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On the wall: Chinese Turkestan, by Ryan Pyle

An elderly woman rests on a muddy bank in her rice field near Kucha. An elderly woman rests on a muddy bank in her rice field near Kucha.

Ryan Pyle has been visiting China’s western Xinjiang province regularly since 2001. But it wasn’t until a recent trip in 2006 that he decided to focus his camera on this mysterious and remote part of the world.

Formerly known as Chinese Turkestan, this vast expanse of deserts and mountains has seemingly always been at a crossroads between cultures and time. For centuries criminals, holy men, and traders tramped across the region; and it was out of this tradition that the Silk Road was established.

Surrounded on three sides by some of the highest mountain ranges in the world, with the Gobi desert blocking the fourth, Chinese Turkestan is one of the most isolated places on earth. Ryan, drawn by its abundance of life, colourful minorities, harsh landscapes and religion, has visited mosques, local herdsmen, farming communities and former silk road trading posts to capture what he feels is a culture under threat from China’s rapid expansion into the region.

“The culture is vanishing before my eyes,” Ryan says. “Each time I return something is missing: a market, an old shop full of blacksmiths, a local mosque.”

Traveling only with a Uygur translator, Ryan feels that the importance of capturing this culture is paramount as it is disappearing so quickly.

“No other country in the world is knocking down old buildings faster to make way for new hotels, highways and airports than China,” says Ryan. “A few more years and there might not be much left at all; the whole country, from Beijing to Kashgar, is starting to look the same. A pity really, the cultural diversity being lost is not something that can be faked, or easily brought back. This cultural fabric will be lost forever.”

Obituary: Walter Kent, bar denizen and friend to many

Walter with Neva Shaw. Walter with Neva Shaw.

Walter Kent is remembered for many things: as a friend; drinking companion; a sometimes testy conversationalist; a firm guardian of bar behaviour; an FCC committee member; active supporter of the last years of Arthur Hacker’s life and a key part of a committee dealing with Arthur’s extensive book, photo and illustration collection; generous supporter of a number of members; a knowledgeable map and photo collector; and fun member of any table.

Walter Kent’s wake and cremation ceremony saw many friends and family gather to mourn and pay tribute to his life. His brothers Ed and Bob spoke at the wake, as did his former boss in Asia Dave Bravender. Many friends also took the opportunity to tell stories about Walter.

Chris Slaughter, who was a very able MC at the wake, on the night after Walter died stood up at the Main Bar at about 10.30 – about the time Walter would come to the bar – and gave a moving impromptu tribute.

During Walter’s last months in hospital a number of friends visited him, but it was John Batten and Annie Van Es who were there almost every day.  “I’m sure I speak for everyone who will miss Walter when I say thank you to you both for really stepping up to the plate these last too many months,” said Andy Chworowsky. “Although there isn’t much to be happy about, the demonstration of how strong the bonds of friendship should be offers some warmth and comfort. You both made the final round infinitely more bearable for Walter.”

John Batten. We can all find a corner at the FCC and Walter’s was next to the swing-doors of the Main Bar counter. If it were military strategy, it was perfect: the position offered a full view of the coming and going of staff, members, visitors, the food, the drinks. It also offered intelligence; close enough to hear the photographers and sometime-journalists from their section of the bar, but far enough not to get bogged down in any of the harangues. A quick turn of the head gave the latest news on the ‘Ice House Street TV’, handy information if an overly enthusiastic journalist and/or know-it-all ventured closer, sidled up and said, “Hi, Walter!”

Walter Kent at the book Launch at Bert's of "Kitchen Tiles" by Feng Chi-Sun. Walter Kent at the book Launch at Bert’s of “Kitchen Tiles” by Feng Chi-Sun.

I got to know Walter as a fellow FCC late-nighter, a group that also variously included CC, Mike, David, Barry, Greg, Kelly and Conor with walk-on appearances from Nigel and Peter, between his naps. Albert, James and John were at times in attendance behind the bar. On those late nights, Walter could alternate being the Board of Governors in-their-absence or the host of his own party, or “an emperor in his war-room”, or a brave sailor at the helm in choppy waters, or a happy bar customer sipping his favourite soup (minestrone or French onion), or simply enjoying conversation and his “usual.”

Walter rarely sat down, he stood at the bar. I asked him about that, too. “…I never sat at work, I always used a three-drawer filing cabinet as a desk. My telephone and papers were there. I worked standing-up.” So now I knew, but if you knew Walter, then you also know that conversations could not be forced.
It happened in good time. But, never, never, interrupt him when he was in full story-telling mode – except Arthur and Walter allowed mutual intervention! And, if you chatted with him and often enough, a range of stories of his 49 years living in Asia, and childhood in New York, would evolve.

Oops, Walter! Yes, your childhood home was, you reminded us, never in New York, but – always – in Brooklyn. Even Walter, not a great sports fan, although he loved water-skiing when he lived in Thailand and liked the big sporting events, remained pissed (or, pissed off, where I come from) when the Dodgers moved to LA.

He loved the idea of jazz and would pop down to Bert’s, catching-up with VG, Cathy, Chi and Alan. He inhabited the FCC like no recent member has – and was at the talks, screenings, tastings, New Year and other celebrations and put in time on committees.

He fully supported the FCC’s ethos of freedom of expression, but rarely read The New York Times. It was too much news! But he did read the Club’s copy of The New Yorker. And there, amongst the magazine rack, ensued a small battle. Every received copy of a magazine has a sticker with its arrival date-stamp placed on the cover. It annoyed Walter (and me) and Walter’s outrage, as on any issue, was always about what was right, or, should I say, what was wrong. Administrative stickers should not cover the iconic New Yorker covers! One of the FCC’s friendly rivalries was built around these annoying stickers. Walter and another Club member (Russ, I think) would compete to be the first to remove the sticker off The New Yorker. Whoever did it first, would note the date on the inside cover in pencil. Unwittingly, the FCC office also entered the competition by insisting on placing a replacement date sticker on the cover. Walter and his rival would then repeat the removal ritual, and further dates would be penciled…

Paul Bayfield, Walter, Andy Chworowsky and Andrew Perrett. Paul Bayfield, Walter, Andy Chworowsky and Andrew Perrett.

Walter never struck anyone as an activist, but in 2003 he was one of the first residents to join the determined protests against Hopewell’s Kennedy Road mega-development plans. Residents’ determination has long delayed those silly expansionist ideas and Walter was good at determination.

Late(r) in the FCC, Walter’s last order of the night, a “shao bay,” was his signal that the FCC-part of the night, but not the night itself, was ending. His usual departing comment, “I’m going for a walk,” had the anticipation of further good conversation, or a liaison, or of something unexpected about to happen. That’s how I’ll remember Walter’s going out.

The night Walter died his former partner and long-time friend Carr Law remained at his bedside. Just after Walter died, Carr sent the following message:

Carr Law. Walter passed away peacefully around 7:30am Hong Kong time this morning. His body did not fight for long after all medicines were withdrawn. His digestion system was very weak.

He had lots of friends who visited him before going to sleep [as the email news that he may not survive the night travelled far and wide]. In the middle of the night the power of the morphine kicked in. Starting about 3am he is completely relaxed and sleeping, then his heartbeat and breathing started to slow down.

Walter with fellow FCC vote counters and scrutineers. Walter with fellow FCC vote counters and scrutineers.

By 6am the heartbeat rate dropped to 40/min from the awful high 110+/min. I started holding his hand and forehead, talking intimately about his incredible life journey covering topics of adventures, holidays, friends, family and all the bits and pieces. And I mentioned some names to remind him of those who are already on the other side waiting for him join them for a drink or two… and that some day his friends will join him there too. Then I told him it is ok to go, as he is ready.

I continued to hold him and talk to him for 10 more minutes after the machine indicated his heartbeat and breathing stopped.

He may or may not feel my hands holding his. He may or may not hear any of the things I’ve said. But one thing I am certain, he was comfortable, peaceful and painless.

Like all of his friends, I miss him terribly.

Edwin Rainbow. I knew Walter only over the past five years during which time I came to know him rather well, being often welcomed into his circle of FCC friends. This was a group that was supporting Arthur Hacker, which was, from what I understand, only one of the selfless voluntary support missions he engaged in.

It was a multi-skilled team, but Walter was the undisputed leader when it came to delivering the logistic solutions. He was 100% reliable and unassuming and I am pleased that I was blessed with the opportunity be part of his his circle of freinds.

I will miss him.

Walter celebrates a birthday in 2016 with FCC staff and friends in the Main Bar; Walter celebrates a birthday in 2016 with FCC staff and friends in the Main Bar;

Nigel Binnersley. “One of the memorable times shared with Walter around the bar was on 9/11 when we witnessed the Twin Towers attack on CNN on what was supposed to be a quiet Tuesday night.”

In fact it was Walter who alerted many other members in the bar to the unfolding of the 9/11 drama. “You should come to the big screen [above the entrance to the Main Bar]… it looks like something terrible is happening in New York,” he said. We all arrived in front of the screen as the second plane hit the second tower. Like many Americans, Walter was frantically trying to phone his family.

Walter had a 31-year career at Chase Manhattan Bank (now known as JP Morgan Chase). He was vice-president for operations and technology, helping orchestrate the bank’s systems as it went through a series of mergers. In all Walter lived and worked some 49 years in Asia, from Jakarta, Mumbai, Guam. Taipei, Bangkok, Saigon to Hong Kong. When he retired in the mid-1990s, Hong Kong and the Main Bar became home – although for many years he was always about to move on to Bangkok… but never quite got there.

Boy from Brooklyn

Walter in Thailand in 1970. Walter in Thailand in 1970.

A never truer word was said about Brooklyn-born Walter Kent then: you can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but not Brooklyn out of the boy. It wasn’t just his accent, but the many stories about his life there.

John Batten not long ago visited Brooklyn to check out some of Walter’s old haunts. “He last visited Brooklyn in March 2016, for a family wedding in Boston,” said Batten. “I don’t think he made it to Farrell’s, his bar, in his ‘hood’, on that trip. But he met the family and had a good laugh with his brothers. He always referred to his family as “the family” and like many of us living overseas, ‘returning back’ can be of mixed emotions.

Hong Kong was Walter’s home and when he went back to New York, ‘I flew in on the evening plane. / Is it such a good idea that I am here again? / And I could cut my cold breath with a knife. / And taste the winter of another life. / A yellow cab from JFK, the long way round. / I didn’t mind… gave me thinking time before I ran aground…’ *

*“First Snow on Brooklyn”, from Jethro Tull’s Christmas Album, 2003.

Book review: Foreigners Under Mao – Western Lives in China, 1949-1976

Foreigners Under Mao – Western Lives in China, 1949-1976, by Beverley Hooper Foreigners Under Mao – Western Lives in China, 1949-1976, by Beverley Hooper

At last, a book about China has come along dealing with a topic about which I have some first-hand knowledge. The book is Foreigners Under Mao – Western Lives in China, 1949-1976. I was a foreigner under Mao, as a Reuters correspondent, briefly in 1971 and then for two years from 1972-74. The book’s author, Beverley Hooper, herself experienced life in Peking – as we all then called it – as a student from 1975-77.

However, in this fascinating and exhaustively researched book, Hooper has made extensive use of personal interviews – including with myself – memoirs, letters and archives and has succeeded in building up a picture that captures a great deal of the reality and also the flavour of living and working during the Mao era.

The book focuses on six groups of Westerners living in China, starting with “foreign comrades” and “international friends”, hard-core Peking loyalists often excoriated in the West as traitors or else derided as the “twilight brigade”, fantasists who regarded themselves as “holier than Mao”.

But the section of the book that is probably of most interest to FCC members is the one on Western reporters allowed to set up their stall in Peking, an initially tiny group that grew substantially in the 1970s as more Western countries established diplomatic relations with China.

“Regarded as a necessary evil to allow China to send a few of its own media representatives abroad, Western correspondents were in some ways even less welcome than diplomats,” the book says. “Embassy reports finished up in foreign office files but correspondents’ dispatches were in the public arena, potentially undermining the images of new China that the government was trying so hard to project.”

It was a journalistic environment scarcely imaginable now. While we rarely feared we would suffer the same fate as Reuters correspondent Anthony Grey, who was held captive for 27 months from 1967 in retaliation for Hong Kong locking up eight pro-China reporters, our Chinese government minders, while being almost unfailingly polite, were rarely inclined to make life easy for us.

Such was the absence of hard information one just had to accept the tough reality that huge events were doubtless taking place just over the horizon from where you were sitting in Peking, but there was no way of finding out what they were. The Chinese authorities did not have to deny that there was, for example, famine in Shandong province in 1973 because they made sure we never found out that such a disaster had occurred. Which, as it transpired years later, it had.

Anthony Grey was held captive for 27 months from 1967 in retaliation for Hong Kong locking up eight pro-China reporters

To cite just a few examples of the constraints and frustrations facing a foreign correspondent in Peking at the time: we had just one telephone number for the entire government, were allowed to read only two daily newspapers, could not move far from Peking without obtaining often hard-won permission. In addition, crucially, we had no informal Chinese sources or indeed Chinese friends. Chinese people were under severe pressure not to associate with foreigners.

Like all foreigners we were kept in what Hooper calls a state of “privileged segregation”, the privileges being that we had access to better food and accommodation than those available to the general Chinese public.  As Australian correspondent Margaret Jones aptly headlined the first story she wrote from China: “Peking – Another Planet.”

Filing stories meant handing in sheets of typed paper at the cable office, where words were laboriously counted and then sent, very slowly, to our editors. There were no direct flights to Hong Kong and even phone calls to the outside world were hit-or-miss affairs.

As was endlessly pointed out by outsiders at the time, a reporter based in Hong Kong could discover far more about what was happening in China than us in the Chinese capital, so what was the point of us being there? Even the late great David Bonavia, the first resident correspondent for the London Times, expressed doubts about “the  worthwhileness of the whole exercise”. However Gerd Ruge, Die Welt’s correspondent, took the view that for “general facts and statistics” a correspondent was better off in Hong Kong, “but for the mood of the country and how it works, it’s much better here.”

And, as the book points out, one consolation was that Peking was a great dateline to have at the top of your stories. For example, there was an immense appetite outside China for copy about what life was like. So we wrote lots of what some China-watchers in Hong Kong dismissively referred to as sights, smells and sounds stories.

Soon after Mao died in 1976 rumours circulated about the arrest of Mao’s widow Jiang Qing and the rest of the Gang of Four radicals

But there was also plenty of serious stuff.  For example, a procession of world leaders was beating a path to China’s door. There were endless state banquets at the Great Hall of the People for the visitors, and we were allowed to attend, giving us at least glimpses of the line-up of the Chinese leadership. And, very occasionally, we got to speak to some of them. They included Premier Zhou Enlai, whose failing health during my time in Peking was the subject of endless speculation. I managed once to ask him, in my less than fluent Chinese, how his health was, He replied “Ma ma hu hu,” a common idiomatic expression meaning literally “Horse horse tiger tiger,” but actually meaning “So so.” Zhou went on to say something about being forced to cut back on his workload. A small, but important, news nugget.

Like Western correspondents in other difficult places, we were a fairly close-knit bunch who often shared information and opinions, particularly about opaque editorial utterances in the People’s Daily about a running leadership feud, and socialised with each other.

However, as the book relates, that cosy comrades-in-arms togetherness broke down, among the British correspondents at least, during one of China’s truly climactic events of that era. Soon after Mao died in 1976 rumours circulated about the arrest of Mao’s widow Jiang Qing and the rest of the Gang of Four radicals. A British embassy diplomat briefed Reuters bureau chief David Rogers (my successor) and the Daily Telegraph’s Nigel Wade saying the embassy had received information about the arrest from a “reliable informant”. Reuters believed it had a “gentleman’s agreement” with Wade to embargo this sensational news until it could be confirmed. But Wade went ahead and reported his “scoop”, winning wide acclaim. Reuters naturally cried foul, saying Wade broke the agreement. But Wade said: “News reporting is no game for gentlemen. My job was to report the news when I had it, not to set up tin pot embargoes. I was not party to any agreement…”

So at the tail end of the Maoist era the familiar, ruthlessly competitive dog-eat-dog world of journalism had well and truly arrived in Peking, perhaps making it not quite such Another Planet.

By Jonathan Sharp

Reciprocal clubs: The FCC visits Washington

The Cosmos Club in Washington. The Cosmos Club in Washington.

What better place could there be for an FCC member in America for the election to spend the night than the Cosmos Club in the nation’s capital?

Another visiting member, I saw on social media, scored tickets to New York’s Javits Center for the modestly (it seemed at the time it was announced) advertised “Hillary for America Election Night Event”. Her opponent invited supporters to a `Donald J. Trump Victory Party’ in the Midtown Hilton in the same city.

But having taken half a day to go to Virginia for a Trump rally and the security and waiting that involves, I was happy to watch the late results on a big screen like members back in Hong Kong, at a club whose members have included three US presidents and a dozen Supreme Court Justices. William Taft, the only person to have been both, is described beneath his portrait as a Cosmos Club member from 1904-13, and as a lawyer.

Like the FCC, the club’s members you’ll meet will regale you with stories about characters on its walls like Taft, or how Eleanor Roosevelt had stayed in the clubhouse when it was a private home before her husband’s first inauguration, or how they were in Italy after the Second World War and the plan was to hold the line against advancing Soviet forces at the Brenner Pass.

Like the FCC, the club’s members you’ll meet will regale you with stories about characters on its walls like Taft or Henry Kissinger…

Like the FCC, the club’s current Embassy Row home isn’t its first. That was Lafayette Square, by the White House. If you can’t score a stay at that residence’s Lincoln Bedroom, you won’t be disappointed with the mansion rooms of the Cosmos Club, whose rates including breakfast for reciprocal members start at just US$233.

Cosmos members have included 61 Pulitzer prize winners, as well as 36 Nobel prize and 55 Presidential Medal of Freedom winners. Cosmos members have included 61 Pulitzer prize winners, as well as 36 Nobel prize and 55 Presidential Medal of Freedom winners.

Of course you have a copy of the Washington Post, New York Times or Wall Street Journal with that. If you want to pick up the Financial Times, that’s available at the National Press Club downtown, where I recommend lunch at their members’ bar “The Reliable Source”.

FCC members in Washington should also visit the Newseum while in town too. Like our club, that institution is an ode to and hopefully not a funerary celebration of the romance, rigors and responsibilities of journalism.

Which brings us back to why all of us will feel at home at the Cosmos Club. To be admitted as a member, you must be a person of distinction, character and sociability who has done meritorious original work in, or be well known to be cultivated in science, literature, the arts, a learned profession or public service.

I doubt I’d make the cut, so staying there for one of the most momentous weeks in a while was great. Needless to say the staff there are wonderful, there’s a small, tucked-away seemingly barely used gym, and your friends in town will all enjoy calling on you there.

The Cosmos Club

By Douglas Wong

Jan/Feb 2017

Karin Malmstrom connects the environmental dots in China

Karin Malmstrom with a Panda at Wolong Karin Malmstrom with a Panda at Wolong.

Karin Malmstrom describes herself as a communicator, a connector of dots – between government, communities, and businesses – and as a volunteer for environmental projects… and occasional jazz violinist! She’s just flown in from Shanghai and has a cold, but that doesn’t affect her passion for her subjects, particularly nature.

There’s Wolong National Nature Reserve; her pioneer explorer, geographer and polymath father and the reintroduction of an extinct species to China among her wide-ranging interests. A Sinologist, Malmstrom is a fluent Putonghua speaker, who first showed an interest for China at the age of 13 when she read the oldest of the Chinese classics, the “I Ching”.

“It was subliminal that I became interested in the Orient,” she says. “But at 13 I was already studying the I Ching and I don’t know why and that was something totally unrelated to anything else,” particularly as she was a schoolgirl in Vermont.

Malmstrom’s mother was Norwegian, her father is of Swedish descent “and we lived in an old farmhouse in Vermont. And my father is a professor, [Dr Vincent H Malmstrom] he’s still alive, he has three PhDs, and he is like the Indiana Jones of the Renaissance world. He’s a wonderful thinker and I’m blessed to be able to call him my dad, because he taught us to think from a very early age.”

One of the projects that Malmstrom has supported through her communications work, is conducted by her long-term friend Marc Brody, the founder and president of Panda Mountain, and Wolong’s senior advisor for conservation and sustainable development

And so, from a young age, Malmstrom would be off to discover ancient stories with her sister and parents which also ignited a passion for the natural world. It began with travels with her family to Norway and Sweden, where she could discover her roots. Then it was Greece, “literally as a coup was coming in the 1960s; later while in Mexico, we were climbing pyramids with machetes checking out ancient theories while the Sandinistas raged.”

A research vessel heads for the North Pacific Gyre to study plastic debris. A research vessel heads for the North Pacific Gyre to study plastic debris.

Malmstrom’s father, who is now 90, “pulls together geography, geology, astronomy and history to solve ancient mysteries” in Central America successfully. From my childhood, we were always on a family trip and we didn’t know we were learning something.”

She describes how he would suddenly stop the car, with a bit of a sigh from her mother. “And it was: ‘Hey kids, this is vertical zonation – a geographer speaking. You’ve got glaciers.’ We grew up in this environment of gentle teaching and communication. The start was there and my curiosity grew. Then I discovered that a relative had been born in Darjeeling and my mother was friends with a woman, whose husband was a pilot during the war across China.”

He was in the “Flying Tigers”, the nickname of the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force in 1941-1942. “Flying in Burma, China, India, so maybe I was affected by that, but long story short, I have always been fascinated with nature.”

In 1979, Malmstrom graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont after studying Asian studies and geography. She went on to study at the International Institute for Management Development in Lucerne in Switzerland. She would first work and travel in China in the early 1980s, where she initially worked for Lindblad Travel, a company set up by a Swedish-American explorer in the 1950s, to carry out tourist expeditions. A fellow Lindblad employee was fellow FCC member and conservation pioneer Nancy Nash. Nash is credited with suggesting to the World Wildlife Fund, whose emblem was a panda, that they become involved in panda conservation in China and then helping to make it happen.

Now I work for the Cotton Council International which is a global entity based out of Washington that is helping to promote US cotton around the world. I represent cotton growers, who are successfully reducing their waste and farming responsibly these days

Malmstrom and Nash met with tour groups in Yunnan province in the early 1980s, Malmstrom recalls. She and Nash would later co-author a guide to communications issues in China: “The man with the key is not here – a key to what they really mean In China”. It took the format of “The Little Red Book” and was published in 1990.

“So after my initial introduction to the leaders of the panda reserve from Nancy Nash, I went for the first time to Wolong in 1984. It was amazing. It had only been established as a nature reserve the year before – and the people who ran the place were all zoologists – not bureaucrats.”

This began her long connection to the panda reserve. “Ever since then I have had a strong bond with the people there no matter what role they were in. They’re absolutely wonderful, dedicated people. But the worst nightmare is if Wolong turns into a panda show – a destination for tourists,” she says, because, as she puts it, “it’s about so much more than just the panda. It is also about preserving a habitat of plants and other animals that require  the integrity of Wolong to be kept intact.

“About the biggest thing that I have to offer is communication skills and being a conduit between everything, and I mean everything,” she says. “Like a diplomat. I can be an environmental diplomat, a business communicator. I can dance to any party, really. For me it’s all about environment, making sure that humans, animals, the planet are all intact, preserved.”

Oceanographers and volunteers collect plastic debris in the North Pacific to study the environmental impact on our seas. Oceanographers and volunteers collect plastic debris in the North Pacific to study the environmental impact on our seas.

One of the projects that Malmstrom has supported through her communications work, is conducted by her long-term friend Marc Brody, the founder and president of Panda Mountain, and Wolong’s senior advisor for conservation and sustainable development. Malmstrom is on the board of Panda Mountain, acting as treasurer. “I facilitate communications among various parties, including potential sponsors, and when I travel to Wolong, I assist with fundraising activities, translating and liaison among villagers and local government entities. Last spring we brought a group of journalists and a sponsor, Les Enphants, a children’s-wear brand, to Wolong to see the new Panda Center,” and visit the nurseries of indigenous plant species.

Like Malmstrom, Brody, who spoke at an FCC lunch earlier this year, has concerns about whether Wolong, following the devastating earthquake in Sichuan in 2008, can maintain its integrity. A Unesco World Heritage report confirms that the reserve and the surrounding protected areas comprise “the largest and most significant remaining contiguous area of panda habitat in China and thus the world”.

But it’s not just about the panda, says Malmstrom, it’s about ensuring that the animals, local plant life and people can co-exist harmoniously. Brody is also keen to fulfil Unesco’s goal of informing and engaging local people in property management and in conservation awareness, but that’s difficult when Sichuan’s reconstruction efforts involve dense housing projects along the highways of Wolong.

“Marc has very important projects there,” says Malmstrom. “I’ve been to his nurseries  where they are growing indigenous species of plants to replace all the invasive species that were introduced. These ‘invaders’ are hopefully now being eradicated so that they can plant the indigenous species to attract the local, highly endangered animal residents of the area, including the Giant Panda, lesser panda, the golden pheasant, and the takin [gnu/antelope]. There are many animals there, so all of this area is not just about the panda, it’s all about the environment, conserving and restoring the indigenous habitat, so that all of the indigenous species can recover.

“I support Marc’s work because it is about restoring a whole habitat and then educating young people about why it is important not to destroy these things. And it’s also important to involve the local villagers at all levels of the project. When you have this precious area of unique species of plants and animals, a symbiotic relationship is necessary,” she says.

In 2009, she joined Doug Woodring, the co-founder of Project Kaisei, which sent two research vessels into the North Pacific Gyre in an alliance with leading oceans’ institute, Scripps Oceanography, in order to study the plastic debris that has converged there

A brief look at Malmstrom’s CV and there’s plenty of echoes of her father. She’s scaled Mount Kilimanjaro and some of the Himalayas in Bhutan; she’s worked on vessels in the Galapagos Islands, and along the Yangtze River and the China coast. In 2009, she joined Doug Woodring, the co-founder of Project Kaisei, which sent two research vessels into the North Pacific Gyre in an alliance with leading oceans’ institute, Scripps Oceanography, in order to study the plastic debris that has converged there.

“Now I work for the Cotton Council International which is a global entity based out of Washington that is helping to promote US cotton around the world. I represent cotton growers, who are successfully reducing their waste and farming responsibly these days.  There are many messages that don’t get out.”

There are plenty of stories of mammals driven into extinction by human activity but Malmstrom worked on one that saw the reintroduction of a deer to its native China.

In this case, it involved an indigenous species – the Pere David’s Deer – being brought back to China after they became extinct when the last deer had been shot during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. However, the deer which did exist in European zoos were eventually gathered by conservationist the 11th Earl of Bedford in 1903 and formed into a herd at Woburn Abbey Deer Park in Bedfordshire, England.

Malmstrom tells how she worked with Slovakian-American zoologist Maria Boyd, who knew the then Earl of Bedford. “We brought back 22 head of deer to the Imperial hunting ground south of Beijing. My role was as liaison and translator with the pig farmers to work out an agreement to turn a commune and a pig farm into a deer reserve. And we did it.”

“I will never forget the day in 1985 that Lord Tavistock [the Marquess of Tavistock, later 14th Earl of Bedford] came to China, to personally release the deer into this ancient imperial hunting ground that we had negotiated back from the pig farmers. And now the deer are flourishing!”

by Annemarie Evans


Jan-Feb 2017: Harry’s rejects

Patten goes scolds activists for diluting support for democracy

Almost 20 years after that rain and emotion-drenched night when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, the last colonial governor Chris Patten revisited his old haunts and proved as incisive, insightful – and newsworthy – as ever, as a sell-out FCC audience discovered. Jonathan Sharp reports.

Hong Kong's last British colonial governor Chris Patten gestures as he speaks at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong on November 25, 2016. Hong Kong’s last British colonial governor Chris Patten gestures as he speaks at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong on November 25, 2016.

According to the billing for his appearance at the FCC, Patten was going to give his views on what the world was like, and could expect, following this year’s two seismic electoral shocks, the UK’s pro-Brexit referendum vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. But if any of those who packed into the Main Dining Room thought that Patten was going to stick to that script and not hold forth on the fraught political environment in his old bailiwick of Hong Kong, then they were in for another shock.

In fact it was his trenchant views on what he termed the oath-taking “antics” in the Legislative Council by activists favouring Hong Kong’s split from China that made headlines, not just locally but also back in the UK.

Patten, who during his 1992-97 governorship sought to quicken the pace of political reform and was excoriated by Beijing as a “sinner for 1,000 generations”, emphasised that he remained as devoted as ever to the cause of full democracy for Hong Kong. He also admired the Umbrella Movement that blocked some Hong Kong streets for 79 days in 2014.

“Two years ago many brave young people in Hong Kong established moral high ground about democracy and governance. It would be a tragedy if that high ground was lost because of a few antics about so-called independence for Hong Kong.”

The antics he spoke of were the actions of young elected lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who were banned from taking their seats in Legco after giving their own colourful versions of the oaths at the swearing-in ceremony. They declared allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation”, unfurled banners that said “Hong Kong is not China” and Yau gave allegiance to “the Hong Kong special administrative region of the People’s Refucking of Cheena”, the last word, among others, deemed derogatory.  (The pair’s use of salty language is not confined to oath-taking ceremonies, as FCC stalwart Dr Feng Chi-shun reminded us in an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post. He also noted how, at a separate forum, an audience member got his own back at Leung Chung-hang by calling him “Lun Chung-hun” – Cantonese for “itching of private parts”.)

Chris Patten arrives at the FCC with his wife, Lavender (left), and FCC President Tara Joseph (right). Chris Patten arrives at the FCC with his wife, Lavender (left), and FCC President Tara Joseph (right).

Patten said such actions by pro-independence localists – some of whom were in diapers or not even born when he checked out of Hong Kong in 1997 aboard the Royal yacht Britannia — were diluting, not strengthening, the support for democracy. They were making a mockery of a serious political argument. Independence for Hong Kong is simply not going to happen, so why waste energy, time and popular support by saying that it could come about? It was “dishonest, dishonourable and reckless” to conflate the drive for greater democracy with the argument for independence. Adopting what he called his “headmasterly” manner, Patten, who has been a frequent oath-taker in his marathon career in political and public service and is now ennobled as Lord Patten of Barnes, said: “Taking an oath is a serious business… it isn’t something of a lark.” Patten also told Agence France-Presse: “There are lots of people who agreed with them on democracy who won’t touch this stuff about self-determination with a barge pole.”

Understandably, the localists did not take Patten’s stern admonishing lying down. Leung told the Guardian that he and his Youngspiration party “respectfully disagreed with Lord Patten’s comments about the so-called ‘moral position’” of the 2014 protests, adding that the past two years had proved that a strong moral position yielded nothing “when you are negotiating with the immoral and authoritarian Chinese communist party”.

He was further quoted as saying: “If there is no legitimate election and political discussion, how can we even start our discussion on governance and democracy as advised by the very learned Lord Patten?”

Who loses under Brexit and Trump?

Lord Patten's talk at the FCC made headlines both in Hong Kong and the UK. Lord Patten’s talk at the FCC made headlines both in Hong Kong and the UK.

Returning to the advertised theme of his FCC talk, Patten was asked by FCC President Tara Joseph what his verdict was on the year 2016, and his reply was: “Terrible”. Expanding on this terse judgement, Patten expressed his fears: “I think that, unfortunately, the people who are most likely to suffer from Trumpian protectionism, if it happens, are the people who voted for Mr Trump. Just as in Britain, the people who are most likely to suffer from the consequences of Brexit are people in some of the disadvantaged parts of the country who voted for it. I think that’s a real tragedy.”

The seemingly tireless 72-year-old Patten enlarged on this and many other themes at a succession of events during his Hong Kong visit. The day after his FCC appearance, he attended a Project Citizens Foundation forum entitled “Governance in Hong Kong: Are the Pillars Crumbling?” He said that during his career he had worked with several different bureaucracies – in the UK and Europe as well as Hong Kong.

“Without any question the most competent civil service that I worked with was that in Hong Kong in the 1990s. I hope it has not lost any of its vitality and morale since then.” The unequivocal response came from Anson Chan, the former Chief Secretary before and after Hong Kong’s handover to China, who told the forum in no uncertain terms that Hong Kong’s civil service had indeed gone downhill in many sad ways since she had been in charge.

Patten also said that his five years as Hong Kong governor were “the happiest years of my life”. And many Hong Kong people accord him a warm welcome whenever he comes back and gives us the benefit of his wisdom laced with dry wit. Which makes one wonder: how many other former governors of colonies, British or otherwise, are held in the same esteem in the territory they used to run as is Hong Kong’s last “colonial oppressor” – Patten’s joking term for himself?

Censorship, controversy, accolades: A year in the life of photographer Nic Gaunt

Earlier this year Nic Gaunt won a Gold prize for excellence in feature photography at the Asia Media Awards. Gaunt used the image of a girl surfing down the streets of Hong Kong in a Tatler feature in October 2015. This award, which goes usually to strictly hard-hitting stories, was given to a more fun take on life.

The Tatler image of Mira Yeh, a well-known Hong Kong socialite and accomplished wake-boarder, surfing down the streets of Hong Kong won a Gold award in the Asia Media Awards. Photo: Nic Gaunt The Tatler image of Mira Yeh, a well-known Hong Kong socialite and accomplished wake-boarder, surfing down the streets of Hong Kong won a Gold award in the Asia Media Awards. Photo: Nic Gaunt

“When I was introduced to the lovely Mira Yeh it was obvious she was not only a well-known Hong Kong socialite but an extremely accomplished wake-boarder,” Gaunt said. “I wanted to encapsulate her fun personality, her impact on Hong Kong and her sporty side within one image. She was great as she modelled for me trusting my description of the finished image that was only at that moment in my head.”

Gaunt’s provocative images, which regularly get censored by Hong Kong galleries and at the same time sell well in the US and Europe, are now gaining an underground following in the self-censored Hong Kong. While the galleries find that his work is too strong and explicit, the more unusual clubs of Hong Kong are asking to display his work on a regular basis.

His latest exhibition “Invisible Nudes” was on display at the Kee Club in December. It was supposed to move on to The Globe in January, but the Kee Club was reluctant to let them go. “The Globe also wants to mount images from my earlier exhibition “Obsession” in conjunction with “Invisible nudes” which will be fun,” Gaunt said.

In March 2015 the FCC put his “Obsession” exhibition in the Main Bar. While the images featuring fetishes disturbed some members eating lunch, some of those images are now on permanent display in the Burton Room.

For each “Invisible Nudes” image sold a donation will be given to Aids Concern, which recently auctioned a Gaunt image designed to raise awareness of Aids/HIV for HK$42,000. The image, called “Wish You Were Here” which pays homage to the music and imagery of Pink Floyd, was created as a “subtle diatribe” to “raise the awareness of Aids/HIV”, Gaunt said.

“I felt incredibly privileged to have been able to create and give a piece of art that was my own interpretation,” he said. “It was a personal take on the subject and I was delighted that other people were also able to see the feelings and emotions within the finished piece.”

Gaunt also produced the image for a poster about for the Black Box Theatre’s play “Crystal”, which shows lead actor Hong Kong drag queen La Chiquitta, aka Rye Bautista, through a broken window, in vaguely provocative images. However, it was all too much for the HKU campus where the play was to be shown – it was censored and an innocuous image of a pile of crystals in a broken-heart shape was used instead.


Journalists under attack: China news website editor arrested

News website founder arrested. Huang Qi, founder of the website 64 Tianwang, was arrested at his home in Chengdu in Sichuan for “disclosing state secrets” – a charge frequently used against political opponents and which can be worth many years in prison.

Huang Qi, founder of the website 64 Tianwang, was arrested at his home in Chengdu in Sichuan. Huang Qi, founder of the website 64 Tianwang, was arrested at his home in Chengdu in Sichuan.

“64 Tianwang is one of the few major online news sites in China,” says Virginie Dangles, editor of Reporters Without Borders. Twelve years after its founder Huang  was rewarded with the RWB’s cyber-dissident award, 64 Tianwang and its citizen journalists continue to suffer the systematic repression by Chinese authorities.”

One of the site’s staff Pu Fei was also taken away by police soon after the arrest after he posted a tweet (since deleted) about the disappearance of Huang. He was released a few days later. Since the arrest, many volunteers from the Tianwang Human Rights Centre have also been arrested and interrogated.

China ranks 176th out of 180 countries in RWB’s World Ranking of Freedom of the Press 2016.

Myanmar reporter killed. Eleven Media reporter Soe Moe Tun, 35, was found dead with bruises and injuries to his face and head in Myanmar’s northwestern Sagaing region. Eleven Media Group, the owner and publisher of Daily Eleven, said on its website that Soe Moe Tun had been investigating a story on alleged illegal logging and wood smuggling. He had also reported on a recent seizure of narcotic stimulant tablets and a surge in new karaoke lounges in the region that allegedly operated as illegal brothels.

Nay Htun Naing, a Daily Eleven editor, said Soe Moe Tun’s reporting on sensitive subjects was the most likely motive for his murder.

Publisher shot in Philippines. Newspaper publisher Larry Que was shot in the head in December while entering an office building in Catanduanes province’s town of Virac. A gunman wearing a helmet and raincoat escaped on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice.

Que was publisher and columnist at Catanduanes News Now, a weekly community newspaper established in 2016. He was also the owner of a local insurance company and ran for mayor of Virac in an election he lost last May.

The number of journalists killed in the line of duty declined in 2016 from recent record levels as fewer journalists were targeted for murder, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its annual analysis. Deaths in combat or crossfire ticked to their highest number since 2013 as conflicts in the Middle East dragged on.

At least 48 journalists were killed in relation to their work in 2016. CPJ is investigating the deaths of at least 27 more journalists during the year to determine whether they were work-related.

Historically, since 1992, about two-thirds of journalists killed are singled out for murder in retaliation for their work. This year, 18 journalists were targeted directly for murder, the lowest number since 2002. The reason for the decline is unclear, and could be a combination of factors including less risk-taking by the media, more efforts to bring global attention to the challenge of combatting impunity, and the use of other means to silence critical journalists.


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