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Author Michael Sheridan on the Handover: “The people of Hong Kong were given no voice in their own future”

The Hong Kong handover negotiations between Britain and China were fraught with tension, anxiety and distrust according to former foreign correspondent Michael Sheridan, author of The Gate to China: A New History of the People’s Republic & Hong Kong. In a Zoom talk hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Sheridan described the difficulties and the downfalls of the handover.

“I think it’s very important to abolish any illusions that there might have been that this was a very soft and gentle and friendly handover,” said Sheridan. “It was a hard bargain struck between two big nations.”

“Unfortunately — and this is the point I make in the book — the people who were left out were the people of Hong Kong,” said Sheridan. “The fault on both sides — and I fault the British for this primarily — is that the people of Hong Kong were given no voice in their own future, and that did not have to be the case. It was a policy choice.”

He also discussed different periods of history, such as the late 1970s, when a Chinese delegation visited Hong Kong and learned about the stock exchange, free markets, the port, the banking system, capital controls and more, all of which inspired reform on the mainland. 

Asked to comment on the future of Hong Kong, Sheridan said that the city would benefit economically from participating in the Greater Bay Area, but noted that the political situation had shifted dramatically already and would continue to do so. 

“I think people in Hong Kong, particularly, may I say, expatriates in Hong Kong, need to accept that they are living in the People’s Republic of China,” said Sheridan. “Hong Kong is a Chinese city.”

“Life in Hong Kong is going to be a compromise, and the question is at what point along the scale do you as an individual or a company strike that compromise.”

Watch the full discussion below:

Pandemic Has Been Positive for Journalists and Newsrooms – FCC Panel

COVID-19 has caused widespread tragedy and turmoil, but a panel of journalists and media experts said that there have been upsides for journalists and newsrooms in the midst of the pandemic. In a Zoom event hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and moderated by correspondent member and Clare Hollingowrth Fellow Jennifer Creery, the panelists shared their views on the shifts in the media landscape. 

The author of a weekly newsletter called Dari Mulut ke Mulut which focuses on Southeast Asia, Erin Cook said she started writing a newsletter as an alternative to more traditional methods of reaching an audience. 

“The newsletter was kind of a way to build my own entry-level steps,” said Cook. “Luckily 2016 was a deeply fascinating time for Southeast Asia, so that really helped build an audience that maybe would have been a bit harder to find.”

She said that switching to a paid subscription format on Substack had allowed her to do more of the work she wanted to do. 

“By going with a paid subscription [model], it means that I can really hone in on these stories that wouldn’t get a run anywhere else, and I can connect directly with the audiences that understand that and are looking for that sort of thing,” said Cook. “That’s definitely one of the advantages of going down the newsletter path rather than sticking with the traditional outlets.”

Tanmoy Goswami, who writes about mental health on Sanity by Tanmoy, first started writing a newsletter because the pandemic had forced the publication he was working for to shut down. He wanted to find another way to connect with his readers, so he started his newsletter in December 2020.

“Within 100 days, it became one of the top paid, health-related newsletters on Substack,” said Goswami.

Alan Soon, who started Splice Media to help drive the transformation of Asia’s media industry, said the pandemic has been good for media organizations in some ways.

“I think there’s going to be a net-positive outcome when all of this is said and done,” said Soon. I think the acceleration and pushing newsrooms to adopt new technologies and workflows has been really powerful.”

“Because of the pandemic, a lot of journalists have discovered new ways to engage audiences, and I think this is really a good thing.”

Watch the full discussion below:

Paranoia Drives China’s Approach to Foreign Policy – Journalist Joanna Chiu

In spite of China’s power and influence across the globe, its foreign policy is driven by paranoia and distrust, said Hong Kong-born journalist Joanna Chiu in a Zoom talk hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. 

The author of China Unbound: A New World Disorder, which details China’s rapid international rise and the ways Western nations have contributed to a state of global disorder, Chiu explained how her reporting revealed “paranoid rhetoric” and a tendency of United Front effort to focus on individuals and “no-names” who don’t pose a meaningful threat to the CCP. 

Asked to explain this paranoia, Chiu said it had everything to do with history. 

“That’s partly why I provide a lot of historical context, because I think to understand what Beijing’s doing, the great paranoia of Chinese leaders, it’s also important to understand the history of Western colonialism and imperialism in China,” said Chiu. “That’s a really important backdrop.”

She went on to explain that targeting individuals perhaps stemmed from the fact that past incidents such as the Taiping Rebellion had been started by ordinary people. She added that targeting overseas Chinese, who may not even identify with China in any meaningful way, reveals a paternalistic impulse of the CCP. 

In her book, Chiu examines the relationships between China and a number of Western countries including Turkey, Italy, Greece, Australia, Canada and the United States. She said all of these countries are experiencing increased tensions with China “where it’s no longer a war of words or diplomatic disputes — it’s in the economic sphere.”

Still, she said, she hoped her reporting helps to disprove a narrative that so-called middle powers have no negotiating power with regards to China.

“Western countries aren’t powerless”, said Chiu.

Watch the full discussion below:

Hong Kong Should Enact Article 23 As Soon As Possible – Senior Barrister Cheng Huan

In a lunch talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club during which he shared his thoughts and reflections on the 2020 National Security Law passed by the central government, senior barrister Cheng Huan said that Hong Kong has a legal obligation to enact its own national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law as soon as possible. 

“My biggest disappointment is that, for 17 years after 2003, one administration after another, and especially the members of LegCo, consistently failed to carry out their constitutional duty according to the Basic Law by not enacting Article 23,” said Cheng. “Because they failed to do so, Hong Kong now has a National Security Law imposed from above. This should never have been necessary.”

He continued: “There was next to no input from Hong Kong as to how the 2020 law was to be enacted. The law’s contents did not pass through the legislative scrutiny that all local legislation must go through. I very much hope this mistake will never be repeated.”

He concluded with a warning: “If Hong Kong is again negligent of its duty, we should not be surprised if the central government again intervenes. It is essential that Hong Kong honors its duty under the Basic Law by implementing Article 23 as soon as possible.”

Earlier in the talk, Cheng said that all countries have laws to protect themselves and that each one strikes its own balance between security and freedom. 

“The severity of security laws ranges wide from jurisdiction to another, but laymen are often surprised to discover how onerous and oppressive they can be, even when created by liberal Western democracies,” said Cheng. “Even in the United Kingdom, extremely harsh security laws have been used, most notably in Northern Ireland during the 30 years of civil disorder there known as the Troubles.”

Cheng also shared his thoughts on the role that the FCC itself plays in Hong Kong society, as evidenced by his invitation to speak at the club. 

“The FCC is a broad church practicing democracy and tolerance of all shades of opinion. It preaches what it believes — freedom of speech — and even the freedom to hold different opinions.”

Watch the full discussion below:

Eating Seafood Is Just As Bad for the Planet As Eating Meat – Green Monday CEO David Yeung

The role raising livestock for meat consumption plays in increasing greenhouse gas emissions is well known, but as Green Monday CEO David Yeung explained in a lunch talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, eating seafood should be considered equally bad. 

“There is a gigantic piece of the puzzle that is missing, that is not talked about and public awareness is extremely low, and it’s about the ocean,” said Yeung, who’s behind a line of vegan meat alternatives called OmniFoods.  

He shared data showing that fishing has increased by 900% over the last 70 years, a trajectory that he called “utterly unsustainable.” 

“The way we fish nowadays is, we just wipe out the ocean,” said Yeung. “There’s something called bottom trawling, in which they basically pull giant, enormous nets just off the ground of the ocean and basically take anything out from the sea, and that just kills the entire marine ecosystem.” 

He explained that more than 25% of carbon dioxide levels are offset by the ocean, which in turn releases 50 to 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe. 

“By absolutely devastating the entire marine ecosystem, we are driving our ocean to death, which means it loses its capability to offset carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and of course produce healthy, sustainable seafood for us to consume.”

Watch the full discussion below:

2022 HUMAN RIGHTS PRESS AWARDS – Open for Entries on January 1, 2022

Update: The Human Rights Press Awards have been suspended.

Open for Entries on January 1, 2022
(Scroll down for Chinese version)
As the world marks Human Rights Day, Asia’s most prestigious awards honouring outstanding human rights reporting is announcing that it will be open for entries from January 1, 2022 to February 1, 2022 (11:59 PM, HKT).
The Human Rights Press Awards, now in their 26th year, are organised by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong.
Showcasing this work has become more important than ever as governments around the region step up threats to basic freedoms since the pandemic broke out, whether it be locking up journalists, carrying out arbitrary detentions or silencing political opponents.
Submissions must have been reported about the Asia region and been published or broadcast during the 2021 calendar year. Entries must be in either English or Chinese.
Categories include Breaking News, Feature, Commentary, Multimedia, Video, Audio and Photography. Please go to the website for more details.
Each entry must cite the article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the work seeks to address. This landmark document sets out the inalienable rights to which every person is entitled. The full text is available here:
Please mark your calendars and be ready to submit your work!
The online entry form will be open on January 1, 2022 at:
For further information, please visit:
And follow us on:
For queries, please contact the awards administrator:
Email: [email protected]

電郵:[email protected]

FCC Congratulates Ressa, Muratov for Nobel Peace Prize

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong congratulates journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for winning the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded ”for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

The FCC applauds the Nobel Committee for its recognition of two courageous and deserving journalists, and for the message in defense of press freedom that the award sends.

Ressa, 58, is the co-founder and chief executive of Rappler, a digital news outlet in the Philippines. She has spoken at the FCC on several occasions, and is a tireless advocate of the free press and efforts to combat misinformation across the region and beyond. Links to her speeches and events at the club can be found below.

Obituary: A Toast to Ian Verchere

By Philip Bowring

Ian Verchere, who died on 17 July in England aged 83, was one of the most agreeable and versatile journalists I have known. A restless enthusiasm and a wide variety of intellectual interests took him to many places, but he started out in Hong Kong doing his national service in the army in the late 1950s which led to his first job as a sports reporter on the South China Morning Post. Then it was off to La Sorbonne in Paris for two years to perfect his French, which led to a job as tour manager for Thomas Cook and a great deal of travel around Europe; he also spoke passable Spanish having studied in Barcelona.

The travel bug and journalism merged when the travel trade’s premier journal, Travel Trade Gazette, hired him. Ian then became the editor of Asia Travel Trade (ATT) following a chance meeting at a Singapore travel conference in 1972 with the publisher, bringing him back to Hong Kong. I arrived in the then-colony the following year and we quickly became friends. When he hired Murray Bailey to join him at ATT, Ian persuaded me to let Murray share my flat.

Ian was by then editing Insight, a monthly business-focused magazine which was, at least for a while, a journalistic success even if not a commercial one. Its in-depth look at business was a first for English-language monthly journalism in 1970s Hong Kong, a period that saw a great flowering of regional journalism with the launch of Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek and the Asian Wall Street Journal, among others. ATT and Insight gave him great opportunities to travel in the region and satisfy his wide and ever-growing interests.

From the May 1979 issue of The Correspondent magazine.

While living in Stanley, Ian also took up sailing a Hobie – a small catamaran which he launched off the beach at To Tei Wan. I was also living in Stanley, and also had a dinghy which I kept on the main beach, so I saw Ian quite often – though we did not make a habit of visiting the Smugglers Inn, then strictly for the squaddies from Stanley Fort.

In 1979 Bank of America lured Ian away from journalism with a job in Tokyo as vice president of corporate communications. He worked there for five years, then moved to New York. But journalism remained his first love and he eventually returned to London, working for Janes’ aviation magazines, the Economist Intelligence Unit and The European newspaper (which made a valiant but failed effort (1990-1998) to persuade English-language readers to learn more about what was happening in Europe). He also freelanced for numerous national dailies.

Ian went on do much sailing and travelling in Europe, the Caribbean, the US and across to Fiji. His adventures in Fiji led to a semi-autobiographical novel, Mugged in Tahiti, a tale of fun and games in the South Pacific. He also wrote Sailing into American History, a journey along the east coast’s Intracoastal Waterway which shed light on the early decades of the US.

The avid traveller was also very much at home in Buckinghamshire where I last saw him for lunch at a pub on the Grand Union canal. A memorial service was held at St Mary the Virgin, Ivinghoe, on 10 August 2021, followed by drinks at The Old Swan in Cheddington. I drank a toast to his memory at the Smugglers Inn.

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