T H E O F F I C I A L P U B L I C AT I O N O F T H E F O R E I G N C O R R E S P O N D E N T S ’ C L U B
A deadly mix of politics and guns make afa Deep guilty Downward killing f Spiral help by identifying monitor The state of man and press freedom really in Southeast Asia watch Get the most out of the Year of the Tiger with feng shui
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Will 2022 be the year you finally write that bestseller?
Seven years of Black Lives Matter protests in photos
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CONTENTS COVER STORY
14 PRESS FREEDOM IN ‘DOWNWARD SPIRAL’
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UPFRONT 2 Editor’s Letter 3 From the President 4 Club News A special deal for journalists just starting out. Plus meet Benny Kwok, a man who knows his tech. 8 Wine & Dine Does the FCC’s new Byline Brew pair with our recipe for beef and Guinness pie? There is only one way to find out... 12 Member Insights Who better to advise on dodging slings and arrows in the Year of the Tiger than feng shui guru Priya Subberwal?
Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize drew renewed attention to Southeast Asia, where journalists hold the line against disinformation and despots.
FEATURES 18 Photo Essay: Black Lives Matter Rob Gerhardt’s photos, taken with manual Nikon F cameras and Ilford HP5 film, chronicle this major social movement in the US. 22 It is the Best of Times... ... to finally sit down and write your long dreamed-of best-seller, reckons publishing supremo Jo Lusby. 26 Rooms with a View It’s said you should write about what you know: Robin Lynam does exactly that, recalling the charismatic colleagues whose names adorn the club’s rooms. 30 Meet the Board, Part Deux Half-a-dozen more governors explain what makes them tick and how they would like to see things pan out at the FCC. 34 On the Wall Basil Pao surveys the world through windows and doorways, while Marcus Yam documents Kabul’s dismal descent. 36 Member Movements What’s what’s-her-name been up to these days? We supply a wealth of detail on members who just can’t seem to sit still.
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THE REGULARS 38 New Members They came, they saw, they signed up at the first opportunity. And who can blame them? 42 Obituaries Jonathan Mirsky, Ian Verchere, Werner Burger: three colourful lives, remembered with affection and respect. 44 Speakers COP26 set some lofty goals in November, but environmental experts say Hong Kong has work to do on the eco front. 46 Book Reviews An epic history of China and Hong Kong; a mysterious First Lady; and the uplifting story of Ben Kende, who was paralysed playing rugby in 2010. 48 10 Minutes With… Joe Evans (26 ¾) How does anyone reconcile being World News Editor for The Week with supporting (Shanghai-owned) Wolverhampton Wanderers?
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The Foreign Correspondents’ Club 2 Lower Albert Road Central, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2521 1511 Fax: (852) 2868 4092 Email: email@example.com Website: www.fcchk.org
THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB HONG KONG
The Board of Governors 2021-2022
Dear FCC Members,
First Vice President Hannamiina Tanninen
President Keith Richburg
Second Vice President Tim Huxley
Welcome back from the holidays! As we embark on a new year, I feel hopeful for better days ahead yet concerned about the many issues impacting our global community, from climate change to vaccine distribution and, of course, press freedom.
Correspondent Member Governors Lucy Colback, Jennifer Hughes, Jennifer Jett, Kristie Lu Stout, Iain Marlow, Shai Oster, Austin Ramzy, Dan Strumpf
After crusading Filipina editor Maria Ressa won the Nobel Peace Prize, which she shares with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, in November, we hope to raise awareness about declining press freedom in Southeast Asia, where journalists are regularly harassed, assaulted, sued, fined and imprisoned.
Associate Member Governors Genavieve Alexander, Liu Kin-ming, Christopher Slaughter, Richard David Winter
Journalist Member Governors Clifford Buddle, Zela Chin
Club Treasurer Tim Huxley Club Secretary Jennifer Hughes Professional Committee Conveners: Hannamiina Tanninen, Iain Marlow, Austin Ramzy, Keith Richburg
We enlisted Amy Sood, one of the FCC’s Clare Hollingworth Fellows, to dig into the who, what, when, where and why in our cover story on page 14. Given concerns in our own backyard, Ed Peters unpacks Reporters Without Borders’ searing December report, “The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China”, on page 17.
Finance Committee Conveners: Tim Huxley, Lucy Colback Constitutional Committee Conveners: Jennifer Hughes, Liu Kin-ming
In honour of Black History Month in February, we have published a photo essay on the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, featuring the work of Robert Gerhardt. An absent member and prolific photojournalist, Gerhardt has been documenting the protests in New York for the last seven years (pg. 18). Riding that familiar wave of New Year motivation, we tapped publishing veteran Jo Lusby for tips on how to take a book idea from synopsis to shelf (pg. 22).
House/Food and Beverage Committee Conveners: Hannamiina Tanninen, Genavieve Alexander Building - Project and Maintenance Committee Conveners: Christopher Slaughter, Liu Kin-ming Press Freedom Committee Conveners: Dan Strumpf, Hannamiina Tanninen, Austin Ramzy, Keith Richburg
We also get a little nostalgic with a trip down memory lane led by longtime member Robin Lynam, who guides us on a tour of the FCC rooms and their namesakes (pg. 26). Another instalment of Meet the Board can be found on page 30, plus three new books to read by FCC members (pg. 46) and a good-humoured interview with Joe Evans, The Week’s World News Editor, to wrap things up.
Communications Committee Conveners: Genavieve Alexander, Iain Marlow
It is with sadness that I must say my own goodbyes. I moved to Philadelphia in October, so this will be my last issue of The Correspondent. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your ideas, feedback and camaraderie. I am already homesick for the FCC – please have a pint for me!
Contributing Editor Ed Peters Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wall Committee Conveners: Kristie Lu Stout, Dan Strumpf General Manager Didier Saugy Editor, The Correspondent Kate Springer, Springer Creative Email: email@example.com
Publisher: Artmazing! Noel de Guzman Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Printing Elite Printing, Tel: 2558 0119 Advertising Contact FCC Front Office: Tel: 2521 1511
Happy New Year, Kate Springer
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The Correspondent ©2021 The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong PHOTO: ANTHONY KWAN
Get in touch: email@example.com
Membership Committee Conveners: Jennifer Hughes, Clifford Buddle
The Correspondent is published four times a year. Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the club.
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FROM THE PRESIDENT Dear FCC Members, Once, while wandering the picturesque paths above the University of Hong Kong, I came across a small, white brick and granite coach house with oversized doors. It’s called “Stone House,” and a plaque outside describes it as the original home of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong. Built in 1923, the heritage building serves as a reminder of the FCC’s long narrative in the city. Ever since the club relocated from Shanghai to Hong Kong at the end of China’s civil war in 1949, it has been woven into the city’s history and psyche. The club has moved around over the years. From Stone House, it shifted to a mansion on Conduit Road and quite famously became the set of 1955 romantic drama, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing”. It’s fitting, since the film’s male lead, Mark Elliott (played by William Holden), is an American reporter based in Hong Kong who dashes off to cover the Korean War. That wasn’t the only time the FCC appeared in popular culture. John le Carré’s celebrated 1977 spy novel, The Honourable Schoolboy, features the FCC, as does the 1997 film “Chinese Box” starring Jeremy Irons and Gong Li. For years, foreign correspondents across the region treated Hong Kong more as a rest and recreation station than a story in its own right. When the Vietnam War broke out, Hong Kong provided a convenient, calm colonial backwater and vacation haven for reporters and photographers stationed in Saigon. Hong Kong maintained its role as a key correspondents’ base during some of the region’s most dramatic news events. A large contingent of reporters, photographers and camera operators flew from Hong Kong to the Philippines to cover the 1986 “People Power Revolution” – which toppled the regime of Ferdinand Marcos – and ended up staging their own occupation of the Manila Hotel.
Built in 1923, the heritage building serves as a reminder of the FCC’s long narrative in the city.
I also used Hong Kong as my base as a Washington Post correspondent in the 1990s when I covered the fall of the Suharto regime in Indonesia, Hun Sen’s coup in Cambodia, and the arrest and trial of Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia. Many stories have unfolded in Hong Kong, too: the Communist-led riots of 1967, the flight of the Vietnamese boat people at the end of the Vietnam War, the arrival of dissidents smuggled from China after the Tiananmen Square uprising as part of “Operation Yellowbird” in 1989 and, of course, the Handover to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Since then, we’ve had avian flu, SARS, the 2014 Occupy movement and the 2019 unrest. And now, Hong Kong’s political makeover is well underway with the new National Security Law and recent changes to the electoral system. One constant has been the central role of the Hong Kong-based press corps and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club; in its many iterations, the club has always been the main gathering point. It’s long been a truism that when less hospitable countries expelled correspondents, they would relocate to mediafriendly Hong Kong, where freedom of the press was respected.
PHOTO: SUPPLIED & TKSTEVEN
Since 1982, the FCC’s home has been the Old Dairy Farm Depot at 2 Lower Albert Road. So in 2022, we will be celebrating 40 years in our current location and 70 years since we first established “The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong”. We plan to stage a few commemorative events, and publish a bumper issue of The Correspondent in April, so stay tuned.
Stone House: The FCC’s original home in Hong Kong from 1949 to 1951.
Our press club has quite a rich legacy. And it all began in that little white granite house at 15 Kotewall Road at the close of the Chinese civil war. If you’re in the neighbourhood, pay a visit to this opening paragraph of FCC history. Keith Richburg Hong Kong 17 December 2021
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THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME Thank you to all who joined us this season for a magical holiday celebration at the club. We wish you a new year full of growth, health and joy! l Kids’ Day On 5 December, this year’s Kids’ Day pulled out all the stops to fill young hearts with festive cheer. The little ones not only enjoyed a Santa Claus giveaway but also had a blast with face painting, craft workshops and balloon twisting.
l Christmas Bazaar The annual Christmas Bazaar delivered a sleigh-full of gifts this year. From 9 to 11 December in the Hughes Room, members picked up everything from made-in-Hong Kong face masks to speciality wines, gourmet foods, glassware, FCC merchandise and Christmas crackers to benefit The Zubin Foundation which helps Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities.
l Christmas Eve
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The Dining Room radiated anticipation and cheer on Christmas Eve as members indulged in an exceptional Christmas dinner set menu. We delighted diners with a Santa Claus gift giveaway as a festive surprise.
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l Christmas Day Members gathered with friends and family to celebrate Christmas Day in the Dining Room and Lounge, where we marked the occasion with a special lunch buffet and another Santa Claus giveaway.
l 2022 Countdown Party We transformed the club into an “Around the World” dining experience for our epic 2022 Countdown Party. While DJ music and bagpipes filled the air, members sampled regional cuisines on each floor: Asian in the lounge, European classics in the Dining Room, and American and Mexican down at Bert’s, where a live band rang in the New Year.
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l A DEAL FOR JUNIOR JOURNALISTS The FCC affords members access to the best talks in town, mouthwatering meals, rewarding connections, live music and an oasis in the heart of the city. To help early-career journalists and those whose income has been impacted by the pandemic, the club is pleased to introduce its “Special Promotion” for new Correspondent and Journalist members. Each month, the Membership Committee will review applications on a case-by-case basis. • • • •
1st year: HK$250 per month + annual staff bonus HK$250* 2nd year: HK$500 per month + annual staff bonus HK$500* 3rd year: HK$750 per month + annual staff bonus HK$750* 4th year: HK$1,100 per month + annual staff bonus HK$1,100*
*Gratuity payable 50 percent in June & 50 percent in December. Note: Minimum spend applies.
l SHARE YOUR FCC MEMORIES Get ready for a very special issue of The Correspondent to mark the club’s 40th anniversary on Lower Albert Road – and we’re hoping that members will take part. Did you hear an inspirational speaker at the club? Find a mentor? Make lifelong friendships? Share your favourite memories with us! We plan to feature the most colourful anecdotes in this commemorative issue. Share your memories (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 31 January for a chance to be included.
l CONGRATULATIONS, HEIDI LEE
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PHOTOS: FCC & LAKSHMI HARILEL A
In November, the American Chamber of Commerce recognised FCC Associate member Heidi Lee with the Master of the Arts award at the 2021 Women of Influence Awards. It’s a well-deserved accolade: Lee is the executive director of the Hong Kong Ballet and has been profoundly influential in developing the city’s art scene for the past quarter-century. If you see Lee at the club, be sure to congratulate her on this great accomplishment.
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The IT Man: Benny Kwok Chi-ming Heading up the FCC’s computer department, Benny Kwok works behind the scenes to keep the club’s tech on track.
You’re the FCC’s IT manager – is this a field that’s always interested you? Benny Kwok: Remember Atari? It led the video games market back in the 1970s and ‘80s. Growing up in Hong Kong, I was fascinated by this game, and I’ve been interested in IT and computers ever since. When did you join the FCC? BK: 2015. I’ve been in the IT industry for 30 years. When this job came up, I jumped at the opportunity.
Every club event is a big event for me.
What do you like about it? BK: The challenge! Every club event is a big event for me. The most exciting recently was introducing the Zoom sessions in 2020. They were a brand-new concept and quite a challenge to accomplish during the pandemic. Thanks to the trust of the Board and the General Manager, we’ve built up the system to host speakers from all over the world. The new FCC website is another fascinating project. As we continue to roll out new features, the site will provide more innovative functions for members and improve overall performance. What do you do day-to-day? BK: I’ll set up the computer and audiovisual system at FCC events, then supervise video production and editing. I’m also responsible for the FCC website content management, EDM preparation and distribution, computer programming, and monitoring and maintaining the club’s computer facilities. There are just two other people in the department, so we’re a close-knit team.
PHOTO: L AKSHMI HARILELA
How about your family and downtime? BK: I am married with one son, who is now 17. From the looks of things, he is going to do well in business. But – and I have to chuckle – he’s not the least bit interested in IT. In my free time, I’m very keen on photography, and specialise in landscapes with my Nikon D810. Before the pandemic, I used to go to Japan twice a year, usually to Hokkaido. I love the food and the scenery. I don’t speak much Japanese, but that’s where Google Translate comes in. Benny Hill, Benny Goodman, Benny and the Jets – who do you relate to most? BK: Actually, I think Benny Chan Muk-Sing, who directed the “New Police Story”, among other classic Hong Kong films. He worked behind the scenes; I work behind the computer.
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WINE & DINE
DEBUTING BYLINE BREW There’s nothing quite like a cold beer at the FCC at the end of a long day. In December, we started pouring a new signature ale custom-created by Yardley Brothers Craft Brewery. Dubbed the FCC “Byline Brew”, our refreshing, light-bodied saison ale made its debut at a special event attended by Harry Harrison on 11 December. Known for his great sense of humour, the illustrator also designed the beer’s label, glasses and coasters.
Try a Byline Brew on your next visit to the club! Available on draught or for takeaway.
AMBASSADOR OF FLAVOUR The FCC welcomed several diplomats at our recent “Around the World” themed dinners, including Stefanie Seedig, Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, who attended the club’s Oktoberfest celebrations, and Vikas Garg, Consul at the Consulate General of India, who joined Diwali festivities. Both diplomats praised the club’s efforts to represent a wide variety of cultural traditions and our authentic execution. Great news: the club will be bringing back its annual Diplomatic Cocktail Reception in February with more details to follow online.
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EARN YOUR STRIPES Chinese New Year is right around the corner! Celebrate the Year of the Tiger with our special menus and promotions.
CNY ‘GATHERING’ MENU
Bringing family and friends together around a feast of delicious dishes is arguably the best part about Chinese New Year. And the FCC’s special “Gathering” menu is just what you need to spoil everyone with quintessential CNY classics in the club’s convivial, relaxed atmosphere. Available for dine-in and takeaway from 21 to 31 January.
CNY ‘CELEBRATION’ MENU When the Year of the Tiger officially kicks off on 1 February, don’t miss a chance to mark the occasion at the FCC. Family and friends will appreciate the club’s refined CNY set menu, which includes elevated versions of traditional sharing plates, such as suckling pig and crispy fried chicken. Available for dine-in and takeaway from 1 to 15 February.
AUSPICIOUS CNY DISHES Once again this year, the club will be honouring CNY traditions by serving its popular poon choi (literally, “big bowl feast”) from 24 January to 15 February, alongside loh hei salad from 1 to 15 February. For those who need a refresher: simmering pots of poon choi feature 10-15 layers of ingredients – each carrying luck and symbolism for the new year. Meanwhile, loh hei salads star an array of ingredients, like salmon and pickled ginger, that you’re meant to “toss up” to inspire good fortune.
PHOTOS: L AKSHMI HARILELA
Available for dine-in and takeaway: poon choi, 24 January to 15 February; loh hei: 1 to 15 February.
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BEEF & GUINNESS PIE Hearty? For sure! Bursting with flavour? Most definitely! Learn to make the mother of all pies at home this winter season.
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Ingredients For the Pastry: 200g All-purpose flour 1 pinch Kosher salt 110g Butter and lard, mixed 45g Cold water For the Pie Filling 1kg Beef, cut into 2cm cubes 25g All-purpose flour 30g Unsalted butter 15g Vegetable oil 400g Sliced onion 400g Carrot, cut into 2cm slices 10g Tomato paste 10g Worcestershire sauce 500ml Guinness 300ml Beef stock 10g Granulated sugar 30ml Water 1 pc Egg, beaten To taste Freshly ground black pepper To taste Kosher salt Instructions Instructions for Pastry 1. Gather flour, salt and butter in a large bowl, kneading the mixture by hand (or with a blender) until it is crumbly. Note: Mix as quickly as possible to avoid warming the dough. 2. Add 30ml of very cold water. Form dough into a ball using the blender. Note: a cold knife may be used instead of a blender. Add more water if the dough feels too dry. 3. Cover the ball of dough in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. Instructions for Pie 1. Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper, add flour and toss until evenly coated. 2. Melt butter and oil in a pre-heated pan. Roast the beef cubes for 1 minute or until golden brown. Remove the beef cubes and set aside. 3. Add onions and carrots to the pan. Fry gently for about 2 minutes. 4. Return meat to the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, Guinness, beef stock and sugar. 5. Grind in plenty of black pepper and a little salt. Stir well and bring to a boil. 6. Cover the pan, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook slowly for about 90 minutes or until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened with a glossy sheen. 7. Remove from heat, place into a 1.5-litre deep pie dish. Leave to cool completely. 8. Heat oven to 200°C (400°F). Roll out pastry dough to 3mm thick. 9. Cut a 2cm strip from the rolled-out pastry. 10. Brush the rim of the pie dish with water and place the pastry strip around the rim, pressing it down. 11. Cut out the remaining pastry about 2cm larger than the pie dish. 12. Place a pie funnel in the centre of the filling. Note: This will support the pastry and keep it from sinking into the filling and becoming soggy. 13. Place pastry lid over the top. Press down on the edges and seal. Trim off any excess pastry and crimp edges with a fork. 14. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg. Make a hole in the centre to reveal the pie funnel. 15. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
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Year of the Tiger: Time to Heal Feng shui practitioner Priya Subberwal sees a time of growth, healing and – glory be! – more travel in the year ahead. She gives Morgan M Davis a primer on how to activate our best energy in work and life.
CC member Priya Subberwal trained as an interior designer but later studied Chinese metaphysics across Asia, tying her penchant for design to her knowledge of feng shui (the art of arranging spaces to achieve harmony in daily life). Today she runs Hong Kong-based Disha Consulting, offering clients guidance on how to improve feng shui in their homes and offices. Through “destiny readings” (an analysis of personal factors, such as time and date of birth), Subberwal also helps clients tap into their unique personal strengths and choose dates for important events, such as corporate launches, moving offices or buying a new home. With the Year of the Tiger starting on 1 February, The Correspondent spoke with Subberwal to catch a glimpse of what 2022 has in store and how feng shui could bring out the best of the year. Take heart, it looks like more travel could, maybe, possibly be on the horizon! What led you to pursue feng shui as a career? Priya Subberwal: I’m a qualified interior designer. When I was in Mumbai, I came across a coffee table book about feng shui. At that point, I thought it would add to my interior design skillset and support my clients with more insights.
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When I moved to Southeast Asia in 2007, I had more resources and studied quite extensively in Singapore, Taiwan, China and Malaysia. I started including feng shui practices in my own house and saw a change. From there, friends and family asked me to help them. I also worked a lot with expatriates in Hong Kong – a constantly moving population. Every time someone comes and chooses a new home, feng shui becomes relevant. Eventually, after being in Hong Kong for some time, I began consulting with more businesses and started my company. What’s the overarching purpose of feng shui? PS: Feng shui helps people tap into the best energies from the environment and align them with their goals. The whole purpose is to enhance your life; it’s like Wi-Fi. You want to have a strong connection, so you choose the best location and direction to boost positive energy for that. Whatever objective you have in life, you can enhance it with feng shui. What are your clients generally looking for? PS: When it’s for an office, they look for career- and wealth-related advice. Since feng shui is goal-oriented,
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Left: Priya Subberwal gives us the lowdown on the Year of the Tiger. Right: Feng shui is like Wi-Fi, you want to have a strong connection, says Subberwal.
we want to activate the best areas to enhance business opportunities and ease any hurdles with their staff, bosses or relationships. For the home, there are so many other things we keep in mind – health, relationships, education, and more. How do consultations work? PS: Initially, I ask for two things – date and time of birth – because I need to establish a destiny chart, a personal dynamic energy (or Qi) map. Many people think it’s just about their year of birth, but it’s not that simple. Actually, there’s a cosmic trinity: the first item in the trinity is your destiny chart, which is written in stone. That’s your parents, your upbringing. The second is the feng shui, tapping into the environment to boost energies and help you achieve goals. The last one is “man luck”, essentially, what you do with the optimised energies. Everybody has four animal signs in their natal chart. The four animal signs represent one of the five elements – water, fire, metal, earth and wood – in their yin or yang form. The elements form combinations, clashes, harmonies or punishments, which play out in different aspects of our life: relationships, career, wealth and health. What do most people get wrong about feng shui? PS: Many people have a misguided notion that if they put a fish tank in one corner and a red vase in another, they’ve done feng shui. It is not that easy. You have to put in the work along with the feng shui to achieve your goal. The most basic yet effective ‘work’ would be to use the locations in a home or office with the highest vibrational energy of the year and avoid negative areas. What do we need to know about 2022? PS: Every year brings a new energy form. For example, 2022 is a Water-Tiger Year and will affect each person differently based on their destiny chart. Tiger is a wood element, which relates to growth, healing and medicine. The tiger is also a
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travelling star. It’s a more optimistic time coming up – a time of moving forward. What does this mean for FCC members? PS: The southernmost space in your home or office is one of the most auspicious areas for the Year of the Tiger. Set up your desk there, if possible, and maybe light a candle daily. Another option would be to simply sit with your back to the south, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, strategise your thoughts and make a few work-related calls and emails. Rest and relaxation are crucial for good health, so avoid sleeping in the southwest room or area of your home; the ‘Sickness Star No. 2’ resides there for 2022. If you don’t have this option, ensure that your bed’s headrest is not facing southwest. If you’re in marketing, make your pitches from the west of the house or building. For 2022, that’s the area where you will have the most confidence and oratory skills. n Learn more about Priya Subberwal’s work: dishasconsulting.com
PRIYA’S TOOLKIT Tap into your best energy with these sources.
Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics
Plot your destiny chart online for free with this handy resource. bazibz2021.masteryacademy.com
Stories and Lessons on Feng Shui
Author, feng shui master and astrology expert Joey Yap debunks myths and modernises the practice.
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A DEEP DOWNWARD SPIRAL
PHOTO: ISA AC LAWRENCE / AFP
Since Maria Ressa won the Nobel Peace Prize this autumn, press freedom in Asia has come under scrutiny. FCC Fellow Amy Sood surveys a fraught situation.
Maria Ressa speaks at the FCC during the Human Rights Press Awards 2019.
n October, Maria Ressa – one of the Philippines’ most famous journalists – and Dmitry Muratov from Russia jointly won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Both have come under fire for “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” wrote the The Norwegian Nobel Committee in its selection announcement. Ressa, the first Filipina Nobel laureate, is the co-founder and chief executive of Rappler news site. Since president Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, Ressa has faced at least 10 arrest warrants and seven court cases over the outlet’s coverage of Duterte’s lethal “war on drugs”. Despite her Nobel prize, Ressa continues to face an onslaught of legal cases ranging from tax evasion to defamation, and at the time of writing, is out on bail while appealing a six-year prison sentence for libel. “I don’t know where [the prize] will lead,” Ressa told the Associated Press. “But I know that if we keep doing our task, staying on mission, holding the line, that there’s a better chance that our democracy not only survives, but that I also stay out of jail. Because I’ve done nothing wrong except be a journalist. That is the price we have to pay.” For journalists and media observers, Ressa’s Nobel prize serves as a call to action in the face of increasing censorship, harassment and restrictions in Southeast Asia, where most countries languish in the bottom half of the World Press
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Freedom Index. According to Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, press freedom is on a “deep downward spiral” across the region. “Leaders across the board in Southeast Asia are attempting to marginalise the media in any way that they can,” he says. “These governments are not afraid to criminalise reporting they see as being against their policies and their priorities. It’s doing a massive disservice to the people of Southeast Asia, who deserve access to quality media with independent views that are prepared to speak truth rather than parrot the line of the various governments.”
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division.
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‘We could still be killed’ In the Philippines, which ranks 138 out of 180 countries and territories in the World Press Freedom Index, Jonathan de Santos, chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), laments the state of press freedom. “In terms of recognition, [Ressa’s Nobel prize] is good. It sends a message that the world is watching,” he says. “But in terms of actual attitude on the ground, I’m not sure how much it will change. Journalists are still under threat and we could still be killed.” Robertson agrees, pointing to the Duterte administration’s steady efforts to control the press and the internet. For instance, in May 2020, the government declined to renew the licence of the Philippines’ largest broadcast network, ABS-CBN, which often covered “the war on drugs”. A statement by the NUJP said this shutdown denied millions of people access to essential information during the pandemic and “proves how the tyrant fears truthtellers.” At least 22 journalists have died since Duterte took power in June 2016 and he has declared he would like to “kill journalism” in the Philippines, referring to reporters as “spies”, “vultures” and “lowlifes”. On 9 December, Jesus “Jess” Malabanan – a journalist involved in the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by Reuters into Duterte’s “war on drugs” – became the 22nd Filipino journalist killed in recent years. He was shot in the head by unknown gunmen on the central island of Samar. De Santos says the dangers of reporting have led journalists to self-censor when writing about government affairs, in fear of cyber-attacks or of being “red-tagged” – labelled as communists or terrorists – often without evidence. “This is part of a trend in the region,” he says. “I’ve been talking to colleagues from Indonesia and Malaysia, and they’re facing similar situations so it’s hard for us to get courage from each other.” Indonesia, which sits at 113th on the Index, has also seen troubling patterns of media suppression, says Indonesian investigative journalist Febriana Firdaus. The reporter, who recently moved to Bali because she felt unsafe in Jakarta, covers sensitive topics, such as West Papuan independence and LGBTI+ discrimination. Firdaus fears violence against reporters and their family members. For Firdaus, a recent explosion at the home of the parents of Indonesian social justice lawyer Veronica Koman – who frequently speaks up about human rights abuses in West Papua – made the possibility of violence feel probable, if not inevitable. “That was a warning for me, that perhaps it’s no longer safe for me to stay in my country if I want to report on these issues,” says Firdaus. There’s good reason to worry. Mara Salem Harahap, the chief editor of a local news outlet in North Sumatra, was shot dead in June. His family said that they believe Harahap’s murder was related to his work, citing past incidents of harassment and violence linked to his reporting on organised crime and drug-dealers. Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), an organisation defending press freedom, recorded 84 cases of violence against journalists in the country in 2020 – the highest number reported since the group started collecting
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Jonathan de Santos (left) chairs the Philippines’ Union of Journalists.
Journalist Febriana Firdaus covers social justice issues in Indonesia.
data in 2006. Since 2018, AJI has ranked the police as the top perpetrators of violence against journalists. In 2020, the police accounted for 55 of the 84 cases, which led AJI to denounce law enforcement as the “enemy of press freedom”. As in the Philippines, the message seems to come from the top. According to Firdaus, President Joko Widodo’s government likens “good journalism” to the strategies employed by “public relations professionals”, and expects reporters to spin a positive image of the country or face consequences. These range from fines and online harassment to potential prison time or physical violence. Indonesia has also renewed attempts to suppress press freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic through legal means. In April 2020, the Indonesian National Police issued law-enforcement guidelines banning journalists from publishing false information related to the pandemic or deemed hostile to the government. Furthermore, the country has increasingly used another law, the Electronic Information and Transactions Law (UUITE), to threaten journalists with prosecution. Under the UUITE, journalists NOBEL PEACE PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALISTS 1902: Élie Ducommun Swiss editor of Revue de Genève, which promoted “the United States of Europe”. 1907: Ernesto Teodoro Moneta An Italian who campaigned vigorously for better relations between Italy and France. 1911: Alfred Hermann Fried The Austrian sttruggled to “expose and fight the anarchy in international relations”. 1933: Norman Angell A British journalist and economist known for his book, The Great Illusion, on the futility of war in an interconnected world. 1935: Carl von Ossietzky After exposing German rearmament, he was detained in concentration camps and police custody until his death in 1938. 2011: Tawakkol Karman A Yemeni journalist and activist who covers women’s rights, safety and equality.
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PHOTO: THUM PING TJIN / NEW NAR ATIF
Dr Thum Ping Tjin, managing director of independent news outlet New Naratif.
could face up to six years in prison if found guilty. In addition, the government has blocked journalists from transmitting information from remote regions during emergencies. For example, in August 2019, it shut down internet access amid violent protests in West Papua “to accelerate government efforts to restore order”. However, the move also effectively silenced journalists trying to share news during the crisis. Clamp-down on independent media Singapore, which ranks 160th on the Index, has deployed similar legal and regulatory tactics. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), introduced the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act and the broadly worded Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act in 2021. Robertson of Human Rights Watch says that PAP has deployed a “scorched earth’’ policy against independent media outlets like New Naratif and The Online Citizen with a goal to “wipe them out.” Historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin is the managing director of New Naratif, an independent current affairs website covering Southeast Asia. Thum, one of three Singaporeans who established the publication, says PAP implemented these laws to stifle critical or alternative voices. “It’s very important to recognise that the main way in which these laws suppress media freedom is not so much in the letter of the law, but in its ability to scare Singaporeans into self-censoring,” he says. As long as reporters live in fear of conducting journalism, there is no freedom of the press, he adds. Although current press freedom trends around the region indicate a clamp-down on independent media outlets, Thum believes some publications will endure because humans have historically resisted suppression and fought for the right to speak, write and live freely. For example, Malaysian independent news site Malaysiakini has persisted despite enduring hostility from the government in the form of police raids, criminal charges and prosecutions over the years. Earlier this year, the Federal Court of Malaysia found the publication guilty of contempt over online comments from readers – claiming
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they undermined public confidence in the judiciary. However, multiple independent outlets across Asia have shut down despite initial resistance. Within a year of Hong Kong’s National Security Law coming into effect, authorities arrested Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and other top executives, forcing Apple Daily to print its last edition in June 2021. Since then, Lai has been convicted of organising an illegal rally and inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly. In December, authorities filed new charges of conspiracy to “print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications” against Lai and other former Next Digital executives. In Singapore, the government permanently cancelled the licence of local political blog The Online Citizen in October, because it refused to reveal its funding sources and “did not fully comply” with legal obligations. Robertson believes the region’s future will depend on whether countries around the world help fight for press freedom or just turn a blind eye. “The international community has to step in and also throw some elbows [push back] against these governments, demanding press freedom be upheld,” he urges. Despite the high-stakes atmosphere in Indonesia, Firdaus chooses to press on, saying she feels a responsibility to tell the stories of the people she meets in conflict zones. “The fear I feel is not greater than my moral responsibility to these people as a journalist,” she says. Ressa, who was unavailable for comment, has publicly vowed to carry on as well. In her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo on 10 December, Ressa condemned authoritarian governments and social media giants for spreading misinformation and sowing discord. “[Technology] has allowed a virus of lies to infect each of us, pitting us against each other, bringing out our fears, anger, hate, and setting the stage for the rise of authoritarians and dictators around the world,” she said. Ressa also expressed concern about the upcoming elections in the Philippines, due to be held in May 2022. “I’ve said this repeatedly over the last five years: without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without trust, we have no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to deal with the existential problems of our times: climate, coronavirus, now, the battle for truth. How can you have election integrity if you don’t have integrity of facts?” Though much remains uncertain, Ressa shared her vision for peace, trust and empathy. “Every day, I live with the real threat of spending the rest of my life in jail because I’m a journalist,” she said. “I have no idea what the future holds, but it’s worth the risk. The destruction has happened. Now it’s time to build – to create the world we want.” n
Amy Sood is an FCC Clare Hollingworth fellow and a digital verification reporter at AFP in Hong Kong, monitoring misinformation in India and Indonesia. Prior to her current role, she was an intern at CNN and NBC News.
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JOURNALIST ARRESTS ON THE RISE
PHOTO: VAUGHN RIDLEY/WEB SUMMIT VIA SPORTSFILE
n December, journalism advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued “The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China”, an 80-page report cataloguing the assault on press freedom across the country. In the foreword, RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire contends that President Xi Jinping had “restored a media culture worthy of the Maoist era, in which freely accessing information has become a crime and to provide information an even greater crime.” “The Great Leap Backwards” recalls the 1990s-2000s when mainland China authorities regarded foreign correspondents as a “necessary evil” that “fulfilled the essential role of informing the world on the economic and social development of China”. It then outlines numerous examples of journalists who have faced grave consequences for their frank reportage in recent years. As of 1 January, RSF estimates that as many as 127 journalists are currently detained in Greater China, more than any other country. The cites examples such as Haze Fan, a Bloomberg news assistant who remains in detention after being arrested for “endangering national security” in December 2020. It also notes Sun Wenguang, a retired university professor who police snatched in the middle of an interview with Voice of America in August 2018, and ousted Australian journalists Bill Birtles and Michael Smith. Both sought sanctuary in their country’s embassy in September 2020 after drawing ire for investigating the disappearance of Chinese-Australian CGTN TV presenter Cheng Lei. After holding Lei in “residential surveillance at a designated location” for several months, authorities formally charged Lei with “supplying state secrets overseas” in February 2021. The journalist has yet to be sent for trial as of 1 January. In the section devoted to Hong Kong, entitled “Hong Kong: Press Freedom in Free Fall”, the RSF report chronicles a rapid decline of journalistic freedom, from the shuttering of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and jailing of its founder Jimmy Lai to the gradual neutering of RTHK, once highly respected for its outspoken coverage. The RSF report also notes police violence aimed at Hong Kong journalists and the weaponisation of visas. After Sue-Lin Wong of The Economist was denied a visa in November, the club issued a statement that ended: “We again call on the government to provide concrete assurances that applications for employment visas and visa extensions will be handled in a timely manner with clearly stated requirements and procedures and that the visa process for journalists will not be politicised or weaponised.” Chinese state media outlet Global Times has rejected previous RSF reports, including the group’s annual World Press Freedom Index, and accused RSF of bias and political subversion under the guise of press freedom.
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Chinese authorities charged Chinese-born Australian CGTN TV presenter Cheng Lei with “supplying state secrets overseas” in February 2021.
After the RSF report came out, more than 200 officers raided the newsroom of Stand News on 29 December and arrested seven people linked to the publication. The outlet ceased operations hours later. Following the closure of Stand News, the online portal Citizen News announced it had shut down to “ensure everyone is safe in this time of crisis”. Citizen News is considered the last independent Chinese-language news site in Hong Kong. “These actions are a further blow to press freedom in Hong Kong and will continue to chill the media environment in the city following a difficult year for the city’s news outlets,” the FCC wrote in a statement regarding Stand News. In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote: “Those who engage in activities that endanger national security and undermine the rule of law and public order under the cover of journalism are the black sheep tarnishing the press freedom and will be held accountable in accordance with law ... Since the implementation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has returned to the right track, and the press freedom has been better protected in a more secure, stable and law-based environment.” n
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BLM IN BLACK AND WHITE
PHOTO: ROBERT GERHARDT
Ed Peters peers through the lens of FCC absent member Robert Gerhardt, who has been documenting the social justice movement for the past seven years.
Union Square, Manhattan, November 2014: a stark placard encapsulates the BLM movement.
Rob Gerhardt is an absent FCC member and a freelance photographer based in New York.
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ew Yorker Robert Gerhardt’s photographs have been published around the world, as has his writing on press freedom and human rights. But for the past seven years his work’s particular leitmotif has been the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. BLM sprang up in July 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot dead Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teen in Florida. Gerhardt picked up the story the following year, after the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in similar circumstances. Since then, Gerhardt has been concentrating on photographing demonstrations on his home turf with manual Nikon F cameras and Ilford HP5
film – a piquant rarity in the age of digital dominance. Dubbed “Mic Check” after the protestors’ rallying cry, his project represents a significant body of work. “Some protests were wall-to-wall people, sometimes it would be just a few dozen,” says Gerhardt. “Sometimes I was the only photographer there. And sometimes it was every news outlet with every camera they could get their hands on. But it always kept moving.” For a long time, the fact that the protests were going on around the country and nothing was changing weighed on people, he says. “They, and myself, found it hard to fathom how police officers were not held accountable when the evidence seemed so stacked against them.”
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PHOTOS: ROBERT GERHARDT
One of Eric Garner’s relatives shouts at police in Staten Island on 17 July 2019, the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death.
Protestors assemble in Columbus Circle, 28 March, 2018.
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PHOTOS: ROBERT GERHARDT
Protestors march past the New York Public Library on 42nd Street on 18 April, 2016.
Demonstrators confront police officers on the fifth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Times Square on 9 August, 2019.
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PHOTOS: ROBERT GERHARDT
A Black Lives Matter protest on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem on 20 March, 2017.
BLM protestors urge police to ‘Stop Killing Our Children’ in Crown Heights on 19 June, 2020.
“But it was this same outrage – that the killings kept happening and that no matter how many protests took place very little changed as a result – that seemed to drive people into the streets to protest time and time again.” Despite having taken thousands of images at BLM protests, one in particular sticks in Gerhardt’s mind. It’s not simply the lighting and composition that make it remarkable, it’s also because one of the subjects is holding up a sign that reads: “We Will Not Be Silent”. “I shot it in Union Square in November
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Police trying to keep protestors from leaving Union Square Park Area, New York City on 13 August, 2017.
2014. The sentiment on that sign has never left the BLM movement, which continues to be driven by anger and frustration,” he explains. Gerhardt’s photographs have met with near universal acclaim, but as one very well-known American once pointed out, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time”. “Feisty is one way to put some Far Right reactions,” he says. “But I do seem to have been spared the worst of the really horrible things that have been said online about other journalists. So far, anyway.” n
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2022: TIME TO WRITE THAT BEST-SELLER New year, new ambitions. For those who aspire to add ‘book author’ to their CV, Carla Thomas quizzes publishing maven Jo Lusby for insider tips.
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What’s the typical journey from book idea to store shelves? Jo Lusby: If someone thinks they have a
What kinds of story ideas stand out? JL: The proposals I find the most exciting
tend to approach a known subject from an unusual perspective, or shine a light on an entirely unknown topic that feels relevant. An agent needs to be persuaded that the story will have enough to sustain a booklength narrative, and the writing needs to be unforced and flow naturally. Other than that, publishing is an industry based on few absolutes – it’s really just a sense that this fills a need among either readers or commissioning editors.
How much can someone expect to make from their first book? JL: Certainly not enough to quit your
day job, and don’t expect the hourly rate to make sense, either! First book deals can be as little as US$3,000-US$5,000, depending on the publisher and topic. On the upper end, there’s really no limit – Barack and Michelle Obama were reportedly paid US$60 million for their first two books!
BEST IN THE BUSINESS
What makes a best-selling book? Even JK Rowling (above), whose tomes (estimated: more than 500 million copies sold) have spawned movies, franchises and theme parks, might be pressed to answer. Perseverance helps, as the former jobless café scribbler would attest; and being lucky enough to hit on a formula that segues with current appetites. But – no surprises here – don’t underestimate public taste. How else to explain Jeffrey Archer’s schlockbuster Kane and Abel (33 million) coming close to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (35 million), or EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey (15 million) trumping Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (13 million)?
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED, DANIEL OGREN & TOLGA AKMEN / AFP
book in them, the very first step is to sit down and write. There is no such thing as a guaranteed hit or a definitive “no” when it comes to ideas – it’s all in the writing and execution. The next step is for an author to find an agent. This involves a bit of networking and a lot of online searching. You can try checking the acknowledgements of books that cater to a similar topic or readership – authors often
thank their agents there. Literary agents will develop the text and get the proposal in shape, then submit to editors they think would be best suited for the work. From there, it usually takes up to a year for the book to actually hit the shelves. For non-fiction books, publishers will commit on the basis of a full proposal, including a synopsis, a couple of sample chapters, and an introduction to the author and what they hope to achieve. Works of fiction should generally be finished before a publisher will consider them.
e all get a little more goaloriented at the dawn of a new year. Maybe it’s that squeaky clean feeling of settled ledgers, a calendar yet to be filled with Zoom calls, or just internal pressure to aim higher. And if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to sit down and write a book, then this one’s for you. We’ve enlisted FCC member Jo Lusby, the co-founder of Chinafocused literary agency, Pixie B, to weigh in. As a publishing veteran and the former North Asia head of Penguin Random House, Lusby knows a good story pitch when she reads one. She’s worked with Nobel Laureate Mo Yan, and was the first to spot Man Asian Literary Prize winner Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem. She even brought the British children’s classic, Peppa Pig, to mainland China. Speaking to The Correspondent, Lusby shares the highs and lows of her career, explains how to sell a book idea, and what to expect if it gets the green light.
Lusby moderating a panel at the 2021 Hong Kong International Literary Festival.
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Mo Yan, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in literature, has been described as ‘China’s answer to Kafka’.
It comes down to simple mathematics and a perception of competition. If a publisher believes that other publishers will also be chasing the work, then they will offer a higher amount – upwards of US$100,000 – to take it off the table, or there could even be an auction situation, where rival publishers bid against each other on the advances to secure the work. For those struggling to find a publisher, when should they throw in the towel? JL: There’s no definite answer for this one
either, but I think you should keep the faith as long as you and your agent still believe in the work. If you get to the point where you’re knocking on the same doors, however, then it might be time to give up.
What about self-publishing? JL: Self-publishing is a good route for
authors who have a ready-made audience – a lot of business book writers, for example, will offer books as part of their speaking
circuit or training courses. An author will normally take a higher percentage of the book’s earnings with self-publishing – up to 50 percent instead of 10-15 percent on print, and 25 percent on eBook or audio – but it’s often a larger percentage of a smaller number. Be prepared to work very hard if you choose to self-publish. Independent bookshops will support local authors and are willing to take copies, but successfully selling self-published books outside of your immediate community is very difficult. Gaining visibility on major online retailers like Amazon requires a lot of time, energy and specialist skills. What kinds of services and support can you expect working with a publisher? JL: From editing the manuscript to jacket
design, marketing and PR, author tours, and sales and distribution, you should receive a full range of services. Different books will receive different levels of support from companies, but the starting point for getting good service from a publisher is making sure the editor who acquired it is excited. They are the person who has to sell the book internally to all their colleagues to make sure the sales people are excited to sell, the designer gives it a great jacket, and the marketing team brings their inspiration (and budgets!) to the launch.
Can you tell us about a manuscript that really missed the mark for you? JL: Many years ago, I received a manuscript
for a children’s book from a Chinese
NOT QUITE AS EASY AS ABC Three FCC stalwarts supply some hints on turning a manuscript into a masterpiece.
Johan Nylander: “I wish I had known when I was starting out how easy and fun it is to selfpublish. I’ve written three books, and I published the last two – Shenzhen Superstars (2017) and The Epic Split (2020), both about China – myself. They sold much better than the first, although it was published by one of Scandinavia’s leading publishing houses.” Vaudine England: “My latest book, Fortune’s Bazaar – The Making of Hong Kong, will be published by Scribner/Simon & Schuster in the US, and Corsair/Little Brown in the UK next summer . Two things are key to getting published: one is to have an important story to tell; the second is to have good friends who, in my case, asked their agent to recommend who I should contact to secure my agent. It worked!”
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PHOTO: BENGT NYMAN
Mike Chinoy: “My biggest challenge writing China Live: People Power and the Television Revolution (Rowman & Littlefield: 1999) was finding my voice. I was lucky to have a good editor who told me ‘the reader wants to know not only what happened, but what you thought and felt about it – your private opinions and emotions.’ So I had to learn to set aside my journalistic objectivity, which I had spent long years honing.”
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publisher. They added that the translation into English would be done very quickly and at no cost… because the translator was a US-educated individual who was currently in prison (with plenty of free time on their hands!) and unable to accept money for work. I declined and never heard anything further. Which book are you particularly proud to have published? JL: The first book I acquired for Penguin
was Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, in 2005 [a semi-autobiographical novel about a student from Beijing sent to Mongolia at the height of the Cultural Revolution]. I had just set up the company’s first office in China, and I bought the book one month later. It went on to win the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize, and for a while was the highest-selling work of fiction in translation from China. It was a really exciting journey, not only because it was the first book I published, but also because it was showcasing a personal story and perspective that at the time felt very fresh to a Western readership.
How has publishing in Hong Kong changed under the new political landscape? JL: The entire publishing industry in Hong
Kong has become much more conservative in terms of the authors they will work with and the books that will be published and sold. There are stories of publishers having books line-edited before they can be printed and bookshops selling potentially sensitive titles under the counter, if at all. Whether that’s just self-censorship by publishers or the printers themselves, nobody knows at this stage.
PHOTO: L AKSHMI HARILELA
Can you explain Peppa Pig’s 2018 run-in with the Chinese censors? JL: Peppa Pig became a meme in China,
with people creating spoof artwork of the character as a “gangsta”. This part of the IP [intellectual property] was banned – the memes – while the book publishing and TV broadcast continued uninterrupted. We actually sold more copies, because parents were panic-buying for their Peppaaddicted children in case they were pulled from the shelves. “Peppa Pig” was also briefly blocked as a search term online, but we saw a benefit to that, too; online retailers placed the product on their homepages so that shoppers didn’t have to search for it.
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In the lobby, find a wide array of books by FCC members on the club’s bookshelf.
What’s your best advice to anyone who wants to write a book? JL: Just do it, and write as though nobody
is reading. You can edit, cut, rework or entirely abandon the work, but the biggest challenge is getting what is in your mind down on paper. Take your time with it, too. People often share work with publishers too early, before it’s been properly crafted, edited or fully thought through. Get feedback from trusted friends before you show anyone you’re hoping to work with. n
Carla Thomas is a Canadian journalist. She is currently the editor of Liv magazine, Hong Kong’s health and wellness publication, and a freelance writer in her spare time. Her work has appeared in the SCMP, The Washington Post, Forbes, Time Out Hong Kong, and elsewhere.
3/1/2022 11:37 AM
WHAT’S IN A NAME? It’s perhaps just as well that the FCC’s walls can’t talk, but there’s a great tale attached to many of its rooms, says Robin Lynam.
xtraordinary though this may seem, back in 1991, when FCC President Peter Seidlitz suggested turning a corner of the Main Bar into an enclosed non-smoking area, the proposal was considered controversial. To discourage opposition, Peter suggested that it be called the “Clare Hollingworth Room”. Who could then object? Clare did. At 80 years old, she pointed out that she was still alive and
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did not yet want a memorial. The space went unnamed – sort of. Everybody called it the “Führerbunker”. After Peter died, aged 64 in 2012, it was officially renamed the “Peter Seidlitz Bunker”. He would have liked that. Peter, a flamboyant, capable, and very well-connected journalist – also a noted art collector – was described in one obituary as the “Giorgio Armani of foreign correspondents”. He is also one of a select few FCC members to have had a club space named after him.
The first was Richard Hughes, whose photograph hangs in the Hughes Room and in the Main Bar, where his sculpted head still greets visitors. He died in 1984 at the age of 81. A foreign correspondent of distinction who made his name in the 1930s reporting from Japan, Richard was probably also an intelligence agent – perhaps even a double. Though disputed, that might explain his 1956 scoop – interviewing British defectors
PHOTOS: FCC & LAKSHMI HARILEL A
Former FCC President Peter Seidlitz inspired “The Bunker” in the 1990s.
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PHOTOS: FCC & LAKSHMI HARILEL A
Hollingworth always sat in the corner table in “The Bunker”, where a framed front page and plaque now celebrate her life and work.
Richard Hughes, who was rumoured to be a double agent, has both a bust and meeting room in his honour.
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Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean in Moscow, whence they had fled in 1951. He appears in fiction as Dikko Henderson in Ian Fleming’s 007 yarn You Only Live Twice, and as Old Craw in The Honourable Schoolboy, whose opening chapter John le Carré set in the FCC’s Sutherland House premises near Statue Square, which we quit in
The Burton Room is named for illustrious correspondent Sandra Burton, who is remembered for her front-line reporting during political uprisings across Asia.
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1982 for our present location. Adjoining the Hughes Room – and sharing its role as a pop-up Chinese restaurant – the Burton Room is named for Sandra Burton, another distinguished journalist, but of a very different stamp. One of TIME magazine’s first female correspondents, she is perhaps
best known for her coverage of the 1983 assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr in the Philippines and of the 1986 People Power revolution which followed. She was also, characteristically, in the thick of things in 1989 in Tiananmen Square. Sandra died tragically early at 62 in 2004, a gifted and accomplished journalist, who was universally admired for her professionalism and integrity. UPI correspondent – and another FCC President – Bert Okuley, died in 1993 aged 58. He was a fine editor who probably could have made another career as a jazz musician, hence the name of the club’s cellar bar and jazz club. A photograph in Bert’s shows him with fellow pianist Larry Allen, who on Saturday evenings during the 1990s used to play and sing in the Main Bar. In the photo, Bert can be seen declining an invitation from Larry, who knew how good Bert was, to take over his seat. I occasionally joined Bert at the bar where he often studied horse racing form, and I wish I’d taken some tips. He gave good ones – such as this from 1975 to a UPI photographer in Saigon: “Van Es,” he shouted into a darkroom, “Get out here. There’s a chopper on that roof!” The photo exhibit wall at the rear of the Main Bar is named after
PHOTOS: FCC & LAKSHMI HARILEL A
Former FCC President Bert Okuley, of Bert’s bar, could play piano with the best.
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PHOTOS: FCC, L AKSHMI HARILELA & MIKE CLARKE / AFP
The Main Bar’s exhibition space was named after the late Hugh Van Es – a fitting memorial for the former FCC President and awardwinning photojournalist.
Hugh Van Es. He did not consider that helicopter photograph his best, and there are many finer ones from a career which ranged from shooting 1960s pop stars in Europe to the 1979 Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The wall is an appropriate choice of memorial for Hugh, who died in 2009 at 67. He was a connoisseur of good photography, generous with advice and encouragement to less experienced fellow professionals, and to amateur snappers. He was also an FCC President, a long-serving and valuable board member, and for several years, the custodian of the club’s liquor licence. Virupax Ganesh “VG” Kulkarni – whose name adorns the Workroom – was also a senior FCC Board member. He started his professional life as an officer in the Indian army, before transferring to the diplomatic corps, and finally settled on journalism, most notably at the Far Eastern Economic Review where he became Regional Editor. Later he pursued a freelance career. The club was his second home, and he was a frequent genial presence in the Workroom. He died – in the
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Health Club sauna – in 2014 at the age of 77. Notwithstanding Peter Seidlitz’s offer to Clare Hollingworth, the honour of having an FCC space named after you has only ever been awarded posthumously.
Now Clare, too, has her corner. After she closed her last bar bill – in 2017 at the age of 105 – the club mounted a photo of her in the Bunker over what was for many years unofficially, but entirely inflexibly, her table. Whoever sits at it today, so it remains. n
The Workroom borrows its name from Virupax Ganesh “VG” Kulkarni, who served a Board member for many years.
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MEET THE BOARD T DEUX
Ed Peters profiles more FCC Board members, who were elected last May for the 2021-2022 term. How did our governors come to join the FCC, what new experiences are coming down the pipeline, and what keeps them busy from day to day? We threw a few softballs at the Board and pressed them on the club’s future, too.
Journalist Member Governor
The club, like Hong Kong, has been through some challenging times in recent years but remains strong. – Cliff Buddle
On-the-job training really meant something when Cliff Buddle started out with a London news agency, where he found himself covering a murder case at the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court on his first day. A dozen years later he heard of a job at the South China Morning Post. “I was looking for a new adventure – I had no idea what it would be like in Hong Kong, never having visited before. I arrived with just a suitcase and headed straight for the newsroom in Quarry Bay. This was 1994, an exciting time as the city prepared for the Handover.” Having started as a court reporter, Buddle has since been opinion page editor, news editor, chief leader writer, deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief. He is currently special projects editor and also writes columns. A long-term FCC member, this is his seventh consecutive year as a Journalist Member Governor, and he has performed extensive work on the club’s articles of association and bylaws.
“The club, like Hong Kong, has been through some challenging times in recent years but remains strong. It must remain a powerful voice in defence of press freedom, a platform for free discussion and, of course, a wonderful place to meet friends for a drink and a meal.”
THE FINE PRINT
Hometown: Enfield, North London, England Day job: Special Projects Editor, SCMP Favourite dish: Chicken tikka Tipple: Sauvignon Blanc or Burgundy The FCC in a nutshell: “A home-from-home for journalists and a beacon for press freedom.” • Vision for the club: “I would like to see more young people, especially young journalists, join the club.”
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• • • • •
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Correspondent Member Governor Former Globe and Mail reporter Iain Marlow’s memories of his initial visit to the FCC in 2016 mirror hundreds of other first-timers’. “The place was buzzing; one guy was holding two bottles of Champagne; everyone I met was whipsmart, engaged and friendly. I thought: ‘This place is amazing.’” Marlow became a member almost immediately after moving to Hong Kong three years later, having discovered the FCC South Asia, also housed in a heritage building, while working for Bloomberg in New Delhi. “The club in Hong Kong is just around the corner from our office, so it’s
effectively our local.” It wasn’t long before he joined the Board, and he is now a passionate member of three committees: press freedom, professional and communications. “As the city shifts beneath our feet, we need to keep the foundations of the FCC strong. That means navigating the new political reality in Hong Kong. We must also maintain our reputation as a lively hub for debate about the issues that matter to our members,” he says. “A lot of this requires a fine balancing of priorities. And I think the FCC’s current Board and amazing staff are doing a great job of doing that in very challenging times.”
THE FINE PRINT
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Hometown: Pickering, Ontario, Canada Day job: Senior Reporter, Bloomberg News Favourite dish: Burger, Caesar salad or chicken tikka masala Tipple: Sauvignon Blanc or IPA The FCC in a nutshell: “The only place I want to go.” Vision for the club: “Even in these uncertain times, we need to keep speaking out on press freedom.”
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED & L AKSHMI HARILELA
Correspondent Member Governor Having studied Chinese at university, Lucy Colback drifted into banking and then, fortuitously, into writing the Lex column for the Financial Times (FT), which she describes as “the best seat in journalism”. The job was based in Hong Kong, so joining the FCC was a logical step. “I nearly quit [the FCC] when I left the FT as I didn’t think I could justify the expense – but the club became an essential centre for me while living on Peng Chau, so I’m glad I didn’t resign.” While writing about responsible corporate behaviour (“payback after
years as a financier caring only about the numbers”) and compiling a book of World War II veterans’ memories, Colback sits on the finance committee (“I like seeing the inner workings”), the communications committee, and is hoping to get more involved with food and beverage. Vis-à-vis the club, she says: “We’re in very tricky times with the political backdrop, and the position of the media is quite uncertain. I am proud to be a member of a club which supports open debate and hope we can maintain that even in the current climate.”
THE FINE PRINT
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Hometown: London, England Day job: Freelance writing, moderating, curating Favourite dish: Any curry whatsoever Tipple: G&T The FCC in a nutshell: “It has to be the ceiling fans and smiley staff.” Vision for the club: “Support the FCC as a home for pluralistic debate.”
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Journalist Member Governor Zela Chin took a well-trodden path into journalism: an internship at university, followed by a stint at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and then – having fallen for Hong Kong hook, line and sinker –
We are working hard to develop relationships with government officials and to ensure the renewal of the building’s lease. – Zela Chin
signing up with TVB as a business features reporter. She was quick to latch onto the club’s promotional deal for tyro journalists back in 2011. “At HK$250 per month, for access to stellar journalists, amazing guest speakers, and affordable meals in the middle of Central, how could I refuse?” In her first months on the Board, Chin has been impressed with how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep the club buzzing, whether organising talks with newsmakers or finding chefs for the themed dinners. She’s keen to share the club’s message with non-members, too. “I represented the Board at a dinner with the Foreign Ministry. We are working hard to develop relationships with government officials and to ensure the renewal of the building’s lease.” Chin is also looking forward to working with the Charity Committee. “I want to leverage my connections with local NGOs, and social enterprises garnered from my time as a documentary producer to help the FCC further its charitable involvement.”
THE FINE PRINT
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Hometown: Los Angeles, California, US Day job: Principal Reporter, Money Matters, TVB Pearl Favourite dish: Garoupa claypot Tipple: Champagne The FCC in a nutshell: A place “where everybody knows your name.” Vision for the club: “It’s a tumultuous time in Hong Kong, and I hope the club can navigate these uncertain waters while staying true to our mission as a defender of press freedom.”
Associate Member Governor
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Journalist – Correspondent – Associate: would the real Christopher Slaughter please stand up? Twice FCC President, long-time Board member, and one-time stalwart of Metro News, Slaughter joined the club in 1991. “How could you be a journalist here and not be a member?” Having taken on numerous jobs in the past three decades, entailing various changes in membership status, he is now back in Associate mode. “Associates make up the largest body of members by a huge margin, and although by design we have fewer Board seats and less political power, our contribution to the
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club’s ongoing relevance and continued future is critical,” he says. “I work to ensure that contribution is both recognised and appreciated.” Like everyone in the FCC, Slaughter remains deeply committed to press freedom and the protection of journalists, and believes that the FCC must remain a bastion of those principles.
“These days, I’m focused on the Building Project and Maintenance Committee, which deals with the upkeep of our heritage premises. Over many years on the Wall Committee, with various others, I helped establish us as a leading exhibition destination for photojournalists and photographers from Hong Kong, Asia and around the world.”
THE FINE PRINT
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Hometown: Denver, Colorado, US Day job: Consultant, Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Council Favourite dish: Sausage rolls Tipple: Coke Zero or Taiwanese oolong tea The FCC in a nutshell: “The best living room I’ve ever had.” Vision for the club: “We have a future. It might not look like the present, and maybe it will look like our (chequered) past, but the FCC will endure.”
Associates make up the largest body of members by a huge margin, and although by design we have fewer Board seats and less political power, our contribution to the club’s ongoing relevance and continued future is critical. – Christopher Slaughter
Associate Member Governor Genavieve Alexander moved to Hong Kong a decade ago after spotting the rising opportunity for PR in Asia, with many Western lifestyle brands looking to move east. Former years in brand strategy at Marks & Spencer and LVMH inspired her to set up Genavieve.Co in 2012. She joined the club as soon as possible, having heard of it at London’s Frontline Club (a reciprocal of the FCC). “One of my passions is working with brands of great history and legacy, keeping them current, evolving and timeless: and for me, the FCC is just that,” says Alexander. In 2018 she joined the Board, guiding its communications strategy, coming up with F&B concepts and enhancing the club’s website, magazine, and social media platforms to accelerate engagement, and ultimately, membership. As a female entrepreneur, Alexander has suggested varied topics and speakers to balance club conversations and hosted events with organisations, such as Female
Entrepreneurs Worldwide. She hopes to plan a breakfast series to further women’s engagement and attract new members. “This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the FCC on Lower Albert Road, and it’s a fitting time to curate and communicate all that we have achieved together as a club and gear up for all that is to come,” she says. “Some ideas in play: a wall exhibition of the FCC archives, a special issue of The Correspondent, perhaps an FCC podcast... and a special promotion for our newly launched Byline Brew.” n
PHOTO: L AKSHMI HARILELA
THE FINE PRINT
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Hometown: London, England Day job: PR Director, Genavieve.Co Favourite dish: Sichuan fish Tipple: Champagne The FCC in a nutshell: “A club of conversations.” Vision for the club: “That the FCC’s timeless legacy lives on, known for its vibrant atmosphere, eclectic members and dedication to supporting journalism in the region.”
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This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the FCC on Lower Albert Road, and it’s a fitting time to curate and communicate all that we have achieved together as a club and gear up for all that is to come. – Genavieve Alexander
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ON THE WALL
The Decline and Fall of Kabul Photojournalist Marcus Yam chronicles the desperate days following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
aken what seems like moments apart in the same city, the images could almost be stills from a sci-fi horror film. One shows a pair of Afghan journalists bloodied from the torture chamber, a second snaps Taliban fighters chortling with glee as they ride a merry-go-round. Another day, another diptych: two children clutching each other, howling with grief; and a brace of nattily dressed officials, their gaze mutually threatening, while a guard dangles his AK-47 at the front of the frame. Every photo seems haunted by dread and desperation and a terrible stark unreality. This was the Kabul that Malaysian
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photojournalist Marcus Yam – roving correspondent for the Los Angeles Times – experienced in August and September, and which invested the Van Es Wall with such immediacy and vigour in November. As the Americans scuttled, the Taliban walked into the Afghan capital virtually unopposed, and chaos descended like a guillotine blade. In many ways, it was a scenario tailormade for Yam, who makes no secret of his desire to take viewers to the frontline of human conflict. “It was an uneasy, challenging time but a oncein-a-lifetime chance to tell the stories that came out of this page of American and Afghan history,” says Yam.
Yam has displayed similarly dogged determination in other conflict zones, including the Gaza Strip. n Find further examples of his work at marcusyam.com. 1 Twenty years to the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, Taliban fighters ride a swing at a Kabul amusement park. 2 After being arrested for reporting on a women’s rights demonstration, video journalist Nemat Naqdi (left) and video editor Taqi Daryabi, both employed by the Etilaatroz newspaper, were severely beaten by Taliban thugs while in custody. 3 Two weeping boys embrace at Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan hospital. 4 Former Kabul mayor Mohammad Daoud Sultanzoy (left) and new interim Kabul mayor Hamdullah Namony, right, face off at the Kabul Municipality office.
PHOTOS: MARCUS YAM
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Window to the World Basil Pao sought out radiance, colour and beauty as an antidote to the pandemic’s isolation and uncertainty.
PHOTOS: BASIL PAO
asil Pao Ho-Yun’s December exhibit may have been entitled “Windows and Doorways” but every image – immaculately lit, perfectly composed – contained at least one human to provide a soupçon of context. An arm hanging up the wash; an eye peeking through red doors; a nude child skipping past a straw hut; a bird’s-eye view of glaziers working in a Venetian mansion. None appeared posed, giving the impression that Pao’s roving artistic eye simply chanced upon each scene at precisely the right moment. A professional photographer whose career stretches over four decades, Pao – possibly Cheung Chau’s most famous native after Olympic medallist Lee Lai-shan – is
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well known for his work on Michael Palin’s globetrotting television series and Bernardo Bertolucci’s feature films, including a role as Prince Chun in “The Last Emperor”. However, COVID-19’s ramifications caused Pao, like many others, to shift his focus and confront uncertainty. “During this extended period of enforced isolation, windows and doorways became potent symbols of hope for me, as I imagined gliding through these holes in the walls into a pristine future,” writes Pao in his artist’s statement. “There is a glimmer at the end of the tunnel, though it flickers madly. Travel is again possible, albeit, difficult,” he continues. “It is my sincere hope that
these images of ordinary moments unfolding inside and around windows and doorways from distant places will serve as a reminder of the beauty and colour of the world awaiting us beyond the confines of our well.” n For more information, browse: basilpao.com
1 Hello yellow: A “phone booth” in Nouakchott, Mauritania. 2 You’re it: Schoolboys in the shanty town of Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa. 3 Little leaps: A boy in Wauja Village on the Upper Xingu River in Amazônia, Brazil. 4 Seeing red: A curious onlooker peers through a set of imperial doors in the Forbidden City of Beijing.
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The numbers are in: just over three dozen newbies and rather more than two-score absentees.
Correspondents • Vincent Chow, Reporter, ALM • Abhishyant Kidangoor, Associate Video Producer, TIME • Charlotte Mason, Digital Verification Editor, Asia-Pacific, AFP • Catherine Ngai, Team Leader, Asia Equities Bloomberg Journalists • Nick Jones, Executive Producer (Morning Studio), South China Morning Post • Jerome Lizambard, Freelance • Zhou Xin, Political Economy Editor, South China Morning Post Associates • Asa Atting, Self-employed • Paul Eugene Austin III, Research Director, Archelon Group • Gayatri Pathak Bery, Director of Finance & Philanthropic Partnerships, Centre For Asian Philanthropy and Society • Peter Chan, Chief Executive Officer, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group • Peter Cookson Smith, Consultant, URBIS • Marc Allan Cormack-Bissett, Director, Head of Operations, The Law Debenture Corporation • Jack Cumming, Director, Liquid Inspiration • Sachil Dagur, Chief Executive, Habib Bank Zurich • Neil Donovan, Head of Department, Singapore International School • Sara Garland, Executive Director, Oneglobal Broking Hong Kong • Kunal J Gokal, Analyst, HSBC • Anastasia Gordeeva, Belt and Road Director, Charltons • Herve Guinebert, Director, Banque Transatlantique • Arthur Koeman, Founder & CEO, Happy Ali Publishing • Maarten Kwik, CEO, Quickstart Asia • Anthea Lai, Programme Specialist, Point72 • Corinna Lau Shuk Man, Director, Head of Asian Products, Invesco Hong Kong
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• Li Man Ying, CEO, EB International Design Development • Toby Littlewood, Managing Director, Wise Talent Asia • Justin Peter McMahon, Partner, Village Insurance • Ng Sik Chiu, Executive Director, Fu Shek Financial Holdings • Andrew Paterson, Regional CEO, Asia Pacific, ADEC Innovations Bhagwan Benny Daulatram Ratnani, Chairman, Bee Dee Manufacturing • Pooja Sawhney, Director, MSP Associates • Isabella Johanna Shaw, Company Secretary, Asia Energy Consulting • Ambar Taneja, CIO, Geomatrix • Pawanya Trakulmechokchai, Jewellery Designer, Aura International • Ray Tsang Heung Tak, Barrister-at-Law, Garden Chambers • Robert Andrew Verity, Retired • Ginny Wilmerding, Partner, Finsbury Glover Hering Diplomatic • John Riley, Consul General, New Zealand Consulate-General
Diplomatic • Brian John Davidson, Consul General, British Consulate General • Mariko Enomoto, Diplomat, Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany • Amy Serina Hirsch, Diplomat, Consulate General of the United States of America • Thomas Hwei Bou-dou, Cultural Affairs Officer, Consulate General of the United States of America • Warren Ke, Consul, Consulate General of the United States of America • Priyanka Mehtani, Consul (Commerce, Political & Press), Consulate General of India • John Benjamin Oswald Palmer, Diplomat, British Consulate-General
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Absent Correspondents • Russell Goldman, Senior Story Editor, The New York Times • Divya Gopalan, Presenter/Correspondent, Al Jazeera English • Gavin Greenwood, Freelance • Ernst Herb, Freelance Writer • Huh Dong Hyuck, Reporter, New Daily Korea • Marc Lavine, Editor, AFP • James Leung Sze Chung, Executive Producer, Lianain Films • Vivian Amy Charlotte McGrath, Executive Producer, Redback Productions • Cornelis Metselaar, Freelance Photographer • Katherine Springer, Freelance Journalist • Jeffrey Timmermans, Managing Editor Equities, Backslash Media • Anthony Wallace, Photographer, AFP • Yuan Li, Asia Tech Columnist, The New York Times Journalists • Michael Chugani, Freelance • Ian Russell Godfrey, Freelance • May James, Freelance • Gareth Lewis Jones, Photographer, Gareth Jones Photography • Daniel Kwan, Editor-in-Chief, CLP • Hari Kumar Govindankutty Nair, Sub-Editor, South China Morning Post • Wong Kwan Yee, Reporter, The Standard Associates • Peter William Bennett, CEO, Peter Bennett Foundation • Kingsley Ronald Bolton, Honorary Professor, The Social Sciences Research Centre • David Alexander Cain, Executive Managing Director, Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions • Cheung Chun Wei, Non-Executive Chairman, Tesco Dental • Janice Cheung Jing Chee, Clinical Assistant Professor, The University of Hong Kong • Maggie Cheung Mei Kee, Director, Sa Project • Ralph Richard Cunningham, Director, Sands Street Media • Matthew Fenton, Partner, Marine Engineer, Brookes Bell • Louis Fung Kai Lin, Retired • Mohit Gupta, Vice President, Credit Suisse • Paul John Jurie, Retired • Cindy Kam, Retired • Kelvin Ko, Managing Director, Verity Consulting • Jonathon Leung Gin Man, Registered Foreign Lawyer, Clifford Chance • Alan Mauney, Pilot, Fedex • Peter Ernest Mills, Consultant, Blank Rome • Christopher Neil Morley, Partner, Morley Chow Seto • Melanie Jane Nutbeam, Retired • Marta Joann Obando, Retired • Michael Alexander Pitcher, Retired • Mona Shroff, Director, Mona Shroff Jewellery • Richard John Ward, Chairman, Ward Associates Asia • Albert Wong Wing Ko, Retired • Polly Yu, Director, Polly Yu Production
Resigned Correspondents • Joel Flynn, TV Presenter/Producer, Thomson Reuters • Huw Griffith, Deputy Head of English Desk, AFP • Giles Hewitt, Editor-in-Chief, AFP • Sharon Lam, Asia Editorial Assistant, Thomson Reuters • Gemma Shaw, Editor, Hong Kong Living • Brian Taylor, Senior Editor, Recycling Today Media Group
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Journalists • Selina Cheng, Reporter, HK01 • Liu Kwok Chu, Reporter, Oriental Press Group • Stuart Wolfendale, Freelance Writer Associates • Cheah Teik Seng, Managing Director, Aktis Capital Advisory • Anne Knecht-Boyer, Owner, International Parent Infant Program • William McAfee, Managing Director, Asia Pacific Capital Asset Management • David Rowlands, Head of English, ITS Education Asia Corporate • Katherine Huang, Consultant, Belle Collection • Prakash Muthukrishnan, Head of Communications & Marketing, ABN AMRO Bank
Reactivated Correspondent • Sarah Stewart, Asia Pacific Sales and Marketing Director, AFP Journalist • Janice Leung Kwok Ting, Freelance Associates • Alexander Esmail, Consultant, Axiom Global • Albert Hofmann, Retired • Douglas Kane, Teacher, Yew Chung International School • Sharon Li See Wai, Certified Golf Instructor, PacificPine Sports • Kenneth James Thorley, Senior Partner, Victoria Veterinary Hospital
Category Changes Honorary Widow to Associate • Winnie Walker Chuk Lee Lan, Ernst & Young Associate to Honorary Widow • Candace Isbell Linn, Retired Silver Associate to Honorary Widow • Amy Lau Wan Yee, Retired Associate to Silver Associate • Hwang Sok In, Consultant, Hastings & Co Solicitors • James Edward Thompson, Chairman, Crown Worldwide Holdings Journalist to Silver Journalist • Raymond Wong, Retired
Deaths We regret to announce the deaths of: • Dr Werner Burger • Chiang Wee Tong • Carlos Tejada • Ian Verchere
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Welcome, One and All A Swede, a South African, a Kiwi, a Russian, a Yorkshireman, un Français, several Chinese and assorted others walk into a bar…
This is the third time my husband Fredrik and I have lived in Hong Kong. Each time we left, we sensed that we would move back. Hong Kong is a very special place for our family. Originally from Sweden, we have lived in Hong Kong and Germany for the last 16 years. I have worked as an IT consultant for international companies and have always relished meeting people from all walks of life. I enjoy the Hong Kong outdoors and can’t wait until we can travel freely again so that I can visit my children who go to university in Canada. I love the diverse and international atmosphere at the FCC. VINCENT CHOW
I’m Hong Kong-born, UK-raised. In 2019, after many years away from my birthplace, I decided to return to Hong Kong to start my journalism career as a legal reporter. Since then my interest in China has only increased, although covering the country has become more difficult for foreign journalists. I recently switched to freelancing to allow me to pursue my other passion: travelling. I hope to have a career that allows me to write and travel as much as possible – starting in Taiwan next year where I’ll be studying Mandarin. I’m a massive Arsenal and Andy Murray fan. PETER COOKSON SMITH
I arrived in Hong Kong in September 1976 and, within a year, set up URBIS, the first company in the territory specialising in city planning, urban design, environment and landscape. We cut our teeth on the New Towns programme and have since carried out many projects across China and Southeast Asia. In associated areas I have been a Professor of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong and an Adjunct Professor at Chinese University. Although technically retired, I continue to occupy a quiet corner of the URBIS office through the forbearance of long-standing friends and colleagues. urbis.com.hk
MARC ALLAN CORMACK-BISSETT
Friends call me gregarious, and I have a love of food, travel and exploration. I’m British by birth but identify as South African having emigrated at six months old. I met my (now) husband in our uni days and we moved to London in the early 2000s where I qualified as a chartered accountant. In late 2018, I was seconded to Hong Kong and immediately fell for the city’s charm. I was joined by my husband and cats (Gin & Tonic) a year later. I’m a director and head of company secretarial services for Law Debenture Corporation. linkedin.com/in/marccormack-bissett
I moved to this fascinating city in 2018 after stints in Portugal, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan, and am joined at the FCC by my wife Veronica, a Venezuelan from Caracas. I hail from Yorkshire in England. We enjoy dragon boating, scuba diving, hiking, golf and football, and have our own website documenting our travel experiences and showcasing our small philanthropic photography and sustainable fashion businesses. When we’re not dreaming of travelling or focusing on our creative projects, I work as the Head of English Department in an international school, and Veronica works as a relocation consultant and a realtor. forever_in_travel
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KUNAL J GOKAL
Originally from New Zealand, I’ve spent most of my life in Hong Kong. I now work as a relationship manager at a global private bank having spent a short stint in the luxury goods industry. I find joy in meeting new people, building relationships and learning from others. I’m driven by new experiences, having climbed Mount Kinabalu, bungeed above a lake in New Zealand, backpacked around Croatia, and explored Europe by road. I’m itching to travel again in a post-COVID-19, quarantine-free world. As a third-generation member from my family, I’m thrilled to be joining the club. linkedin.com/in/kunalgokal97
Some random information: I have a Russian accent. It may sound like appropriation, but just like the FCC’s president, I love Malbec, and not just in the evening. My profile picture was taken by my colleague, Nikolai Likhopoi, and it doesn’t matter whether I like it or not – it’s amazing. What am I doing in China? Ask my father and please let me know. I hope that one day Elon Musk and I will fly to Mars from the Baikonur cosmodrome where I was born. I still don’t know who I want to be when I grow up. linkedin.com/in/anastasia-gordeeva-47b9ab164
I’ve been living and working in Hong Kong for almost eight years, and despite some un-encouraging beginnings, it’s hard not to fall in love with this unique place, with its Chinese influence and British heritage. It has one of the most beautiful skylines in the world, while sandy beaches, rocky shores, coastlines, reservoirs, woodlands, mountain ranges, and a variety of scenic vistas make up the majority of the Island. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “Hong Kong is the most imperfect place I have ever lived, except for all the others.” linkedin.com/herve-guinebert-4876b426
I’m originally from the UK, but my wife, Hanh, and I have called Hong Kong home for almost four years. I currently lead video production for Morning Studio, the South China Morning Post’s branded content arm, making short documentaries on a range of topics, from local artists to business leaders. In my spare time, I can often be found roaming the streets looking for stories for my own documentary projects or doing a bit of photography. nickjonesimg
As a Dutch trader I arrived in Hong Kong in 1980, and am still here four decades later. I retired in 2015 and now share my time with my wife Annett, and my hobbies of squash (body permitting) and painting. My exhibitions are mainly held at the Fringe Club next door to the FCC. My retirement didn’t last very long. With the mainstream media hell-bent on presenting negative news, I realised the world was in need of something positive. To overcome this doom and gloom I brought together a team of experienced journalists to launch Happy-Ali.com, which publishes seriously happy global news. arthurkoeman.com
Born and raised in Hong Kong, I came back to the city after graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and working in New York. My time spent in the US cultivated my interest in diversity. I have spent nearly 20 years working in finance, and believe women can provide different perspectives on all areas of life. As a mother of two, I am also keen on nurturing the next generation of women via allyship and support. I love travelling, trying out exotic food and shopping for local specialties.
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NEW MEMBERS LI MAN YING
I was born in Hong Kong and have practiced as an architect both here and overseas for more than 40 years, which often required travelling around various parts of the world. It is a great pleasure for me to join the club to share a lot of experiences and visions from other members.
I was born in Cyprus and spent my childhood in Yemen and London. After a Chinese studies degree, my career in HR and communications with BP, and later Lafarge, was based mainly in Asia with 26 years in Beijing and Guangzhou. Apart from expanding regional operations, I also dealt with offshore gas blow-outs, shipping collisions and the devastating Aceh tsunami. I now work as an executive coach. My first Hong Kong experience was as a student intern, helping the St Stephen’s Society rehabilitate heroin addicts from the Kowloon Walled City, where I also met my wife, Jing, then a volunteer interpreter. linkedin.com/in/toby-littlewood-5a86a17
I was born in France and after studying for a master’s in history in Paris, I embarked for Beijing in the 1990s to learn Chinese and try to understand who would rule the world next. After many jobs in China over two decades, I ended up back at the University of Hong Kong last year, courtesy of COVID-19 which blighted my career in luxury retail. I’m currently focused on the Pacific, the polar regions and geopolitics. JeromeLizambard
I joined AFP in 2018 after graduating from Leeds University and then l’Institut Français de Presse in Paris. I landed in Hong Kong in March 2021 to join the agency’s Asia-Pacific team as a fact-checking editor, tackling misinformation across the region. Originally from the Peak District in England, I am enjoying discovering the city, especially learning Cantonese, hiking and consuming any amount of egg waffles. masoncha
JUSTIN PETER MCMAHON
After a career in hospitality management in Australia I completed a Bachelor of Commerce with majors in banking, finance and risk management. I relocated to Hong Kong 15 years ago with two suitcases and the hope of finding a home in this fantastic, inspiring city which has since given me both my wife and a career. I am now a partner at Village Insurance Brokers, which focuses on expats. I enjoy weightlifting, boxing, yoga, hiking and living the dream and am an active member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong Insurers Club. villageinsurancedirect.com/justinmcmahon
BHAGWAN BENNY DAULATRAM RATNANI
I settled in Hong Kong over five decades ago. I started my own trading business with the Middle East and India as the main markets when I was 29 years old after working here and in the US for a year. I have two offices in Guangzhou, and prior to the pandemic, I frequently travelled to Dubai where most of my clients are based. I am also a property investor and have been a Rotary Club member (and past vice president) for the past 35 years. I’m excited to join the FCC. JOHN RILEY
In the course of a long career in government service, I have completed two separate postings in Seoul and another in London where I chaired the Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club. I grew up in Auckland and have a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Auckland. I have affiliations to the Te Rarawa and Te Aupōuri tribes from the northern tip of New Zealand and speak Māori (and Korean) fluently.
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A company secretary by profession, I came from India back in 1997 shortly after the Handover. Ever since Hong Kong has been home to me, my husband and our two daughters. I love the tremendous vibrancy of Hong Kong and how its adventures never cease. It keeps the element of wonderment alive with its beautiful outdoors and vast variety of cuisines. I like the FCC, its atmosphere, the events it hosts and its fantastic mix of Old and New World wines. AMBAR TANEJA
I am an entrepreneur, and manage Hong Kong’s only India-dedicated equities fund: The Vachi India Equity Fund. I have been a Hong Kong resident since 2012 and previously worked as a private banker and fund manager. I have a master’s degree in Public Affairs from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delhi. I’m passionate about the guitar, which I have been playing for 30-plus years, and am now starting to write original music. RAY TSANG HEUNG TAK
I am a lawyer by training. My favourite fictional lawyer is Horace Rumpole. I love reading and am something of a bibliophile. I enjoy the works of Somerset Maugham, George Orwell (especially his essays and journalism), Bertrand Russell, and the local writer Chua Lam. I play golf recreationally. My handicap fluctuates between 18 and 25. I am a diehard Tiger Woods fan. I smoke cigars on a daily basis. My favourite hangouts are bookstores, cigar lounges and the FCC. linkedin.com/in/ambartaneja
I first lived in Hong Kong in 1991, straight out of university with a degree in East Asian studies. My first employer, Hutchison Whampoa, sent me to Shanghai to work on its container port joint venture. I met my American husband, Alex, there; he worked for Swire/Dragonair. We headed back to the US in 1996, but returned to Hong Kong in 2008. Since 2010 I’ve worked in financial communications, first for Brunswick and now with Finsbury Glover Hering. My twin sister was a Wall Street Journal reporter for 14 years. I’ve always loved the FCC and am thrilled to join. n linkedIn.com/in/Ginny-Wilmerding
PROFESSIONAL CONTACTS PHOTOGRAPHERS CARSTENSCHAEL.COM – Award-winning Photographer. People - Corporate - Stills - Food Architecture - Transport. Tel: (852) 9468 1404 Email: email@example.com JAYNE RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY – Editorial People - Food. 18 years Fleet St, London experience. Tel: (852) 9757 8607 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.jaynerussellphotography.com
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3/1/2022 11:44 AM
Ian Verchere: Versatile Journalist, Avid Traveller By Philip Bowring
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Clockwise from left: Ian Verchere; Verchere chats with former FCC President Al Kaff (left); Dolores Verchere looks on as her husband is presented with an FCC tie.
In 1979 Bank of America lured Verchere away from journalism with a job in Tokyo as vice president of corporate communications. He worked there for five years, then moved to New York. But journalism remained his first love and he eventually returned to London, working for Janes’ aviation magazines, the Economist Intelligence Unit and The European newspaper (which made a valiant but failed effort in the 1990s to persuade English-language readers to learn more about what was happening in Europe). He also freelanced for numerous national dailies. Verchere went on to do much sailing and travelling in Europe, the Caribbean, the US and across to Fiji. His adventures in Fiji led to a semi-autobiographical novel, Mugged in Tahiti, a tale of fun and games in the South Pacific. He also wrote Sailing into American History, tracing a journey along the east coast’s Intracoastal Waterway, which shed light on the early decades of the US. The avid traveller was also very much at home in Buckinghamshire where I last saw him for lunch at a pub on the Grand Union canal. A memorial service was held at St Mary the Virgin, Ivinghoe, on 10 August, followed by drinks at The Old Swan in Cheddington. I drank a toast to his memory at the Smugglers Inn. n
PHOTOS: FCC ARCHIVE
an Verchere, who died on 17 July in England aged 83, was one of the most agreeable and versatile journalists I have known. A restless enthusiasm and a wide variety of intellectual interests took him to many places, but he started out in Hong Kong doing his National Service in the army in the late 1950s, which led to his first job as a sports reporter at the South China Morning Post. Then it was off to La Sorbonne in Paris for two years to perfect his French, which led to a job as tour manager for Thomas Cook and a great deal of travel around Europe; he also spoke passable Spanish having studied in Barcelona. The travel bug and journalism merged when premier journal, Travel Trade Gazette, hired him. Verchere then became the editor of Asia Travel Trade (ATT) following a chance meeting at a Singapore travel conference in 1972 with the publisher, bringing him back to Hong Kong. I arrived in the then-colony the following year and we quickly became friends. When he hired Murray Bailey to join Verchere at ATT, Ian persuaded me to let Murray share my flat. Verchere moved on to edit Insight, a monthly businessfocused magazine which was, at least for a while, a journalistic success even if not a commercial one. Its indepth look at business was a first for English-language monthly journalism in 1970s Hong Kong, a period that saw a great flowering of regional journalism with the launch of Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek and the Asian Wall Street Journal, among others. ATT and Insight gave him great opportunities to travel in the region and satisfy his wide and ever-growing interests. While living in Stanley, Verchere also took up sailing a Hobie – a small catamaran which he launched off the beach at To Tei Wan. I was also living in Stanley and had a dinghy which I kept on the main beach, so I saw him quite often – though we did not make a habit of visiting the Smugglers Inn, then strictly for the squaddies from Stanley Fort.
3/1/2022 11:45 AM
Jonathan Mirsky: Never One For Convention By Stephen Vines
PHOTOS: EYEVINE/REDUX & INTELLIGENCE 2
onathan Mirsky, who died in London in September aged 88, was never a conventional journalist, nor conventional anything else. For many years he was among the best known China watchers in the hacking business and won the British Press Awards International Reporter of the Year title in 1989 for his Tiananmen massacre coverage in The Observer. In Beijing he was “rewarded” with a savage beating at the hands of the police while covering the protests. He later moved to The Times and was based in Hong Kong from 1993 to 1998. Towards the end, Mirsky fell out with the paper’s increasingly accommodating attitude towards Beijing ordered by owner Rupert Murdoch, who had big ambitions for expanding business in China. Mirsky became a familiar figure at the FCC, where a lack of alcoholic consumption and an enthusiasm for discussion – not forgetting an impressive stock of Jewish jokes – marked him out as a not so run-of-the-mill member. Mirsky, or Minsky as I called him after he was mistakenly identified as such by the aristocratic Times Editor William Rees-Mogg, came to journalism through the circuitous route of academia and never quite lost his affection for the long form preferred in universities. I got to know him back in the 1980s when we were both working for The Observer in London. He was an eccentric character in a newsroom where eccentricity was the norm. At the time I was engaged in the hard-edged area of labour reporting, while Mirsky was pontificating on China. Infuriatingly to us hacks who thought that the only kind of reporting that mattered came from on-the-spot observation, he managed to produce superb and highly readable analysis which often outdid the work of Beijingbased correspondents. When we were later both based in Hong Kong, we occasionally joined forces for interviews. It was an exasperating experience as Mirsky liked to be discursive and, with his genuine interest for people and what made them tick, would spend a great deal of time talking to the interviewees about their lives, while I was impatient to extract the news line of the day. The Mirsky method often worked far better than the more conventional news-gathering approach, and he made firm friends with many of the people he interviewed. Among them were the Dalai Lama, who wrote to him shortly before his death, and Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last Governor – a combination of friendships likely to confirm the worst misgivings of an ever-suspicious government in Beijing. Mirsky came from an aggressively secular intellectual leftist New York Jewish family and quickly graduated towards left-wing politics both as a student and an academic. It was this leftism that led him to become one
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Top: Jonathan Mirsky. Above: Mirsky delivering a speech at Intelligence², a forum for global debate.
of the early visitors to China in 1972 when the regime was keen to cultivate fellow travellers. It would however be inaccurate to describe Mirsky as an apologist for the regime, because a sharp eye for the reality of Mao’s China and an uncontainable independence of mind defied such a simple characterisation. In later years, most especially after Tiananmen, he became a prominent critic and was banned from entering the PRC. To describe Mirsky as being somehow “antiChina” would be a gross misconception because he had a deep love of all things Chinese and almost certainly a deeper knowledge of China’s culture and history than many of the most avid “patriots” who flaunt their love of the nation these days. Above all, Jonathan Mirsky was a mensch. It’s a Yiddish term that covers everything from friendship to humour to kindness yet is still inadequate to convey the true nature of the man. n
3/1/2022 11:45 AM
Dr Werner Burger: The World’s Foremost Chinese Currency Expert By Tim Huxley
orld-respected numismatist Dr Werner Burger, who died on 15 November at 85, was considered the preeminent expert on Qing dynasty currency. Born in 1936 in Bavaria, Werner discovered an interest in China during a school visit to a Chinese painting exhibition. Frustrated that no one on the field trip could read Chinese characters, he studied the language at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich before setting off for China via Cold War-era Czechoslovakia and Russia. He taught German at Fudan University in Shanghai, but the school closed in 1965 due to the Cultural Revolution. The authorities sent Werner to Suzhou to work as a sheep farmer. Unsurprisingly, the job did not satisfy his boundless intellectual curiosity, so he headed to Hong Kong, which became home for the rest of his life. Werner’s passion for Qing dynasty economic history evolved into a specialisation in numismatics. Having obtained the first and only PhD in Chinese numismatics from Munich University, Werner turned his focus to Qing currency and spent years searching for missing mint records. He also acquired coins from the era, which lasted from 1644 to 1912, rummaging around antique shops on frequent trips to China. Once, Werner collected 70 100-kilogramme bags of coins from a generous Hong Kong scrap metal dealer who had imported them from Indonesia, where Qing coins circulated until the 1940s. Accompanied by his wife Lucy, who Werner met in Hong Kong in 1975, the expert assembled the world’s only complete collection of Qing currency, representing all 268 years of the dynasty. It took 16 years to finally gain access to the First Historical Archives in Beijing,
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where the missing mint records were discovered after workers demolished a wall during renovations. This remarkable find enabled Werner to complete his lengthy search and ultimately led to his seminal work, Ch’ ing Cash, published in 2016 by the University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong Kong. The widely acclaimed volume has been hailed as the most definitive work on the subject. While researching and collecting Qing monetary history, Werner realised that the dynasty mismanaged its currency. This caused an economic disaster, which he concluded, led to the dynasty’s collapse and the cession of Hong Kong to Britain. In addition to his numismatic research, Werner supported his wife’s humanitarian projects across China, from providing access to higher education for children from impoverished rural areas to installing infrastructure and sanitation facilities in Huaiji and Meizhou. Despite being crippled by arthritis, Werner spent his later years cataloguing his collection and studying in his library. His inquisitive mind remained as sharp as ever; he stayed abreast of current affairs and voiced his often forthright opinions. Werner, who regularly visited the FCC, shared his findings during an illuminating club talk and always seemed most content while enjoying a glass of wine with friends and his beloved Lucy. Werner expressed frustration that no other universities in the world (even in Hong Kong, where Chinese numismatics played a role in the city’s development) teach the subject. It is unlikely that anyone will ever have such comprehensive knowledge of Chinese currency or so enthusiastically share their passion with the world. n
PHOTOS: FCC ARCHIVE & SUPPLIED
Werner Burger and his magisterial book Ch’ing Cash.
3/1/2022 11:45 AM
HONG KONG’S GREEN CHALLENGE
In Case You Missed It
Environmental experts debate Hong Kong’s sustainability efforts amidst global conversations about climate change. By Morgan M Davis
The Fall of Kabul: What’s Next for Afghanistan?
Left to right: Irene Chu, Dr Billy Hau, Laurence McCook
hile COP26 took place in Glasgow, Laurence McCook of WWF Hong Kong, KPMG China partner Irene Chu and conservationist Dr Billy Hau spoke at the FCC on 1 November about Hong Kong’s role in creating a more sustainable world. The WWF ranks the city’s ecological footprint (measuring human demand on land and water) as the third worst in Asia-Pacific and 14th worst globally. To address this issue, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced in her October 2021 policy address that Hong Kong will spend about HK$240 billion to reduce the effects of climate change over the next 20 years. As part of this plan, the city aims to stop using coal for electricity by 2035 and reduce carbon emissions from public transit. This is a start, but not enough, according to the speakers, who say that the administration will need to work closely with corporations that call the city home. For instance, Hong Kong can incentivise eco-conscious initiatives, such as sustainable supply chains and eco-conscious developments. Hong Kong has also become an active borrower of green debt, selling nearly US$4 billion (HK$31.2 billion) of green bonds to international investors in November 2021. Green bonds have become a popular investment tool in recent years, as they allow governments, corporations and banks to raise funds to use for environmentally conscious activities. For environmental incentives to be successful, Chu says business leaders must first recognise that sustainable practices can improve bottom lines. Unfortunately, many corporations and banks still do not equate environmental factors, like biodiversity loss, with capital loss. “The better you can connect the two, the more you can introduce policies or incentives or rules to change behaviour,” adds Chu. Products that create monetary value now, such as oil, will mean little if the rest of the world has crumbled. “Without bees to pollinate your crops, you don’t have food, and without food, it doesn’t matter what you have in your bank account,” says McCook, who works as the Director of Oceans Conservation at WWF. The speakers also noted Hongkongers’ consumption habits. “The footprint of Hong Kong is much larger than the geographic area,” says McCook, citing the example of the city’s seafood intake. According to the WWF, Hong Kong is the world’s eighth-largest seafood consumer, gulping down 66.5 kg per capita in 2017. Conscious consumers can influence the type of seafood bought and sold in Hong Kong by buying sustainably sourced products and expressing their concern to vendors. But there’s reason to be hopeful, says Chu. “Because of COVID-19, there is more awareness and urgency to act because people associate the pandemic with climate change.” n
With Anna Coren, CNN International correspondent; James Edgar, Agence France-Presse journalist; and Mujib Mashal, The New York Times South Asia Bureau Chief The American withdrawal from Afghanistan in August created a new era of uncertainty in the country. Three correspondents reflected on their experiences working in Afghanistan and what they envision for the future. Watch the conversation here: bit.ly/2Zh3neJ
Startups and Substack: How to Build Your Media Brand During a Pandemic With Erin Cook, author of newsletter Dari Mulut Ke Mulut; Tanmoy Goswami, founding editor of Sanity; and Alan Soon, founder of Splice Media The pandemic has changed the way journalists work and presented new challenges, particularly for independent outlets. Three journalists shared how they have survived the past two years and what they have learned. Watch the conversation here: bit.ly/3xinc1V
Book Talk - China Unbound: A New World Disorder With author Joanna Chiu Joanna Chiu, a senior journalist at Canada’s Toronto Star, spoke about her new book, examining China’s position in the world. Chiu’s reporting unpacks China’s political and social moves and how global leaders could respond. Watch the conversation here: bit.ly/3r7KhDc
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3/1/2022 11:45 AM
‘One of those moments historians dream of’
Michael Sheridan sheds some light on his latest book, The Gate to China, an epic history of the rise of the People’s Republic and the decline of Hong Kong. By Ed Peters
What first led you to China? Michael Sheridan: I was working with The Independent’s star photographer in Italy when the news broke on 4 June, 1989. We flew to Hong Kong, saw the protests, then got into China. After that, the offer from The Sunday Times to report the 1997 Handover was irresistible. Was researching the Chinese aspects of Gate especially tricky? MS: A lot of material in China from the 1970s is open to scholars. The archives in Guangdong contain speeches and official directives. People published accounts of reform and opening up, which is seen as a success story. Plus, all the key players on the Chinese side of the Handover wrote memoirs or shared oral histories. It’s all there – but it’s in Chinese. I was lucky to have excellent research help. So this is the first Western book to give both sides of the Handover story. What were the most spectacular surprises? MS: Finding two confidential letters in the papers of Sir Percy Cradock, the Sinologist, spymaster and foreign policy guru. One was to [British] Prime Minister John Major, accurately warning him what China would do in Hong Kong if Chris Patten pushed on with democracy. In the other, he admitted to breaking the security rules in his private dealings with the Chinese – an incredible confession that put an end to his influence. It was one of those moments historians dream of.
Michael Sheridan and the cover of his new book, published by HarperCollins and Oxford University Press (USA).
What lessons await for China watchers? MS: Cradock wrote that the beginning of wisdom was the confession of ignorance, which is a good rule of thumb. Elite politics take place inside a black box. The basic technique is a rigorous examination of what the leaders say and what the official media reports. Of course that doesn’t help with power struggles and internal policy battles. What hope is there for Hong Kong? MS: It’s clear that planners see Hong Kong as a distinctive but integrated part of the Greater Bay Area. The infrastructure tells its own story. At the moment, I’d say Hong Kong’s unique assets in banking, finance and shipping are on its side. Politics apart, cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou are already moving ahead. n
FCC member Jennifer Bovard tells the story of her son Ben Kende – who was paralysed while playing rugby in 2010 – in her inspirational and at times humorous book Undamaged. As well as being a personal tale, the book also examines wider issues like discrimination, resilience, posttraumatic growth, sporting protocol and the psychology of decision-making. “But mostly, it is a story of hope,” says Bovard. Pick up your copy at the FCC’s front desk. Proceeds benefit paralysis research via the Ben Kende Spinal Research Foundation (benkende.com). 46
Taiwan’s Silent Witness One of the most enigmatic characters to have played a role in China’s recent history is the subject of a new biography greatly relished by Mark Jones.
PHOTO: L AKSHMI HARILELA
he subtitle of Mark O’Neill’s latest book, China’s Russian Princess, reads “The Silent Wife of Chiang Ching-Kuo”. There is no dramatic licence here. The subject of this biography is not quoted anywhere in this thoroughly researched work. She made no speeches and gave no interviews; her silence a mixture of personal choice and political expediency. But it certainly makes for an interesting challenge. Imagine watching a play for two hours where everyone speaks except the main character, and you’ll have an idea what it’s like reading this book. So why does this woman, so obscure she is not even named in the title, merit a biography? Simply that she was a remarkable – if, indeed, silent – witness to history: and this is a very 20th-century history of the struggles between Communism and Nationalism, freedom and independence. She was born in Orsha, now part of Belarus, raised in Soviet Russia and lived most of her life torn between one vision of China and another. The story of Faina Ipat’evna Vakhreva, later known as Chiang Fangliang, begins, as O’Neill realises it must, with the moment that would dictate the rest of her life. Faina, 17, has just graduated from technical college and is working as a turner at the Ural Heavy Machinery Factory in Sverdlovsk (which has since reverted to its pre-Soviet name, Yekaterinburg). As she walks home on a freezing night in 1933, a fellow worker saves her from “a burly Russian man” whose “attentions were becoming increasingly unwanted”. Despite her saviour’s apparently “puny” physique, he knocks the aggressor down. This gallant fellow was a deputy supervisor at the factory. He was Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of the man who would later lead both China and Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek. Stalin was still hedging his bets at this stage of China’s battle against the Japanese and the brewing civil war between Mao’s Communists and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists. Chiang Ching-kuo’s role in the USSR swung between hostage and ambassador: but ultimately, in 1936, Stalin sent him back to China to support his father’s cause. He travelled home with Faina, who he had married the year prior. As a Chinese citizen, Chiang Ching-kuo met intense suspicion by the Soviets; as a Soviet, Faina encountered the same hostility from her new fellow citizens in China and,
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especially, later, in Taiwan. From the time they met until Chiang Ching-kuo’s death in 1988, she largely kept out of public sight. That may have ensured her safety as the Nationalists fled their victorious opponents and later when anti-Soviet feelings ran high in Taiwan. The couple’s long periods of separation appear to have suited Chiang Ching-kuo, not least when he fathered twin sons by Chang Ya-juo, a journalist and intellectual who died in mysterious circumstances not long after the boys’ birth. Faina bore that hurt as she bore the many hurts of her life, with stoicism – and (you’ll be getting the idea by now) in silence. She thus makes for a curious First Lady when compared to contemporaries, such as her starry, blue-blooded mother-in-law, Soong Meiling, and proto-feminist Eleanor Roosevelt. She appears to have been content with the role of loyal wife and mother to Mark O’Neill and his latest book, China’s Russian Princess. three sons and a daughter. When her husband, as President of the Republic of China, decided to effectively disinherit his sons and usher in the democracy we see in Taiwan today, we do not learn whether she approved of his historic break with the totalitarianism they had both known all their adult lives. That may simply be because, well, she never spoke of it. Faina has found the right biographer. O’Neill’s style is subdued and punctilious, avoiding any temptation to raise the emotional temperature or put thoughts into his subjects’ heads. He is a careful researcher and an even more careful writer, although a more careful editor may have cut a few repetitive passages here and there. The book, and Faina’s life, ends with a series of tragic events that can only make the reader admire her stoicism all the more. The same goes for the Taiwanese, whose opinion O’Neill seeks in these final chapters. They have no love for Chiang Kai-shek, but his son and his nigh-invisible wife earn some respect, if not affection. O’Neill ends with the words: “I hope the reader finds her story as moving and dramatic as I do”. This reader was moved, but I missed the sense of drama. n Pick up your copy at the FCC’s front desk.
3/1/2022 11:46 AM
10 MINUTES WITH…
World News Editor, The Week
could learn from. The ability of its politicians to speak to people “across the aisle” is refreshing in an era of snap judgements and partisan political discourse. Having said that, the country gets an easy ride when it comes to some of its green policies – its nuclear phase-out comes to mind – and foreign policy, for example its stance, or lack thereof, on Russia.
Sum up The Week in a couple of sentences. We take the best British and international news and comment and distil it into a weekly magazine and a daily website. Our online coverage ranges from need-to-know information about the biggest news to longer features and analysis. We also have a weekly podcast, “The Week Unwrapped”, allowing the team to tap into our various areas of expertise and unpack an under-reported story.
Apart from “gobsmacked”, how are you taking Brexit so far? I think the “gobsmacked” period may have passed for most people. It certainly has for me. I grew up in a part of the country that voted in favour of Brexit, so had a pretty good idea of the amount of Eurosceptic feeling simmering under the surface even before the referendum. I am not sure anyone would have called for us to leave the European Union before 2016, but there was always a feeling that the United Kingdom sat awkwardly within the bloc. At The Week, we try to talk about Brexit without favouring Brexiteers or Remainers, but by steering a course through the middle of what is now quite an artificial divide. Writing about the UK’s vaccine rollout was a good example, with both sides trying to claim ownership of a national success.
You used to live in Southeast Asia. What were you doing at the time? The ability I lived in Cambodia between 2018 of [German] and 2019, but I also saw quite a lot of At 26¾ years old, you cover a vast remit. What’s your day-to-day like? politicians to speak the region. I moved to Phnom Penh to as director of communications for Our online team is fairly small and to people ‘across the work Aziza’s Place, a development centre for includes a roster of freelancers. We aisle’ is refreshing underprivileged children that I have punch well above our weight in terms of quality and quantity. My role includes in an era of snap long-supported. I also did some writing and overseeing all of our foreign coverage judgements and stringing when I was there and fell from commissioning to editing. partisan political head over heels in love with the I also write features and analysis, country. It would be untrue to say as well as appearing regularly on the discourse. that it isn’t a deeply troubled place podcast talking about politics and and I would love to see that improve. But it is also foreign affairs. We’re a very close-knit team, so I wonderful in many ways and I made some lifelong work with our digital director and executive editor to coordinate coverage of big events or stories that sit friends. on the line between domestic and foreign news. As a University of Manchester grad, which of the city’s two football teams do you support? Share your most illuminating conclusions on Neither! I am a long-time fan of the Wolverhampton European affairs. I have family in Germany, so I have spent a lot of time Wanderers, which is owned by Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun International. We win fewer there. It’s a place that lots of Europhile Brits hold trophies, but I consider it an enduring duty to support in very high regard with good reason. Its approach my local team. n to coalition governing is something more countries
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