THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTSâ€™ CLUB | HONG KONG NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2017
Patten on Hong Kong:
Fear and loathing on the Mekong A canny Scot who wooed world leaders Facebook builds fake news curbs
AFP PHOTO/ANTHONY WALLACE
PATTEN ON HONG KONG: KEEP TALKING Chris Patten returns to Hong Kong and the FCC to promote his new book ‘First Confession: A Sort of Memoir’ and to share his views on democracy in Hong Kong. COVER PHOTO: CHRIS PATTEN MAKES HIS UMBRELLA STATEMENT AT THE OXFORD UNION IN 2014. AFP
Message from the President
Twitter to the rescue…sort of
Two American correspondents who were harassed and detained in China got the word out via Twitter.
members to be a part of the process to nominate a charity the Club would support during 2018.
34 Lynn Grebstad: Kowloon wallah
Membership A list of new members and some in-depth profiles
The Cambodia Daily after 23 years in print has been closed by the government, writes Kate Bartlett, who joined the newspaper in 2010.
Lynn Grebstadt, who joined the FCC in around 1990, and says she probably would have signed up earlier, but was a “Kowloon wallah” having spent her first decade in the hospitality business working in TST.
Vietnam War epic: the limits of 18 hours
What they said...
30 On The Wall La Calle
32 On The Wall North Korea - One Party State Machine
48 Last Word David Tang:
Fear and loathing on the Mekong
A new 18-hour documentary on the Vietnam War, which has rekindled old debates about its legacy, falls short with some important omissions, says Jim Laurie.
25 A canny Scot who wooed world leaders
Jim Pringle is a byline synonymous with foreign correspondents. For six decades he has covered conflicts, politics and economics from South America to the Middle East and across Asia.
28 Hard choice for a good cause
A round-up of recent speakers including Ying Ma, one of Donald Trump’s most unabashed fans who spoke to club members at a lunch in October.
43 Facebook builds fake news curbs
Fake news continues to haunt social media sites. Facebook, for one, still struggles despite its well publicised steps to deal with it.
45 Social media trends
How quickly technology moves on. Just when you think you have social media sussed, a new trend comes along that throws the proverbial curve ball.
For the first time, the FCC asked all Club
FROM THE PRESIDENT By now, you would have heard that I have already stepped down as president of the FCC. After more than 11 years at the BBC, I have resigned to join the South China Morning Post. Due to this change in my employment, I am now a “Journalist” member, and no longer a “Correspondent” member. I am extremely proud and honoured to have served as your president. I am even more proud to be leaving behind a dedicated and united Board of Governors, who will be carrying forward all the hard work that we have been doing over the past few months. At the SCMP, my job will be to launch and front a new digital news product. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you too much about the new news service, as it won’t be starting for a few months. There is currently no name, and we still have to hire a team (please send talented journalists my way).
I’m incredibly excited to be wrestling with the future of digital news: to help shape how it will look, feel and be consumed by audiences around the world. But I can tell you I’m incredibly excited to be wrestling with the future of digital news: to help shape how it will look, feel and be consumed by audiences around the world. I have done many different types of journalism jobs so far: wire service reporter, TV producer, TV anchor/presenter, radio reporter and online reporter. In the past two years though, my job – and the entire media landscape – has shifted beneath my feet. Whereas online might have previously been the least glamorous or least well-resourced section of my previous employer, that is simply no longer the case. Now, online is hiring at a time when the rest of the organisation is aggressively cutting costs. Journalists whose career progression may not have depended on how well their material is received by digital audiences are now having to cater to them. And, on the commercial side, the sales folks know where the advertising interest is coming from.
So, I am thrilled to be joining an organisation that truly understands that digital is key. I am very pleased to say that the FCC already understands this. During my first year on the board, we overhauled our website, to excellent feedback. And last year, we hired a social media editor, who live-streams nearly all of our events and pushes our content onto a variety of social media platforms. We believe doing so firmly places the FCC at the centre of so many interesting and important issues of the day – befitting its status as the world’s most famous press club. Of course, it’s not all rosy in the digital world: there are real questions about sustainable business models; the digital media firm Mashable was recently sold for much less than expected; and social media platforms, not content providers, continue to gobble up the lion’s share of advertising revenue. Luckily, for me, as a journalist, I do not have to worry about the financial side of things (at least not yet). The success of our new venture will depend on consistently delivering innovative, high-quality news content that our audiences want to consume. I look forward to sharing it with you when we are ready. I am sure all of you will have an opinion. As I look back on my journalism career so far, and think about where I am headed, several things come to mind: digital is the future; content is king; and media organisations that embrace change will be the only ones that survive. Juliana Liu President
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 Board of Governors 2017-2018 President Florence de Changy First Vice President Victor Mallet Second Vice President Douglas Wong Correspondent Governors Enda Curran, Anna Healy Fenton, Jennifer Jett, Victor Mallet, James Pomfret, Julie Steinberg, Sarah Stewart, Daniel Ten, Kate Whitehead Journalist Governors Clifford Buddle, Adam White Associate Governors Kevin Egan, Elaine Pickering, Simon Pritchard, Christopher Slaughter Club Secretary Simon Pritchard Professional Committee Co-Conveners: Enda Curran, Florence de Changy, Victor Mallet Finance Committee Co-Conveners: Douglas Wong (Treasurer) Jennifer Jett Constitutional Committee Co-Conveners: Clifford Buddle, Kevin Egan Membership Committee Co-Conveners: Florence de Changy, Simon Pritchard, Kate Whitehead House/Food and Beverage Committee House-Operations and Management Co-Conveners: Simon Pritchard, Elaine Pickering House-Building Maintenance Co-Conveners: Simon Pritchard, Christopher Slaughter F&B Co-Conveners: Anna Healy Fenton, Julie Steinberg Press Freedom Committee Co-Conveners: Clifford Buddle, Florence de Changy, Sarah Stewart Communications Committee Co-Conveners: Adam White, Kate Whitehead Carsten Schael (Archive) Paul Bayfield (Editor) Wall Committee Co-Conveners: Christopher Slaughter, Adam White Charity Committee Convener Elaine Pickering General Manager Gilbert Cheng Produced by: Asiapix Studios Tel: 9769 0294 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.terryduckham-asiapix.com Creative Consultant: Artmazing! Email: email@example.com Printing Lautus Print Tel: 2555 1178 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Contact FCC Front Office: Tel: 2521 1511
THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB HONG KONG
EDITORIAL One of Jim Pringle’s first correspondent jobs in Asia was to reopen the Reuters’ bureau in 1971 in Beijing. The previous incumbent, journalist and author Anthony Grey, had spent 27 months under house arrest until his release in 1969. Pringle was one of only five accredited Western correspondents in China at the time trying to get stories in a difficult environment. As Pringle said it was like “trying to make sense of the reality behind the shadows on the wall”. His big scoop at the time came about when he and an AFP reporter were standing looking at photos of Communist Party luminaries on a wall in the Central Department Store — “as we did most days in a country where hard news was virtually impossible to find” — when they suddenly realised something was different. A portrait had vanished and all the others had been moved along so that, at either end, there were lighter patches on the wall. Where was Lin Biao, a brilliant former military commander and Mao’s chosen successor? “We exchanged glances, then rushed off to the cable office; this was how the world learned that Lin Biao had fallen — literally — from official grace.” In the FCC archive there is a group photo from a 1973 British trade delegation visit to Beijing which shows Zhou Enlai with Pringle with other FCC members Jonathan Sharp, Clare Hollingworth, Richard Hughes, Derek Davies and Donald Wise. The “good” old days… Pringle, who turned 80 this year, is still writing about Asia, although these days it’s from Cambodia. Chris Patten was back in Hong Kong for his fourth book launch in September. Patten, as sharp as ever, spoke to a full house at the FCC. After the speech I caught a taxi and started talking to the driver who somehow knew that Patten had been at the FCC. He told a story about how he and his family were in a Shatin mall in the mid-90s when Patten arrived unexpectedly to press the flesh. He was mobbed by smiling people. The driver then said there hadn’t been a Hong Kong leader since then who the people believe in. Although he was a professional politician, “people believed that he put people of Hong Kong first, not like the China lackeys (he used more colourful language) we have had since”.
The Correspondent ©2017 The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong The Correspondent is published six times a year. Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the club.
Who’s joined the Club, who’s leaving and who’s turned silver! This is the column to read.
Welcome to New Members Correspondents Richard Dowell, Asia Editor, Wall Street Journal Bennett Marcus, Freelancer Karson Yiu, Coordinating Producer for Asia/China Bureau Chief, ABC News Associates Jonathan Addis, Self Employed Bharat Ahir, Director, 28one Kerry Chan, Director, Back Matters Monica Chan Man-Nei, Executive Director, RBC Investment Management Tamora Chan, Head of Marketing & Communications, Asia Pacific, Lombard Odier Across Asia Chan Kai-yiu, Senior Director, HSBC Chan Mun-chee, Senior Director, Legal, Viavi Solutions (Greater China) Clara Cheong Wai-chuen, Director, Epionce Hong Kong Choi Ching-yng, Head of Asia Representative Office, Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry Richard Cummings, Partner, Walkers Thomas Deegan, Partner, Sidley Austin Mark Hooper, Self Employed Brenda Lee, Managing Partner, Gallant Y T.Ho & Co Peter Lee Man-kit, Partner, Deloitte Alan Mauney, Pilot, Fedex Jason Orange, Managing Director, The Laurus Group Sanford Panitch, President, Sony Pictures Entertainment Davinia Tang, Founder, DaVisage Beauty Christian Valentini, Partner, Gillioz Dorsaz & Associes Padraig Walsh, Partner, Bird & Bird Richard Ward, CEO, Ward Associates Asia Ian Wong Yat-hin, Clinical Assistant Professor, The University of Hong Kong Marguerite Yates, Director, Regulatory Change, GBM Compliance ASP, HSBC Yuen Cheuk-wai, Resident Medical Officer, Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital Diplomatic Mehdi Fakheri, Consul General, Consulate General of Iran Diplomatic – Replacements Christof Berg, Consul (Political), Consulate General of Germany Corporate William Daniels II, Owner, Twin Concord Enterprises Corporate – Replacements Chu Hung-hui, Senior Claims Executive, The North of England Protecting & Indemnity Association
On to Pastures New Au revoir to those members leaving Hong Kong who have become Absent Members: Correspondents John Elphinstone, Owner, White Light Rishi Iyengar, India Editor, CNNMoney Nash Jenkins, Correspondent, Time Magazine Ashley Lee, Asia Editor, Euromoney Intuitional Investor Wayne Ma, Reporter, Wall Street Journal Reenita Malhotra, Freelancer Tobias Reeuwijk, Creative Director, Reflex USA Alfred Romann, Freelancer Journalists Owen Fung Heung-wang, Reporter, TVB Pearl Ann Williams, Freelancer Associates James Martin, Vice President, Merrill Lynch (Singapore) Glen McDermott, Director, Citigroup Global Markets Asia William Mckinney, Vice President, Pepsico International Robyn Meredith, Executive Director, JP Morgan Andrew Stormont, Equity Research Editor, UBS AG Henry Tan, Chief Executive Officer, Luen Thai Holdings
Stephen Thomas, Professor, The University of Hong Kong Amanda Yau, Director, Wordasia
Farewell also to: Correspondent Hanna Bergsten, Producer/Director/Editor, Pictures by the Wayside Herbert Buchsbaum, Deputy Asia Editor, The New York Times Michael Forsythe, Correspondent, New York Times Allison Jackson, Editor, Agence France-Presse Gregory Knowler, Asia Editor, IHS Maritime & Trade Pedro Ugarte Chelen, Photo Director Agence France-Presse Journalists Ryan Andrews, Journalist, Time Out Magazine Tyronne Henricus, Sub Editor, South China Morning Post
Resigning Correspondents Michael Allen, Senior Reporter, Airfinance Journal Diplomatic Marion Braid, Vice Consul, Consulate General of Canada Corporate Marc Chere, Senior Director Sales, Boeing (Asia) Investment Gregory Ho Kah-khoon, Vice President Corporate Communications, Turner International Asia Pacific
Welcome Back To Associates Steve Barclay, Director, Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office New York Michele Davis, Education & Curriculum Consultant, EducationWise Jean-Paul Gauci, Owner, Cococabana Mediterranean Restaurant Rose Lee Vasilios Lykouras, Design Director, Lan Kwai Fong Group Rino Simonelli
Despatched We are extremely sad to announce the deaths of: Silver Associates Irene O’Shea Ian Phillis Associates Paul Gunnell, Pilot, Cathay Pacific Airways Frank Mao David Tang, Managing Director, DWC Tang Development
Leaving Hong Kong? The question of whether to take out Absent Membership will arise. It’s not expensive at HK$2,000 but it will guarantee you an open door to the club if/when you visit Hong Kong (see conditions) and a super easy return as a full member if/when you come back to live in Hong Kong. Absent Members visiting Hong Kong can use the Club three times per year, up to a maximum of two weeks on each visit, without paying the monthly sub. Plus, if you ever come back to live in Hong Kong, your membership may be reactivated immediately. This scheme is even more beneficial to correspondents and journalists who may leave Hong Kong and choose a different career path before returning to the city as a nonjournalist. If you’re eager to re-join the Club then, and have not taken up the Absent Membership option, you will have to apply again as an Associate, pay the joining fee and wait up to four years (the current wait-time for applicants in this membership category) to get full access to the FCC again. Avoid this predicament by becoming an Absent Member so you can re-join the Club right away. PLEASE NOTE: the Absent Membership scheme applies only to people who actually leave Hong Kong; in other words you cannot reside in Hong Kong and be an Absent Member.
Introducing... New members
he latest group of members to join the FCC is, as always, an interesting bunch. The membership committee meets regularly to go through the applications and are always impressed by the diversity of the prospective members. As you would expect there’s a healthy mix of Correspondents, Journalists and Associates – and all have interesting tales to tell – so if you see a new face at the bar, please make them feel welcome. Below are profiles of just some of the latest ‘intake’.
Jonathan Addis Hello. I’m Jon Addis, married to Caroline. Until 2011 I worked for HSBC for 30 years, travelling and living in many countries around the world. Since then I have mainly been resting though I do chair the China Coast Community old people’s home and am a director of a startup online money transfer business, WorldRemit. I am currently studying tropical forestry at Bangor University (from a distance). Hobbies are walking, skiing, golfing and an occasional sail. I also sing with the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir. We split our time between Hong Kong and Spain, where we have a house in Andalusia. I’ve taken part in the FCC quiz for many years and am delighted that I can now buy my own drinks.
Monica Chan I come from a banking background, I am now an academic working as an adjunct economics professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. I grew up in Hong Kong, but completed my high school education in North America like many Hong Kongers before 1997 handover. After receiving a Masters degree in Government and a PhD in Economics, I landed my first banking position in Manhattan at the then Chase Manhattan Bank. In 2010 THE CORRESPONDENT
I decided to move back to HK and have witnessed and benefited from that high growth in Asia. I look forward to meeting many new friends here at the FCC and spending time in this beautiful and historic building.
Regina Chan I am a US and Hong Kong qualified lawyer. Based in Hong Kong, I have been working for US technology firms listed on the Nasdaq for more than a decade. My work has included expanding and growing business in the Asia Pacific region; spearheading compliance programmes and policies in view of the changing regulatory landscapes; setting up Channel Partner due diligence programmes in 2008 and Dawn Raid Guidelines for China in 2014. I am also a founding member of the Asia Council and the primary employment legal lead in both non-contentious and contentious employment issues. I have also received an award from the renowned Legal 500 as one of the 100 China & Hong Kong Most Influential Lawyers in Business in 2017.
Tamora Chan I was born in Hong Kong of a Chinese mother and British father and lived here during the 70s and 80s before my family relocated to SE Asia. Hong Kong always felt most like home so I spent a year teaching English in Hangzhou in 1991 before studying Modern Chinese Studies with Russian at university in Britain. I joined Reuters in 1998 and worked as a correspondent for 12 years, mostly in Asia (including seven years in Beijing) but also in Paris. I then returned to Hong Kong and switched to a career spanning PR and marketing and communications. I am married with four children (two born in Beijing, NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2017
two born in Hong Kong). I speak English, and fluent Mandarin and French.
Dr. Mehdi Fakheri I was born and grew up in Tehran, Iran. I studied political science and international relations in Tehran and Madrid, joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1980. I married in 1983 and have three children, now in their thirties. Before Hong Kong, I have been posted in Spain, Mexico, Switzerland, and therefore speak Persian, Spanish, English and French. I love travelling and have travelled to 82 countries. My other hobbies are hiking, running, music and books. I have been lucky to hike most of Hong Kong trails and although they are not as high as Damavand (5678 m) that I climbed once, I enjoyed them a lot because of the different scenery and landscape. I have written some books and articles on globalisation, international political economy and the world trade system. The next project I am planning to start is on “Cultural diversity and human richness”, based on my experiences in different countries, part of which could also be observed in the FCC and its valuable pool of intellectuals.
Bennett Marcus I’m a freelance journalist, recently relocated from New York, where I literally fell into a journalism career covering celebrities and the city’s biggest events, from the Met Gala to Game of Thrones premieres. My interviews revealed that David Beckham’s motorcycle riding terrifies his wife, Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette, loves flying on private jets, Carla Bruni wakes up Sarkozy in the middle of the night to listen to new songs that she’s written, and George Clooney’s space suit in “Gravity” was almost as uncomfortable as his Batsuit. Jared Kushner was furious with me after I broke the story of his budding romance with Ivanka Trump, in 2007. I moved to Hong Kong with my husband, Shi-Yan Chao, who got a job teaching film at Baptist University. I’m addicted to the New York Times crossword app, and long for weather cool enough for wearing wool.
Davinia Tang My career started out in IT support at Credit Suisse in London, but nearly 20 years on, life has taken me far from those lonesome server days. Now married with three young kids in Hong Kong, life is noisy and colourful. To add to the mayhem, my brother and I are working hard on our own health & beauty start-up. We have always felt health advocacy to be our calling, sparked by my recovery process after sustaining facial injuries in a head-on hit and run accident. My brother is a qualified general and trauma surgeon, and I in turn attained an internationally recognised diploma in beauty therapy from Switzerland in order to have the necessary qualification and knowledge to establish DAVISAGE. Together, we hope to change the “face” of the future by empowering our customers to take control of their health and beauty. We aim to launch DAVISAGE in a few months’ time, and look forward to sharing exciting news with our FCC family!
Dr. Yuen Cheuk Wai I am Dr Yuen Cheuk Wai, an emergency physician. It is my honour to become a member of FCC. I enjoy the lunch seminars very much. The seminars cover a wide range of subjects which broaden my views and thoughts. I studied medicine in CUHK and am currently working in a private hospital. My hobbies include tennis and sailing. I look forward to making some new friends in the FCC.
Marguerite T Yates Reading Arabic at Yale took me to the Middle East where I worked in Iran, taught in a village school in Lebanon and worked as a reporter in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Yemen. Most of my professional life since has been spent in France where I was a member of the French elite civil service although I am not French, thanks to a preBrexit UK passport. Today, besides working for HSBC in Hong Kong, I consult for the IMF and other multilateral institutions on financial market development.
I am proud to have created Clubhouse France, a network of centres to help people with mental illness reclaim their lives and get back to work. I love travelling, crosscountry skiing and have toured much of Europe by bicycle. I came to Hong Kong to understand the world from the Asian vantage point. I am delighted to join the FCC and look forward to meeting its members.
Karson Yiu Born in Canada, I spent my teenage years in Hong Kong growing up in a family of newspaper journalists. Naturally I rebelled and ventured into realm of TV and video. I am currently the Asia-based Coordinating Producer for ABC News (US) and have recently returned to Hong Kong with my family after many years away. I am an alumni of GSIS in Hong Kong and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in the States. I started my career at ABC News as an assistant in New York, then worked my way up as a producer for Nightline before moving to Beijing in 2011 to head up the bureau there. I have enjoyed travelling the region on assignment ever since. My wife Stacey Chow and I are thrilled to join the FCC and looking forward to having a drink or two or three with you all at the bar.
Banned from the news
hen the BBC, the Financial Times, the Economist, The New York Times and The Guardian were all denied access to the unveiling of the new Politburo Standing Committee in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the morning of October 25, the FCC issued a statement of concern, noting that restricting media access to key political events is an ominously retrograde step for a government that claims to be open and transparent. Chinese government officials did not explain why these particular news organisations were all excluded from the carefully stage-managed event attended by some 2,000 journalists. A statement from the 19th Congress media centre said that space was limited on that day and noted that the media concerned had been able to attend previous briefings. However, it seems almost certain that they were likely barred simply because of their, at times, critical coverage of China and Chinese politics. As the Foreign Correspondents Club of China noted in a statement: “Using media access as a tool to punish journalists whose coverage the Chinese authorities disapprove of is a gross violation of the principles of press freedom.”
It’s all happening at CCC The Four Oarsmen One young Hong Kong man and his three friends, The Four Oarsmen, will row the Atlantic in December, facing daunting odds and weather conditions. The FCC has two quadriplegic members who frequent the club: David Wishart and Ben Kende. The decision to row the Atlantic was made by Ben’s friend, Peter Robinson, who had played rugby with Ben in Hong Kong. They have chosen Spinal Research charity as a beneficiary as they hope to be able to contribute to further research to help create a world where spinal cord injury doesn’t necessarily mean a lifetime of paralysis. Donate to: https://www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/thefouroarsmenspinalresearch/ Become a friend of the Four Oarsmen.
CC members were on hand at China Coast Community, which is the focus of this year’s FCC charity programme, to get to know some of the members of the Home, where the FCC has assisted in purchasing specialised beds, organised physiotherapy and visits. The funds for CCC programme were raised at the Club’s “Hong Kong Remembers” all-floors party in March.
A night with the Dips
PHOTOS BY TERRY DUCKHAM?ASIAPIX STUDIOS
he newly minted Chief Executive Carrie Lam was the guest of honour at the FCC’s annual Diplomatic Cocktail Reception at the end of October. This was her second guest appearance at the Dips function — the first as Chief Secretary in 2013 —which the FCC began hosting in 1991. In an unusual move, Lam announced she would take questions from the floor among the diplomats and members… which they did with enthusiasm.
Two screenings linked by Philippines
here were two documentary screenings at the club that were both inspired by the Philippines. The crowd-funded documentary, “The Helper”, which details the lives of individual
Filipino and Indonesian helpers, was presented by the director Joanna Bowers (pictured left) in October. While the second, “Curiosity, Adventure, & Love”, the story of a centenarian adventurer
Jessie Lichauco, a Cuban-born American woman who moved to the Philippines in the 1930s, was presented by the documentary’s producer Sunshine de Leon (pictured right) in September.
Kim Wall fund
Dancing time at Bert’s
hris Polanco and his band Azucar Latina made a welcome return to Bert’s at the end of October with their authentic Latin sounds. Born in the Dominican Republic and based in Hong Kong for more than 15 years, Chris’s music blends Latin rhythms and Cantonese pop.
Lucky day for FCC golfer
riday the thirteenth proved a lucky day for Gareth Jones when, on the fifth hole at Kau Sai Chau, he teed up, hit a wedge 139 yards straight into the hole for an ace. As expected, hooting and jubilation rang out around the course as texts and pictures were sent to the rest of the players. He will be enshrined forever on the Kau Sai Chau wall of hole-in-one golfers. The game continued in perfect golfing weather with cool breezes and sunshine all day with inevitable celebrations at the 19th hole after play. The FCC Golf Society plays golf every month throughout the year at various Hong Kong courses. All levels of players are welcome as it is a social event dedicated to a fun day on the links. For more information contact email@example.com
Minimum spending fee
ince the beginning of this year, the Board has raised joining fees for all new members and reduced administrative expenditure. Other revenue considered included a further HK$150 increase in
monthly subscriptions, a hike in F&B prices of 16% or a minimumspending requirement. In the end the Board opted for imposing a minimum-spending requirement of HK$300 per month as the best option. From January 2018, HK$300 per month of spending on food and drink in the club or purchased to take away, will be billed to member’s accounts every three months: this is to assist members who are out
he FCC is backing a fund set up in the name Kim Wall a young journalist who was killed on the job while doing an interview in Copenhagen in August. Kim is known to Hong Kongers from her time reporting on China as an intern at the South China Morning Post. She went on to travel the world reporting on gender, popular culture, identity and foreign policy in places as far afield as Sri Lanka, Uganda, Haiti, North Korea, India and the Marshall Islands. Her family and friends have launched The Kim Wall Memorial Fund to finance the work of a young female reporter to cover subculture, broadly defined, and what Kim liked to call “the undercurrents of rebellion”. If you wish to donate, please visit www.gofundme.com/ rememberingkimwall. All funds will go to the International Women’s Media Foundation which has agreed to administer the grant.
of Hong Kong for longer periods. “If you spend that amount or more, which I hope most of you do, this will not cost you any more than you are currently paying,” said FCC President Juliana Liu. If you currently do not, the Board hopes that this will encourage you to make greater use of the Club, join our Club events with guests, invite some friends for drinks or simply pick up some of our great value takeaway wines.
Nathan VanderKlippe’s and Ye Bing’s Twitter pages: getting the word out.
TWITTER TO THE RESCUE… SORT OF Two American correspondents who were detained in China got the word out via Twitter.
he Asia correspondent for Canada’s Globe and Mail Nathan VanderKlippe and Voice of America reporter Ye Bing, who were detained in separate incidents by Chinese police in August managed to alert their employers — and followers — via Twitter about their predicament. While their detentions were brief, they are part of a pattern of harassment of foreign journalists by Chinese authorities. Kashgar police detained VanderKlippe, the Beijing-based Globe and Mail journalist, for three hours, searched his bag and camera, and confiscated his laptop, the journalist said on Twitter. The journalist’s paper reported that police did not provide
him with a reason for his detainment. VanderKlippe was detained while interviewing residents in the township of Elishku about the security situation of the Uighur community, according to The Globe and Mail. Three police officers and several government officials approached the journalist and demanded that he follow them to a local government office, the report said. VanderKlippe said on Twitter that after authorities gave him permission to leave, a car with two officers in it followed him. The reporter said that his computer was later returned to him along with a handwritten note, marked with an incorrect date, which read, “On July 24,
VanderKlippe was detained while interviewing residents in the township of Elishku about the security situation of the Uighur community.
Lu Yuyu: jailed for documenting protests in China.
The Xinjiang region has been a site of tension in recent years as Chinese authorities tighten controls in the area and criminalise religious activities of the Uighur population.
2017 at 1:35 Beijing time, [we] confiscated Nathan VanderKlippe’s Apple computer for operation purposes.” The Xinjiang region has been a site of tension in recent years as Chinese authorities tighten controls in the area and criminalise religious activities of the Uighur population. Recently, residents of Elishku protested the arrests of 12 women for praying at a mosque and there were reports of allegations of illegal use of force and extra-judicial killings by Chinese security forces. Journalists covering the region have long been censored and jailed. In the second incident, Chinese police Police obstructed and detained Voice of America (VOA) reporter Ye Bing while he was attempting to cover the closed trial of human rights activist Wu Gan from outside the Tianjin No.1 Intermediate People’s Court, according to VOA, a US government-funded broadcaster. Ye tweeted that plainclothes police officers surrounded him and his assistant and held their arms for about 20 minutes to prevent the pair from taking photographs. Police then accused Ye of inciting violence outside the court and took him into custody where they forced the journalist to delete his photographs. Ye’s phone, laptop, and other belongings were also confiscated, according to VOA. Ye said on Twitter that he and his assistant were released four hours after they were detained, and the journalists were returned
their equipment. The Tianjin police chief said there would be no criminal charges against the reporter and his assistant, according to a VOA article that quoted Ye. The Committee to Protect Journalists has been on the case for both journalists. “People living inside and outside China have a right to know what is going on in the country, and there is no legal basis for harassing foreign correspondents who interview Chinese citizens,” said CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator Steven Butler. “China needs to stop trying to block coverage of sensitive stories and Chinese police need to stop harassing and blocking journalists who are merely doing their jobs.” Conditions for the international press in China continue to deteriorate. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China 2016 survey of working conditions for international journalists found that more than half of respondents had been subjected to harassment, violence, or interference while attempting to report in China. Conditions for the local media are even worse, with journalists arrested, sentenced to years in prison, and subject to strict censorship requirements. Social media curbs As we know, life is much more difficult for Chinese journalists working within the social media sphere: jail rather than
detention. In August journalist Lu Yuyu, who documented domestic protests in China on social media platforms under the moniker “Not News”, was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble”. Police detained Lu and Li Dingyu, his personal and professional partner who worked with him documenting protests, in June last year. One of Lu’s lawyers, Wang Zongyue, in September told activists that prison officials had beaten the journalist in jail and that Lu had gone on hunger strike. Li was released after an April trial on the same charge, although no verdict has been announced in that case, according to the website Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Lu is a former migrant worker from Guizhou Province who began reporting and documenting protests around China in October 2012. Lu and Li documented protests against land expropriation, wage arrears, official corruption, and environmental pollution, verifying photos, videos, and textual accounts from social media, then republishing the information on a variety of social media platforms, including Twitter, Weibo, Blogspot, YouTube and Google Drive. “Not News” collected a vast record of protests. In 2015 alone, Lu and Li documented more than 30,000 protests of various sorts, according to the Chinese-language website Bannedbook. org. The Chinese government stopped publishing statistics of these kinds of protests after 2007, when more than 100,000 incidents were recorded for that year alone, according to the site. Closer to home Macau’s Public Security Police Force at the end of August denied entry to four Hong Kong journalists, who were planning to report on the area’s recovery and rescue operations in the wake of Typhoon Hato. One journalist was from the South China Morning Post, one from the Chinese-language online publication HK01, and two were from the Apple Daily. Macau immigration authorities briefly detained the reporters at the Outer Harbor border checkpoint with Hong Kong, and then asked the four to sign a notice stating they “posed a risk to the
stability of internal security,” HK01 reported. The Macau Serviços de Polícia Unitários commissioner Ma Io Kun told reporters at a press conference the same day that the denial of entry had nothing to do with the four journalists’ profession, and that the government of Macau fully respects press freedom, according to media reports. When reporters at the press conference asked, Ma refused to explain how the journalists posed a threat to Macau’s security. The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA) and the Hong Kong Press Photographers’ Association (HKPPA) released a joint statement expressing regret over the obstruction. The Macau Portuguese and English Press Association, in a statement on Facebook, said local authorities’ explanation was “incomprehensible and unsatisfactory”. SCMP photographer Felix Wong has previously been barred from entering Macau, according to Teledifusão de Macau, a local public broadcasting service. Hong Kong residents are supposed to have free entry into Macau, however, the HKJA and other groups have documented past cases in which journalists have been denied entry for alleged security reasons. Control widens Instant-messaging apps, video streaming and other new content platforms in China will face closer scrutiny under new rules issued by the country’s internet regulators that will come into effect from December 1. The Cyberspace Administration of China said messaging apps and other new forms of information dissemination can be used to engage in illegal behaviour and that operators will soon be required to conduct extensive reviews to ensure they aren’t used to spread illegal content. The agency said the new technologies “can be used by criminals to spread illegal information and undertake criminal activity, harming the lawful interests of citizens, legal persons and other organisations”. In a separate announcement, the regulator introduced new rules governing “internet content managers” – code for online censors – that require them to undergo 40 hours of government training over a period of three years to ensure that they are promoting socialist values.
The Macau Portuguese and English Press Association, in a statement on Facebook, said local authorities’ explanation was “incomprehensible and unsatisfactory”.
PATTEN ON HONG KONG: KEEP TALKING Chris Patten returns to Hong Kong and the FCC to promote his new book and to share his views on democracy in Hong Kong.
C “People should be prepared to talk to one another, not fight one another, or not talk about killing one another, or not putting out posters welcoming people’s suicides.”
hris Patten, who first came to the FCC as a young MP in 1979, then in the early 90s as the last governor, and for three other book launches, was in town to promote his latest book which coincided with the aftermath of the jailing of Joshua Wong and the latest chapter of Hong Kong’s pro-independence tussle. Patten’s book, “First Confession: A Sort of Memoir”, explores identity politics and the nature of community through the story of his own complicated identity through various political roles in the UK, Ireland, Europe and of course Hong Kong, which is going through the latest version of its own identity crisis. Patten, who is Chancellor of Oxford
and who when he was governor was a chancellor of all Hong Kong universities, arrived in Hong Kong just days after a university row saw pro-independence students clash with their peers from the Mainland over posters advocating independence for Hong Kong. These were put up at the Chinese University campus, heightening simmering tensions in the city. While Patten reiterated his view that the pro-independence movement dilutes the city’s drive for more democracy, he also said that both sides need to keep talking. “What I hope is that people will start talking to one another again. I hope there’ll be a dialogue. You can’t simply expect people to accept your values
with weaponising trade, for example, they’ll go on doing it. But I don’t think they respect you for it and I don’t think it’s the only way you can do business. “I would come to Hong Kong, I would make a speech saying that I thought Hong Kong was fantastic, that I thought it was a jewel in the crown for China potentially as we go forward; that it represented in the 21st century an issue which is going to be dominant – that is how you balance economic and political freedom and what sort of Above: Patten answers questions from students at role China has in the world Hong Kong U in 2016. Below: Poster war at Chinese U. today, what sort of role it’s prepared to take in global governance, how it’s prepared to make more of the footprint that it should have because of its economic strength and power. “And I would hope to go on to China and say similar things.” He added that he would also raise the issue of Liu Xiaobo’s wife. Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since her husband, a prominent dissident since the
or standards or political judgements without talking to them about it. You can’t trample ideas into the dust. You have to talk to people and listen to people,” he said. “People should be prepared to talk to one another, not fight one another, or not talk about killing one another, or not put out posters welcoming people’s suicides,” he told the packed Club lunch on September 19, where guests included former Hong Kong Finance Secretary John Tsang and ex-Chief Secretary Anson Chan. Patten said he hoped Hong Kong – “a city which I love as much as anywhere in the world” – would continue to thrive. When asked what he would do if he were the UK’s leader, Patten said: “First of all I’d be pleased that the last six-monthly report by the Foreign Office was a bit more honest and outspoken than some reports had been in the past. Secondly, I would begin from the assumption that we shouldn’t believe that you can only do business with China over Hong Kong or over anything else from a position of supine deference. “The fact that the Chinese do it is because other countries allow them to. I don’t think it should be something we necessarily criticise them for if they can get away with it. If they can get away
Patten’s book, “First Confession: A Sort of Memoir”, explores identity politics and the nature of community through the story of his own complicated identity through various political roles in the UK, Ireland, Europe and of course Hong Kong.
Left and above: Students clash in front of a wall of posters for and against independence for Hong Kong. Below: Patten speaking at the FCC.
Yuen must know that actions have consequences, and not to understand what signal that would send to the rest of the world, strikes me as being… a little naive.
1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, won the Nobel prize in 2010. She was last seen in a video recorded in August and posted on social media in which she asks for time to grieve. Many of her supporters and friends, however, have expressed concern for her welfare. Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen also came in for criticism from Patten as he was asked for his thoughts on the upcoming trials of nine pro-democracy activists involved in Occupy Central. Patten said he was “loathe to comment on ongoing legal processes in Hong
Kong”, and instead chose to speak specifically about Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law – jailed in August for their part in the 2014 protests. He criticised the Justice Secretary’s decision to appeal their original noncustodial sentences, saying it was politically motivated. “He’s [a] grownup. He must know, as I said earlier, that actions have consequences, and not to understand what signal that would send to the rest of the world, strikes me as being, to be frank, a little naive,” he said. Referring to a Reuters report that Yuen had insisted on reviewing the sentences despite opposition from fellow prosecutors, Patten added: “Perhaps it would have been wise to take the advice which we were told he was receiving from someone in his department.”
THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY
hris Patten’s latest book “First Confession: A Sort of Memoir” looks at the concept of identity politics and the nature of community. Rather than write a another conceptual book on the subject, he chose to explore the issues through the story of his own rather complicated identity. In his lunch address he gave a potted version of his “obsession” with identity. “I am from a family of Irish potato famine immigrants, lower middle class, scholarship boy and a Catholic. I was not only the first of my family to go to university, but also the first Catholic to become Chancellor of Oxford since 1560 — we’ve waited a long time… “I am also an endangered species, a moderate Conservative who found myself in jobs where identity politics was the central issue. “I spent two years as a government minister in Northern Ireland and went back later to reorganise the police service as part of the Belfast Agreement (1998) which bought peace to the province. I was dealing with a problem that was purported to be about religion, but was in fact about power.” Later as a European Commissioner Patten spent time dealing with the alleged politics of ethnicity between Croats, Serbs and Muslims. “When I found myself in Hong Kong I was dealing with another aspect of identity politics, the so-called clash of civilisations. A much-advocated concept by Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. “When I was coming to Hong Kong I was advised to stop off in Singapore to talk to the then Prime Minister Lee, who said to me that first ‘you have to behave like a newly elected prime minister, you have got to have a programme, be clear what it is and stick to it. And secondly, you have to deal with the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, which you can’t change but you want to fill in all the gaps and make the whole thing as democratic as possible”. “So I came here and thought I did both things.” Anyway Lee — “who once sent a letter to me asking if we could be on ‘Harry’ and ‘Chris’ terms” — came to Hong Kong and said how much he disagreed with Patten about everything. Lee, of course, chose the most embarrassing moment to say this when he gave a lecture at HKU presided over by Patten in his role as the university’s Chancellor. In response to a question of whether Hong Kong deserved to be a democracy, he replied that it didn’t matter whether Hong Kong deserved a democracy because it wasn’t going to get it as Hong Kong is part of Asia and people in Asia did not care about human rights and civil liberties because they were Confucian. “I had some difficulty with that argument as I always thought that human rights were universal,” Patten said. “I also had trouble with the idea that there was a political model which would comprehend everyone from Pyongyang to New Delhi. And I also had a problem with the notion that everyone in Chinese societies were Confucian. “I also had difficulty with the idea of cultural clash or civilisation clash and thought that people in Hong Kong wanted to be in control of their own lives as much as any other people around the world.” So now after all those experiences, Patten said he is now witnessing the latest manifestations of identity politics with some concern: The first is Jihadist terrorism, “which we live with week by week in European cities, which I do not think has anything to do with the Koran or Islam”; secondly the growing ethno-nationalism, where individual countries seem to think that communities can only be defined by their nationality — a nationalism that defines itself as against others, which so often sentimentalises its own history, glamourises its institutions and xenophobia is given full rein. “If you look at what’s been happening in Europe, or America’s drive to be great again — if it wasn’t already, or you look at some parts of Asia and closer to home here, all this represents something I thought we all learned about after the Second World War: namely individual countries cannot deal with their own problems without dealing with other countries and sharing or pooling sovereignty — which I think is extremely important lesson we must relearn.”
FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE MEKONG The Cambodia Daily after 23 years in print has been closed by the government, writes Kate Bartlett
n September muckraking Englishlanguage newspaper The Cambodia Daily was forcibly shuttered by the small Southeast Asian nation’s increasingly dictatorial regime. Its closure received international press coverage, with the New York Times calling the paper “widely respected”. After 23 years in print, the paper’s closure was a sad blow to the country’s nominal democracy,
Vinh Former Editor in Chief Kevin Doyle, 2nd left, anxiously overseeing the editorial process.
and to all who had worked there. Kate Bartlett, who worked as a reporter and deputy managing editor of the paper from 2010 – 2014, remembers the dysfunction, fun and straight-out chutzpah that was the Daily: “Don’t walk through minefields,” the scrap of paper hanging on the wall of the Cambodia Daily newsroom advised. It was pretty much the only rule at the small, anarchic but gutsy English language newspaper in Phnom Penh.
Legend had it that a few years previously a blind drunk foreign reporter had done just this and, though he had survived to tell the tale, the editor hung this cautionary note on the grubby wall for the rest of us. Shortly after arriving to work at the paper in 2010, aged in my twenties and desperate to cut my teeth in journalism, I did in fact walk through a mine field – quite literally – but in full protective gear and stone cold sober. But it was the paper’s Khmer reporters who walked through minefields daily in the post-conflict, poor, and desperately corrupt country that is Cambodia. Figuratively of course. *** With a dedicated but volatile Irishman at its helm as editor-in-chief, and a foul-mouthed, chain smoking Brit as his deputy, the paper was no place for fragile egos – though there were still many – and most of us learned by omission. It really was a baptism of fire for us young journalists, many of us in our first jobs. I remember being asked by a lanky young editor after writing my very first story, with absolutely no guidance whatsoever: “Are you the worst fucking journalist ever? No really, answer me, are you?” Standards were high, which is what made the Daily by far the most fervent and exciting newsroom I’ve ever worked in. In size and impact we were hardly the New York Times, but we’d be damned if we didn’t hold ourselves to the same ethical and editorial standards. There were no false idols, we pissed off everyone at one time or another: the government, the US Embassy, the NGOs, visiting dignitaries. Many of the foreign staff were young, bright Americans who modelled
themselves on Hunter S. Thompson – which was easy enough to do in a place where drugs and hookers were plentiful and even in 2010 when I arrived there was still an atmosphere of “anything goes.” Want to throw a grenade at a cow? Sure, for a price.
Kate Bartlett interviews opposition leader Sam Rainsy
unleashed such a torrent of obscene abuse over the phone that I believe the poor diplomat must still been in shock. **** The Daily seemed to attract talented oddballs, and as excellent as its output was, it was also Kate Bartlett hitches a ride with opposition supporters during 2013 elections. highly dysfunctional. In large part this was due to its eccentric publisher, Bernie. There are many stories I could tell you about Bernie, but here’s one of my alltime favourites. Our arts and culture writer was a diminutive and neurotic middle-aged French woman who looked like she probably lived on salad alone. When this chic individual asked Bernie for a raise after years of dedicated service, the reply was typically Daily-esque. He would do one better than that, he said. He had some kind of deal (for Bernie always had deals) with KFC Phnom Penh, and would give her a daily supply of fried chicken! With a dedicated but **** Although my colleagues and I were getting our start in the business in an age of churnalism, PR, and pick-ups, this was not yet the case in Cambodia where you could still get ministers directly on their cellphones without going through a
*** I was paid about US$800 a month when I arrived – which actually never left me short – but the small salaries were the reason the paper accepted people like myself with virtually no journalistic experience. They could hardly expect an established mid-career reporter to work for that kind of money. And money was always tight at the Daily. The paper had been the dream of founder and publisher Bernard Krisher, a German-born New Yorker who as a longtime Newsweek correspondent in Asia had fallen in love with the region. Bernie, as he was known, set up the Daily – motto “All the news without fear or favour” – in 1993 as a non-profit dedicated to training a new post-war generation of young Khmer journalists in a free press. When I arrived, the paper had already been running 17 years, and some of its local staff had been there the whole time. They were dogged and determined and exceedingly tolerant of us foolish foreigners. Most stories shared a byline between a foreign and Khmer reporter and team work was vital to your survival at the paper. Some humid and sticky Phnom Penh afternoons, you would walk into the newsroom after lunch to find a bunch of Khmer reporters snoring soundly on spread-out old newspapers as they siesta-ed, or offering you a bite of a favourite office snack – green mango and chili, and there were as many eccentric characters among the local journalists as the foreigners. One Daily stalwart who had suffered terribly under the Khmer Rouge, losing his entire family, had an undiagnosed case of PTSD and a wild temper. He could often be found, flip-flopped feet on desk, watching Japanese porn during a quiet workday. Once, interrupted in this pleasurable pastime by a phonecall from the US Embassy spokesman, he
volatile Irishman at its helm as editor-in-chief, and a foul-mouthed, chain smoking Brit as his deputy, the paper was no place for fragile egos
Journalist Saing Soenthrith behind his desk, 2014.
Kate Bartlett Journalist Khuon Narim looks through his notes in the Cambodia Daily office, 2013.
We worked 12-hour days, were often phoned at home by the editors, and when we travelled to other parts of the country, it was on the tightest possible budgets
spokesman, and could doorstep people avoiding your calls at their various government offices. The access we had was amazing. We worked 12-hour days, were often phoned at home by the editors, and when we travelled to other parts of the country, it was on the tightest possible budgets – flea-ridden hotels and long, sweaty bus rides. With no real rules – bar the minefields one – it was up to us to decide where we drew the line on such trips. I remember during one reporting excursion to a wild-West Cambodian province, the hire car my Khmer colleague and myself were travelling in broke down. As we were standing on the road in the middle of nowhere a passerby stopped and offered us a lift. With a jewelled pinky ring and a gun on his belt he had all the appearance of a typical Khmer gangster. I hesitated and
looked to my Cambodian colleague, he was a better judge than I, I figured, and if he said it was fine to hitch a ride with this guy, then I trusted him. We did take the ride and it was thankfully uneventful. However, after Mr. Pinky Ring dropped us off, my male colleague turned to me wide-eyed and said, “Thanks god that went ok. It was a dangerous thing to do, that guy could have raped me!” “Raped you?!” I replied, enraged, “if anyone had been raped because you said it was fine to hitch a lift with that gun-packing countryside gangster it would have likely been ME!” Then we both burst out laughing. **** I can’t imagine a better place to get a start in journalism than the Daily. I interviewed people from all walks of life; from murderers to prostitutes to princes to ministers to monks to soldiers to film directors to farmers. Not many readers in the wider world paid much attention to Cambodia, synonymous to most only with the murderous Khmer Rouge regime several decades before. But we cared greatly and that’s what mattered. Sometimes I thought we thought too much of ourselves – “speaking truth to power”, being a voice of accountability in a kleptocracy bla bla bla – when in fact, our readership was largely limited to city folk and intellectuals and didn’t reach the huge number of people, many illiterate, in the countryside. Until the sad events of this month, I believed this was the reason why the Daily was allowed to keep printing, no matter the damning truths about the government it unearthed and published. I have been proved wrong. The Hun Sen regime is scared, very scared it seems. With still months to go until 2018 elections, I think we may only have seen the tip of the iceberg as Cambodia gives up any pretence of being a democracy. For those of us that worked there however, foreign and Khmer, our years at the crazy little-paper-that-could permanently changed us. And I’d like to believe that 23 years of the Daily changed Cambodia too. This next year will test that theory.
VIETNAM WAR EPIC: THE LIMITS OF 18 HOURS A new 18-hour documentary on the Vietnam War, which has rekindled old debates about its legacy, falls short with some important omissions, says former war correspondent and former FCC president Jim Laurie.
n September in America, the Vietnam War came back to television screens (as well as online portals) in one gigantic, jarring barrage in the form of a massive 18-hour documentary film series by Ken Burns, available through the American Public Broadcasting System. For those who don’t know his work, Burns has been directing American historical films for PBS since 1982. He has tackled the American Civil War, the Jazz Era, Baseball, US National Parks, The Roosevelts: Teddy, FDR and Eleanor, and a half dozen other topics. As might be expected, the Vietnam film, 10 years in the making, has rekindled old debates about the war and its legacy in 2017 America. No recounting of the American war in Vietnam will satisfy everyone. The subject is too vast, too complex, and too divisive. Burns and his co-director Lynn Novick portray Vietnam as the most destabilising war in US history apart from the American Civil War (1860-1865). The filmmakers say that the Vietnam War’s lasting legacy lies in the bitterly polarised politics and mistrust of government that characterises the US today. As a young reporter, I covered the war in Vietnam and Cambodia between 1970 and 1975. I was among a very few American journalists to witness the Communist victory when I remained in Vietnam for a month after the fall of Saigon. I have visited the country numerous times in the 42 years since. The 10-part documentary attempts to cover a vast swathe of history from the French colonisation of Indochina in 1858 to the close of the American war in 1973. The last time PBS backed a documentary on the subject was in 1983
Promotional poster for the 18-hour documentary series.
when it aired the 13-part “Vietnam: A Television History”. It was developed by widely respected journalist and author Stanley Karnow and directed by Richard Ellison. Each of its 13 parts was carefully researched and produced by a different documentary team; a number of them veteran producers who covered the war as young reporters. The New York Times praised the series as “delicately balanced and determinedly even-handed”. Still, in an era before normalised US diplomatic relations with Hanoi, the American right wing branded the film as “pro-Communist”. Reed Irvine, head of the organisation Accuracy in Media denounced the series as containing ‘’serious errors and distortions”. In 1985, PBS buckled to pressure and aired a two-hour “rebuttal” narrated by actor Charlton Heston. Interestingly, this time around Burns’ telling of the war has received a harsher
Each of its 13 parts was carefully researched and produced by a different documentary team; a number of them veteran producers who covered the war as young reporters.
More than a million North Vietnamese and a quarter million South Vietnamese combatants died in the long war.
verdict from the political left than from the right. While the series clearly provides varied perspectives, (more than 80 interviews), the filmmakers at times skirt the edge of becoming apologists for a senseless war. Geoffrey Ward, who has written a carefully crafted script narrated by Peter Coyote, writes early in the film: “The American involvement in Vietnam began in secrecy. It ended 30 years later in failure. It was begun in good faith, by decent people out of fateful misunderstanding, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculation.” Really? The film is remarkable in its liberal use of the secret recordings of White House conversations. We hear the voices of President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. These recordings reveal cynicism, paranoia and deception that have little in common with “good faith” or “decent people”. Conscious of their mostly American audience, the filmmakers are reluctant to be too harsh in any condemnation of US intentions. The theme, in effect, is that the American war in Vietnam was a bi-partisan, well-intended, accumulation of monumental mistakes made by six Presidents over 30 years. The principal failings of this film are not errors of commission but, ironically
for an 18-hour epic, errors of omission — particularly when profiling the principal victims of the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In an interview with the New York Times, Burns made a startling admission when he said that he had to be persuaded by his co-director Lynn Novick to send a team to Vietnam and capture the voices of the Vietnamese. He saw his Vietnam as an “American story”. The series displays a serious weakness in not recounting with depth and nuance, compelling stories of the peoples of Indochina, both combatants and civilians. Apart from Duong Van Mai Elliott, author of the book “Sacred Willows: Four Generations of a Vietnamese Family”, nearly all the Vietnamese family portraits are shallow. We get little real feeling for the lives of those who suffered the most from the American war. More than a million North Vietnamese and a quarter million South Vietnamese combatants died in the long war. Among civilians, as many as two million Vietnamese, 300,000 Cambodians and 100,000 Lao perished. Millions more were left homeless. In the war’s aftermath between 1975 and 1997, 1.6 million refugees fled Vietnam, more than half of whom were “boat people” who embarked on treacherous journeys that make the current-day tragedy in the Mediterranean seem minor by comparison. It is particularly disappointing that despite the film’s extraordinary 18-hour
Images from the war in Cambodia, which was largely ignored in the documentary.
length, Burns-Novick have little time for Cambodia. In 1983, the Karnow-Ellis “Vietnam: A Television History” devoted a full hour to the war in Cambodia, which was written and produced by British journalist Bruce Palling. Burns-Novick determined that the wider war precipitated by President Richard Nixon’s “Cambodia incursion” on April 30, 1970 is worth less than three minutes in Episode Eight. This is despite the scale of the “incursion” where some 30,000 US troops and 50,000 South Vietnamese forces had plunged across the Cambodia border. (I covered the First Air Cavalry’s early sweep through the old French rubber plantations at Chup in May.) We hear a short clip from Army veteran James Gillam who reached a “hot Landing Zone” on the western edge of the operation. There is a brief mention of Cambodia’s deposed Prince Norodom Sihanouk and the coup d’etat by General Lon Nol. And little else. Not a single Khmer witness is interviewed for the film. In the phrase used by author William Shawcross, Cambodia was very much a “Sideshow”— certainly to the filmmakers. The consequences to Cambodia of Nixon’s invasion and the South Vietnamese operations that followed were enormous. It pushed, for example, the North Vietnamese who had been using the eastern regions for weapons and troop infiltration deeper into Cambodia. Arguably the Cambodian invasion was far more devastating in the long run to
the local population than to any actions in Vietnam. The wider war in Cambodia unleashed the genocidal Khmer Rouge forces. From 1975 to 1979, as many as two million people died in the world’s worst holocaust since that of the Nazis during World War Two. Burns-Novick use the Cambodia story as a brief transition to another American tragedy: the killing by national guardsmen of student war protestors at Kent State University Ohio on May 4, 1970. Burns-Novick favour soldiers-turnedwriters to help tell their story. Tim O’Brien — who while in the Army visited the area of the notorious My Lai massacre a year after US troops killed Vietnamese civilians in March 1968 — reads from his book “Things They Carried”. On the North Vietnamese side, soldier-turned-writer Bảo Ninh is heard. We never really get a full profile of his life, and, unlike O’Brien, Bảo Ninh does not share with us readings from his remarkable 1990 novel, “Sorrow of War”. One of the striking features of the series is its sound-track. In addition to the voices, helicopters, explosions, the remarkable sound mix includes virtually every music track popular in America in the period 1960 to 1975. Again I would have wished for the filmmakers to capture some of the remarkable music from Vietnam in the period. In the Saigon I came to know, music and poetry shaped Vietnamese sensitivities. I remember well the wonderful writing and music of Trinh
The Cambodian invasion was far more devastating in the long run to the local population than to any actions in Vietnam.
South Vietnamese troops, who Burns often portrays as corrupt and inept.
This Vietnam television history will likely be the definitive educational tool for a new generation of Americans and others around the world learning about a war more than 40 years in the past.
Cong Son, who Joan Baez once called “the Bob Dylan of Vietnam”, who wrote nearly 600 ballads of love and war. He died in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in 2001. Some of the nearly two million Vietnamese-Americans who form a vibrant and successful part of the fabric of today’s American society may feel the stories of their families go underrepresented. Too often in the film the South Vietnamese are portrayed as hopelessly corrupt and inept, although the film does highlight the brave South Vietnamese defeat of North Vietnamese regulars at the battle for An Loc in 1972. Elsewhere, there seems a lack of balance. We hear retired General Lam Quant Thi (whose son is noted VietnameseAmerican writer Andrew Lam) comment on the creation by some ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) commanders of “phantom soldiers”, where corrupt officers were paid the salaries of soldiers who did not exist. However, General Lam in I-Corp (the northern most military region) was one of the nation’s more effective commanders. We hear little of his troops and their bravery. We are reminded by US Marine Corp veteran Tom Vallely that, “We overstated South Vietnamese incompetence because we wanted to overstate our importance.” Remarkably, the portrayal of the Communist north seems more fairly handled. There is a complete account of North
Vietnamese atrocities on civilians during the 1968 Tet offensive. There are strong testimonials to North Vietnamese brutality toward POWs and toward the losers in the war who were sentenced to long imprisonment in re-education camps. The portrayal of Vietnam’s most famous patriot Ho Chi Minh is balanced. The film notes his increasing weakness and the battles he lost in the mid-1960s within the Communist politburo. The less well-known story of North Vietnam Communist hardliner Le Duan who pushed aside Ho Chi Minh, General Vo Nguyen Giap and other revolutionaries is important. From my personal experience, the Le Duan account is accurately told by Burns-Novick. A North Vietnamese cadre who had been a translator at the Paris Peace Talks in 1972-73 became a friend of mine in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1979. He was very outspoken in his view of Le Duan. At a dinner with him in Saigon in late 1986: “I want to propose a toast,” he said, after we had had far too many glasses of wine. “To what,” I asked. “To a Vietnam free of that scoundrel — Le Duan.” The much hated hardliner, who was blamed for many unnecessary deaths, had died in Hanoi in July 1986. Because of Burns’ name, the series’ length, and its extensive publicity, this Vietnam television history will likely be the definitive educational tool for a new generation of Americans and others around the world learning about a war more than 40 years in the past — which is where the importance of the Public Television event lies. Americans — especially now — need to take a step back. They should see their past, their wars, from a non-American perspective. The world is not all about the US. It should never have been and never should be only “America First”. “The Vietnam War” is available on Netflix and other online streaming platforms. A 10-hour international version of the film is scheduled for release later this year on television in Australia, South Korea, and other Asia territories. A version with Vietnamese subtitles is available on line at http://www.pbs.org/ show/vietnam-war-vietnamese-language/
Jim Pringle in Binh Dinh in South Vietnam in 1968.
A CANNY SCOT WHO
WOOED WORLD LEADERS Jim Pringle is a byline synonymous with foreign correspondents. For six decades he has covered conflicts, politics and economics from South America to the Middle East and across Asia, writes Luke Hunt.
ooking a little weary, Jim Pringle’s soft demeanour has always stood in-kind with his reputation as a gentleman journalist abroad in a career marked by three eras at Reuters, Newsweek and The Times of London. When at home, and that can be in Bangkok, Paris or Phnom Penh, he lives a quiet life with wife Milly as he approaches his 80th birthday. He has toned down his hell-raising drinking days but still writes
occasionally, often about what’s left of the characters who dominated global politics during the Cold War. Pringle knew many of those leaders, through good times and bad, personally. Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Cambodia’s Norodom Sihanouk and Vietnam’s General Vo Nguyen Giap left as much a mark on his work as did Yasser Arafat, who “always spoke to you as if you were the most important correspondent in the
Pringle’s relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi dates back decades, as did his relationship with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
world”, and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi. With Suu Kyi coming under increasing fire because of her mishandling of the Rohingya issue, Pringle is arguing that journalists should allow the Nobel laureate more time to find a resolution. “I think we should give Aung San Suu Kyi the benefit of a doubt,” he said, speaking with his trademark whisper. “Many journalists I respect have already given up on her but I think that is because the Muslim Rohingya are looked down upon by the population in Myanmar, it’s difficult for Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene but she knows she has to do it. “They don’t need a homeland but they need a place where they can live in peace. We don’t want to see more people coming over from Bangladesh into Myanmar. But I think the Rohingya who have already been there for generations, I think they should be respected and be given a decent life.” Pringle’s relationship with Suu Kyi dates back decades, as did his relationship with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, for whom he hosted dinner parties alongside News Corp magnate Rupert Murdoch. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was a favourite. “I found him a very personal person and I got on well with him,” Pringle said of Arafat. “And he was a good leader
for the Palestinians, unfortunately they don’t have leaders like that. That’s why the situation in the Middle East is so dangerous.” Jim married Milly, a native Khmer, he met as the civil war erupted and Pol Pot was taking control of the Cambodian countryside before advancing on Phnom Penh. But he proposed to her in the middle of another war in Sri Lanka, where young Tamil girls wore cyanide necklaces for easy suicide and he was machinegunned and rocketed by a police plane at around the same time as Milly said yes. “I watched the stitches eat up on either side of my car like my mother’s old Singer machine. I ran for a house in a small village. An old lady with her grandchildren told me to come into her place with machine-gun bullets walloping the ground all around me.” Guns and bombs provide headlines and are nasty to cover. Still, far worse – for any journalist worth their salt – are the dreadful cliches that dog the industry. Pringle says a tendency by novelists to romanticise opium dens and the colourful women who occupied them was wrong, as they were “more like a methadone clinic filled with trashy working girls and their gigolo drug dealers”. Not so with Fidel Castro. Pringle met the Cuban revolutionary on several occasions
including at a Communist bloc party in Havana where a troupe of 10 young Vietnamese female dancers were each charged with holding onto a Castro finger at the same time for the entire evening. But it is Phnom Penh that remains Pringle’s favourite destination, where, like in Bangkok and Paris, he owns an apartment. Antiques stand in contrast to the view from the balcony where modern skyscrapers are being erected at a rapid rate. Recent paperbacks line the bookshelves and an old English clock chimes on the hour. In Cambodia, Pringle has never been shy in standing up to the authorities who have a well-earned reputation for harassing journalists physically and through the courts when it suits them. He backed The Phnom Penh Post when it was established by the American publisher Michael Hayes almost 25 years ago and was a part of a tight group, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, who were on hand for the lighting of the funeral casket of the King Father, Norodom Sihanouk following his death in 2012. He said the Khmer Rouge Tribunal was important not only to find some kind of justice for the survivors of Pol Pot’s brutal regime but also to educate the younger generations about history and help to reconstruct a society that was smashed by three decades of war.
“The young generation, they don’t really understand what happened during the early wars here. What I am noticing in Asia is people don’t talk to their children about the hard lives they have had before. “They try to put on a brave face about things. And the young people don’t really know how bad it’s been here, maybe one day they will find out,” Pringle, a longstanding member of the FCC, said. This is why the tribunal, often maligned by reporters with limited knowledge of Cambodia or its history, is significant with convictions registered against the three surviving senior cadre and further cases underway or pending. “It was well worth having. Only three people have been put away but it was very important that they did,” he said. But on a different note he warned national elections due next year could turn nasty as in 2013 when the nation’s post-war baby-boomers sided with the opposition, angering Hun Sen and the ruling party which was returned but with a sharply reduced majority. “I think he and his cronies will do their best to make sure that they get back into power again, no matter how they do it. They control all the guns and but there are tens of thousands of young people who will stand up against the regime, which has been in power for too long, for 32 years.”
Clockwise from opposite bottom: Pringle with Aung San Suu Kyi; in Vietnam with the adult children of former Viet Cong fighters in 2005; interviewing the Dalai Lama in the late 60s; with Yasser Arafat in Beijing in 1985; and with his wife Millie in Cambodian traditional dress in Mondulkiri, 2013.
In Cambodia, Pringle has never been shy in standing up to the authorities who have a well-earned reputation for harassing journalists physically
FCC CHARITY COMMITTEE
A HARD CHOICE
FOR A GOOD CAUSE By Joyce Lau
The Charity Committee’s goal is to go beyond simply providing funds for the good causes the Club supports.
or the first time, the FCC asked all Club members to be a part of the process to nominate the charity the Club would support during 2018. By the deadline in September, the Charity Committee had received 19 deserving submissions. Their range showed the depth of need across the city. Several entries came with heart-felt, personal stories of how a particular charity had helped a Club member, or a child or relative. All nominees had to address one of “the Three E’s”: namely elderly care, early learning or educational special needs. The committee was particularly looking to support a cause which concerned itself with those children and adults who may “fall through the cracks” in society, and one which may not be in receipt of large institutional funding. An announcement will be made soon as to the recipient of FCC charitable support during 2018.
Beyond just funding The Charity Committee’s goal is to go beyond simply providing funds for the good causes the Club supports. Club members are encouraged to give voluntary time, and to become actively involved in the cause. To benefit our current charity, China Coast Community, an elderly care home, the FCC organised a series of author talks, plus a visit for residents to the Club for tea. In September, residents heard from columnist and author, Philip Bowring, a long-time Club member who has lived in and written about Asia for 40 years. He spoke on his book, “Free Trade’s First Missionary: Sir John Bowring in Europe and Asia”, which details the life of his distant relative, a former Hong Kong governor. Sir John had an illustrious career in Europe and Asia, though is probably not widely known for some of his far-reaching achievements. Residents of the home were interested to learn of his exploits and expeditions and to see
some of the rare books of his original writings, which Philip had collected. Then in October, Club member Rachel Cartland shared some of her personal story, which is detailed in her book “Paper Tigress”. Arriving in Hong Kong in 1972 as a fresh Oxford graduate to be one of the very few female expat civil servants in the Hong Kong government, she retired 34 years later after a career that spanned many government departments during crucial times in Hong Kong’s history. She was full of colourful stories about times residents could remember and be nostalgic about. Also in October, the FCC hosted residents for tea in the Club’s Bunker. Long-term member, Sarah Monks, who is a wealth of knowledge on FCC history, spoke on the careers of some of the illustrious correspondents we have been fortunate enough to have had as members, including Clare Hollingworth, Richard Hughes and Anthony Lawrence. In November, Vaudine England, another long-term FCC correspondent member and author of a book on the legendary Hong Kong character, Noel Croucher, shared with residents the history of his fascinating life. “Many thanks go to those who have both spoken and donated their books to the China Coast Community,” said Charity Committee convener Elaine Pickering. If you would be willing to give a talk to China Coast Community residents, who are always very grateful for interaction with FCC members, please let the Charity Committee know via Joanne in the Club’s Office.
Through the Club’s March fundraising Club-wide party, Hong Kong Remembers, more than HK$200,000 was raised to help replace the Home’s existing beds with surgical ones, as well as providing additional physiotherapy.
Clockwise from above: FCC members at the Club’s fundraiser, “Hong Kong Remembers”; Residents at the CCC; General Manager Michele McGregor with some of the residents; Enjoying a quiet afternoon; Guest authors Philip Bowring and Rachel Cartland.
ON THE WALL
LA CALLE Photos by Miguelitor
iguel Marina Rodriguez, better known in photographic circles as Miguelitor, has lived in Hong Kong since 2010. Le Calle is his first exhibition in the city that features in all of his work. His candid and quirky style of street photography is “locally-grown” and has been inspired by Hong Kong’s street scenes and the people he found in them. “I was interested in photography before I came to Hong Kong, “ Miguel explains. “ But it wasn’t until I arrived here that I started to take my hobby more seriously.” In 2013 he quit his job in PR to become a Spanish teacher to give him more time to spend prowling Hong Kong streets, camera in hand. “Armed with a small compact camera I quickly discovered how much this city has to offer to anyone who is willing to stop for a while and observe the city, Miguel said. “ Everything seemed worth photographing to me and my walks in between Spanish classes became longer and longer. “In my photos I try to be spontaneous, candid, without any preparation other than attentively observing my surroundings, always on the lookout for an angle, a contrast, a short story to tell in one image. “I dream of taking photos in which humour, geometry and that one split moment combine into a perfect composition, and I always have my camera with me, because I believe that the best photo is the one I will be making today.”
ON THE WALL
NORTH KOREA - ONE PARTY STATE MACHINE Photos by Vincent Yu, The Associated Press
incent Yu was born and raised in Hong Kong, and has worked as a photojournalist for The Associated Press covering major news events across the Asia-Pacific region since 1989. He was first sent to North Korea on assignment in 1990 but didn’t visit again until 2011. “One day on that trip, I was sent to cover the biggest parade ever to mark the 65th anniversary of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party,” Vincent explains. “Kim Jong Il’s presence was nothing out of the unexpected but when he emerged on the stage with his grown-up son Kim Jong Un, I knew history was being made before us. Until then, the world had only seen black and white pictures of the young Kim when he was still a child. “Since that time, I have visited Pyongyang a few more times. Its deepest impression to me was that everything was so neat and clinical; people’s movements were synchronized and I was always cautious with everything I did and said.” Vincent’s work has been recognised with many honours, including the 2004 National Headliner Awards, 2010 World Press Photo Awards 3rd Prize “People in the News” singles category, 2013 Picture of the Year Awards, Award of Excellence “Photographer of the Year” and numerous Hong Kong Press Photographers Association Annual Awards. His works are collected by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
TERRY DUCKHAM/ASIAPIX STUDIOS
Left to right: Susan Field and Karl Grebstad with Lynn at the FCC Charity Ball in 2011. Lynn handled the PR of the event since it started in 2002 and helped raise millions of dollars for the various educational programmes in partnership with Po Leung Kuk.
KOWLOON WALLAH By Robin Lynam
After several years travelling the world as a flight attendant with British Airways Lynn wanted to settle somewhere other than England, and decided to give Hong Kong a try.
ynn Grebstad joined the FCC in around 1990, and says she probably would have signed up earlier, but was a “Kowloon wallah”. She spent her first decade in Hong Kong’s hospitality business working mostly in TST. “My first visit was in the seventies,” she recalls. “My father was here, with my mother, working for British Intelligence in Little Sai Wan. I came out to visit
them, and absolutely loved it. It was bewitching, the intensity of it. I loved that bustling energy.” After several years travelling the world as a flight attendant with British Airways Lynn decided she wanted to settle somewhere other than England, and decided to give Hong Kong a try. She arrived in January 1982. Contacts from her BA days led to a
Far left: Lynn with Adam Nebbs and Robin Lynam (right) at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives in 2002. Left: The GHC team (left to right): Paul Hicks, Kiri Sinclair, Lynn and Gary Kitching at the Business Traveller Awards 2016 in London. Below: Lynn and Paul Hicks with former Philippine President Fidel Ramos (centre).
job as Assistant PR Manager with Le Meridien. A high point of her time with them was the opening, on the same day, of two hotels, one at Kai Tak Airport and one in TST East. “I was thrown in at the deep end and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t have any training in communications, but I was allowed to learn as I went along. That was what Hong Kong was like at the time. There were opportunities. ‘If you’re here, give it a go’.” She and Karl got married in June 1982, and although she says she loved working for Le Meridien, an offer in 1983 to take over the PR Manager’s job at The Peninsula was too tempting to resist. “It was mind blowing to be in that lovely old place – which was very run down at the time. The next three years were quite life-changing. I had the opportunity to meet some of the most unbelievable people – kings, queens, emperors, movie stars.” She recalls meeting, among many others, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Hackman, and David Soul who was making a TV series called Harry’s Hong Kong. Footage of the hotel in the 1980s turned out to be the production’s only saving grace. Three years with The Pen led to another six across Salisbury Road at what was then The Regent – now the InterContinental – considered at the time by many to be the best luxury hotel in the world. “There were a lot of journalists coming down from China, which was a hardship posting then. They couldn’t wait to get to
the hotel for steaks and burgers. There was this whole family of journalists that used to come,” she says. Having joined the club from The Regent, she remembers coming in much more frequently after returning to the Peninsula Group, this time in the corporate office in Central at around the time of the construction of the Peninsula Tower – a project on which she worked with fellow FCC member Sian Griffiths, who had her old job at the hotel. “I did the topping out of the Peninsula Tower with three generations of Kadoories, and the opening was an extraordinary thing to do. I was there during a period of expansion of the group, and then I went and started my own business. I was in my early 40s and I just thought ‘now’s the time’.” Her friend, and, again, fellow FCC
“I was thrown in at the deep end and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t have any training in communications, but I was allowed to learn as I went along. That was what Hong Kong was like at the time.”
PHOTOS: LYNN GREBSTAD ARCHIVE
Lynn meets and greets the rich and famous (Left to right from top): Lynn with; Alan Whicker; Roy Disney and wife; Art Garfunkel; Michael Parkinson; Terry Wogan; Barry Humphries; Gene Hackman; Elizabeth Taylor; Robert Wagner and Jill St.John; Lord Lichfield; Lauren Bacall; Malcolm Forbes; Gore Vidal; David Soul and john Denver and family.
member Susan Field offered her some office space to start from. “She did me a huge favour. I’ve never looked back. I’ve always loved being my own boss. It has been tough at times, but you have to have some hardship if you want your own company.” After doing what she calls “the grunt work” of getting her own business off the ground, she decided to join forces with Paul Hicks, whose own company was at a similar stage of development. She recalls Stuart Wolfendale giving them a nudge on the road to partnership. FCC members all, and Grebstad Hicks Communications (GHC) is now one of Hong Kong’s leading communications agencies, with special expertise in the luxury hospitality business. “We were round the corner from the FCC so we used it a hell of a lot. There was hardly a day that went by when my friend KP wouldn’t call and say ‘Hi Lynn, fancy a sharpener at the FCC?’,” Lynn says. She served a stretch on the Board during Steve Vines’ presidency, and also served for several years on the Charity Ball Committees. The club remains a regular place to meet friends. “If I move on, one of the great things I’ll miss about Hong Kong is the Club. It’s the most comforting thing to walk in and feel that you know people. The staff, the manager, some of the regulars. You feel ‘I belong in this place’ and it’s a beautiful feeling. That’s why people love it. It’s why a lot of people come back to Hong Kong. I think it does have a special significance. It’s a fantastic institution.”
A TRUE TRUMP BELIEVER Ying Ma says she is one of the most unabashed fans of Donald Trump. But with Trump having faced successive waves of denunciation and ridicule, even from several erstwhile backers, has Ms Ma’s faith in her man been at all shaken? Not a bit. Although she does have “quibbles”. Jonathan Sharp reports.
Guangzhou-born Ms Ma, who makes a point of saying she was a legal immigrant into the U.S., is not your ordinary Trump supporter.
only came along to see what a Trump supporter is like,” said one arrival in the full Main Dining Room as people gathered to hear Ms. Ying Ma. One could confidently guess that this arrival’s obvious disdain for Trump was shared by many at the lunch, people who roll their eyes with disbelief that such a supposedly implausible figure is now the 45th President of the world’s top superpower. But that person curious about Trump supporters need not have looked far to find out what a Trump fan is like because, sitting just a few seats away from her, was an enthusiastic Trump backer. You could tell where his sympathies lay because he nodded approvingly at what Ms Ma had to say, applauded her warmly and congratulated her on the excellence of her presentation. And he wasn’t alone in the FCC audience that day. If nothing else their presence served as a reminder to the Trump-bashers of this world, who vie to heap the most opprobrium on him (“Trump nastier than Caligula,” – Paul Krugman, New York Times), that whatever Trump says or does, he still seems to have a firm grip on the affections of his core support base. Guangzhou-born Ms Ma, who makes a point of saying she was a legal immigrant into the U.S., is not your ordinary Trump supporter. Far from being one of the run-of-the-mill voters who think Trump is great – because he speaks their language, talks like a regular guy, and so on – she was a prominent advocate of Trump and his cause in his 2016 campaign. Much of what she said sounded like standard Trump-friendly fare. However she spoke with a great deal more fluency and less stridency than the Twitter
maestro of the White House, who tends to be exciting or scary, depending on one’s viewpoint, when he strays from autocue scripts written by somebody else. And she stuck to a well-honed script as she opened fire with salvoes against the mainstream U.S. media and the Washington political elite. She accused them of dismissing Trump supporters as uneducated, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, you name it, the great unwashed, in fact. Her view was that Trump supporters are the droves of people who felt they have been betrayed, ignored or left behind by the elites. They are in particular sick of being told that Islam is a religion of peace even after Islamic terrorists have slaughtered innocents at home and abroad. She said these Trump supporters are ordinary Americans, those who may not speak in pitch-perfect tones – “I can see some people sneering already.” She seemed to be anticipating a hostile reception, apparently with some justification because her FCC appearance did attract hate mail (as well as supportive comments). But she may have misread her audience when she said: “Imagine if I were not somebody with fancy degrees standing here, I am sure I would be laughed out of the room.” No, not at the FCC where it is an article of faith that we welcome speakers of all stripes, as FCC President Juliana Liu stressed in introducing Ms Ma. In particular we differ fundamentally from those deranged students in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere who are allowed – amazingly – to exercise “no-platform” policies under which speakers who say things the students don’t like are barred or shouted down. Back on her Trumpist trail, Ms Ma
enthused about the promises held out by what she called the “Trump revolution”: the return of government from Washington to the people, tax and financial regulatory reforms to unleash the economy, improved trade deals and tightened border controls “so that Americans, not foreigners, get to decide who enters the country.” She said Trump has also promised “no more endless stupid wars” because Americans are tired of foreign entanglements. She acknowledged that not much, if any, progress had been made on Trump’s signature campaign promises, including ditching Obamacare and building the Mexican border wall. And as for those “stupid wars”, Trump had just announced he was authorising sending more troops to Afghanistan, further prolonging the longest war that America has fought. One of her familiar targets was the Left in America. No, it’s not Trump that’s racist, she said, it’s the Left that’s “the hotbed of racism”. She cited the liberal affirmative action policies designed to increase racial diversity in education, policies which the Trump camp charges discriminate illegally against whites. And of course she railed against the mainstream media (and presumably, by extension, criticising the multitudes who read and watch such media because they prefer it to what the pro-Trump press serves up). But Ms Ma did not give Trump a blemish-free bill of political health. She said for example that the early months of his presidency had been “messy”, his criticisms of allies like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell were unseemly and showed lack of self-discipline. He could have been much firmer in his denunciation of the Ku Klux Klan after the racist violence in Chancellorsville, Virginia, and “he has a tendency to be extremely imprecise”. Ms Ma added that as a freetrade supporter herself, she was sceptical of Trump’s withdrawal from the TransPacific Partnership and the renegotiation of the North American Free-Trade Agreement, which Trump has described the “worst trade deal ever made”. This gentle chiding of what she said were Trump’s “personal flaws” and
Ying Ma, a supporter of President Donald Trump, explained why she backed the controversial leader.
“bombast” was, of course, a mere mild breeze of criticism compared with the typhoon blasts aimed by Trump’s detractors. One of the milder denunciations, from the Economist, dismissed Trump as “politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for office.” As an ardent Trumpist, Ms Ma has plenty of practice coping with aggressive interrogators lambasting her hero. However during the lunch’s Q. & A. session, polite and even supportive questioners gave Ms. Ma an easy ride (although when she seemed to give Trump credit for the recent rise in the U.S. stockmarket, somebody interrupted: “Not true!”). And on the issue of Trump’s credibility, it was striking that nobody in the audience took her to task over his record on alternative facts, non-truths and outright lies, as mercilessly chronicled in his hated mainstream media. However one questioner did ask Ms Ma whether there was a line over which Trump might step so that even an ardent supporter like her might say: enough. “Sure there is,” said Ms Ma. “There are a lot of things I would quibble with him on since he has become president.” But none had undermined her loyalty “because I inherently believe in the promise of his presidency.” As if to underscore her faith in him, Ms Ma ended her FCC appearance with a rhetorical flourish that Trump himself might have been proud of. On the issue of the probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, she asked herself “whether I think the Russian investigation is full of crap? Yes I do!”
Ms Ma did not give Trump a blemish-free bill of political health. She said for example that the early months of his presidency had been “messy”.
WHAT THEY SAID... Recent speakers at the Club give their views on a variety of subjects
James Stent: China’s banks not about to collapse
James Stent, a former director of the audit committee of the China Everbright Bank.
hina’s banks are unlikely to collapse despite continuing fears over bad debt and shadow banking, says a former auditor of one of the country’s biggest state owned banks at an FCC lunch in September. A hybrid system coupled with a cautious step-by-step approach to economic policy are two of the reasons why mainland banks will prosper, said James Stent, a former director of the audit committee of the China Everbright Bank. Shadow banking has increased in China in recent years, resulting in new rules to discourage banks from using borrowed money to invest in bonds being issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC). Stent, who was promoting his book, “China’s Banking Transformation: The Untold Story”, said that although “mainstream consensus for the past 15 years on Chinese banks has been overwhelmingly negative”, he had seen a dramatic transformation in his 13 years working first as a director at China Minsheng Bank, then Everbright. As Stent was outlining his case for China’s stealth banks, S&P Global Ratings cut China’s sovereign credit rating for the first time since 1999. At the same time, however, it revised its outlook to stable from negative. However, Stent said China’s 17 nationwide
commercial banks were in reasonably good shape today, but that those lower down, “the weaker, smaller regional players” at city and provincial level were “very much a work in progress” and still had some way to go. Cultural values were also playing a part in the “night and day” transformation of China’s banking system, he said. Where the US is “all about individualism”, China “is all about the group… it starts with family and it’s all about your responsibilities to society, your duties, your obligations,” said Stent, now senior counselor with Vriens & Partners. “China thoroughly understands market forces – with the Chinese market forces as a means, not an end. The Chinese do not believe markets solve all problems. They believe that the objective is not the market, the objective is building wealth and power for the nation and the people. China therefore has what I call the hybrid banking system: it’s partially market and it’s partially socialist,” Stent said. This was where China’s cautious approach to economic policy came in, Stent said. It would prefer to avoid risk likely to affect the economy and was therefore slow to develop and implement policies on a national scale that were not tried and tested first on a local scale. He said the great change in thinking came about after the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, when the government ordered banks to restructure to reduce nonperforming loans. China looked to good foreign banking systems to determine how it could create a successful one of its own. And it had not only caught up, China had leapfrogged its foreign counterparts with far more advanced banking technology. Part of the reason why the West has had a negative attitude towards China’s banking system is that it doesn’t understand the different context in which Chinese banks operate, Stent said. Its banks are “deeply embedded in a political economy which is very different from any Western economy, and that political economy is in turn embedded in a totally different set of cultural values”, he said.
He Hui: China’s first Western diva
pera soprano He Hui was guest speaker at a Club lunch on 11 October. Former FCC President Eric Wishart was in the chair and asked He about
her life. She was in Hong Kong to sing on the opening night of Opera Hong Kong’s new production of Verdi’s “Aida” before performing in “Madame Butterfly” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She is the leading Chinese singer on the Western opera stage and is known for her rare “Verdi soprano” or lirico-spinto voice which, as the name suggests, lends itself to parts in Verdi operas. He’s first break came at Shanghai’s Grand Theatre as Aida, a role she clearly still loves to perform. In 2000 she was won second place in Placido Domingo’s “Operalia” competition in Los Angeles, beginning a long friendship with the opera star who has since performed with He in Beijing and Shanghai. He’s journey into the world of opera began in Xi’an where at eighteen she was admitted to the prestigious Conservatory of Music. Her parents, a doctor and a teacher, were unhappy with her choice of career but nevertheless gave their full support. He has worked hard to be where she is today, “I think it is one of the most difficult and interesting jobs in the world. There are a lot of sacrifices – you’re always travelling, living out of a suitcase and in hotel rooms. There’s a lot of work, a lot of study. But I get a lot of joy from singing and then I try to transmit this joy to the audiences when I’m on stage.” Language was initially a problem. Early in her career a recording of Puccini’s”La Boheme” had brought He to tears despite having no idea what the words meant. “I didn’t understand the music, the words or the story but the tears came and I felt a deep connection,” she says. However, when He realised her life was going to revolve around Verdi, Puccini and Italy she knew she would have to learn the language. Initially, she began by translating each opera word by word, but eventually realised she would have to learn Italian properly and immersed herself in life in Verona, her adopted home. He maintains close ties with her home town in Xi’an and says that opera is growing in popularity as new opera houses with good acoustics are being built and young people are keen to learn how to sing Westernstyle opera. When asked whether she had ever sung Chinese opera, He admitted that she had never tried
Soprano He Hui talked about her rise to fame as an opera singer.
and that her voice was completely wrong for that style of singing. He is the subject of new documentary entitled “Soprano from the Silk Road” and is currently cooperating on a new biography entitled “Journey to the West” by Melanie Ho.
Upcoming Speakers Our FCC Speakers Series is a unique opportunity for our members and their guests to listen, engage and discuss the latest local and international events and trends in the comfort of the Main Dining Room. This is where minds meet ideas. Please visit: http://www.fcchk.org/speakers-upcoming/
Blood and Silk
Michael Vatikiotis discussed Southeast Asia’s political and economic issues at the FCC.
ichael Vatikiotis presented his latest book “Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia” at a Club lunch on September 7. Vatikiotis described the book as “an ambitious undertaking which tries to condense an understanding of power and conflict in Southeast Asia”. His approach focuses on seeking common threads connecting this politically, economically and historically diverse group of countries - specifically Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand - by tracing the decline in democracy from what may now be viewed as the halcyon 1980s to the increasingly authoritarian present. The issue, Vatikiotis contends, does not always reflect defensive policies based on weak economic performance but rather the impact of improved growth in raising aspirations among the younger, better educated and increasingly interconnected sections of society. In the case of Cambodia, for example, the country’s seven per cent growth rate is evident in rising incomes among the urban workforce. However, instead of encouraging social stability and what may be termed a higher level of contentment this is viewed as a threat to entrenched ruling elites more comfortable with controlling and manipulating a less demanding rural
peasantry. Indeed, the response of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, in office since 1985, has been to openly declare that he will not acknowledge the results of elections due to be held in July 2018. “What is the point” asks Vatikiotis, “of having all that growth and stability if the ruler of the country has decided he wants to rule forever?” As he points out, such a mind-set “sets up an inevitable conflict.” Other countries in Southeast Asia have similar issues, Vatikiotis notes, threating the delicate balance between races, faiths and entrenched economic inequalities. Vatikiotis also noted that while press freedom remains limited across much of the region, social media is now subject to growing manipulation by a multitude of players. Fake news, he pointed out, is big business. In Indonesia, for example, some politicians employ hundreds of people whose sole task is to manipulate stories to serve their interests while making it increasingly difficult to winnow truth from falsehoods. Vatikiotis has worked as a writer and journalist in Southeast Asia for the past 35 years. He currently works as a mediator in armed conflict as the Asia Regional Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and lives in Singapore.
FACEBOOK BUILDS FAKE NEWS CURBS Fake news continues to haunt social media sites. Facebook, for one, still struggles despite its well publicised steps to deal with it.
here has always been fake/distorted/ biased news — perhaps not on the scale of fake US election news — and it will continue as long as people want to believe it because they agree with it or it feeds their biases. Nevertheless, the efforts of social media, particularly Facebook, to get it under control have been somewhat successful, with some painful missteps. Facebook’s recent high-profile fake news blunder involved the site’s “Safety Check” page which promoted a story that incorrectly identified the suspect of the recent Las Vegas mass shooting. The story got through Facebook’s factchecking system, put in place in March this year.
An earlier story highlights the reverse psychology of some users: the factchecking system labelled an article (on Irish slaves) as possible “fake news”, warning users against sharing it — the reverse happened when conservative groups decided that Facebook was trying to silence the story so spread the word – and traffic to the story skyrocketed. The spreading of this piece after it was debunked and branded “disputed” is one of many examples of the pitfalls of Facebook’s partnering with third-party fact-checkers and publicly flagging fake news. Articles formally debunked by Facebook’s fact-checking partners – including the Associated Press, Snopes, ABC News and PolitiFact – frequently
When two or more fact-checkers debunk an article, it is supposed to get a “disputed” tag that warns users before they share the piece and is attached to the article in news feeds.
Wikipedia will likely become an increasingly important element of a publisher’s image. As Facebook more widely rolls out the new tool and more users begin to lean on Wikipedia to help them judge an article’s credibility, publishers will likely put more emphasis on ensuring their Wikipedia page accurately and favourably reflects them.
remain on the site without the “disputed” tag warning users about the content. And when fake news stories do get branded as potentially false, the label often comes after the story has already gone viral and the damage has been done. Even in those cases, it’s unclear to what extent the flag actually limits the spread of propaganda. Facebook’s efforts to curb fake news followed a widespread backlash about the site’s role in proliferating misinformation during the 2016 presidential election. The rocky rollout of Facebook fact-checking is as much a product of the enormity of the problem of Internet propaganda as it is a reflection of what critics say is a failure by the company to take this challenge seriously. Last year, Facebook faced growing criticisms that it allowed fake election news to outperform real news, and creating filter bubbles that facilitated the increasing polarisation of voters. In response, Facebook announced that it would work to stop misinformation in part by letting users report fake news articles, which independent fact-checking groups could then review. When two or more fact-checkers debunk an article, it is supposed to get a “disputed” tag that warns users before they share the piece and is attached to the article in news feeds. While some of the fact-checking groups said the collaboration has been a productive step in the right direction, a review of content suggests that the labour going into the checks may have little consequence. ABC News, for example, has a total of 12 stories on its site that its reporters have debunked, but with more than half of those stories, versions can still be shared on Facebook without the disputed tag, even though they were proven false. There are a number of sites that promote fake news as a “joke” to see how gullible readers are and how far the stories spread. The fact-checking system catches these as well. One well-known fake news writer Paul Horner, said some of his websites have been blocked on Facebook, but that other articles have gone unchecked, including one famously saying Trump issued an order allowing bald eagles to be hunted and another
about the president cancelling Saturday Night Live. The next steps In its latest effort to combat misinformation and fake news, Facebook is testing a feature that gives users additional information around articles shared in the News Feed. The feature, indicated by a letter “i” icon near the headline of an article, will provide users with contextual information like the publisher’s Facebook and Wikipedia pages, related articles on the topic, and information on how other users are sharing the article. It was designed to assist users in identifying phoney publisher accounts. If a publisher doesn’t have a Facebook or Wikipedia page available, users will know to take the information with a grain of salt, and remain cautious of the publisher’s validity. Although this does not necessarily curb the amount of fake news being spread on the platform, users may be more likely to identify false information on Facebook in the first place. The announcement of this feature is timely, as user scepticism of the platform’s news, such as the Las Vegas massacre, may currently be particularly piqued. Meanwhile, Wikipedia will likely become an increasingly important element of a publisher’s image. As Facebook more widely rolls out the new tool and more users begin to lean on Wikipedia to help them judge an article’s credibility, publishers will likely put more emphasis on ensuring their Wikipedia page accurately and favourably reflects them. This may contribute to users becoming cautious of Wikipedia pages of publishers, as certain publishers may have an incentive to curate their Wikipedia profile. However, the website has over 130,000 accounts actively making edits, with over 10 edits being made per second. Trust is timely. In an era in which fake news is trending, and brands are pulling advertising from large publishers because they don’t want their messaging associated with offensive content, trust is a critical factor that brands consider when re-evaluating digital ad strategies.
SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS How quickly technology moves on. Just when you think you have social media sussed, a new trend comes along that throws the proverbial curve ball.
n 2017, we saw Facebook lead the way as the world’s largest referrer of users to news websites, keeping the previous top spot holder, search engine giant Google, at bay. Similarly, Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo sharing site, saw staggering growth that put its total users at 600 million. Twitter’s fortunes, however, appeared to take a turn for the worse. The site’s number of total users flatlined in the last quarter of 2016, with the company reporting the same figure – 328 million – as it did in the first quarter. With a growing number of news organisations pouring additional resources into delivering their content via the big social platforms, the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appear to hold all the cards. So, what will 2018 hold for social media? At the FCC’s Journalism Conference in April, keynote speaker and new South China Morning Post CEO Gary Liu predicted that messaging apps would overtake Facebook as the primary source of news content delivery. Liu, previously CEO of aggregate news site Digg, outlined the struggles facing news organisations as advertising and print revenues decline and social media sites like Facebook become primary sources of news for so many. “People are now going to fewer sources. Right now, Facebook is a leader in that,” he said. But he added: “The age of the app is moving on. People are going to messenger apps. We’re on the cusp of a new era.” Liu was of course talking about the rise in use of messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Snapchat, among others. These instant chat apps enable smaller groups of users to share photos, videos
Gary Liu, CEO of South China Morning Post, gave conference guests a glimpse of the future
and links. And, according to the Reuters Institute for Journalism’s latest Digital News Report, users are increasingly looking to these messaging apps as a source of news. Indeed, the BBC and New York Times are just two big news providers experimenting with delivering content via instant messaging apps. Geoffrey Colon, Senior Marketing Communications Designer at Microsoft, and author of Disruptive Marketing, echoed these sentiments when the FCC asked him for his 2018 social media trend predictions. He said: “Number one - a mass move away from big platform posting to messaging apps. While Facebook and Twitter keep records of number of accounts, what they don’t disclose is how many times people use those accounts or how active they are.
“The age of the app is moving on. People are going to messenger apps. We’re on the cusp of a new era.”
The mass publishing to 2,000 “friends” in a one-way amplification loudspeaker manner is collapsing to platforms where only a select few can see what you’re communicating.
“While the average user supposedly checks their accounts on average 16 times per day, the trend of the past few years towards small discussions on SMS, WeChat and WhatsApp are gaining steam. The reason is the need to be less filtered in these environments, more intimate and more authentic. The mass publishing to 2,000 “friends” in a one-way amplification loudspeaker manner is collapsing to platforms where only a select few can see what you’re
communicating. The reason? Less distraction from ads and the ability to be less filtered.” Colon’s second prediction is that we would see growth in Augmented Realitydriven (AR) mobile apps. He added: “Because iOS 11 contains ARKit, more of what we’ll see posted on social media may be coded for Augmented Reality. This has been driven the past few years via Snapchat but now will tip more mainstream due to the ability of anyone to code anything to be AR-enabled. We’ll see much more home advertising and art that is AR-enabled and much of this will be shared across social media. AR is to 2018 like YouTube video was to 2008.” This is great news for social media marketers, who will likely see an increase in demand for their services as companies and publishers scramble to keep up with the latest technology in order to deliver monetizable content.
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DAVID TANG: FAREWELL TO A GOOD MAN
avid Tang had a long connection with the FCC: as a speaker on four occasions from the early 90s; and as a friend to a number of members. Sadly, he is no longer with us to entertain and inform us with his wit, directness and sometimes penetrating insights… and he turned political incorrectness into an artform. He was also a shameless dropper of names, though quite often in an amusing context. And he did know all those names and they knew his. His last visit to the FCC was in February 2016 when in an amusing, erudite and at times inspirational speech, he talked about what has
its wonderful art collection and library — he engaged two FCC photographers Bob Davis and Richard Dobson to do some shots. Both preferred a club membership in lieu of fees… and got them. Bob dined out on that story for years. Another photographer Guy Nowell lived next door to Tang’s “country” house in Sai Kung. While he also did some well-paid photo shoots for Tang, he also became an occasional lunch guest. Guy remembers some great days of wonderful stories — and sometimes rants — told with great zest. Although Tang was best known as an entrepreneur (Shanghai Tang, Island Tang and China Tang) and a philanthropist, he also His last visit to the FCC was in February dabbled in the journalistic arts 2016 when in an amusing, erudite and as a columnist for the FT. at times inspirational speech, he talked The FT’s House and Home about what has happened in Hong Kong section editor, Jane Owen, and what needs to done. had her work cut out for her when she got Tang on board as happened in Hong Kong and what columnist in 2010. He began as what needs to done. He was highly critical was ostensibly an interior design of CY Leung’s leadership — and agony uncle. Of course, it very slightly less so of his successor quickly turned into a more general Carrie Lam — and his and the column full of name-dropping and government’s handling of the anecdotes and what constitutes good Umbrella Movement, “perhaps the manners. Some loved it, some hated single most significant political event it and some swore they would never in Hong Kong since the riots in 1967”. read it… and then casually, without In this talk, which went viral on meaning to, got hooked on it. social media, he said CY didn’t “have Owen said one of his problems the bottle to confront difficult issues” was with late delivery of the and often showed his “contempt… column with excuses “in a class for the citizens of Hong Hong”. of their own”. These included: “Its When Tang established the China ancestral grave sweeping holiday Club in Hong Kong in 1991 — with
today, I will be haunted if I work”; and “The Queen said I work too hard”. Tang rarely let facts get in the way of a good story, and his legendary political incorrectness kept the editors busy. When asked to be careful about the facts, Tang’s response: “Careful? Since when has progress of Man ever resulted from the insular approach to safety.” In the early 90s author and journalist Simon Winchester was based in Hong Kong as a Guardian correspondent and freelancer. Following an interview with Tang, he was asked to curate the reference section for China Club library with, for the time, an extravagant budget. There was a lot of envy and gnashing of teeth around the FCC bar over such a plum job. In the course of that experience they became great friends as is Tang’s want. At this year’s Hong Kong Book Fair Tang hosted — apparently at times outrageously — Winchester as part of an author’s panel discussion. (It was just after Winchester left Hong Kong in 1997 that he penned his acclaimed bestseller “The Surgeon of Crowthorne”.) There was no question that Tang was passionate about Hong Kong’s drive towards democracy and admired Chris Patten’s role in this. “You couldn’t have a greater champion than [Patten] in trying to install a system of government or politics that would maximise the possibility of Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong,” Tang said.
The official magazine of The Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong.