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China’s Great Wall is the world’s largest, best open museum in the world says William Lindesay OBE

The Great Wall of China is one of the country’s most famous tourist attractions. It stretches across several cities and provinces, but only a handful of sections are easily accessible and have since become the popular visiting locations of both Chinese and foreign tourists.

William Lindesay, while already fascinated by the Great Wall, is even more fascinated by the sections that are found deep in the wilderness and he has built a life dedicated to the education and preservation of the Great Wall.

Lindesay spoke about his life’s work at an FCC Club Lunch on November 21st. Sitting alongside him was FCC Journalist Board Member Joe Pan, as well as copies of his latest book Wild Wall. The new two-volume series documents Lindesay’s life from his first trip to China in 1986 to his most recent endeavors.

William Lindesay and Joe Pan. Photo: FCC

He began the talk by explaining how he first became interested in the Great Wall back when he was a schoolboy. His headmaster said that all his students should have a Bible, a prayer book, and an atlas at their bedside. Lindesay loved his copy of the Oxford Atlas, and when he saw the geographic symbols representing the Great Wall, he instantly knew what he wanted to do when he grew up.

“As soon as I saw that symbol on the Wall, I could see my future,” he said.

Lindesay talked to his headmaster about his idea of studying geography at university and then traveling to China to explore the Great Wall. It was 1967 at the time, and the headmaster was supportive, but gave the young Lindesay honest advice.

“That’s a marvelous idea, William,” his headmaster began. “But you know, I don’t know anyone who’s ever been to China. But maybe in your lifetime, the situation will change.”

Lindesay ended up studying geography at the University of Liverpool, but didn’t make his first trip to China until he was 28 years old. His plan was to become the first foreigner to make a journey across the Great Wall, which resulted in him being stopped 9 times by police for trespassing.

He pressed on. His actions earned him the self-described reputation as China’s first ever “serial foreign trespasser” with many of the tickets and fines he paid being the very first of their kind. He was also arrested twice before eventually being deported from the country.

Hong Kong played a special part in his deportation in that he was able to come to the city and get a new passport to re-enter the mainland and continue his journey. Lindesay expressed his gratitude for Hong Kong playing a crucial part in his life.

William Lindesay. Photo: FCC

In total, Lindesay traveled nearly 2,500 kilometers along the Great Wall by foot — an easy task for the experienced marathon runner. Along the way he received much praise and recognition from both the British and Chinese governments. The highest of his awards include the Friendship Award, China’s highest award for foreign experts, and being knighted as an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. 

During this journey was also when Lindesay met his wife Wu Qi who he has been married to for the past 35 years. Their sons, Jimmy and Tommy, also share their father’s fascination with the Great Wall, and they went so far as to — quite literally — follow their father’s footsteps along the Wall in 2022 while China was still under heavy restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

But they were determined to outdo their father by traveling a total of 3,800 kilometers, starting in Jiayuguan and traveling to “Old Dragon’s Head,” the most eastern part of the Great Wall that ends at the Bohai Sea. 

“We’re a family of wall-nuts,” Lindesay said with a chuckle.

In the talk, Lindesay also shared stories about how he and his wife bought a farmhouse near Jiankou, how he began his Great Wall conservation efforts, becoming a full-time tour guide, and China’s improving policies towards preserving the Great Wall.

Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel below:

Don’t plan too far ahead when adventure cruising says FCC’s own sailing enthusiast

FCC members, whether they are journalists, correspondents, or associates, have a wide variety of interests. Some play guitar, others paint and write poetry, but in the case of Richard Winter, adventure sailing is his passion. While other investment bankers might also captain their own boats around Hong Kong, Winter sails far beyond his peers, exploring hidden gems across Southeast Asia.

Sitting alongside fellow Professional Committee member Philip Bowring, Winter described how he became a “part-time sea gypsy” to FCC members at a Club Lunch on November 14th.

In 2017, Winter and his two business partners sold their company. Their goal was to rebalance their lives, which in Winter’s case led to extended stays aboard his sailing yacht Soko which he bought in 1999.

Winter and his wife Isabel soon after bid farewell to their beloved pooch Muggins and set sail out of Hong Kong — through the Philippines and to Micronesia where they spent periods of the two following years with their crew. 

“It’s interesting when you’re adventure cruising,” Winter began. “It’s a mistake to think too far ahead. When you get to the next destination, people always talk to you and they say, ‘Why don’t you go here? Why don’t you do that?’ So we purposely didn’t commit to a rigid sailing plan.”

Richard Winter and Philip Bowring. Photo: FCC

A consistent recommendation he received while cruising around the islands of Micronesia was Raja Ampat, an archipelago in eastern Indonesia.

Initially, Indonesia wasn’t on Winter’s schedule at all. Pirates, corrupt bureaucrats, petty theft and other sailors’ various cautions kept him from considering the territory at all, yet the crew began a new leg of their journey in 2019 and experienced the exact opposite of what they feared.

“The people are remarkably friendly, and they really want to help you. You can’t get lost there, you can’t be short of anything. They take it like a personal responsibility to be helpful,” Winter said when reflecting on his interactions with the locals around Indonesia. 

Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck. With the world descending into chaos and travel restrictions being quickly enforced, Winter and his wife left Indonesia, leaving their boat in the care of an Australian sailor who arranged to motor her on a Visa Run to East Timor while the couple returned to Hong Kong.

For the next two years, Winter split his time between Hong Kong and Indonesia. The only problem was the condition of his ship, which over two years of neglect, a rat attack and bee invasion began to deteriorate quickly.

Once travel restrictions eased, Winter and his crew were able to return to Indonesia  and spent 5 days restoring their ship. Their accomplishment filled them with pride as they sailed out of Sorong with growing confidence to explore more Indonesian territories.

But Winter shared his own caution to anyone who wishes to go adventure sailing: Don’t be too cocky or confident.

His advice comes from a rude awakening after a night in a beach resort. At around 5am, Isabel woke him up, claiming that their ship was gone. At first he didn’t believe it, yet when he got up and checked where the ship was moored, it really was gone.

“It’s every sailor’s worst nightmare, absolute worst nightmare when that happens,” he said.

Richard Winter. Photo: FCC

The resort owner couldn’t believe it either, yet on the horizon, a small mast was just visible.

“That must be your boat,” the resort owner said.

Sure enough, it was. Winter, borrowing a fast boat from the resort, managed to retrieve his yacht with nearly everything intact. Nothing had been stolen, there was no damage. Soko had carefully weaved her way through the hazardous reefs and sand banks and the only thing out of order was the anchor chain neatly laid out on deck and a burned out anchor winch. To this day, no one has ever explained or claimed responsibility for what happened.

“It was absolutely weird,” Winter said. 

Isabel Winter, Richard Winter, and Philip Bowring. Photo: FCC

Throughout the talk, Winter also shared creative tips for surviving at sea, as well as more stories about crossing the equator, retracing the steps of Alfred Russel Wallace who discovered the Wallace Line and origins of species before Darwin, the historical importance of nutmeg on the Spice Islands and close counters with Komodo dragons.

Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel below:

Rock n’ roll, drugs, and a little bit of journalism: The life and career of Tony Parsons

It’s safe to say that Tony Parsons has had a life that can’t be replicated.

From humble beginnings as the only child of working-class parents to covering the rise of punk rock and writing George Michael’s biography — and so much more — he’s seen a career trajectory that was unheard of in his heyday, and even more so now.

After four years of unprecedented travel rearrangements due to Covid, Parsons was finally able to sit down with FCC Second Vice President Tim Huxley over a glass of wine and talk about his life. Along with him at this one-of-a-kind Club Dinner — an unorthodox yet successful event — were copies of his latest novel Who She Was.

Parsons first talked about why he became a writer. As a young child, he took boxing lessons from his “tough guy” father and read Rupert the Bear stories with his mother. 

“I just fell in love with stories, I just fell in love with the possibility of stories,” he said.

Parsons’ love for literature resulted in him publishing his first novel The Kids at the ripe-old age of 21. Although he admitted that as his earliest work, it wasn’t that good, but the book’s mere existence put him above his peers and led to his first true journalism gig at the New Musical Express (NME).

Tony Parsons. Photo: FCC

Punk rock was all the rage, and it was Parsons’ job to cover bands like The Sex Pistols, young guys who could have easily been his schoolmates. Occasionally he’d write stories about The Rolling Stones, fatherly figures in the rock n’ roll world who still found themselves behind bars every now and then after substance-fueled nights.

With concerts, parties, girls, music, and whatever writing he could fit in between all that mayhem, Parsons learned quickly that his new career wasn’t for the weak. He didn’t even receive any kind of formal training, he was immediately thrown out on the road without a lick of advice.

Instead of his editor or a senior journalist, it was Thin Lizzy’s lead singer Phil Lynott who sat Parsons down for a proper briefing before heading out on tour.

“Listen, it’s going to be quite rough the next few days,” Lynott began. “You’re going to be burned out really, really fast.”

Lynott also reminded Parsons that since they’re drinking vodka at breakfast, they’ve got to have it with orange juice for vitamin C, which will prevent them from getting sick. 

Parsons, who just turned 70 during his week-long visit to Hong Kong, reflected on the wild antics of his early 20s and noted that it’s not sustainable if one wants to live a long life. 

“I think they’re [drugs] always a dead end. If you’re going to do them, it’s got to be over by the time you’re 25. It’s not something you can do at a later age,” he said. 

Ironically, Parsons left NME at age 25. He began freelancing, not simply for the freedom and breath of fresh air it provided, but also because his former employer wasn’t as well-connected to the rest of the UK’s journalism landscape — despite the fame and notoriety.

“As soon as you stepped outside of that world, nobody knew who you were. Nobody cared. Even the best of us were just kind of unwanted and unknown in this little, wild rock n’ roll world for as long as it lasted,” he said.

Eventually his freelancing paid off when he was offered the chance to write George Michael’s biography — by George Michael himself.

The offer came from Michael’s suspicion that there were at least seven or eight biographies already being written about him. He was just 25 years old at the time, and Parsons was a full decade older.

Parsons offered to do it later on when he had accomplished more in his music career, but Michael insisted they do it now and kill all the other “unauthorized” books. They struck a deal and shook hands on splitting the profit 50/50.

Michael’s lawyers didn’t like the deal. When Parsons brought up the issue, the singer-songwriter simply told him not to worry or even think about it anymore. Once the biography was released, Parsons received the biggest payday he ever had up until that point in his life.

“I saw the power of someone that knows what I’m worth,” Parsons said.

Tony Parsons and Tim Huxley. Photo: FCC

Despite remaining close to Michael for many years after the biography, Parsons eventually had a falling out with the celebrity after publishing an interview in The Daily Mirror. The piece was edited by none other than Piers Morgan, and Michael didn’t want his words to be filtered through such a divisive figure. Parsons maintained that Morgan was a fantastic editor, and although he and George Michael parted ways, he looks back at the singer with “enormous affection.”

Parsons’ freelancing days also birthed his first ever trip to Hong Kong. 

While one of Parsons’ first Hong Kong experiences resulted in spending nearly all of his hard-earned cash on a night out in Wan Chai, the city’s toll on his wallet didn’t deter the writer from returning on and on throughout the years. The lights, action, beauty — and most importantly — his friends who stayed in Hong Kong for a lifetime are all what have enabled Parsons to say, “I’m on my 40th stay at the Mandarin.” To him, Hong Kong has a welcoming society that’s unmatched in other places.

“At any major city in the world, you turn up and everybody says ‘Who cares?’ You come to Hong Kong and people say ‘Join us.’ And I think that doesn’t get enough credit. I think that doesn’t get celebrated enough,” he said.

A handful of Parsons’ novels feature characters who have lived in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, and even not being able to travel to Hong Kong during the Covid-19 pandemic also inspired his most recent work Who She Was, a psychological thriller set in Cornwall.

Copies of Who She Was by Tony Parsons. Photo: FCC

But regardless of whether it’s a novel or his weekly column in The Sun, or if it’s on the road or at home, the bottom line is that Parsons is writing. And while it may seem that being a journalist and an author with two opposing writing styles may be difficult, he finds that they actually complement each other — especially if one doesn’t work out.

“I always felt that I couldn’t rely on just one,” he said and further added that he wished he could see other talented journalists take a stab at writing their own novels.

When asked about advice for the new generation of journalists, Parsons gave a surprising answer.

“I’d avoid journalism,” he said. “Being a journalist is like saying ‘I want to work for the British Empire.’ Well, you know, you’re 100 years too late.”

Still, Parsons added that modern-day social media and other new tools can pioneer the budding careers of young journalists. What transcends from his generation to the next, however, is the love and enthusiasm for writing.

But, his advice comes with the final warning that times have indeed changed, and there’s no way that the rock n’ roll debauchery that dominated the early days of his reporting career could ever be cloned.

“You have to find a way to make it [journalism] work for yourself and in your own time. Good writing will always be valued. If you want to do it, great. But you’re not going to be taking drugs with Debbie Harry, ok? Forget about it,” he said.

Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel below:

Despite adversity, Hong Kong’s Gay Games went on as scheduled — a win for the city’s LGBTQ+ community

For the first time in its 40-year history, the quadrennial Gay Games were held in Hong Kong — a first not just for the city, but for Asia as well.

To gain more insight into the challenges that the 11th Gay Games faced, the FCC held a Club Lunch panel with three of the Games’ representatives on November 9th, the seventh day of the 9-day sporting event.

Sitting on the panel were Joanie Evans, Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games; Emery Fung, Football Lead and Diversity & Inclusion Director of GGHK; and David Ko, Director of Marketing and Communications of GGHK. Moderating the talk was FCC First Vice President Jennifer Jett.

The panel first discussed how Hong Kong won its bid for the 2023 Gay Games and why it was important to break new ground by coming to Asia.

Emery Fung, Joanie Evans, and Jennifer Jett. Photo: FCC

“It’s not about us being in places where it’s easy,” said Evans. “It’s going to places where we know that the participants are not going to have that opportunity to experience what the Gay Games are about.”

For Ko, he didn’t fully understand why the Gay Games were so important to the LGBTQ+ athletic community until he witnessed the Opening Ceremony on November 3rd.

“They [Gay Games athletes] all talk about the atmosphere when they’re marching into the stadium and how that changed them. I never truly understood that until we experienced it ourselves last weekend. That was the moment I thought to myself ‘Oh, I finally get it now.’ I understand why everyone’s so passionate about this,” he said.

David Ko and Emery Fung. Photo: FCC

Similar to the Olympics, athletes walk out onto the field by country and are accompanied by music and cultural performances.

Political leaders also typically make appearances. Executive Council Convenor Regina Ip — a staunch supporter of the Gay Games — gave a speech at this year’s Opening Ceremony.

But not all of Hong Kong’s politicians were just as open-minded towards the Gay Games.

On November 1st, just two days before the Opening Ceremony, Junius Ho and six other anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers held a press conference calling for a ban of the Gay Games, claiming that they were a Western plot attempting to subvert national security and traditional Chinese family values.

As Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games, Evans has experienced plenty of opposition in various places from conservative and religious groups, but maintains that as race organizers, they don’t have a hidden agenda anywhere they go.

“For what people say about bringing the Gay Games to anywhere, it’s like they think that there’s an ulterior motive to it, and there isn’t. There’s no ulterior motive. We don’t want to benefit from anything. It’s not going to benefit us as an organization. It’s about what we can bring to the community and trying to bring the world together,” she said.

Ko also commented on the public’s overall negative response to Junius Ho’s comments.

“The feedback is overwhelming against him,” he said. “His remarks are being described as laughable, irrelevant, whatever, and that was very gratifying to us because it meant that people understand more than we think they do.”

The panel reiterated that the Gay Games as a whole is not a political organization and that they are committed to uniting people and celebrating diversity, which includes allowing people who do not identify in traditional gender identities to join as well.

The Gay Games’ Gender Inclusion Policy states that while some sports may still have traditional male and female categories, non-binary competitions and open competitions for all genders will be included whenever possible to give all athletes a chance to participate.

Fung, as a transgender man and football player, finds the Gay Games’ inclusion efforts to be one of the most impactful aspects of the event.

David Ko and Emery Fung. Photo: FCC

“The Gay Games are the only event or organization that I know of that will actually allow people who are trans, non-binary, or intersex to be part of the Games without putting up too many barriers… It’s very rare that there’s a space for people like us,” he said.

The Gay Games ended with its Closing Ceremony on November 11th.

Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel below:

From pain to purpose: How a mother who lost her son to addiction is now fighting the US opioid epidemic

“It didn’t have to happen.”

This was the conclusion that Cammie Wolf Rice came to when recounting the death of her son Christopher who, after 15 years, lost his battle against opioid addiction.

Speaking at the FCC on October 8th, Cammie went into detail about her son’s death, and how it moved her to become an activist fighting the United States’ ongoing opioid epidemic, which has taken an estimated 500,000 lives since Christopher passed away in 2016. Moderating the talk was Anna Healy Fenton, an Addiction and Relationships Counsellor at OT&P and former FCC President.

It started with Christopher being diagnosed with a colon disease in middle school and then the removal of his colon before he finished high school. After his operation, Christopher’s doctor recommended he take painkillers every 4 hours, and Cammie simply followed the doctor’s instructions.

Anna Healy Fenton and Cammie Wolf Rice. Photo: FCC

“I didn’t even think to ask questions [about] if it was ok or if it was safe,” she said.

Cammie explained that 80% of heroin users start with painkillers, and that even just one dose is enough to get someone addicted.

“People don’t wake up and say, ‘Oh, I want to be an addict.’ No one asks to become addicted to opioids, but literally it can happen with one prescription,” she said.

After 15 years, Christopher died from an overdose. The loss of her son initially left Cammie unable to admit what happened to her loved ones, for fear of being stigmatized.

“It took me two years to say that Christopher overdosed,” she said. “Why is that? It’s not cancer, right? If you say your kid has cancer, you have people coming to your house and bringing you casserole dishes. But with addiction, you hide it under the rug because you don’t want to be looked at as a failure as a parent.”

Cammie Wolf Rice. Photo: FCC

After finding the courage to be honest about what happened to Christopher, Cammie made it her life mission to educate people about the dangers of opioids. She created her foundation, the Christopher Wolf Crusade (CwC), which advises patients on non-opioid pain treatments and has helped establish “Life Care Specialists” at hospitals in the US who coach people through their pain.

“Look at our society. We use coaches for everything,” she said. “But you don’t have a coach when you have a health crisis. And that’s the most critical time that you need a coach.”

In her opinion, opioids do have their place — like when treating victims of car accidents or amputees — but people must “taper off” opioids quickly before it’s too late.

Cammie also explained the differences between opioids and fentanyl, why everyone should carry Narcan, and talked about her book, The Flight, which tells her and Christopher’s story.

Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel below:

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Awards Clare Hollingworth Fellowships 2023

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Awards
Clare Hollingworth Fellowships
Mithil Aggarwal
Mithil Aggarwal is a producer / reporter for NBC News, covering global breaking news and human interest stories. An engineering graduate from The University of Hong Kong, he stumbled into journalism by accident, producing an award-winning podcast.
Eudora Wang
Eudora Wang is the Deputy Editor, Greater China, at DealStreetAsia, where she covers alternative investments. Wang holds a master’s degree in international journalism studies from Hong Kong Baptist University and a bachelor’s degree in radio and television studies from Xi’an International Studies University.
Aruzhan Zeinulla
Aruzhan Zeinulla is a senior-year international journalism student at Hong Kong Baptist University from Kazakhstan. After completing her summer internship, primarily covering the Russia-Ukraine war, she joined CNN as a freelance news desk researcher.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is pleased to announce that it has chosen Mithil Aggarwal, Eudora Wang and Aruzhan Zeinulla as recipients of the fifth annual Clare Hollingworth Fellowship, named in honor of the preeminent and path-breaking journalist.
The panel of judges noted the winners offer clear potential as future leaders both within the FCC and in the wider Hong Kong journalism community.
The Fellowship is focused on early-career journalists and current journalism school students in Hong Kong.
The open competition drew significant interest from a cross spectrum of applicants. The adjudicators noted the high standard of applicants and encouraged all to apply again next year.
For further information on the Clare Hollingworth Fellowship, please visit

Too little, too late: Hong Kong’s efforts to get more women into boardrooms are a good first step, but not enough according to panel of diversity experts

While companies across the world are introducing new measures to increase diversity through progressive hiring practices, in the boardroom Hong Kong still lags behind, with only 19.1% of the city’s board seats being held by women as of July 2023. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) has introduced new regulations that require all listed companies to have at least one female board member by the end of 2024, but some critics argue that these new rules aren’t enough to create meaningful change.

To discuss possible solutions to Hong Kong’s board diversity issue, the FCC held a panel discussion in early October with three experts: Fiona Nott, CEO of the Women’s Foundation, Tim Payne from Brunswick, and May Tan – the former CEO of Standard Chartered Bank HK. Moderating the discussion was FCC Correspondent Board Member Karen Koh.

The conversation began with the panel discussing why diversity is important in the first place and whether or not it has an effect on a company’s performance.

“Gender equality and the advancement of women is an imperative that benefits everyone. It benefits society, business, the economy,” said Nott, who then provided statistics from her organization’s research.

May Tan, Fiona Nott, and Tim Payne. Photo: FCC

According to The Women’s Foundation, companies that prioritize gender equality experience a 60% increase in profitability, productivity, and their ability to attract and retain talent. Also, solving the gender gap across the world would contribute US$12 trillion to global GDP.

Nott also noted that Hong Kong as a society is quite rule-heavy, whereas if there is no rule — especially in reinforcing diversity initiatives — then nothing happens.

Payne also chimed in regarding rules. HKEx has announced that all companies listed on the HK Stock Exchange must have at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2024, but to Payne, a target of 30% is more likely to bring change.

“Why 30 percent?” he asked. “Not because it’s a target, but because once you get to about a third of any organization cognitively diverse, then people stop questioning the diversity and start thinking about the value of the organization itself.”

Tim Payne. Photo: FCC

To Payne, one of the reasons why Hong Kong hasn’t been able to reach its diversity targets is due to the lack of government support and mandates that other countries across Asia have developed over the past decade.

“If you go back ten years, we were beating Singapore, we were beating Malaysia, we were beating Japan, we were beating South Korea, and now we’ve seen several of these countries come past us,” he said.

Tan, as the panelist with multiple board experiences throughout her career, was invited to share her thoughts on gender inequality, particularly in how a lack of opportunities and resources prevents women from giving back to their respective societies.

“What you’re telling me is that society is actually paying for the education of these women who are not really able to contribute to the wider society,” she said. ”They need to have the opportunity to give back to society and contribute.”

Karen Koh, May Tan, and Fiona Nott. Photo: FCC

Tan also echoed the other panelists when giving her opinion on the government’s board initiatives for 2024.

“I’m very pleased to see that we have now got an end to all single-gender boards in 2024. But honestly, in my view, it’s too little too late, because an end to single-gender boards will mean one woman… one woman is not enough to change the tone in the boardroom,” she said.

Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel below:

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