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The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong 香港外國記者會


Hubert Van Es

6 July 1941 – 15 May 2009

Hubert Van Es died on 15 May 2009 at Queen Mary hospital, aged 67. His wife Annie said he had never regained consciousness after a brain haemorrhage the week before. Famous for the photo of the fall of Saigon in April 1975, “Vanes” had moved from the Netherlands to Hong Kong in 1967. He covered the Vietnam War (1969 to 1975) for the Associated Press and United Press International, producing powerful battle images such as those from Hamburger Hill. After the war, Hugh covered Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Philippines and more. He shot stills on movies sets and photographed the Macau Grand Prix. And he was an inspiration to a new generation of photojournalists. A stalwart of the FCC, words are inadequate to say how much Hugh will be missed.




60th Anniversary Special




Paul French has penned a fascinating book about China’s foreign press before Mao. For this 60th Anniversary issue of The Correspondent he traces the FCC back to the “Hankou Last Ditchers” – pictured here with Zhou Enlai in 1938 – and a White Russian bar intriguingly called Rosie’s Dine, Dance and Romance.

club news



past presidents



the wall



in review






press freedom






club tie





It was standing room only upstairs at the FCC on Friday, 22 May, when people gathered from around the world to mark Hugh Van Es’ death with a party he would have been proud of. 60th Anniversary Special: Five past presidents describe what the Club means to them. 60th Anniversary Special: Robin Adshead was a soldier, pilot and photojournalist. A Club Wall retrospective remembers his work. Veteran newsman Nick Davies’ scalding expose of Fleet Street. On a trip to Bhutan, Karin Malmstrom discovers Croc-wearing monks as well as the principle of “Gross National Happiness”. Max Kolbe on the draconian stifling of unwanted reporting. Bob Davis looks at Stanley in 1971 and 2008, plus cartoons from Harry Harrison and Arthur Hacker. 60th Anniversary Special: Keith Bradsher examines the Club today and finds a vibrant mix. 60th Anniversary Special: Jonathan Sharp meets Liao Chien-ping, a man who was utterly indispensable to the Club in its early decades.

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: Tom Mitchell 1st Vice President: Keith Bradsher 2nd Vice President: Francis Moriarty Correspondent Governors: Thomas William Easton, Anna Healy Fenton, Jim Laurie, Kees Metselaar, Colum Murphy, Christopher Slaughter, Stephen Vines, Douglas Wong Journalist Governors: Barclay Crawford, Jake Van Der Kamp Associate Governors: John Batten, Andrew Paul Chworowsky, Thomas Crampton, Steve Ushiyama Club Secretary: Douglas Wong Finance Convener: Jake Van Der Kamp Membership Convener: Steve Ushiyama Professional Conveners: Keith Bradsher, Colum Murphy Publications Convener: Kees Metselaar, Anna Healy Fenton House Food and Beverage Convener: Stephen Vines Wine Sub-committee Co-chairperson: Anna Healy Fenton, Stephen Vines FCC Charity Fund Co-chairman: Andrew Paul Chworowsky, Thomas Crampton Press Freedom Conveners: Francis Moriarty, Barclay Crawford Constitutional Convener: Christopher Slaughter Wall Convener: Christopher Slaughter Goodwill Ambassadors: Clare Hollingworth, Anthony Lawrence 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

Golf Society

Dear Members, This year marks the 60th anniversary of our club in Hong Kong. It’s another chapter in a long story that began with the Club’s early foundations in wartime Chongqing, Nanjing and Shanghai. At such a venerable age, many of us would be thinking about retirement, but the FCC shows no signs of running out of steam. The fact that the Board of Governors election is more than usually well contested, and that the change in leadership is only a minor episode in the great history of this Club, speaks well for our traditions and governance. I am sure the new team that have now taken the helm will make every effort to carry on in the seamless manner to which we’ve become accustomed. Our Club’s role is as important now as it has ever been. The media industry is going through enormous structural changes and associations such as ours are needed now more than ever. During the year we have had both formal and informal discussions about the future of our profession, both amongst ourselves and with the numerous visitors speaking at our luncheons and dinners. By that measure, at least, journalism remains a central institution of society. Moreover, and as both journo and associates well know, at times of extraordinary stresses in areas of economy, finance and (“Ah-Choo”, excuse me) health, institutions such as ours can play an even greater role. I would not want it to left unmentioned that in the course of the year there have been some

The fact that the Board of Governors election is more than usually well contested, and that the change in leadership is only a minor episode in the great history of this Club, speaks well for our traditions and governance

political “flare-ups”in the Club.That doesn’t come as a huge surprise, as our veteran members will tell you. After all, as the Club’s name says, the membership comes from many different countries and cultures. There are many diverse views shared here and it would not be the FCC if many ideas and positions could not be discussed vigorously. What I think is important is that this continues to add spice to Club life. Having said that, this is perhaps the greatest social club in Asia and I have been extremely proud to serve on the Board, and as your President. The lease renewal assures us of another seven years on Ice, membership is maintaining near-full capacity, the building is in good shape and our finances appear to be quite healthy. Much as I would like to, I cannot in good conscience take full credit for everything that has gone well in the past year. General Manager Gilbert Cheng, now in his fourth decade of FCC service, runs a tight but happy ship and that makes the life of elected officers all the more pleasant. Among my fellow Board members are a number of hardworking and congenial colleagues who have become friends, and that always helps. And so, as I finish my tour of duty I will close with a word of thanks to all of you who have made this a memorable year. Ernst Herb Outgoing Club President

Bob Davis

FCC, the best stage in town A busy FCC speaker diary during April and May was capped with a press conference held at the Club by Thai Prime Minister, H.E. Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva (picture above, at the Club, with outgoing President, Ernst Herb). This high-profile event once again reinforced the crucial role the Club plays as a superbly-equipped, centrallylocated venue that provides a rare neutral platform for a diverse range of speakers and topics. In June and July speakers include: Shanghai-based writer Paul French on June 22 (author of


Happy Birthday, FCC

This issue of The Correspondent celebrates the Club’s 60th Hong Kong Anniversary. There will also be a series of special talks in June (see for more details) and on Friday, June 19 at 7.30pm all members are invited to the Main Bar to raise a glass of champagne to the Club’s continued longevity.

Board of Governors Election, 2009

A hotly contested election for the Board of Governors pulled in a larger-than-normal amount of voters to the annual ballot that closed on May 20. In a tense count – that for certain positions was so close that it required three recounts – the Board for 2009-2010 was declared thus: President: Tom Mitchell 1st Vice President: Keith Bradsher 2nd Vice President: Francis Moriarty


the newly published, authoritative yet wonderfully irrelevant “Through the Lookign Glass: China’s Foreign Journalists from Opium Wars to Mao” – see feature story on page 16); Tony Banham on June 29, author and expert on the Battle of Hong Kong; and local environmentalist, author and wildlife photographer, Ed Stokes, on July 16. Some high-profile speakers are, at the time of going to press, waiting to be confirmed so check or the regular email flyers from the Club for updated speaker news.

The FCC Golf Society enjoyed some good weather playing the Kau Sai Chau courses in March and April. The softer greens coupled with the slick fairways and close cropped rough saw several players playing at or under their handicaps. In the friendly competition, FCC members Bill Areson and Robin Wong played extremely well but fell just short of the eventual winners, guests Norm Janelle and Dr. Richard Wong. The next events will be held at July 17 at the Lakewood course in Zhuhai. As always, lunch, drinks and good camaraderie are included after every round. Prizes for all players include the new FCC Golf Society golf bag tag. To join the events, contact Russ Julseth at

Correspondent Governors: Thomas William Easton Anna Healy Fenton Jim Laurie Kees Metselaar Colum Murphy Christopher Slaughter Stephen Vines Douglas Wong

Journalist Governors: Barclay Crawford Jake Van Der Kamp Associate Governors: John Batten Andrew Paul Chworowsky Thomas Crampton Masaharu (Steve) Ushiyama



Club News

Club News

A party for Hugh

It was standing room only upstairs at the FCC on Friday, 22 May, when people gathered from around the world to mark Hugh Van Es’ death with a party he would have been proud of. Vaudine England was there.


ong after hours of anecdotes and alcohol had passed, a clutch of Van Es friends was holding up the bar downstairs, ruminating in a tired and emotional sort of way. It was interesting, they agreed, how the story changed, as the days of coming to terms with the death of their best friend and Vietnam war photography icon have passed. At first, it was just about the photo, that famed image of the fall of Saigon, 1975. Obituaries from Vietnam to Turkey, from Amsterdam to Hong Kong, the UK to the US, all focused on that. Then it was about the friendships, the community of people Van Es knew around the world, from fellow hacks to former showgirls, from Air America pilots and spooks to ambassadors and executives, from family to lifelong friends of all kinds from all over. All were drawn together by ever-growing chains of emails and reminiscence, with stories of marathon calvados sessions in Sutherland House, of paying corkage on wife Annie in Bangkok bars, of Hugh’s often hidden decency, generosity and much more. Then the wake. A huge collaboration over booze, hilarity, tears and hugs. (“Everyone had a ball - just the way Hugh wanted it,” said Annie.) And after all this, those ruminators agreed, the story turns out to be very simple - it’s a love story – the story of Hugh Van Es and Annie Cheng. “They’re more funky than Mick

and Bianca aren’t they!” noted one younger attendee of the wake. Older friends can hear the Van Es riposte to that, even as they all were awed by the dignity and strength of Annie, now deprived of her soulmate a few months shy of their 40th wedding anniversary. “I’m holding up better than I thought,” she said, after cracking up laughing at the fine dry wit of Gijs Kijlstra. His winning speech featured explanations of the role of jenever (Dutch gin) in hair-care, offering a possible explanation for Annie’s raven locks,and a helpful description of how the FCC matched a Dutch brown bar in becoming the front room to Hugh’s life. Tributes poured in from all over, ably managed by new Club President Tom Mitchell, starting with the laughs prompted by David Garcia. He was followed by Saul

Lockhart, best man at Hugh and Annie’s wedding, who came back to Hong Kong with wife Alison for this moment. Gijs and fellow “cloggie” Kees Metselaar showed the fun, and the emotion, inspired by their best friend, before Derek Williams took the mike. Classic war stories followed, capped by the glorious Rosalynn Carter anecdote, explaining how Hugh often got the best shots by being smart - picking out the sorriest looking baby in a refugee lineup in order to get the best shot of the President’s wife. Dominic Nahr then spoke through his son, Wally, who reminded those who need no reminding of the importance of holding your own copyright - a reference to the sad fact that Hugh’s famous picture is actually owned by Corbis, not by him. And Hugh’s niece, Noortje Kuhlman, flown in from the Netherlands, expressed her love for the man who told her always to be true to herself. Alan Daniels had come from Vancouver for the wake, after living in Hong Kong in 1967-68, admitting that time had changed his life. Ashley Ford also came from Canada: “Hugh was a mate, simple as that.” Jim Okuley (brother of Bert) came from Saigon, Peter Charlesworth, Derek Williams and Kate Dawson from Bangkok, Gary and Marnie Marchant from Paris, Felix McArdle from Ireland, Doug and Stella Mueller from Seattle,

Dot Ryan from deepest Tasmania, Niva Shaw from California, Bill Barker from Blighty, Luke Hunt from the jungle, and many more too numerous to mention. Bob Davis told us simply to look at Hugh’s pictures and realise that photojournalism lives. Peter Berry recalled Hugh’s “lack of tolerance for idiots”. Former attorney general John Griffiths remembered when Hugh was up for assault after helping an obstreperous drunk out of the Club. In fitting tribute to a life of fluid intake, Hugh’s wake was honoured by the attendance of former bar staff of the FCC, from David Wong who first served Hugh in 1978, to Looby, Steve.... Irene Mak remembered how Hugh’s grip on Cantonese may not have been extensive but was effective: “He would say, ‘Where’s my tai-tai?’ ” The music was provided by Allen Youngblood and friends, who all turned up to play at the wake “out of respect”, they said, for the man who had most supported their musicianship. It was a lot to take in, until FCC General Manager Gilbert Cheng, came over to down some bullshots – one of Hugh’s favourite drinks, and share the story of how Hugh and Annie had saved his job at the Club. “It taught me about honesty, about Hugh van Es, about love,” he said, summing it all up. Over the next six pages are 60th Anniversary recollections by five former Club Presidents. Hugh was scheduled to pen the sixth. Wake images: Gerhard Joren and Bob Davis





Past Presidents Remember • 60TH ANNIVERSARY Five former FCC Presidents ask: “What does the Club mean to me?”

Anthony Paul, 1977-1978 & 1978-1979

The late Bob Shaplen of the New Yorker, an FCC member of the 1940s through ‘80s, knew well the difficulties of covering Asia’s fitful kaleidoscope of people, politics, economics and, of course, the best places for the travelling correspondent to find a good conversation or a drink or a meal or a bed, alone, if absolutely necessary. Shaplen called the process of launching research in a new dateline “catching the train”. You go in cold to, say, Bangkok or Bangalore or Kabul and, especially if you had not been around as long as Bob, who had flown over Nagasaki shortly after an A-bomb destroyed the city and then interviewed Mao Tse-tung in his Yenan redoubt, it is always difficult to gather satisfactory momentum. But our Club has long been an unmatchable source for reporting advice. A young correspondent could always turn to Shaplen or some other Asia hand who was generous with contacts and advice. At your next destination, which are the first phone calls to make? Who is the best source to buy a drink for? Which bureaucrat likes talking to the foreign press? From 1965, when I first visited the Club, it has always been the best place in Asia to begin climbing aboard the story. Club members as generous as Shaplen included the inimitable Dick Hughes. Once a serious Fleet Street correspondent (Hong Kong has had very few), he introduced me to his mate, Vietnam’s duck-feather king, an invaluable source on the progress of the insurgency around Saigon. Keyes Beech of the Chicago Daily News arranged an introduction to a friend of the Queen’s in Bangkok. Time’s

Roy Rowan assigned his Saigon office manager, Pham Xuan An - later found to have been an undercover Vietcong spy - to brief me at the start of one of my visits to the doomed regime. (Roy wasn’t altogether duped: he told me before the briefing, “We think An conceals close connections with the North.” ) I’m also a life member of two other FCCs in the region – Tokyo’s and Bangkok’s – and both of those great train stations perform well. Tokyo’s has reference and research services that Hong Kong lacks. Bangkok’s is a lively departure point to all the madcap phenomena – student riots, military coups, palace tensions, border wars that the kingdom never seems to be able break free of. But in my judgment the FCCHK takes first prize. For two reasons. First, there’s the local story. Since the Club moved to the territory from Shanghai in 1949,

the local story has been China. Since World War II ended there really has been no bigger longrunning story anywhere in the world. The station to cover it from has been Hong Kong. These days, of course, correspondents in Beijing and Shanghai find that working from their cities has some obvious advantages over the SAR But it’s worth noting how often PRC-based colleagues escape to the embrace of the Main Bar for a useful adjustment to reality. Second, Hong Kong’s FCC is more conveniently placed on the globe than its Tokyo and Bangkok rivals. In my 44 years of using the FCC bar, two of them as Club resident, correspondents of my generation have been able to pick up traincatching tips for stories as varied as the Cultural Revolution, India-Pakistan dust-ups, the fall of both Saigon and Phnom Penh, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia, dictator Marcos’s downfall in Manila, Mao’s death and China’s astonishing transition from chaotic socialism to tumultuous capitalism. The list could go on. Indeed, it is bound to. Given China’s stillunfinished search for a modern political and economic form, the FCCHK should remain for at least another 60 years one of the world’s great hubs for roving correspondents.



60TH ANNIVERSARY • Past Presidents Remember

Philip Bowring, 1985-1986 & 1993-1994

The prime significance of the FCC for me is not having twice been President. It is where I met my wife. It was October 1980. I, then between the Financial Times and Far Eastern Economic Review, was there for a post-squash, pre-lunch drink. She was a reporter for the HK Standard who had never set foot in the place and just there to report a lunchtime speech. That was in the latter Sutherland House days when my main contribution to the Club was strongly opposing a proposal from a certain banker to jump on a property bandwagon and buy, with a massive mortgage, premises in an office building. Given the subsequent property bust, it could have bankrupted the Club. Rejection of this led to Donald Wise and others, including then FEER Editor Derek Davies and Mike Keats hitting on the idea of pushing the government to let the Club use one of the old but neglected government-owned historic buildings. Former military man Wise asked for the Murray Barracks, then on the site of the Bank of China building. Instead then governor Sir Murray Maclehose offered us the ice house instead, much to the annoyance of its occupant, the Dairy Farm Group. By then, FEER types were prominent at the FCC. But that was recent. When I first came to Hong Kong to work for FEER I could only be an associate, an expensive but lowly status I rejected. Only around 1975 were the rules changed to enable those working for Hong Kongbased publications circulating mainly overseas to be classed as correspondents, and a new category of Journalist created for those working for local media. Being President is supposed



to be an honour. In fact mostly it was more onerous than running a weekly magazine. First time around there were only a few crises. Having been on the Board for several years I knew how things worked. Second time, as a reluctant and unopposed candidate, I saw the worst aspects of club politics. Required to sack a manager found to have been accepting advantages, I was then subject to an EGM to fire me instead. It was defeated by a huge margin but was an unpleasant experience. I have since declined to run for the Board and believe all ex-presidents should keep their distance for at least a few years. A statute of limitations on Board membership is also desirable to reduce the tendency to formation of cliques and factions, and encourage wider member participation. It is hard to single out events or individuals. Two masterful performances by politicians I

remember: Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and, then in late 80s, former British prime minister Harold Macmillan, still very sharp and amusing. Also I recollect some demeaning performances by correspondents, for example serving up the softest, most ingratiating of questions to Lee Kuan Yew. Associates have of course always been the Club’s principal supporters. So a special thanks is due to the large contingent of lawyers, among whom the most famous was surely the bewigged Warwick Read, who was a regular fixture at the bar till the law caught up with this former deputy public prosecutor, jailed for corruption in 1990. As for correspondent members, there is always a special place for those who in addition to their professional accomplishments were also part of the fabric and soul of the FCC – Richard Hughes, Bert Okuley and Hu Van Es. And there is a special place too for the staff. In the old days the club relied as surely on Mr Liao as it now does on Gilbert. Members have always leaned heavily on the good humour and forbearance of the bar and restaurant staff and on the hard work of a kitchen staff working in far from ideal conditions. Perhaps on this anniversary, they can be given pride of place.

60TH ANNIVERSARY • Past Presidents Remember

Stephen Vines, 1992-1993


Past Presidents Remember • 60TH ANNIVERSARY

Keith B. Richburg, 1997-1998

Before arriving in Hong Kong I was inclined to the Groucho Marx view of club memberships, believing it would be better to avoid any club likely to accept me as a member. However the FCC quickly dispelled this long held conviction as I was beguiled by its friendliness and by the extraordinarily generous offers of help and advice from older hands.

When I was a correspondent travelling around Southeast Asia for The Washington Post – covering the riots in Jakarta, the insurgency in Aceh, the coup in Cambodia and the militia sacking and burning of East Timor – the FCC was my island of calm, an oasis of stability.

The comfortable stereotypes of these FCC doyens was maintained – albeit sometimes unsteadily at the bar - where studious cynicism carefully disguised a depth of knowledge and professionalism in the dubious trade of journalism. This, combined with the entirely wonderful staff employed on the premises, left me highly vulnerable to abandoning the prejudices of a lifetime and joining the Club. Not only did I join but found myself increasingly immersed in the Club’s affairs. At times, when I served as President, this immersion was a tad too deep and time consuming. Club members are not renowned for their timidity and lack of opinions and hardly reluctant to forcibly express them to a functionary as lowly as the President. Thus I quickly discovered that it was easy to give offence, to institute reforms that were opposed on the grounds that it was always unwise to try something new and to be accused of being only interested in the Club’s media functions and excessively focused on what are politely called its social functions. Naturally I plead guilty to all the above because I believe what makes the Club work is precisely this mixture of the social and the media aspects of the FCC. If we were a mere drinking club (itself a perfectly reasonable thing to

After three, four or five weeks on the road, I would drop my bags at my apartment on MacDonnell Road and immediately trudge down the hill through Hong Kong Park to the Club. There was never any reason to call ahead or make an appointment -- I was always certain to see familiar faces there. There’d be Hugh Van Es and Annie, Kees with his San Miguel, and Vaudine sipping her ubiquitous cup of tea. Garcia was often on hand and holding court, usually over pitchers of pink liquid. Giannini and Moriarty might be locked in an argument with neither getting a word in edgewise. Gilbert would usually be there with a hearty “Welcome back!” And the ever efficient bar staff always knew my Club number by heart, a good thing considering I almost always forgot my card. Most often, before I made my way from the reception desk to the near corner of the bar a cold San Miguel was already open and waiting for me. And I knew instantly that I was home. In the years since, I moved to Paris, to Washington, and now New York, and my visits to Hong Kong have become less frequent. But the Club to me is a permanent fixture, a place that stays ageless even as some old faces go and new ones arrive. The Year of The Handover, 1997, was a great time to be a


be) or a more serious journalist’s centre we could, no doubt, amply justify our existence but I question whether we would be a great press club. Some are exasperated by the Club’s tendency to invite controversy, as we have recently in inviting Thaksin Shinawatra and Tibet campaigner Kate Saunders as speakers. However providing a platform for all, in a town where the number of these platforms is shrinking, is not an add-on extra but an essential part of what we do. Any journalist who believes there is something commendable about avoiding controversy should seek new employment. I am well aware that the majority of members are not journalists but equally never forget that they signed up to become members of a journalist’s club. They did so, presumably, because they saw something attractive about a club with a

media focus. But this is not a one-way process because the FCC is enriched by the wide variety of occupations held by its members. As ever in a press club there is a strong contingent of lawyers, there are also traders, academics, business people from a variety of sectors and many employed in the creative trades. The FCC even opens its doors to civil servants, surely a sign of open-mindedness beyond the call of duty. What this diverse group of people bring to the FCC is a unique blend of experience and differing perspectives on the world. I very much doubt whether any other club in Hong Kong has this to offer. However nothing is perfect and I am sufficiently politically incorrect to mourn the passing of the smoky bar era where the pungent whiff of noxious weeds contributed to an atmosphere which somehow seems appropriate for a club of this kind. But we are all beholden to new government edicts, not to mention a new breed of clean living, health conscious members. The FCC can be an exasperating place, often easy to mock but Hong Kong would be worse off without its presence and we, the people privileged enough to be members, would no longer be part of what is undoubtedly one of the great press clubs of the world.

journalist in Hong Kong, and a terrific time for the Club – and serving that year as Club President remains one of the highlights of my professional life. We staged a fantastic series of Handover-related media events, bringing in the top newsmakers and making the FCC what it was meant to be – a centre of the journalistic action. And with Gilbert and the staff working overtime, we were able to accommodate the needs of the swarm of journalists who descended on Hong Kong for the Big Event. We had raucous battles – intense fights that often began at the Board meetings and continued on at the bar over endless rounds of San Miguel. Should we raise monthly dues or raise prices? How far should the Club go in criticizing the lack of press freedom on the Mainland? Should we allow children into the Club on weekends? How

about allowing in flight crews, to liven up the bar at night? And what about that picture on the wall of the women with the exposed breasts? We argued passionately, and well into the night, usually way past the point when the words became slurred and we had largely forgotten the larger points we were trying to make. And we would stagger our separate ways agreeing to meet again the next night where we would resume the same debates – because we all cared so much about the Club and wanted to see it prosper and thrive. I’ve joined other Clubs and enjoyed meals and drinks many more over the years. I’m a member of The Frontline Club in London, and Soho House in New York. I’m often at events at the Overseas Press Club in Manhattan, and the Council on Foreign Relations. They are all fine places. But none for me has been able to capture the magic of the FCC – the sense of history, the colourful characters past and present who congregate around the bar, the camaraderie. I’m already planning my next trip to Asia with a definite stop in Hong Kong. And I’ll walk into the Club and I know it will be as if I never left. And thanks, in advance, for remembering my membership number, since I know I will forget to bring my card.



60TH ANNIVERSARY • Past Presidents Remember

Karl Wilson, 2000-2001

The FCC is an institution among correspondents in Asia, established during an era when journalism stood for something more than the fast-food entertainmentjournalism typical today. Major newspapers had fully manned bureaus in Hong Kong, Anthony Lawrence was the voice of the BBC, Clare Hollingworth wrote for the Daily Telegraph and Richard Hughes for The Sunday Times. Old-timers will tell you that when the FCC relocated to the former British colony it was a golden age for correspondents in Hong Kong. Mao Tse-tung’s China was closed to the outside world but journalists in Hong Kong kept the world informed. My association with the Club came well after Mao and during the time of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms. It began some 20 years ago, just after Rupert Murdoch bought the South China Morning Post. I was returning from Australia to London but my old boss on the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Alan Farrelly, had come up as editor of the Post and wanted me to join. The welcome was frosty. Hostile would be a far more accurate description. The Wall Street Journal described Murdoch’s team as the Dingo Mafia. My first night in the Club and a familiar voice rang across the Club. “Wilson ... my son what will it be?” It was Mike Keats the UPI boss. We had known one another in London where United Press International had an office next door to the News Ltd office in Bouverie Street where correspondents for Murdoch’s Australian newspapers worked. Keats was good on the introductions and later introduced me to FCC politics. One morning I received a call



from Keats who said: “Congratulations you are in.” “In what?” I asked. “You have just been elected to the Board of Governors of the FCC.” I told him I had not stood for election to which he said: “Yeah, but we only had one journalist member standing so we put your name down and guess what, you have been elected ... beers on you.” For many of us the Club is a home away from home. Many of the old faces have gone. Hong Kong is no longer as important as it once was for foreign news. But nothing quite matches that feeling of belonging as when you walk into the Club after a year’s absence and one of the bar staff actually remembers your card number or running into Gilbert who greets you like a long lost friend.

The Club may have gone through a number of facelifts over the years but it still retains an atmosphere and nostalgia to which correspondents and journalists like to cling. Perhaps it is its connection with the past and the changing face of China? Just look at the past Presidents and who they worked for and you also get some idea of how the profession has also changed. Some papers and news organizations no longer exist. Even the one I worked for when I was president is gone and so, almost, has United Press International, one of the great international news agencies. Friday nights better known as zoo night are probably not as packed as they used to be. Some of the familiar faces have gone but conversations still flow amongst friends and strangers connected by profession, camaraderie, or interest or just the hope for fleeting companionship. One of the things I miss around the Main Bar are the phones, victims of the changing face of technology. When the phone rang behind Keats and the loudspeaker would say call for “Mr so and so call on line one.” Keats would pick the phone up and say “Sorry but he is not here.” And mumble something like “Is nothing sacred...”



The FCC – before 1949

Paul French has penned a fascinating book about China’s foreign press

before Mao. Here, he traces the FCC back to the “Hankou Last Ditchers” and a White Russian bar called Rosie’s Dine, Dance and Romance.


oreign journalists started forming clubs both formal and informal from the earliest days of the full-time correspondent in China. Before the First World War the Shanghai-based American journalist Carl Crow visited Beijing and regularly dropped by the city’s Peking Club where the resident foreign press corps, mostly British, gathered for drinks after work. Immediately, however, he ran into Beijing’s legendary obsession with rank. The London Times’ correspondent G.E. Morrison (“Morrison of Peking”) was the self-appointed doyen of the foreign press corps despite being in semi-retirement. He became angry with Crow after hearing that he had paid calls on other journalists before coming to see him first. Crow claimed that Morrison never got over the sleight and, “...hated me to the day of his death.” After the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 a miscellaneous collection of foreign correspondents found themselves in the temporary retreat of Hankou where they described themselves as the “Hankou Last Ditchers”. The Last Ditchers, who included Freda Utley, Agnes Smedley, Anna Louise Strong as well as the group’s doyen, UPI’s Francis McCracken, spent their evenings drinking on the roof of the China Press newspaper’s building, in the gardens of the Navy “Y”, at the Terminus Hotel or at Rosie’s Dine, Dance and Romance Restaurant, a small White Russian-run bar.



They swapped gossip and stories and tried to persuade the government’s press minders to let them venture up to the front. Indeed it was the strenuous efforts of the Nationalist Government’s minders that led to the formation of the first formal Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Chongqing a few years later after Chiang Kai-shek had retreated further up the Yangzi for his last stand against Tokyo. The minders were economical with the truth of the war’s progress and vigorously fought to prevent any of the foreign press corps from visiting Mao and his Communists in their Yenan caves. They organised to fight back as a lobby group and based themselves in a 24-room clubhouse. Correspondents who were to become legendary at the time including Teddy White and Annalee Jacoby of Time, Tillman Durdin and Frederick Marquardt were all prominent members. They were successful and trips to the front and to see Mao at Yenan became standard practice. As the Japanese retreated the Chinese capital moved from Chongqing to Nanjing and the FCC followed with UPI’s Walter Logan as President and a new clubhouse in a large, terraced Tudor-style mansion along with three jeeps from the US Army motor pool at a cost of only US$150 each. After the war the FCC relocated to Shanghai and based itself in relatively luxurious premises on the ninth floor of the iconic Broadway Mansions building adjacent to the Garden Bridge and the Bund. Broadway Mansions was already home to the offices and apartments of 50 foreign correspondents so was the natural place to be based. As the Civil War raged it became increasingly obvious that Chiang was losing and Mao winning and the end of an era was imminent. This sense of impending chaos and collapse was meat and veg. to the foreign correspondents but also meant they decided to enjoy themselves amid the horrors of the war and almost nightly parties at the FCC’s Broadway Mansions HQ became notoriously lively. But the FCC was essential too in more important ways than simply as a social club. Some found reporting on the Communist advance a dangerous and potentially lethal occupation. Graham Jenkins of Reuters and George Vine, the Assistant Editor of the NorthChina Daily News found themselves rather alarmingly condemned to death. Jenkins, based in Nanjing, had written about the Red Army crossing the Yangzi and

Historic beginnings: Above - Broadway Mansions, the FCCs iconic Shanghai home , situated next to the Bund and the Garden Bridge (above) and below – some of the FCC founders, the “Hankou Last Ditchers”, pose with Zhou Enlai (front, second from left) in 1938





Correspondent celebrities Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn meet Madame Chiang Kai-shek in her garden in wartime Chongqing in 1941, Hemingway described his trip to China as an “unshakable hangover”

The Chairman, the Generalissimo and the FCC It was a meeting most thought would never happen – but where it happened surprised everyone too. Throughout the war the unsteady alliance between the Nationalists and the Communists had just about held. Mao’s number two Zhou Enlai had spent most of the conflict in the wartime capital of Chongqing charming every reporter who passed through town including Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Desultory negotiations between the two camps had occurred throughout the warbut with Japan defeated it was felt by many that the Chairman and Generalissimo needed to meet face-toface. Neither was keen on the idea – each hated and distrusted the other. Both had to be nudged to attend – the Americans pressured Chiang; the Soviets telegrammed Mao telling him to attend. Both made essentially the same argument: to not be seen to talk would alienate a war-weary Chinese public. Eventually Mao arrived in Chongqing on August 28, 1945. The American Ambassador, Patrick J. Hurley, let it be known the talks had to have some sort of positive outcome.



Where to meet was a sticking point. Mao distrusted buildings controlled by the Nationalists, while choosing any particular embassy was seen as possibly partisan. Somewhere seemingly neutral was needed. And so the two met in the 24-room clubhouse of the Chongqing FCC – the only place both could agree on. A coup for the FCC? Not really – members and staff were barred from the building for security reasons and neither side had much to say to the press as the talks slowly fizzled out with neither side in particularly good faith. Anyway, by this time many of the former war-time Chongqing press corps had moved on to pastures new. The talks rambled, went round in circles and dragged. Still, on October 11, 1945, after 43 days of jaw-jaw, a joint communiqué was issued that in the words of one observer, “exuded goodwill but settled nothing.” There was a nonaggression pact and the notion of a coalition government but nothing firm. Despite future brokered talks and negotiations through 1945 and 1946 no lasting framework for a post-war coalition was ever found. China slipped back into civil war and the rest is history. Paul French

the imminent fall of Chiang’s forces in April 1949. Vine, in Shanghai, ran the story in the North-China along with a map that Vine had cobbled together. The Nationalists weren’t best pleased with either man Jenkins was quickly arrested by the secret police while Vine was picked up later the same day at his Shanghai apartment. Both refused to name their sources and were accused of rumour mongering and sentenced to execution. Vine called the British Consulate, who came but was turned away at gunpoint. In the end the President of the Shanghai FCC, a former UPI man and New York Herald Tribune correspondent Clyde Farnsworth approached the Generalissimo and the two, along with the secret police, launched into 36 hours of negotiations. Farnsworth eventually prevailed and the two correspondents were freed (minus a few teeth after repeated scraps with their guards) while newspapers around the world erroneously flashed the news that Jenkins had been executed by firing squad. Shortly after his release from prison Vine attended his own “Farewell to Shanghai” party at the FCC. Even for those who weren’t based in Broadway Mansions, the FCC was a regular stop. Fred Hampson, a wellliked AP correspondent in Shanghai, had his offices in Shanghai’s French Concession. However, both he and his wife Margaret visited the FCC often. During the fall of Shanghai in 1949 fighting broke out along the Suzhou Creek all around the FCC’s building. Margaret, who had stopped in for a gossip, ended up phoning in the details from Broadway Mansions to her husband Fred sitting in his Frenchtown office a couple of miles away from the action. After the American military personnel who had

been stationed in Broadway Mansions moved out the press corps had the building pretty much to themselves. But now the Communist advance was seen as too much of a threat to many journalists and more started relocating to Hong Kong. At Vine’s leaving party the FCC’s assets, including the Club’s furniture and the three army jeeps, were sold for the then handy sum of US$10,000 - Time and Life magazines bought one each while AP got the third. Vine took the cheque to Hong Kong to help start up the Hong Kong FCC. Clyde Farnsworth also moved to Hong Kong to run the FCC where it thrived after a somewhat rocky start. Deprived of premises in the overcrowded Colony when they arrived in 1949 the Club held meetings in a variety of places including the old Dairy Farm Restaurant on the mezzanine floor of Windsor House. The restaurant became the major journalist hangout in Hong Kong for some years despite being very cramped, but then in 1949 the FCC only had 11 full members. Eventually a more permanent home was found in a small house on Kotewall Road, which the FCC was allowed to occupy only if they promised to “keep the noise down”. A nice concluding story about the early FCC in Hong Kong was how it managed to help many of its former Chinese staff across the border from Shanghai and settle them with jobs in the Hong Kong club – had they remained in Communist Shanghai they would certainly have been considered immediately suspect as spies and collaborators. With most early members of the Hong Kong FCC being former members of the Shanghai club (Roy Rowan for instance had moved the Time-Life China bureau into the bridal suite at the Peninsula Hotel!) and the first President being Farnsworth and the second being a former Reuters man in Shanghai, Monty Parrott, it must have felt like old times on the Kotewall Road. Through the Looking Glass: China’s Foreign Journalists from Opium to Mao – by Paul French. Published by Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 978-962-209-982-1

Author Paul French speaks at the FCC as part of the 60th Anniversary: June Speaker Series. Monday, June 22, 2009, 12.30 for 1.15 address.




Wall Exhibition: Robin Adshead

Robin Adshead was a soldier, pilot and photojournalist. As part of this Club Wall retrospective, Corrin Adshead remembers his father’s life and work.

Robin Adshead was born in London in 1934. He was commissioned into the 6th Gurkha Rifles in 1954 and experienced jungle operations during the Malayan Emergency. After service in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, he became a Light Aircraft Pilot in 1963, flying for the Army in UK, Europe and North Africa. When Confrontation with Indonesia in Borneo began, he was the only Gurkhali-speaking fixed-wing pilot in the Army. He retrained as a helicopter pilot and returned to Malaya in 1965 to raise and command the first Air Platoon of the 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles, flying Sioux helicopters during three operational flying tours in Borneo. In 1967, his Gurkha Air Platoon was transferred to Hong Kong where his unit was amalgamated into the Army Air Corps. He was Second-in-Command of the Squadron until he retired from the Army, at the rank of Major, in 1971, to become a photojournalist. Throughout his entire flying career, Robin managed to take numerous stunning photographs through the open door of a Sioux helicopter and it was during the late ’60s in Hong Kong that he became friends with several well-known Vietnam photojournalists of the era, such as Larry Burrows, whom he would meet with at the FCC to talk and learn about photography. Robin remained a regular visitor and Lifetime Absentee Member of the Club until he passed away suddenly at his home in La Herradura, Spain, on 10th November 2005. He was 71 years of age.

The Adshead family would like to thank the FCC for its kind support and invitation to go ahead with this exhibition at the Club. We are also very grateful to Bob Davis, who has assisted with the selection of the photographs and worked tirelessly to produce them in the required quality and format. Thanks as well to Bob’s associates and friends in Hong Kong and to Toby Carroll in Singapore, who scanned and restored the images. Thanks also to Color Six Laboratories in Hong Kong who helped with the exhibition prints.

G/F, 28A Stanley Street, Central, HK Tel: 25260123

Above: The Repulse Bay Hotel THE CORRESPONDENT



Above Left: View to Central from Causeway Bay. Above Right: The Cathay Pacific and Cable & Wireless buildings, Central. Main Picture: Sailing junks, near Lantau.




Main picture above: Lam Tin, Kowloon. Left: A Mercedes taxi and a rickshaw. Right: Queen’s Road, Central.





Top: Car parking on reclamation land in front of Central Post Office. Left: Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong Island. Opposite: The Yacht Club’s Kellett Island with Happy Valley in the background.






Main picture: A rural temple in Fanling, New Territories. Left: Paddy fields in the New Territories. Right: Farmland on the Sai Kung peninsula.



In Review

In Review

Dog Eat Dog If you believe that standards of journalism have declined or, more bluntly, that much of what you read in newspapers is rubbish, then you will love Nick Davies’ book. A veteran Fleet Street insider, Davies has produced a scalding expose of the dodgy, corrupt and illegal practices he says are increasingly commonplace among his Fourth Estate colleagues. Jonathan Sharp heard the author speak at a Club lunch in April.


rue to his fiery reputation, Nick Davies pulled no punches in his address to an FCC lunch in which he spelled out his views on what he sees as the shoddy and parlous state of the media, explored in his riveting book “Flat Earth News”. The book, so titled because it charges that many news items are as factual as the idea that the Earth is flat, unleashes its sharpest barbs at the so-called quality British press instead of aiming at the seemingly softer targets, what he terms the tabloid “shit sheets”. The trigger for the book was the supposed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the stated reason in Washington and London for going to war. “It really irritated me that after the invasion, as the sand settled and it became clear that these famous weapons of mass destruction didn’t exist, we the media, with very few exceptions, dismissed that as though it was simply a problem of government and intelligence agencies.” Davies charged that the media fell down badly in failing to tell the truth about the non-existent weapons. “Why did we take what you might think as the defining story of our era and screw it up?” The media also screw up other global stories, including 28



the millennium bug – “almost everything we told was false” – and thematic stories such as those about illegal drugs, crime and education. “When you dig down in the coverage and say, what are the facts on which all this is based, you don’t find facts, you find massive misunderstandings.” He might also have mentioned the hysterical coverage of the SARS crisis. (Memorably, Cathay Pacific Airways Chairman James Hughes-Hallett put the dangers of SARS into proper perspective when he said you were more likely to be murdered in Britain than to die of SARS in Hong Kong.) How has this sorry state of affairs in the media come to pass? Davies said that in Britain, priorities had changed for the worse as ownership of the media had passed from family firms into the hands of big corporations. “The logic of commercialism has moved into our newsrooms and usurped the logic of journalism. Corporations want to make more money, so they cut their costs and there is a tendency to push journalists out of the door.” But even though budgets are squeezed and staff numbers decline, newspaper pages still have to be filled. Citing research commissioned from Cardiff

University, Davies said that on average, journalists were now filling three times the amount of space they were 20 years ago, drastically reducing the time spent on reporting. “And time is our most important working asset. Taking time away from journalists is like taking steel away from car production.” From a sample of 2,000 stories in the five best British newspapers, the researchers found that a mere 12 percent of the reports showed evidence of being factually checked. “And that is what happens when you take time away from journalists, like the idiots who run these commercial corporations have done to us.” In the sample, a similar amount – 12 percent – of the information was from journalists reporting in the old- fashioned way, while 80 percent was second-hand material drawn from two sources, wire services, such as Reuters, and the public relations industry. “Both of these sources... are inherently unreliable if we want to tell the truth about the world.” Some in Davies’ audience felt that lumping wire services together with PR was one punch that was a bit wide of the mark. One questioner who took umbrage at the “inherently unreliable” tag said she had worked at Reuters and had been impressed how information was “fact-checked to death”. Davies draws a distinction between stories that are true, and those that are accurate. Journalists may report accurately what someone is saying, but is that person telling the truth? The journalists’ job was to dig for the truth, he said

Flat Earth News Nick Davies, 408pp Published by Chatto & Windus ISBN -10: 0701181451 Available from

(although, as we know in Asia, such investigative efforts may not only be fruitless, they can be downright dangerous). While Davies takes aim mainly at the British press, he is also scornful of The New York Times which, he said, “has a consistent history of getting these big foreign stories wrong.” Davies said the public relations industry had expanded hugely to fill the gap left by the dwindling corps of journalists. “There was an invisible moment in Britain about 10 years ago when the number of public relations people caught up and overtook the declining number of journalists. So now there are

more flacks than hacks.” What Davies did not mention in his speech, but is recounted graphically in the book, is the appalling pressure that many journalists are put under, goaded by bullying, potty-mouthed editors. The more sensitive readers of the Daily Mail may be interested to learn that their newspaper’s editor, Paul Dacre, is famed and feared for what is called his vagina monologue – his incessant use of the c-word to all and sundry who fail to do his bidding. Davies charged that among the media’s shortcomings, reporting on climate change was “riddled with artifice” supplied by PR and campaigning groups. In the U.S., he said, there were so many so called grass-roots groups they were known as Astroturf – because the grass roots weren’t real. A blatant case of PR disinformation cited by Davies occurred at the G20 summit in London when a man in a crowd of demonstrators died. Police said the man, who was not part of the protest, suffered a heart attack. The reality, that a policeman roughly pushed the man to the ground, was revealed by a passing American who captured the scene on the camera of his mobile phone. Ending on a downbeat note, Davies said that while banks may well recover from the recession, he doubted the ability of many media organizations to find sufficient revenue to survive, now that so much advertising has departed to the Internet. His depressing conclusion: “I think we can go where the arrow makers went.” THE CORRESPONDENT



Crocs and Happiness

On a solo trip to the mountains of Bhutan, Karin Malmstrom discovers colour-coded Croc-wearing monks, yaks, demons, Tibetan mastiffs and the “Gross National Happiness” principle. She left wanting more.


ou know Bhutan is in modernization mode when much of the country’s 700,000 citizens from souvenir-touting tykes to wizened pilgrims are wearing fake Crocs. Mind you, they’re a handy option for easy shoe-shedding at temples and monasteries. Stepping in and out of half a dozen a day, I resorted to donning them myself (I had been advised to bring a pair of “camp shoes” for after a long day’s trek and was pleased to discover that the (also fake) Crocs I had thrown into my backpack would help me blend in with the population). I noticed an organic Crocs colour-coding in play – novice monks seem to favour lavender while for those who have risen in the monastic pecking order, yellow is the fashion choice to go with their crimson, orange and yellow-tinted robes. Since my wardrobe consisted of layers of filthy, sweaty hiking clothes, I felt appropriate shuffling around in black ones. I ended up in Bhutan by little design of my own. I do not know what prompted me to take a wing-andprayer approach, however I found myself booking a trip over the internet through a local Bhutanese tour operator. All I knew was that the dates were precisely (read - no margin for error) wedged between two work commitments, and the itinerary designed by the Australian whose trip I was supposed to join but had absconded sounded like an ideal combination of festival, trek and culture. “Sorry, Australian dollar gone down, he‘s not coming,” Daza Jigme, owner of Bhutan Footprints



Travel, informed me during our email chat a few days prior to departure. However sexy I thought it was to be chatting with someone I had just wired an obscene amount of money to in Thimphu, it began to sink in that I was committed to two weeks of The Unknown, alone. Having taken the leap of faith, I did not bother to buy a Lonely Planet guidebook or any other recommended reading and left everything to trust and discovery. Everything but the packing. “Are you prepared? April is best time but it may be cold too,” chatted Daza. Layers it is. The last time I went camping was when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1991. Am I insane, I pondered. The good news was we could land on Paro’s tiny airstrip midst drizzling low bumpy clouds. Only while reading Druk Air’s in-flight magazine did I learn that passengers are highly recommended to leave a 48-hour window for onward connections due to unpredictable weather. Why ruin the trip by already contemplating the sprint awaiting me in Bangkok on the return? “Gu Zu Dzang Po, I’m Thinley, I’ll be with you the whole time,” said my plaid “gho” bedecked guide, skirt outfit completed with argyle knee socks. I’m convinced the Brits left more than teatime customs here (also in Burma where the longyis are plaid and teatime is likewise observed). Why in such a small country does an overwhelming Lilliputian sensation come over me? I’m the dwarf, overpowered by outrageous head-spinning medieval beauty at every glance. The scenery, the people, the colours – a sensory fiesta. And, people actually seem happy although some may not know they are guided by the “Gross National Happiness” principle. Thinley pointed out a white speck far in the distance on a mountain where he mentioned we would walk the following day. I’m sure the small jaunt straight up 800 metres to the 3,000 above sea-level Tiger’s Nest was to determine whether he would need to pre-book a helicopter to rescue me during the trek if I were to be near expiry. I noticed most tourists were elderly, and rightly cheated by riding horses most of the way - until confronted with a sheer drop-off no sensible animal would agree to negotiate. Another sensation – acute vertigo. Just when you think you’ve arrived, 760 more breathtakingly rail-less steps carved in the cliff beckon you ahead to the monastery.




Sensory fiesta: Monks, monasteries, mountains and magical yak-filled vistas – Bhutan is an oxygendepleted feast for the senses.




“Always clockwise,” murmured Thinley as we circumambulated the prayer wheels. (On later drives through the country, this was a theme for the driver as well, as at each mountain pass he would circumambulate the road stupa in respect and for protection). Having caught my breath, I attempted to meditate with the monks in the room attached to the cave where Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche meditated for three months before subduing a demon and converting the Paro Valley to Buddhism. When in doubt, blame it on the demons. Bhutanese lore is riddled with fantastical tales of Guru Rinpoche and other VIP’s in the Bhutanese pantheon including the Divine Madman who shape-shifted into other beings to subdue unruly evil entities. My demons surfaced in the form of fear of tumbling into the misty abyss. “Paro Festival is formal, you must dress nicely,” stated Thinley. Fine, since I already had the national footwear, might as well get the national women’s costume, a kira. “Must be tight, don’t want your skirt to come off,” the hotel attendant commented as she trussed me in my colourful garb. “You can’t wear those shoes (Crocs), too informal,” she solemnly noted. “What did that lady say, Thinley?” I asked as I saw him smile and nod in my direction. “She said that even you are not Bhutanese you look good in our national dress.” Yes ! Approval from a beetle-nut chomping granny – I’m in the game ! Barring a hideously obnoxious tourist who screamed at and elbowed anyone (including the security guards) who obscured his photo-taking, if you allowed yourself to get lost in the whirl of masked dances, Paro Festival was a trance-inducing spectacle. I found out I would not need to carry my backpack when we showed up at the Druk (Dragon) Path Trek trailhead and my entourage was waiting: six horses, Dorji the horseman, Isshu the chef, Pema the steward and of course, Thinley. A “chung ku” (mini) expedition, all for me. I was to learn “chung ku” is a useful term for “mini” anything – mini hike such as to The Tiger’s Nest or the unreported mini border war with India in 2004. Visions of colonial African safaris filled my oxygen-depleted head. Off I went on the “Easy to Medium” level 4-day trek. A 1,000 meters ascent, THE CORRESPONDENT







hail and encounters with yaks later, we arrived at Jela Monastery. Barely visible from the valley floor, if I had located it before setting out I would have abandoned my boots there and then. Four tents (mine, dining, kitchen and loo) popped up while I communed with the monks. The reading glasses, prayer beads and flashlights I had brought as gifts were gratefully accepted as I quietly sat to contemplate why on earth anyone would build a monastery in the windiest, off-the-map spot in the universe. Another gripping saga of a meeting between two local deities marked the auspicious locale. Thinley gave a monk a few nu and threw some dice. The local deity’s number was 9. He prayed, made a wish and got an 8. I got 11 – considered extremely lucky. With the monk’s blessings and protection, our trip would be smooth. The Tibetan mastiff from the nearby yak herder’s encampment was waiting patiently outside the dining tent flap as I emerged from a meal of cardamom mutton, spicy vegetables and hot “ara” rice wine laced with a fried egg. He knew there would be leftovers. “We’ll feed him and he’ll stay the night to guard the camp, “ promised Thinley. Great, more protection. Isshu the chef made “tourist food” taste delicious. Thinley, who had been sneaking local delicacies out from kitchens along the way, tipped him off that I liked chillies - the national vegetable I suppose. Ema datchi – chillies and cheese – is a staple. As Tabasco is to tofu, esay, home-made chilli paste, makes anything tasty. Teatime is a ritual after coming in from a day’s trek, complete with biscuits, and, to my surprise, freshly popped popcorn. I wondered if Bhutanese actually like popcorn or is this another item produced only for tourists, such as lemon grass room spray and honey? Tea served in the dining tent or directly to mine temporarily quelled the deep, throbbing chill that invaded my body to the core. I was looking forward to warmer climes where I could enjoy the cold Druk “Super Strong” that was waiting for me at the end of the trek. Then it snowed and Plan B, C and possibly D were on the table. “Dorji is worried about the horses,” Thinley announced at a frosty dinner where I presented him with my Patagonia fleece. “ Yaks do ice, horses don’t.”

Small revelations. However, since we had horses and not yaks we had to deal with 24 shoed hooves that formed balls of ice on the bottom making them comically wobble around the campsite. “If it stops snowing we may be able to continue on the path. If it doesn’t, we may need to stay here or move to lower ground. Let’s see in the morning,” a concerned Thinley related. Emerging yet again from our Himalayan “restaurant”, a blinding white moon greeted us. All was a fairyland, sparkling in crystal splendour. We did Plan B 1⁄2 . Thinley and I started out in cloudless skies, again straight upwards, to view a pristine lake and the path we would have followed had the weather been favourable. “At around 4,000 meters my last tourists started to cry,” Thinley mused. I was not amused as I was nearly reaching that altitude and hyperventilating my lungs out. “Holy yak dung Batman, I made it to the ‘top’ of my trek! ” I exclaimed into the ether as we reached the lake. Oddly I had no headache, possibly due to taking “Hong Jing Tian”, an herb grown in thin air environments that oxygenates blood. Russian athletes have been using it for years. The day’s descent was memorable for two things: it was a long way down – from 4,200 to 2,500 meters, and, we passed through a Jurassic forest of Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island” proportions. Again the Lilliputian factor took hold. Gargantuan rhododendron trees bursting aflame, tree trunks larger than Hong Kong flats, a sweeping moss-carpeted forest floor that spilled into a raging glacial river. The horses passed us and Thinley became annoyed I stopped so often to soak in the primeval setting. That night, it rained on us and snowed where we should have been camping – and where we would have been stuck. On to the Divine Madman “No Dogs” monastery, and Punaka, Trongsa and Bumthang Dzongs (fortresses). By Week Two I was feeling suitably permeated with culture, benevolence and happiness, and hoped some would stay with me so it would ooze out to those at lower altitude. Relaxed silliness was the next state of being on the







journey after Thinley had prayed in a few monasteries for the recovery of his sick 5-month old son. It seemed to have worked. “Takins are stupid and lazy,” Thinley offered as we were winding up the trip with a visit to the Takin Reserve overlooking Thimphu . “Why then,” I giggled, “are they your national animal? ” Finally. Polite, preoccupied Thinley laughed. “We do have other animals such as flying snakes and reindeer but the takin was assembled by the Divine Madman from a goat and cow so we chose it.” Made perfect sense. How could everything have gone so deliciously? I would not have wanted to miss the ideally-timed snowfall and subsequent rerouting through the Star Trek “Voyage Home” visuals. No planning, no expectations, just curiosity and trust that things would work out. Luckily they did. And the Crocs-clad gomchen (lay monk fortuneteller) says things are good. Think I’ll stay at altitude. 36


Press Freedom

Press Freedom

Stiletto By Max Kolbe

Why Shoot? Just Legislate and Jail Relations between governments and journalists can be strained even at the best of times. But efforts by authorities around the world to stifle unwanted reports that irritate and upset through draconian legal avenues appear to have reached new levels. Tehran stole the lion’s share of attention in these stakes with the conviction of Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, for espionage. Her one-day trial was closed to the public. She was sentenced to eight years in prison but the saner heads among Iranian authorities ensured her appeal process was quick and said it would be fair. Saberi was freed (pictured here on arrival back in the USA) after the charges were reduced to a twoyear suspended sentence.


Real dilemma

Northern Ireland Suzanne Breen from The Sunday Tribune is being sued by the police after refusing to divulge her sources within the Real IRA. The Police Service of Northern Ireland hopes to force her into handing over telephone, computer and written records of her communications with sources from the splinter group. Breen is the only reporter in Ireland to receive the Real IRA’s claim of responsibility for the killing of two British soldiers. She says that she would go to prison rather than accede to the police demand. Importantly Breen said journalists’ promises to protect sources were essential to their ability to do the job. But she also noted that the Real IRA might attack her if she were seen to betray them to police.

Publish and be jailed

Efforts around the world to stifle unwanted reports that irritate and upset through draconian legal avenues appear to have reached new levels.

Uganda The Ugandan government has taken dramatic steps to curtail press freedom with legislation that would allow state security agents to intercept mobile, print, and electronic communications, which journalists fear will limit their ability to maintain confidentiality when gathering information. Some politicians want to make it mandatory for journalists to reveal their sources whenever challenged and many see this as the start of fresh attempts to undermine the press and opposition parties ahead of elections in 2011. President Yoweri Museveni regularly scorns his country’s media houses and has accused the press of being saboteurs. Anyone caught practising journalism in Uganda without official registration can be jailed.

Ridden by the Tiger

Sri Lanka The Sri Lankan army has been getting uppity and attacking foreign journalists covering the final moments of civil war in that country, saying they were indulging in “malicious” reporting based on false information provided by the LTTE (the Tamil Tigers) rebels. The LTTE elicit little sympathy and, given the extent of the bombings up north by the Sri Lankan military where thousands of women and children were left stranded as the war came to its dramatic close, it is hard to take the army’s bleating seriously. A senior government military official was quoted by the staterun Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation as saying that foreign journalists were maliciously reporting inaccurate information provided by the Tiger rebels. And the Media Centre for National Security, which is linked to the army, also underlined that foreign journalists, in the country are being misled by the LTTE. “The LTTE has taken many journalists, especially foreign journalist for a ride. We expect foreign journalists to be aware of what happened to the lady who rode the tiger,” it said in a cryptically worded statement. Indeed. Truth also always proves to be another of the casualties of war.

Aussie Rules?


Homeward bound

Ivory Coast Life for French photojournalist Jean-Paul Ney is improving. He’s heading home after spending 16 months in jail in the Ivory Coast for his alleged involvement in an attempted coup. According to witnesses, Ney was visibly relieved as he left Abidjan’s main jail accompanied by French consul Alain Ferre and one of his co-defendants, Modest Sery. Ney’s lawyer said the bail agreement did not place any restrictions on Ney leaving Ivory Coast and he left for Paris. The freelance photojournalist was jailed in January 2008 in Abidjan along with another French national and eight west Africans after being charged with an “attack” and “plotting against the authority of the state”. Ney says he has no links whatsoever to any coup, and that the case against him had been manipulated. His release (pictured above) followed a meeting between France’s Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet and Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo.

Australia On a lighter note, Australian Football League football commentator Sam Newman has about as much journalistic integrity as the president of Uganda but he won’t mind, with the folks at Channel Nine paying him a million Aussie bucks a year to deliver his schoolboy wit and antics on The Footy Show. But now they’re all in trouble after breaching television’s code of conduct after Newman presented a mannequin on air, dressed in lingerie and claimed it was football journalist Caroline Wilson from The Age in Melbourne. The skit was rather suggestive alongside Newman’s constant sexual innuendo and was complete with the doll wearing a photo of Wilson over its face. The Australian Communication and Media Authority found that it “was likely, in all the circumstances, to have provoked severe ridicule against the journalist on the grounds of gender”. The authority noted that Channel Nine had already apologised on air and to Wilson in private, and suspended Newman as well as making the former football star and other members of the production staff undergo professional anti-discrimination training.






Meanwhile in the Main Bar

Then and Now

Stanley Waterfront. Images by Bob Davis


A slipway at Stanley is bordered by boat repairers, unhurried day-trippers and small signs of construction.

2008: The same slipway thirty-seven years later and its stylised wedding shots, concrete and much more construction Š Bob Davis.







After 60 years, what’s the FCC today? On the FCC’s 60th Hong Kong anniversary, Keith Bradsher examines the Club today. He finds a vibrant mix – important media hub, excellent speaking venue and a superb social and business networking setting. Quite simply, it’s the most interesting place in Hong Kong.


he incoming president of another press club asked me a few days ago for suggestions on how to make a good institution even better. I had two suggestions: find great speakers and add a restaurant chain owner to the club’s Board. A few minutes later, I was having dinner and drinks with other journos at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong when the chief executive of a big shipping line walked over. I had spoken to him several times by phone, including that morning, but never met him, so he introduced himself and gave me his card. Top executives and government ministers seldom belong to correspondents’ clubs elsewhere. But they belong to the FCC because of the unique role the Club plays in the community. We provide the best speakers in town. We are a great place to gather news. And we have beautiful, well-run facilities and a very well-trained staff to make the Club one of the most impressive places in town to entertain or just grab a quick bite to eat or a drink. The FCC faces constant challenges. The Club needs to protect free speech, and to speak up when members face imprisonment and other perils for doing their jobs. The Club needs to provide an impartial venue for the most important speakers in Hong Kong. And the Club needs to balance the interests of the correspondent and journalist members with the interests of the associate members. 42


The interests of our various classes of members are more often in harmony than not, despite occasional differences. This was most evident in the government’s recent renewal of our lease, something that all classes of membership clearly wanted. We received the renewal because a range of government agencies saw no better use than a media hub for a government-owned building around the corner from the chief executive’s mansion. The renewal even went through without any increase in our rent – although our rent is already much higher than what other top clubs pay. From Mia Farrow to Thaksin Shinawatra, our speakers are often controversial. But they are a draw for correspondent, journalist, associate, corporate and diplomatic members alike. Prominent speakers and a well-located building have given us a nearly year-long waiting list for associate members. A tougher question for the Club lies in the extent to which it should take positions on issues. Some issues are clear – the Club favoured the release of Ching Cheong, a Singaporean foreign correspondent, from a prison in China. The Club has also pushed sfor seven years to win greater journalistic access to the mainland; we have made some progress, but still need multiple-entry visas and are still pursuing this goal. Other debates have been more complex. To some extent, this reflects a long-standing division between the Fleet Street style of

Image: Carsten Schael THE CORRESPONDENT



journalism – in which a reporter is often expected to express an opinion even in a news story – and the American approach to journalism, in which striving for objectivity has long been valued (although this may be changing in some news organizations). The debates get particularly tricky if journalists are being asked to take a stand on an issue on which they might also be writing articles – Board Members can and do abstain in that case. The most famous instance when the Club has faced this dilemma came during the Article 23 dispute in 2003. The proposed implementing legislation included several threats to free speech in Hong Kong. At a time when many organizations in Hong Kong were reluctant to be on the wrong side of the Tung Chee-hwa administration or the Beijing authorities, the Club played an important role. Critics of the legislation were given an opportunity to give lunch speeches at the FCC at a time when other venues were less receptive to hosting them. After a strong debate within a deeply divided Board, the Club also decided to march as an institution in the giant demonstration that helped persuade the Hong Kong government to withdraw its legislative proposal. Invitations to speakers often represent one of the trickiest challenges for the Club. In the weeks before the final showdown on Article 23, the Club invited Hong Kong’s solicitor general, Robert Allcock, to debate the issue on a panel with several critics of the legislation. But with so many speakers, the panel ran far behind schedule and Mr. Allcock had to leave to address the Legislative Council before he could field any questions. 44


Image: Carsten Schael

That experience resulted in a nearly total ban on having multiple speakers, on the theory that it is hard for even one speaker to deliver his or her initial remarks and then take questions during the 35 or 40 minutes available at lunch. The aversion to multiple speakers became an issue this year when the International Campaign for Tibet contacted the Club and expressed an interest in participating in a discussion on Tibet. The Professional Committee scheduled the event as a single-speaker lunch, only to have the Chinese foreign ministry demand that the event be cancelled or at least turned into a discussion with a mainland official or expert supplied by the ministry. A discussion with someone from the mainland would have greatly increased the news value of the occasion and we postponed the speech. But the foreign ministry was not able to find a speaker

quickly (although we would still welcome one in the future) and the event went ahead as a singlespeaker lunch after all. Through all the controversies, the Club remains the most interesting place in Hong Kong – and not just when the Friday night partying gets going. More people than ever are eating and drinking at the Club, our membership is at a record, we have people lining up to get in and we are taking strong stands on important issues while hosting the best speakers around. We have another seven-year lease during which to make the Club even better, and it will keep improving for years to come. Keith Bradsher is the Club’s First Vice President, and has been the convener or co-convener of the Professional Committee since 2004.


Thanks, Papa Liao, for the Memories His staff called him Papa Liao, a fitting term of affectionate deference for someone who was utterly indispensable in helping to steer the Club through its often stormy early decades. Jonathan Sharp reports.


is legendary memory for recalling FCC membership account numbers may have dimmed – understandably, since he retired from the Club more than 30 years ago. But the names of some of the better known scribes who have propped up the Main Bar still tripped off the tongue of Mr. Liao Chien-ping at a splendid lunch at the FCC hosted by his protégé, General Manager Gilbert Cheng. And when Mr. Liao’s memory faltered, Mrs. Liao, his wife of 69 years, and his daughter Louise were present to take up the story. That extraordinary story unfolded when the Club was in its infancy in the war-time Nationalist Chinese capital of Chongqing. Mr. Liao recalled that he answered a newspaper advertisement for the job of waiter: “I was asked, how can you work here when you don’t speak English? So I replied that I will learn.” And Mr. Liao did. Legend has it that his first words of English were “eggs” and “toast”. He says that – hard though it may be to believe – in the very early days there was no bar, only a restaurant, and very little liquor. And even when the bar opened, the premises kept a deliberately low profile so as not to attract the attentions of Japanese bombers. Mr. Liao stayed faithful to the FCC in its moves to Nanjing and then Shanghai, where he remembers that the Club occupied the 14th to 17th floors of what was then Broadway Mansions. As the Chinese communists advanced, so the Club retreated 46


Image: Bob Davis

to Hong Kong, with Mr. Liao performing the vital task of ensuring that the Club’s records and documents were safely dispatched to the British colony. Asked about his best remembered FCC sites, Mr. Liao speaks fondly of the sojourn in Shanghai, and also the glorious mansion the FCC occupied (and could have bought, but didn’t) along Conduit Road – or, to be precise, as Mr. Liao emphatically reminds us, 41A Conduit Road. And the worst? Mr. Liao unhesitatingly gives the thumbs down to Li Po Chun Chambers, where the Club went broke and had to close for several months. Mr. Liao left when the Club was safely ensconced at Sutherland House. Following a farewell banquet given in his honour, and attended by Governor Sir Murray Maclehose,

Mr. Liao left in 1977, much missed for his efficient handling of the bar as well as for his renowned tolerance of the sometimes eccentric habits of its denizens. Mr. Liao emigrated to the United States, helping his son run a restaurant business in Houston, and later moved to San Francisco before coming back to Hong Kong in 2006. Mr. Liao is rightly proud that Gilbert Cheng is the FCC’s first Chinese General Manager, and he gave his seal of approval to the ice house premises, and to its food. So why doesn’t he visit us more often? “Because Gilbert has taken my job,” he jokes. Although Mr. Liao never presided over the present FCC Main Bar, he does have something in common with our building: they share the same age – 92.

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 RICHARD JONES– Editorial, industrial and corporate photography: China, Hong Kong and Japan. Tel: (852) 9525 9049 Email: Website: RAY CRANBOURNE– Editorial, Corporate and Industrial. Tel/Fax: (852) 2525 7553 Email: BOB DAVIS– Corporate/Advertising/Editorial Tel: (852) 9460 1718 Website:

Writer and Ghostwriter MARK REGAN– Writer of fact or fiction, biographies, memoirs and miscellanea. Also speechwriting, features, reports or research. Tel: (852) 6108 1747 Email: Website:

Richard F. Jones Video Cameraman / Editor News, Documentary, Corporate

Artist “SAY IT WITH A CARTOON!!!” Political cartoons, children’s books and FREE e-cards by Gavin Coates are available at Tel: (852) 2984 2783 Mobile: (852) 9671 3057 Email:

(852) 9104 5358 http://RFJones.TV

email: TV@RFJones.TV

Editor/Writer CHARLES WEATHERILL– Writing, editing, speeches, voiceovers and research by long-time resident. Mobile: (852) 9023 5121 Tel: (852) 2524 1901 Fax: (852) 2537 2774 Email: PAUL BAYFIELD– Financial editor and writer and editorial consultant. Tel: (852) 9097 8503 Email:

Will Writing And Estate Planning WILL WRITING – Have you had your Will written Yet?? Tel: 2561 9031 and speak with Jessica Park Professional Wills Ltd. – Hong Kong’s leading Will Writing company. Web:

Marketing and Management Services MARILYN HOOD– Write and edit correspondence, design database and powerpoints, report proofing and layout, sales and marketing, events and business promotions. Tel: (852) 9408 1636 Email:

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 Advertising in The Correspondent: to receive an advertising rate card for The Correspondent please call Samantha Szeto at WordAsia on 2805 1422 or e-mail 48

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The Correspondent, May - June 2009  

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

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