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No need to panic over US-China trade war, says top economics scholar

The US-China trade war will have a “manageable” impact on the GDP of both nations, according to a scholar who was once a member of China’s top political advisory body.

Professor Lawrence Lau gave his expert opinion on how the US-China trade war would play out. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Professor Lawrence Lau gave his expert opinion on how the US-China trade war would play out. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Professor Lawrence Lau said that despite reporting its slowest growth since 1990 last year, China was still a strong economy and the maximum impact on it would be around a 1.1% drop. The impact on the US would be even smaller, he added, predicting a “less than 0.2%” drop.

“The first impacts [of the trade war] are mostly psychological,” Prof. Lau said at the January 29 club lunch.

The former Vice-Chancellor (President) of The Chinese University of Hong Kong explained that in terms of stock markets, Shenzhen performed badly as a result of the start of the trade war in January 2018, but all other markets remained stable. Similarly, China’s exchange rate – notably the Chinese Foreign Exchange Trade System Index (CFETS) – indicated that the RMB fell only 3% over the last year.

While the rates of growth of Chinese exports and imports fluctuate like those of all other economies, the rate of growth of China’s real GDP has also remained relatively stable, Prof. Lau said, primarily because it wasn’t dependent on outside influences.

Prof. Lau, a former member of the Department of Economics at Stanford University, predicted that by 2030, China’s real GDP would be “neck and neck” with America’s, but its GDP per capita would never catch up with the US.

Watch the full talk here.


Go “On Assignment” and party all night like yesteryear’s correspondents at the 2019 FCC Charity Fundraiser. The evening will include international buffets, drinks, entertainment, live bands and a good dose of nostalgia and fun.

Chris Polanco, Don’t Panic, Sybil Thomas, Crimes Against Pop and DJ Perez will be playing.

Tickets are HK $888 for members and $1,088 for their guests, available at the Front Office or by emailing [email protected].

The fundraiser will benefit Keeping Kids in Kindergarten, a local charity helping the young children of refugees and asylum-seekers in Hong Kong. Read more about them in The Correspondent:

Raffle tickets are now available at the Front Office.

Stay tuned for updates on raffle tickets and an online auction featuring an exciting range of items to bid on.


New press freedom report ‘paints darkest picture of reporting conditions inside China in recent memory’

Rapidly expanding surveillance and widespread government interference against reporting in the country’s far northwestern region of Xinjiang drove a significant deterioration in the work environment for foreign journalists in China in 2018.

In December and January, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China surveyed its correspondent members about their work experiences during the calendar year 2018. The results of that survey, as well as interviews with bureau chiefs from nine major media organizations and a timeline of notable incidents, form the basis of a new report, “Under Watch: Reporting in China’s Surveillance State.”

Survey results painted the darkest picture of reporting conditions inside China in recent memory. For the first time in three years, a foreign correspondent was effectively expelled through visa denial. Separately, Chinese authorities also issued severely shortened visas and reporting credentials, one for just 2.5 months, to at least five correspondents.  Pressure on Chinese national news assistants and sources intensified, and close to half of respondents reported themselves being followed or having their hotel room entered without permission while in the field.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said they believed conditions deteriorated in 2018 — the largest proportion since 2011, when foreign media coverage of pro-democracy protests prompted an extensive government backlash. Not a single correspondent said conditions improved last year.

“The wider monitoring and pressure on sources stop journalists even before they can reach the news site,” said FCCC president Hanna Sahlberg. “There is a risk that even foreign media will shy away from stories that are perceived as too troublesome, or costly, to tell in China. These trends run contrary to the FCCC’s hopes for real openness for foreign media to be able to cover China.”

Sahlberg said recent reports of Chinese authorities offering, on behalf of Malaysia, to conduct intense surveillance of Hong Kong-based foreign correspondents was a disturbing development that violated both Hong Kong law and international standards.

“While 2018 has seen state-supported Chinese media expanding and widening its scope abroad, the room for reporting inside the country shrinks,” Sahlberg said. “The restrictions now facing foreign correspondents call for a serious look at the commitments China’s government has as the 2022 Winter Olympic host. We want to see an even playing field.”


The following results are based on a survey of journalists who belong to the Foreign Correspondents’ of Club of China in Beijing. The survey was completed by 109 of 204 correspondent members. More detailed results are in the full report, which can be downloaded through a link at the bottom of this email.

• 55% of respondents said reporting conditions deteriorated in 2018, compared with 40% in the FCCC’s 2017 survey.

• Surveillance, both human and digital, became a key concern. 48% said they were followed or were aware that a hotel room was entered without permission, 91% were concerned about the security of their phones, and 22% said they were aware authorities tracked them using public surveillance systems.

• Reporting grew much more difficult in Xinjiang, where the mass detention and political “re-education” of as many as one million persons from Muslim minorities has attracted global attention. 24 out of 27 of respondents who traveled to the region saying they experienced interference while there, with 19 being asked or forced to delete data.

• 37% of 91 respondents said their Chinese colleagues were pressured, harassed or intimidated, and 34% said sources had been harassed, detained or called in for questioning at least once.

• Six correspondents said they had visa renewal difficulties related to their news coverage. BuzzFeed News bureau chief Megha Rajagopalan was effectively expelled from China after she was unable to renew her visa. Australian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Matthew Carney, received a visa of 2.5 months, leading to his departure. Both had done reporting in Xinjiang.

Download the full report (click the download button at top right of the page)

Celebration of Life for Dr. Feng Chi-shun

A Commemoration Ceremony for Marilyn Hood

Annual photo contest launched in honour of AFP photographer Shah Marai, killed in Kabul bomb attack

Agence France-Presse is launching an annual photography competition to honour Kabul bureau chief photographer, Shah Marai, who was killed in a suicide attack on April 30, 2018.

Throughout his career, Shah Marai showed the reality of life in Afghanistan with passion and tenderness. During 17 years of conflict, his photos captured moments of raw violence but also moments of beauty.

To the outside world, Afghanistan is defined by the images of violence and tragedy that appear regularly on international news. But behind the violence of the conflict lies another country, full of human warmth and daily toil. It was also this country that Shah Marai was constantly striving to show to the rest of the world.

That’s what inspired “My Afghanistan,” the theme of the competition. Afghan photographers living in Afghanistan or overseas are invited to submit from February 5 a series of photographs. These will reflect the reality of their people in Afghanistan or abroad, in their daily life, culture, environment, or social issues. Other angles could be used to tell the story of “their Afghanistan.”

Three prizes will be awarded in May at a ceremony in Paris. The contest also aims to support Afghan photographers.

Enter the competition at

The pitfalls of reporting in 42 languages, by the BBC World Service chief

The challenges of reporting the news in more than 40 languages and managing not to offend anyone in the process were outlined by Jamie Angus, Editor-in-Chief of the BBC World Service.

Jamie Angus gave amusing anecdotes illustrating the challenges in reporting in dozens of different languages. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Jamie Angus gave amusing anecdotes illustrating the challenges in reporting in dozens of different languages. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The World Service is now in its 87th year and has evolved from simply translating what the BBC core news team produced to building its own teams of multilingual reporters, reaching 372 million people per week. It broadcasts in 42 languages, from Hindi to Pashto, and more recently in Nigerian Pidgin which is only a spoken language.

Yet, said Angus, translating from one language into English, or another language, can sometimes be problematic. Angus, a former Editor of the BBC’s flagship Today Programme, gave often amusing examples of languages where one word can be pronounced several different ways, and if mispronounced, some could cause offence.

He also discussed the issues of reporting respectfully in places like Thailand, where insulting the monarchy is a criminal offence. When covering the death of the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016, the BBC World Service was faced with a dilemma in its reporting to Thai listeners. It is disrespectful to simply state the king is ‘dead’. Other translations guaranteed not to offend included ‘the King reached the unconscious end’, and he ‘passed to heaven’. After a lengthy discussion, the BBC decided to play it safe by announcing ‘the King is no longer alive’.

When asked about the state of today’s media in the context of fake news, and why people should trust BBC news, Angus said the BBC’s license fee and its Royal Charter made it more open and accountable to the public.

He told the January 24 club lunch: “We believe we’re the most trusted international broadcaster, but we must earn that trust every day and it’s very precious and we can’t lose it.”

Watch the video here.

New book documents how South Asians helped shape Hong Kong

The contributions of South Asians to Hong Kong’s rich cultural tapestry, from soldiers and traders to judges, has earned them a place in the city’s history – yet some feel they are looked down upon by locals, according to the authors of a new book on the subject.

Mark O'Neill discusses his latest book, ‘How South Asians Helped to Make Hong Kong – History, Culture, Profiles, Food, Shopping’. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Mark O’Neill discusses his latest book, ‘How South Asians Helped to Make Hong Kong – History, Culture, Profiles, Food, Shopping’. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

There are around 80,000 South Asians – among them Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, and Nepalese – living in Hong Kong. Their ancestors came to live in the city as far back as 1841 when the British first colonised Hong Kong.

Despite their huge impact on the development of the city, they feel like second-class citizens, said Kevin Lee, whose photographs of South Asians around the city appear in the new book, ‘How South Asians Helped to Make Hong Kong – History, Culture, Profiles, Food, Shopping’.

During his interaction with one South Asian as he photographed them, he was told: “You are unlike other Hong Kong people. Hong Kong people have the stern face in front of us. But you have a smile.”

Lee told the January 23 club lunch: “I asked them about their life in Hong Kong. I think Hong Kong people don’t really like them.”

The new book, written by Mark O’Neill and former FCC governor Annemarie Evans, delves into the contributions made by South Asians.

Indians who were here from the very first days worked as international traders, diamond merchants, police and soldiers. In later times they became professional in many fields including law, medicine, and finance. There are now 45,000 Indians in Hong Kong – double that of pre-1997. Notable Indians – many of whom were Parsees (Iranians who migrated when their homeland embraced Islam) – include Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody, the “founder spirit behind the idea” of building Hong Kong University. He was also a major donor. Jehangir Hormusjee Ruttonjee was another distinguished Parsee who made an indelible mark on Hong Kong when he founded the Ruttonjee Sanitorium following the death of his daughter from tuberculosis.

The contribution of Gurkhas, who were principally soldiers who patrolled Hong Kong’s border and were intercepting 16,000 illegals a month at the height of the Cultural Revolution, is also highlighted in the book.

Watch the talk here.

Veteran National Geographic photographer gives a glimpse of life behind the lens

Taking an unblinking look at life, and capturing the moments of our shared humanity are the obligations of every photojournalist, according to a veteran National Geographic photographer.

Steve Raymer talked about life as a photojournalist during a talk at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Steve Raymer talked about life as a photojournalist during a talk at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

American-born Steve Raymer shared his decades of experience as an award-winning photographer in capturing images of conflict, human migration and trafficking, endangered wildlife, and climate change across Asia. These photos and his recollections are documented in his new book, Somewhere West of Lonely, My Life in Pictures.

Now an emeritus professor of journalism at Indiana University and authority in media ethics, Raymer joined National Geographic in 1972 after completing military service which saw him serve as an artillery officer in Vietnam.

During his career, he covered issues including the famine in Bangladesh, the Chernobyl disaster, and the Soviet occupation of Kabul in Afghanistan. At the January 22 club lunch, Raymer talked about how photojournalism has changed history, in some cases prompting governments to create new policy around issues illustrated by hard-hitting images.

Recently, he said, photojournalism had come under fire for the increasingly explicit nature of images of suffering.

“The whole idea of the photographic truth of a picture is very much under attack in this era of fake news. Pictures can lie when a photographer sets up a picture or situation to make it appear to be an honest photograph.

“We photojournalists are constantly using people as a means to an end… We have to constantly ask ourselves can the ends ever justify the intrusive means of photojournalism? It’s a worthy question,” he said.

Raymer’s photographs are on exhibition at the FCC until February 17, open daily from 10am-12 noon & 3pm-5:30pm.

Watch the talk here.

Judge Henry Litton highlights ‘total farce’ of Hong Kong’s legal system in new book

Former Court of Final Appeal judge, Henry Litton, dismissed as “total farce” the recent application for judicial review regarding the new high-speed rail terminus, highlighting it as an example of how Hong Kong’s judiciary is increasingly out of touch with its constitutional role.

Former Court of Appeal judge Henry Litton launches his new book at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Former Court of Appeal judge Henry Litton launches his new book at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Speaking as he launched his book, ‘Is the Hong Kong Judiciary Sleepwalking to 2047?’ at the FCC, Litton said the case before the judge last year was merely four applications for leave to start judicial review proceedings, but had turned into “an elaborate charade signifying nothing except the vacuousness of court proceedings”. At its conclusion, the judgment was “massive – 56 pages”, said Litton, adding that such “such an approach to the case defies common sense”.

Litton, now an honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, said had the discipline of law been observed in this case, a judge would have heard it in chambers, and his first consideration should have been what practical remedy was possible.

“The common law is an effective legal system because it has always been a pragmatic one,” Litton said. “Its focus is on remedies and on practical results… But slowly, insidiously, over the past 20-odd years, that system has lost its effectiveness. Court proceedings tend to be dominated by lawyers’ arguments. The real issues get swept away in the flood of words. Common sense is submerged.”

Litton’s book, illustrated by cartoonist Harry Harrison, is a series of essays highlighting similar examples of what he feels are misinterpretations of the role of the judiciary.

Watch the talk here.

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