The Correspondent, January - March 2023

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Carnival of Dreams

THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB | HONG KONG | JANUARY 2023 How Green is Our Valley? HK Eco Report Card Editor Nude Photo Shock See Page Two Spot the Homophone A Bottle of Bordeaux is at Stake
A Walk on the Wild Side with Basil Pao
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CONTENTS

LEAD STORY 2 Editor’s Letter 3 From the President 4

16 A CURIOUS CRATE OF CURATE’S EGGS

How does Hong Kong rate as far as the environment is concerned? Eco-warrior Dr Merrin Pearse has a few surprises up his sleeve.

Cover image: Mirrors of Dust by Basil Pao

FEATURES UPFRONT

THE REGULARS

34

New Members

How better to start a new year than by joining the FCC? Give a warm welcome to this issue’s Top 10.

37

Club News

A comedy night, a mental health workshop and a hard-fought newsroom quiz. Eclectic, eh?

8

Wine & Dine

Looking back over a toothsome Christmas and New Year, and looking forward to the Year of the Rabbit; plus there’s the chance to win an utterly fabulous bottle of Bordeaux really easily. 12

Not Quite White’s Bites

Hollingworth Fellow Simran Vaswani supplies a Valentine’s Day food revue while A White Esq is basking in the English winter. 14

Member Insights

Is there a more exacting task than writing for children? Bhakti Mathur has the inside story, so to speak.

20

Meet the New Fellows

Our three tyro journos all say they were galvanised by the 2019 protests; well, how could they not have been?

22 Undaunted

FCC Member Jennifer Bovard relates the uplifting tale of her son’s remarkable rehabilitation following a rugby accident that paralysed him in 2010.

24

Zeitgeist

John Batten’s roving eye and ever-present camera furnish an alternative, kaleidoscopic view of the city we call home.

26 Dispatch

Our man in Phnom Penh, Luke Hunt, has much to say about the state of journalists and journalism in Cambodia.

28 On the Wall

Basil Pao takes a walk on the wild side; Paul Hilton takes a look at the challenges facing the region’s wildlife; and Queen Elizabeth II (RIP) encounters a quaint old Chinese custom.

My Hong Kong

A culturally tinged view of the 852 from man-about-town Hing Chao.

38 Speakers

Four guests discuss how the longrunning war in Ukraine has upset the balance of power in Europe, and what lies in store for the EU.

40 Obituaries

Bidding farewell to Carl Tong and Kiron Chatterjee.

42 Book Reviews

A bumper crop this issue embraces the Joint Declaration, a ( ctional) devilmay-care Gurkha, a passionate letter writer, state surveillance and the fate of the Anglo-Indian community in the British Raj.

48

10 Minutes With... Groum Abate

Dodgy infrastructure and a recently quelled insurgency really don’t make putting out a weekly newspaper in Ethiopia any easier.

1 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT

EDITOR’S LETTER

Dear FCC Members, Val Guest’s 1961 black-and-white apocalyptic ick e Day e Earth Caught Fire proved two things: shooting in anamorphic widescreen was a visual triumph; and Arthur Christiansen (recently retired editor of the Daily Express in real life) was hopelessly hammy when it came to playing editor Je Je erson. Movie bu s won’t need telling that Michael Caine’s eeting role as a police constable went uncredited.

e plot centres around the discovery that nuclear tests have sent the planet spinning ever closer to the sun, and it can only put back on course –or so it is rather hoped – by detonating yet more nuclear devices in Siberia. e lm ends in the print room, where two dummy front pages have been mocked up: “World Saved” and “World Doomed”. (One wonders what they were thinking in the circulation department.) Chillingly, the audience was left to draw its own conclusions.

All of this brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation to January 2023 and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong, whose lease on 2, Lower Albert Road has just – O, frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! – been renewed. e process has been lengthy, intense and not without a certain amount angst on the part of members, sta and Board. For a time, everyone’s been wondering which headline (“Club Saved” or …) was going to be used. e sighs of relief were heard well beyond Central. Keith Richburg elaborates on the next page.

Looking beyond the club’s immediate concerns is the much more pressing issue of the environment, whose future condition will a ect the air that we breathe in Lower Albert Road, the prices we pay for food and drink inside the club and much else besides. Dr Merrin Pearse’s eco-report leads this issue’s pack of features; it’s not all End Is Nigh stu , but we all – rabbits included – need to give it more than a little thought while enjoying a splendiferously Happy New Year.

PS Member Movements are posted online at fcchk.org/correspondent/membersmovements-jan-2023, while this entire magazine is hosted on issuu.com, as are many back numbers.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club

2 Lower Albert Road Central, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2521 1511 Fax: (852) 2868 4092 Email: fcc@fcchk.org Website: www.fcchk.org

The Board of Governors 2022-2023

President Keith Richburg

Second Vice President Tim Huxley

Correspondent Member Governors Morgan Davis, Olivia Parker, Jennifer Jett, Rebecca Bailey, Peter Parks, Kristie Lu Stout, Kari Soo Lindberg, 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 Convener: Keith Richburg Press Freedom Committee Conveners: Jennifer Jett, Keith Richburg

Constitutional Committee Conveners: Liu Kin-ming, Richard Winter

Membership Committee Conveners: Jennifer Jett, Rebecca Bailey, Lee Williamson Communications Committee Conveners: Genavieve Alexander, Jennifer Jett Finance Committee Convener: Tim Huxley 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

Email: edapeters@yahoo.com

Publisher: Artmazing! Noel de Guzman Email: artmazingcompany@gmail.com

Printing Elite Printing: Tel: 2558 0119

Advertising ontact ront 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.

2 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB HONG KONG
PHOTO: SUPPLIED

FROM THE PRESIDENT

Dear FCC Members, Christmas came the last week of November in 2022. at was when we nally received the long-awaited news from the Hong Kong government that the FCC could continue to lease our Clubhouse for the next three years.

Word came just days before 1 December, which marked the one-month countdown to the end of our current lease on 1 January 2023. It also came nearly a year after my rst communication with the government expressing our desire to stay in our historic building on Lower Albert Road. ere were a lot of letters, emails and phone calls in the intervening months.

First, on 24 November, came a letter from our landlord, the Government Property Agency, informing us of a new leasing policy for declared monuments and graded historic buildings; speci cally, leases would be for no longer than three years. Long enough to let the tenants make operating arrangements, they told us, but short enough to preserve the government’s “ exibility” to make sure the use of the buildings and monuments was in line with policy objectives.

And a few days later came the lease proposal itself – an o er of three years, until January 2026, at the same rent we pay now. Other clauses give either side, the government or the Club, the right to terminate the lease at any time with three months’ notice, a power that had always been there.

A new clause – which we believe to be standard now in all new government leases – gives the government the right to terminate the lease immediately on national security grounds. Speci cally, it says the lease can be stopped if we are found to be “engaging in acts or activities… endangering national security”. It was left unsaid what might constitute such acts, or who exactly would make that determination. But as I said, apparently now standard-issue stu in government leases.

We had initially requested a longer tenancy, equivalent to our current seven-year stay. But the Board decided that none of the provisions of the lease were particularly problematic – including the national security clause, since we don’t plan on violating any laws of Hong Kong, including the National Security Law.

Nothing in the new lease a ects what we do – hosting speaker events, book talks and lms, and issuing public statements on issues of press freedom, media access to information, a proposed “fake news” law or on any topic where we think our voice and view will matter. It’s been a part of our mission to speak up on any issues in our wheelhouse, press freedom and media access rights. But, as I have often said before, we will always do so respectfully, constructively and within the law.

Likewise our speaker events will continue unabated. Some in the “blue” camp have criticised us for hosting too many “anti-China” speakers and authors, while some in the “yellow” camp criticise us for having too many “pro-China” and pro-government speakers. When you get criticism from both sides, it seems to me that you’re getting the balance just about right.

For now, let’s pause and celebrate having a more secure future – at least for the next three years.

I want to thank the Board, who helped get us over the nish line with the new lease. And most of all, I want to thank our dedicated and loyal FCC sta . For the sta , I know the uncertainty, even anxiety, must have been even greater than for the members. But they never wavered in their professionalism and their dedication. Our sta are why the FCC really is, to me, the best bar in the world.

3 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Nothing in the new lease affects what we do – hosting speaker events, book talks and films, and issuing public statements

A funny first for the FCC

Last December, Hong Kong’s rst and only all-femme comedy collective, Bitches in Stitches, became the rst ever stand-up comedy group to perform at the FCC. e collective has been ring its particular brand of female-oriented dark humour like a are into Hong Kong’s comedy scene since March 2021, when it was founded by Dannie Aildasani and Fran Ayala. Dannie hosted the evening in Bert’s, skillfully warming up a somewhat quiet but appreciative audience and introducing smart sets by Bianca Lau, Nina McGrath and Lilit Marcus. e topics ranged from bikini waxing to dating in your 30s to breast cancer (in Lilit’s telling, it is funny); there was singing; there was heckling; there were rolling belly laughs.

“I only agreed to do a gig at the FCC because of the free beer, but then it ended up being really fun,” said Lilit.

We want the Bitches back for another gig. (If you remember a previous comedy event at the FCC, the club’s institutional memory would venture to suggest you were drunk and not as funny as you thought.)

Rhapsody in Bert’s

Bert’s has hosted many a diverse gathering over the years, but one Saturday last November it was the venue for the rst time for two training courses about mental health, led by the charity Mind Hong Kong, write Kuma Chow and Olivia Parker.

A survey by e Correspondent (see the October 2022 issue) found that journalists in Hong Kong are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD at signi cantly higher levels than the rest of the population. Members of the profession made up a large part of the 30-strong audience at these engaging sessions, with some of the personal stories highlighting just how prominent mental health issues are in many people’s lives.

“ is is not just an occasional occurence,” said Dr Hannah Sugarman, a clinical psychologist and a lead clinical advisor for Mind Hong Kong, who ran the Englishlanguage session.

It’s completely normal to hover at the “struggling” end of the mental health spectrum for short periods of time, she explained. “Having negative emotions makes you human, not defective.”

Common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, however, are distinguishable from occasional low moods or jitters by the length and severity of symptoms. If you feel that you can’t get on with your life in the way you want to because of these symptoms, that’s when it’s worth seeking help, she said.

Henry Chan, training manager at Mind Hong Kong, who led the Cantonese-language session, said the long working hours and emphasis on perfectionism in some Asian cultures have contributed to stress levels among Hong Kong’s population. He suggested we try to get more in tune with the di erent stressors in our lives, which could have a combination of biological, social and psychological roots, and keep an eye on whether our chosen coping strategies are releasing stress or creating new problems.

Getting professional help is not always straightforward

in Hong Kong, where shortages of public sector psychiatrists can mean waiting up to 94 weeks to get help. ( e wait times for urgent cases are much shorter, Dr Sugarman noted.) Adding to the problem is a lack of awareness about mental health conditions and support, including among GPs, and the fact that mental health support is rarely covered by insurance policies. Other barriers are caused by language; and stigma about mental health conditions, which is still heavily felt in Hong Kong.

Help is available, however, said Dr Sugarman. Mind Hong Kong’s community directory, which lists more than 60 free to low-cost services provided by NGOs in Hong Kong, is a good place to start. And even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing, staying connected with anyone who you suspect might be struggling could help their mental health in very signi cant ways.

Mind Hong Kong’s training courses: mind.org.hk/training

CLUB NEWS 4 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTOS: FCC PHOTOS: FCC

Let’s hear it for Stan, Cheugy, Ratchet and Skrt

“First of all, newsroom bragging rights are at stake! Secondly, compared to the august original FCC quiz, think of tonight as a tabloid version: a bit shorter, easier on the noodle and de nitely less rigorously fact-checked.”

us ran Lee Williamson’s introduction to the Battle of the Newsrooms Quiz Night, which pitched six teams – featuring representatives from Tatler, AFP, e New York Times, CNN, Reuters, RTHK and the FCC Board – up against each other in a hard-fought contest of wit and, er, wisdom.

e rounds were not mainstream by any stretch of the imagination: Hong Kong logos (most were stumped by the Department of Health, although everyone got LeaveHomeSafe); music covers; urban slang; and geography sudden-death, with contestants required to name Asia-Paci c countries one by one.

Needless to say, the evening – designed to raise funds for events aimed at younger journalists – was a resounding success, with the FCC ummoxed at the last minute by a Michael Jackson challenge from RTHK’s victorious Radioheads.

Still puzzled by the headline? Well, in that case you should try dipping into urbandictionary.com, jamoke.

There’s never been a better time…

…to sign up for the FCC – especially as joining fees are going up on Lunar New Year’s Eve.

e new deal means that joining fees for Associate Members will rise to HK$45,000, while prospective Correspondent and Journalist members will have to shell out HK$3,850. e discounted scheme for early career journalists remains unchanged. It’s worth noting that members get a HK$1,000 F&B credit for every successful new introduction.

Applications received before 21 January 2023 will be eligible for the current joining fees (HK$35,000/ HK$3,000), regardless of when their membership is approved.

e clock’s ticking – full details here: fcchk.org/ membership. Of course, absolutely everybody (well, almost) is welcome to join.

Welcoming that new lease

It’s that man again

e crowd-funder (see October 2022’s issue of e Correspondent) for Nate ayer, the American journalist who tracked down Cambodian dictator Pol Pot in 1997 and who has been su ering severe health issues of one kind and another in New York, raised a much-needed US$32,000, for which he is deeply grateful. Following a recent car accident (see photo), he hastened to assure everyone that he and his dog Lamont, of whom he’s passing fond, are pretty much okay, and nobody else was injured.

5 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT PHOTO: SUPPLIED
CREDIT: SMCP

The USP of ESG

Two FCC managers stepped into the regional limelight last October when they hosted the annual Club Managers’ Association Conference at the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) in Happy Valley.

One hundred and twenty delegates from around Asia pitched up for the four-day meet, which stuck close to its theme of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) and Sustainable Development, and was organised by General Manager Didier Saugy and Club Operations Manager Carmen Chan.

Delegates discussed issues concerning sustainability, biodiversity, labour, the environment, supply chains, technology, business development and mental health. Key speakers included Jason Chiu, the Founder of Cherrypicks, who developed the LeaveHomeSafe app; Shirlee Algire,

who was responsible for spearheading the introduction of sustainability into the HKJC’s operations; Wander Meijer, who heads up Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden; and Johnny Yu, Chief Advisor at Henderson Land Development to Dr Martin Lee Ka Shing.

Carmen Chan commented: “It’s fair to say that not many hospitality experts are overly familiar with the true de nition of ESG, so this conference was really worthwhile.

“Personally speaking, I was extremely impressed by the speakers’ down-to-earth, practical information. Becoming a sustainability leader requires big changes, but the e ort is worth it – in both environmental and economic terms. We learned a lot, and I honestly think the club will bene t a lot as a result.”

CLUB NEWS 6 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTO: SUPPLIED

you try to understand it, it’s more fun than simply tasting it’

Senior Sous Chef Jay Lam Wai Chun spills the beans to Hayley Wong about his personal philosophy of food, honed in the course of a 20-year career.

How long have you been with the FCC?

Jay Lam: is is my seventh year with the club, the longest I’ve ever worked for any company. Time passes swiftly and I’m very happy. My colleagues and supervisor, Executive Chef Johnny, are all very nice. Johnny gives us lots of opportunities and space to create new dishes and presentations.

How is the kitchen at the FCC different from others you’ve worked in?

JL: ere’s a lot of room to create here. For instance, Johnny initiated a promotion for every chef to create their own dish last spring. It’s up to us to design our own menu and presentation, and decide what ingredients to use. e feedback was quite positive. For the regular menus, Johnny will decide the dishes on the menu, but the execution is up to us. at’s quite challenging, actually.

What dish did you design in the promotion?

JL: I designed a starter – a crab and avocado salad – as I belong to the appetiser department and love seafood. Unlike other salads, I used avocados to wrap the sauces and ingredients like crab meat, mangoes, onions and so on, and placed some scallops on the top. e feedback was really good. I didn’t look at the statistics, but I guess mine was one of the two most popular dishes. I made at least 30 plates a day – that’s quite a lot for an entree.

What brought you to cooking and the FCC?

JL: I’ve always been interested in food – why do some items taste better than others? What makes it tastier? is involves a fair amount of science. If you try to understand it, it’s more fun than simply tasting it.

I started my career as a waiter in a co ee shop at the airport after nishing high school. As a reward for working hard, I was o ered a position in the kitchen after a month. Since then, I’ve been a chef for about 20 years.

Before the FCC, I worked for hotel chains like Marco Polo and Hyatt for a long time. But the exibility in hotels is low, so I wanted to try something new. As clubs like the FCC have a long history, I thought I could learn and widen my horizons here. My experience here turned out to be beyond my expectations.

Your most memorable experience at the FCC?

JL: We learn to cook dishes from all over the world here. Johnny invites guest chefs to come from time to time so that we can learn from their traditional techniques. is isn’t common in other kitchens, even in hotels. We’ve collaborated with chefs from Germany, the US, Ireland and so on.

I nd them all quite remarkable because you learn to make their traditional dishes, which you might have thought is done in another way. Take carbonara as an example. In Hong Kong, we usually use cream for the sauce, but the traditional dish actually uses egg yolk. You get this kind of inspiration.

What do you do after work? Do you still cook?

JL: e answer is no, absolutely not. ere are some exceptions of course, but most chefs don’t cook after work. My parents prepare meals, or I eat really simple food like noodles when I get home. It’s the same in the kitchen: we sometimes just grab a piece of bread as a snack.

I like reading and watching movies after work, especially about food presentation on YouTube and other social media. Some are really delicate, but I ask myself whether that is feasible when we have many orders in a restaurant. I’m really into food.

What is your goal as a chef?

JL: I hope to develop my own brand and restaurant to serve spicy seafood in the future, as I really like it myself. It will probably feature a fusion of Chinese and Western cuisines in smaller portions and with greater detail. n

7 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTO: BEN MARANS
‘If
STAFF PROFILE
I thought I could learn and widen my horizons here.

Whoever transformed the Winter Solstice celebrations into Christmas as we know it now sure was a whizz at marketing. at said, after what has proved to be an exacting twelvemonth, the FCC dived into the festivities all the more enthusiastically after the government’s lovely vaccine pass requirement was lifted on 29 December. ank you, Santa, thank you very much indeed!

Christmas Bazaar

e tables in the Hughes Room were groaning with wine, gourmet food, glassware and souvenirs on 8 and 9 December when once again the FCC staged its everpopular Christmas Bazaar.

Kids’ Day

Balloon twisting, face painting and making handicrafts were just some of the diversions on o er at the Kids’ Day on 11 December, in addition to a sumptuous bu et. e live cooking station did a roaring trade in Hong Kong-style egg wa es.

Lechyd da!

In ne voice and similarly ne spirits, 30 members of the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir (hkwmvc.com) serenaded the club on 14 December with a score of carols including Hark! e Herald Angels Sing and Silent Night (in English and Deutsch, look you), nishing with a thunderous rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

PHOTOS; FCC WINE & DINE & FESTIVE MERRIMENT
8 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
‘Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling’

Christmas Eve

Whether members were tucking into roast turkey or vegetable coulibiac, there was good cheer aplenty (plus face time with the North Pole’s best-known resident) on Christmas Eve in the Main Dining Room.

Christmas Day

e lunch bu et in the Main Dining Room was fully booked ages in advance, and not surprisingly as the chef’s brigade had pulled out all the stops to lay on a magni cent feast that vaulted from Indian lamb chops to Peking duck as well as traditional fare. No problem with sticking to that “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” trope.

2023 Countdown Party

It was back to the future on 31 December, with the club taking on looks from the 30s, 60s and 90s and partygoers encouraged to dress accordingly. Needless to say, at the end of a hectic year, the party went with a bang.

9 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTOS; FCC

Basin feast & prosperity toss

Two Cantonese Chinese New Year classics grace the menu this month: poon choi and lo hei. And like Chinese New Year itself, they’re best enjoyed with and by slightly too many people.

Poon choi – literally “basin feast” – has its origins in the walled villages of the New Territories. It’s a celebration dish for a celebratory time, showcasing the best – and often the most expensive – of what’s on o er. From abalone to duck, goose web to ginseng, seemingly incongruous ingredients are layered in a single large dish. It doesn’t sound like it should work, but the alchemy of heat and time creates a rich, deeply avourful dish – and a magically rich sauce which lies at the bottom. Make your selection of ingredients from the top, then spoon plenty of sauce over rice for a soul-warming speciality.

Lo hei – the “prosperity toss” – is a Cantonese dish popularised in Singapore. Much like poon choi, it’s far more than the sum of its parts – but the true joy comes in the fact that this is a meal with an activity built in. is raw sh salad stars ingredients like salmon, radish, pomelo, carrot, peanut and far more, each with its own auspicious meaning. It arrives separated into its constituent parts – and it’s then the responsibility of every one at the table to snatch up a pair of chopsticks and toss everything high into the air, while exclaiming good wishes for the new year. e more lofty the toss, the greater the fortunes which await: so toss well, and toss high.

Mixed Doubles

What?! Your New Year’s resolution was to give up ne wine? You fool. Deprive yourself of something less essential, and have a go at this exceptional quartet of reds and whites from the club’s cellar.

Pierre Chainier Les Calcaires Sauvignon Blanc

A traditional and pleasing Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire. Zesty and lemony citrus aromas; citrus fruit on the palate, wellbalanced with a crisp and refreshing acidity.

HK$145 (takeaway)

Paul Mas, Domaine d’Astruc Viognier

Rich and elegant with a quintessence of dried fruits, peach and white ower aromas with a hint of vanilla and honey notes; rich, fresh and mellow with toasted notes of a good length.

HK$250 (takeaway)

Heritage de Baroncourt Rouge

Cherry colour; aroma with hints of red fruits and light spices; on the palate it shows a combination of elegance and structure; medium nish with soft tannins.

HK$145 (takeaway)

Domaine Rolet Arbois Trousseau

Salted plum, blueberry, summer strawberry and wild cherry aromas with a medium-bodied palate; surprisingly juicy, silky and sophisticated; long, elegant nish with liquorice notes.

HK$250 (takeaway)

PHOTOS: BEN MARANS WINE & DINE
10 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT

Don’t say ‘Aperitif’, say ‘Aperol’

Just over a century since its creation in Italy, Aperol is trending, not least as an alluring hot cocktail.

As every trivia quiz expert will aver, the bitter aperitif is made of gentian, rhubarb and cinchona – inventors Luigi and Silvio Barbieri must have had a wild time in the lab – and is a rather psychedelic orange in hue. It’s said to taste and smell a bit like Campari, but has a lower alcohol content at 11 percent.

Cut to the chase: mixed with white wine, orange juice, heated up and garnished with a couple of orange slices, it’s guaranteed to warm the cockles of the heart and just about all the other internal organs.

Available until 31 January in the Main Bar; HK$33 a pop.

COMPETITION

The East is Red

Up for grabs in the inaugural Correspondent Sherlock Holmes competition is a very decent bottle of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Chateau Duhart-Milon 2011, which routinely sells for HK$610.

Asked to describe this particular Bordeaux, F&B Manager Michael Chan paused for a moment before answering thus: “Intense colour with hints of purple. Initially characterised by woodiness, the nose then presents a beautiful expression of red fruit, tobacco and spicy notes. Elegant and fresh on the alate fine structure density and length with an intriguing, com le fruity finish

Ta-da! It should also induce the more-than-pleasant frisson that’s usually associated with consuming alcohol.

How to snag this for yourself? Well, not-sovery cunningly concealed somewhere in the text of this issue is a homophone. Fossick it out and email editor@fcchk.org with the subject line “Glug Glug Glug he eighth member to respond correctly wins, and should present the editor’s congratulatory reply at the Front Desk to claim his, her, or – er – their prize.

Board members (who will have seen the blueprint in December), their relatives and BFFs, and anyone else associated with the production of the magazine, are not eligible to enter he editor’s decision is final unless, that is, the heavies come calling.

Hotpot revisited

There’s a saying in Switzerland: “ Diviltitfatants ichras n zan, ltinfrimras corrun ro your bread while you’re stirring the fondue – drinks are on you.)

Can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Not surprisingly for a country with a lot of snow-capped mountains, its inhabitants have come up with a fair few ways to ward off winter chills, foremost of which has to be that muchloved and very dipable bubbling vat of melted cheese.

The FCC will be laying on three types of fondue to greet the new year: natural, morel, and tomato and herb. Each is served with bread, spuds, pickles, charcuterie and condiments, and will be made sufficiently large to suit howe er many are sitting at table. Gruyère and Emmental go into the pot, together with white wine, garlic and an encouraging dash of Kirsch.

If you’re a fondue fan – fall to; if you’re not, what on earth took you so long?

11 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTOS: BEN MARANS

The food of love

On the fourteenth day of the second month of every year, the sight of overpriced bouquets of owers and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate trumpets that these utterly material purchases have turned the day into one of the most mercenary holidays in the world. Be that as it may, it has been observed for over 1,500 years.

By the way, I’m obviously not the White from White’s Bites that the audience is accustomed to. Filling in for Adam – not an easy task, but beside the point – makes this my rst time tasting food for the purpose of reviewing it, so bear with me on this journey as I describe to you all the avours the themed Valentine’s Day menu has to o er. (It’s available for other celebrations too, it’s worth noting.)

Setting aside the exorbitant price hikes, there is one thing that make Valentine’s Day a little more festive, and it’s food – after all, this is one of the holiday’s names: the Feast of Saint Valentine.

Millions of cards are bought on Valentine’s Day and millions of roses are grown to be given away to loved-ones on the day. How many of the millions of the cards and roses end up in the bin? Probably a lot of them, safe to say. But there’s one thing that won’t end up in a land ll, and it’s a well-prepared and satisfying Valentine-themed meal.

Some couples might prefer to spend a night at home to aunt their sublime cooking skills and whip up a fourcourse meal.

But why do that when you can book a table at the FCC for you and a loved-one (or loved-ones, because who says you can’t spend Valentine’s with your friends or family?) for the exact same experience; minus the hassle.

Anyway, it’s probably a little di cult to cook in a tiny Hong Kong apartment with a kitchen the size of a pocket handkerchief which may well not have enough burners to keep your multi-course cooking going for the night. at said, it’s high time to eat.

Entrées:

Saint Jacques king scallop, baby spinach, baked cherry tomato with a Champagne foam. Served on a saltwater clam with a bed of baby spinach, the scallop certainly is king-size, and its texture is aky with a melt-in-your-mouth feel. e accompanying spinach provides an earthy taste to balance out the seafood notes.

Porcini mushroom gratin, baby spinach, baked cherry tomato with a truffle foam.

If you’re a fan of cream of mushroom soup, the avours and smell of this mushroom gratin will deliver exactly that. When you dig in with your fork the gratin has a sou é-like texture, but the consistency is heavy, with the diced porcini mushrooms – perfect for fungus lovers.

Duo tasting soup: Creamy onion with apple and pigeon consommé with duck liver dumpling.

e creamy onion soup is topped with a slice of crisp dried apple; it’s pearly with the texture of the sliced onions in your mouth and a combative sweet aftertaste. e second half of the duo tasting soup is duck liver a oat in pigeon consommé, heavy on the herbs with slivers of sliced veggies; the avour of the duck is rich, buttery and earthy, exactly what to expect of the bird when it’s well-prepared.

Main Course: Pan-fried red mullet fillet, ratatouille, cheese carrot purée , saffron mussel stew, baby mizuna and quinoa tuile. e red mullet llet, served on a bed of ratatouille, has a crispy and well-seasoned skin, but the sh itself is beautifully buttery. e dollops of cheese carrot purée are strong in avour and accompany the ratatouille well, which almost has a bit of a sweet kick to it from the tomato sauce.

NOT QUITE WHITE’S BITES
12 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTOS: MIKE PICKLES & BEN MARANS Hollingworth Fellow Simran Vaswani’s first assignment for The Correspondent was to tackle the FCC’s alentine’s ay Special. Naturally she grabbed her knife and fork licked her lips and set to with a will. Entrée: Saint Jacques King Scallop, baby spinach, baked cherry tomato with a Champagne foam. Entrée: Porcini mushroom gratin, baby spinach, baked cherry tomato with a truffle foam

e mussels, free from their shells and coated in a yellow sa ron sauce, are fresh, chewy and tender.

Dessert: Love Memory

A lava tart made from Valrhona’s Guanaja 70 percent – the iconic dark chocolate, sweet but bitter. And of course, there’s nothing better than breaking into a lava dessert and watching the chocolate ooze out of its crust and stream onto the plate. e rich, creamy and silky chocolate, freshly out of the oven, is well balanced with the crumbly and buttery tart shell. e dessert comes adorned in a combination of pink peppercorn foam, bergamot sponge jelly, snow meringue and berry feather tuile.

Cocktail:

Valentine’s Kiss

Baileys and crème de cacao with a hint of rum, topped

with a generous layer of milk foam and dried ower petals. e pink hue makes it perfect for the occasion and it tastes exactly like it sounds: sweet, velvety and with a kick from the Irish cream. It’s a little like a spiked milkshake, but far more prepossessing, and nothing short of indulgent.

In sum, this entrancing meal is bountiful on the gourmet seafood and comes in perfect proportions for sharing, so it doesn’t leave your tummy too stu ed for the night.

You only get 80 or so Valentine’s Days to celebrate in your lifetime – well, about 88 if you’re a woman, and only 83-ish if you’re a man. So, you should probably make each one count, and what better way to do that than with a skilfully shaken motif cocktail at the best club in Hong Kong?

Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope you and your loved-one(s) enjoy this meal as much as I did. n

13 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTOS: BEN MARANS Duo tasting soup: Pigeon consommé with duck liver dumpling and creamy onion with apple. Dessert: Valrhona Guanaja 70 percent lava tart. Valentine’s Kiss: Baileys and crème de cacao. ain ourse: an fried red mullet fillet ratatouille cheese carrot purée , saffron mussel stew, baby mizuna and quinoa tuile.

‘A Good Story Cuts Across Cultures’

Banker-turned-author and mother-of-two Bhakti Mathur speaks to Ambrose Li about why representation –in books and in life – matters in the city that she calls home.

With 18 titles to her name and a deal with Penguin Random House India, Bhakti Mathur writes for readers aged between three and 12 on Indian mythology and culture, which has been a fascination since her childhood days in Dehli. Beyond writing, she is one of 104 people who have been nominated to provide advice about ethnic minority communities in Hong Kong.

You were a full-time banker – why did you decide to start writing?

Bhakti Mathur: I have two sons, both of them call me Amma (‘mother’), and I started writing for them. When they were about one and three years old back in 2010, I couldn’t nd a book for them on Holi – the colourful Indian festival celebrating spring – so I decided to write one myself. at one book eventually became two series - Amma , Tell Me and Amma , Take Me - and the names are inspired by my boys. e former focuses on major Hindu festivals and deities with titles such as Amma , Tell Me About Diwali and Amma , Tell Me about Krishna ; while the latter explores places of worship in India with titles like Amma , Take Me to the Golden Temple.

Educating my sons about Indian culture came naturally to me. My husband and I met in Mumbai, and we came to Hong Kong in 2000 after a short stint in San Francisco. My sons were born here, so Hong Kong is very much home for them and for us.

When you’re out of your own country, you’re more cognisant of making your kids aware of their culture and heritage, because you feel they’re not there. You’ll end up doing even more than what parents in India may do to help them stay connected.

For me, Indian mythology is something that comes from the heart. My mother was a librarian, which meant I spent many hours in libraries

PHOTO: SUUPLIED MEMBER INSIGHTS
14 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT

and I got my love of books from there. And I had a male nanny when I was about seven or eight. He would tell me stories about Indian epics for two hours and more, so that sowed the seed of my interest in mythology.

You self-published initially – what was that like?

BM: e main reason I decided to do so was that publishers take over your creative control – for example, I wouldn’t have any say on the illustrations, the title of the book and the quality of the paper.

I felt that I wasn’t doing this to put food on the table. It was a labour of love, a passion project. So I said all successes and failures should be mine – let me make a mess if I have to. Conversely, if it was a success, let me be a part of it.

But I made it harder for myself by doing so because I had to take care of the business side of things, too. From guring out how many copies to print to getting them to bookstores, that was all down to me. It took me four, ve years to nd distributors in di erent markets.

at was a very tough period because I was juggling being a banker, a mother, a writer and a businessperson. And inspiration didn’t always strike at 10 pm after my kids had gone to bed and I nally had time.

In 2015, Penguin approached me to buy the Amma , Tell Me series, having turned it down earlier. We eventually decided to start another series – a travelogue of a mother and

BHAKTI’S TOOLKIT

her two kids travelling to places in India. is became Amma, Take Me.

It’s now a family project. I travel with the family to where I’m writing about. I’m very happy about this.

On top of all this, you also have been nominated to serve on government advisory committees. BM: I am on the Zubin Foundation Diversity list. e idea is that if the government is looking for people from ethnic minority communities to serve in advisory positions on their boards or anywhere, there’s a list to pick from based on that person’s experience.

Unfortunately, I think many people, like myself, haven’t been called on yet, but our names are with the government and I do hope to be called. It would be an honour because I see Hong Kong as my home, and to be able to help ethnic minorities, or be a voice, or contribute in any way would be great.

ere are people from ethnic minority communities who face certain challenges, and I think it is everyone’s duty to lift them up, ethnic minority or not, because this is their home as well.

When they see role models from their community working in banking or as a lawyer, it encourages them. at’s literally seeing yourself represented. Another aspect of this is being able to think from their point of view.

It’s important in any city, not just Hong Kong. It’s a bigger thing:

For additional information on Indian culture, browse:

Mythology

Author Devdutt Pattanaik interprets Indian mythology for a modern audience through a lens of management, governance and leadership via his articles, books and videos. devdutt.com

Meditation

Passage Meditation was brought to UC Berkeley and popularised by renowned spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran in the 1960s. bmcm.org

the ‘haves’ should take care of the ‘have-nots’.

Is there a link between representation and writing?

BM: Absolutely – I think both help promote communication and understanding. But when I started, I had none of these considerations; I just wanted to tell stories to my boys.

Having said that, many parents and teachers come to me and say that for Indians or people from the [South] Asian culture, to see their stories represented in schools is such a big deal.

Around the time of Diwali, I went to the Asia Society as well as three schools to read my stories to children. And the Indian kids were so happy and proud, their faces lit up, and they talked so much. It’s helping Diwali become mainstream, just as Christmas is celebrated, which has a big role in how they feel.

What I have also come to realise is that a good story cuts across cultures. I was part of a writing group of about 16 that consisted of Indians, Chinese and Westerners.

We were students in a Master’s programme in creative writing at the University of Hong Kong and we would critique each other’s works regularly.

It was wonderful to get feedback from non-Indians, and their reactions made me appreciate that if a story is good and told interestingly, it would always appeal and could transcend cultural boundaries. n

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga is known for the high level of attention paid to alignment and the use of props; it is named after BKS Iyengar, who is credited with being one of the first to o ularise yoga outside India rimyi.org/resources

15 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT

A CURIOUS CRATE OF CURATE’S EGGS

What is Hong Kong’s environmental state of play nowadays?

Having been visiting or living in Hong Kong for over 20 years, and for most of that time worked or volunteered in the sustainability sector, I’m in a good position to re ect on Hong Kong’s water, land and seas. I won’t cover how our economy and environment interact, as that topic deserves its own discussion, which would ideally cover the public health and social bene ts of having a thriving natural environment.

ater e ections

As Hong Kong imports approximately 70 percent of its freshwater needs, it is important to look after the local streams, especially where these ow into our reservoirs. Protection of our wetlands and estuaries has increased through initiatives like the MTR Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Project, the Mai Po Nature Reserve and the Hong Kong Wetland Park, though

the threats from reclamation or development are never far away. is is especially true where legal protection is insu ciently robust, such as the Coastal Protection Area on South Lantau. Past development which used concrete drainage canals is now being recti ed by incorporating natural stream features in channels, such as the impressive improvements to the notorious Kai Tak Nullah.

One of the biggest improvements to our streams and coastal water has come from the e orts to manage raw sewage, through projects like the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme, plus the ongoing rural village sewerage schemes, which have resulted in public beaches being opened again for swimming. Enjoyment of our marine areas has also improved through the 2013 trawling ban, which is helping sh and bottom dwelling ora and fauna to recover. However, Hong Kong would really gain from implementing sh catch limits and minimum take and landing size for

di erent species so that sh and shell sh can reach reproductive size. is would enable sh stock numbers to increase and result in improved recreational shing and diving experiences. e gradual increase in Marine Parks from ve to eight in the last 20 years is good progress, as they now cover 1 percent of Hong Kong’s marine area. Now, it’s time to make these marine parks no-take and nocatch zones. What about setting 10 percent of Hong Kong’s marine area to be protected, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal: Life Below Water targets?

and illing

Hong Kong has a massive appetite for seafood; back on land, we also have a massive food waste issue, with approximately one-third of all municipal solid waste (MSW) being food (approximately 300 grams per gullet per day). is rate hasn’t really changed over the last decade, so we all need to help cut down on food

16 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT LEAD STORY
With COP27 over and World Environment Day looming, veteran eco-warrior Merrin Pearse mulls the very good, the rather bad and the starkly ugly sides of Hong Kong’s environment. Rus in urbe: the ong ong Wetland ark has made a significant contribution towards rotecting the natural en ironment

waste. To reduce the food waste going to land ll, the government built a treatment facility – O•PARK1 – at Siu Ho Wan near the Discovery Bay tunnel. e anaerobic digestor has a design capacity of 200 tonnes of organic waste (mostly food waste) per day to produce biogas and compost. A similar system, O•PARK2, will be located at Sha Ling, near Sheung Shui and designed to process 300 tonnes daily.

However, even operating atout, they will still only handle 16 percent of the 3,200 tonnes consigned to land ll every day, so reduction remains the focus for food waste.

To help reduce the pressure on land ll space and cut the associated greenhouse gas emissions, sewerage sludge that was being sent to land ll is now being treated at T•Park, which includes an incinerator capable of processing 2,000 tonnes of sludge per day into electricity. It is located next to the West New Territories land ll near Tuen Mun, so residual waste does not need to be transported long distances.

e Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) being built at sea near Shek Kwu Chau is a lamentable example of constructing an incinerator in a remote area, rather than near the source of material it needs, and far from the land ll where the toxic ash will go. Due for commissioning in 2025, the IWMF Phase 1 is designed to process 3,000 tonnes of MSW daily, which works out at 30 percent of the 10,809 tonnes of MSW land lled each day in 2020.

e design for the Shek Kwu Chau plant included plans for a small Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to separate out recyclable materials. It only takes a quick look at the over owing roadside recycling bins around Hong Kong (which are slowly being phased out) to see that using automated technology to sort the recyclables would signi cantly improve the recycling quality and quantity. While the new community recycling network (GREEN@ COMMUNITY) stations are a good way to educate people on what can be

recycled, they are only able to handle a very small portion of what should be recycled. Hong Kong can only bene t from large-scale automated MRFs.

Other Environmental Protection Department (EPD) initiatives to relieve the pressure on land lls and help move Hong Kong towards a more circular economy include:

•Municipal Solid Waste charging, which is in line with the “polluterpays” principle of charging households and companies by the quantity of rubbish they dispose of instead of it being currently free. is is due to be implemented in the second half of 2023.

• Producer Responsibility Schemes (PRS), which target “eco-responsibility”, require relevant stakeholders including manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers to share the responsibility for the collection, recycling, treatment and disposal of end-of-life products.

e Product Eco-Responsibility Ordinance, which came into force

17 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
O O WWW GO R I WI I
Electricity generation 60% Transport 20% Waste 9% Other 11% O G O G’ RG R O I R lack mark: garbage strewn across ong ong’s sea floor
arine arks
ste
ountry arks are a wonderful asset: but their nati e flora and fauna need succouring
reating eight
is a good
forward: but they should also be made no take no catch ones

in July 2008, is a piece of umbrella legislation which provides the shared core elements of all PRSs. Individual types of products for which PRS have been introduced or developed are:

*Plastic Shopping Bag Charging Scheme – the rst PRS was designed to reduce the excessive use of plastic shopping bags via a mandatory charge to consumers. e rst phase of the scheme was implemented in July 2009. Shopping bag use at regulated retail outlets did decrease, though annoyingly the charge is kept by the retailer without any requirement to use the funds for further environmental programmes.

*PRS on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment – From August 2018, suppliers of airconditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, printers, scanners and monitors (collectively referred to as regulated electrical equipment or REE) had to be registered with the EPD. Vendors must provide a free removal service if requested by the consumer and abandoned REE may no longer be dumped at land lls and refuse transfer stations. A Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Treatment and Recycling Facility has been in full operation since March 2018. It has advanced technologies and equipment for treating electronics and the like and for turning

O WI I

• rotect ercent of ong ong’s marine area in line with the ustainable e elo ment Goals

• uild facilities to im ro e the se aration of recyclable items from at least ercent of rubbish headed for landfill or incineration

• oncentrate on returning nati e flora and fauna to country arks and within housing de elo ments

• iscourage o er ordering at restaurants

waste into reusable materials such as plastics and metals through detoxi cation, dismantling and recycling.

*PRS on glass beverage containers - Since November 2017, EPDappointed Glass Management Contractors have provided waste glass container collection and treatment services across Hong Kong. Some of the glass is being used as a replacement for sand in bricks.

*PRS on Plastic Beverage Containers – It is likely that a rebate arrangement to encourage the public to return used plastic beverage containers for recycling will be introduced in the near future.

However, one of the concerns with rolling out individual PRSs based on speci c materials is that manufacturers may then switch to other materials like multi-layer pouches or paperbased cartons that are harder to recycle or reuse than plastic or glass. If the switch goes ahead, more electricity and water may be used to recycle these materials than are used in recycling plastic.

Another great advance in Hong Kong has been the establishment of a plastic recycling plant at the Eco-Park in Tuen Mun that can process PET plastic bottles back into food grade plastic, which enables manufacturers to make products with recycled PET content. is reduces the need for raw

PET from fossil fuels and helps to reduce the carbon footprint of items like bottles and food trays.

Hong Kong has a very e cient waste collection system that quickly moves waste to three modern land lls; however, the downside is that people don’t see the scale of the daily rubbish they generate. Modern land lls have liners that enable the leachate wastewater to be collected for treatment. e three operating land lls and some of the closed land lls are also capturing some of the land ll gas to reduce carbon emissions and generate electricity.

ir eco ery

Twenty years ago, electricity generation in Hong Kong was the largest local emitter of air pollution, though with the use of more natural gas and the inclusion of better lters on coal- red power stations, the shipping industry became the largest air polluter.

Air pollution levels are improving through initiatives such as the Fair Winds Charter, a voluntary scheme initiated by Hong Kong’s shipping industry to reduce ship emissions by requiring ocean-going vessels to switch to a low-sulphur fuel while at berth.

Roadside air pollution is another area where progress has been made. is street-level source of air pollution is close to people and hence more easily enters our lungs. e Hedley

18 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
LEAD STORY O O: IW O
Right idea wrong lace: an artist’s im ression of the future hek wu hau waste management facility

Environmental Index, set up in 2008, shows the health and economic costs of air pollution in real time. e switch from diesel taxis at the end of the 1990s to LPG taxis has reduced emissions, though poor maintenance of LPG taxi engines, including failing to replace catalytic converters in time, can result in higher emissions than well maintained petrol or diesel cars with internal combustion engines. Now, in the 2020s, we are seeing the move to electric cars. Why is there not a strong push for all electric taxis like other cities in the region? e bene ts are not just reduced roadside air pollution but also less noise. Importantly, if Hong Kong continues to promote electric vehicles, what systems are in place to recover the batteries and improve what happens to vehicle tyres?

iodi ersity onus and e ound

We are lucky to have such large country parks, with 40 percent of Hong Kong (435 square kilometres) protected within their boundaries. Sure, some spots are just as noisy and busy as downtown shopping areas, but a swift 10-minute walk can restore tranquillity.

While there has been limited active management to reintroduce native ora and fauna since the rst parks were established in 1977, they are a real success story, especially if you consider birds. As many as 30 species once thought to be extinct from Hong Kong have now returned. An increased focus on helping the native ora and fauna return can

only serve up more successes, and the new Country Park at Robin’s Nest designated in June 2019 is a de nite step forward. During the development of Hong Kong’s rst Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan over ve years ago, there were many excellent suggestions from the community that should feature more prominently in the revised plan due to be completed shortly by the government. Country parks are a wonderful asset for Hong Kong that many cities around the world can only dream of having, though they remain under pressure to be taken back for housing and other infrastructure.

While protecting the land and marine environments is important, it’s important keep in mind that Hong Kong is primarily a trading hub, and within those imports and exports is the challenge of managing illegal trade in ora and fauna. It is pleasing

that in August 2021 Hong Kong’s legislature passed an amendment to include the illegal wildlife trade in the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance. is change enabled law enforcement o cials to crack down on the crooks behind the international illegal wildlife trade, rather than just catch individuals carrying the goods.

With healthy forests, wetlands, mangroves and ocean, Hong Kong will have cleaner air, cleaner water and larger amounts of carbon dioxide being sequestered, all while providing more enjoyable recreational activities through thriving native ora and fauna.

It is wonderful to see over the last 20 years some signi cant improvements to Hong Kong’s environmental state of play. Let’s hope that Hong Kong implements a series of bold initiatives, such as 10 percent Marine Parks and 100 percent sorting of waste, so that nature can thrive again within, and around, the fragrant harbour. n

r errin earse is a ustainability d isor with he ur ose usiness O er the course of two decades in ong ong he was hairman of i ing Islands o ement cting O of riends of the arth ong ong and organiser of ong ong Green rinks e now li es in Wellington ew ealand

19 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
Other sian cities ha e embraced the idea of electric ta is but ong ong still dithers
a comeback: the ong ong rown Owl O O: I I R
O O: R WI I
Poor maintenance of LPG taxi engines can result in higher emissions
aking
lissfully ha y Red necked tint at hui au

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALL GOOD FELLOWS…

No surprises there…

In previous years, the FCC awarded just two Clare Hollingworth Fellowships, but the quality of the most recent batch of applicants was su ciently strong last autumn to up the total to three. e fellowship (named, of course, for the late journalist who, to quote one colleague, “would come into work with her bedroll demanding to be sent to the latest trouble spot”) runs until the end of October; so over the next 10 months, expect to see Teele Rebane, Simran Vaswani and Hayley Wong at professional talks and gatherings, making merry in all the club’s facilities, and no doubt rmly grasping the chance to network with all and sundry. at their membership fees and monthly dues are waived is simply the icing on a really rather toothsome cake. Right. Time to get down to the business of a three-hander interview.

The Correspondent: Let’s kick off with a snappy intro.

Teele Rebane: Born and raised in Tallinn, Estonia, I moved to Hong Kong in 2017 to study journalism at the University of Hong Kong. At rst I was more interested in Hong Kong than in journalism, but that quickly changed when the protests broke out in 2019. I started working as a freelancer, did a couple of internships in ailand and Malaysia, and then got into audio. My best friend and I

I was baptised by fire covering the 2019 protests as a student journalist.

– Teele Rebane

did a podcast series about Hong Kong in the aftermath of the protests, and to this day it remains one of my favourite projects. In 2021, I graduated from university and joined CNN. It’s been a crazy news year, mostly spent covering Ukraine and Iran, and running o to the mountains for a quick escape whenever possible.

Simran Vaswani: Hong Kong born and bred, I’ve worked in global newsrooms such as CNN, Forbes and Bloomberg, and am now a reporter at DealStreetAsia, a nancial publication majority-owned by Nikkei. I graduated from Baptist University’s journalism programme this year. I was also editor-in-chief of HKBU’s e Young Reporter, the city’s oldest student newspaper, though it’s now online. I have thorough experience in covering business and nancial

20 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
FEATURE
Three’s company: tyro journos Hayley Wong, Teele Rebane and Simran Vaswani. PHOTOS: BEN MARANS & SUPPLIED Each of the FCC’s three newest+youngest+freshest members was inspired to take up journalism by the 2019 protests.

I love this process of finding answers to questions which I think are really important.

journalism. Aside from that, I am passionate about writing stories with a gender equality focus or about other social issues. When I’m not writing, I like watching the latest movies and television shows or Formula 1 racing.

Hayley Wong: I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and graduated from Chinese University last July. I’m very grateful for having worked at Stand News and Bloomberg, where I was able to write freely and learn from their inspirational journalists. I’m now on the China desk at South China Morning Post. While at university, together with a friend I started an online platform about social innovation – interviewing entrepreneurs of social start-ups in Hong Kong and creating content. I loved writing about impactful human stories but over time, I found my passion lay more with current a airs and started covering politics in the region.

TC: What – and when – was the lightbulb moment that set you on the journalistic treadmill?

TR: I was baptised by re covering the 2019 protests as a student journalist. It was addictive and the more I did it, the more I wanted to continue.

SV: It was 2019 in Hong Kong and everyone was watching the city change for ever. When the protests unravelled, it sparked the storyteller in me. I started to realise the importance of capturing voices and writing with truth and accuracy.

HW: I never thought about becoming a journalist until 2019, when I followed the controversial protest scenes in Hong Kong from Germany, where I was on a student exchange. I was really curious about what actually happened at the scene and wanted to verify rumours for myself. Ever since,

I have aspired to become a reporter and be on the spot to cover important moments in history. Some of my peers gave up journalism, so I repeatedly re ected on why I want to become a reporter. So it’s the satisfaction of nding something below the surface that matters to the public, and the excitement of speaking to new people and learning about new subjects every day that motivates me to pursue journalism as a career.

TC: What has been your best story so far?

TR: A story about an apartment complex in Izium, Ukraine, that was hit in a Russian airstrike in early March, killing half the building’s residents. For the next six months, the town was under Russian occupation and nobody quite knew what had happened to the people who were killed in that airstrike, until a mass burial site was discovered on the outskirts of the city. We spoke to a survivor who had lost eight family members in that airstrike, and other friends and family, to piece the story together. It came out somewhere between hard news and a feature; I’m proud of the way something like this gets you as close to the ground as possible without being there yourself.

SV: One of my favourite stories was one I did at Bloomberg on what the potential ban on cannabidiol (CBD) would mean for CBD-serving business in Hong Kong. e ban, which is set to take e ect in February, has forced a lot of businesses to close, just as they predicted.

HW: It was a story about why there is an increasing use of the sedition law in Hong Kong, despite the sweeping legislation of the National Security Law. As I was covering a number of sedition court cases at Bloomberg,

knowing that it’s a piece of colonial legislation dating back to the 1930s, I became interested in what brought this law to life again. With this question in mind, I started talking to scholars and lawyers, and gathered data of all sedition arrests and charges to look for the trend. I love this process of nding answers to questions which I think are really important.

TC: You must have read Patrick Garrett’s biography Of Fortunes and War from cover to cover. What really impressed you about Clare Hollingworth?

TR: I’ve been covering Iran since the protests there began, so the fact that she was the rst – and last – person to interview the Shah, who was deposed in 1979, blew me away.

SV: She consistently broke barriers and challenged herself. Despite becoming one of the world’s bestknown female war correspondents, she continued to be motivated to chase stories.

HW: She reminds me of what a teacher in university told us about the nature of reporters – running the opposite way to the crowd. She will always be an inspiration to my own journey.

TC: Other than bylining World War III Starts Today, what story would you really like to cover in your forthcoming career?

TR: Post-war Russia.

SV: How press freedom is being in uenced and a ected under current governments in Asia. Alongside uncovering how the freedom of the press may be impacted, I would also like to investigate how female journalists may be disproportionately a ected by declining press freedom in the region.

Clare consistently broke barriers and challenged herself.

HW: China in the coming years, as the party leadership has just changed. Living in this unique part of the country, I’d like to take advantage of my trilingual skills to cover how China moves on with COVID-19 and its relations with the West. n

21 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT

UNDAUNTED

Just over a dozen years ago, my son, Ben Kende – a sportsman of great promise – was paralysed from the chest down when another player fell on him during a rugby international in Bangkok.

At the beginning of 2023, Ben is in a chair and thriving in Sydney, having struggled up the arduous road to achieve a dynamic life.

Undamaged is a book for anyone who has su ered loss, trauma or misery during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a psychological study of resilience, a journey into the unknown but with a massive amount of community support and friendship. As I am a psychologist, I explore the nature of resilience and posttraumatic growth. For a long time, scientists believed that individuals were born resilient, and therefore those without this quality would be those who would su er. is has in uenced the way doctors approach their treatment of individuals su ering from adversity, based on the belief that people are missing something. However, more recent research sees resilience as a dynamic process, which can be learned. Psychologists have studied hundreds of people, who like Ben, have su ered trauma and tragedy –whether it was catastrophic injuries, war, accidents, natural disasters or abuse.

In particular, the research by Dr George Bonanno, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University in the US, turned pre-existing beliefs about resistance on their head. e assumption had always been that people who su er

adversity or trauma would show long-lasting signs of distress. He followed large groups of people over time who had faced such adversity, and maintains that a lot of people are exposed to trauma or grief at some point in their lives. e majority stop functioning temporarily, but after the initial recovery, they return to being positive emotionally. He found that our understanding of reactions to trauma comes from studying people who are distressed or getting treatment. Hence the common – and incorrect – belief that most people react to trauma dysfunctionally.

I’ve also been able to explore posttraumatic growth, which involves “bouncing forward”, a phenomenon embodied by Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and survivor of a Taliban attack. Research has found that some people who had been directly a ected by 9-11 switched from o ce work to join the military, re service or medical profession. ey not only returned to their pre-trauma selves, demonstrating their resilience, but also showed post-traumatic growth.

Rehab madness

Undamaged starts in a spinal rehab centre, which captures the demographic of spinal injury – mostly young men aged 18 to 30. As the saying goes, truth is stranger than ction. Each night these young men, all su ering from posttraumatic stress, would take themselves to the pub, with one electric wheelchair pulling three manuals. After too much drinking, they’d usually fall out of their chairs on the return journey. Every rehab day was full of such madness.

22 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
FEATURE
Undamaged is a book for anyone who has suffered loss, trauma or misery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
FCC member Jennifer Bovard’s life was turned upside down when her son, Ben Kende, was paralysed in a sports accident in 2010. Now, wiser for the experience, she takes stock at the beginning of a new year. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED Ben Kende with his faithful companion, Gumnut; and celebrating his 30th birthday on a skiing trip.

After a year in rehab and determined to embrace life, Ben set o with his friends on a wheelchair backpacking trip around the Middle East: Egypt, Israel and Jordan, camping in the Negev desert and following Bedouin trails. ere were many obstacles as it was a budget trip. He could not t his wheelchair on the boat on the Nile so the boys jumped ship and found another, and there were always strong young men with a nothing-is-impossible attitude to step in and solve any logistical problems. As it transpired, this formed the beginning of a healing journey to Ben’s psychological recovery.

Here is one of my favourite passages from Undamaged: “Climbing o his donkey, the grizzled Bedouin tethered the animal to a strong thistle, seeking shelter from the midday heat. Wearing a simple sirwal made of camel wool and a red-brown turban, he seemed to blend into the background. Suddenly, from the corner of his eye, he spotted a boy struggling to maneouvre a wheelchair up the rocky mountain. e kindly old Bedouin slowly but determinedly tied a rope from the animal to the wheelchair, and led the beast uphill. It was an act of sheer kindness and a poignant memory for all the boys.”

’They don’t see the wheelchair’

Another element in Ben’s emotional recovery was the magni cent help provided by the community in Hong Kong, who took part in a variety of sporting events to raise funds. Others pitched in to assist with my book’s publication costs. His schoolfriends hired wheelchairs from the Red Cross to join a run at Disneyland. ey wanted to help nancially but they also wanted to experience life in a wheelchair, and found it incredibly di cult to ride the chairs and almost impossible to make turns. Ben said: “ ey don’t see the wheelchair; they just see me.”

Norwegian girlfriend, Andrea iis-Evensen, who is an Audio Investigations

Corp Australia. He also lives with his beloved assistant dog, Gumnut, who is his constant companion. Ben had just turned 18 at the time of his accident. He celebrated his 30th birthday wheelchair skiing with his friends at redbo in New South Wales.

Bouncing back

Another element in Ben’s emotional recovery

help provided by the community in Hong Kong.

Most importantly, Undamaged outlines the prejudice and unconscious bias that face people of disability in Hong Kong, where they are often prevented from working simply because they cannot a ord to lose their essential therapy and care packages. Nowadays, I’m very happy – and proud – to record that Ben is a commercial lawyer working in Sydney for Norton Rose Fulbright and living with his

I’ve been asked about my own journey over the past 12 years. I quit my job in Hong Kong and took Ben to Australia where he was in hospital and then the Royal Rehab centre, after which we waited for him to start university. We were there for two years. Each day, I drove my sister-in-law’s car to the hospital and spent about 10 hours there. In rehab, apart from hanging out with Ben and the other patients, I watered the garden every day because that is about all I could cope with. Having had to leave my 13-year-old daughter behind in Hong Kong gave me a physical pain. e second point is that I suddenly found myself belonging to a group of parents of spinally injured persons: so when you hear stories of friends’ t and healthy children travelling footloose and fancy-free around South America, you feel it. But, as I wrote about the psychology of resilience in Undamaged , you soon recover.

e emotional journey was typical of the stages of grief and loss. At rst I was numbed by shock and disbelief. en anger set in, mostly anger with myself for not reading the injury protocols which at that time were way below standard (although that is not the case now). I am sure most of the mothers in rehab were like me, believing that their son or daughter would walk again – that was denial. After trauma you can also su er from post-traumatic stress – the subtle type where you become withdrawn. But acceptance usually comes to everyone eventually. In tragedies like this, time is your friend. It also spells hope for others, because the great majority of people bounce back in time. n

Sales of Undamaged go directly to spinal research. It is on sale at the FCC, as are all the books reviewed in this issue.

23 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
Producer at News
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Ben outside the Supreme Court after being admitted as a solicitor. Beside the seaside: Ben and his girlfriend, Andrea.

ZEITGEIST

Camera in hand

a

24 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT FEATURE
and on quest for unique, ironic or unusual images, FCC member, columnist, art critic and former gallerist John Batten furnishes an arresting vignette of Hong Kong life in the time of COVID-19. lectrical distribution cables used as letter sorting system ground floor of tong lau, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 26 June 2022 akeshift seat using a lastic stool balanced on a fire hydrant au a ei Kowloon, Hong Kong, 8 July 2022. ainted tree roots co ering tree lanter bo es omantin owloon ong ong 7 ugust PHOTOS: JOHN BATTEN

My photographs are documentary. Often, they are also aesthetic, composed to capture a moment of nonchalant beauty. Sometimes these elements cross. Appearing “quiet”, these photographs draw the viewer to look at the details of human organisation, or disorganisation, of space. In photography’s scale of image-making, photojournalism tends to the overt drama of living people, life and death. e scene of a young woman eating noodles behind a screen, or a pet tortoise exercising are

both tempered images, but photography also asks the viewer to complete the theatre of the moment and add in historical context. We can therefore also easily consider a postman searching for a letterbox but using any convenient place instead; the humble worker who painted the roots of a tree; and the obsessive who stacks their dashboard with toys. ey don’t shout COVID-19 restrictions, poverty or popular culture – they are implied in the photograph.

ortoise

25 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTOS: JOHN BATTEN oy figures on truck dashboard okwawan owloon ong ong ay oung woman eating noodles behind a O I rotection artition rince Edward, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 30 May 2022. e ercising: men goal shooting ing’s ark igh e el er ice Reser oir layground omantin owloon ong ong 7 ugust

GROUNDED IN CAMBODIA

Sca old, green mesh and security barriers have tightly wrapped the FCC in Phnom Penh for more than three years. It’s a building site now, but it’s a site laced with memories of those who covered insurgencies and assassinations, Khmer Rouge atrocities and tribunals, and of correspondents struggling to cope with ham- sted authorities while playing host to celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and political luminaries like East Timor President Xanana Gusmão.

Rules in the old FCC were few. Signage prohibited guns, grenades or ganja “on premises” but every rule was eventually broken, sometimes by skylarking and sometimes by Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers who routinely met with arms dealers for an afternoon co ee. ose days are gone. But above the entrance one remnant remains, a hand-painted quote from Ursula K. Le Guin’s sci- novel e Left Hand of Darkness : “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

The Club Relations between the FCC and its correspondent members were not always benign. It was founded in 1992 and the running of the bar was contracted out to Indochina Assets, which then quietly registered the FCC name as part of its operations.

Ten years later, journalists split, forming the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia (OPCC) and enduring a testy relationship with what Indochina Assets would call “ e F” because it was no longer an actual club and tourists enamoured by war journalists had become their priority.

Journalists would still use the premises for meetings and the odd after-work soiree but most preferred Cantina, run by the ever-popular American journalist Hurley Scroggins, who died in 2018.

His bar and Phnom Penh remained a popular base to cover wars, colour revolutions, protests and dodgy elections across Asia – at a time when guns and brute force were stock-in-

trade in silencing the unwanted.

However, the halcyon days –stretching back to the arrival of UN peace-keepers in 1992 – were numbered by the mid-2010s as protestors and security forces fought pitched battles in the streets.

A colour revolution set in and the government began a methodical and e ective crackdown, which had become a juggernaut by 2017 when the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was outlawed and the crackdown was extended to the media and NGOs.

e Cambodian Daily closed, while e Phnom Penh Post was sold to government-friendly business interests after both were hit with bewildering tax bills.

On its last front page, the Daily splashed: “Descent Into Outright Dictatorship”, as CNRP leader Kem Sokha was charged with treason. Worse was to come after opposition leader in exile Sam Rainsy threatened to return, stage a popular rebellion

26 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
DISPATCH
Is there anybody there, said the traveller? Grizzled old hack Luke Hunt contemplates the shuttered gates of the old FCC in Phnom P:enh. PHOTO: STEVE PORTE Veteran correspondent Luke Hunt files a scintillating pithy bar y-on-the-wall report on the press and other pressing issues in hnom enh and environs.

and oust Prime Minister Hun Sen.

It was a hollow threat, and he returned to France while many of his supporters in Cambodia were rounded up, charged and jailed.

e crackdown resulted in a Western business exodus – “ e F” was sold to RMA Group – and heralded the arrival of Chinese entrepreneurs who turned the southern port town of Sihanoukville into a gambling mecca, only to see it collapse as COVID-19 erupted.

Expat numbers fell from perhaps 90,000, plus a million-odd tourists a year, to a few thousand as the pandemic doldrums struck in mid-2021.

Media followed suit and the fate of the free press in Cambodia was cemented by a pandemic-induced economic depression. Renovations of a reprised FCC were put on hold and its current state is a fair re ection of the times and the media.

Foreign journalists and photographers working for local papers and stringing abroad pulled the ripcord, their numbers collapsed to about 20 holdouts and there was little to report as Cambodia shut down.

I calculated I could buy all the fresh vegetables I needed from a local market for about US$10 a week.

Hard Times

e Cambodian press is currently dominated by o cial, semi-o cial and pro-government publications like the Khmer Times. Television and radio networks are connected to the ruling family, with help from well-paid Western advisors, and are dedicated to telling the good-news Cambodian story.

Radio Free Asia is blocked and Voice of America (VOA) is barely tolerated. Cash-strapped online publications like CambojaNews and Voice of Democracy (VOD) do their best to report fairly and independently.

e rest is up to regional publications, predominantly e Diplomat, Nikkei Asia , Asia Times and even the Catholic agency UCA News, while wire services and newspapers such as the South China Morning Post help ll the void.

As the crackdown gained pace, the law and courts became their daily fodder. Treason, lèse-majesté, criminal defamation, security laws imposed during COVID-19, incitement and

Its current state is a fair re ection of the times and the media.

plotting to overthrow the government are among the commonly used statutes.

Article 305 of the Cambodian Penal Code reads: “Defamation shall mean any allegation or charge made in bad faith which tends to injure the honour or reputation of a person or an institution.”

In other words, truth is not a defence and an individual can be convicted even if statements do not result in actual damages.

Five en-masse trials resulted and Human Rights Watch says there are currently 60 political prisoners – when before there were few – and many more are waiting to be classi ed.

Cambodia’s international rankings su ered as a result.

Last October, Cambodia again landed in second-last place on the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index, with a ranking of 139 out of 140 countries, just one place behind Afghanistan and one place above Venezuela.

A constant thorn is the separation of powers, a concept that some struggle with. Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin derided the WJP index, saying the report was politically motivated because Cambodia is preparing to hold elections next July.

Press Freedom

Phnom Penh always sits at the bottom of the heap on e Economist ’s most liveable cities index and is considered “substantially constrained”. On press freedom, Cambodia never ranked high but over the last ve years it has fallen about 11 places.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranks Cambodia 142 out of 180 countries and territories. International non-pro t CIVICUS says the country is “repressed”, noting “radio stations and newspapers have been silenced, newsrooms purged, and journalists prosecuted”.

As the pandemic ebbed, stories emerged: a last appeal in the Khmer

Rouge genocide trial was heard late last year, dismissed and the tribunal is nally over. And the unrelenting prosecutions of CNRP activists and dissenting voices resumed.

Slave compounds running online rackets organised by Chinese crime syndicates, particularly in Sihanoukville, prompted the United States to drop Cambodia to the lowest rank on its human tra cking index.

Cambodia also took the helm of ASEAN, with Hun Sen attempting to negotiate with the junta in Myanmar, augment peace talks between the Russians and Ukrainians, while steering East Timor into the group and pleasing Beijing by avoiding any mention of the hotly contested South China Sea.

But not everyone was invited.

Ministry of Information spokesman Phos Sovann was nonplussed when asked why journalists from VOA and VOD were banned from covering the nal day of the ASEAN summits in Phnom Penh last November, claiming some international journalists behaved unprofessionally.

“ is is a tradition and a principle of the leadership that in the past these two media outlets were not granted access to information from the prime minister,” he told the Khmer Times. “Sometimes they cut only a small part to publish and sometimes they do not publish at all.”

As a news story, Cambodia has always punched above its weight.

Its strategic position in regard to China and its near neighbours puts it at the crossroads, or, as de ned by folklore, “between the worlds”.

Hun Sen, himself a Khmer Rouge defector, remains the region’s longestserving leader and has announced his son, Hun Manet, will take over as prime minister following the July elections. at’s the next story, and despite ve di cult years there are also glimmers of hope.

RMA Group wants the FCC to operate as a functioning club and have engaged correspondents. One suggestion is that the club should be revived with input from the OPCC, and relaunched along the same lines as the Frontline Club in London.

e journey continues … n

27 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT

Really Happy and Really Glorious

When she was just 21, the then Princess Elizabeth declared ‘My whole life whether it be long or short will be devoted to your service’. She lived to 96, and her life was truly and utterly devoted.

1

There’s a neat anecdote about Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to China (the rst ever by a British monarch) in October 1986, which – following the “brisk and lively” negotiations over the future of Hong Kong – was generally regarded as oneup for the foreign devil diplomats.

e Queen was engaged in the sort of conversation that must get endlessly trotted out on this sort of occasion, sitting alongside 82-year-old Deng Xiaoping in the faux-comfortable armchairs that seem to breed of their own accord in State Guesthouses,

when the Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic turned and expectorated, hitting the cuspidor a metre distant with his customary accuracy. e Duke of Edinburgh let out of snort of laughter, but the Queen didn’t turn a hair. Such majesty.

No other person occupied the world stage for so long or with such grace and poise. France’s President Emmanuel Macron summed it up best. Addressing the British people, he said: “To you, she was your Queen; to us, she was e Queen.”

Needless to say, both of her visits to

Hong Kong (in 1975 and 1986) excited a fair amount of attention, not least during her walkabouts, when security personnel remained very much in the background and she was patently interested in seeing at rst-hand how her subjects lived and worked. How very di erent from the life of our own dear CE nowadays.

Hong Kong still has a school, a hospital and a stadium named for Queen Elizabeth. Perhaps in time their names will be changed. But as Monsieur Macron so presciently noted: “She will be with all of us forever.” n

“To you, she was your Queen; to us, she was The Queen.”

28 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT ON THE WALL: OCTOBER
PHOTO: SCMP / P.Y. TANG

1 The fashions may have altered, and the prices risen, but the fruit and the veg and the marketing strategy are pretty much the same as they were in May 1975.

2 Noblesse oblige: dragon eye dotting at Tsuen Wan Sports Ground.

3 he million flat Oi an Estate was completed in 1975 and, by including commercial premises such as a market and a cooked food centre, was considered a masterpiece of innovative design. Hence its role as a showpiece for celebrity visitors.

4 Note the startling absence of smartphones at Wang Tau Hom in Kowloon. The youngsters in the photo must have all emigrated/retired/snuffed it by now.

5 Xian, October 1986. Being allowed down into the Terracotta Warrior pit was a rare privilege.

6 Graham Street, Central, with Governor Sir Murray MacLehose. Policemen looked so much more dapper in shorts. A single ro e was thought sufficient to kee rubber-neckers at bay.

NB: Anyone featured – or who recognises someone who is featured – in these six historic photos should contact the editor if they wish to Gain Something to Their Advantage.

29 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTO: SCMP / P.Y. TANG
3 2 4 5 6
PHOTO: SCMP / P.Y. TANG PHOTO: SCMP / C.Y. YU PHOTO: AFP PHOTO / YOSHIKAZU MIKAMI PHOTO: SCMP / P.Y. TANG

Wildlife in Peril

Two decades as a conservation photojournalist have taken Hong Kong-based Paul Hilton around the world in a quest to publicise the dangers facing its most valuable asset.

Back in 2001, Paul Hilton took a shot of a bear that had been rescued from a bile farm in China. It was published in National Geographic, and from that moment he knew that the rest of his professional life was going to be dedicated to

shining a light on the vile trade that exploits the world’s ecology.

Palm oil, shark’s n, manta rays –all these and more have been examined via the un inching eye of his camera. Some assignments have placed Hilton in deadly danger; at other times he

admits to having been depressed by the depredation he witnesses. He says: “As a conservation photojournalist, you can’t give up – you just have to keep trying to create some change.” n

Hilton’s full portfolio is at paulhiltonprints.com

30 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT ON THE WALL: NOVEMBER
1
PHOTO: PAUL HILTON / EARTH TREE IMAGES
“As a conservation photojournalist, you can’t give up –you just have to keep trying to create some change.”

1 Women rocess shark fins at onggang fish market in aiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung. field in estigation into aiwan’s shark fin industry was conducted by Shark Guardian between December 2020 and March 2021. The investigation obtained documentary evidence of fins from endangered shark species being openly offered for sale by o er half of all shark fin traders surveyed in Kaohsiung. More than 100 million sharks are killed each year for the fin trade. Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China are the biggest consumers of shark fin globally

2 Taxidermied tigers burning after several raids on wildlife crime syndicates that had been operating in and around the Indonesian Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on earth where tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans still coexist under the same canopy.

he syndicates’ trade routes span the globe, and as illegal palm oil plantations move into the last remaining blocks of forest, poachers gain easy access to rare species.

3 A hunter clutches four songbirds captured in the forests of Bali and destined for Denpasar bird market. Some 20 million songbirds a year are taken from Indonesia’s forests many of them dying before reaching the market.

4 Indonesian-Australian model and conservationist Nadya Hutagalung is greeted by a young elephant at the Leuser Ecosystem World Heritage Site on Sumatra.

The Leuser Ecosystem spans 2.6 million hectares, almost three times the size of Yellowstone National Park. Its diverse landscape includes lowland and montane rainforests, nine rivers, three lakes and more than 185,000 hectares of carbon-rich peatlands.

One of the last remaining intact rainforests in all of Indonesia, it is a crucial source of clean drinking water and agricultural livelihoods for more than four million people.

5 A large male orangutan is relocated after his home forest was converted to a palm oil plantation in Sumata, Indonesia. Palm oil is the leading cause of orangutan extinction.

It is in 50 percent of all household and food products sold in the West, such as shampoo, toothpaste, detergent, frozen microwave dinners, biscuits, peanut butter, lotions and makeup.

6 A Sunda pangolin, found in a transport cage, during a pangolin and wildlife trafficking raid in Sumatra. The pangolin were destined for Vietnam and China, where they are eaten in wildlife animal restaurants and employed in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

31 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT PHOTOS: PAUL HILTON / EARTH TREE IMAGES
5 6
3 2 4

Carnival of Dreams

Basil Pao’s e hibition on the an s Wall marked a significant departure from his usual oeuvre. Here, he writes about the expo’s inspiration and the

From the rst time I saw a Terry Gilliam animation sequence in the Monty Python’s Flying Circus series at age 15, my perception of the world around me changed forever. His collages of surrealistic imagery and the magical way in which he juxtaposed diametrically opposing elements opened my eyes to a separate reality hidden behind the veil of earthly appearances. ey unlocked the power of the imagination and a desire to dream in my untutored mind.

In his 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, André Breton highlighted the importance of the dream as a reservoir of Surrealist inspiration, and declared that dreams are “Beyond good and evil. Omnipotent in a world in which neither morality nor reason obtain. Where anything is possible.”

But perhaps author David Mitchell says it best in Number9Dream:

“Dreams are shores where the ocean of spirit meets the land of matter. Dreams are beaches where the yet-to-be, the once-were, the will-never-be may walk awhile with the still-are.”

And ever since my very rst album cover design for Crosswinds by jazzfusion drummer Billy Cobham when I was an art director at Atlantic Records in New York almost 50 years ago, collages and photomontages have been an integral part of both my commercial and personal creative endeavours. is series of photomontages, which began as my homage to Surrealist painter René Magritte, has evolved over the years from what started out as photographic reinterpretations of his paintings into these Gilliamesque dreamscapes that itted across my inner eye and branded themselves into my memory.

It has been a mind-twisting

rollercoaster ride from the Age of Aquarius of consciousness-expanding substances to the Digital Age of zeroes and ones, when one can receive images of the outer edges of our galaxy and distant stars via machines. And as we drift headlong into the Matrix world where Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, our children are in danger of becoming prisoners inside their 3D goggles in a metaverse where AI is constantly monitoring our thoughts and QR codes dictate our basic daily actions. Yet we must survive within this biosphere where deceits and absurdities have usurped common sense and decency, and while we watch in confusion as our “reality” becomes more surreal with each passing day, it is perhaps high time for us to celebrate the secret wishes and desires of our collective unconscious with a Carnival of Dreams n

32 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT ON THE WALL: DECEMBER
rationale behind its images. 1 PHOTO: BASIL PAO
33 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT PHOTOS: BASIL PAO 3 2 4 7 5 6 1 Year of the Fire Rooster 2 The Giza Geezer 3 Da Vinci Tats 4 The Cut-Glass Bath 5 The Presence of Spirit 6 Year of the Water Tiger 7 The Castle of the Pyrenees

New Year, New Faces

Want to invest in some artworks, assess the Cronulla Sharks’ progress, chat about Napoleonic muskets or pick up a couple of tips on podcasting? Then just tap into the latest additions to the FCC knowledge bank.

I left London to move to Hong Kong in December 2021 for a new job as a digital production editor for the South China Morning Post. Previously I worked for the BBC in London, Paris and occasionally Brussels across TV and radio. I am fascinated by Chinese culture, politics and languages, so have begun the long uphill battle of learning Mandarin. It’s been a journey that has led to a lot of interesting adventures along the way.

SEAN HUNG

My family has been in Hong Kong since 1850. As an exotic cocktail of British, Chinese, Maori and a tinge of Parsee ethnicity, I was educated in Hong Kong, England, Australia, New Zealand and China. at journey exposed me to a wide variety of knowledge and experiences, yet I ended up in the sports industry, principally in golf. As a PGA-accredited coach, I manage a golf academy with most of the international schools in Hong Kong in our portfolio. My father is a long-time member of the FCC and I am glad to follow in his footsteps.

linkedin.com/in/sean-hung-337aab92

I am a Canadian citizen and travel enthusiast born in Beijing, so you’ll hear my Beijing accent when I’m speaking Mandarin. I miss Beijing, yet refuse to go back and live there again. I feel as though Toronto is my hometown, and Beijing feels more like my “ancestral home”. And proper home? at’s Hong Kong. Like many members, I do have a job – I work at a London-based risk consultancy and am a certi ed anti-money laundering specialist. If anyone else hasn’t travelled at all in over three years, we should grab a drink.

JONATHAN MACEY

I have been involved in art, antiquities collectibles, auctions and events for over 30 years. Following in the footsteps of my father, I started at Phillips Auctioneers, where I developed my skills and experience, nurturing contacts and developing my network in the eld. In 2012, I founded Macey & Sons Auctioneers and Valuers in Hong Kong, and have been expanding assets to o er a greater variety of alternative investment options for our clients. I have presented auctions for many luxury categories, and have helped raise millions for the many charities that Macey & Sons has supported over the past 10 years.

hk.linkedin.com/in/auctioneerandvaluerhongkong

34 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT NEW MEMBERS
HOWARD LIU

THOMAS MACEY

I came to Hong Kong from the UK in July 2019. I work for my father at Cask Master as a whisky cask and antique silver specialist – quite di erent to the world of nance and other typical Hong Kong professions. As an alternative asset class, Scottish whisky casks have proven popular among Hong Kong investors. I am interested in historical weapons, and own a small collection of arms and armour from the 13th and 14th centuries, as well as a few Napoleonic muskets. Hong Kong is my new home, and the FCC is my go-to for meeting over a meal or a “few” drinks in the bar.

VINCENT LI

I have been a proud Hongkonger since 1997. I was born and raised in Kowloon. I switched continents for high school and university and graduated with a history degree from King’s College London. I am now learning the trade of a real estate appraiser at Colliers.

Although I skipped most of my university tutorials and put in many hours in the East India Club’s billiards room, I am still an average player. I am also an average golfer, travelling regularly to Southeast Asia to ll my sporting craving. Again, I am average, but very keen!

linkedin.com/in/ming-sang-vincent-li-478a5815b

LAURENCE VANDEWALLE

NICHOLAS TAM

I am an o shore insolvency and litigation lawyer and have been resident in Hong Kong since 2013, when I relocated here from rural Australia. Having enjoyed the club’s curry menu and the joys of Cherries Jubilee at e Verandah for many years, I decided it was high time to join. My interests span architecture, history, air miles, tennis, rugby league –I am a lifelong fan of the Cronulla Sharks – and classic cars. I restored a limited-edition Nissan Figaro, making for a very retro weekend drive. I also occasionally appear on RTHK Radio 3 as an expert on the Royal Family and advocate for the Australian monarchy.

www.ogier.com/people/nicholas-tam linkedin.com/in/nicholastam

I am deputy head of the European Union O ce to Hong Kong and Macao, and am in charge of the Political, Press and Information section. I previously spent ve years at the Delegation of the European Union in Beijing. I also have experience in the European Parliament, both in Brussels and Strasbourg. I rst visited mainland China in 1990, when I studied at Tianjin Nankai University, and discovered Hong Kong in 1998 when I did an internship with a human rights NGO. A native of Belgium, I am also involved in running a puppet theatre with my husband, Martin.

www.linkedin.com/in/laurence-vandewalle-3754a0a/ laurensinchina

35 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT

JARROD WATT

I was very lucky to land the job of deputy online editor of the South China Morning Post seven years ago, taking on the mission of changing the newsroom culture from “newspaper with a website” to a digital- rst, 24-hour global media company. I’m immensely grateful to have had the freedom to nd ways of adapting journalism to new technology, pioneering FacebookLive broadcasts from historic moments in Hong Kong and mainland China, and conceiving and producing the SCMP’s rst 360 video/virtual reality documentary project with Google. For the last few years I’ve been writing and producing podcasts, and helping journalists nd their voice and con dence on the mic.

@Jay_Watt www.linkedin.com/in/jarrodwatt/

PROFESSIONAL CONTACTS

PHOTOGRAPHERS

CARSTENSCHAEL.COM – Award-winning Photographer. People - Corporate - Stills - FoodArchitecture - Transport. Tel: (852) 9468 1404 Email: info@carstenschael.com

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

LAURA WESTBROOK

I am a correspondent at the South China Morning Post. I was born in Hong Kong to a Malaysian mother and English father. I began my career here working as a teleprompter for CNN before a producer took a chance on me and put me through writer training. Taking risks has been the bedrock of my career, whether it’s people taking them on me, or me taking them myself, such as when I was a journalist in New Zealand and was told that the BBC was hiring freelancers ahead of the 2012 London Olympics. I ew to London for an interview. Luckily it paid o : I was hired!

www.linkedin.com/in/laura-westbrook-b133483a/

HEART

36 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT NEW MEMBERS
Prison
Every
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HING CHAO

The Executive Chairman of Wah Kwong Maritime Transport is also a culture vulture, milk tea devotee and kung fu aficionado. That’s quite a C .

Avant-propos: where and when were you born, brought up and educated – and what do you do now? I was born in Hong Kong more than four decades ago. I attended St Paul’s Co-educational College Primary School and then went to England to pursue secondary and tertiary education, graduating from Durham University with a degree in philosophy in 2000. For the past 20 years, I have had a cross-sector career in business, philanthropy, arts and culture, and education. I wear many hats in Hong Kong –the chairman of a family owned shipping company, a leading researcher and reformer in the martial arts, the founder of the Hong Kong Culture Festival, and a passionate advocate and guardian of nomadic culture in North China.

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

Hong Kong-style milk tea. Whenever I am on the go, nothing else gives me such a good kick, with a lot of ca eine and ample serving of condensed milk.

Remembering Proust and his madeleines, is there a particular smell you associate with Hong Kong? Why?

e tang of the sea. We are a harbour city and never far from the sea, wherever you are. Even when you are in Central, the sea is just there, right in front of you. I grew up with this smell, and nothing reminds me more poignantly of Hong Kong.

Gone are the days of hopping on a plane to Bali or Boracay for a quick getaway: where’s your Hong Kong getaway? What’s special about it?

During COVID-19, a lot of people rediscovered the Hong Kong countryside, in particular the islands. I love the vibrancy and energy of the city, but equally I love to get away to the hideaway spots. While Sai Kung is beautiful, often in the summer I head west to Lantau by boat. In particular, I like the less frequented southern part.

Hong Kong tends to demolish things if they seem to be in the way: is there one site that’s disappeared that you really miss? Why?

Yes, my grandparents’ house in Pok Fu Lam. I have a lot of childhood memories, which are all I have left now that it’s been demolished.

You were the brains behind starting the Hong Kong Culture Festival in 2015 – how else could this side of life be improved in the city?

Hong Kong has advanced in leaps and bounds since I started the Culture Festival: West Kowloon, beginning with the Xiqu eatre, then M+ and now the Palace Museum; the opening of Tai Kwun; and the Lyric eatre is opening around 2026, and there’s also the entire East Kowloon cultural development to look forward to. In terms of infrastructure, Hong Kong has stepped up signi cantly over the past few years. What we are lacking are local professional talents such as museum and art curators, even arts administrators. e Hong Kong government and cultural institutes need to work more closely with universities to nurture future talents. Also, there is a lot of scope for enhancing international partnerships and engagement. We have been overly reliant on bringing overseas content to Hong Kong, but we should be looking to tour our shows – be it visual arts, heritage, performing arts or digital arts – overseas.

Is there a better way to de-stress than a brisk bout of kung fu?

Nope.

Is a lawnmower still Hong Kong’s prime status symbol?

I get it that space is the ultimate luxury – so if you have a lawnmower, you must have a lawn. However, I think the super-yacht has some potential too. n

MY HONG KONG
37 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT ILLUSTRATION: NOEL DE GUZMAN

The question of European unity

The question of European unity, and the power of the European Union (EU), has been greatly debated following Britain’s precipitous exit in 2020. Now the purpose of the EU and its ability to maintain stability in Europe is again in question, as Ukraine ghts for its existence.

“ e EU is not a state… it is in-between,” says Stefan Auer, associate professor at the University of Hong Kong. “ at in-betweenness has worked very well for decades. [But] in times of crisis, the EU has not worked well.”

Auer argues that the EU is not t for purpose because no one knows what its purpose is, something that leads to cataclysmic results when lives are on the line, such as they are in Ukraine.

But others countered that the EU can o er compromise in the face of con ict.

“Of course the EU is not a nation state. ere is no problem with that,” says Stefan Bredohl, deputy consul general for Germany’s Federal Foreign O ce in Hong Kong.

“As I grew up and I followed political debates… I knew that all of this was di cult,” says Bredohl. But “we always have to gure out and make a compromise”.

Despite political con icts, agreements have been reached, says omas Gnocchi, head of the EU o ce to Hong Kong and Macau. Gnocchi believes there has been a high degree of unity in the response to the Ukraine situation. “If there wasn’t unity or a sense of purpose, I don’t think we could have mobilised,” he says, referencing the EU’s support for Ukraine thus far.

Likewise, the EU’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, its rst major health crisis, shows its adaptability. “ is should be underlined when it comes to talking about if countries achieve more when they come together,” says Gnocchi.

But the EU is often criticised for its cumbersome bureaucracy, which drags out di cult decisions, and highlights the schisms that have long rankled Europeans.

“From where I stand, the EU has not delivered on its many promises, and that is a liability for democracy in

espite political con icts agreements have been reached

38 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT SPEAKERS
European diplomats and experts break down the case for the European Union, and whether unity is truly a part of the continent’s future. Morgan M Davis sums up the debate at a club lunch last November. PHOTO: FCC Guests leksander a da tefan uer tefan redohl and moderator resident eith Richburg

EVENTS

In Case You Missed It

n uence m ire e tory of encent and ina s ec m ition

With Lulu Yilun Chen, author Bloomberg journalist Lulu Chen dives into the story of China’s golden age of technology with a look at Tencent and its competitors Didi, Meituan and Alibaba. Chen’s book was shortlisted for FT Business Book of the Year 2022.

Watch the conversation here: fcchk.org/event/club-lunch-influenceempire-the-story-of-tencent-and-chinas-tech-ambition

Europe,” says Auer. What works well for the EU in times of peace hinders it when con icts arise.

“ e idea that you can accomplish peace through conversation is what led to the disaster that Ukrainians now su er,” says Auer.

Part of the EU’s value is its ability to hand more power to small or medium-sized states that otherwise could fall by the wayside in international discussion. “We do not play a big part in international relations on a global scale, but as part of the EU we can and do play this role,” says Aleksander Dańda, consul general for the Republic of Poland in Hong Kong and Macau.

Dańda points out that the EU is strongly supported in Poland, citing a study from February 2022 that found 82 percent of Poles were in favour. He has faith in the EU’s ability to come together despite clear di erences among member states.

Still, Dańda cautions that the EU must not patronise countries such as his, as there is no true union without central Europe or a voice for smaller nations. Polish resentment toward the EU could easily build “if we only have to sit and listen but are not listened to”, says Dańda.

For the time being, Ukraine and the EU’s approach to dealing with Russian aggression has outweighed most other concerns in the region. But other underlying problems are simmering, with the related energy crisis topping the list. How the EU responds to these problems, and whether it can hold its member states together, is still up for debate. n

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

lu creening lurring t e olor ine inese in t e egregated out

With Crystal Kwok, director and producer e FCC hosted a second screening of Crystal Kwok’s lm in December, this time with Kwok present to answer audience questions about her work and experiences with the Chinese and Black communities in the US.

Learn more here: fcchk.org/event/club-screening-blurring-the-colourline-chinese-in-the-segregated-south-2

ong ong ic off rug y se ens returns des ite restrictions

With players PJ “Harry” Laidler, Sibusiso Camagu okozani “S’bura” Sithole and Sebastien Brien e return of the Hong Kong Sevens was highly anticipated, but also not without its hurdles. ree Sevens players shared their experiences of rugby around the world, and their thoughts on the future of the sport in Hong Kong.

Watch the conversation here: fcchk.org/event/club-lunch-hong-kongkick-off-rugby-sevens-returns-despite-covid-restrictions

39 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTOS: FCC o : homas Gnocchi on oom below: ties are now démodé it would seem

Carl Tong Ka-wing: A man for all seasons

Carl Tong Ka-wing, who died last June at the age of 72, was the quintessential high- ying Hong Kong businessman with his ngers in a plethora of international pies. He was best known as the co-chairman of Macau Legend Development, which was behind the Fisherman’s Wharf project, but was also an uno cial member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and a highly enthusiastic member of the FCC.

Born in 1950, in his teens Tong was an avid 10-pin bowler when not studying at St. Paul’s Co-educational College in Mid-Levels, after which he entered an automotive engineering apprenticeship in Cardi , Wales. He later took up accountancy, starting with Arthur Andersen in London in 1977. He spent 14 years in Britain and would have stayed there but for family ties which drew him back to Hong Kong.

Tong became a member of the Institute of the Motor Industry in 1973, an associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1980 and joined the Hong Kong Institute of Certi ed Public Accountants in 1981. He was appointed a vicepresident of Citibank from 1985 to 1987.

He founded Carl Tong & Associates Management Consultancy in 1987. He was also secretary, chief nancial o cer and chief executive o cer of Creative Master Bermuda – which developed and manufactured collectible replica products – where he set out strategic directions and plans for its growth and expansion.

Characteristically, Tong’s roles at Creative Master gave him the chance to indulge his enthusiasm for automobiles at the same time as developing a thriving enterprise. For instance, the company manufactured scale model replicas of the Jaguar and Aston Martin driven by Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Die Another Day. Previously, the mass market had driven demand but Tong showed that there was space for boutique artisan manufacturing as well, as such replicas became more like collectibles rather than toys. At one stage he delighted in pointing out that even highly priced Formula 1 models, which were retailing for 2,000 euros apiece in 2005, sold very well, even though relatively few were made.

Other posts over the years included acting as chief executive o cer and director at UNIR Management, an investment company. He was also executive director of the Crocodile Garments, deputy chairman of the eSun Holdings, part of the Lai Sun Group, and served on the board of the Behringer Corporation, a ttings manufacturer. Between 1990 and 1991, he served as a director of Asia Television but soon returned to his true metier, although he relished his dealings with Cantopop stars like Roman Tam and Leslie Cheung, who were then at the peak of their fame.

Tong was deeply involved in public service in Hong Kong. He served as a member for the Central and Western District Board between 1982 and 1988, and from 1984 to 1985 he was appointed an uno cial member of the Legislative Council.

Mrs May Tong writes: roughout his life, Carl accumulated a CV not many people could boast of. He was an engineer, a chartered accountant, a banker, a businessman, a nancial advisor and a manufacturer; he was even once in show business, if you count ATV. He never stopped learning, and was powering through online classes for a law degree even when he was unwell in the days leading up to his death.

To say that Carl was a social person would be an understatement. He was charismatic, humorous and loved connecting with people. He relished every opportunity to embark on new friendships and would gladly open doors to people in need.

We miss him sorely and will forever remember his iconic look of bright suits and luxuriant eyebrows.

Constance Tong adds: My dad was very sociable, truly loved connecting with people and made friends from all walks of life. His memorial service could really attest to that as the hall was over lled, with people standing out in the lobby. He became a Christian later in his life and we watched his life become transformed. We miss him sorely but know that he is safe in God’s arms now. n

PHOTO: SUPPLIED OBITUARIES
40 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
Carl Tong: relished new friendships and opened doors to those in need.

Kiron Chatterjee: ‘Do what feels right for you to be at peace with yourself’

Kiron Chatterjee died aged 69 in November after spending almost a year in hospital as the result of a serious stroke in 2021. He was of Indian and Chinese descent; his father, Karali, was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and came to work for the Hong Kong Government after the war. Kiron was born in Hong Kong in 1953 and was educated at Quarry Bay Junior School and King George V School (KGV), where he often acted as a mentor to junior students.

After graduating with an MBA from the University of Hull in England, Kiron worked for Price Waterhouse in Singapore. He later returned to Hong Kong as chief information o cer at the Airport Authority, and famously became one of the fall guys for the delayed opening of the new international airport at Chek Lap Kok, which replaced Kai Tak in 1998. Kiron then went to India, where he worked for the Reliance conglomerate and the Mumbai Airport Authority before returning to set up his own IT company. Always kind and gentle, he lacked the hard edge and competitive spirit which seem to be a prerequisite for corporate life in this city.

Kiron’s father was Hindu, his mother, Maya, was Muslim and his brother, Robeen, was Buddhist. With this multicultural background, he got on well with everybody but was himself more interested in astrology, maintaining a regular correspondence with an astrologer in California. He loved good wine and music, and would occasionally throw Pink Floyd parties at his at in Tung Chung, which overlooked the airport and enjoyed spectacular sunset views. He was fond of travelling, and business often took him to ailand and other countries.

Kiron was married twice, once to Rita, who died of cancer, and then to Robin. His son Kumar, who is now 18, was his pride and joy. He was a wonderful father and encouraged Kumar in his sports and studies. Last year, Kiron moved back to his parents’ old at in Happy Valley and Kumar went to study at high school in Utah in the US. Kiron missed his son deeply.

Quite the best sort of friend, Kiron was always thinking about how to support and help people. He was enthusiastic in his e orts to cooperate on projects, always thinking of creative angles and forever positive and optimistic. An example of Kiron’s kindness is that if one of his friends had too much to drink, he would leave the party early, bundle his buddy into a taxi and take him home.

Generous to a fault, he always gave good tips to taxi drivers, explaining that it was not an easy job. Whether buying owers to put on his mother’s grave or donating to a Buddhist temple in the memory of his brother, and irrespective of the health of his bank balance, he never stopped giving.

He was especially fond of the FCC and would often spend New Year’s Eve in the Main Bar. Members loved him for his charm and unforgettable smile.

It was therefore wholly appropriate that following a short ceremony at Cape Collinson, his wake was held at e Verandah on 12 November.

Attended by Robin and Kumar, who had own in from the US, old school friends from KGV and members of his favourite lunch club, Craft, many stories and anecdotes were told of his kindness and generosity. His friends gave him a great send-o , raising glasses to him till past midnight.

Earlier that day, a poem was read out in his memory: If you remain generous Time will come good, And you will find your feet Again on fresh pastures of promise, Where the air will be kind And blushed with beginning.

On the wall of Kiron’s study, a framed inscription summed up his attitude to life:

“Do what feels right for you to be at peace with yourself”. n

41 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Kiron Chatterjee (above) and with his son, Kumar.

JOINT DECLARATION

Who Lost Hong Kongand What Next for ‘One China’?

with the help of a new legal

Last August’s visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan increased concerns that the self-governing democracy has become a frontline of a new cold war, with accusations ying between the US and China over who has breached the agreements they made to normalise relations decades ago.

ey echo complaints that Britain and China rst exchanged in 2020 after lengthy protests in Hong Kong – which had been promised its separate way of life when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997 – were met with a National Security Law (NSL) that the UK denounced as violating the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

As late as 2014, Britain had said that “Hong Kong’s unique constitutional framework has worked well”. What went wrong is examined in a recent book on the Joint Declaration, whose author Professor Chin Leng Lim begins by confessing that it “would have been too exotic a legal-scholarly proposition” before the responses to the tide of protests in the city of the last few years, and the changing tides of history beyond.

“We tend to forget,” Lim writes in Treaty for a Lost City, that “the notion of an autonomous Hong Kong with its way of life including its own freedoms, its system of economic governance and the preservation of the common law assured… was part of a Chinese blueprint for the recovery in due course of Taiwan.” By delving into the ambiguities that made the Joint Declaration possible, and which are re ected in the 1972 Sino-US Shanghai Communique, his book helps us consider if China and the West’s views of reality are still compatible and if the bene ts of decades of engagement can be salvaged.

e disagreements now are strong. Beijing says “foreign forces” have colluded with separatists in both Hong Kong and Taiwan to violate China’s sovereignty and contain the country. China’s threatening actions over Taiwan increase tensions and destablise the region, said the G7, while freedoms and rights aren’t being upheld in Hong Kong, said the UK, US and others including the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which reviews compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Britain and China were further apart when they began discussing Hong Kong’s future in 1979, having clashed a few years earlier when Beijing won a vote to remove the city

from the United Nations’ list of territories to be prepared for self-government. ey disagreed on whether colonialism was more civilising than humiliating; and both had new leaders in the shape of Margaret atcher and Deng Xiaoping.

Britain acquired Hong Kong in 1842 from the Qing Empire, later adding Kowloon and then, for a 99-year lease in 1898, the New Territories. China’s republican governments from the 1920s maintained that those transfers were through unequal treaties and the People’s Republic insists that Hong Kong was never a colony, something the city’s education authorities are rectifying in textbooks.

If China’s position had been correct, negotiations wouldn’t have been necessary, Lim writes, while noting that Deng had told atcher that if an agreement for Hong Kong’s restoration wasn’t reached, China would simply take it back.

Falklands factor

Her hope – perhaps encouraged by having despatched a eet to retake the Falkland Islands from Argentina in 1982 – that Hong Kong’s sovereignty could be exchanged for continued UK administration was similarly unrealistic. e two leaders and their o cials were able to reach agreement thanks to what Chin calls an “eminently workable and constructive piece of treaty ambiguity”.

e Joint Declaration starts by papering over the “legal ction”, as Lim calls it, that China never lost sovereignty over Hong Kong, it just didn’t exercise it for over 150 years. In the rst clause, Beijing hails the city’s “recovery” and the “resumption” of Chinese sovereignty. In the second, Britain declares that it will “restore” Hong Kong with the handover.

Britain’s negotiating red line was the wording not ruling out Westminster-style democracy, which it had arranged with independence for its other colonies. China’s complaint now, Lim says, is that the UK continues to behave as if it still held the “sacred trust” that the UN charter says countries had to arrange self-government for their colonies.

If China insisted on the ction that it never lost sovereignty over Hong Kong, Lim says, Britain holds on to the “legal myth” that it left Hongkongers with

BOOK REVIEWS
Douglas Wong examines Hong Kong’s uneasy status in the world today history of the SAR’s origins authored by Professor Chin Leng Lim.
42 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT

internationally assured rights in 1997. But the guarantee of Hong Kong’s way of life, Chris Patten conceded in his diary of the city’s last years of British rule, isn’t supported by any arbitration mechanism. “As many Hong Kong citizens recognised at the time,” Patten wrote, “this promise was left rather limply dangling in the wind.”

e last governor’s attempt to mitigate this with electoral reforms led to the rst public allegation that the treaty had been breached, from China. Hong Kong’s rst and only fully elected legislature in 1995 only lasted till the handover, when it was replaced by a provisional one that China established.

Demands from Hongkongers for universal su rage and entrenchment of their separate system increased after 1997, culminating in the protests of 2019 and 2020, to which China responded with the NSL. China has since criticised Britain’s granting of residence to Hongkongers with British National (Overseas) passports as a further breach of the Joint Declaration.

A quantum leap

While Britain says that China breached its treaty commitments with the NSL, disquali cations of elected representatives and electoral changes, Beijing claims Hong Kong has achieved self-determination and its people are now on equal terms with other Chinese as a part of China, even on more-than-equal terms.

Hong Kong’s government echoes this, insisting, as it did in response to the UN Human Rights Committee, that “democracy has taken a quantum leap forward in the city since its return to the motherland”, and calling the committee’s criticisms unsubstantiated.

Despite its rhetoric, the UK hasn’t imposed any sanctions or taken a single countermeasure over the breaches of the Joint Declaration it claims China has committed. Meanwhile, more than 150,000 Hongkongers have applied for its residence o er to the city’s BNO passport-holders so far.

e US cited failing to maintain Hong Kong’s separate system for sanctions against the city after the NSL, including requiring Hong Kong products to be labelled “Made in China”. China has imposed retaliatory sanctions on the US over Hong Kong, and in other areas, including

against Pelosi after her Taiwan visit.

If the UK and China reduced their disagreements to writing with the Joint Declaration’s “one country, two systems” ambiguities, the US did so in 1972 by acknowledging in Shanghai that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. Beijing holds that this means the US recognises its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan. e geopolitical challenge, according to Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, is that “China pretended we embraced the One China Principle and we pretended to respect the pretence”. e compromise by which the US accepted there is only one China without recognising its claim to Taiwan became untenable as the world changed and with China’s assertion of prerogatives it believes accompany its growing power, he said.

Lim reminds us that China sees history rejecting the imposition of Western-made international law. “We have seen this elsewhere, in the context of the South China Sea,” he says of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2015 ruling against China’s claims to the area because it was under Ming Dynasty control. China rejected this decision outright.

China’s arguments on Taiwan, as on Hong Kong, are more likely to be directed at the court of public opinion, at least as represented by the General Assembly of the United Nations, than any legal court. In 2020 the separate UN Human Rights Council, whose members are elected from the assembly, supported the NSL in Hong Kong by a 53-27 vote.

“Colonialism and its role in shaping modern international law help explain why appeals to international law can be heard very di erently in di erent places, particularly where standards based upon civilisational values are invoked,” Lim concludes.

To achieve détente and decades of engagement which bene ted both of them, Britain and the US found ways to agree to disagree on what One China means with Beijing.

Without access to Chinese archives, we don’t know the doubts Chinese negotiators might have had, says Lim, but his book reminds us that the Chinese Communist Party’s understanding of itself and the world has been consistent. n

43 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
PHOTO: PIERRE-ANTOINE DONNET / AFP
Beijing, December 1984: while Deng Xiaoping may appear to be sitting down, he’s actually running rings around British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had initially disparaged the idea of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Deng declared that she should be ‘bombarded out of her obstinacy’.

Not just mildly piqued

More ‘Disdainful of Tai Ping Shan’ than ‘Disgusted

furnish a pithy snapshot of Hong

London-born, Hong Kong-based Mark Peaker is a 50-something ex-banker and gallery owner. I’ve met him a couple of times. He is good company and always seems to be in very rude health. e same cannot be said for the dying breed he belongs to, that is, the proli c writers of letters to newspapers. Peaker writes to one in particular: the South China Morning Post. He began in 2003 and shows no signs of stopping. Newspapers are nothing like the force they were two decades ago (and even then the rot had set in). But that does not deter Peaker. He has found a platform that suits him, and nothing Musk or Zuckerberg can o er will persuade him otherwise.

He has now collected his letters in a 200-page book, Peaker of the Peak. Even allowing for the generous point size, this is a formidable body of epistolary work – and a diverting commentary on Hong Kong in the early 21st century. e letters are always signed “Peaker of the Peak”. ere is more than geo-nominative determinism at work here. You have the sense of a man surveying the scenes unfolding below him from his privileged position on the hill.

A contemporary history of everyday life in Hong Kong – a freedom of expression.

Mark Peaker is the co-founder of 3812 Gallery, a leading contemporary Chinese art gallery in Hong Kong & London. He is also chairman of Shakespeare 4 All, an NGO focused on using theatre for the bene t of children’s education and development. In addition, Mark was a past vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children, one of Hong Kong’s oldest charities. He is also a founding member of Sketch Hong Kong, an NGO created to help develop artistic talent and promote the preservation of cultural heritage of Hong Kong.

Peaker Peaker o f the P e a k

Peak of the

As such, Peaker of the Peak is pretty symptomatic of the attitudes prevalent in the Hong Kong business community over the past decades. But as the SAR begins to tear itself apart and Beijing moves in towards the end of the book, our lofty observer’s con dence dips a little.

With illustrations by Harry Harrison, cartoonist of the South China Morning Post.

Like all letters page regulars, Peaker has his hobby horses. Let me sum up the subjects and opinions that make up 90 percent of the letters. Hong Kong is a great city, but we must always remember it is a city within China, and that’s where its current and long-term interests lie. Hong Kong is let down by politicians and lazy administrators. ey are variously described as “useless”, “hapless” and “blatantly incompetent”. Of these, by far the worst administration was that led by Carrie Lam. Hong Kong should do a lot more about its pollution problem. Drivers who park illegally and leave their engines running are a part of that problem. Something needs to be done about crazy minibus drivers. Cathay Paci c is a wonderful airline. We should be very proud of it and if things go wrong, it is never its fault. Hong Kong – and certain Hong Kongers who write to the Post –are reactionary and sometimes bigoted on LGBT issues. As a part of that community, he is happy to ag when illiberal attitudes are letting the city down.

Letters to the Editor, Hong Kong 2003–2022

As Occupy takes o , he calls for “stronger enforcement of the laws”. When it comes, he acclaims the “remarkable restraint” of the police action and calls opposition to the National Security Law “imagined tyranny”. His touching faith in the wisdom and restraint of the mainland authorities is there again when he talks about the death of Li Wenliang, the Wuhan ophthalmologist who died from the virus he was prevented from speaking about. at apparently “pricked China’s conscience”. Who knew? e dust jacket describes the book as a “freedom of expression”. But for Peaker, that freedom comes with responsibilities. He says his own club, the FCC, acted irresponsibly when, in 2018, it invited the leader of the Hong Kong National Party to speak. After the journalist who moderated the talk, Victor Mallet, was petulantly denied the right to work in Hong Kong, Peaker takes the side of the people who condemn him (and the club) for ignoring a government request to cancel the talk and in so doing undermining “our city’s place within China”.

He occasionally weighs in on international issues, such as the election of a US president or the Brexit vote in Britain. As a proud product of atcher’s laissez-faire era, he is pro-business and all for government keeping out of the way. He becomes seriously fed up when the protestors take to the streets and also get in the way.

Well, that’s all history now. Let’s hope that vociferous letter-writers like Mark Peaker are not consigned to history too, and that his 2022-2042 collection will be just as redblooded and free-spirited. n

Proceeds from Peaker of the Peak go to Shakespeare4All, a Hong Kong performance arts organisation.

BOOK REVIEWS
of Tunbridge Wells’, Mark Peaker’s letters to the SCMP Kong life from a somewhat lofty viewpoint. Mark Jones responds.
44 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT A GALLERIST WRITES
History, Hong Kong £12.99 www.unicornpublishing.org
Peaker of the Peak: there is more than geo-nominative determinism at work here.
has changed dramatically. In
the
been rocked by social instability and Covid-19, yet
Kong endures, evolving as it always has. is
is a window to the events of
that has been the author’s home for over two decades. It captures the events that at times
the
to others that merely needed a
taxi
MARK PEAKER
Since 2003 Hong Kong
recent years
city has
Hong
book
a city
shuddered
city
mention. From politics to urinating
drivers, from culling animals to LGBT, it is a historical account and a chronicle of life in Hong Kong.
MARK PEAKER

BLOOD AND THUNDER IN THE HIMALAYA

Neville Sarony’s latest thriller plunges his Gurkha officer hero into yet more mayhem and similar malarkey. Big girl’s blouse Richard Lord is left feeling ever so slightly overawed .

On the plus side, e Chakrata Incident, by Hong Kong barrister Neville Sarony, is a pacy, exciting, page-turning romp that deftly parses the interaction of the military and political spheres. On the minus side, it sometimes exhibits a slight tendency towards cliché and trope.

e third in a series of thrillers starring Max Devlin, a major in the Gurkha Ri es, (Sarony served in the Brigade in the 1950s and later practised law in Nepal) swiftly dispatches him to head the British contingent of a clandestine multi-national operation on the India-China border, whose job is to in ltrate Tibet and gather intelligence there. at would be complicated enough, but naturally it all turns out to be even more gnarly than billed, with politics and personality clashes between di erent nations, cultures, philosophies, political viewpoints and the various militaries.

ings then get even more tricky when Devlin and one of his colleagues, on what might be described as a day o , prevent the rape of a Muslim teenager by Hindu extremists, some of whom are killed in the process, and turn out to be politically connected. e second half of the book covers the incursion over the Tibetan border, which predictably falls apart at the seams.

Chakrata is lled with a ectionate descriptions of both the Himalayan region and its peoples, and Sarony is clearly a sincere, devoted lover of both. Although he can get a bit misty-eyed, and the cliché of both Gurkhas and Tibetans as spectacularly skilled super- ghters is present and correct, any romanticisation does at least come from a clear place

of knowledge and empathy. Sarony is perhaps overly keen to demonstrate Devlin’s respect for the region’s people and culture, and in fact he proves not to be the book’s most interesting character: instead, he is a cut-out for various martial virtues and for kind, respectful, diplomatic behaviour – perhaps just a bit too nice to be quite believable. His American counterpart Colonel Herman Durwachter, by contrast, is a stereotypical bastard, lacking respect for the local culture, in exible and incurious in his thinking, and pretty much directly misogynist, although he does soften as the story goes on.

More engaging is the role of the Tibetans, who are treated abysmally by everyone: the British, Americans and Indians are all keen to exploit their thirst for independence as a way to get intelligence. e Chinese, by comparison, the ostensible enemy against whom the Tibetans are gathering all this intelligence, are barely presented at all, and largely not made into convenient villains. e one group who consistently get it in the neck is the politicians, of more or less all stripes, in particularly for their lack of understanding of warfare and willingness to sacri ce troops for political expediency.

e whole stand-o with the Chinese, in fact, is enjoyably low-stakes for everyone except the characters themselves: the book doesn’t feel the need to up the ante by introducing the threat of, say, a war kicking o . As one of the Tibetan characters acknowledges, the intelligence they are attempting to gather is not, in the greater scheme of things, going to make a great deal of di erence.

e dense plotting of Chakrata is well handled, albeit some plot points, from an attack on Durwachter to Devlin’s romance with a beautiful Indian trauma surgeon, have an air of predictability about them. Sarony has a nice command of dialogue, although again, characters can sometimes talk in exposition (“You are well aware of the need-to-know principle that governs all intelligence work”).

e book also has a pleasingly downbeat, indeterminate ending, leaving Devlin’s future enticingly up in the air. n

45 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT
SAHEBS
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Write about what you know: 7th Gurkha Rifles’ freshly minted Intelligence Officer shows off an immaculate brace of kneecaps in Singapore in 1959; and (right) Sarony, the 21st-century remix.

DON’T LOOK NOW

Facial recognition. Twisted language. Wolf’s Teeth. The blurring of public and private life - and its dire consequences – continue apace in China and elsewhere. Mark Jones is more than a little appalled.

At the beginning of 1984, British Premier Margaret atcher had a lot on her plate – not least negotiating with Beijing to nalise the terms of Hong Kong’s handover.

But something else took priority in her New Year’s message. “George Orwell,” she concluded, “was wrong. 1984 will be a year of hope and a year of liberty.”

She was referring to Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, about a one-party state controlling the minds of its citizens through propaganda, twisted language – and surveillance.

Now, given Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control – a comprehensive investigation into how the world’s most sophisticated one-party surveillance state evolved – we are bound to ask: was Orwell right after all? e word “Orwellian” crops up several times in the Washington Post ’s Josh Chin and Liza Lin’s work, itself an epic feat of surveillance as they trawl o cial and leaked government documents, public pronouncements and record the words of some very brave interviewees.

It crops up most frequently in the chapters on the Uighurs. If you have any lingering sympathy with the Chinese Communist Party’s policy towards the Muslim people of the country’s northwest, be prepared to shed it.

is is ethnic cleansing 2.0, designed to scour the minds of individuals through “re-education”. e authors discover via online procurement documents what tools of learning are used in the new-look Uighur schools: they include electric cattle prods, handcu s and spiked clubs called “Wolf’s Teeth”.

If that sounds sadistically old-school, then the new facial recognition technology and DNA testing tools deployed

to root out anyone not conforming to the Han norm of behaviour is not. In the now-desolate streets of Urumqi and other cities, Big Brother isn’t just watching you, he’s probing your very DNA.

As the authors reveal in the chapter on the 2021 election in Uganda, such techniques are being eagerly imported by other paranoid dictatorships. Expect more to follow.

Orwell was writing in a post-war atmosphere of harsh austerity. e new data revolution in China is driven by 850 million smartphone users who relinquish their privacy for the simple reason it makes life a whole lot easier and nicer.

e Uighur experience makes a bitter contrast with Hangzhou, the reborn heavenon-earth created for and by the country’s giant tech brands. Tra c here is kept owing freely by surveillance equipment. Ambulances break response records, and street-level disputes and simmering anger are kept in check by police action employing similar modus operandi.

is a future Orwell didn’t foresee, though Aldous Huxley got closer in Brave New World , as did Michael Frayn in the underrated novel about virtual reality (decades before the term existed) A Very Private Life. You shop, you spend, you keep your mouth shut about anything that doesn’t concern you. e same bargain is being enacted in the Middle East, where very di erent kinds of authoritarians are betting the palace on a mix of improved living standards and glitzy Instagrammable lifestyles. e inference is that a police state and 24-hour surveillance that unfairly and deliberately targets minorities and migrant workers is one of those things that needn’t concern the majority.

Western businesses emerge with little credit from this book. e advantage of taking a decades-long view is that those moments when CEOs were unable to contain their excitement are preserved for posterity.

e authors relate how in 2018, Marzio Pozzuoli, the boss of Canadian AI conglomerate NuraLogix, said they’d got tired of Western governments’ boring privacy regulations. “It’s amazing what you can do in China,” he said. Amazing, indeed.

is is a rigorously organised book, whose marshalled facts are only occasionally let down by moments of unnecessary colour writing (“the city [Kampala] churns through its days in an atmosphere of unful lled potential”). at’s one area – writing and reporting in English –where everyone could do with being a bit more Orwelllian.

PHOTOS: JUN MICAHEL PARK &HANNAH YI BOOK REVIEWS
n 46 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT BIG BROTHER 2.0 Josh Chin and Liza Lin.

A TANGLED WEB

Anglo-Indians ranked well down in the pecking order of the British Raj. Mark Jones ploughs through a monumental tome in an effort to find out more.

Can a book be over-researched? Can authors have too much respect for their sources?

Let’s come back to those two unusual questions, as they’re at the heart of this reader’s experience of Anglo-India and e End of Empire

First, let’s try a summary. Uther Charlton-Stevens documents the lives and struggles of people of mixed white and Indian parentage living in India from the high point of the Raj to its dissolution and Independence in 1947.

e early chapters deal with the di culties and humiliations the group experienced as they tried to nd a place in an empire where the ideal was perfectly white and unambiguously European. ey devoted many words to nding the single word to describe themselves: should it be AngloIndians, Eurasian, British-Indian, East Indian, Domiciled Europeans or something else? en there were the status questions: would they qualify for entry to the boardrooms or the mess and who should their daughters marry?

e book is a di cult read in more senses than one. As well as the deliberate and casual injustices of British rule, the Anglo-Indian story plays out against eugenics theories, shameful now, but once highly fashionable among often liberal thinkers who sought what they believed were sane scienti c solutions to social deprivation.

Perhaps the most poignant extract is from a 1928 book by a Bangalore-born Anglo-Indian, Millicent Wilson, who commends a strategy of selective breeding, so that in a few decades Anglo-Indians might claim to be “a white people, quite as much as Australians and Americans claim to be white people”.

As the Anglo-Indian plight became more serious, there was serious talk of creating a Eurasian “homeland” in the Andaman Islands.

e narrative is driven by two Anglo-Indian men who, in di erent ways in di erent political circumstances, fought boldly to protect and advance the cause of their minority. Sir Henry Gidney founded the All India Anglo-Indian Association in 1926. It still exists. Both imperious and imperial-minded, he impressed successive British prime ministers with his zeal and diplomacy.

Gidney was succeeded by Frank Anthony. In the maelstrom of Independence, the Anglo-Indians were abandoned by the European power they had served so loyally. eir lives as well as livelihoods were threatened.

But Anthony negotiated a more than honourable settlement, winning the admiration of Gandhi and the support of Nehru. His educational legacy lives on still.

My apologies to the author if that summary seems muddled or inaccurate. In truth, he doesn’t give the reviewer much help with a narrative which, from the rst page, takes a complex and tangled history and makes it so dense that it is an e ort to stop one’s attention from wandering.

ink of most non- ction books as a lecture. e speaker’s job is to hold your attention, bringing in salient quotes and examples as they develop their argument.

Charlton-Stevens’ technique is more like throwing you into a crowded room and giving the oor to a bewildering array of speakers.

He cites 33 pages of source material. He has read everything there is to read on the Anglo-Indian experience.

e problem is, he feels the need to quote as much of that material as he can.

Much is from polemical books and political speeches, mostly phrased in the stentorian tones fashionable in public discourse a century or so ago. at’s a lot of grandstanding; and it can be exhausting to read.

So yes, this author has too much respect for his sources. On the rare occasions when he takes control, the story bowls along just ne and you realise what an important one it is. In a place like Hong Kong, where relationships between people of di erent cultures and colours are so common, the book has important historical lessons about negotiating your way in a world forever tipping towards nationalism and identity politics.

Charlton-Stevens o ers us a glimpse of his own AngloIndian family, but no portraits or biographies of them. e crackling tones of long-forgotten public gures drown out the voices of real, visceral experience. n

47 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT INDIAN PASSAGES
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Dr Uther Charlton-Stevens.

GROUM ABATE

Who owns Capital, and how much editorial independence do you have?

Capital is an English-language weekly business newspaper published in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We update our website and social media channels pretty much on the hour every day, focusing on economic issues but also covering entertainment, music, fashion and sport.

e paper, sometimes known as CapitalEthiopia , was founded in 1998 and is owned by Teguest Yilma, a high- ying businesswoman who assumed control in 2000. She also founded the city’s Rotary Club and chairs the National Polio Committee, so she’s very much a mover and shaker.

I’ve lectured about the media situation in Ethiopia to university students in Finland and South Africa, and interviewed some prominent personalities, including the president of Serbia and the Russian foreign minister, so it hasn’t been all domestic reporting.

20,000 daily hits on your website is laudable; how fast are internet connections in the country, and how easy or difficult is communication in general?

Internet connections are quite good, more or less, but not totally reliable. Blackouts are common due to security issues. So we have to devise ways and means to get at the internet. We usually go to international organisations based in Addis Ababa that use satellite internet communication.

Who are your readers, given that you are an Englishlanguage newspaper and the lingua franca in Ethopia is Amharic?

We’re the most widely read English newspaper in Ethiopia, with a growing circulation. Our subscribers include government o ces, NGOs, hotels, embassies, international organisations, universities and colleges. Major supermarkets and bookstores display Capital at the counter to attract walk-in customers. e paper is also sent to Ethiopian embassies around the world, and is available on all Ethiopian Airlines ights and other international carriers including Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Egypt Air. So we’re doing our best to up our pro le as much as we can.

We’re the most widely read English newspaper in Ethiopia, with a growing circulation

We have fairly high editorial independence, but mostly we censor ourselves so as not to clash with the authorities.

Can you sketch in a bit of your personal background?

I was born in Kazanchis – the heart of Addis Ababa – in 1977 and grew up during some fairly turbulent times that included famine and war with Eritrea. I still managed to get my degree in linguistics. I have been working in the media industry for the last 19 years and at Capital for 18 of them. I am now responsible for the overall publication of the newspaper, including everything from reporting to editing.

I’ve also done stints researching for international organisations such as the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa, and work as a correspondent for various media outlets operating outside Ethiopia, such as Indo-Asian News Service and Africa Intelligence.

Given the recent confrontation in the northern part of the country, is working in the media dangerous? e hostilities in the northern part of the country broke out two years back and provoked a devastating humanitarian crisis. A peace agreement was nally signed last November with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

We are hoping the outcome will provide some relief to people all over the country. And to answer your question, yes, it is dangerous to report facts, so we take all sensible precautions.

Is China’s presence in Ethiopia visible in daily life? Very much so. Most prominently, you can nd Chinese restaurants on every corner of the city and all of them are full of Chinese people. China built the US$200 million African Union headquarters here in 2012, and they are involved in construction projects all over the country. n

48 JANUARY 2023 THE CORRESPONDENT 10 MINUTES WITH... PHOTO: SUPPLIED
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