The Correspondent, April - June 2023

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THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB | HONG KONG | APRIL 2023 Farewell, Mark Erder Mr APV bows out The Wire China Reports From the Backyard Once Upon a Bellingcat A Bold New Kid on the Block What
it all Meme? A New, Witty Take on Getting the Message Across

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Mark Erder, the driving force behind video and creative agency APV, bows out after three really rather amazing decades in Asia and beyond.

Cover: VictorChenArt



New Members

Welcome, guys and gals: this is going to be fun.


4 Club News

Say it ain’t true – Didier Saugy heads for the City of Magni cent Intentions; how to vote in the upcoming club elections; and why ultramarathons are good for you.


Wine & Dine

Hooray for the rst sta party in three years; new menus; the joys of banqueting; and answer a simple question to win two bottles of wine.


White’s Bites

C’est fantastique. Monsieur LeBlanc is back on form, troughing some sizeable amuse-bouches ahead of Le French May.


Member Insights

Golf and the FCC have both played a major part in Sean Hung’s life up to now. Hayley Wong nds out why.


New Tech #1: Bellingcat

Ambrose Li delves into the workings of one of the world’s boldest media sites, which has grasped traditional journalism by the scru of its neck.


New Tech #2: The Wire China

How do you report on the manifest goings-on in China without any reporters inside the country’s borders? Mathew Scott reports on a highly innovative venture.


NEW Tech Column

Nine shortcuts to make bouncing around the web just that little bit easier, courtesy of internet whizzkid Danai Howard.


On the Wall ree widely di ering exhibitions showcased Hong Kong’s humbler workers, some jaw-dropping and very funny memes (a rst for the FCC) and An Rong Xu’s New Romantics.

39 History Ink

Following on from International Women’s Day in March, Vaudine England relates how she and two others formed their own boutique history and archives company.

My Hong Kong

Genavieve Alexander holds forth. And fth. And…

40 Speakers

Morgan Davis assesses three luminaries’ views on how social media is changing journalism.

42 Obituaries

RIP gonzo journalist Nate ayer and lawyer David Lawrence.

44 Books

An absorbing look at Hong Kong’s history; a star footballer’s reminiscences; plus a new take on Macau, and a China reading list.


10 Minutes With… Tin Htet Paing

Having ed her native home, Tin Htet Paing is now an integral part of the crusading in exile in Australia.

2 Editor’s Letter
3 From the President
Member Movements are online at


Dear FCC Members, International Women’s Day has been and gone for this year, however it seems only appropriate that this issue’s competition ( rst prize: two bottles of superlative Frog plonk) should take the late Clare Hollingworth as its subject. In the interests of research, I thumbed through a copy of her great-nephew Patrick Garrett’s rollicking, meticulously researched biography, Of Fortunes and War, and was reminded all over again of her stellar achievements (and, er, endearing eccentricities) in what was very much an alpha-male journalist’s world.

Garrett, who narrowly missed gaining a knighthood for services to literature in the United Kingdom’s New Year Honours, has let slip that Clare’s life might soon be made into a blockbuster movie. He writes: “I am optimistic – ’cos it’s got all the elements that producers seek these days, plus there’s material enough in 100-plus years of history to suit their needs. However, I also know that there are few things as uncertain as lm nance, and you only know it is happening/has happened when you see the credits roll.”

Here’s the 64,000-dollar question: who would play Clare? To be convincing, she’d have to be British to the core, more than a little feisty but with an underlying steeliness, and possessed (I don’t think I’m betraying any secrets here) of a certain fondness for the opposite sex. If it was up to me, I’d pick the really rather toothsome creator and star of the BBC sitcom Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Other suggestions welcome.

What might Clare have thought of up-and-coming media sites like Bellingcat and e Wire China, which are both featured in this techtinted issue? It’s di cult to say, as she was no fan of modern gizmology; however, she would surely greatly admire the subject of April’s 10 Minutes With, Tin Htet Paing, who helps produce from exile in Australia with very often little more than a shaky phone line to assist her inquiries into the foul abuses being perpetrated on the ground 8,000 kilometres to the northwest.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club

2 Lower Albert Road

Central, Hong Kong

Tel: (852) 2521 1511

Fax: (852) 2868 4092



The Board of Governors 2022-2023

President Keith Richburg

First Vice President Jennifer Jett

Second Vice President

Tim Huxley

Correspondent Member Governors

Karly Cox, Morgan Davis, Danai Howard, Kari Soo Lindberg, Kristie Lu Stout, Olivia Parker, Peter Parks, Lee Williamson

Journalist Member Governors

Joe Pan, Zela Chin

Associate Member Governors

Genavieve Alexander, Liu Kin-ming, Christopher Slaughter, Richard Winter

Club Treasurer

Tim Huxley

Club Secretary

Liu Kin-ming

Professional Committee

Conveners: Keith Richburg, Jennifer Jett, Joe Pan, Olivia Parker

Press Freedom Committee

Conveners: Jennifer Jett, Keith Richburg, Olivia Parker

Constitutional Committee

Conveners: Liu Kin-ming, Richard Winter

Membership Committee

Conveners: Jennifer Jett, Lee Williamson

Communications Committee

Conveners: Genavieve Alexander, Morgan Davis, Jennifer Jett

Finance Committee

Conveners: Tim Huxley, Richard Winter

House/Food and Beverage Committee

Convener: Genavieve Alexander

Building - Project and Maintenance Committee

Conveners: Christopher Slaughter, Liu Kin-ming

Wall Committee

Conveners: Kristie Lu Stout, Peter Parks

General Manager

Didier Saugy

Editor Ed Peters


Publisher: Artmazing!

Noel de Guzman


Printing Elite Printing: Tel: 2558 0119

Advertising Contact FCC Front Office: el:

The Correspondent ©2023

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong

The Correspondent is published four times a year.

Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the club.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED PS Hands up all those who haven’t got International Men’s Day (19 November 2023) firmly inked on their calendar.


Dear FCC Members,

Is Arti cial Intelligence going to put journalists out of work?

at’s a question that’s been posed with increasing seriousness lately, as ChatGPT and other AI tools have proven remarkably adept at churning out realistic-sounding journalistic articles. Ask it to write about almost anything, in any particular newsroom style, at any length, and ChatGPT can churn out a perfectly acceptable article in seconds.

It’s actually not new. In April 2017, I wrote a piece for the HKU Journalism newsletter about a robot named Xiao Nan (小 南), or Little South, which managed to write a 300-character article for the Guangzhou newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily informing readers which train tickets were sold out for the Lunar New Year travel crush.

I wrote then that instead of acting like curmudgeonly Luddites, journalists should learn to embrace the new technology – just as in the 1980s we shifted from typewriters to computers, and in the 2000s we learned to include internet search engines like Google in our regular fact-checking routine. I still have a hard time remembering how we actually did fact-checking before the internet.

“Instead of viewing it as a threat, we need to prepare for it, welcome it, and recognise that it will make our journalism smarter and more comprehensive, and consumers much better informed,” I wrote six years ago.

I concluded, somewhat overcon dently, that “robots have a long way to go before they can write lively, engaging narratives. Xiao Nan could turn out a pro forma article on train ticket sales, but it will be a long time before a bot can write like George Orwell.”

Well, guess what? ChatGPT can now turn out an article uncannily like something Orwell could have written.

Am I more worried now? Not really. I still think journalists need to embrace the technology and all the ways it can make their jobs easier, just like we learned to embrace the web and social media a generation ago.

AI can scan lengthy reports or court documents looking for quotes and keywords. It can help reporters digest reams of information in seconds, saving precious time. While ChatGPT and other AI programs can write articles, they often include huge mistakes. AI can be easily manipulated by humans feeding it false or misleading data.

AI will be able to do a lot of the background research, allowing journalists to do what they used to do more of in the old days when I started out; getting out of the o ce and meeting people face-to-face to gather tips, collect rst-hand information and cultivate sources. e 24/7 news cycle has too many journalist chained to their desks, emailing questions, monitoring social media accounts and churning out stories without the bene t of old-fashioned shoe leather reporting.

It will be a long time before a bot can sidle up to the bar at the FCC. But then again, that’s what I said six years ago about a bot not writing like Orwell. If I’m wrong again, I might be buying the bot a drink. ***********

I also want to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thanks to our General Manager, Didier Saugy, who is departing Hong Kong for my former stomping ground of Washington, DC, where he will be manager of the National Press Club. Didier came on board in 2018, probably never suspecting that the next few years would be the most challenging in our club’s history, with the 2019 social unrest followed by three years of COVID restrictions and then the question mark over our lease. Please join me in thanking Didier for his stewardship and steady hand during an incredibly di cult period.

While ChatGPT and other AI programs can write articles, they often include huge mistakes.

Elections 2023

It’s election season once again at the FCC, with members encouraged to vote for all the usual pressing reasons, whether they are Correspondents, Journalists or Associates. Nominations opened in March, and the pukka Annual Nomination Meeting will be held on Wednesday 12 April at 6 pm. All members are welcome, and anyone who can’t make it should submit a written nomination in person or by registered letter well before that date. Forms are available at the Front Desk.

What’s up for grabs? Here’s the deal:

President Must be a Correspondent Member

First Vice President Ditto

Second Vice President May be a Journalist or Associate Member

Eight Correspondent Member Governors Correspondent Members, obvs

Two Journalist Member Governors Journalist Members, obvs

Four Associate Member Governors Associate Members, obvs

Ballot papers will be sent out on 19 April, and ballots will be counted on 23 May at 3 pm. A ballot box will be placed in the foyer. e new Board will be formally installed at the Annual General Meeting on 29 May, starting at 6 pm. Full pro les of the new members, together with their hopes and dreams for a better world, will be published in the July issue of e Correspondent.

Hong Kong Four Trails ultramarathon runner Will Hayward, who sometimes ts in a bit of work as Professor of Psychology at Lingnan University, pauses for breath to add a little background to the screening of Four Trails at the club last February.

Mallory said: ‘Because it is there’. Sufficient reason to take part, or would you add more?

Why do the HK Four Trails Ultra Challenge? As noted in the documentary, it’s the ultimate challenge for endurance junkies in Hong Kong. People get into running ultramarathons to test their limits, and this seems like the hardest challenge out there, and it’s in our backyard. Also, since we were all unable to travel for three years, the Challenge is appealing because it takes you across the entirety of Hong Kong, which feels like celebrating the incredible landscape found on our little hunk of rock.

While you’re out running, are you really able to appreciate that surrounding beauty?

I de nitely appreciated Hong Kong’s

beauty out there. In the lm, one of the runners, Jacky Leung, is overcome by the nal sunrise over Sunset Peak and stops to take a photo even though he’s ghting to complete the event in under 50 hours. I’m sure we all had moments like that, which pierced our inner struggle and brought us back into the world.

Any advice for FCC members who’d like to try Four Trails but feel they may conk out halfway?

e Four Trails Challenge is de nitely an advanced postgraduate running challenge. Hopefully the lm inspires people to get out on the trails and experience them for themselves. If members train up to the point they can run a hilly 160-kilometre race, then they may be ready to consider the Four Trails.

What’s your post-Trails food pickme-up?

My wife had some cold pizza at the nish line, which was incredible. After that, I spent a couple of weeks eating everything in sight. It is a great feeling to walk into a cafe and order anything o the menu, totally guilt-free.

Four days: 298 kilometres; 14,500 metres’ climbing; a lot of blood, sweat and tears – phew!

I’m doing it myyyyyy way!

Juggling ski poles and a PhD application, former First Vice President Hannamiina Tanninen reports on life in Suomi (aka Finland) after more than a decade in the 852.

Where are you?

In very snowy and cold (minus 1 degree Celsius on 1 February) Helsinki, the Finnish capital. Although I am originally from Kuopio in the east of the country, I will be settling in the city centre.

What are you doing?

Cross-country skiing (clichéd, I know, but it is my favourite sport) and setting up my new home, which is taking more time than I thought, because things de nitely move at a slower pace here than in Hong Kong.

Most culturally shocking thing so far?

People really do not talk that much, especially to strangers. It is so quiet, even in public places, and cashiers and bus drivers are sometimes surprised when I chat and smile at them. But people are usually happy when you break the ice (apt metaphor).

Finns love karaoke: spot-on or rural myth? Very much spot-on. Finns adore karaoke, especially late at night.

Our culture is not very expressive. We do feel love, compassion, happiness and so forth, but we don’t express our feelings in public. So maybe karaoke allows you to sing from your heart, rather than speak from your heart. Unlike Hong Kong, there are no private karaoke rooms, just one stage for the whole bar where strangers take turns. e experience can


be toe-curling or absolutely wonderful. I do not, however, sing karaoke. You can guess why.

I miss Hong Kong’s ___ but not the ____. FCC wonton noodle soup and cheesecake, Taiwanese food and the hiking trails. But not the working hours, stress, crowds, people yelling at me and poorly built apartments.

What next?

I was Kauppalehti ’s correspondent for 13 years, nishing at the end of 2022. So now there’s time for loved-ones and more skiing. I will also be nishing my PhD application (subject TBD) and the mortgage application for my at. Both are things that scare me a bit, but now I have announced these in a respectable magazine, I have to go through with them.

Over the moon, pleased as Punch, happy as a sandboy – that was Aaron Busch after picking up the Australia Day Community Award 2023 in recognition for the sterling work he did during the dark days of COVID-19 keeping Hong Kong abreast of events via his Twitter account @Tripperhead.

An ability to slice through bureaucratic gobbledegook and explain the latest twists and turns in the o cial response to the pandemic, and keep fans amused at the same time, distinguished Busch’s nigh-daily tweets.

So what’s next for the larrikin twitterer who hails from Bunbury on the coast south of Perth? “I’ve started a weekly newsletter on Substack (Tripperhead HQ), which is available to subscribers who want to nd out what’s going on in Hong Kong,” said Busch.

“And now my eldest is at university and the other youngster is in secondary school, I’ve taken up commentating on local cricket three times a week – so you could say I’m bowled over!”

Elizabeth Ward, Australian Consul-General, commented: “Aaron Busch’s tireless work keeping the international community informed throughout the pandemic is an outstanding example of Australian community service in Hong Kong, and a timely reminder of the power of citizen journalism.

“He’s kept it uncomplicated and accessible, with a dash of our unique Aussie humour, and has as a result attracted over 40,000 followers.

“Presenting him with this award was a true honour.”

Well wrapped up, but definitely not a member of the Finnish Olympic squad.

Partir, c’est mourir un peu

As Didier Saugy was leaving the National Press Club in Washington DC on Friday 13 January following a gruelling job interview, suddenly the streets lled with police o cers and tra c came to a grinding halt. e next moment the presidential helicopter carrying Joe Biden came into land at the White House, which is just around the corner from the club in the US capital.

“It was like something you see on TV, but there it was taking place right in front of my eyes,” said the Swiss national who has helmed the FCC since 2018, and, despite riots in the streets, the depredations of COVID-19 and the collywobbles over the renewal of the lease, still looks a long way short of his 61 years.

After an initial approach from a headhunter last August, Saugy sat through a dozen interviews of one sort or another before nally being advised that he would be appointed as Executive Director of America’s foremost press club, which counts 3,000 journalism and media professionals, public relations gurus, writers, authors, students and educators in its membership, and occupies two oors in the National Press Building, which is about as close to the beating heart of the world’s leading superpower as it’s possible to get.

“I’ve worked in Europe, New Zealand, Australia and China, but never in the US, so this is a great opportunity, one I simply couldn’t turn down,” said Saugy.

“My background is in F&B, and I think this is one of the main reasons that they hired me, as they want to improve their dining.

“Of course, I am terribly sad to leave, as I love my job here and will miss the club, sta and members very much.

e FCC is very special, it goes without saying. In hotels, where I used to work, it’s all about the bottom line, nothing else. Of course we’re concerned about the nancial side at the FCC but it’s also about supplying happiness, providing a comfortable place.

“I’m proud to say I’ve done what I have done here; most

MH370: the doco

e three-part Net ix documentary MH370: e Plane that Disappeared was released just as e Correspondent went to press.

Former FCC President Florence de Changy, who has tracked the story for more than eight years, said she hoped it will support some of the arguments she made in her book e Disappearing Act: e Impossible Case of MH370

She commented: “ e plane did not crash in the Southern Indian Ocean (SIO). Neither the Inmarsat data nor the untraceable debris found on the African coast should count as tangible or credible evidence.

“Captain Zaharie Shah was a good man by all accounts

importantly, we have systems in place now so the club should continue to run very smoothly.”

No precise date has been set for Saugy’s departure, however he and his wife Summer and eight-year-old son Quentin are likely to be jetting across the Paci c sometime in the next few months.

And what of the future? “I told them one thing at the nal interview – I have no intention of retiring at 65!

“Quentin was born here, and I’m not selling my apartment in Tung Chung, so we certainly haven’t gone for good.”

Like the song says: “You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.”

And for someone who has fed e Eagles in his time – as well as Bill Clinton, the late Queen Elizabeth II, the Dalai Lama, Buzz Aldrin, Dire Straits and numerous international rugby teams (“they eat like a horse”) – that’s a pretty good line to end on.

and a great pilot too, and most likely not responsible for this disaster.

“ e narrative of the crash in the SIO is a heavy handed fabrication that has been passively promoted by most mainstream media who failed to question its lack of evidence.

“As a journalist, committed to nding the truth and exposing a lie when I spot one, I am con dent that it will soon be further proven that there was no crash in the SIO.

“Truth is owed rstly to the families of the 239 passengers who died, but also to the millions who board a plane every day assuming that they will land safely.”

PHOTO: SUPPLIED PHOTO: NETFLIX Entente Cordiale: Didier, Summer and Quentin.

From ground-zero to execution

A chance phone call led Carmen Chan, now the FCC’s Operations Manager, into the hospitality business. She explains to Hayley Wong how it all came about.

How did you get started in the hospitality industry?

My academic background is totally irrelevant to hospitality – I graduated from the Hong Kong Institute of Education and did a variety of jobs for a few years. en a high school friend reached out, saying they needed help at the Regal Airport Hotel, and the next thing I knew I was a front desk o cer.

I raised my hand after three months to join the food and beverage department, and ended up spending about ve years with the group. After the front desk, I became a sales and marketing project o cer in the F&B department. at’s where I met Didier Saugy, who is now the club’s General Manager. Eventually, I was promoted to headquarters to manage the F&B operations and budgets of ve hotels.

What brought you to the FCC?

Didier was my mentor back in the day at the Regal, and we’ve known each other for over a decade. I remember receiving his call in Montreal when I was taking a career break to travel around the world in 2018. It was summer when he reached out to me for FCC’s Christmas project. I actually wanted to stay in Canada for Christmas but it was really because of him that I travelled back to Hong Kong in August and became the Marketing and Events Manager at the club.

‘Operations’ is a broad term. What do you actually do?

at’s a di cult question: essentially, I do all the odds and ends from ground-zero to execution. Or I’d say I’m a “coordinator” in a more professional way. But I always emphasise that I am nothing without the team – who are just like magicians making my ideas come true after following the committee’s guidance.

I usually start in the morning by checking the previous day’s log, which records internal or business issues that require my attention. I will then host a morning brie ng to go through bookings and events. Lunch hour is usually a business hour, when I meet colleagues, clients, vendors and so on. After that, I will grab something to eat at Bert’s with colleagues, followed by a debrie ng session of the rst half of the day. I’ll then get back to my desk or check out events for the coming evening.

How is working at FCC different from working in hotels?

What I love about the club is that dining here does not only bring pleasure, but re ections and knowledge. Hotels are also very much revenue-driven while at the FCC, we are more concerned about meaningful experiences than simply maximising pro ts.

Last year, we learnt from the Irish Consulate that

Halloween originated in Ireland. So instead of simply just dressing up, we infused some history into our celebration and hosted a lunch talk about Halloween’s origins as well as some of the little known bits of Irish folklore here in Hong Kong – that was de nitely one of my favourite projects.

What is your goal at the FCC?

On top of my operations duties, I spend about 30 per cent of my time on projects that raise the FCC’s brand identity – something I am personally interested in and want to achieve here. I hope to raise public awareness that we are not a regular association, but a unique platform for arts, cultural and knowledge exchanges. Over time, I have developed several social responsibility initiatives like co ee capsule recycling, food donation and vegan meals while every month, we work with consulates to promote their cultures.

Internally, I hope to automate procedures here to make everyone’s life easier.

What do you do after hours?

I’m always with dogs outside of work – I’ve got two black mongrels, named Dolly and Belén, and I also foster dogs regularly. e most I’ve had in my apartment at one time is eight. I love going to the park or hiking with them during my day o .

Congratulations to Carmen Chan, who will take over as Acting General Manager pro temafter Didier Saugy’s departure for the US.

‘Embrace Imposter Syndrome!’

Take six benevolent journalists with extensive career experience; put them in front of 30 early-career journalists hungry for advice; hope for life-changing results. is was the modest aim of a speed-mentoring evening held in the Hughes Room on 6 March, when mentees cycled around the mentors’ tables in groups, taking advantage of the opportunity to ask anything they liked about how to get in or get on in the industry.

Here, some of the mentors share the advice they reckon most useful.

Jing Yang

Senior correspondent –e Wall Street Journal

•Have a speciality. It doesn’t mean you have to stick to that forever, but it makes you more competitive.

•Be curious, be hungry.

ere are three things I’ve always lived by:

•“You don’t ask, you don’t get” – this isn’t about being pushy, but about looking out for yourself and making sure you make opportunities happen instead of sitting around waiting for them to happen to you.

•“If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail” –there’s a lot to be said for being able to think on the y and being agile when things pivot; however, when I’m able to do so, I like to make sure I’m ready for an important occasion not just by doing the usual prep work, but also by visualising the scenario in my head and playing out my part in it.

•“Embrace imposter syndrome” – feeling out of your depth isn’t always a bad thing. It means that there are things you don’t know yet and therefore things you can learn, and that is a very good thing for your personal and career growth.

•When you get shot down, or when people ignore you or don’t return your calls, develop a thick skin.

•Do not hesitate to make the last/extra call. So many times, the story feels nished. It is good enough. Yet you know that another person or source could add a di erent take. en call! In 99 percent of cases, it is worth trying.

•Do not discount yourself. As a freelance foreign correspondent, be aware that having someone on the ground somewhere far away from the newsroom carries immense value for any publication interested in real journalism.

•Use raw information, selfcollected, as much as possible (I know it’s hard). Remember that, not so long ago, you could be a good journalist without a mobile phone and without internet! How did that work?!

You don’t ask, you don’t get


/ sub-editor, news and business information – Now TV

•Stay curious, and get to know the world around you. But also stay safe!

•Be creative with your writing – but not your content.

Florence de Changy Correspondent – Le Monde, Radio France, RFI Regional head of content & editor-in-chief, Hong Kong – Tatler Asia

High time too

e FCC was deserted from late afternoon onwards on 11 February for the simple reason that the sta had all disappeared into the jungle – the junglethemed sta party, that is.

And boy, did they party, as this (thanks a bunch, COVID-19) was the rst all-club-hands-on-deck hooley for three long years. e basement of the Novotel Century in Wanchai was transformed with suitable scenery, and everyone, including Board members, pulled out all the stops when it came to getting into costume and character.

e drink owed, the international bu et disappeared in minutes at, the fashion show drew gasps of admiration, the games were a hoot and the prizes included everything from dinner vouchers to a top-of-the-range smartphone. e knees-up went on till midnight, and the festivities were capped by the appearance of Ts’ai Shen, the God of Fortune, who bore a passing resemblance to Second Vice President and Club Treasurer, Tim Huxley.


Hang onto your toques: it’s time for new menus

It’s a long-held tenet of running the FCC that anyone in a position of authority who tries to change the menus does so at the risk of incurring the wrath of a horde of members incensed that their go-to favourite has vanished into thin air, leaving them with a burning sense of grievance, not to mention a rumbling tummy.

Stand by for a shock. e F&B committee, together with General Manager Didier Saugy and the more senior members of the chef’s brigade, have been putting their heads together, chewing meditatively and comparing taste buds. e results –involving about a 20 percent change right the way across the menu board – should be delivered at the beginning of May or thereabouts.

“ ere are two main reasons behind the changes – after all, the menus have not been updated in seven years,” said Saugy.

“Firstly, we need to control food costs, and remove items that are not selling well.

“Secondly, we need to make sure each outlet has a rm dining identity. So we want to make sure that the Dining Room is seen as the place for

modern brasserie, the Main Bar & Lounge the spot for all-day dining, while Bert’s is somewhere to go for a snack like pizza.”

Towards the end of this month, the new dishes will be presented in a special tasting session, to allow members to give their opinions.

“We can’t say for sure at this juncture what the new dishes will be, as we are still deliberating; however the new menus will have something for everyone and are going to be a marked improvement.”

Shainal Jivan commented: “As

the only vegetarian on the F&B Committee, I hope my input will help in the development of some interesting and varied vegetarian dishes on the menu, with perhaps less emphasis on the ‘fake meat’ ingredients such as Beyond or Impossible.

“As rising food costs are obviously a concern for all outlets in Hong Kong at the moment, I feel there are ways to o er varied dishes without increased spend, and also without too much additional work for the kitchen.

“As an example, the base sauce for our current Chicken Tikka Masala is vegetarian – we could easily o er Paneer Tikka Masala, or Vegetable Tikka Masala, using the sauce that the kitchen already preps, and adding ingredients that we already have for other dishes on the menu.

“ is concept could be applied to many other items on the Indian menu – take a base (vegetarian) sauce, with options to mix it with chicken, sh, lamb, paneer or mixed veggies.

“ e obvious challenge is which menu items to drop in order to make room for new dishes – members do have their favourites! So we’re doing our best to accommodate everyone.”


Eat, drink, banquet and be merry

Whether it’s a cocktail party for a couple of dozen guests or scores of friends and family celebrating at a wedding reception, the FCC takes it all in its stride and has over the years organised and hosted hundreds of special events for members.

“Of course, we have plenty of venues, from the sunny purlieus of the Dining Room and the Verandah to the more intimate space of Bert’s, as well as the Hughes Room and the Burton Room,” says Operations Manager Carmen Chan.

“We can lay on a variety of catering packages to suit any sort of gathering.”

Got something coming up? Make contact with the banqueting team via In order to make the best use of the club’s outlets, some days are not available for banqueting, for example Friday lunch in the Dining Room, which is its busiest day in the week.

Going For a Spin

Amazing to record, nobody spotted the homophone (revue/review, page 1 of the last issue of The Correspondent) that was the central feature of the January competition. So, in the best Mark Six tradition, the prize (one entire bottle of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Chateau Duhart-Milon 2011, worth HK$610) rolls over to this issue. Plus – get this –there’s another bottle too; white wine this time. More of this anon.

Here’s the brain-teaser: what special something might have induced John Anthony Thwaites, the British Consul-General in Katowice, to lend his official limo to tyro ourno Clare Hollingworth to go snooping around the border in the days prior to the outbreak of the second world war? The answer is fairly plainly rendered in her biography, Of Fortunes and War.

Sussed it? Then email the correct answer to with the sub ect line ud e ud e Wink Wink”. The eighth member to respond wins, and should present the editor’s congratulatory reply at the Front Desk to claim both prize bottles.

Note: Board members (who will have seen the blueprint), their relatives and intimates, and anyone else associated with the production of the magazine are not eligible to enter. he editor s decision is final so there.

And that second bottle of vin? It’s a Puligny-Montrachet Domaine Francois Carillon Cote de Beaune, Burgundy France 2018, selling for HK$880, since you ask. Barely able to contain his excitement, F&B Manager Michael Chan describes it thus: White owers on the nose, taut and chiselled, leading into a wonderfully saline, mineral, textured palate, which has both intense, expressive fruit and a super fine, detailed structure. It comes to a point beautifully on the finish, with bris acidity complementing a sense of driven persistence.” So now you know.


Bon appétit – as if anyone needed telling

With the glorious celebration that is Le French May upon us once again, Adam White throws his not insubstantial weight behind the proposition that ‘living to eat’ is really not a bad idée at all.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the French May festival in Hong Kong. at’s an impressive three decades of bringing the best of French culture, arts, music and dance to the city.

Yet there’s a problem.

For over time, Le French May has grown beyond its semantic borders. Increasingly, this festival has found that the month of May cannot contain it – and like Napoleon’s Grande Armée crossing into Russia in 1812, it’s gone beyond its borders and strayed into June. And just like that ill-fated expedition, it’s an unmitigated disaster that shakes your faith in the prowess of the French.

My objections are linguistic. Some holding forth at the bar might lament the sliding of language into “could of” and “circle back”, but I’m what they call a descriptivist: language use changes over time, and that’s just ne. But still. Our words mean things. Turning May into a two-month period is enough to make a Grammar Napoleon out of me.

So be thankful that the FCC does Le French May correctly: a month-long promotion, a month-long celebration of what Julia Child would call the Art of French Cooking.

Because it’s not necessarily the arts and culture of France that have su used the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. Rather, it’s the food. Western kitchens owe almost everything to French cuisine, from preparation and cooking techniques to the “mother sauces”, to something

as fundamental as the way a modern kitchen runs. Auguste Esco er’s brigade system broke the work of creating food down to its fundamentals, bringing a military e ciency to the kitchen that has been adopted across the world, in Michelin-starred establishments and our very own FCC.

Which is why I think it’s excellent that during Le French May at the FCC, we’re not bringing in guest chefs from elsewhere, but letting our home team shine instead. On the menu for the month is a series of dishes selected by our very own chefs: meals which excite them this May.

We assemble for a tasting at Bert’s. F&B Manager Michael Chan starts us o with a classic Kir Royal –champagne spiked with crème de cassis, always a winner – and the house “French-ini” cocktail, a touch sweet for my taste. George arrives with laden plates.

is is elegantly presented: herb-rimmed triangles of beautifully smooth, subtly avoured salmon mousse. Can you ever really taste champagne in cooking? Regardless, this is a silkily textured triumph. Dotted to the side are avour-punches of smoky salsa and tart lemon compote, with a few dabs of caviar for the hell of it. e genius touch to my mind is a topping of crispy sh skin, a wonderfully Hong Kong take on crispy toast points. It’s the most re ned dish of the night.

1. Champagne salmon mousse with smoked salmon caper salsa – Chef Eddy Li
PHOTO: BEN MARANS Crab Thermidor: cheesy, creamy, with a very HK feeling. Le French May menu: H H H H

2. Bouillabaisse – Chef Cheung King Chun

A warming, avour-packed sh soup. Generous portions of tender salmon and sea bass, alongside shrimp, mussel and squid, o set by a pleasingly toothsome assortment of smalldiced vegetables. It’s served with garlic bread, the perfect culinary sponge.

Paired with: Pierre Chainier Les Clacaires Sauvignon Blanc: a classic sauv blanc, dry and zesty.

3. Roasted chicken with herb butter – Chef Yip Chi Chong

I’m not sure I can tell you what exactly chervil tastes like, but I can tell you that it certainly features in the very-Frenchindeed compound butter that’s rubbed underneath the skin of this roasted chicken. e result is richly savoury, with no extra jus needed: that herb butter is more than enough. An assortment of just-right vegetables keeps you honest.

Paired with: Heritage de Baroncourt Rouge, Languedoc: lightly spiced, softly tannined.

4. Crab Thermidor with angel hair – Chef Cheung

King Chun

Serving seafood in its own shell is the kind of thing that’s only ever done in a restaurant, which is why a ermidor always feels a little special. is is a cheesy, creamy, very HK-feeling take on the dish: spoon it out over the lightly dressed angel hair pasta and dig in. Cubes of pepper and courgette provide a welcome crunch.

Paired with: Mirabeau Classic Rosé, Provence: fruity, bright and rich with the idea of summer days.

5. Baba au rhum – Chef Andrew Lau

A good rum baba is a very good thing indeed: a boozy, syrup-soaked cake, cut with Chantilly cream. It’s a signature of multi-Michelin-boy Alain Ducasse, and, to shamelessly name-drop, he once served me one himself.

is one is just about as good, with beautifully spiced syrup and a raisin-heavy cake. e cream lifts the whole a air, cutting through the sweetness with soft, rich dairy.

Paired with: Chateau La Rouquette AOP Monbazillac: complex, fruity and honeyed, and a lovely accompaniment to the baba.

It is a meal that says France and Hong Kong at the same time: in many ways the perfect menu to be served at the FCC for Le French May. We give thanks to Esco er, and also to the chefs who are a little closer to home.

Michael appears from the wings, o ering up another glass of wine – and doubtless another beyond that, too. I say “yes” to the rst, but that’s it. Unlike Le French May, or Napoleon at Borodino, I hope I’m getting better at knowing when to say “enough”. n

Hong Kong born and raised, Adam White is Associate Content Director at Cedar Communications, where he is in charge of content for Cathay. He is a former FCC board member of slightly too many years’ standing and previously worked at the SCMP’s Inkstone and ran city-living bible HK Magazine.

PHOTOS: MIKE PICKLES Bouillabaisse: a superb fusion of salmon, sea bass, shrimp, mussel and squid.A very Gallic dish: herb butter chicken. Baba au Rhum: beautifully spiced syrup and a raisin-heavy cake.

Circling Back To My Roots

Sean Hung has been patronising the FCC, and knocking balls around the golf course, since he was a wee lad. He tells Hayley Wong how two very important strands in his life came together.

A fter trying his hand at a variety of jobs, Sean Hung – whose British, Chinese, Maori and Parsee bloodlines make him one of the FCC’s more multicultural members –returned to his true metier. Today, he is School Golf Partnerships Manager at the PGA Development Center –Waterfall in Kowloon.

You’re a golf pro, so how did you learn about the FCC?

I started coming here when I was around 10 years old. My dad, who has been a member since the 1980s, brought me for lunches and dinners with my mum. So I was always in and out of the club.

I feel attached to the FCC because this club represents old Hong Kong and my dad came from that era. I feel proud to belong to at least one of his favourite clubs.

One year we celebrated my dad’s birthday here. I was amazed to see how a whole bunch of people who weren’t even invited to the party came up and wished him happy birthday.

After I reached my 30s, I thought this would be a great place to meet people and decided to join last November.

When did you get into golf?

Even earlier! I started playing when I was about ve. My dad used to take me out for lessons every Sunday, as I attended a junior clinic out in Fanling.

What attracted me to golf as a kid was getting outdoors. I loved how we drove to the golf course, the smell of the grass there, and just touching it. I also really enjoyed hitting bunker shots and seeing my friends out there, having something in common with them.

After practice, I loved going on the course with my dad to show him what I’d learned and trying to beat him. As I grew older, I became addicted to the process of just getting better and better.

When I went to the UK to attend public school, I tried out for the golf team. I was very surprised that I was one of the best, even though I was a bit nervous. at’s when I started feeling a golf professional’s life might be interesting.

As I got older, my priorities changed. ere were other things I wanted to pursue. ere was a stage when I wanted to get into highlevel basketball, but then I tore the meniscus in my knee at 21 and that was the end of that.

I went back to golf and dreamt of playing golf on the tour, but

thought if I could not, at least I could teach golf and become a coaching professional, which is essentially what I do now.

How did you eventually combine passion and work?

After my bachelor degree in New Zealand, I went to China to learn Mandarin and did a stint in hospitality with Marco Polo Hotels. Later, I was able to get a business development job at an interior design company in Hong Kong, which meant my language ability was an asset. But two years into that, I just

Sean un with future olfin stars at the dri in ran e where he wor s in owloon.

settled on my interest in sports and golf. So I decided to take a risk and I applied to as many companies as I could. I was fortunate to get a hit with one of them, even though the job involved all types of sports and not just golf.

At least it was a start and I got one foot in the door. ings evolved quickly then, and the trajectory went upwards.

After organising international golf tournaments in China for two years with the same company, I got more into the teaching side of golf, delivering and managing programmes for international schools.

What do you love about your job?

I think when I teach kids and see them improve, it makes me feel like I’m doing something important to help them pursue something in the future. And as you become invested in the kids’ development, you see their character build, their con dence increase and they start hitting better shots.

I think golf is about repetition –you have to keep repeating in order to get the moves right and it’s quite humbling.

A golf swing is not that straightforward. You have to worry about your hands, think about your shoulders, your hips, your knees. You’ve got to separate what you’re doing with your torso from what you’re doing with your hands and your arms; it’s more complicated than just hitting.

It’s really satisfying to be able to see rst-hand that a very green kid comes in at the start and then after 10

lessons, he or she shows visible and tangible improvement.

Do you see golf growing in Hong Kong?

I think it’s been getting bigger, especially during the pandemic, as golf can still be played under a socialdistancing environment.

In Hong Kong, the main issue is scarcity of land, which makes most of the golf courses private. So the majority of people don’t have access to a golf course. Unless you’re a member of a private club or you are really talented and get into the Hong Kong Golf Association squad as a junior, it’s quite di cult to gain access to a golf course.

To play on most courses, you need a handicap, which is a kind of socioeconomic problem. A handicap is like a grade you’re given, which tells you how good you are – the lower your handicap, the better you are. But in order to get a handicap, you rst need to play on a golf course. So unless your parents belong to a golf club, or you’re accompanied by someone who is a member, it’s di cult to start playing on a golf course.

Places like the public golf course on Kau Sai Chau allow people who are not members of private clubs to enjoy the game. Hong Kong needs more of these. We are also trying to nd ways for these kids to be able to compete or get access to a golf course.

How are you trying to help?

Last December, I set up a virtual golf tournament with the International School Sports Federation in Hong Kong so people who are not able to get a handicap but are pretty good at golf could have an opportunity to compete. I think it was pretty successful, so we are now looking at local schools, trying to also give them an opportunity to come in and use our facility.

I teach a lot of kids who live around our driving range in Olympic. ey are amazed how much progress they can make and realise that there are plenty of opportunities out there if they are seriously dedicated.

So, giving beginners a chance and creating more virtual tournaments is something which I’m trying to help with here in Hong Kong.

My other vision is to assist schools in Hong Kong establish more solid golf teams with selection and training, as happens in the US and the UK, so they don’t have to scramble for players every year.

Having grown up around the world, where do you see yourself in the future?

When the pandemic hit us, everything became a little bit uncertain. But now that everything is opening up again, I don’t see myself going anywhere else as Hong Kong is my home and I feel very comfortable here. My dad is here. My sister is here. My friends are here. My work is here. I don’t see any reason to go anywhere else.

My aim now is to nish my certi cation with the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, and as the trajectory has been going up and I love what I am doing, I would want to stay in this industry.

I feel pretty lucky that I don’t have to sit in an o ce all the time, but can teach golf in the open air for a few hours a day. It’s really satisfying. n

Golf is about repetition – you have to keep repeating in order to get the moves right and it’s quite humbling.
PHOTOS: SUUPLIED t s more complicated than ust hittin . olf ro Sean un .


Dateline – Hong Kong, November 1992: e Sky assignment editor called from London but this time he asked for me rather than my business partner, Adrian Brown. is was strange because as the Brit in APV, our edgling video and creative agency, Adrian typically dealt with our UK and Australian clients and I handled the Americans and “others”.

“Mark, this is an unusual situation but, on this job, we will be retaining copyright on all the footage you shoot.”

Understanding his rationale and appreciating that he’d been steady and straight with us for the previous nine months, I really didn’t want to argue with

such a dependable client.

So, as with many of our other deals – especially the handshake agreements made in the car park of Channel Nine, Australia with Peter Meakin, Head of News and Current A airs – we had a verbal understanding.

So it was that Sky sent APV to South Korea to cover what was expected to be the last royal tour by the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, whose marriage had long foundered on the rocks. We gave up rights to resell any footage shot.

One of my shots, taken as they sat side by side in the back of a limousine but obviously miles apart mentally, illustrated

Clockwise from top: Mark Erder; Adrian Brown; interviewing a British cavalry colonel in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War; Brown’s leaving bash in 2004; New Delhi, 1991: following the death of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Erder and Brown dodge irate protestors who had supposed (incorrectly) that they were CIA spies. Three decades after setting up video and creative agency APV in Hong Kong, Mark Erder has sold up and is moving on. As he relates in some detail, it’s been one helluva ride.

just how much distance there was between the royal couple. It has been used over and over in almost every documentary made about Diana ever since. We were never going to get rich on the back of that scene – but it sure would have been nice to watch the residuals pour in over all these years.

Fast forward to 2006: we had already covered the Hong Kong and Macau Handovers, bird u, SARS and the Gulf Wars. From a motivated two-man band selling packaged news stories to international broadcasters – while retaining copyright to almost all our footage – we had become a news, documentary and corporate- lm dynamo.

And we had branched out into renting equipment to visiting crews.

is latter revenue stream was almost our undoing that summer when we were scammed out of US$250,000 worth of gear by a team of Brazilian fraudsters. But having been in business for 14 years, we had the money available to pay o the theft and keep the company a oat.

Clearly, we didn’t have the business protocols in place to avoid this potential disaster but as with most things related to APV, I made the gut decision to pay o that debt immediately rather than take the tempered advice of Chris Slaughter, our managing director, and our in-house accountant.

From day one, everything about APV was based on a combination of my gut business instincts, Adrian’s nose for a good news story and knowing what our clients wanted.

Early on, when I tried to develop the documentary side of our business through Nine, Meakin’s blunt response to my pitch was: “No sharks, no monkeys, not interested!”

While I had to wait a few years to get our documentary division going, our news business ourished.

It had all started when our Asia Bureau for Britain’s TV-am breakfast television show was shuttered in 1991. Having been in Hong Kong since 1982, I knew just how di cult the freelance market could be. Adrian had only been in town since 1988 but he and his Kiwi wife, Julia, were well settled and had no interest in returning to the UK.

In fact, our wives worked together for a graphic design shop and many years later would set up their own company, Orijen, which specialised in branding and marketing.

Our two families were linked in ways we

never could have imagined when we rst decided Hong Kong would be home.

As Adrian reminds me, “ e role of our wives was crucial to APV. We, as you recall, did not bank a salary for six months, because, thankfully, they were both working.”

To continue doing what we did best, we struck upon a unique idea. Instead of working as lone guns for hire, we decided to join forces and, as a team, sell Asia packaged stories to broadcasters who didn’t have crews in the region… and retain copyright to that footage.

With a little more than ve years till the Hong Kong Handover, it was the ultimate case of being in the right place at the right time, combined with a large dose of ballsy con dence and a small injection of cash to take ownership of TV-am’s gear.

e Hong Kong story was exploding on the international stage and we were right in the middle of it.

After months of admin and selfpromotion to foreign channels and agencies, we kickstarted APV with stories about the Hong Kong lm industry, Japanese businesses investing in Hong Kong and a British army team lost in the jungles of Malaysia (quaintly referred to as e Bungle in the Jungle, with the newbie Rob McBride reporting for Sky News).

We helped launch ABN, the precursor to CNBC, fed packages to the young and needy CNN, gave e Asian Wall Street Journal Report a kickstart and later, displaying considerable lack of judgement, helped Fox News get o the ground in Asia.

But there was more than luck. We had a key connection in the person of Bruce Gyngell, Adrian’s former boss at TV-am.

Adrian recalls: “Gyngell was a close colleague and friend of the late Kerry Packer, owner of Australia’s highly pro table Nine Network, and he arranged for me to meet the tycoon in Sydney a few weeks after we set up.” (In 1984 Packer had taken a substantial stake in TV-am and sent Gyngell to London to turn the company around).

“At the meeting, I pitched the idea of APV becoming Nine’s de facto Asia Bureau. I pointed out that this was, after all, a time when the then Labor government was seeking a closer engagement with Asia.

“Packer had a well-deserved reputation for bluntness, viz:

‘Anything else you’d like to tell me about my own fucking country?’ and:

‘Listen, son, we don’t use fucking freelancers because fuckers like you always

The Hong Kong story was exploding on the international stage and we were right in the middle of it.


Mark Erder’s pick of three favourite projects:

1 | Of All the Gin Joints

The stories of the FCC’s glory days, as related to me over many years by Marvin Farkas (#004), inspired me to make this film for the FCC s th Anniversary in 1999. The structure was inspired by Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose.

Thanks to the support of Fergal Keane, the BBC pic ed up the financin . n many ways, this film is the true re ection of what I wanted to accomplish in Hong Kong. And it was s first foray into documentaries and out of news.

2 | HSBC – Red

Chris Slaughter created HSBC Red, a bi-monthly in-house TV news magazine delivered on the bank’s regional intranet.

We used the bank’s staff to deliver messages not just from top down, but also to celebrate their own stories from the bottom up. Presenters were all HSBC employees, and stories covered everything from netball matches and karaoke competitions to beach clean-ups and charity walks. It was such a success, corporate HQ in London turned into a company-wide project.

3 | National Geographic

We got on a roll with their Inside series in 2009, thanks to our Singapore office producin Silk Air Flight 185 – Pilot Suicide? We later did films on Nissan’s relaunch of the GTR muscle car; the Hong Kong Sevens; and The National Palace Museum, Taipei.

end up working for some other fucker.’”

Less than three months later, however, APV was ling its rst report for Nine – a fatal re in a Vietnamese refugee camp in Hong Kong.

Adrian continues: “Not long afterwards, there was another important turning point. In May 1992, sensing that political unrest in Bangkok was set to worsen, we ew to the ai capital un-commissioned. Within hours of arriving, soldiers opened re on unarmed protestors, many of them students.

“We captured the shocking scenes lming from the rooftop of the Royal Hotel. Physically defying censors at the local TV station, we were able to transmit the pictures to Nine Australia and Sky News UK before authorities managed to pull the signal.”

Having been one of only two Western cameramen in the square that night and following up with other successes, we proved our worth to Nine and secured our retainer – with that car park handshake –which we held for over 10 years.

We were on a roll for a solid decade. e more stories we covered, the more equipment we purchased and the more sta we hired.

But, being ignorant of the basics of business, all our successes needed help. We were aided by our wives, who understood both business and brand positioning better than we did. My wife, Bella, taught me how to read a pro t and loss report and a balance sheet, and how to assign job numbers to the hundreds of jobs per year that we were selling. Julia came up with the company name and designed our earliest brochures and website.

Just as Adrian and I knew we would be better o as a team than as independent freelancers, we leveraged the advantage of having wives who had more business nous than we did.

For today’s young broadcast journalists, our operation delivers an important lesson: it is one thing to know a good story. It is something else to know how to issue an invoice, negotiate a deal and retain clients over a period of years.

We did everything we did so that we could sustain a way of life. In fact, we didn’t really understand this until a consultant delivered a sharp piece of criticism: “You haven’t created a ‘business-business’, you’ve created a ‘lifestyle-business’ without a plan.” I was devastated.

But then, I thought about what he meant and realised that he was absolutely correct.

It was only then that I rst became proud of what we had accomplished.

We were doing what we loved and we were managing to also employ, sustain and train others. Our plan was to cover stories and grow, not to grow and ip.

At our high point we had 27 sta and 30 freelancers working with us on a regular basis throughout the region.

Plus, we initiated an internship programme, so university students could spend the summer learning about the video industry and the basics of small-business life.

is was sparked by the success of bringing on Justine Fung to help us prepare for the Handover. After nishing school, she came back to work for us on our production desk and eventually became the GM of the company. We’re proud to say that she was later poached by Bloomberg to become their Asia production manager. e internship programme continued right up until this past year, with an ongoing relationship with the Media Studies Department of HKU.

But stories were always our key to success, and we pulled o some major exclusives. In June 2000, Adrian became the rst foreign television correspondent to y around the world with an Indonesian president, Gus Dur.

A year later, he gained rare access to another powerful Asian leader, Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen.

We were also commissioned to run the press and broadcast centre for the Hong Kong Handover, as well as a ve-year assignment shooting and helping produce Jonathan Dimbleby’s BBC series, e Last Governor

With the former, we serviced between 20 and 30 broadcasters and had upwards of 160 freelancers on the payroll.

With the latter, we secured our biggest exclusive of all, behind-the-scenes access to Hong Kong’s last British governor.

And we proved to our clients that there was a rewall between our documentary side and our news side: I gained ve years of exclusive access to Chris Patten, his family and administration, which ran from the day Dimbleby and I came o the Singapore Airlines ight with the Pattens in 1992 till the night in 1997 we sailed with them on the Royal Yacht Britannia for Manila.

Not once during that time did Adrian get any advance word from me on political decisions, upcoming statements or policy matters.


We both understood a leak would help our news work, but destroy our integrity; our rewall held and our news clients knew it.

at said, numbers, nurturing young talent and exclusives have their limits. And you don’t recognise those limits until you get a major kick in the stomach. at kick came in 2004.

I was in a nondescript hotel room in a nondescript Asian city on a nondescript assignment. Adrian called to tell me that he was leaving APV to move to Sydney. I spent the rest of the night dry heaving and between heaves seeking consolation from Bella.

Finally, I gured it out.

We needed to take our unique sales point and promote our storytelling abilities to our corporate and documentary clients. Many of them already loved the re ected glory of dealing with crews who had covered Tiananmen Square, both Gulf Wars and lots of bang-bang. But now we had to prove that we could tell their stories with vision and passion.

And we succeeded.

With Adrian having moved and now focused on news for Channel 7 in Australia, I was left to make fast decisions on my own: buy a group in Singapore and take advantage of their video news release skills; hire a creative director from a 4A Agency and focus on slick corporate work; convince the likes of NatGeo and Discovery that we could do their docs in time and under budget.

e next 16 years came and went in a ash. Before I knew it, APV had become one of the leading corporate lm agencies in Hong Kong. As TV news dried up, paid corporate work expanded and we took advantage at every turn.

We cross-promoted our skillsets of news knowledge with high-end corporate production values and made in-house TV for HSBC, AIA and many others.

We transitioned from 90-second news features to the ve-part, one-hour BBC series that was e Last Governor and veyear projects with KCRC to document the construction of the East Rail Line.

Finally, after a few bumpy years of umbrella protests and COVID-19 lockdowns, we had a major turnaround with Prudential and AIA. ey both wanted investor relations lms when person-toperson meetings weren’t happening. For Prudential, that meant getting 13 lms shot in 13 countries and ready for delivery in just six weeks.

So, again, thanks to being in the right place at the right time, we got a couple of our largest ever commissions, which led to a hugely pro table year.

And by coincidence, after years of trying, we found a company that wanted a foothold in Asia just as I was ageing out of the business.

e new partnership was with Casual Films, London. eir youth, ambition and sense of place were the perfect match for my desire to move away from the stress and madness of daily operations.

In May of 2022 they purchased APV. By 31 December I was out of a job.

I am now o on new ventures and Adrian has relocated to New Zealand. A new generation of lmmakers has taken the helm and is driving APV in new and more commercial directions.

I couldn’t be happier.


None of this would have been possible without Alistair Angus, Angela Cheung, Maggie Choy, Daniel Clarke, Lee Devine, Thomas Elliott, Justine Fung, Alain Lim, Rob McBride, Chris Slaughter, Tammie Tsang and scores more.

Team APV, December 2021. Left to right: top – Ben Chang, Bella Dobie, Mark Erder, Maggie Choy, Daniel Clarke, Helen Wong, Roxanne Hui; bottom – Mun Yee Shum, Margaret Cheng, YuYu Kitamura, Thomas Elliott. Angela Cheung took the photo. Marital blitz: APV’s much-used shot of the Prince and Princess of Wales, both looking equally glum, in Seoul, November 1992.


For the past eight years and more, Bellingcat, run by a loose-knit group of citizen journalists, has been scooping the world with its investigative reports. Ambrose Li takes a deep dive into its modus operandi.

Some of the most important news stories of recent years were broken not in a con ict zone, nor in a stateof-the-art broadcast studio, but via a single individual’s laptop, miles from the scene of the action.

And these have been major scoops – the details of the downing of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), the identi cation of highranking Russian military intelligence o cers’ involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military. e list goes on.

e people behind these stories are part of Bellingcat, an investigative news collective backed by citizen journalists. Headquartered in the Netherlands, it has grown from a handful of volunteers in 2014 to a 30-strong team, with sta and contributors in more than 20 countries factchecking and verifying sources on issues ranging from war crimes and human rights abuses to the Far Right and corruption.

In the 2018 documentary Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World , Timmi Allen, one of the founder members of the collective, said: “We want to know what

events have taken place, what has happened in crisis areas where reporters can’t go, and we want to make it public.”

Bellingcat’s researchers are some of the leading users of open-source intelligence (OSINT), a term referring to the meticulous analysis and veri cation of publicly available data including social media posts, YouTube videos, satellite images and other online sources. “Di erent sources of information may not mean a lot in isolation, but if you can connect them, maybe you have a story,” explains Dessi LangeDamianova, Bellingcat’s chief operating o cer.

e group’s name derives from the expression “belling the cat”, an idiom describing a group agreeing to perform a fearsomely di cult task. e group’s founder, Briton Eliot Higgins, has frequently averred that its mission is teaching people to “bell the cat”. e adoption of the name in the group’s infancy has perhaps foretold the threats that await its members in ghting disinformation.

Asked whether he has been threatened in the course of his work, Foeke Postma, Bellingcat’s Netherland-based senior researcher and trainer, replied

PHOTO: AFP PHOTO/ BULENT KILIC Ambrose Li is a trilingual writer and documentary producer with a keen interest in social and environmental issues. He is currently a video producer at the SCMP’s Morning Studio. Wrec a e from the downed alaysia irlines i ht lies in a field in eastern raine in uly .
If you don’t trust us, here is the evidence, you can check for yourself.
- Dessi LangeDamianova

non-committally: “ ey’re de nitely looking to intimidate: people – certain gures – are very aware of what Bellingcat is. So I’ll leave it at that, if you don’t mind.”

Higgins has also been tracked down by state media Russia Today to Leicester, in central England, where he lives with his family.

However, Lange-Damianova quickly dispels the impression that members of Bellingcat are under constant threat. While risks of attack exist for the few researchers who do very sensitive work, she says the biggest risk the organisation faces is reputational damage. “ ere’s a bigger chance of … [us] publishing information … without having veri ed open sources completely than one of us being attacked on the street.”

is independent and often contentious work continues thanks to Bellingcat’s multiple streams of income (see box below). Unlike traditional news outlets, there are no regular editorial meetings that dictate the daily or weekly news agenda.

“We have a lot of liberty to choose our own subjects to work on,” Postma says. “Sometimes you read a story and think, ‘Hey, something’s missing here. Can I ll in this gap?’”

Lange-Damianova elaborates: “We never know what we will discover. Our discoveries are based on a combination of the interests and the expertise of the researcher, and what can be found in open source. Sometimes it’s pure luck.”

Journalism’s changing face

OSINT investigations are not unique to Bellingcat. e recent wave of interest in fact-checking and veri cation work started in the early 2000s with other

initiatives including and Storyful. Professor Masato Kajimoto of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre, whose research focuses on fact-checking, says that the concept of journalism is changing, and Bellingcat exempli es the transition that the industry has undergone in the past decade.

He explains that in traditional journalism, reporters make public previously unknown information, whereas in fact-checking, researchers go after the stories which are already in the public domain. A good example is the downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014; while traditional news outlets might publish a story on the incident with a government statement, the work of factchecking researchers, with the help of OSINT sources, starts after that to uncover details of the incident and to hunt down the missing puzzle pieces.

Masato says that now more than ever journalistic work should focus on veri cation. “ e media’s role of gatekeeping information is completely gone,” he says. “A lack of information was what journalism tried to address. You want to have informed citizens to make better judgments, in a democratic system at least.” With the rise of social media, newsmakers no longer need traditional news outlets to disseminate and verify information. He adds that the result is that people are overwhelmed with vast amounts of new information – true or otherwise – that is cognitively impossible to digest.

Masato says when lies by politicians are reported, they should be called out as well; but he indicates that this presents a whole new challenge to journalism. “How do you


1. The Downing of MH17: By far the group’s longest-running and most-covered story, with Bellingcat’s researchers looking into every aspect of the downin of since . heir findin s have been repeatedly cited by the official Dutch-led criminal investigation.

2. Skripal Poisoning: ellin cat s first ma or investigation into Russian poisoning operations led the group to identify the two poisoners (and an additional support officer of double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, in .

3. Navalny Poisoning: Using techniques from the Skripal investigation, Bellingcat identified the ussian Federal Security Ser ice officers who poisoned Alexei Navalny in Tomsk in August 2020. This investigation was the centrepiece of the Oscar-winning documentary Navalny

4. Frontex Pushbacks: One of Bellingcat’s most impactful investigations is a series of pieces on Frontex, which handles EU border management, and its illegal pushbacks in Greece. This has led to official reprimands of the organisation.

5. Syrian Chemical Attacks: Like the downin of , one of Bellingcat’s longestrunning investigations is into the numerous devastating chemical attacks in Syria.

n in esti ator e amines the bench in Salisbury, En land, where Ser ei S ripal was found poisoned in arch . PHOTO:BEN STANSALL / AFP


33%: Training on the methodology using OSINT

•Trained 6,000+ people in 200+ workshops between and

• Participants: anyone from the general public such as students, academics, lawyers, NGOs, media organisations, government agencies, universities etc

33%: Institutional donations

•Foundations: eg Open Society Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy

• Intergovernmental organisations: eg the United Nations, the European Union (Bellingcat does not accept donations from individual o ernments

33%: Private individual donations

*Bellingcat’s operational budget was 2.8 million euros in 2022.

stay politically neutral? In many countries, it’s often one side of the political spectrum that lies far more often than the other side.”

Masato, who is also the lead researcher and co-editor of the academic paper Information Disorder in Asia and the Paci c, concludes: “In Asia, this one side who tries to mislead the public is often the government. It’s really di cult and challenging for news organisations.”

OSINT versus censorship

In places with lower press freedom, Bellingcat’s methodology is “helpful” due to the lack of other avenues for gathering data, according to Aric Toler, the group’s US-based director of training and research. “In many countries, you can’t exactly send a Freedom of Information Act request, or get useful information on or o the record from government o cials,” he says, citing Bellingcat’s exposure of corruption and electoral fraud in Kyrgyzstan using OSINT and deep-data approaches.

“ ere is typically more information out there than people know,” says Postma, who has a background in con ict analysis, adding that satellite imagery is almost a superpower as it can now be captured more frequently, in higher resolution and at lower costs as the technology develops. “You can’t hide from satellites – satellites map everything on Earth.”

He raises the example that satellite imagery was able to show corpse-lined pavements in Bucha, Ukraine during a massacre when Russian forces were still in the town in March 2022, making it all the more remarkable because one could almost observe the frontline as the situation developed. “So even in a place where you have the littlest of freedoms, now you can visit via satellite and see what’s going on. It’s a major boon for the ability to do research and tell stories from outside of a country,” Postma says.

However, the availability of information

alone is not enough: awareness and interest also come into play. Lange-Damianova points out: “ e possibility of information is global, but the attention is hyper-local because people care more about things in their immediate vicinity.” Not all events can garner international attention like wars or global disasters. “For example, it’s very di cult to explain to somebody in e Netherlands why they should read something about what’s happening in a Mongolian village.” People with local knowledge and awareness are needed, who might be risking their safety to draw attention to certain events.

Shedding light on OSINT’s limitations, Toler adds: “[In] stories where you get a ‘dead end’ on digital footprints, this is where the work of more traditional journalism really helps.” He says that Bellingcat partners with outlets such as Insider and Der Spiegel to continue with investigations that are not making progress with just online sleuthing. “You can’t create something out of nothing, and even if you extract every bit of data you can on a subject online, it’s nite.”

Beyond journalism

In August 2017, for the rst time ever, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant based largely on social media posts, accusing Libyan citizen Mahmoud al-Werfalli of 33 murders. It was at this point that Bellingcat realised its work could play a part in justice and accountability. Higgins wrote in his book We Are Bellingcat : “Whether we considered it or not, we dealt in legal evidence now, often the rst in the world to discover it, and the only ones archiving it. Our responsibilities had grown.”

According to Toler, a recent case of people in power coming under scrutiny following Bellingcat’s investigative work is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). An explosive report by Bellingcat in October 2020 exposed the assistance provided to the Greek authorities

PHOTOS: SUPPLIED eft to ri ht: ellin cat s Foe e ostma, Dessi an e Damiano a and ric oler and rofessor asato a imoto of .

by the agency in illicitly pushing back EUbound migrants from Turkey. A lawsuit has now been led to the EU Court of Justice against the agency, accusing it of complicity in infringing on international protection commitments and fundamental rights in the Aegean Sea.

In pinpointing the di erence between gathering evidence for journalistic work, and that which is admissible in court, Lange-Damianova, who has worked for both the BBC and Al Jazeera, says: “What we try to do is to make a process of methodology that is accepted by accountability mechanisms for ensuring the evidence is accepted in legal proceedings.”

Postma adds: “In both cases, you’re trying to do the same, [to] establish the truth. e thing is that the threshold for upholding something in court is much higher, so it requires a lot more work to verify, to make sure that you’ve explored any outlet that could disprove the case you’re trying to make.”

Bellingcat has also worked hard to make its techniques transparent by organising training around the world, teaching geolocation, social media analysis, transportation tracking and Far Right investigations, among others. LangeDamianova says that it does so because it believes the trust in its work is built not upon the brand name or the glory of the institution, but upon transparency. “If you don’t trust us, here is the evidence, you can check for yourself. We have to show, in a simple way, where we found the evidence

and why the evidence is correct.”

In an unpublished story, Bellingcat’s researchers used the same set of tools to track down a vehicle that stole a dog in a village in Britain. “ is is what we aim to achieve. e idea is to learn our methods and apply them in your local situation to solve your problem. It doesn’t always have to be a big political or international humanitarian problem,” Lange-Damianova says, pointing out that rumours at the workplace or at school are also misinformation.

“Misinformation is very dangerous. Wars start based on misinformation. People lose their jobs or even lives over misinformation. Instead of tackling the destructive e ects of misinformation, maybe we can prevent it: maybe we can help show people how to discover misinformation at an earlier stage, not when it’s too late.” n

Trend analysis

TikTok hashtag analysis tool (

Developed by Bellingcat, this tool gathers videos with specific hashtags on the popular social media platform which could point to coordinated disinformation or influence campaigns. It has been used to identify the antivaccine movements in Germany.

Location and time verification of photographs

Google Earth (

One of Bellingcat’s most frequently used tools; not only can researchers verify where images and videos were taken, its timelapse function can also show how a place has changed over time. This can be used to establish the timeline of how certain events unfolded.

Monitor unfolding situations

Sentinel Hub satellite images (

Updated twice a week, this site provides the latest satellite images of most places worldwide, giving researchers an extra perspective on a developing situation. For example, it helped understand how the Ever Given container ship became stuck in the Suez Canal in March 2021.

Try out some of the free OSINT tools that Bellingcat uses: A Syrian boy holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack on the outskirts of the capital Damascus. Bellingcat has diligently investigated such human rights abuses.


China-watchers used to have to read between the lines of party newspapers and quiz refugees for information. Ground-breaking sites like The Wire China have put paid to all that, writes Mathew Scott

The mission statement for e Wire China at its launch in early 2020 was to “provide accurate, balanced and thoughtful reporting, in the pursuit of truth, without fear or favour”.

Since the platform went live, its output has re ected the way news gathering, when it concerns China, has evolved due to circumstance, and how platforms have adapted – or been required to adapt – to feed an unprecedented need for information about the superpower and its international business dealings.

e Wire China has been built on original reporting with the onus on delving into the history and context of its topics, rather than following clicks or picking up wire stories and calling one person before ling.

An example of this was reporter Katrina Northrop’s two-parter e US$50 Million Question which was posted last December, and which took on an issue that rst

came to light as Macau was loosening up its gaming licences to allow access to international players in 2002 – but has been on slow burn ever since. In short summary, Northrop was able to deep-dive into the often opaque business dealings of Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn in an e ort to uncover the identities of the American’s local partners, and in doing so the reporter stuck to the platform’s guidelines, which include a 20-interview minimum per story and months of work. In the end, Northrop spent about six months on the piece. As a piece of journalism by just one person, it made for a stunning exposé.

In the almost three years since e Wire China rst began posting, the platform has established a solid reputation with a full-time team, and it has tapped into the experience of the likes of veteran China watchers John Pomfret, Bob Davis and Alex Palmer. It now produces ve or six articles a week, including an expansive 3,000-word

Mathew Scott has been based in Hong Kong since 1994 and, after a 12-year stint at the South China Morning Post, he continues to file for leadin publications and platforms both in on on and around the world. ostly athew co ers film, sport and culture but he remains open to other offers.
S ir Force pilot loo s down at a suspected Chinese sur eillance balloon as it oats o er the nited States last February.

cover story, and it comes out every Sunday night at 7pm from behind a paywall.

In recent weeks there has been such diverse coverage as a dive into the complex and ultra-competitive rivalry between Singapore and Hong Kong as the cities pitch themselves to China’s ultra-wealthy, and a lengthy Q&A – one of the site’s feature attractions – with Christopher Marquis, which sees the Sinyi Professor of Chinese Management at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge discuss Mao Zedong’s continuing in uence over China’s economy.

Outside looking in

e platform’s practice of covering China, and China’s international business connections, from outside the actual country re ects the reality that under the increasingly authoritarian control of Chinese President Xi Jinping it has become nigh impossible for international media to work in the country unimpeded.

But that hasn’t stopped the stories, particularly as Chinese wealth continues to spread across the globe, as e Wire China’s co-founder David Barboza wrote in a 2014 essay for

“ ere’s no easy way to turn back the clock on investigative reporting involving Chinese businesses,” he explained. ese were issues addressed when Barboza and co-founder Lynn Zhang (a former nancier who worked in private equity, and a highly skilled corporate data analyst) rst started discussing the platform, with the template being to “cover China across borders”.

Barboza led for e New York Times from Shanghai from 2004 to 2015, which included seven years (2008-15) as bureau chief. e focus now – through e Wire China – involves covering China from outside the country and looking at global or multinational companies. e platform doesn’t have reporters on the ground in the country, so it concerns itself with the competition for the “global story”, or what stories involving China can be found outside its borders.

It also includes nding diverse voices for each article and encouraging writers to explore historical pieces and long Q&As – formats traditional media outlets such as e New York Times and e Wall Street Journal don’t usually publish. ey are also encouraged to write about companies or people that the traditional platforms might

not touch.

Barboza’s interest in China – and the possibilities of reporting on it –predates his employment at the Times, with undergraduate courses at Boston University fuelling an interest in how the country had been reported on throughout history. He joined the Times in 1997 and when an opening for a business reporting based out of Shanghai came up in 2003, up went his hand. By the time he’d left, Barboza had won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for international reporting following his investigations into corruption among Chinese o cials and the o shore concealment of wealth. He was also part of a Pulitzer Prize that TIME won for explanatory reporting, which looked into Apple’s labour practices in the country. Barboza’s work – particularly when it came to investigating the wealth of former Premier Wen Jiabao and that of his extended family – relied heavily on sifting through often byzantine layers of Chinese corporate and public documents, a practice that had long been common elsewhere but had then only relatively recently been


s he Wire China continues to focus on China s economic rise, and its in uence on lobal business, finance, trade, labour and the en ironment , here are four e amples of the stories it has tac led head on so far:

1. A Tale of Two Financial Hubs rent Crane loo s into the tu of war oin on between Sin apore and on on as both cities loo to lure China s super wealthy. a ta e of two financia hu s singapore hong-kong/

2. Disengaged he recent spy balloon sa a is used by ob Da is as a way of e aminin the future of, and the hopes for, S China relations. disengaged chinese sp a oon

3. The Fear Factor sabella orshoff e plores the ups and downs of the Chinese Communist arty s relationship with China s pri ate sector and the impact that this has and continues to ha e on the country s entrepreneurial class.

chinese entrepreneurs

4. The 50 Million Question and The Brothers He two parter from atrina orthrop that puts a spotli ht on the property deals that led merican casino ma nate Ste e Wynn into the amblin encla e of acau and the mysterious partners he connected with to acquire the required land. steve w nn and the mi ion uestion the rothers he

There’s no easy way to turn back the clock on investigative reporting involving Chinese businesses.
– David Barboza
Da id arbo a, co founder of he Wire China.

explored in China by media such as e New York Times and Bloomberg.

Blocked in China

e publication of such stories led to both those platforms being blocked in China but such information remains accessible to reporters – and data banks – outside the country due to the international nature of contemporary Chinese public and private businesses, and their need to follow international business practices.

e Wire China was established in partnership with the WireScreen data platform – which is largely driven by Zhang. It’s marketed as a platform that “analyses complex data to help companies vet deals and business partners, screen investments and better comply with government regulations and economic sanctions” and has quickly established itself as the “core of the company”. It also feeds

e Wire China’s writers – and helps pay the bills, attracting investment from the US arm of the venture capital rm Sequoia Capital in 2020, as well as a more recent round of funding.

In terms of subscribers to e Wire China, the news site, Barboza estimates a 60 percent share is held by the general American market, while there has been traction from major universities including Oxford and Harvard, as well as law rms and multinationals. He also sees some readership landing from mainland China, despite the rewall that blocks the site.

ere’s also been a positive reaction


While reportin from China has become harder, reportin on China has e panded in its ran e and depth than s to an e er rowin media landscape that allows ournalists to build their own presence on platforms such as Substac . ere are three to consider:

The Sinocism China

eteran China watcher ill ishop posts newsletters four times a wee , pro idin analysis, commentary and curated lin s to the important En lish and Chinese news of the day and drawin on his e perience both li in in the country for a decade and being the brains behind the China Insider column for The New York Times DealBook a out

Streamlined by Liz Shackleton

he rise of the Chinese film industry o er the past years has captured the eyes and the wallets of the world. Former sia Editor of Screen International i Shac leton includes re ular in depth loo s into the country and its filmma ers in a wee ly newsletter that also taps into the wider issues facin the lobal film and streamin content industries. stream a out

China Talk

he focus for China tech analyst ordan Schneider is co era e of China, technolo y and S China tech relations featurin ori inal analysis and annotated translations . e also podcasts, discussin China in eneral, tech policy and international relations.

chinata .media a out

to the platform since its launch from other China watchers. Wang Xiangwei –currently an associate professor of practice at the Hong Kong Baptist University’s Department of Journalism and a former editor of the South China Morning Post –said it was a “rare gem” in terms of both its coverage and its practices.

“I think e Wire China’s coverage o ers insights and commentaries that few other China-centric platforms can match. eir reports are calm, in-depth and insightful – a rare gem in this age of China reporting,” said Wang. n

atrina orthrop spent si months di in into acau s casino industry. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
O O: F O O E C E
Ste e Wynn, who a e his name to Wynn acau.

And now it would all be is all different

In a brand-new column, Danai Howard pops up from the rabbit hole of the World Wide Web to calm the fevered brow of anyone wrestling to keep up with some of the all-too-rapid advances in tech.

If that great Victorian coiner of aphorisms, the aristocratic polymath Edward Bulwer-Lytton, had had a crystal ball, he might have written “the app is mightier than the sword”.

But wait: two centuries on, despite the multifarious bene ts of the Internet, casual users – whether they be journalists or other sorts of animal – often nd themselves oundering. How to slash through the online maze? ere’s no universal panacea, but here are nine possible remedies.


When a website provides a personalised video call to talk you through its uses after you sign up, you know that it’s serious software. Dataminr is essentially a monitoring service for events, images, mentions or people. It allows you to search for tweets through geolocation, or tracks any mention of keywords appearing across Twitter.


e importance of sourcing and verifying online images is paramount. Unfortunately, that task is made much harder by the amount of sharing and reposting of other people’s photos online. TinEye, with an index of 58.3 billion images, helps. e reverse image search nds a photo’s original post, whether using an image or just a URL.

3. Nü

NüVoices is an immense resource for anyone interested in China. It has built up a substantial online directory of nearly 700 international female experts on China, covering all elds from human rights to Africa relations. As the political commentary eld is often dominated by men, NüVoices boosts women and other underrepresented voices on China.


It doesn’t matter how tech savvy you are, Canva will make any graphic or video you want look professional. It o ers everything from templates, images, animations, music and more for you to create any form of graphic, whether it’s a simple business card or a data visualisation chart. Ideal for social media and marketing purposes, it’s also got an entire section dedicated to newsrooms.


Essentially a news aggregator, NewsNow helps showcases news from thousands of publishers, helping them reach larger audiences. It monitors and promotes stories from countless websites – as long as they pass its editorial criteria – and the site’s carved out a sterling reputation for itself over the past 25 years.


TweetDeck lets you build a series of customisable columns to display timelines, mentions, direct messages, lists, trends, search results, hashtags… It’s Twitter stalking, taken to a new level. e social media dashboard has been so successful that it was bought by Twitter in 2011 –though some suspect it will soon be placed behind that nice Mr Musk’s Twitter Blue paywall system.


A simple solution to a common problem is a beautiful thing. WeTransfer is a wonderfully straightforward le transfer website that allows you to send and receive up to 2GB for free – a blessing if you’re working with video.

8. Google Trends (

Wondering about Wordle’s popularity? Well, on Google Trends, you can track its slow decline. Searching any keyword will bring up a timeline of Google search numbers and break the results down into regions and languages and compare it to di erent queries over time. While you might not be playing Wordle anymore either, Google Trends is still a very useful tool for gauging audience interest in a topic – and assessing whether your headlines are SEO friendly.


Wrong formatting is both dull and frustrating. For example, working in British radio and having to reformat content so that it could play on American or South African airwaves is a slow process. ankfully, Convertio is one of several websites that has since made this task a lot quicker. Whether it’s audio, video, images or archive, it’s an e cient way to make sure your content reaches everyone. n


Baker’s Dozen

Thirty-four intrepid individuals signed up for the club in recent months; here we meet the boldest 13 who supplied mugshots and a bonsai CV for the delectation of their fellow members.


I have called Hong Kong home for over 13 years. Having lived in Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong, I probably know this part of the world now better than my home country, Germany.

I founded Resonance Asia, which has o ces in Hong Kong and Tokyo; we aspire to open one in Singapore soon. I am a leadership consultant with a strong focus on helping nancial services clients transform and improve their organisations. Some call it headhunting – but that word is too transactional in nature.

My wife Narcisa is a jewellery designer. We have two teenage daughters to help us keep up with what is going on.


I moved to Hong Kong in September 2022 to serve as Chief of the Economic and Political Section of the US Consulate General. I’ve worked as a diplomat in Europe, Africa, Central Asia, Australia and Washington, have visited more than 80 countries and speak six languages, including Cantonese. Because I’m a hiker and a foodie, Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities. Apart from having lunch and attending events at the FCC, I’ve enjoyed going to M+ in West Kowloon, climbing up Tai Mo Shan, sampling restaurants in SoHo, hiking the Dragon’s Back Trail and Cape d’Aguilar and feasting on roasted goose in Sham Tseng.


I am the chairman of a local listed company and the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Senegal in Hong Kong. My greatest interest is spending time with my family and friends, which lls me with positive energy. I nd great satisfaction and delight in being with friends with the same goals – and spirit – in promoting charitable causes and helping those in need. I wish to see more smiling faces and positive vibes.


I arrived in Hong Kong in 1989 for a job with the government. I left the government sector in 2006 and moved into corporate security and resilience in the nancial sector, and am based in Hong Kong and the Philippines. I have been attending FCC events for 30 years with friends who are members, and for many years I have sung in the club at Christmas with the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir. I am delighted to have now been accepted as a member of Hong Kong’s nest club, not least because I can now pick up the tab for my generous – and very patient – member friends.



I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I spent four years in the US studying journalism, which turned out to be some of the best years in my life. I currently work for Now TV and am in charge of the English news team; previously, I spent more than six years at TVB News as an English reporter. I started o as a Chinese reporter, but eventually decided to shift track and focus on English reporting instead. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, as well as watching college sports on TV.



Originally from Bradford, England, I moved to Hong Kong in 2005 and then to Shanghai in 2008 for two years before returning chastened and somewhat wiser about life.

I’m the former chairman of Hong Kong Rugby League and founded HKTag, a mini version of the game. Spreading the gospel of rugby league is an uphill battle in rugby-union-dominated Hong Kong, but we have a loyal following and have hosted some incredible games. I support the once mighty – but now diminished – Bradford Bulls.

My interests include a recent middle-aged malady, Lego-building and the more tried-and-tested pastime of supping ale and wine. My favourite regular reads are Viz , Private Eye and FT Weekend


In 1993, after studying Chinese in college, I went to Taiwan to try to nd my rst “real job”. I came across a help-wanted sign for Community Radio Taipei, an English-language radio station, and began work as a reporter. On the side, I worked as a stringer and xer for Newsweek and CNN, among other outlets. I eventually left journalism in favour of the US Foreign Service. Because of this experience, I have great respect for journalists. I believe a strong press keeps governments accountable and is essential for a healthy democracy. I could not be prouder to be an FCC member. I look forward to supporting the FCC’s mission in Hong Kong, learning from the members and raising a glass with you.

I was raised in Hong Kong and am uent in English, Urdu, Cantonese and Punjabi. I started my career in trading over 40 years ago and am chairman, founder and CEO of the Syed Group of Companies. I currently serve as the Honorary Consul (Investments) of Pakistan in Hong Kong. From 2002 to 2005, I served as Ambassador of Pakistan to the Republic of Korea. I have a passion for thoroughbred racehorses and own a number of horses who compete all over the world. I have a sizeable interest in Black Sheep Restaurants, and also handle La Parrilla Steakhouse in Hong Kong.



I am from a small town outside Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and rst came to Hong Kong in 1997. I studied Chinese at Middlebury College, which led me to the region. I am married with twin boys. I continue to enjoy playing ice hockey and am an avid skier. I head Tanarra Credit Partners, a regional credit fund management business.

I’ve returned to Hong Kong after almost 30 years to join AFP’s Asia Desk as a Senior Editor. I spent most of the intervening period as a reporter and editor around Asia and the Paci c for Reuters. at included covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – I coincided with the US troop “surges” in both places and was bureau chief in Kabul for a time. I still have a couple of suits made by Nice Dresses World Kabul, a worthy rival to Sam’s Tailor in Hong Kong. An extended sabbatical by a beach in Australia led to me producing my rst book, a nonction account of a little-known World War One episode – but the call of the newsroom proved too strong.


I am a very proud Hongkonger. Since I graduated from school, I’ve worked for international and local NGOs, including Greenpeace, HER Fund, Amnesty International and Resolve Foundation, hoping to make Hong Kong a better place for all. I completed an MBA at e University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2020. In June 2022, I joined the Hong Kong Maritime Museum as the Head of Development. My goals in 2023: read more, travel more and exercise more – especially through squash and kickboxing.


Hong Kong has been my home for 12 years. I love travelling both for business and leisure around Asia. I grew up in Switzerland and my mum was from Malta, a small, wonderful island with probably some of the best scuba diving in the Mediterranean – I’m happy to share recommendations. I love outdoor sports –running, skiing or hiking. I am a banker, as was my dad, and markets still fascinate me, even after 30 years in the business. I make sure good books and movies are always within reach. I treasure the FCC as a little oasis of peace and inspiration, where I can have great conversations.



In the summer of 2021, my friend brought me to the FCC. I was awestruck the moment I entered the Main Bar. e decor and vibes reminded of me when I worked at the UN’s Department of Public Information in New York in my early 20s. I still have fond memories of those daily press brie ngs, the mostly intensive interactions with the international press corps and the public – as well as, of course, the UN Delegates Lounge, where many journalists believe that actual diplomacy and negotiations take place, under the radar. I am totally delighted to join the FCC and become part of such a vibrant community.




Photographer. People - Corporate - Stills - FoodArchitecture - Transport. Tel: (852) 9468 1404


JAYNE RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY – EditorialPeople - Food. 18 years Fleet St, London experience. Tel: (852) 9757 8607 Email: Website:



Managing Director, Alternative Investment Management Association

WENWEN CHAI Senior Associate, Karas

HENRY CHAN Honorary Consul of Namibia

PAUL CHRISTOPHER Managing Partner, Mourant Ozannes

COLIN CROSBY Deputy Consul General, US Consulate

CHARLES DONOHOE Director, BlackRock

VICKY FENG Video Producer, Bloomberg

ROBIN HARDING Asia Editor, Financial Times


Wine and Spirits Director, Tasting Kitchen

KLÁRA JURČOVÁ Consul General, Czech Republic

MATTHEW LAM Honorary Consul of Estonia

FRANCIS LAW Executive Director, Toyo Mall


President, South China & Hong Kong, ZIM Integrated Shipping Services

MICHAEL LIN US Patent Attorney, Marks & Clerk

RAJ SITALDAS MOTWANI Honorary Consul of Lithuania


Captain, Jet Aviation

MINNY SIU Partner, King & Wood Mallesons

MARCO WARMELINK Partner, Oliver Wyman


Senior Advisor, BentallGreenOak


GARY YIN Partner, Simmons & Simmons

HOUR OF LOVE - AM 1044 METRO PLUS Prison Visitation on the Air Every Sunday 8:30-11:00 pm Live on Facebook


Paradigm Shifts

Hundreds of thousands of humble workers keep the wheels of Hong Kong turning. They deserve to be acknowledged, writes

Hong Kong Shifts is a social enterprise and storytelling platform that I and Maxime Vanhollebeke – who like myself is a lawyer – launched in July 2019.

e project has taken us to all corners of the city to source stories of more than 100 shift workers – be they street cleaners, security guards, sampan coxswains, shermen, bamboo sca olders, seafarers, taxi drivers or whatever. e three-part bilingual stories and portraits capture individuals in their place of work, and o er an insight into their day-to-day

lives, unique experiences and gems of wisdom.

At the core of the project is our aim to promote kindness, empathy and inclusiveness in our living and working environments through storytelling. e stories spotlight individuals who are working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep our city ticking. rough these stories, Hong Kong Shifts hopes to break down stereotypes and build bridges between diverse communities in the city. We nd our interviewees by picking a neighbourhood and striking up conversations with complete

strangers. We publish stories from all our encounters – the idea being that every person has something to share: it only takes a small dose of curiosity and openness to nd it.

Beyond the community project, Hong Kong Shifts also works with NGOs, social enterprises, schools and other partners on human-centred visual storytelling campaigns, events, pop-up exhibitions and workshops. We plan to continue to use storytelling as a tool to connect, engage and inspire positive impact. To nd out more, browse n

At the core of the project is our aim to promoe kindness, empathy and inclusiveness in our living and working environments through storytelling.


1 Fai, Star Ferry sailor. “My family were boat people and we lived in the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter for many years. I love being by the sea every day.”

2 Ho, Sham Shui Po cardboard collector. “I have a secret: I hose down all the cardboard with water before I resell it. If it’s heavier, it sells for a few cents more.”

3 Tak, Cheung Chau village vehicle driver. “Over the years, I’ve dabbled in different lines of work. It’s not always about the money. It’s really important to follow your interests and passion.”

4 Molly, Fenwick Pier receptionist for 42 years. “The sailors were rowdy and would always joke with me: ‘Do you want a Green Card, Molly? I have one, maybe you can come home with me.’”

5 Ling, Aberdeen sampan coxwain “Even though I am not educated, I understand how important it is to be open-minded and keep learning –especially from young people.”

6 Kwun, taxi seat upholsterer, Tai Hang. “When there is work to do, I will do it. I’m pretty much here seven days a week, except when I am ill. I have never travelled abroad or taken an aeroplane.”

3 2 4 5 6

What Does it all Meme?

Dozens of social media posts jazzed up the Hugh van Es Wall in February. The Wall Committee’s Lee Williamson explains the whys and wherefores.

On social media and online forums, one photo of Canadian musician Drake is recognisable to millions of users. ere’s nothing particularly remarkable about the image, in which the rapper is looking at his phone with a look of befuddlement bordering on annoyance. Rather, it was the numerous captions that were quickly added to the picture, crafted by online content creators to express a viewpoint or make people laugh, that caused it to gain instant notoriety – a classic example of a viral meme.

“Me trying to gure out what’s going on in HK via Instagram since I refuse to subscribe to SCMP,” read one such caption displayed in the February expo, written by Hong Kong Instagrammer HKMEHMEH. A little bit hard on our fellow club members at the Post? Perhaps. But it’s also emblematic of how a growing number of young people view traditional news media.

e Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022 has the data to back up what many journalists instinctively know: online news outlets are losing out to social media. “Users in many Asian countries now prefer to use social media to access news,” states the report, “reducing the connection with news brands.”

To better understand this seismic shift, the Wall Committee invited six memers whose work focuses on current a airs in Hong Kong to showcase some of their images from 2019 to the present day, documenting a time of unprecedented change in the city.

e six who contributed to the show – Chaotic Hong Kong Expats, Hongkongggag, HKMEHMEH, Hong Kong Memes, Surreal HK and Victor Chen Art – create content that helps people process and make sense of what’s going on around them, using levity to create a feeling of togetherness.

rough jokes about culling hamsters and life in Penny’s Bay, they’re engaging audiences in current a airs in a wholly new way. rough this exhibition, our goal was to do the same. n


‘We all Write the Story of our Life With Every Step we Take’

Globetrotting photographer An Rong Xu’s exhibition, New Romantics , provided more than a little food for thought, writes curator Carsten Schael .

The monthly curated exhibitions on the Van Es Wall are often the culmination of a process that took many months of coordination, selection and production. As curators, the Wall Committee members strive to deliver a broad variety of subjects to engage our members and the public. Following the rst ever social media news meme exhibit, the month of March provided a sharp contrast with images by An Rong Xu (

Born in China and brought up in New York’s Chinatown, Xu developed his own cultural perspective, which led to a career that now spans the globe with bases in Taipei and New York City.

As a highly accomplished photographer and director, Xu has worked for publications like e New York Times, e New Yorker, National Geographic and Rolling Stone. His last

exhibition at the FCC, in August 2020, showcased a series of blackand-white images that traced his grandfather’s nal months before he died, making for a very personal goodbye.

His new works follow a wider path that is both professional and personal. But instead of just concentrating his journalistic storytelling to deliver a hardcore visual truth of the extremes, his sensitive eye notes the split-second events of the human condition which are not necessarily part of a large story. His images describe the myriad moments that shape a life, as he documents what is often overlooked in the daily hustle. We all write the story of our life with every step we take.

Xu’s New Romantics captured cinematic vignettes that let the viewer empathise with the subjects, and issued an invitation to follow their life story rather as if they were pages in a book. n

2 Daybreak in Keelung, Keelung, Taiwan, 2016: Like so many of the best photos, this is open to infinite questions and interpretations.

3 V8 Club, Taishan, China, 2014: t first blush, the atmosphere appears to be one of desperation rather than exuberance.

4 On the road in Shanghai, 2016: Anyone who has ridden in a bus in mainland China will not fail to shudder at the thought of the vehicle’s interior.

5 The Veronin Sisters, New York City, 2015: Innocent, tender, vulnerable – a highly evocative example of sibling portraiture.

6 Walking with Gods, Taipei, 2017: The eye is first drawn to the central character, then there s a delicious sense of double-take as realisation sinks in that this scene is taking place in the middle of a modern metropolis.

1 Lunch Break, Flushing, New York, 2018: Few parents woud fail to identify with this vignette. 1 PHOTO: AN RONG XU

Genavieve Alexander

The Director of Genavieve.Co landed in Hong Kong in 2011 with a thirst for the wine business, supporting female entrepreneurs, collecting art and spinning pots.

Where were you born/educated?

I was born in London and grew up on the English Riviera (Devon). After a PR degree, I trained as a press o cer at Marks & Spencer before embarking on a journey through wine and spirits at LVMH. In 2011 I set sail for Hong Kong to launch my own PR company to bring brands from West to East. I believe if you combine a love for something you do with a curiosity for something unknown, great things will ourish. It’s the boldest move I’ve ever made.

What’s your default Hong Kong dish, and where do you get it?

China Club for Peking duck (and the art) and the FCC for Sichuan sh and wines by the glass. e Louis Latour Burgundy ’21 pairs perfectly with lunch on the y.

Favourite part of Hong Kong?

St Francis pocket in Wanchai – where sun, moon and stars meet. Sun Street is where I set up my business; it had a feng shui something about it… it’s an eclectic neighbourhood bubbling with creativity and has the best dai pai dong in town on St Francis Yard. e community has nourished and inspired me, from the vintage store where I got my orange record player to IncredibleS, home to an array of cool Japanese accessories. I loved the parties and outdoor movies at designer Joyce Wang’s studio too.

With a thirst for wine, what wines/regions excite you?

I’m curious to discover lesser-known wines/regions, sample more Portuguese wines and support English sparkling; but my rst love is Champagne, especially vintages and discovering smaller growers. I romanticise about making my own wine – sadly Hong Kong’s soil/climate doesn’t lend itself, otherwise I would give it a go here. Meanwhile, I’m compiling a book, Around Asia in 80 Champagnes, and have plotted a harvest road trip to China. With some 830,000 hectares of vines, 12 wine regions and more than 450 wineries, it’s sure to be a Grape Escape. I’ll begin in Ningxia in the northwest to suss out the hyped Bordeaux versus Ningxia debate, and visit Ao Yun, Grace Vineyard and many others.

Some of your fondest memories of Hong Kong since arriving?

Hong Kong’s start-up spirit and those who have supported

me. Helping to revive polo with a pukka Hong Kong team in 2014. Browsing Cat Street Gallery in its heyday (it was on Hollywood Road). I brought one of pop artist Sir Peter Blake’s series Pedder Street.

How do you de-stress in Hong Kong?

Foot massages, a dip in the sea o the Victoria Recreation Club in Deep Water Bay, Sunday sails to Po Toi for seafood at Ming Kee, barbecues on Middle Island, time behind the wheel spinning pots.

Where is your hideaway?

Our three-square-metre garden at home in Chung Hom Kok. It’s lled with as many herbs and owers as I can pack in and topped up with regular visits to Flower Market Road in Mong Kok and wild escapes with the Hong Kong Gardening Society. On a recent trip to the hills above Tai O with forager Wanda Huang, we harvested armfuls of fruit and vegetables.

What do you miss most when you’re away from Hong Kong?

e convenience: having the best of both beach and city.

What difference would you like to make to the city?

I’d like to empower everyone to grow a little – even in the smallest of spaces. Hong Kong imports 95 percent of its food supply, so every little set of green ngers helps. n



Small French restaurants in North London are no doubt responsible for quite a lot of things – and in our case, for the founding of a new company with distinct Hong Kong characteristics.

Over several glasses of red wine and some lengthy meals, I kept in touch with Amelia Allsop after she moved to England to complete her PhD on Jewish refugees in Hong Kong during World War Two. We had known each other for years when she was helping to build and run the astounding archive of the Kadoorie family’s companies and wider interests – the Hong Kong Heritage Project.

Next, it was the FCC’s fault: over lunch in the Dining Room with Helen Swinnerton, the creator of the HSBC Archives in Hong Kong, news emerged of her imminent move to London thanks to her man’s posting with e New York Times.

“Oh, you should join Amelia and me in doing something – I’ve no idea what!” said I, full of unfocused but genuine enthusiasm. I already knew I had a home in Amsterdam waiting for me and was wondering how to keep alive my deep interest in Hong Kong and Asia’s histories and archives.

I quickly learned that you shouldn’t suggest something to Helen unless you want wholly coherent action on it, right away. Within hours, we three women were planning out how we would collaborate in future. e result, by March 2021, was our boutique archives and heritage company: History Ink (

Between us, we have more than 50 years’ experience in nding, collecting, preserving and displaying the rich pasts of companies, families, institutions and more.

Helen is a highly experienced archivist who knows how to enrich a corporate brand, deep down inside, by telling it, its customers and the wider community more about its past in authoritative and engaging ways.

Amelia knows how to do Oral History programmes – which she keeps telling me are more than just journalistic interviews – as well as how to build and run archives, and share her discoveries with the world.

I love to excavate people’s pasts and nd the stories that matter about anything that ever moved, using archives as an

investigative tool. My nascent PhD, and my books on the broker, philanthropist and curmudgeon Noel Croucher, e Hong Kong Club, several private Hong Kong family companies and entrepreneur extraordinaire Hari Harilela, have made me into a historian.

e point is that each subject – human or otherwise – has a rich past that informs our present and future. is simply has to be collected and shared if civilisation is to grow.

An example is the FCC’s own Anthony Lawrence, the late, great BBC Asia correspondent. History Ink made certain that his scrupulously organised notes, drafts, contact books and more are now held safely in the Archives at the University of Hong Kong.

It’s a cliché to say we’re passionate about this stu – maybe “obsessive” is a better word. e upshot is a company that has emerged from deep Hong Kong roots into an international operation. We’ve been working with a leading UK bank that did not know until we told them that their roots lay in the 19th-century democracy movement. We’re getting started with several other major international companies, and we’re developing toolkits to help clubs, companies and others to present themselves properly.

Most recently, we are proud to have staged the exhibition now hanging in the East Lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, celebrating 60 years since it rst opened its doors in Central. Speaking from personal experience, a 60th birthday is always cause for celebration – and all the more so with great friends and colleagues. n

Each subject – human or otherwise – has a rich past that informs our present and future

Former BBC and Far Eastern Economic Review journalist Vaudine England recounts how she joined forces with two other women to set up a boutique archives and history company. ‘Who we are and why we are the way we are’: L-R - Amelia Allsop, Vaudine England and Helen Swinnerton.

We are all newspapers now

The consumption of news has changed drastically as social media has evolved, with an increasing number of people getting all of their news from memes. By Morgan Davis.

The walls of the FCC took on a more colourful look than customary in February as the usual rotation of photojournalism was replaced by popular memes. With their balance of satire and humour, the creators behind the memes have been able to strike a chord with the many Hong Kongers who have felt trapped in a COVID-19 bubble for the past three years.

“Memes are a key way in which people communicate,” Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, told guests at a club dinner MC’d by Lee Williamson[CHK] in March.

Less than 20 minutes after Hong Kong chief executive John Lee announced that the city was repealing its mask mandate, there were memes on Instagram sharing the news. For some people, those memes were the rst time they had heard the news.

In Hong Kong, about 60 perecent of people report using social media to consume news. Numbers like that are fairly standard in Asia, and can be even higher in some southeast Asian countries, like the Philippines, where the population is younger, said Newman.

“Traditional media is losing that connection with under 35s. e challenge is you have to make your existing products more accessible, but without dumbing down.”

Together with her colleagues, Aileen Rae Perez, social media manager at GMA News and Public A airs, saw this play out during the national elections in the Philippines last

year. Young voters, in uencers, celebrities and politicians took to social media platforms to share their messages and spread news, often with clear biases. Perez’s young sta are willing to use social media to share news, but she has found many mid-career journalists resist the change.

“Too many seasoned journalists refuse to try out new ways to communicate,” she said. “We don’t necessarily have to dance. You just need to learn how to communicate to younger people.”

Hong Kong-based meme creator Nancy Lim does not consider herself a journalist, nor does she even read the news. She grabs a lot of her information from headlines shared by news organisations on social media.

“I’m just trying to give some sort of relief and o er humour,” she said. “I nd stories that are able to validate my shared experiences in Hong Kong.”

But Lim’s description of how she picks stories and creates memes echoes a journalistic approach. “I try my best to

Lee Williamson MC’d ‘Meme the News: How Social Media is Changing Journalism’.
Traditional media is losing that connection with under 35s
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED Nic Newman, Aileen Rae Perez and Nancy Lim.

do the fact checking and veri cation because I know my followers want to build a meaningful relationship with me,” she explained.

Lim’s personal approach is to avoid topics that could be deemed harmful or malicious, particularly through a humorous lens, such as the February murder of socialite and model Abby Choi in Hong Kong. Successful posts, Lim said, are timely, spark an emotional response, are unique and o er a way to connect with or interact with the readers.

Lim may not have the accreditation or training of a journalist, but many people in Hong Kong will consume her posts in the same way their parents would look at the South China Morning Post. e generational divide in news consumption is one that is important to understand, said Newman. More traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter still feature traditional media accounts, but these platforms are losing ground to the likes of Instagram and TikTok, which are favoured by younger generations.

“It’s a very challenging change for journalists to deal with,” said Newman, pointing out that an 18-year-old posting from his bedroom may easily have more followers than the BBC on TikTok.

Some older journalists may want to stick with what they know, but Perez noted that keeping to traditional media for the sake of maintaining standards and legitimacy does not matter if no one is listening.

“When I transferred to social media, I thought that memes were stupid,” said Perez. “But, now when we try to create memes to deliver our messages, we realise we reach more people and we become relatable to our audience.” n

Interested in the FCC’s online and offline conversations? Check our calendar of upcoming events:

In Case You Missed It

The Ukraine War, One Year On

With Aleksander Dańda, consul general for the Republic of Poland, Alex Chan, photojournalist, Klára Jurčová, consul general for the Czech Republic and Thomas Gnocchi, head of the EU office to Hong Kong and Macau.

As the war in Ukraine drags on into a second year, experts in Hong Kong discuss what the impact of the conflict will be on Ukraine, Europe and the world.

Watch the conversation here:

Club Screening: ‘Four Trails’: Stories of Those Who Dare Attempt Hong Kong’s Most Iconic Ultra Challenge

With Ben Lee, producer, Robin Lee, director, and Will Hayward, ultramarathon runner (see also: separate interview in Club News) Run across Hong Kong with extreme athletes as they take on the challenge of conquering the city’s four iconic ultra distance trails. Learn more here:

Book Talk: ‘Political Censorship in British Hong Kong’

With author Dr Michael Ng

Hong Kong’s history of freedom of speech is more complicated than many believe. The city’s freedoms and laws have evolved to reflect the politics of the time, starting with censorship during the early colonial period.

Watch the conversation here: club-lunch-political-censorship-in-british-hong-kong-a-lunchwith-author-dr-michael-ng

PHOTOS: FCC Nic Newman: ‘It’s a very challenging change for journalists.’

Nate Thayer: an appreciation

A Life Fiercely Lived

Early in 1990, I was sitting in Nate ayer’s cramped, unkempt room in Bangkok. Clothes, books, backpacks and whisky bottles were strewn everywhere. Nate was examining a giant military grade map spread out on the oor.

He was chewing tobacco and pointing out the areas where the various Cambodian rebel factions held sway – the Khmer People’s National Liberation Army, the royalist faction and the notorious Khmer Rouge. Many Bangkok-based journalists and regional remen like me had interviewed the non-Communist leaders, usually in Bangkok hotel lobbies or the safety of refugee camps on the ai border.

But not Nate. He wanted to do what no other journalist had done – make contact with the Khmer Rouge and interview its reclusive leader, Pol Pot.

I wanted to go with him, but of course I never had the chance, and would probably not have had the courage to try. I was at the end of a four-year tour as the Southeast Asia Bureau Chief for e Washington Post. Nate would stay in ailand, and eventually move to Phnom Penh, repeatedly entering the jungle and showing up uninvited at Khmer Rouge base camps, doggedly pursuing his quixotic quest.

We were born just two years apart, and both moved to Southeast Asia aged 28. But our journalistic trajectories could not have been more di erent. I had worked my way up, having started as an intern at e Washington Post. Nate arrived in ailand stony broke and without ever having published a single word.

“I decided I wanted to be a foreign correspondent and I would begin by covering the war in Cambodia,” he later wrote in a blog post, excepted from his un nished autobiography, Sympathy for the Devil. “I had no idea what I was doing. I had no journalism experience or training, no demonstrable skills as a photographer and my writings had never been published.”

Living in a US$3-a-night room in a guesthouse on the

Despite having had no journalism training, and admitting that he had no skills as a photographer, Nate Thayer lived out his dream to become a foreign correspondent, forging deep into the Cambodian jungle to seek out Pol Pot, the architect of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal reign of terror.

Cambodian border, and facing repeated rejection from editors, Nate nevertheless was living his dream. “I was immediately, madly, helplessly, irrevocably in love with journalism,” he wrote. After six months, he got a job with Associated Press covering the Cambodian war for US$400 per month.

In October 1989, Nate was badly wounded on one of his forays into Cambodia, when the truck he was in hit a landmine. “I crawled from the shards of metal that were the remains of the shattered truck and collapsed on the muddy jungle oor…” he wrote. “I was punctured from shrapnel from feet to head. e bones of my left foot had perforated the skin and were protruding from the meat and skin, which was already ripped open by metal fragments.”

e near-death experience only hardened him.

Nate possessed something that I never could summon as a journalist: a single-minded obsession. He was to be the rst journalist to interview the reclusive Pol Pot, the architect of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal reign of terror.

He nally found Pol Pot, in July 1997, and later called me from Bangkok to give e Washington Post the exclusive newspaper version of the scoop, on condition that we waited until his magazine, the Far Eastern Economic Review, had gone to press. He was too excited to write it, but dictated all the details to me in Hong Kong.

After nding Pol Pot, Nate seemed lost, his lifelong quest over. Once he rang to ask if he should next try to nd the deposed Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who was living in Saudi Arabia, or perhaps Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile Mariam. He made money from his Pol Pot scoop, but always felt bitter that he never made more. Eventually, he succumbed to his demons, and to the injuries from that landmine that had permanently damaged his feet.

Nate died last January, aged 62. He never completed his autobiography, but he left an indelible mark on the region, and an even stronger one on journalism. n

After finding Pol Pot, Nate seemed lost, his lifelong quest over.

David Lawrence: The ultimate FCC member

David Lawrence, who passed away on 14 December 2022, was the ultimate FCC Associate member. Having arrived in Hong Kong in 1976, he was a member of several clubs around town but the FCC, which he joined in 1980, was far and away his favourite.

A child of empire, David was born in 1949 in the then British colony of Malaya, where his father was a colonial police o cer. Returning to England after independence, David graduated with a law degree from University College London, where alongside his studies he was a committed rugby player before injury forced him out of the sport, though he later became an enthusiastic golfer and squash player. After training at the leading London rm Coward Chance, David joined a small Fleet Street-based practice before heading to Hong Kong in the mid-1970s to take up a position with Deacons, where he remained for 46 years, subsequently joining Haldanes as a consultant.

David was an accomplished lawyer and respected for always being scrupulously fair. Numerous young lawyers bene ted from his mentorship over his long career, and his interest in young people and nurturing new talent were the hallmarks of his legal career. David probably missed out on the riches that could have come his way if he had not been so generous in his desire to help others. In addition to his extensive pro bono work, David was an active director of the charity Help for Domestic Workers, which provides invaluable assistance in ensuring that those near the bottom of Hong Kong’s ladder have access to justice and receive fair and equal treatment. He was also an active supporter of the Lighthouse Club, the construction industry charity whose International President is his great friend John Battersby.

David’s almost daily visits to the FCC meant that he was a familiar and popular xture in the Main Bar. Usually ensconced with John Battersby and members of the FCC legal fraternity, David knew every sta member by name and was always the rst to congratulate them on a promotion. It was here that many of us got to know David, and where his inquisitive mind and his ability both to listen to and consider even the most contrarian views made for great conversation, although you raised the subject of Brexit at your peril. David’s beloved wife, Sakhon, must have despaired at his usual late arrival home, despite his entreaties that he had to be home early “to be with my wife”. is was not on account of squeezing in one for the road, but his lap of the bar as he headed for the door always took longer than anticipated as he stopped to chat to numerous friends.

David truly cared about the FCC. He would actively

engage Board members with his views on what he felt was right or wrong about the club. When changes to the disciplinary procedure were tabled – which led to a sometimes feisty debate between members and the Board – David was willing to listen and show his commitment by becoming a member of the new Disciplinary Committee. He also gave back to the club by being an active and respected member of the Constitutional Committee, even dialling in for meetings when he was visiting his home in Berkshire, England.

e renewal of the club lease came while David was in hospital, but he greeted the news with much joy. In typical fashion, he ordered a jeroboam of champagne on his account to be consumed by his friends in celebration.

As well as Sakhon, David is survived by a brother and sister in Great Britain, together with a host of friends in the FCC and beyond. n

David’s almost daily visits to the FCC meant that he was a familiar and popular fi ture in the ain ar.
David’s inquisitive mind, and ability to listen to and consider the most contrarian views, made for great conversation, although you mentioned Brexit at your peril.


Think you know Macau? Think again. Jennifer Jett gets the skinny from the husband-and-wife team who turned being marooned in the former Portuguese enclave into a journey of discovery.

When Christopher Chu and his wife, Maggie Hoi Pui Man, found themselves con ned to Macau during the pandemic from December 2021 until November 2022, they visited a lot of local landmarks – and they wanted to know more. ey started taking notes and doing interviews, and pretty soon they realised they had a book on their hands.

“It was just really: ‘How can I do something with my wife without going crazy?’” Chu said.

e result, Macau’s Historical Witnesses, was published late last year – just in time for the return of quarantinefree travel. It explores centuries of Macau history through a collection of vignettes, anecdotes and urban myths about 22 di erent landmarks.

What was it like being in Macau during the pandemic? How has it changed?

Christopher Chu: Interesting. On the casino side, most venues were open. Popular restaurants and bars once crowded with tourists were virtually empty. ere were a few regulars here and there, but it was completely di erent from the hustle and bustle of the past. It was like being the only guest at Disneyland, where all the rides are open, but with nobody queuing. On the non-casino side where fewer tourists visit, it was business as usual. Everyone followed pandemic-related measures (health codes, masks, social distancing etc), but for the most part carried on just the same as before.

With the border reopening, visitors are ooding back. If it weren’t for the masks, one would feel like it’s back to the pre-pandemic era.

What inspired you to write this book, and how would you like people to use it?

CC: Macau’s Historical Witnesses was written to challenge the oft-used East-meets-West tagline of Macau by describing what happens when di erent views collide and explaining how those impacts in uence the world today. I have always found Macau more than a casino town but felt that there were few books that discussed some of the city’s major challenges over the past four centuries.

Macau’s Historical Witnesses is not a history textbook, nor is it a tourist brochure, but something in between which focuses on discussing context within complexity, broken down into 22 individual stories, written in as few words as possible, for as large an audience as possible.

What’s something new or surprising you learned about one of the landmarks you wrote about?

CC: Macau was once divided by a wall separating the Portuguese settlement in the south and the Chinese villages to the north. St Lazarus district, the neighbourhood better known for housing the rst leprosarium, is often described as Little Lisbon for its Portuguese-style homes and curlicue tiles. Ironically, the neighbourhood was just outside the wall. So, as the rest of Macau became a cosmopolitan city, the most Portuguese-in uenced neighbourhood was an area for the Chinese.

What places or activities would you suggest for Hong Kong residents who haven’t been to Macau in years and are looking to get reacquainted?

CC: Choose any of Macau’s numerous landmarks for a visit, taking time to read the plaque provided or even the tourist guidebook. Take lots of pictures as well. Once nished, nd and read the corresponding chapter in Macau’s Historical Witnesses. Afterwards, go back for a second look at the same landmark. I guarantee it will not be the same as before. n

Macau’s Historical Witnesses is on sale at the Front Desk. A Chinese translation is set to be published later this year.

FCC members have access to the city-centre Clube Militar de Macau, whose restaurant serves exceptional Portuguese food, and the small pousada at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (

Authors Christopher Chu and Maggie Hoi Pui Man.


Vaudine England cuts a new template with her entertaining, thoroughly researched history of Hong Kong from the mid-19th century to the present day. Mark Jones delivers a hearty round of applause.

Fortune’s Bazaar – e

Making of Hong Kong is a formidable and important work of historical scholarship. But it’s written by a journalist, and journalists can be relied upon to give you a pithy line to help the reader make better sense of what they are reading. Vaudine England saves her best one until the end.

Hong Kong was “not a city” before people from the lands to its south and west made fortunes and matches with other peoples. “It was,” she writes, “this mixing that made it.”

We casually use words like “multicultural” and “cosmopolitan” about Hong Kong. England takes those clichés and tells the real stories of the peoples who were drawn there after 1841 and gives them their proper dues. If you thought that ethnic diversity – within society, within families and within individuals – is somehow a by-product of Hong Kong’s success, you’ll be disabused. at diversity is the very reason for the city’s success.

e rst half of the book is dominated by the names of the people who made Hong Kong, fought among each other and made alliances through business and marriage: Belilios, Kadoorie, Ho Tung, Mody, Kotewall, Zimmern. e names might be Armenian or Jewish or Chinese, but frequently those forms of self-identi cation are a matter of political or corporate expediency. Sir Robert Ho Tung’s brother chose to live as a westerner under the name Walter Bosman. When the “Chinese” Ho celebrates his golden wedding anniversary at the Peninsula Hotel, he is at “a hotel built by Baghdadi Jews, reached by a Parsi-built ferry, from a waterfront built by an Armenian”. Dr Ron Zimmern, the product of a particularly powerful alliance between Hong Kong’s great families, takes a DNA test out of curiosity and discovers he is 29 percent Scottish/ Irish/Welsh, 21.4 percent Chinese and Vietnamese, 15 percent Ashkenazi Jew, 11 percent South Asian and 11 percent Filipino/Indonesian/ Malaysian. e eugenicists and racial purity champions, past and present, might struggle to explain away Hong Kong.

As for the British, in England’s narrative they often seem like bystanders in their own colony, sometimes hostile about the rise of their Eurasian subjects, sometimes

bemused, occasionally supportive and always pro ting from their e orts. roughout, Hong Kongers resist hegemony, whether British, Japanese or Han Chinese. Sometimes it’s through strikes and protests. More usually, it’s by simple hard work, with some accruing the vast wealth and the in uence that comes with it.

England has a uent, vigorous prose style. e narrative only drags with the exhaustive lists of marriages and lineages we get in the early chapters. At those times, you struggle to see the woods for the family trees. In future editions, and the book deserves many of them, maybe the publisher can shunt a lot of that detail – important contextually, a bit wearying to plough through – into an appendix.

e narrative really takes o when we reach the second world war. As so often in con ict, one of the rst casualties is the class and race prejudice that dogs peacetime activities. England pays tribute to the Eurasian volunteers who fought so heroically at Wong Nei Chong Gap. In Stanley internment camp, a young English woman, who had no Chinese, Portuguese or Eurasian acquaintances, let alone friends, before the war, nds her outlook on race and religion overturned: “I like to think camp made me more tolerant,” she commented.

But as the historian Paul Gillingham points out, “only when the uniforms came o did the barriers return”. e British used “domicile” as an excuse not to help Hong Kong residents during the occupation, then promptly turned their back on democratic reform under the governorship of Sir Alexander Grantham in the 1950s.

Even people who have read just about everything there is to read about Hong Kong will nd their own outlook overturned by this excellent book. n

Fortune’s Bazaar – e Making of Hong Kong will be published by Simon & Schuster on 16 May.

As for the British, they often seem like bystanders in their own colony
PHOTO: KEES METSELAAR Author Vaudine England.


Footballer Derek Currie was lured to Hong Kong by the prospect of playing against Pelé in 1970. As Peter Stock discovers, his life was never quite the same again. Neither was Asian football.

Everybody loves a winner, so it’s said, and just about everybody seems to have loved Derek Currie, whose impressive career on and o the football pitch is the subject of When ‘Jesus’ Came to Hong Kong. It’s a book thoroughly well worth reading, as it describes a life jubilantly lived at a time when football was in its heyday in the colony and a wee Scots lad could propel himself to stardom through a combination of sheer guts and ability.

Having been an apprentice printer in Glasgow, Currie –already an accomplished winger noted for his darting runs – was one of the rst three European professionals own in to play football in Asia. Initially slightly dubious about coming to Hong Kong, he changed his mind at once when he was told there was an upcoming match against Pelé. On such minutiae do entire lives turn.

One look at a photo of Currie’s hirsute bonce in 1970, when he started to play for Hong Kong Rangers, is enough to explain why his legion of fans gave him his nickname. His marked ability to put the ball in the back of the net added more than a little gloss to his reputation, and so the stage was set for the next dozen years of football, fame and – one presumes, although Currie is too modest to allude to the fact – a not immodest fortune.

What is really striking about Currie’s memoir is his happy-go-lucky existence, although it’s obvious that unlike many a footballer, his brains weren’t con ned to his feet and he possessed a sharp acumen for business. Having garnered an excellent record, Currie played his nal game in February 1982. He promptly segued into public relations, working for Carlsberg (which at the time had a brewery in Tai Po), putting his sporting contacts to good use to boost the Danish company’s market share as it was facing some sti competition from oldkid-on-the-beer-block San Miguel. Later, as a keen fan of Hong Kong’s other favourite spectator sport (he owned two thoroughbreds), Currie enjoyed a lengthy stint as a newspaper tipster.

As a sizeable and easily recognised sh in the small, fragrant pond that is Hong Kong, Currie mixed easily with celebrities when they passed through town. Besides rubbing shoulders with the obvious big names of football (Alex Ferguson, Bobby Moore, Eusébio et al), he once organised a kickabout for footie-mad rock stars Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood. Boxing champion Marvin Hagler took him along to a birthday party at Stevie Wonder’s suite at the Hong Kong Hotel. Shy at rst, Currie ended up singing I Just Called to Say I Love You anked by the

two superstar Americans. ere was one interlude: in the mid1970s Currie took a break from Hong Kong, travelling to Texas to play “soccer” for the San Antonio under. “ e money was quite good and [I thought] perhaps a change would do me good,” writes Currie. While he only stayed for one, successful, season, it’s apparent that he tted into a very di erent milieu with his customary ease and bonhomie before heading sharply back across the Paci c to his adopted home.

What is really striking about Currie’s memoir is his happy-go-lucky existence

It would be surprising if a man-about-town like Currie hadn’t been on drinking terms with the FCC. One of his more amusing anecdotes embraces a long (natch) lunch at the club with the legendary Dick Hughes. Currie’s boss at Carlsberg had clamoured to meet the role model for Ian Fleming’s Dikko Henderson and John Le Carre’s Old Craw, so – with an introduction from manager Heinz Grabner and some assistance from long-standing member Kevin Sinclair – a date was set. Hughes was at his most melodramatic, intoning benedictions and keeping the drink and tall tales owing, and the party broke up in the late afternoon with the Danish executive own with wine and good cheer, and not a little starstruck. n

op: Currie in full yin assault mode. ottom: With teammates after winning the Governor’s Cup in 1972.


She will shake the world. At least, that’s roughly what Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) is supposed to have said. A dozen modern-day authors add rather more than their two cents’ worth on the subject.

China After Mao: e Rise of a Superpower by Frank Dikötter

An intriguing alternative view of China’s progress over the past half-century, backed up by numerous documents from communist party archives.

Xi: A Study in Power by Kerry Brown . A short but timely book, explaining a complex man, the impact his rule is having on the rest of the world and his likely vision of China’s future.

America Second: How America’s Elites Are Making China

Stronger by Isaac Stone Fish. An authoritative and important story of good intentions gone wrong, and the implications for the US and other democracies.

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir by Ai Weiwei. An engaging, candid and witty self-portrait of the journey from unknown dabbler to art world superstar and international human rights activist.

Red Roulette: An Insider’s Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today’s China by Desmond Shum. is insider account of the most secretive of global powers still retains the power to shock.

From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party by Tony Saich. e CCP has endured by being exible, but needs to be even more so to achieve its dreams, Saich argues.

Stronger: Adapting America’s China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence by Ryan Hass. e author posits that the US should improve its condition at home rather than impede Chinese initiatives.

Land Of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen. Both love letter and sharp social criticism, this debut collection of ction contains vivid portrayals of the men and women of modern China and its diaspora.

We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State by Kai Strittmatter

A stark portrait of life under government surveillance, and a timely warning about what could happen anywhere in the world.

e Myth of Chinese Capitalism: e Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World by Dexter Roberts. Exploring the reality behind a nancially ascendant China, and examining what powers its manufacturing base.

Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town by Barbara Demick . A nuanced and unvarnished portrait of what life is life is like for Tibetans in Ngaba (elevation 3,300 metres) at this point in the 21st century.

Has China Won? e Chinese Challenge to American Primacy by Kishore Mahbubani. Is the geopolitical contest between China and the US avoidable? And if it happens, is the outcome already inevitable?



Assistant Editor, Myanmar Now

me personally is the collective resilience and courage that the people have shown amid the military’s brutality, and the violence and injustice that they witness in their daily lives. I am hopeful that we will have a chance to report on cheering incidents in the near future.

It must be galling to see Ukraine hogging the headlines when so much is changing on your doorstep...

As much as Ukraine deserves closer attention from people around the world, Myanmar deserves more meaningful attention than it currently gets. Attention and headlines alone are not enough for either Myanmar or Ukraine: they need more meaningful action from the global community. ose in positions of power on the international stage need to be well-informed and act on the information they receive.

We’ll start with a “trumpet voluntary” –over to you!

Myanmar Now ( is an independent online news outlet published in both Burmese and English, focusing on human rights issues, political a airs and wrongdoing by those in power. It was established by the omson Reuters Foundation in 2015 ahead of the general election later that year. Since its founding by former Reuters correspondent in Lei Win and our current editorin-chief Swe Win, Myanmar Now has earned a reputation for delivering in-depth and hardhitting journalism.

Since the military coup in Myanmar two years ago, our coverage has concentrated on the military’s war crimes and the nationwide resistance movement. After the military raided our o ce in Yangon in March 2021, we ed the city and eventually became an exiled media outlet in Melbourne, Australia. I am responsible for the daily production of its English-language edition.

What recent story that you worked on gave you a real feeling of satisfaction?

Our job as journalists is to report on what is happening on the ground

I am proud of the in-depth stories that we have produced under incredibly di cult circumstances. One that has stayed with me is: When the Deafening Roar of Airstrikes Drowns out the Sound of School Bells It was published in September 2022 and details an aerial attack perpetrated by the military against a community-run school in a central Myanmar village – more than a dozen civilians were killed, including at least seven children. Another story that created a signi cant impact that we didn’t anticipate was In Myanmar’s Heartland, Hatred of the Military Deepens After a Village’s Destruction. International observers cited our report to push for further investigation into the incident. Our team managed to comprehensively illustrate and reconstruct the events in those two stories despite the limited capacity, timeframe and resources we had at that time.

What sort of obstacles do you face at present?

The news coming out of Myanmar has scarcely been cheering: what’s your personal take?

e majority of the coverage on Myanmar has been about the military’s atrocities and arson campaigns as well as ghting between the Myanmar army and resistance forces across the country. is news is de nitely not cheering. But our job as journalists is to report on what is happening on the ground in the country. As we always try to get closest to the truth and the reality of the society that we are living in, we no longer have the luxury of choosing cheering stories over bitter ones. Everyone is grieving the loss of their freedom and trying to gain it back by any means possible. However, what is encouraging for

e most challenging and frustrating obstacle for us is being exiled. is is the rst such experience of our generation, and we were not prepared either professionally or personally. We get most of our news by phone from sources who are blocked from accessing the internet, although we will use the web if we can. It’s by no means easy.

Gaze into your crystal ball for a second or two: how might things play out in the next couple of years?

We expect a more strategic, organised and stronger resistance movement and eventually an elected government that will replace the military regime and rebuild the country with justice. n


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