang, a map collector who has recently unveiled a map which is supposedly a copy of a 1418 map proving Mr Menzies’ claims of Ming voyages around the world. Chinese scholars of cartography have identified 20 errors and dismissed it as a child-like fake. Mr Menzies continues to assert its veracity as it was created to endorse his theories. This is just the latest in the long line of “creative” evidence production. For this, see: ◆ http://www.1421exposed.com/html/wade_challenge. html Added to this is the way in which Mr Menzies treats his critics, which is equally appalling. His method of response is not debate or discussion. Rather, it begins with innuendo and abuse, and often ends with his threatening such critics (and frequently their employing institutions) with legal suits. It is not without reason that he is named on a British list of vexatious litigants: ◆ http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse. pl?trx=vx&list=H-Asia&month=0511&week=b&msg=hV Rc3WWmNX16pLh5x9w8iQ&user=&pw=

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

15


Debate

So, how should one react to persons who intentionally deceive the public for the purpose of personal and financial gain? When I grew up we called such people charlatans or snake-oil salesmen. I don’t think that times or methods have changed sufficiently to warrant a new name. The willingness to cheat the public through creation of “evidence”, the manufacturing of “issues” to further book sales regardless of the social consequences of those claims, and the appeal to visceral instincts in order to gain more press and sales are reasons sufficient to question why such an august body as your own should have chosen to have allowed Mr Menzies to speak on its premises. The question then arises as to why you have chosen to associate the FCC’s excellent reputation with a charlatan. Would you provide an opportunity for David Irving, for example, to propound his ideas at the Club? The analogy is not far distant. Even if the event is a private one and the FCC is simply providing a venue, there must be some concern shown over allowing serial deceivers of the public to use your facilities. The issue that faces us is not simply one of whether we should provide the man a forum under the general rubric of “freedom of expression”. Mr Menzies has a website (http://www.1421.tv/) through which he can reach the world and to which anyone who wants to read his views can log on. Rather, it is a question as to whether august institutions responsible for educating rather than deceiving the public, should be making their name and their venues available to people who are not deserving of such. Having Mr Menzies speak at your Club will not amount to endorsing his theories, but you will be allowing him to exploit the good name of the FCC. He has done this throughout the world, hiring a hall at the Royal Geographical Society in order to claim that he had “spoken at the RGS”, having a lecturer at Stanford University invite him to speak to his class so that he could claim to “have lectured at Stanford” and so on ad nauseam. The name of the FCC will soon be added to such a list. I urge you to reconsider provision of facilities to Mr Menzies on this basis. This is written in my capacities as an historian of Ming China and a socially engaged citizen, and does not reflect in any way the views or opinions of my employing institution.

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THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


Photography

Then

Now

The Changing Face of Central Both these photographs were taken of the same spot in Pedder Street by Bob Davis. The picture of the Hong Kong Cricket Club’s pitch dates back to1973. Chater Garden replaced the pitch when the Cricket Club moved to Wong Nai Chung Gap. The lower photograph was taken in July 2006. © Bob Davis.

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

17


Technology

Scoping Out

Skype Is the free telephony system Skype as good as its fans make out or just another hyped application attractive mostly to gabby teenagers? Patrick Dunne looks at the pros and cons.

W

hat’s part computer, part telephone and rhymes with hype? Skype, of course, and if you believe the communication company’s latest claim of near-world domination, 100 million people have downloaded their free software and millions use it every second of every day. (How do I know this? The number of users logged on to the system is proudly displayed at the bottom of the application window.) So what does it do exactly? Skype is software that allows two people with broadband internet connections to talk for free as long as they want. It doesn’t matter where they are on the planet, the price is still the same: zero. It’s a scenario that must send shivers down telecom executives’ spines as they struggle to compete with a service that is being gamely given away at the rate of 130,000 to 200,000 downloads per day. Skype is far from perfect. Sound often has a hollow, submarine-like timbre and sometimes cuts out entirely. But it works well enough that I use it for extended periods every day. Some connections always work perfectly, others are more problematic. For example, I had a miserable time talking to a friend who was hijacking a free wireless connection in his Dublin hotel room. We went through many comical and frustrating attempts to communicate, with my pal moving about the room in search of the sweet spot of wireless

18

connectivity. We never managed to elevate the conversation past a disjointed screaming match, eventually reverting to a primitive e-mail exchange. Other connections are better than regular landlines each and every time. It’s been nearly a year now since I started my Skype addiction. It began when I convinced my business partner in Portland, Oregon, that free was a better deal than the ultra-cheap long-distance cards he used. Now it’s an essential part of our daily routine. We spend our working day chatting as if we were sitting in the next cubicle rather than hundreds of miles apart. If another call comes in by cell phone we cut the connection and pick up our conversation right where we left off a few minutes later. The program requires a sound card on your computer with headphones and microphone attached. With my desktop PC I use a telemarketing-style headset that made me feel a bit silly until I real-

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


ized I could continue typing without the awkward feeling of a traditional telephone pinned between ear and shoulder. With my Macintosh laptop, I use stereo earphones and rely upon the built-in microphone to pick up my voice. It’s possible not to use headphones but the microphone picks up the sound of the speaker’s voice and sends it right back creating an unbearable echo. If you prefer to take the old school approach, you can buy a USB telephone handset from Skype for US$60 that works like a regular telephone (functionality is limited on the Macintosh OS). The main drawback to the free version of Skype is that you can only talk to people who have the application installed on their computer as well. The company’s SkypeOut service enables you to connect to people on regular phones. SkypeOut costs as little as 0.017 euros per minute to North American cities. This is a highly competitive rate for long-distance calls but compares poorly with the free local service for land lines. In North America, Skype is giving away the SkypeOut service for calls within the US and Canada until the end of 2006 but the company hasn’t revealed any plans to do the same in Hong Kong. Skype is jampacked with other free features, including: video calls, group chats, conference calls and call forwarding to other Skype accounts. I haven’t bothered with the video call option since an earlier encounter with the Macintosh version of video proved relatively underwhelming. Oh, it worked fine, it’s just that after the novelty value of video calls wore off, I didn’t really want to see or be seen during conversations. After all, multitasking might just seem a bit rude to some people. The chat feature is useful, especially when you’re having a bad connection day and need to type in one last vital sentence before ending the

conversation. Luckily, this doesn’t happen all that often. Skype has proven to be exceptionally popular in China, which now ranks as one of the largest user groups in the world. But the company’s success in China prompted China Telecom to block the service’s usage in some regions, primarily Shenzhen. Skype ended up joining an illustrious group of companies (including AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Cisco) that cooperated with the Chinese government by putting in place an Internet censorship system. Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom said the company’s joint-venture partner in China, Tom Online, was operating in compliance with domestic law. “Tom Online had implemented a text filter, which is what everyone else in that market is doing,” Zennstrom said. “I may not like the laws and regulations to operate businesses in the UK or Germany or the US, but if I do business there I choose to comply with those laws and regulations. I can try to lobby to change them, but I need to comply with them. China in that way is not different.” In the end, Skype is back up and running in China with the user group still growing at a phenomenal pace. I’ve placed calls to computers in China without any hiccups at all, so whatever form of censorship is in place it’s not noticeably affecting voice connections. During office hours, my Skype usage accounts for about 80 percent of my telephone calls. The remaining share constitutes received mobile phone calls. One of the best features of Skype is the ability to keep a list of contacts in the software. Once contact information is input, calls are placed by scrolling down the list of entries and double-clicking on the person you wish to talk to. Skype works equally well on PCs and Macs. A Linux version is also available but I haven’t test-driven it yet. The software can be downloaded from www.skype.com.

Skype is far from perfect. Sound quality often has a hollow, submarinelike timbre

PATRICK DUNNE

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

19


Politics

East or West? 20

That is the Question for Turkey THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


in a way America cannot, because no Muslim nation can ever become a US state. EU membership, however, also depends on a solution to problems raised by the minority Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). The secessionist guerillas have been waging a bloody war for more than 20 years. More than 30,000 rapid modernisation when we join the people have perished on all sides. others and become more like them. The EU is also observing how “It will be good because we will Islamist extremists, often through have a better chance to import and random terrorist attacks, are influencexport.” ing Turkey’s government, described as Supporters of EU expansion claim “moderate Islamist”. Europe can win friends throughMany Americans, Europeans and out the Islamic world by using the others, meanwhile, find this coun“soft power” of generously accepting try safe and friendly. For example in Muslim-majority Turkey. It would also Goreme, in the heart of Turkey 750 extend Europe’s influence to Turkey’s kilometres south east of Istanbul, frontiers with Iran, Iraq and Syria. two blonde teenage girls confidently EU expansionists compare this with shopped for souvenirs in a sleepy the “hard power” America brandishes street market wearing sweatshirts through its worldwide war against emblazoned: “Incirlik High School Islamist insurgents, and Washington’s Class of ‘08”. liquidating, caging or monitoring anyIncirlik American High School, for one perceived as suspicious. US Defense Department dependants Embracing Turkey in the EU, sup- and others, is located at Incirlik Air porters say, would be a unique meth- Base, a key NATO base and home to od of allaying fears of discrimination the US Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing among many of the world’s Muslims in southern Turkey. “While there is no specific RICHARD EHRLICH targeting of US personnel or resources in Turkey, there are active terrorist groups throughout the country,” wrote Lori B. Alves, 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs officer, on the Incirlik Air Base’s website. “A notable example of this was in the summer of 2005, when a bomb threat was received regarding a beach where Americans frequently visited.” After an investigation, it was concluded that “two terrorists were killed when the bomb prematurely went off,” Alves said. “Although terrorist activity was greater in the cities of

Turks have mixed feelings about joining the European Union, reports Richard S. Ehrlich from Istanbul.

RICHARD EHRLICH

“T

en or 15 years ago, we had Romanian girls in Istanbul selling their bodies as prostitutes,” said Hassan, an office worker in Istanbul’s old Sultan Ahmet neighbourhood. “You remember those days?” he asked his colleague, Rasheed, who snickered at the memory. “Now Romania can join the EU ahead of Turkey,” Hassan lamented. “Why? “I don’t believe Romania, or even Bulgaria, are something better than Turkey. They are also nice countries. But it is only because Turkey is Muslim that the EU treats us like this.” Schizoid Turkey, physically split between Europe and Asia by the Bosphorus Strait, flaunts a bizarre response to such cynical outbursts. At Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, atop a stone entrance, the European Union’s flag with its circle of yellow stars, flaps alongside Turkey’s Islam-inspired flag with its white crescent moon and white star on a red background. The isolated pair of snapping flags may give the false impression that Turkey is a full EU member. But rueful Turks express confusion over the hoops their nation still needs to go through to join the grouping. “I am not sure if it will be good, or bad, to join the EU,” said a Turkish chemical engineer from the capital, Ankara, dining with his librarian wife. “It will be bad because we will lose much of our culture in the

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

21


Politics

Istanbul and Mersin in 2005, there were 65 incidents of terrorism in the city of Adana [near Incirlik], according to Turkish National Police data,” the Incirlik officer said. Turkey was one of several nations which helped the CIA “in the unlawful practice of renditions” for secret flights of Islamist suspects, according to London-based Amnesty International. Turkey earlier allowed Americans to use its territory in hair-trigger brinkmanship against the Soviet Union. Incirlik launched the U-2 espionage plane flown by Francis Gary Powers over Soviet airspace, which was shot down by the Russians in 1960, resulting in the pilot’s imprisonment for 21 months as a CIA spy. Turkey also hosted America’s nuclear Jupiter missiles until 1961 when the near-apocalyptic “Cuban missile crisis” forced Washington to yank its Jupiters from Turkey in exchange for the Russians removing their missiles from Cuba. While the American High School teenagers shopped alongside their family – including two men with blonde buzzcut hair – several Turkish men pointed and chuckled. When gossip turned to Turkey’s EU membership, their mood was less cheerful. “The EU won’t happen, that’s definite,” insisted businessman Mehmet Dasdeler while watching the teens inspect woven cloth illustrated with Whirling Dervishes. “America is [governed by] a Christian religious party. England is becoming a Christian religious party. The EU will never accept Turkey because Christians are getting closer together, deciding to help each other. And Muslims are getting closer to help each other. “Also, Turkey is a very young country, but Europe is old and retired already, so I would have to work and pay

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RICHARD EHRLICH

Turkey is a very young country, but Europe is old and retired already, so I would have to work and pay tax to them, to fund retirement and other benefits for elderly Europeans. – MEHMET DASDELER, businessman tax to them,” to fund retirement and other benefits for elderly Europeans. “Turkey has a big population. The EU is getting many countries from East Europe, but they do not have the population of Turkey. Remember, whoever has more population, has more power in the EU,” Dasdeler said. Turkey’s 73 million people are governed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party. Erdogan favours EU membership and endorses a secular regime, though he was imprisoned for several months

for reading an Islamist poem at a political rally. Turkey’s other vulnerability is its bloody massacre of Armenians – mostly Christians – at the end of the Ottoman Empire 90 years ago, which some historians describe as genocide. Erdogan expressed dismay in May about the draft of a proposed French law which would make it a crime – punishable by a year in jail, plus a US$57,000 fine – to deny Turks massacred up to 1.5 million Armenians. Many of the Armenians died in 1915 during forced “resettlement” deportation death marches. When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently described the killings as genocide, Erdogan ordered Turkey’s pull-out from NATO’s military manoeuvres in Canada. Germany’s Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, viewed the aftermath of the Turks’ slaughter of Armenians as proof that the world forgets atrocities. According to historians, Hitler told his army commanders in 1939: “Thus for the time being, I have sent to the east only my Death’s Head Units, with orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays about the Armenians?” Some Turks, however, insist their country is being singled out while other nations avoid similar censure. “The West keeps talking about how Turkey killed the Armenians. They should give up on this subject,” Dasdeler said after the girls from Incirlik passed. “We never talk about what happened to the American Indians. We don’t bring this subject up again and again.” Ehrlich’s website is http://www.geocities.com/asia_correspondent

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


STEVE KNIPP

A son of ‘Great Satan’ visits the ‘Axis of Evil’ Absent member Steve Knipp was bowled over by the friendly reception he received in Iran during a press trip earlier this year.

T

he message blinking on my voice mail was brief but thrilling. “Hey Steve, wanna go to

Iran?” The caller was a Russian contact at the United Nations. Alla was leading a gaggle of international reporters to several Iranian cities in late May. She was willing to extend a formal UN invitation to the Islamic Republic of Iran to me – if I was willing to apply for my journalist’s visa with a US passport. Over the years I’d spent a considerable time in places where America was not popular. In the bad old days, this

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

was Russia, China and Vietnam; more recently I’d been to such human rights black holes as Uzbekistan and North Korea. Then there were just the slightly dicey destinations: Israel, Jordan, Mindanao in the southern Philippines, Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland. None of those ever gave me pause. But I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t admit being slightly uneasy about the idea of being in Iran at this point in time. America and Iran haven’t had diplomatic relations for 27 years, ever since students in Tehran seized 66 American diplomats inside the US embassy and

STEVE KNIPP

Top: Knipp with his new friends; Above: An Iranian Marlon Brando fan

23


Travel

held them for 14 months. Three decades on, neither nation has an embassy in the other’s capital. America still holds millions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets, and George Bush is so upset about Iran’s plan to develop nuclear power that he has threatened to attack them for doing so. The next day, my arrival at a room marked the “Iranian Interests Section” (which is claimed to be part of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington but is actually located miles from the embassy) didn’t settle my mind. Inside were a dozen Iranian-Americans balefully waiting for their own visas. As they waited, they gazed at videos on the largest plasma television I had ever seen. On the enormous screen was the classic image that most Americans have of Iran: A bearded red-faced mullah in a sweat-stained turban wagging a bony finger at a stadium of young people. For what, I don’t know. Maybe they’d been caught drinking a Coke, or worse – holding hands. Four days later, visa in hand, I boarded an Air France flight from Washington to Tehran via Paris. It was there that I met my international colleagues arriving from different points: a German, a Brit, a Spanish photojournalist, a Russian, a Chinese and a Korean. I was the only Yank. What took place over the next fortnight absolutely astonished me. Everywhere I went, from the trafficchoked streets of Tehran in the north to the desert town of Yazd in the south, to the elegant cultural capitals of Isfahan and Shiraz, I was overwhelmed at the wonderful warmth and – dare I say it – the sheer pro-Americanism of the people I met. Initially, when Iranians asked me where I was from, I’d suggest they guess. But when this game proved too time consuming — no one ever deduced correctly — I would simply mumble “American”. And then their faces would light up. For better or worse, Iranians seem to be the last of Earth’s fans of American culture – its films (the Academy Award winning film Crash was a favourite), its food, its music, its open free-wheeling society.

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STEVE KNIPP

Above: enjoying a school field trip. STEVE KNIPP

How ironic is it that while so much of the rest of the world seems to be holding its nose at Americans, in Iran, the place that the Bush White House willfully branded as a part of the “Axis of Evil”, people actually crossed the street to shake an American hand and welcome me to their country. In a small stall in the bazaar in Isfahan, for example, I was nonchalantly eyeing some carpets while a young rug merchant looked on sleepily. But when I answered his casually asked question as to my country of birth he suddenly became as energetic as an eight-year-old awaiting an ice cream truck, and immediately launched into virtual love sonnet to all things Hollywood. “Do you agree,”

he pressed me, “that Marlon Brando was the greatest actor in the world?” Indeed he was, I granted, slowly edging towards the exit. But he beckoned me back, and quickly reached under his desk, pulling out a large paperback which turned out to be an exceedingly well-leafed Brando biography… in Persian. As the Brando fan turned the pages with gentle reverence, he gestured at specific photos of the Great Man. Here Mutiny on the Bounty, there On the Waterfront… Then, holding his hand up a halting gesture, he took a deep breath to compose himself and broke into his own obviously painstakinglypracticed impersonation of Brando… doing Don Corleone. “Ya come to meee

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


on dese de day of ma daughter’s wadding…” It was the worst Brando impersonation I’ve ever witnessed, but surely the most heartfelt. Seventy percent of Iran’s 69 million people are under 30, and so have no memory of the Shah, or the taking of the US hostages, and even less interest in the past And, to me at least, few of them seemed wholly happy with their own government. I seriously doubt that if Iran had opinion polls that President Ahmadinejad’s ratings would be any higher than those of George W. Bush. Another Iranian irony. Many people did voice fears of what President Bush might do next. Some were frightened of being attacked. But others were concerned about what effects US economic sanctions might have on an economy that is already badly managed by mullahs. Yet there was never any sense of hatred or fury towards Bush, as is now quite common in the US. For some reason, which I can’t quite explain, Iranians seem to be readily willing to separate in their minds the difference between the American people, and America as a nation and a US government stance that they strongly oppose. Everywhere I went, however, Iranians, from high school students to middle-aged taxi drivers, repeatedly asked me: “Why does America call us Evil Axis?” Then they would indignantly declare: “We are good people – we are Persians! Iran is a good country, some are bad, but most people here are good...” A proud people, they seemed genuinely wounded by the political rhetoric of the White House. When told I was a reporter, some college students specifically asked me to tell my American compatriots that: “We are not Saudi Arabia. We are not Iraq. We are not Yemen. Please tell them we are not the same as these places!” Islam came late to Persia, a land which boasted a rich and full civilisation long before the Arab invaders swept in from the west. During my weeks in-country I got the distinct impression that while Iranians do admire

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

STEVE KNIPP

STEVE KNIPP

STEVE KNIPP

The faces of Iran Islam’s sense of discipline and are genuinely grateful for the amazing art and brilliant architecture that were its gifts, younger Iranians have little interest in its rigid dogma and social intolerance. What astonished me the most about Iran, however, were the women. I met and spoke to scores of them from all parts of the country. And everywhere they were wonderful: vivid, and alert, bright, bold, intelligent, amazingly articulate in several languages beyond their own, politically astute and auda-

ciously outward looking. While some men demurred, the women were not afraid to voice opinions about anything under the sun. What’s more, unlike in other Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia or Yemen, they can work and drive and vote, own property, or businesses, run for political office and seek a divorce. The majority of Iran’s university graduates are women. But, socially, Iran’s women still live under heavy Islamic edicts: they must wear the hijab whenever leaving the house; they cannot normally associate with any male not their father, brother or son, nor shake hands with a man. Despite these restrictions they manage to remain utterly and charmingly feminine. Often busting with girlish glee, they are clearly keen on bright lipsticks and nail polish, and fond of stylish eye shadow. And they have a passion for buying imported handbags and shoes, despite having to save up for over many months, I was told by one pretty co-ed. It’s the women of Iran who giveme hope that this once noble nation will one day return to its gracious roots. Most of the young people I spoke with insist that change is coming. But I was advised that the world must be patient as the mullahs are not keen to give up power, and it will take time to wrest it from them. On my last night in Iran, as I waited to board my 1am flight back to Paris, a little boy named Ali queued up behind me with his father and elderly grandmother. The old woman, dressed in black, was clearly distressed at the thought of Ali’s departure. Teary eyed, she smothered him in kisses. I handed them sticks of cinnamon gum and snapped their picture. At this the old woman pulled Ali close and whispered in his ear. Ali’s face lit up and he excitedly shook his head in agreement. Walking up to me while his grandma proudly beamed behind him, he introduced himself in halting English, cheerfully shook my hand and said: “We can be friends, okay?” “Absolutely!” I replied.

25


Books

The

Sinking Laconia of the

Following reviews of two accounts of World War II cover-ups of Allied maritime tragedies in the previous edition of this magazine, Angelo Paratico, Correspondent for Rome-based Secolo dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Italia, reviews a third. The difference is the victims were Axis POWs.

26

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


I

n the May/June issue of the Club magazine I found a very interesting review of two books, The Sinking of the Lancastria by Jonathan Fenby and the Sinking of the Lisbon Maru by Tony Banham. I would like to add a few words about the Sinking of the Laconia by Frederick Grossmith. This story is retold in his book published in 1994. This is surely the best and most complete book ever printed on this subject even if there are more details that have yet to come to light. The author is the son a seamen who had served aboard the ship, but who was transferred just before its last voyage. I am personally interested in this tragedy because the victims were mostly Italians, and the villains in this case were British and Americans, not Japanese or Germans. The British ship Laconia was sunk by a German U-boat near the island of Ascension on Saturday, 12 September 1942. She was a huge ship, a 20,000-ton luxury transatlantic cruise ship built by Cunard in 1922. She had been requisitioned and armed by the Admiralty in 1939. When she was attacked she was carrying 486 crew, 286 British and 103 Polish soldiers, 80 British women and children, plus 1,793 Italian prisoners of war (POWs) captured in Libya who were being transferred to Britain via Suez, with 90 of their women and children. Werner Hartenstein, commander of the U-156, had stalked her since early in the morning of her final day. When he got within periscope range he was reassured that this was indeed a military target. Laconia was equipped with two 4.7-inch naval guns, six 1-1/2-inch anti-aircraft guns, four Bofors and two two-inch rocketlaunchers. The British flag was flying and she was zig-zagging during daylight hours. At night she had steamed at full speed ahead with lights off. Captain Rudolph Sharp, commander of the Laconia, had made the mistake of not reducing the huge emissions of smoke through the funnel, which made his ship a very noticeable

and no evacuation drill was ever made. So when the emergency came, nobody knew what to do. Two torpedoes hit the Laconia just after 8 pm and all hell broke loose immediately. The ship appeared to have been mortally wounded and was doomed. At 8:20 pm, a Lieutenant. Tillie ordered the Laconia crew to “stand down” and then he said: “Look after yourselves, lads!” The Italian prisoners locked behind iron gates below deck were forgotten. Only 400 managed to break free and reach the surface. Some of the remainder, seeing no way out, tried to kill themselves by beating their heads against the iron bulkheads. Some 1,400 of them now lie at the bottom of the ocean. What surprises me most today – and I don’t know if it is so because I am Italian or because I am human – is the fact that even in Grossmith’s book this moral dilemma never seems really to pop up. Why did nobody try to help them? Even the BBC, when it broadcast a programme about this tragedy two years ago, gave the Italian victims only a passing mention. It seems that the cover-up, which disturbed even Winston Churchill, remains in place. Noone cared about them then and no-one cares about them today. When about 400 Italians managed to set themselves free and reach the surface, British and Polish troops fired on them and bayoneted them, even though, as records show, there were more than enough life jackets and space on lifeboats to go round. As Grossmith put it: “Many met death under a hail of bullets when they tried to reach the upper decks after escaping from their prison hatch; a matter not spoken about, save in hushed tones by certain crew members.” During the melee some British troops shot their catering staff, mistaking them for Italians. They also chopped and slashed with axes at the hands and arms of the unfortunate Italian POWs trying to get on board life-rafts.

Captain Rudolph Sharp, commander of the Laconia, had made the mistake of not reducing the huge emissions of smoke through the funnel, which made his ship a very noticeable target.

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

target. Worse than that, he forgot to run preparations for a possible attack. This may explain why the lifeboats were without water, searchlights, fishing nets and lines. The Italian prisoners had been squeezed below decks for five weeks,

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Books

It seems only some of the Poles agreed to make some room for them. The British and New Zealanders refused. At 9:20 the Laconia disappeared below the waves. James Campbell, an RAF serviceman, remembers swimming in the water: “We eventually met up with a lifeboat which had dozens of Italians clinging to its sides. We shouted and asked if they had room for two more. A huge Scots guardsman was cracking the Italian heads open with an oar and shouted that he’d soon make room for us…” Their blood quickly attracted sharks and barracuda and many of the survivors later succumbed to their attacks. At this point the German U-boat surfaced and the killing of Italians suddenly ceased. It seemed as if everybody suddenly realised that they were all just fellow survivors. Hartenstein radioed to Paris asking for instructions from Admiral Karl Dönitz. Ignoring Hitler’s instructions, Dönitz ordered him to rescue as many people as possible, with particular emphasis on the Italians, who were still allies of Germany. Hartenstein soon realised that if help was not forthcoming pretty quickly many more would die and he took the unorthodox decision to broadcast a message in English, giving his position away, to persuade Allied ships to come to the rescue. His message was: “If any ship will assist the shipwrecked Laconia crew I will not attack her, provided I am not attacked by ship or air force. I picked up 193 men. 4 52’ South. 11 26’ West. German submarine.” This message was sent en clair more than once on different wavelengths, but no-one believed him and no ship was sent. Three French sloops belonging to the Vichy Republic moved to the area from Dakar after receiving German assurances, and promises of compensation. Dönitz then directed two more U-boats: the U-506 and U-507 to the area to help survivors, together with

28

the Italian submarine Cappellini. The Italian submarine was commanded by Marco Revedin who recorded an account in his diary. The U-506 and U-507 were sunk in the following months. Hartenstein, aged 33, was lost along with his U-156 near Barbados on March 8, 1943.

R

evedin reached the area of the disaster four days after the attack. He encountered lifeboats with British on board. The women raised up their infant children and were crying, begging him to spare their lives. The Italian captain’s diary entry reads: “They thought we were going to open fire on them as they would have been led to believe by British propaganda…When we left they gave the fascist salute and shouted: ‘Viva il Duce,’ and ‘See you when the war is over’!” The book also recounts an encounter with Cappellini written by Claude Jones, a baggage master, who in 1947 wrote a bombastic account of his experience for the magazine War Illustrated: “Here we had seawolves of a different tribe. We could

The German crew could not believe what was happening, and did not even try to respond with their antiaircraft gun. hardly expect this encounter to pass as the previous one had (with the Germans), especially with Italians among us who might give a garbled account of what had occurred to many of their companions when the Laconia had been torpedoed…The tide of luck again ran in our favour! Kegs of water, flasks of Chianti, boxes of biscuits and cigarettes were produced from the submarine.” On the

morning of Wednesday, September 16, while the Italian and German submarines were still busy helping and sheltering survivors, and serving mugs of coffee, an American B24 Liberator appeared in the sky. The commander was Lieutenant James D. Harden. A message in English, by a British officer, was sent to the plane, but it was ignored. Harden, however, saw a large white flag with the red cross stretched across the deck of U156 and many lifeboats around the ship. The plane radioed to base for instructions. A Captain Robert Richardson, later a member of the top brass in US military aviation circles, ordered it to attack. The plane returned, climbed slowly to 250 feet and dropped five bombs. One sank two lifeboats, three missed and one did some serious damage to the U156. The German crew could not believe what was happening, and did not even try to respond with their anti-aircraft gun.

S

everal years later, the Americans admitted to what happened, but no disciplinary action of any kind was ever taken. The crew of the plane were awarded medals for bravery. The explanation given by the then retired General Richardson to Grossmith was that the British did not tell them about the Laconia and the inexperienced plane crew apparently thought that German submarines had life boats on board which could be used for their crew to go out fishing. After this attack, Dönitz ordered all his vessels to abandon the rescue and leave. This became known as the “Laconia incident” and from then on, German submarines were forbidden to rescue survivors. When Dönitz, who served as Reich President for 20 days following Adolf Hitler’s suicide, was put on trial in Nuremberg he testified about what had really happened, about the reckless behaviour of the Allied forces, and thus avoided the death penalty.

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


Travel

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Feature

THE INSIDE STORY

O

verlooked in this year’s rush to unearth official secrets released under London’s 30-year rule was an almost forgotten operation planned and perfectly executed in 1976 in a farflung corner of the then British Empire. Such was the guile, the cunning and 30

the sheer effrontery of Operation Bulldog Breed that it should come as no surprise that, despite the large numbers of ordinary Hong Kong expats swept up in events that day, there appears to be no official record of this momentous occasion.

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


Conspiracy theorists argue that it put 22 SAS’s successful Operation Nimrod – the assault on the Libyan Embassy in London that year – in the shade, hence the need for a cover-up. Like Nimrod, Bulldog Breed was a model of military precision, they say. A fine example of need to know being just that – only those who needed to know, knew. Or could remember. Others, however, prefer the cock-up theory of history. The files were lost, they say, or mis-filed. But a trail of evidence leading to the White House shows a different story, reports special correspondent Gupta Banerjee. It is the cocktail theory that is to blame for the apparent amnesia about this

fine sun-baked, alcohol-fuelled event. Documents, published for the first time (we think), reveal that Operation Bulldog Breed was in fact known to the inhabitant of the Oval Office. In his quest to unearth the truth, our writer tracked down absent FCC member George Mackenzie in Australia, the man best qualified to tell it; for it was he who planned and put together the whole show. Even, today, Mackenzie looks back in utter disbelief as to how total security was ever maintained under the circumstances prevailing at the time. Now, the whole story can be told. Excerpts from

Mackenzie files:

’s

Background: 6 is the ‘Bicentennial Year’ of 1. The Event: The 4th of July, 197 Kong, about 1,100 Americans, American Independence. In Hong brate at Chi Ma Wan beach on through the American Club, will cele from Hong Kong. Lantau island - an hour’s ferry ride friendly and light-hearted 2. The Aim: We wish to show, in a USA originally came from our way, that most that is good in the it was then) still British. Thus Motherland and that Lantau is (as g Breed”. I have planned Operation “Bulldo during the past week, the 3. Planning: Due to several factors by burning and the following original plans should be destroyed ons may be made at the final plans taken as final. Minor alterati 1800 in the Men’s Bar of 2 at ‘O’ Group to meet on Friday, July b. the Hong Kong Clu Mission using way, we shall show to the 1. In a friendly, harmless and am the British Bulldog Breed and world that there is still life left in alued. In short our message is: that the Pound Sterling is under-v Genius”. do not underestimate the “British Execution t and capture the Chi Ma Wan 1. General Outline: We shall assaul on the American community, beachhead by a two pronged attack n they are in the middle of their when they least expect it - i.e. whe “All American” picnic. d and the sea and it will be in 1.1 The assault will be from the lan THREE PHASES...

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

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Feature

T

hus began six pages of detailed plans, together with maps and annexes, for what must have been one of the best kept secrets in Hong Kong. Being such a small place, the then British colony was a hotbed of village-type gossip where a secret was almost impossible to keep. As Mackenzie notes, “Everyone appeared to know what you had done before you had done it …” Secrecy was, therefore, the major factor that would determine success or failure. The fact that about 30 people were “in” on the plan was a worry. The original idea for an invasion was actually thought of by a “wee” Scotsman, Graham Black, who was the Financial Controller for the Mandarin Hotel. He mentioned it to his good friend, Mackenzie, as they passed one another on their way home from their respective offices one evening. Black had run rings round Mackenzie in Scottish schoolboy rugby but the latter was determined to show his friend a thing or two when it came to getting the “show on the road”. Mackenzie rushed home and contacted his old friends in the Brigade of Gurkhas, followed by some fairly senior people in Hong Kong’s commercial world who owned, or had access to, Chinese sailing junks. All seemed to be going well, so that night he drafted the complete orders for the operation and told Black so, in the morning. “Go for your life, Mac - we’re the bhoys,” came the too infrequent reply! Being very security conscious, Mackenzie had the orders typed and duplicated by Gurkhas at their barracks in the New Territories while he was out there playing golf that weekend. The Gurkhas also put together several dozen marked maps. The first briefing took place, after work, on Monday, June 21 in a private room at the Furama Intercontinental Hotel. Waiters and barmen were told to leave the room as the plans were unfolded. Mackenzie was hot on security, due to his previous dealings with the SAS. There was a hint of a security leak the following morning, Mackenzie says, but it was quickly nailed on the head. After that, all

Being very security conscious, Mackenzie had the orders typed and duplicated by Gurkhas at their barracks in the New Territories while he was out there playing golf that weekend.

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THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


It was also decided that the Hilton’s brigantine, Wan Fu, would be press-ganged into service to carry the leaders of the sea-borne landing party. personnel got the message, he added darkly without elaborating. What transpired is not known. However, it is known that one member of the inner circle, worried about hair-trigger security at the US Consulate, wisely took it upon himself at some point to tip off the US Marine Guard about the plan, a decision revealed after the event but roundly approved by the protagonists. Udo Nesch, a friend at CBS News and known to be looking for a Bicentennial story, was contacted and told of the plan (after vetting). “Yes, it would be a scoop,” he told Mackenzie, “if everything goes according to plan.” There was even mention of CBS spending money on a direct satellite link-up with the USA for the morning news on July 4. Five days to go … everything was on schedule … until the company entrusted with producing the special T-shirts came up with a cost factor of double the original quote and then told the team it could no longer guarantee delivery by July 3.

Mackenzie summoned Robert Parry of P&O and the CBS news team for an emergency meeting. Without T-shirts, or some sort of uniformity, there would be NO story for CBS. Furthermore, as someone else pointed out, no allowance had been made for poor weather. If the weather was bad, many of the smaller junks would be late at RVs, or not be able to make it at all. Decisions, decisions. Within 10 minutes, a new T-shirt producer was located who agreed to produce the goodies within 72 hours (and at two-thirds of the original price). It was also

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

decided that the Hilton’s brigantine, Wan Fu, would be press-ganged into service to carry the leaders of the sea-borne landing party. If smaller junks were delayed, it would not matter so much. That evening the Hilton’s two top managers were briefed about the plan for the Wan Fu. They kindly “agreed”. The plans had now changed considerably and Mackenzie was due to fly to California on July 1 to attend his sister’s wedding on July 3 – to an American, no less. Yet he decided that the entire plan had to be totally re-written down to the last detail; leaving nothing to chance (except typhoons or lack of obedience). That night he penned what was to be the final plan, contacted everyone involved and arranged a final briefing, by Parry, in the Hong Kong Club at 6 pm on July 2. Hours before his plane left on July 1, a secretary, sworn to secrecy, was hired, the plans were typed, signed and sealed and placed in double envelopes ready for D-Day. Everything now seemed set for victory. Only a typhoon could blow apart the operation. Secrecy had, surprisingly, been maintained and although the details had changed considerably over the countdown, the aim was still the same. Sunday, July 4, 1976 dawned. It was a beautiful day. Americans in their droves packed specially-chartered ferries to take them to Chi Ma Wan. They probably passed some of the invasion fleet en route but who would have known? After all, these boats looked like any other pleasure boat out for a normal weekend voyage …. Meanwhile, the British Land Force was due to land at noon and recce towards the main beach on the Chi Ma Wan peninsula. But it hit some snags. There was a church service for American congregants on their beachhead! Given the invaders were posing as decent, ordinary folk going for a picnic, their advance was delayed until the prayers ended. The British Sea Force aboard the Hilton’s Wan Fu, with Parry of P&O on the poop deck, meanwhile, hovered about 600 yards offshore from the main beach, waiting for the Land Force to signal advance while attempting to be as inconspicuous as possible. This was not an easy task given that the commander was resplendent

33


Feature

in period costume down to a powdered wig. Eventually he seized the initiative and ordered the Wan Fu to make directly for the jetty at the north end of the beach. The flotilla of smaller junks and launches, meanwhile, headed direct for the beach to the right of the American party. At this point, the jolly tars hoisted their Union Jacks and all those not in period costume pulled on their T-shirts. Wan Fu hit the jetty at the planned minute and, led by their (Scottish-taught) Piper from the (then) Royal Hong Kong Police Force, Parry and his Flagship party disembarked. From their left flank, the Land Force marched

along the beach led by their Piper and Bugler. The Americans were stunned. It was discovered, later, that most of the American picnickers were awaiting the arrival of the US Consul General, who was attending a special church service in Hong Kong before heading off to Lantau. With no General, the Americans were in a fix. Goddamn Limeys were invading them from the front jetty, from the sea and from their right flank. What to do? Grab a camera. That’s what. Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory blazed forth from the speakers on the Wan Fu. With heads held high, kilts held low and the blood-curdling skirl o’ the pipes, the British invaders marched towards the objective. Camera shutters clicked like rattles at Yankee stadium, hamburgers went cold and centrepieces fell out from Bicentennialsized hot dogs. With the Land and Sea Forces hitting the beach at the same time, some 1,100 Americans faced a wall of 180 Union Flag T-shirts, arrayed behind a colour party of men in period uniform – of various periods, which might explain the Beefeater. The British fleet of junks stood offshore, blocking the bay but cannons were not deployed – only Canons. The flag of Hong Kong, embracing the Union Flag, was raised as God Save The Queen rang out. The British “plant” on the beach, dressed as Uncle Sam, then stepped forward with a pole bearing the Stars and Stripes. As the two flags fluttered in the sea-breeze, the flag bearers shook hands in a demonstration of friendship and the close alliance that exists between the two countries.

Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory blazed forth from the speakers on the Wan Fu. With heads held high, kilts held low and the blood-curdling skirl o’ the pipes, the British invaders marched towards the objective.

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THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


The Americans had been taken totally by surprise. Lantau was firmly established as still British. No doubt Sterling would have risen several points but for the fact that the money markets were closed.

The US Consul-General had yet to arrive and so his Deputy stepped forward to receive a specially engraved silver beer tankard filled with San Mig. The Americans had been taken totally by surprise. Lantau was firmly established as still British. No doubt sterling would have risen several points but for the fact that the money markets were closed. But those selling hot dogs and hamburgers made fortunes on re-issues. After the ceremonies, a great party ensued. It was originally intended that the British would retire and leave the Americans to get on with their celebrations but in their normal, hospitable way, the Americans made sure this was not to be. Children wearing T-shirts with Union Flags on the front and British Genius on the back, were treated to free anything – well, almost, anything. There were beer-drinking contests, but no one knows who won these as both teams were from the heavy brigade and very experienced. The Americans then showed the British how to play rugby, or was it football? And to whose rules? Anyway, the mission had been achieved and even if the follow-up PR plan did not go as requested – for there were hopes of making something sizeable for charity – it was, indeed, a great day for all those who took part and one that will be remembered for many years to come.

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

Post Script Unfortunately the CBS crew were stood-to for a possible coup in Thailand at the 11th hour, so the satellite link-up to the USA didn’t happen. However, Udo Nesch contacted TVB and a short extract of the event was picked up by some American stations in the States. The “invasion” also made the Hong Kong newspapers. Mackenzie posted a complete set of operational plans and maps to US President Gerald Ford to reach him on July 5, 1976. Two weeks later, he received a pleasant reply from the White House asking for a follow-up report on the day’s play. This was duly despatched.

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Around the FCC

The FCC’s Doyen of Foreign Correspondents Anthony Lawrence celebrates his 94th birthday with friends and admirers. PHOTOS: KEES METSELAAR

GAVIN AND JULIA GREENWOOD’S annual Hong Kong Feuds Reignited (“What has happened to your hair?” and “she put on weight”) gathering was held in Brighton on July 29. Fred Armentrout was awarded the Sainsbury’s can of lukewarm bitter for distance travelled; Ruth Tipping lost the raffle and won Bill Barker. The rest had an early night. Left to right: Sue Rhodes, Martin Clark, Derek & Sumi Davies, Bill Barker, Fred Armentrout, Gavin Greenwood , Ruth Tipping, Mike Rothschild, Steve Fallon.

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THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006


On July 12 we were treated to an English and Putonghua performance of skits and songs by the children of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club - Po Leung Kuk - JP Morgan Chase Language Training Programme. These students are residential children at the Po Leung Kuk facility and range in age from two to 18. Thanks to your generous donations these children are gaining language training to enable them to enter the work place with confidence and skills that will better their lives. PHOTOS: TERRY DUCKHAM/ASIAPIX

Left: Peter Finn, Managing Editor of the Star newspaper in the 1960s, displays a copy of his recently published book, John Doyle’s Overcoat. The book draws on his experiences at the paper. Right: L-R: Sydney-based former Hongkongers, Mike Thossell, Neville Kitto, Mike Foote and Finn. Finn returned the laminated copy of the Star front page he’s holding, which featured the Club’s 1966 Midnight Ball, to the FCC when he launched his book, which is now on sale at the Club.

THE CORRESPONDENT JULY/AUGUST 2006

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39


Out of Context

What members get up to when away from the Club

Former policeman Tom Cord is still...

On the Beat

I

t’s hard to imagine, but there is in our midst in the FCC a Scotsman who (a) doesn’t follow football and (b) doesn’t play golf. Step forward Tom Cord. He’s quite open about it: both the Beautiful Game and the one described by Mark Twain as a good walk spoiled leave him pretty much cold. The indifference to golf is all the more astounding as his hometown is Dundee, within easy reach of some of the sport’s most fabled courses. “I’m not a golfer, but I’m a passable caddy and can hold my own at the 19th hole.” He is also no idler. Growing up he learned to play the drums in a Boys’ Brigade pipe band. Arriving in Hong Kong in 1969 to serve in the police force, he was soon playing drums with Pete O’Neill’s Dixielanders. His first gig was on New Year’s Eve 1970 at the Hong Kong Club. In the 1980s he played with the Hongkong City Jazz Band, and from 1994 until now with the Victoria Jazz Band, a seven-piece swing/blues band that played for many years at the Godown in its various incarnations, and now continues that tradition at Grappa’s Cellar in Jardine House every Wednesday. But that’s not all. Tom also plays gigs with the China Coast Jazzmen and drums for the Hong Kong Ceilidh Band which plays at ceilidhs and Burns functions, as well as nowadays an increasing number of ho-downs – American-style barn dances. Before the 1997 handover he played Government House a few times for jazz-aficionado Governor Chris Patten, whose own father was a professional jazz drummer. He has also played with a Japanese dixieland band and an Oktoberfest band (“We pretend to be Germans”) and his drumming has taken him to gigs throughout the region, most recently to

Phuket where he played at a ceilidh for about 200 Asian travel agents. He remains modest about his abilities. “I wouldn’t claim to be a skilled drummer for one minute. I think ‘well-travelled’ would be a better description.” It’s all been tremendous fun – at least partly because, as Tom says: “What other hobby can you have where you’re allowed to drink while doing the hobby?” Tom has one regret: he never

at important stages in their education, and then: “Within nine months I was back in Hong Kong, having totally realised how much I missed the place. To come back was probably the best decision I ever made.” Tom has long since handed in his handcuffs, and nowadays he is director of a company called Travel & Aviation Risk Solutions Ltd and another security marking company Selectamark (Hong Kong) Ltd. To find out more about Tom’s day jobs, visit his companies’ admirable websites at www.tars.aero and www.selectamark. com.hk. He still keeps up his contacts with Hong Kong’s finest, notably at weekends when he gets together with police friends for hikes in the New Territories or on one of the outlying islands. “We usually walk between 12 and 18 kilometres, enjoying some of the abundance of beautiful scenery there is around Hong Kong.” A good walk, indeed. Mark Twain would approve. – Jonathan Sharp

“Within nine months I was back in Hong Kong, having totally realised how much I missed the place. To come back was probably the best decision I ever made.”

40

learned to read music. But for most forms of jazz, which is supposed to come from the heart, this is no handicap. And he admits to one major mistake. This was the decision by him and his Hong Kong wife Colena in the early 1990s to leave Hong Kong and settle in Britain. They bought a house in an agreeable part of the country at a time when their two children were

THE CORRESPONDENT

JULY/AUGUST 2006


The Correspondent, July - August 2006