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feature 4 UNSUNG HEROES In November, the Hong Kong branch of International Social Service celebrated its 50th birthday by launching a commemorative booklet at the FCC. Jonathan Sharp talks about the Service with two leading ISS-HK lights, who are also among the Club’s longest-standing and most respected members

media 10

in review 14

…DON’T CALL ME A JOURNALIST The founder of “people’s news blog” Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamarudin, talks to Luke Hunt about arrest, detention and the differences between being a blogger and a journalist AN “OPPRESSOR” OFFERS ADVICE Chris Patten once again regales the FCC with his wisdom and wit


A CROOKED SIXPENCE Murray Sayle’s classic novel about London journalism has been republished after 47 years. The Correspondent runs an extract


FAI DI! FAI DI! (HURRY! HURRY!) Photographer Carsten Schael’s exhibition became a talking point when it ran in the Club’s Wall Gallery. He explains how he achieved it

travel 24

THREE GORGES ODYSSEY Anna Healy Fenton braves a luxury cruise ship to see the flooded Yangzi’s Three Gorges and the world’s biggest hydro-electric scheme

press freedom 30 assignment 32 34

STILETTO Max Kolbe counts the world’s dead and wounded journalists GOING DUTCH Richard Jones travels to China’s far North East to see Holland Town, a vast and bizarre tombstone to corruption WHO KILLED OUR CHILDREN? At the Pusan International Film Festival, Mathew Scott watches a documentary that is the most disturbing film he has ever seen

meanwhile 36

THEN AND NOW Bob Davis looks at Ice House Street in 1968 and 2008, plus cartoons from Harry Harrison and Arthur Hacker

in memory 38

KEVIN SINCLAIR On the first anniversary of Kevin Sinclair’s death, Anneliese O’Young remembers the man, the memories and, of course, the stories

Cover: Harry Harrison

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2521 1511 Fax: (852) 2868 4092 Email: Website:

President: Ernst Herb First Vice President: Tom Mitchell Second Vice President: Kevin Egan Correspondent Member Governors: Keith Bradsher, Bonnie Engel, Anna Healy Fenton, Jim Laurie, Kees Metselaar, Christopher Slaughter, Stephen Vines, Douglas Wong Journalist Member Governors: Francis Moriarty, Jake van der Kamp Associate Member Governors: Andy Chworowsky, David O’Rear, Thomas Crampton, Steve Ushiyama Club Secretary: David O’Rear Finance Committee Convener: Jake Van Der Kamp (Treasurer) Membership Committee Convener: Steve Ushiyama Professional Committee Conveners: Tom Mitchell, Keith Bradsher House/Food & Beverage Committee Convener: Steve Vines Wine SubCommittee Chairman: Bonnie Engel Charity Fund Committee Co-Chairmen: Andy Chworowsky, Thomas Crampton Freedom of the Press Committee Convener: Francis Moriarty Constitution Committee Convener: Kevin Egan Wall Committee Convener: Chris Slaughter General Manager: Gilbert Cheng The Correspondent © The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong FCC MAGAZINE The Correspondent is published six times a year. Opinions expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the Club. Publications Committee Conveners: Anna Healy Fenton, Kees Metselaar Editor: Richard Cook, produced by WordAsia Limited, Tel: 2805 1422, Email:



Club News

From the Club President

Dear Members, Get ready, as 2009 is a year of celebration for the FCC. Originally founded in 1943 by a group of foreign correspondents in the wartime Chinese capital Chungking, the Club moved at the end of World War II to Shanghai. After 1949, as the mainland went into a lengthy period of isolation, our founding fathers once more moved the Club and it came to Hong Kong. Which means this year marks the FCC’s 60th anniversary in this great city. Before finding the perfect marriage of the FCC and Ice House Street, we moved three times in Hong Kong before arriving here 26 years ago. And be assured, after signing another seven-year lease with our landlord, the government of Hong Kong, everything tells me we are here to stay for a lot longer than that. At least that is what I heard from John Tsang, the Financial Secretary, when I told him how happy we were that the lease was renewed. He said it was only logical, as the FCC was “part of the heritage of Hong Kong”. This we will celebrate along with our 60th Hong Kong anniversary. That one of the world’s greatest press clubs has become a part of the history of a great city does not mean we are not facing some major challenges in the future. Most of us are feeling, in one form or another, the effects of the economic storm and the Club has already seen a falling off in applications for new memberships. In order to counter this we have launched a recruitment drive that, in its first stage, will aim particularly at correspondents and journalists. The Club’s Board will also strive to ensure that prices stay in the reach of members. Fortunately, the Club has some savings. And, while we must make sure that for the sake of our 2


New Year, New Look

long-term solvency we must keep financial reserves, we have also to realise that the FCC is not a bank. So we will work hard to ensure that during these economic hard times some of our savings go back in the form of reasonable prices and incentives-to-spend to those they belong to – you, the membership. That prices stay reasonable is important for hacks. While we face economic hard times like the rest of the membership, journalists have, for years already, had to live with the effects of structural changes that have left no part of the media industry untouched. Of course, this is nothing new. The media have, since at least the invention of movable type, been an agent of change themselves. The FCC, like all press clubs, has had to adapt to these circumstances and as we do, we need to remember that we have adapted successfully many

times before. We have moved from Chungking via Shanghai to several locations around Hong Kong, we faced near financial ruin several times and went through numerous political and economic crises. Yet we are still here and, what’s more, we are strong. The FCC will, I am sure, still be around when we celebrate its 120th Hong Kong anniversary. Can I also,as tactfully as possible, remind members that certain parts of the Club are designed as quiet areas? We have had a couple of unfortunate incidents in the Main Bar Bunker recently that involved noisy children on the one hand and noisy adults on the other. This venue is not really suitable for children – or indeed adults – who want to make a lot of noise and as of now bookings for this venue are limited to a maximum of four persons per table. So please observe the need to be sensitive to members’ need for peace and quiet where appropriate. Meanwhile the good news about the lease renewal comes – as good news often does – with a qualifier. We have postponed various and rather pricey repair and reconditioning works pending news about the lease. This work will now have to be undertaken and will cause some but, we hope, not too much disruption, However repairs down in Bert’s Bar, for example, will require a temporary closure and there are other areas of the Club that require attention. We will, of course, provide prior notification of all works that directly affect members’ usage of the Club but please be patient. Ernst Herb President Foreign Correspondents’ Club

Press Awards Deadline The submission deadline for the 2009 Human Rights Press Awards is January 19th. The competition is open to journalists in both print and electronic media and submissions must have been produced either by journalists for publication or broadcast in Hong Kong or Macau, or by correspondents working in the Asian region for overseas news organizations. Submissions must have been aired or published between January 1st and December 31st, 2008. Categories include newspapers, magazines, commentary and analysis, radio, television and video, photojournalism, cartoons and materials published online. Winners will be announced and prizes given at an award ceremony in March at the FCC. The Awards, now in their 13th year, aim to create increased respect of the basic rights of all people, heighten general awareness of human rights issues and, where threats to those freedoms exist, to focus attention upon them. For more information see, or

Kung Hai! Kung Hai!

The FCC will celebrate Chinese New Year and the incoming Year of the Ox with a series of traditional Cantonese menus, all served in the Club’s first floor Chinese Restaurant. In the run up to the Lunar New Year holiday, Chef George and his team will prepare a special yearend set menu that features classic holiday delicacies. These include Chicken in Fish Sauce, Crisp Prawn Dumpling, Pumpkin Broth with Crabmeat and Braised Dried Oysters with Chinese Lettuce. The sets cost $498 for two people, $928 for four and $1,688 for six and will be served from January 15th until the 24th. To help members ring in the Year of the Ox, the Chinese restaurant will also serve a New Year set menu from January 29th until February 14th. The New Year set costs $488 for two people, $968 for four and $1,688 for six. Individual seasonal items will also be available on the Chinese restaurant menu. For bookings call 2523 7734 or email

Hopefully The Correspondent’s devoted readership will have noticed the magazine’s fresh look for 2009. The design is new and the magazine has, in terms of actual page size, shrunk slightly. And, while a lot of the favourite columns and writers remain, the editorial team intend to make on-going editorial tweaks in the coming issues. The magazine focus will largely be on the Club, its activities and its membership as well as on media issues and events in Hong Kong and across Asia. Feedback on the new magazine or on any Club-related matter is very welcome and the magazine’s full contacts are listed below. Submissions from members are equally welcome – writers, cartoonists and photographers all receive payment, normally with a food and beverage credit that is used in the Club. The FCC website will also be undergoing a major overhaul in 2009 and again your thoughts and feedback are needed. Please write or mail with suggestions to the contacts listed here.

Magazine contacts Richard Cook The Editor The Correspondent The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong 2 Lower Albert Road Central, Hong Kong email





Unsung Heroes

FCC members may not be familiar with the sterling work carried out by the International Social Service and its Hong Kong branch, which is now 50 years old. This excellent organisation launched a commemorative booklet at the FCC, an appropriate venue as two leading ISS-HK lights are among the Club’s longest-standing and most respected members. Jonathan Sharp reports


nthony Lawrence may not be as mobile now as when I first met him, jumping in and out of helicopters in Vietnam in 1971. But at the age of 96, the BBC legend and ex-FCC President keeps in trim with two walks a day from his charming harbour-side apartment in Kennedy Town. And he recalls with pleasure how he first became involved with the ISS, a global organisation that helps people with personal or social problems whose solution requires cross-border cooperation. Not many years after the Hong Kong office of ISS opened for business in 1958, trial lawyer and later Justice Henry Litton approached Anthony and suggested he join the Service. Anthony agreed to do so. “Having decided that Hong Kong was the most convenient place in the world to settle down in, and having been back on a visit to London and found myself in what seemed to be a foreign country, I thought I had better give something back. “It was as straightforward as that. My wife was delighted at settling in Hong Kong. She was German – she’s passed away now – and although everybody was very nice to her when she came to England at the end of the war, she found it a very pleasant experience to go to a part of the world where nobody cares where you come from as long as you have nice manners.” As Anthony was away from home quite a lot with short-term reporting assignments, including many trips to cover the Vietnam War, wife Irmgard filled in her time learning Mandarin, “which she did extremely competently. The word in Hong Kong was that the husband is pretty stupid but his wife is quite bright.” As a simple, hypothetical example of what the ISS does, Anthony said a man might go from Hong Kong to America for a new job, with his family joining him in six months’ time, and in that time he falls into some kind of trouble. “That’s where the International part of the Social Service comes in. That’s where the American branch and the Hong Kong branch will both be there to help.” 4


Anthony is modest about his own contribution to the ISS, of which he used to be chairman. “I turn up at committee meetings.” As a tribute to his work, in 2002 the Service set up the Anthony Lawrence International Refuge for Newcomers. “I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve that. These days they have to call things names and I think they had rather used up their names, so they even used the Lawrence name.” Among its many invaluable programmes, ISSHK has people posted at the airport to help arrivals with information. “This really is a down-to-earth and practical way of helping newcomers,” says Anthony. “As the name, the International Social Service, implies it does deal with problems which arise quite often where two countries are involved. You don’t get a flood of such cases but usually when they crop up they are very worrying for the people involved. One has the feeling, the longer one lives, and the better world communications become, there will be a growing number of cases where you need legal help in more than one country. I think our usefulness will certainly not diminish.”






Service Across Borders: The Service’s work in Hong Kong has included the Inter-country Adoption Programme (far left, in 1958); pioneering social work for handicapped children attending the Princess Alexandra Red Cross school (near left, in 1964); and, from 1978, numerous education and recreation programmes for Vietnamese refugees (above).



In fact ISS-HK’s workload is growing, according to the FCC’s second unsung hero at ISS-HK, C.P. Ho. CP, as he is universally known in the Club, succeeded Anthony as ISS-HK chairman in November 2002, and has somewhat altered the ISS’s traditional understated profile. He now vigorously boosts the organisation’s image not just in Hong Kong but globally. CP became acquainted with the ISS’s work in the late 1970s when Hong Kong was the destination for floods of Vietnamese boat people. “During the time of the Vietnamese refugees, there was a lot of work which the ISS did which very few people knew about. That was when I was at TVB running the news department and delving into the refugees’ problems. The ISS went about its job quietly, pretty efficiently.” One element of the ISS work was to find and reunite family members who were separated on their perilous journey from Vietnam. “Maybe the father would be in one boat, the mother in another and the children came later. The prime work was to bring these people back together. That was my first recognition of ISS as a very good social organisation and a good place to do some public service.” So when the Vietnamese refugee problem was over, did the ISS-HK’s work diminish? Quite the contrary, says CP. “Vietnamese refugees, even at that time, were a minor facet of the work that ISS-HK does. We are serving in so many areas, like visiting Hong Kong prisoners jailed in Thailand. We do that with the assistance of the Chinese embassy and the British embassy in Bangkok. “We are also involved in the very thorny problem of asylum seekers and torture claimants. This is an issue that is building up in Hong Kong. People who somehow get into Hong Kong and who for various valid or invalid reasons might want to stay longer, file for permission to stay as asylum seekers or as torture claimants.” While the lengthy legal process of vetting such applications takes place, these people need relief and assistance. ISS-HK provides that. “Which is why if you go to our centres, you see Pakistani men, or Bangladeshi women or Nepalese children staying in our homes. Which is why we set up this Anthony Lawrence International Refuge for Newcomers.” THE CORRESPONDENT





Most times the court throws out the petitions of asylum-seekers, who may say they can’t return to their homelands because they risk being tortured. So they become torture claimants. Again the legal process takes a long time. ISS-HK now has about 300 full-time staff and about 3,000 volunteers. Its work has earned it the recognition among its ISS peers as the most efficient ISS branch in the world, and has been given the task of keeping an eye on the work of other ISS offices in the region, including in the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan. So why is CP working so hard to promote the ISS? “Different times, different circumstances, different solutions. We have neglected to shout from the rooftops. We are not well known enough, even in Hong Kong, and we should publicise the fact that we do a lot of work. The reason for this is that we need funds and resources to continue our work. As you know, the government has cut down funding and subsidies in the social welfare sector.” A fund-raising campaign is being organised for early 2009 and CP has asked FCC President Ernst Herb for permission to sell raffle tickets in the Club. CP came up with the ISS slogan “Crossing borders in service and support of children and families” which has now been adopted worldwide. He also prevailed upon the distinguished Hong Kong-based graphic designer Henry Steiner to design a new logo for ISS – the global entity not just the Hong Kong branch – to replace a rather stodgy one. This Henry kindly did on a pro bono basis. Three years after he joined ISS-HK, CP was elected to the Executive Committee of the Geneva-based ISS International Council, where he joins Stephen Yau, Chief Executive of ISS-HK, who has been involved with ISS for the best part of a quarter century. “It is quite unusual for Hong Kong, a small speck of territory, to have two members on the Executive Committee. That’s quite something.” Quite something indeed.

For more information about this estimable organisation and its unsung heroes, see 8


Facing Page: ISS was the sole social service provider at Hong Kong’s last Vietnamese camp – the Pillar Point Refugee Centre (top); in 2008 at the opening of the ISS cross-border Guangzhou-Hong Kong Integrated Family Service Centre (middle and bottom) This Page: The opening of the new ISS office in Causeway Bay in 1964 (above left); in more modern times at the Shamshuipo Integrated Family Centre (above right) PRC Premier Wen Jiabao visits an ISS-HK centre (middle) and an ISS Christmas visit to Chris and Lavender Patten in a pre-1997 Government House (bottom) THE CORRESPONDENT




…Don’t call me a journalist

The founder of Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamarudin, was jailed in September 2008 for a second time. In Kuala Lumpur he spoke with Luke Hunt shortly before his arrest and again, exclusively for The Correspondent, just after his release in November


aja Petra Kamarudin is an imposing figure who has carved out an important niche in the history of Malaysian publishing by pushing the boundaries on what gets aired, even if it creates offence among mainstream journalists or his country’s embattled leaders. “I do not regard myself as a journalist,” he said shortly after a two-month stint in jail. “But I think Malaysia Today is a noble spark, it’s a forum that publishes anything and everything. We publish where journalists will not.” He says journalism requires training, shuns rumours and must prove what it claims. “If we trust our sources and there is no reason to doubt, we will publish. We don’t seek a response from politicians when we know they will not return our phone calls anyway. We will publish rumours where we are confident they are true and that sets the Malaysian press running after us.” It’s at that point journalism steps in and, according to Kamarudin, proves his sources correct. This is also when the son of Selangor royalty, a former biker and self-confessed hippy normally gets in trouble. For ordinary Malaysians Kamarudin is something of a rock star who delights his fans by turning up the heat on troubled politicians. Political leaders try to dismiss him as a blogger, a kind of second-class citizen because he communicates through the Internet as opposed to the mainstream media. Former information minister Zainuuddin Maidin referred to Kamarudin and other bloggers as off-key karaoke singers who like the sound of their own voices. Perhaps they would have a point if Malaysia Today had flopped but this “people’s news blog” has survived and thrived and commanded a growing audience that has left its mark at the ballot box. At the heart of Malaysia Today remains what Kamarudin cherishes most: honesty, transparency and accountability. But its recipe for success is much less noble: an old-fashioned hedonistic mix of crime, corruption and politics laced with sex and murder. Currently, Kamarudin faces charges of sedition and criminal defamation for implying that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was allegedly linked to the 2006 bloody murder of a beautiful Mongolian model, 10


Altantuya Shaarribuu, a crime that has captivated the nation. Her body was blown to bits. Najib denies the allegations and has made an Islamic swearing in a mosque that he never had anything to do with the dead woman. Kamarudin is also being investigated after casting doubts over the validity of a second sodomy charge, a crime in mostly Muslim Malaysia, being brought against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. “Detention is not easy, even if you’ve experienced it before,” he said. “My house has been raided six times, I have been arrested, interrogated, charged. It is part of the risk in forcing change but it is certainly not going to stop us from attempting to end the draconian laws that curtail freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and even freedom of thought. Kamarudin was referring to the Internal Security Act (ISA), which was passed in 1960 but holds its roots in laws initially introduced by the British to combat the communist insurgency of the previous decade. ISA powers for detention were later used to crack down on Islamic militancy and, more recently, to arrest bloggers. Kamarudin was arrested on September 12 and released on November 7.






Top: Raja Petra Kamarudin is greeted by his supporters and colleagues as he is released from detention in November. Image above: AFP

Left: Kamarudin talks to The Correspondent after his release: “We publish where journalists will not.” Images left and previous page:



Many bloggers had campaigned against the ruling Barisan Nasional, the coalition led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) which at elections in March lost the two-thirds majority it had held in Parliament since independence in 1957. The walloping at the poll followed intense campaigning by Anwar and the likes of Kamarudin, and this led to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi announcing he will stand down and hand power to his troubled deputy, Najib, this coming March. Kamarudin first met Anwar as a teenager. Born in England to Selangor royalty through his father’s line and a Welsh mother, he was educated at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar – known then as the Eton of the East – where Anwar was three years his senior, a prefect and not very popular. He became a biker when he was 17, and along with his wife joined the Malay chapter of Hell’s Angels. “We were anti-establishment, anti-Vietnam War, I wanted marijuana legalised, I was a hippy and into Woodstock. We grew our hair long when everyone else wore theirs short. When people grew their hair long we shaved – maybe we just never grew out of that, going against the system.” His relationship with Anwar has evolved over the years and Kamarudin helped establish a new party, which over a decade has evolved into the multi-racial Parti Keadila Rakyat – Anwar’s main political vehicle in his attempt to oust the government – and he started Malaysia Today in 2004. Kamarudin delights in his proudest moments, the stories that linked senior police with senior underworld figures, the government’s tacky involvement with the United Nations oil-for-food scandal in Iraq and the lurid tales and lavish gifts involving Malaysian leaders and their extra-marital affairs. “We like reliable sources to those very close to the powers that be and we have had a very high success rate. What they deny proves to be true. Of course it gets us into a lot trouble.” The unflinching support for Anwar and his bid to become prime minister has cast Kamarudin more in the role of crusader, and he’s happy with that. “We’re more political activists… It’s a civil society movement we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for change as opposed to being in the business of news.” THE CORRESPONDENT


In Review

In Review

The “last oppressor” offers advice Back again in the city he once ran, and full of his well-remembered dry, wry humour, Chris Patten regaled an FCC dinner in November with his elegant and wise insights into world events as well as talking up, understandably, the brilliance of his latest book. Jonathan Sharp reports


s ever, Patten was excellent value, even though he had to leave before the soup was served, as he had been doublebooked for dinner. Perhaps his overloaded schedule was a measure of the popularity Patten still commands 11 years after sailing away from Hong Kong on that rain- and emotion-drenched night as the “last colonial oppressor” – his words. Now ennobled as Lord Patten, the “oppressor” spends one third of his time as Chancellor of his alma mater Oxford University, work he does pro bono. It’s a job that, citing his predecessor at Oxford, is one in which “impotence is assuaged by magnificence”. But there were more pressing matters on hand, particularly as Patten was speaking on the day that Barack Obama had become president-elect. As a sign of the enormity of that event, Patten said he had received text messages on the subject from two of his daughters, neither of whom normally shows any interest in politics. One message was “Yes we can,” the mantra of the Obama campaign, and the other said “What a great day.” Patten said Obama’s stunning victory was memorable, among 14


other things, as a generational change. Obama is the first significant political figure of the 21st century who doesn’t carry with him the baggage of the cold war, Vietnam, the Gulf War, “any of that crap of the 20th century. He’s the first Internet generation politician, and no wonder my daughters feel so enthused by what has happened.” He said Obama’s opponent Senator John McCain was a genuine national hero who “very often stood for decency at a fairly tacky time.” But the choice of Sarah Palin as running mate was disastrous. “He reaches into the darkest and grimmest parts of the Republican Party to choose somebody who doesn’t believe in


Darwin, who thinks she’s an expert on Russia because she can see it from her verandah, and who thinks that New Hampshire is in the northwest of the country. I think it was a terrible error.” Turning to the financial meltdown, Patten commented: “It’s an international financial crash which has brought the ultimate in confessional apologies: Alan Greenspan says there was a fault in his thinking. So now you know. It’s a world in which bankers are going to have to learn once again to be boring – blessedly boring – and in which there will undoubtedly be more regulation, though not as I think President Sarkozy – an energetic fellow – called the reform of world capitalism.”

On the UK government’s handling of the crisis, Patten was predictably scathing. “...The IMF has been telling the British government for several years that it was borrowing too much and that housing in Britain was an asset bubble. And guess what. The British government didn’t do anything about it because it was inconvenient. The British government argues that New Labour had abolished boom and bust. Well, welcome to something called big bust, which is followed I suppose by big boom.” Patten stressed that China – which famously excoriated him in crude and colourful terms when he was Hong Kong Governor – should be given far greater influence in international financial bodies. “Obviously if you are expecting President Hu Jintao to write large cheques to the IMF and to help in the bailout of countries around the world with a larger IMF facility, the Chinese perfectly legitimately would expect to have a bigger say in policy deliberations in the global financial institutions.” Patten insisted that, with the benefit of hindsight, he would not have done things differently as Hong Kong’s governor, although he would have tried to shorten some of the immensely long negotiations with the Chinese that were clearly going nowhere. On what Hong Kong should do now in the face of economic turmoil, the last colonial oppressor offered the following advice: Hong’s Kong success is because it

has become not just a financial hub but also a centre of quality control, design and marketing. “I think it would be madness to give it up, and it would be crazy for Hong Kong to think that in response to the crash, it should decide that what it really need is an industrial strategy, or the sort of social engineering which has made Singapore such a lively city.” There was a pronounced mental curl of the lip when he uttered the word “lively”. In addition, Hong Kong should make more of the quality of its higher education. In international league tables, Hong Kong has three universities in the top 50 while, amazingly, Germany has none. “It’s a tremendous plus for Hong Kong. It’s something that Hong Kong should sing about more loudly.” Patten has been described as the best foreign minister that Britain never had, and reading his new book one can see why. One could question the title “What Next?” when a more appropriate one these days would be something like “What Already”. And the subtitle “Surviving the 21st century” might not resonate well with those more worried about surviving until next Christmas. But don’t be put off. While not a slim volume, it’s a thoroughly absorbing read and beautifully written, It opens with the remark “It’s a funny old world” attributed to Margaret Thatcher at her last cabinet meeting, and ends on a fairly cheery note. Just the thing for anyone aspiring to be a diplomat or a foreign minister. Or indeed an oppressor.


What Next? Surviving the 21st Century, by Chris Patten Publisher: Allen Lane ISBN-10: 0713998563 ISBN-13: 978-0713998566



In Review

In Review

A Crooked Sixpence

Classic novel republished

Murray Sayle’s classic novel about1950s London journalism has been

republished after being out of print for 47 years. It tells a bitter-sweet tale of a young Australian reporter, brimming with excitement, enthusiasm and ambition, who secures shifts on a Fleet Street Sunday scandal sheet “It’s called human interest” An extract from A CROOKED SIXPENCE, by Murray Sayle


ithin a short time of getting off the boat train, Australian reporter James O’Toole lands a series of casual shifts on a mass circulation Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Sun. He quickly masters the house style, assists the paper’s crime man exposing vice racketeers, and is given a fivepart series to write, about a girl from the provinces who ends up in London, leading ‘a life of shame’… The girl was waiting in the appointed coffee-house when O’Toole arrived. Seeing her, he realised she was the first person in London he’d recognised out of a crowd. In the first few days, he’d studied people in the street, expecting to see someone he knew round every corner, startled and disappointed by the continual echo of faces he knew, always of people who couldn’t possibly be in London. After a week or so, he’d given up looking for acquaintances: there weren’t any. ‘Hello, Elizabeth,’ said O’Toole, enjoying the minor miracle of her continued existence. ‘How’s the War Office?’ ‘Hello, James,’ said the girl, smiling. ‘Pretty dull, as usual. Actually I’m not supposed to talk about it outside, if you could 16


possibly think of some other form of greeting.’ ‘Sorry. Strangely enough, I’m probably the only reporter in town your secrets are absolutely safe with. I can’t think of a thing that could happen at the War Office that would possibly interest my employers. Especially war. But we can keep your business quiet if you like. What’ll you have?’ ‘Just a small black, please. Slimming.’ And not a second too soon, thought O’Toole, and beat the thought back. You have to allow a certain amount of room for manoeuvre in the matter of figures, and too much always has the edge on not enough. ‘What about this girl who leads a life of shame?’ asked the girl, after O’Toole had ordered the coffees. ‘Was she nice?’ ‘She’s just an innocent millgirl from Bradford,’ said O’Toole. ‘I’m writing her confession in five instalments. As a matter of fact, I left her being chased down a back street by a seedy stage-door Johnny in a cloth cap.’ ‘What happened?’ ‘I’m not sure. I think she’s going to win. The Sunday Sun is a paper for family reading, so I’ve been told.’ ‘You mean, you’re making the whole thing up?’ ‘In a way, yes. It’s life, but hotter, stronger and neater.’ ‘What a peculiar way to earn a living,’ said the girl. ‘Do you tell your readers it’s all made up?’

The coffees arrived. O’Toole sugared his heavily, publicly, wondering if he was being spiteful and if so, what about. ‘Not in so many words,’ he said. ‘In fact, not at all.’ ‘Isn’t that just a teeny bit dishonest?’ ‘Good God, no. I mean, if you’d been connected with the other branch of the newspaper game you’d probably find it a relief.’ ‘Tell me about the other branch,’ said the girl. ‘I’m fascinated.’ ‘I don’t believe that either,’ said O’Toole. ‘But you asked for it. You have to understand that newspapers are all, more or less, in two distinct kinds of business. There’s the intelligence side. You know, meat will be dearer tomorrow, the president of Peru just shot himself, bondholders beware. That sort of thing’s supposed to be true. The other side’s the one the money’s in.’ ‘That’s what you’re in.’ ‘Right. It’s called human interest, and it’s really a branch of show business. Non-stop vaudeville, changed every day, and always leave them laughing. If you can write revue sketches and begging letters and you can clean up dirty jokes, you’ve got what it takes. The only difficult part about it is to get members of the public to take part in your productions.’ ‘This is the side that doesn’t have to be true.’ ‘Not in the pedestrian, literal sense, no. But it has to be true within a set of conventions called

“a nose for news”. All women under fifty-five are attractive. All Frenchmen are hair dressers. Every time an aeroplane crashes someone had a dream warning them not to go, a broken doll was found in the wreckage, and priests gave absolution to the dying. That’s what people want to read, so that’s what I write. It’s of no importance that the mill-girl doesn’t exist, except that it saves me the trouble of convincing some deluded little girl that the things that have to happen to her really did happen. It also saves my employer some money.’ ‘You really despise it, under your big tough act, don’t you, James?’ ‘You may be right about my act,’ said O’Toole. ‘But you’re quite wrong about my attitude. Most of the time, I love it. It’s got the warm friendliness of clean, uncompromising dishonesty. None of your barrow-boys polishing up the apples on the front of the stall. Mind you, I’ve got to admit that everyone I ever knew who was in a dirty racket said exactly the same thing: what I like about this game is it’s good, clean dirt.’ ‘But it’s such a waste of ability.’ ‘Oh, I don’t know. We’re

entertaining people, too, and T S Eliot would use exactly the same line of defence for his racket. It can be a very congenial atmosphere to work in. The one thing you don’t have to be is sincere.’ ‘Except with the public.’ ‘I forgot them. Around the office there are one or two people you have to keep a straight face with, of course, but everyone else knows the whole thing is balls. And they know you know it, too, and so on.’ ‘But it must be terribly unsatisfying, isn’t it?’ ‘You have to remember we’ve all got something wrong with us,’ said O’Toole. ‘Booze, wrong class, hungry for power, can’t do anything else. There’s always a psychological club-foot or a nasty secret somewhere.’ ‘What’s wrong with you, for instance?’ ‘Oh, I’m lazy. I need some bastard cracking the whip over me before I can write a line and then some other bastard telling me what great stuff it is as I go along. I like the sensation of power, phoney as the power is. Also, I’m an honest man.’ ‘Making up stories about millgirls?’ ‘I’m too honest for business, let’s put it that way. I don’t have to convince myself people like their milk watered.’ ‘Couldn’t you be just ordinary old-fashioned honest without all these excuses?’ ‘You’re making me uneasy,’ said O’Toole. ‘Tell me some more about yourself, if the subject hasn’t become irrelevant by now.’ Reprinted with permission of Revel Barker Publishing

By Roy Greenslade (originally printed in The Guardian), In the summer I published several extracts from Murray Sayle’s classic novel about yellow journalism in the 1950s, A Crooked Sixpence. Several people wrote asking me to tip them off should it be republished. Well, I’m delighted to say it’s now back in print after 47 years, courtesy of gentlemenranters. com, that wonderful new media outfit that celebrates old media history. You can order copies online from Amazon. You can also obtain it direct from Revel Barker Publishing, (http://www.booksaboutjournalism. com, email: paying by PayPal (£10 including postage and packing). I see the book has another fan in Peter Stothard, the former Times editor who now edits the Times Literary Supplement. And in his Daily Mail column on Wednesday, Richard Kay explained why the book was removed from sale soon after it was originally published in 1961, A novel end to a literary mystery... Sayle’s landlord, a minor and penniless sprig of the aristocracy, Michael Alexander (Macedon in the novel, geddit?), decided to cash in by suing for libel. He, and Sayle, thought the publisher’s insurance company would pay up. Instead, the book was withdrawn from sale. Some copies did get distributed before the axe fell, which is how Stothard came to have one. Another was tracked down by a German journalism academic, Lorenz Lorenz Meyer, who kindly provided me with the copy that allowed me to run extracts. Anyway, every journalist should read A Crooked Sixpence. So go get yours now. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008



Feature In Review

In Feature Review

Fai Di! Fai Di! (Hurry! Hurry!)

Photographer Carsten Schael’s exhibition that ran in the Club’s Main Bar Wall Gallery in October and November became something of a talking point. The set of distinctively over-sized and visually striking letterbox-shaped portraits of Hong Kong street scenes, entitled Fai Di! Fai Di (Hurry! Hurry!), displayed a compressed, almost surreal quality that left photographers and laymen alike wondering: “How did he do it?” Carsten spoke to The Correspondent to reveal all.

“I was after a visually overwhelming, intense feel that conveyed the impact that Hong Kong has had on me since my early days here. I started working with an extreme panoramic 3 x 8 format that condenses a scene and gave me the intensity and energy I was after. I used this letterbox format in combination with a 45mm parallel shift lens that allows two side-by-side shots to be taken in rapid succession. These I stitched together, giving a slightly overlapping wide panorama. 18


Then I tweaked the contrast to give a compressed feel.” The final results were displayed on striking 80 by 30 cm prints. They are extraordinary – vibrant, immediate and at the same time claustrophobic – and Carsten says he was happy with the result. “The large size of the prints was important to the finished image,” he explains. And there is similar work in the pipeline. “But next time, I will make them bigger. As big as I can.” Watch this space…

About the Photographer

Yee Wo Street, 2008: (Above)

Born in 1964 in Hamburg, Germany, Carsten Schael got his first camera at the age of seven and embarked on a visual journey that led to an award-winning career in commercial and fine-art photography in Hong Kong. His images communicate essential concepts and exciting ideas. This is Carsten’s fourth solo exhibition and he has been involved in over twenty five group exhibitions. View the complete Fai Di! collection at

A place to get lost in the sea of humanity with every change of the traffic lights.



In Review

In Review

Harbour View, 2008: Sheltered, but obstructed, viewing as the price for escaping the heat and humidity.

Marble Road, 2008: Abundance of choice, the dilemma of style and price.





In Review

In Review

Shanghai Street, 2008: Travelling along and almost getting lost in time.

King’s Road, 2008: Passing by the depth of reflected reality.







Three Gorges Odyssey

The flooded Yangzi River’s Three Gorges and the world’s biggest hydroelectric scheme can now be viewed - from the comfort of a luxurious cruise ship. Anna Healy Fenton braves a five-star deluxe river cruise to bag the story. Images by Bob Davis


n 2003, tourists rushed to China’s mighty Yangzi River, convinced it was their last chance to see the famed Gorges before the Three Gorges Dam Project drowned them. The vast US$25 billion Yangzi Three Gorges Dam at Yichang, Hubei Province, has been under construction since 1994 and flooding of the Gorges started in 2003. Now this modern Great Wall of China is all but complete. It’s one-and-a-half miles wide, required 73 foothills to be flattened and used as much concrete as 100 Empire State Buildings. A staggering 1.3 million people, whose homes and orange groves lined the river’s banks, had to be relocated to make way for the rising waters. In November, 2008 the final 30 metres of flooding was added to the reservoir above the dam, which raised water levels behind it upstream to 175 metres above sea level. This increases the previously shallow river depth to 40 metres in many places. As a consequence, the cliffs of the Three Gorges on either side are half submerged, but still hauntingly beautiful, with the views of misty peaks along the Qutang, Wu and Xiling Gorges as impressive as ever. In spite of the eerie shells of villages and hideous concrete new towns along the banks, the 420-mile trip up or downstream is still breathtakingly beautiful, even if sometimes the choking air pollution reduces visibility to virtually nil on otherwise sunny days. The five-star deluxe river cruiser, the MS Yangzi Explorer, is just back from being refitted as a top-ofthe-range 62-cabin river cruise ship and a trip aboard combines the best of five-star hotel luxury with unique and ever-changing scenery. Upmarket operators Sanctuary Cruising run a similar ship on the Nile in Egypt and the Yangzi Explorer’s interiors have been created by Hong Kong designer Andrew Sobenko. The rooms are as sleek as those in most luxury hotels. The Yangzi Explorer cruise begins at Chongqing, gliding downstream for three days through the Three Gorges toward the vast dam locks at Yichang. Alternatively, guests can choose the upstream route, boarding at Yichang for the four-day trip back up the river to Chongqing . 24


Yangzi tourism is now reviving once more after the last frenetic burst of activity in 2003. Operators are upgrading their river ships accordingly and Sanctuary Cruising’s entry into the market provides one of the more stylish options. If you just feel like lazing around and enjoying the ship’s amenities, you’ll have a relaxing break with most whims catered for. For the more adventurous there are numerous side trips, including a visit to the resettled city of Fengdu, rebuilt further up the hill from its original site. The new version of the town – a sprawling expanse of eight-storey high concrete blocks – is very popular with young families, even though the buildings are

The Damn Dam Even though it’s nearly finished, controversy still dogs the Three Gorges Dam project. It’s viewed by many ecologists as an environmental disaster, causing choking pollution from more river traffic and gigantic riverbank cement works, which utilise the abundant silty sand that now stacks up behind the dam. It’s also meant a goodbye to the Yangzi’s unique river dolphins and other species of fish. Ironically, the dam was partly justified as helping to solve China’s enormous energy needs, promising to provide 12 per cent of the country’s requirements with clean power. But now, at the end of 2008, it will only meet 2 per cent of that need, a number that shrinks daily as China’s greed for power grows. The Chinese have dreamed of conquering the Yangzi, which floods catastrophically every decade with enormous loss of life, for thousands of years – and now their wish has come true. The colossal engineering feat is a matter of great national pride. But doubts grow about the consequences of the weight of silt mounting behind the dam, which already is much greater than was ever expected.






Cruise Life: A journey aboard the five-star deluxe river cruiser, the MS Yangzi Explorer, combines the best of five-star hotel luxury with an array of unique and everchanging scenery.



walk-ups with no lifts, we were told. Although much of this visit to ‘resettled’ Fengdu is a propaganda-fest, it’s still fascinating to hear locals describe, with surprising candour, how they were forced out of their ancestral homes to make way for the rising waters. Extended families pooled their compensation to provide enough money to build a reasonable house while many elderly people have been relocated to loneliness in Shanghai where they have no friends. Although you know the chat with the resettled grandmother in the un-typically spacious, modern 2,000 square foot house is far from spontaneous, it’s still revealing. The elderly struggle to adapt in faraway cities, she says, but no one seems to care about them. The young can adapt, if they can find work. Periodically well meaning officials organise bus trips for former elderly residents to visit their old Yangzi riverbank home area, but these end in tears and despair, we hear. This grandmother cares for her grandson while her sons and daughters work in distant cities. With the orange groves, riverbank farms and fishing gone, jobs in Fengdu are scarce, so many migrate to Wuhan and Shanghai. Most of the modern houses in this part of Fengdu stand empty, with shutters closed. The piles of red chilli peppers drying in the road are testament to the lack of traffic. A trip to the local primary school is sobering too, with many children walking two hours morning and evening to attend, escorted by their grandparents. Less thought-provoking but equally memorable is a ferry trip up the Shennong Stream, a vast and therefore mis-named tributary of the Yangzi. Visitors take what are called “san pans” locally: seemingly fragile long thin boats, rowed and finally towed by six hunky men up the rapids with ropes. This is the highlight of the trip, and much more impressive than the excursion to stand atop the dam itself and gaze down at a cliff of concrete. The ship’s accommodation is luxurious by any standards. The 58 cabins range from the roomy 333 square feet basic Deluxe, up to a vast 1,183 sq ft, for the ship’s two master suites, the Imperial and Celestial Suites. En suite bathrooms and riverside terraces give total privacy and every amenity is provided, from hanging space to a desk, armchair and flat screen TV. High speed internet access will be available in 2009 after the ship is fitted with a satellite in January. When THE CORRESPONDENT





Day Trip:

The ship’s guests see Yangzi tributaries aboard seemingly fragile long thin boats (left, top) and the dam’s vast locks at Yichang while still on board the luxury cruiser (left, near bottom).

River Sights:

The sun bedfilled viewing deck offers a relaxed viewing platform (above, top) while the more intrepid can take trips ashore to meet resettled villagers (above, bottom).



it comes to size, the Yangzi Explorer is large enough to avoid cabin fever, but compact enough to feel cosy. The 140-strong crew means a ratio of more than one staff member to each passenger. In spite of its relatively small size compared to an ocean going liner, the ship glides smoothly through the water, leaving little danger of sea-sickness. Onboard you’ll find everything you’d expect of a classy resort, except the swimming pool, which means passengers can be as active or slothful as they like. There are lectures about the Three Gorges dam, arts and crafts demonstrations, dumpling making demonstrations and even Mahjong lessons. The facilities are extensive, with larger rooms for private dining and meetings, a theatre and a spa with six massage rooms, sauna, steam room and rainforest shower. You can even get your hair done at the beauty salon or work out in the gym, catch up in the business centre or escape to the library. The air-conditioned lounge bar doubles as an indoor observation deck, leading outdoors to the viewing deck, complete with sun beds. If you still have energy after the vast banquet-scale spreads, there’s plenty to do. Children might not find the attractions of the Yangzi Explorer as gripping as adults, but the side trips should appeal to all ages. General manager Detlef Schneider, formerly of Hilton, Hyatt and Shangri-La Hotels has approached standards of service with characteristic Germanic rigour. A self-confessed perfectionist he insists: “There is no such thing as ‘no’ here. Everything is possible.” This is a return to a forgotten age of travel, where wonderful scenery can be enjoyed unhurried, in style and comfort. While most of the ship’s guests are Americans on a China tour, this is a also great short break from Hong Kong. Hong Kong to Chongqing is a two-hour flight with Dragonair, with additional flights from Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai to Yichang. The Yangzi Explorer Operates March to November. Rates from US$1,485 per person sharing a Deluxe cabin, to US$3,850 per person sharing the Celestial or Imperial suites, meals and drinks included. Reservations– Sanctuary Cruising: Hong Kong +852 3179 5900, or through travel agents. THE CORRESPONDENT


Press Freedom

Press Freedom

Stiletto By Max Kolbe

Counting the Dead

The pile of maimed and murdered journalists continues to grow, with November proving a particularly deadly month for those involved in the trade. A neighbour discovered Mikhail Beketov lying unconscious beside his house near Khimki, a suburb of Moscow. His skull was cracked and his leg was fractured, and he was covered in blood. He was taken to the local hospital where a leg and several fingers were amputated due to frostbite. He was last reported to be in a coma. Journalist Jagjit Saikia was shot dead in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Doctors declared Saikia dead from at least five gunshot wounds to the chest at point-blank range. Police are still investigating the killing and no arrests had been made. But local journalists say they believe Saikia may have been targeted because of his reporting. Saikia frequently wrote about rivalries between armed groups and political organizations fighting over control of Kokrajhar and neighbouring western districts of

A poster reading “Beating of Beketov - political terror” is held during a rally in support of reporter Mikhail Beketov in November, after an attack outside his Moscow home left him in a coma.

Assam that are ethnically Bodo. Insurgents have pushed for a separate Bodo state amid ongoing peace negotiations with the central Indian government. In Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, hundreds turned out to pay their respects to a Congolese journalist described as a “knight of peace” who was shot dead in the country’s troubled east. Didace Namujimbo, 34, was shot near his home in Bukavu, the capital of Sud-Kivu province where he had worked for UN-sponsored Radio Okapi. According to reports he was shot at point-blank range minutes

after being dropped near his home by a vehicle belonging to MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In the Philippines, two unidentified men gunned down a hard-hitting radio commentator shortly after he dropped his daughter at school in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental. Police said suspects, riding in tandem on a motorcycle, shot Ariceo Padrigao, a commentator for dxRS Radyo Natin, in the face outside the Bukidnon State University where he died instantly. Padrigao was the seventh journalist murdered in the Philippines in 2008. Mexico is proving something of a surprise and shaping up as one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. Five reporters were murdered in 2008 amid a war between rival drug cartels for influence and territory. Dead journalists aside, in the border city of Juarez about 1,300 people, including 60 police officers, have also been killed in 2008 and public officials say that murder may have surpassed diabetes as the chief cause of mortality in the border city of 1.5 million people. Other journalists were also threatened and in Juarez a headless body was found hanging from a highway overpass. A decapitated head was then discovered inside a plastic bag resting in a park known as the Plaza of the Journalists. Soon after a gunman opened fire on a 40-year-old journalist named Armando Rodriguez as he sat in his car, shooting him in his driveway as he waited to take his daughter, Ximena, to school.

Border shooting

Pakistan Sami Yousafzai, Newsweek magazine’s special correspondent and a CBS News stringer, in the North West Frontier Region (pictured) was shot three times in an apparent failed kidnap attempt. News reports varied about whether Asahi Shimbun Islamabad Bureau Chief Yatsukura Motoki, who was travelling with Yousafzai, was hit once or twice. Both men are in stable condition and Yatsukura has been moved to a hospital in Islamabad. Their driver, whose name was not immediately available, was also hit in the November 14 shooting. The Committee to Protect Journalists continues to raise its concern about the deteriorating security situation in the border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Journalist detained

Fiji Pacific Freedom Forum is hopping mad over the detention on arrival in Fiji and refused entry of New Zealand-based journalist Barbara Dreaver, describing the incident as a shameful indictment of the fear and insecurity of the current military regime. “The latest incident involving Ms Dreaver, an experienced Pacific journalist, and implicating her in a secret ‘watch list’ when she already had clearance from the Ministry of Information to do her job is undermining the credibility of the regime. When leaders state a commitment to

media freedom, and then blatantly set out to silence it, they come off looking ridiculous,” says Freedom Forum chair Susuve Laumaea. “This is a shameful example of insecure leadership in a nation which houses the secretariat for our regional leaders and so many other development partners committed to principles of good governance and the human rights of all Pacific people.” Pacific Freedom Forum is an online media network aimed at promoting the right of Pacific people to be informed.

Freelancer missing

Zimbabwe Mystery still surrounds the whereabouts of a Zimbabwean freelance photojournalist, Shadreck Manyere, who is believed to have been abducted in the latest case of the government’s onslaught on the media and civic society. Manyere was allegedly taken by detectives from the police Law and Order Section. All efforts to locate the journalist have been futile as the police deny any knowledge of his arrest. This came after the Permanent Secretary for Information and Publicity, George Charamba (pictured), threatened to ban accredited foreign bureaus or local reporters working for foreign news organizations after accusing them of embarking on a propaganda assault on Zimbabwe.

Media bill arrests

Kenya The morning crew for Kiss FM radio station, co-anchors Larry Asego and Mzee Jalang’o, and Kenya’s top female presenter, Caroline Mutoko, were arrested as they demonstrated against a new bill that will empower the Minister for Internal Security to take over media houses and seize equipment on grounds of state security. The Kenya Editors Guild and the Journalists Association of Kenya condemned the arrests as a return to dictatorship and dubbed it ironic given the country was also celebrating 45 years of independence from the British. The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008 was passed on December 10 despite months of behind-thescenes consultations between government officials, politicians and industry stakeholders.

Peter Mackler Award United States

Catherine Antoine is organizing the Peter Mackler Award for her late husband who died suddenly in 2008. Peter, (pictured) a legendary correspondent, had begun his own foundation teaching media principles to under-privileged kids before he passed away. Further details can be found on Donations are welcomed and there are plans to incorporate a scholarship with a journalistic prize that rewards young journalists who fight courageously to report the news from countries where press freedom is either not guaranteed or not recognized. All Images: AFP





Assignment Feature

Assignment Feature

Going Dutch

In 2008, photographer Richard Jones travelled to China’s far North East to see Holland Town, a vast, decaying tombstone to corruption. Its perpetrator, Yang Bin, dreamt of a Holland in the heart of China’s rust belt. Once named as China’s second richest man, Yang is now serving an 18-year prison sentence for corruption. The authorities have prohibited the sale of the town, so it will stand as a rotting lesson against sleaze Words and Images: Richard Jones / Sinopix


indmills and vast Dutch buildings rise from a plain on the outskirts of China’s Shenyang city. Men fish around a large lake where a huge 18th century sail-ship is moored. It’s the last thing you expect to see in China’s rust belt. Yet closer inspection reveals that everything is in ruins. Even the exact replica copy of The Hague’s International Court of Justice lies 32


in tatters. The place, known by all as “Holland Town”, covers an area of 600 acres. It cost around US$200 million and was built by the Dutch educated Yang Bin, now 45. When he was named by Forbes magazine as China’s second richest man in 2001, Yang claimed a cash fortune of US$900 million together with US$7.5 billion in assets. He had made his money initially in orchids, after studying horticulture in Holland. So, with

his connections to corrupt cadres, he purchased this massive swathe of land at a knockdown price, as he pledged to use it to grow many more orchids. However, his ambitious project extended well beyond greenhouses. Rows of five-storey Dutch townhouses, lakes and canals modelled on Amsterdam, opulent megamansions, churches, a full size replica sail-ship, canal barges, several full-size windmills, a 300

meter long indoor beach with adjoining entertainment complex, and 1,400 luxury apartments, rose from the fields. But Yang overstepped the mark. Beijing took offence when he was selected by North Korean leader Kim Il Sung to oversee a planned Chinese–North Korean free trade zone. Now he languishes in a prison cell, three hours from his rotting Dutch dream. Grass grows between the pavements,

the boats are falling into the water and, although the buildings are crumbling, a few beggars have made their homes in upper unfinished rooms in the townhouses. Although the government has said it will stay standing forever, as a reminder of Yang’s crimes, his family have found a novel way to continue to earn revenue from the site. An aunt of the former tycoon says the family charge locals 40 RMB a day to fish on Holland Town’s many lakes. THE CORRESPONDENT


Assignment Feature

Assignment Feature

Who killed our children?

In October, when film critic Mathew Scott was covering the Pusan International Film Festival, he attended a near-empty screening. The film, by Bejjing filmmaker Pan Jianlin, was a documentary called Who Killed Our Children? It captured the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in and around Muyu Middle School where hundreds of children died. Authorities attempted to confiscate the footage, it was edited in secret and has been screened only at Pusan. Scott says it’s the most disturbing film he has seen



an Jianlin was left in silence after the premiere of his latest documentary, Who Killed Our Children? We met at October’s Pusan International Film Festival, midmorning on a Sunday, and Pan’s harrowing look at the aftermath of last May’s Sichuan earthquake had just screened to a near-empty cinema and with little to no prescreening fanfare. There were a number of factors at play. The timing, of course, meant that only the most hardy of souls 34


would be up for the 10am start, especially considering the parties that were lighting up Pusan’s Haeundae Beach waterfront the night before. Then there’s the fact the documentary was competing for attention with some 314 other films. There is also the fact that 39-year-old Pan had, only in the weeks before the festival, been able to finish his film – in secret, fearing Chinese government intervention. And, of course, there’s the tough subject matter.

When the earthquake hit Sichuan province – at 2.28pm on May 12, 2008, – the filmmaker was at his home in Beijing. He heard the news and picked up his camera and went there as soon as he could. And he says nothing could really prepare him for what he witnessed when he arrived, six days later, in Qingchuan County. “I was told by people coming the other way that some schools had been destroyed,’’ he says. “It took a long time to get into the area

but no one was stopping anyone then – everyone was still in shock.’’ Pan headed to the Muyu Middle School – and into a version of hell. Around 300 children had perished there in the rubble, many of them caught as their dormitory collapsed as they were having their afternoon naps. “The entire dormitory was still in a pile,’’ says Pan. “There was just nothing left but rubble. Nothing can prepare you for that scene.’’ And it’s the aftermath of this destruction that forms the narrative thread of Pan’s documentary. He begins by showing the scene as you enter the school grounds, then panning through the rubble – and the objects left behind. There are shoes scattered everywhere, a photo album showing a smiling little girl – and grief stricken parents with nowhere to turn. Remarkably, Pan gets a lot of people to talk on camera. From parents, angry by shoddy “tofu’’ buildings and a lack of support from officials, to school administrators and government officials who either sympathize with the parents, or dismiss their claims. There are also interviews with surviving children. The official death toll from the school was 286 children but some parents claim the figure was closer to 600 and that doors to the dormitory were locked, to keep the kids from sneaking out to the nearby village. Rescue workers say most of the bodies were found piled on top of each other near the exits, some hands still gripping door handles. The fact that the school draws from such a large area – and that so

many people moved on to refugee camps immediately following the quake – seems to make accurate figures difficult to tally. “I wanted people to see this,” said a clearly emotional Pan after the screening. “To see what had actually gone on.’’ He says the documentary was accepted to the Pusan programme only at the last minute, and more as a favour than anything else. Pan has a history with PIFF, having had a film, Endless Night, screened in the festival’s only competition in 2007 and having his latest effort, Feast of Villains, involved in the main programme in 2008. “Pusan is very supportive,’’ he says. “You never know what is going to happen with a film like this, whether anyone will ever see it or want to see it. But that’s the important thing – that people do get to see it, no matter how many people turn up. Because we cannot allow these things to be forgotten.’’


Word spread and when it screened again – on the following Thursday at 2pm – the cinema was almost full. And Pan’s wish was at least in part fulfilled. The faces on people as they left the screening reinforced the fact that the film is not an experience easily forgotten. What the film doesn’t do is present any solid conclusions and the filmmaker says he left the scene after a week none the wiser about who or what to believe. “It was impossible to confirm what was true and what was not true,’’ says Pan. “So maybe everybody had some things in their stories that were true and some things that were not true. It is impossible to tell.’’ Pan says local authorities tried to confiscate the footage he had captured as he was leaving the area – but by then the filmmaker had downloaded copies of the tapes on to his laptop. And he says he has kept in contact with the villagers he met – except for the period around last year’s Beijing Olympics when, he claims, all communication channels to the affected areas were inexplicably blocked. Recent news reports from the area suggest villagers in the surrounding districts are taking legal action against regional officials and a local contractor. There has been no word, however, from those whose children attended Muyu Middle School. “There was such frustration, no one knew what to do,” says Pan. “There is not much they can do but move on.’’ Since Pusan, Pan has been unable to get Who Killed Our Children? screened again. THE CORRESPONDENT


Meanwhile in the Main Bar

Then and Now

Ice House Street in 1968 and 2008. Images by Bob Davis


A two-way Ice House Street and the present Club building, home then to Dairy Farm and used mainly to store ice-cream vendors’ bicycles.

2008: Ice House Street and the Club (sitting behind the Fringe Club) on a clear day in December, 2008. The FCC moved into this, its third Hong Kong home, in 1983. © Bob Davis.





In Memory

In Memory – Kevin Sinclair

Your stories live on! Kevin Sinclair trained scores of young Hong Kong reporters. Anneliese O’Young was one of them. On the first anniversary of this renowned Hong newspaperman’s death, she talked to friends and colleagues about the man, the memories and, of course, the stories


ecember 23, 2008, marked one year since the passing of veteran reporter Kevin Sinclair, after his three-decade battle with cancer. For nearly 40 years, this irrepressible newspaperman was a staple in Hong Kong papers. Often, Kevin could be found holding court at a pub, restaurant or bar around the city, weaving together his colourful stories. Sometimes, he became indignant when a patron next to him failed to understand his grunting and garbling, as he talked through the famous hole in his throat. “Are you deaf?” he would demand, banging his hand against the bar top. To this day, Kevin stories are still told by friends and colleagues alike. Fellow journalist and long time friend Chris Davis still looks for Kevin’s 6:30am emails inquiring how many stories Chris had already written. Of course, these polite messages would reference that Kevin was already on to his third story of the day. Chris reminisces about his times with Kevin. “Life without Kevin takes the gloss off what used to be a memorable end to the working day,” says Chris. “Over a beer in Sai Kung, we would talk about what meal he planned to enjoy with the bottle of wine he had bought for a decent price. We would discuss one of the many books he read. And then Kevin would not uncommonly announce how someone had committed a misdemeanour so 38


Kevin Sinclair’s autobiography, Tell Me A Story, is available for sale through the FCC and Kevin Sinclair & Associates (2605 3157 /

therefore, at the very minimum, deserved to be castrated.” Born in New Zealand, Kevin moved to Hong Kong in 1968 to work for the notorious tabloid The Star. An avid New Territories man, his passion for news and telling the story were central to his life. “Everything Kev wrote bore the touch of a master of the written word – breaking news, punchy columns, penetrating travel features, hearttugging human-interest articles and a mini-mountain of books,” recalls fellow Star-man Geoffrey Somers. “For one man to produce such a corpus of highly talented

writing was simply remarkable. To do it all when fighting cancer for 30-odd years, back and forth to hospitals, his body gradually bloated with chemotherapy, was truly astonishing.” Most of his friends agree this prodigious work rate was down to his lively personality and a dedication to getting the story. “Some special people, like Kev, leave their footprints on the lives of family and friends which never fade,” reminisces former Home Affairs Director Shelly Lee. “Whenever I am in the New Territories, I think of Kev and the project we worked together on to beautify villages. He left his mark.” Travel reporter Prudence Lui, one of the scores of reporters who were trained under him, remembers Kevin’s fighting spirit. “Kevin was a mentor and a dear friend of mine for 12 wonderful years,” recalls Prudence. “He was a real character who had a passion for work, wine, food, friend and family. He has left behind many sweet memories and his fighting spirit is still around.” Perhaps it is Kevin’s charm and zest that touched so many. “I miss him very much,” says Beijing-based journalist Mark Graham. “Often, when I read a story, or book, or watch a movie I find myself thinking ‘I will have to recommend this to Kev’. ” It is no wonder that with this one year anniversary, mates across the globe are raising a glass to this newspaper man. Cheers Kev. THE CORRESPONDENT


Professional Contacts Professional Contacts appear on every issue of The Correspondent and on the FCC website at Listings start at just $100 per issue, with a minimum of a three-issue listing, and are billed to your FCC account. For more information, email: Photographers RAY CRANBOURNE– Editorial, Corporate and Industrial. Tel/Fax: (852) 2525 7553 Email: BOB DAVIS– Corporate/Advertising/Editorial Tel: (852) 9460 1718 Website: HIBERT VAN ES– News, people, travel, commercial and movie stills. Tel: (852) 2559 3504 Fax: (852) 2858 1721 Email:


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PLEASE ADOPT, DON’T BUY Adoption Enquiries (English): (Chinese): Visit our Pokfulam Kennels: 698Q Victoria Road, Pokfulam, HK Tel: 2875 2132 Fax: 2875 2132

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Services MEDIA TRAINING– How to deal professionally with intrusive reporters. Tutors are HK’s top professional broadcasters and journalists. English and/ or Chinese. Ted Thomas, (852) 2527 7077 WWW.IVYLEAGUEOXBRIDGE.COM– Let Ivy League & Oxbridge University alumni and experienced admission interviewers guide your college application. Best to start young and build up a compelling applicant profile. We also provide last minute feedback on your application essay. Tel: (852) 8108-4222

The Correspondent is always looking for interesting submissions for the magazine. Ideally the submission should in some way reference the FCC or, alternatively, the media industry in Asia. Idea pitches are welcome. The magazine is also seeking writers to cover Club speaker events. A food and beverage credit will be awarded on a per-word / per-image basis. For more details contact

OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP… • Foster a dog until it can find a permanent home. – Email (Bilingual): • Join our enthusiastic team of Kennel Volunteers. – Email (Bilingual): • Help out at our fundraising events and spread information about HKDR. • Donating dog food (Hill’s® Science Diet® preferred). • Donating bedding like old sheets, towels; – Dog equipment such as collars, leads, beds, dog shampoo. – Frontline, Heartgard, Preventic® collars, worming pills. – Household and cleaning products such as detergent, bleach, liquid soap, garbage bags.

You can make a tax deductible (over HK$200) donation Direct Deposit: HSBC 502-423825-001 Or Mail your cheque in favour of “Hong Kong Dog Rescue” To: Unit 6, G/F, Aberdeen Marina Tower, 8 Shum Wan Road, Aberdeen, HK For receipts please email details of your donation to: Just $500 per month will keep one of our kennel dogs healthy until they have found a home. Registered Charity number 91/7544



HKDR is a No Kill organisation, meaning that no dog or puppy is destroyed for any reason other than when it is the only humane option.

The Correspondent, January - February 2009  
The Correspondent, January - February 2009  

The Official On-line Publication of the Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong