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FCC Designated Events

A revision of House Rules on Young Persons:

 a. Young persons aged 12-18 years are permitted in the Lounge, Dining Room, Chinese Restaurant and Bert’s (at designated events), or at private parties in other parts of the Club.

What is FCC Designated Events?

Occasional weekend sports broadcast at Bert’s or any designated events defined by the Board, 12-18 year olds are welcome but only when accompanied by a member who is a parent or guardian.

Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir kicks off Christmas in Main Bar

The Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir returned for its annual Christmas visit to the FCC singing a mix of carols old and new and with many opportunities for the thirsty audience gathered in the Main Bar to join in.

Among the choir’s pieces were the Welsh carol Deck the Hall, the choir’s own FCC-themed version of White Christmas,  and a swinging jazz version of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.

For its part, the audience, with the aid of specially designed FCC song sheets, joined in with rousing renditions of The First Noel, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and O Come, All Ye Faithful. The choir finished its set with We Wish You a Merry Christmas and, after a brief encore, retired to enjoy some much deserved figgy pudding.

Income Statement – November 2016

Income Statement – November 2016

November 19, 2016 Board minutes

November 19, 2016 Board minutes

Waiting for the big story: AFP opens new bureau in North Korea

The AFP team check out the work of local artists in a Pyongyang park. Photo: AFP The AFP team check out the work of local artists in a Pyongyang park. Photo: AFP

Agence France-Presse’s new bureau in Pyongyang, which opened in September, is already churning out the stories.

The bureau, which was officially opened by Emmanuel Hoog, the group’s chief executive and chairman, so far has been focusing on producing video and photographic content.

It was able to open following an agreement made earlier in the year between AFP and the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), following “about 10 rounds of negotiations that began in 2012”, said Philippe Massonnet, AFP’s Asia-Pacific regional director.

“Not that there was any resistance by the authorities, but it was only a matter of time as we were not only dealing with KCNA, but other government departments as well.”

The Pyongyang bureau will be staffed by a locally hired videographer and a photographer, who will work in conjunction with visiting foreign correspondents, which mirrors other international news bureaux, including the Associated Press, Xinhua, Ria Novosti and Japan’s Kyodo News. AP opened the first foreign bureau in 2012.

Hughes MD-500 helicopters perform a fly-by during the first Wonsan Friendship Air Festival in Wonsan on September 24, 2016. Hughes MD-500 helicopters perform a fly-by during the first Wonsan Friendship Air Festival in Wonsan on September 24, 2016. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones

As a big international news agency “we have to be wherever we can”, Massonnet said. “For us, it is normal and natural to open an office in North Korea, as we open offices everywhere in the world – in some we cannot employ locals, in others it’s foreigners.”

With North Korea’s total media censorship and control it must be a struggle for the locally hired staff to function properly for foreign media – even with training. “We brought the North Korean staff to Hong Kong in August for training sessions about how AFP works as well as going on shoots to take care of the practical aspects,” Massonnet said. “The two were competent and open and enthusiastic about the training and even though they were accompanied by an KCNA official the training was unsupervised.

“We had worked with the same official before during the negotiations and got on well, so we took the opportunity to show him how we deal with photo and video stories from other countries – which he found interesting even though he acknowledged that many of those types of stories would not be done by KCNA.”

AFP’s Seoul bureau chief will run the bureau while teams from South Korea, Hong Kong or China will be sent every two months or so as part of the deal. “So far, we sent a team in July, again in September and another is planned for November,” he said. “There are no visa problems and now the visas are issued in Hong Kong rather than having to go via Beijing.”

In this picture taken on September 29, 2016 commuters wait for a bus during the morning rush hour in Pyongyang. / AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones In this picture taken on September 29, 2016 commuters wait for a bus during the morning rush hour in Pyongyang. / AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones

“The November mission we will try to get, among others, the August flood aftermath story, but it is difficult – or at least time consuming – to get approval.

“Typically, we submit a list of say 20 potential stories in the hope of getting five or six to run with.”

So far the Pyongyang team has been involved in stock footage shoots of the capital as well as getting on the streets and train stations and the like; or reacting when someone noteworthy visits Pyongyang. “We did cover the 15th Pyongyang International Film festival [brainchild of the cinema-obsessed “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-ll] in September.

“It’s really a way of showing as much as we can about what’s happening in Pyongyang. Many of our clients – particularly in South Korea and Japan – want as many images as they can get from the country.”

One of the ways the AFP team gets around in North Korea is to work with NGOs, “often going to places that are normally difficult for journalists to get to”. A case in point is that they were able to cover the floods in North Hamgyong province, where some 140 people were killed and 35,000 homes destroyed, by being part of an NGO team. “It enabled us to get some great footage,” he said.

Everything produced by AFP in North Korea will be edited by AFP people, mainly at the regional headquarters in Hong Kong. “There is no difference from anywhere else in the region where we have people taking photos or videos or writing stories. They send their material to Hong Kong, and it will be exactly the same for North Korean stories.”

Portraits of former North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il are displayed on buildings of the Pyongyang skyline on July 27, 2013. North Korea mounted its largest ever military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, displaying its long-range missiles at a ceremony presided over by leader Kim Jong-Un. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones / AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones Portraits of former North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il are displayed on buildings of the Pyongyang skyline on July 27, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones / AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones

As in other countries where AFP operates there is official monitoring. “But monitoring is not a problem. It would be a problem if we were censored. The big issue for us is to go there and to report or shoot what we see… and this job won’t be much different than the one we do in other countries where it is difficult to work.”

Once a story is finished and on the “wires” that might be another story. “So far we have had no negative feedback from government officials,” Massonnet said. “We will see where the limits are of what is possible to do and what is not. If we think it is worth doing and reporting about, then we will do it. It may be difficult sometimes, but that doesn’t prevent us from working and getting good material.”

Apart from a few big occasions such as mass rallies and big celebrations, foreign media don’t report from North Korea very often. “So we have a very rare opportunity to be there every month and to deliver content to our Asian clients who have big expectations about our North Korea coverage.”

Massonnet likened the Pyongyang experience with Beijing in the 70s and 80s when correspondents had no official contacts or news sources and had to rely on what they saw in the streets as reporting beyond the city was all but impossible. However, when the big story came – China opening up – the resident bureaux could move fast.

AFP’s Pyongyang-based crew on the job. Photo: AFP AFP’s Pyongyang-based crew on the job. Photo: AFP

“It makes sense to be in Pyongyang, not only because we don’t have much competition from the few journalists who go there, but also there are some opportunities to make connections so that you are ready when the big story breaks,” he said.

Massonnet said that even today in China, how many sources are there within the Chinese Communist Party to cover real political stories? You are left with the economic stories and speculation.

“The opening of an AFP bureau in Pyongyang will further strengthen the agency’s international network,” said the AFP chief executive, Emmanuel Hoog at the opening ceremony. “AFP’s role is to be present everywhere in the world in order to fulfil its news mission as completely as possible, in particular through images.”

AFP – which is a public company but governed by a board of representatives from French news organisations and the government – has 200 bureaux across 150 countries.

Pro-democracy election success ‘a result of Beijing’s interpretation of Hong Kong Basic Law’

Dennis Kwok and Ronny Tong talked about the reverberations of Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law at the FCC Dennis Kwok and Ronny Tong talked about the reverberations of Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law at the FCC

The record number of seats won by pro-democracy candidates in elections to select the committee that will choose Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive is one of the implications of Beijing’s recent controversial interpretation of the Basic Law, according to barrister and Legco member Dennis Kwok.

On the day after Hong Kong voters went to the polls, Kwok told a packed FCC club lunch that Beijing’s interference after two pro-independence candidates refused to swear allegiance to China following their election to the Legislative Council was an overt political move and warned the next battleground in this ‘far from over’ saga would be about whether others have breached their oaths.

Kwok joined former chairman of the HK Bar Association and Legco member Ronny Tong to discuss the reverberations of Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – at the club lunch on December 12. Tong kicked off the talk by outlining how Beijing’s interpretation merely reinforced what was already written in local law about what an oath meant and how anyone who makes a false oath or acts in breach of it should be dealt with.

tongmainHowever, he added that what the rare interpretation did “was reinforce the perception that Beijing is not trustworthy of our judicial system or the integrity of our judges”.

Kwok, who organised a protest of more than a thousand lawyers after Beijing stepped in following the oath controversy in October, criticised pro-independence ‘Youngspiration’ candidates Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching for their ‘irresponsible and childish’ actions when, during their oath-taking ceremony, they refused to swear allegiance to China, used bad language and sported banners that read “Hong Kong is Not China”.  They were later disqualified from taking office.

Kwok added that Beijing’s actions had divided a society “that’s already polarised”.

Both Kwok and Tong agreed that the pair’s behaviour had presented an opportunity for Beijing to step in and flex its political muscles, with Tong adding that he thought the Chinese government had been genuinely afraid that its Hong Kong counterpart would lose a court case requested by Chief Executive CY Leung in which he directed judges to disqualify them.

Dennis Kwok talks about Beijing's recent interpretation of Hong Kong's Basic Law at the FCC Dennis Kwok talks about Beijing’s recent interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law at the FCC

The club lunch talk, entitled The Implications of Beijing’s Recent Interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, came just days after Leung announced he would not stand for a second term as Chief Executive. In a Q&A after the talk, Tong and Kwok were asked their thoughts on this latest development.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Tong: “I thought it’s just too good to be true.”

Kwok added: “I was happy for about five minutes, then I thought about all the other candidates who would come out.”

Closure of Main Bar and Lounge on Saturday 15 April, 2017


Closure of Main Bar and Lounge on Saturday 15 April, 2017

Dear Members,

Please be informed that Main Bar and Lounge will be closed on Saturday 15 April, 2017 for repair work on the air-conditioning system.

On that day, the Dining Room and Bert’s will be open for service, according to the schedule below:

Location Opening Hours Remarks
Dining Room 10:00am – 12:00 midnight Kitchen last order at 22:45
Bar last order at 11:45
Bert’s 12:00 noon – 02:00 am Kitchen last order at 22:45
Bar last order at 01:45

The Main Bar menu will be offered in both the Dining Room and Bert’s. Dress code will be the same as in the Main Bar.

Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

FCC Admin Office

Ombudsman Considers Government’s Policy Towards Online Media Unfair

The FCC supports the following statement made by the Hong Kong Journalists Association:

The Ombudsman recently ruled that the Hong Kong Journalists Association’s complaint against the government’s policy to deny digital-only media access to its government press events and information dissemination system substantiated.

It called on the government to review soonest its practise and draw up related guidelines.

HKJA welcomes the ruling, demanding that an accreditation system for online-only media be introduced as soon as possible following consultation with the industry.

In its six-page judgement, the Ombudsman pointed out that nearly three years have elapsed since the government made a undertaking in the Legislative Council to ensure its press policy would be in pace with the change in the media industry, and yet the government has not made any progress in this issue.

“The new media in Hong Kong and other parts of the world have shown rapid development. These new media are on a par with the traditional media in terms of functionality, and some have even outpaced the latter.,” said its verdict. “Information Services Department(ISD) should think out of the box.”
The Ombudsman was also not convinced by the government’s argument that opening its door to online-only media would result in overcrowding and security risk. “The blanket restriction was clearly more than necessary”, it said.

It noted that the department has not provided data to show that in the past, there were incidents in which the number of journalists seeking accessa had exceeded the capacity of the venue.

Although ISD has pointed out that members of a few organisations had disturbed the order in certain events, the Ombudsman considered that the department should make decisions based on the track records of each media organisation

“It should not, just because of a few isolated incidents, turn down all requests from digital only media across the board,

The Ombudsman recommends the ISD:
1. Review soonest its practice of denying all online media not affiliated to “mass media organisations” access for on-the-spot reporting, and adopt a more open policy to keep pace with the times;
2. Review and relax as far as practicable the eligibility criteria for registration as GNMIS users and draw up related guidelines for its staff and media organisations; and
3. Pending completion of its reviews, be more flexible in dealing with request from individual media organisations and allows them to carry out news reporting wherever possible.

At Last… Bert’s, Hong Kong’s best jazz club, is back in business after refurbishment

The Red Stripes performing at Bert's. Photo: Wyng Chow The Red Stripes performing at Bert’s. Photo: Wyng Chow

Recarpeted, repainted, and for better or worse now adorned with video screens, Hong Kong’s best jazz club is back in business.

There’s nothing like having something unavailable for a while to help you appreciate it properly, and the excellence of the live music in Bert’s is something, perhaps, we sometimes take for granted.

Allen Youngblood, who originally came to Asia in the early 1990s with a band playing at the Grand Hyatt’s now defunct JJ’s nightclub, has been the FCC’s music director since before Bert’s opened. As well as performing there himself, he is responsible for booking everybody else who does.

“My idea was to call it “Round Midnight”, to single it out as a jazz club within a club, but then the suggestion was made to name it after Bert Okuley, and once I knew who he was, that seemed fine. We use the best people in town we can get, and we try to catch the best people coming through town, whatever they play. Sometimes it’s jazz, sometimes it’s R & B and soul. It depends what’s available,” he says.

Bert Okuley was a talented jazz pianist, as well as a distinguished foreign correspondent and former club president, and from the outset the bar named for him has had a jazz and blues theme, fully reflected in its decor.

Like most jazz-oriented venues worldwide, though, Bert’s also accommodates other styles, and although Youngblood and his trio Jazbalaya are comfortably settled back in residence, he chose performers from different genres for some of the reopening gigs.

“Bert’s reopened officially on October 22 with the band Red Stripes, which plays ska,” says Youngblood, “but it actually opened before that. We had a little Oktoberfest thing with an accordion. Full dress.”

In addition to the Tuesday, Thursday and Friday live band performances, Bert’s has developed into a special events venue on otherwise generally quiet Saturday nights, and Youngblood plans to build on that.

“Saturday is a day for special functions, once a month when possible. You have to give people a reason to come back into town” says Youngblood. “Usually they sell out.”

Quite often those evenings are sufficiently popular that Bert’s cannot accommodate the numbers, and the bigger draws migrate upstairs to the Main Dining Room – as was the case in November with British Jazz Singer Ian Shaw, who played the club on November 5.

He was accompanied by Youngblood and bassist Scott Dodd, who then joined him on a tour of China, including gigs at the new Blue Note Club in Beijing and the newly relocated JZ Club in Shanghai.

Shaw, a two-time winner for Best Vocalist in the BBC Jazz Awards, is a good example of the Club getting the best, and for visiting jazz musicians Bert’s is what has put it on the map.

Over the years many notable names have dropped in to play, including, since the reopening, former James Brown drummer, Erik Hargrove. “A really musical drummer – just passing through,” says Youngblood.

The Club is also a favourite gig for such high-profile permanently locally based artists as guitarist Eugene Pao, singer, bassist, bandleader and FCC member Elaine Liu, and blues harmonica virtuoso Henry Chung, for whose appearances Bert’s transforms into a juke joint. In the past six months all have sold out either Bert’s or the Main Dining Room.

Performers who have appeared at Bert’s in recent weeks include the Orlando Bonzi band, the Jason Cheng Trio, Skip Moy and his band, and vocalists Jennifer Palor and Miriam Ma – not forgetting the performers who unobtrusively do so much to create the early evening atmosphere including singer and guitarist Mary Jane, guitarist Moy who also performs solo, and pianist Sizwe Peter among others.

The common factor? Not so much jazz as quality, says Youngblood.

“It’s a music room. We try to make it not just jazz, but that said there aren’t that many groups doing other stuff that I’d hire. It’s not what I think about their music. It’s a question of what’s available that’s good.

“Nothing against places like The Wanch, where you get people who can play and people who can’t play, but that’s not what we are. We want people who are seasoned. Don’t be down here practicing.”

New kitchen, full menu

While Bert’s was closed for music during August and September it still operated as a temporary kitchen and food storage while the FCC’s main kitchen, buried deep in the bowels of the building, underwent a HK$6 million refìt.

All major fittings and appliances were ripped out and replaced with modern equipment without needing to redesign the space. The kitchen is now a fully modern working environment allowing the CIub far more flexibility to add new styles of cuisine.

Since October 11, when it was also free bubbly time to launch the renovated Bert’s, a full menu has been in operation under Chef George and his team.

Revealed: Methods of torture used against China’s officials in corruption crackdown

Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch, revealed how China's corruption suspects are kidnapped and tortured Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch, revealed how China’s corruption suspects are kidnapped and tortured

The methods of torture used to extract confessions from suspected corrupt Chinese Communist Party officials was revealed as Human Rights Watch released its report at the FCC into the shuanggui detention system.

Beatings, solitary confinement, being made to stay in one position for hours, sleep and food deprivation were just some of the ways in which detention officers from the party’s CCDI (Central Commission for Discipline Inspection) coerced confessions.

Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, called on the Chinese government to immediately abolish shuanggui, its secretive detention system that operates outside of China’s legal system, during the report release on December 6.

When President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he announced a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign with a pledge to eradicate graft once and for all from the Communist Party. The campaign has seen both “tigers and flies” – high-ranking and low-ranking officials – detained and prosecuted for alleged corruption. What is lesser known is how shuanggui officers operate.

The Human Rights Watch report, titled Special Measures: Detention and Torture in the Chinese Communist Party’s Shuanggui System, is based on 21 interviews with four former detainees as well as family members of detainees, 35 detailed accounts from more than 200 Chinese media reports, and analysis of court verdicts from across the country. It outlines how suspects are led under false pretences to a meeting place where they are then spirited away for prolonged periods of time, their families not knowing where they are or why they have disappeared. They are then taken to shuanggui facilities, which the report stated have padded walls in order to prevent detainees from committing suicide, where they have no access to lawyers.

A drawing of a room used for shuanggui detention by a former detainee. A drawing of a room used for shuanggui detention by a former detainee.

One detainee, a former police chief from Jiangxi Province, recalled: “For nine days and nine nights I sat in tiger chairs; and urinated and defecated into adult diapers…for over a hundred hours, whether it’s day or night, they took turns interrogating me.”

Accounts from former detainees detail the various abuses inflicted by officers to extract confessions from the suspects, who are then typically brought into the criminal justice system where they are convicted and sentenced to often lengthy prison terms.

Ms Richardson called on China to abolish shuanggui, saying: “President Xi Jinping has built his anti-corruption campaign on an abusive and illegal detention system. Torturing suspects to confess won’t bring an end to corruption, but will end any confidence in China’s judicial system.”

She added: “Nobody, not even guilty Chinese Communist Party officials, should be denied basic fair trial rights or tortured.”

Figures in the report show that in 2015, 336,000 individuals were punished internally in the war against corruption. A further 14,000 were handed over to the courts for prosecution.

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