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Finding the human face in a Sea of Red

Hong Kong-born photojournalist Liu Heung Shing has been described as “The Cartier-Bresson of China” and his beautiful new book, A Life In a Sea of Red, chronicles turbulent points of history in China and Russia. Jonathan Sharp, who has known Liu since the 1980s, takes a look.

The late, great London Times correspondent David Bonavia wrote a typically entertaining book about his experiences of reporting in Russia (which expelled him) and China. Published in 1987, it is called Seeing Red.

Cadres Study Period during 1983 national congress in Beijing to mark centenary of Karl Marx’s death. Photo: Liu Heung Shing Cadres Study Period during 1983 national congress in Beijing to mark the centenary of Karl Marx’s death. Photo: Liu Heung Shing

Now, another old China and Russia hand, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Liu Heung Shing, has produced a truly magnificent volume of his images recording pivotal periods in both nations’ recent history. It’s called A Life in a Sea of Red.

I came to know Liu in the early 1980s when he was in Beijing working for the Associated Press and I was there for Reuters. Liu and his AP boss, Vicky Graham, were formidable competition professionally but also fine, generous company socially.

Students on hunger strike in Tiananmen Square, 1989. Photo: Liu Heung Shing Students on hunger strike in Tiananmen Square, 1989. Photo: Liu Heung Shing

I was lucky enough to be in Hong Kong in 1983 when Liu launched – at the FCC of course – his first book, China After Mao, chronicling how China was gradually coming out of its shell after the catastrophes of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Forward to 2008 and Liu presented at the Club his magisterial China: Portrait of a Country for which he spent four years trawling through images taken by 88 Chinese photographers covering the first decades of Communist rule.

Now, the images in his latest book, sumptuously published by Steidl, are Liu’s work alone, bringing together his stunning record of the astonishingly rapid changes he has witnessed both in China and Russia. I am proud to have all three books on my shelves.

At an FCC lunch on April 1, Liu spoke about his amazing journey. Born in Hong Kong but raised in Fuzhou in east China, Liu has stark memories of the famine resulting from the 1958-60 Great Leap Forward, seeing his neighbours with limbs and faces bloated by malnutrition. Tens of millions starved to death. Understandably that left an indelible impression.

Liu told us that his first China assignment for Time magazine, to cover the aftermath of Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, was a “miserable failure” because he couldn’t get to Beijing, where the Gang of Four led by Mao’s widow Jiang Qing were about to be arrested.

But not a complete failure. While languishing in south China on the banks of the Pearl River, he said, “I saw the Chinese with an entirely new set of body languages. Soon after Mao’s death I noticed the faces of people seemed more relaxed, their eyes less scrutinising of visitors from abroad.” He knew then that, given the chance, he wanted to return to China as a photojournalist.

Peasants at Evergreen Commune outside of Beijing toss cabbages – the only vegetable available in winter – onto a slow-moving truck in 1980. Photo: Liu Heung Shing Peasants at Evergreen Commune outside of Beijing toss cabbages – the only vegetable available in winter – onto a slow-moving truck in 1980. Photo: Liu Heung Shing

And he has seized those chances, witnessing and recording how China has moved from a life of rigid collectivism into a more individualistic style, albeit under repressive Communist rule, with smashing success. The Cartier-Bresson comparison from Newsweek is just one of his many richly deserved garlands.

So he was in China for the Democracy Wall period in the late 1970s when millions of Chinese poured into Beijing to express their grievances and sufferings. And he was in Beijing in 1989 when China stamped out the student-led protests centred in Tiananmen Square.

Liu did not take the famed “tank man” image of a lone protester facing down a line of PLA tanks. But he was instrumental in getting the precious roll of film, with that highly sensitive image on it, safely transferred across a city under martial law from the photographer, the AP’s Jeff Widener, to an office where Liu could transmit it. The unwitting “pigeon” carrying the film was a pony-tailed American backpacker.

Liu’s own image from that horrific episode, of a young loving couple with a bicycle beneath a bridge bearing tanks rolling by, also won world-spanning play. Most recently it was reprinted in the May 25 Financial Times marking the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.

A young ballerina has a costume fitting in Moscow, 1993. Photo: Liu Heung Shing A young ballerina has a costume fitting in Moscow, 1993. Photo: Liu Heung Shing

Liu’s time in Moscow also coincided with an equally dramatic turning-point in history, nothing less than the collapse of the Soviet Union. One of his better-known images is of Mikhail Gorbachev putting down his resignation speech on a table. Liu took a calculated risk of using a slow shutter speed (1/30 second) to show the motion of the paper being placed down. The whole picture could have been a blurry mess but Gorbachev himself came out sharply.

Liu told us about the startling changes occurring in photo-journalism – in 2017 more than 2.7 trillion images were dumped on Instagram – and that he himself no longer hurtles around to cover the world’s news hotspots.

Instead, he prefers the more gentle art of portraiture. He also looks after the ground-breaking, stylish Shanghai Centre of Photography, which he founded in 2015 as the city’s first museum dedicated to photography.

One of my favourites among Liu’s images is of a Chinese woman having an “eye job” in Beijing in the early 1980s, a procedure that makes her look more Western. That played into a cosy narrative commonly accepted at the time that as China modernised and prospered, it would become more like the West, increasingly democratic and moving closer to embracing Western liberal ideals.

That, as headlines now remind us on a daily basis, has not happened. 

A Life in a Sea of Red by Liu Heung Shing ISBN 978-3-95829-545-2, Published by Steidl,

Words on a page or on a screen – which one are you?

You browse on Amazon, or in a bookshop. You have shelves of books all over your home, or you have a slim device that carries your entire library. Which one are you? By Sian Powell.

The contrast was stark. There was a small part of my husband’s library of beloved books, packed into four waist-high cardboard packing cases. Heavy. Unwieldy. Smelling a bit of mould and silverfish. A bore when moving, particularly between countries.

Since we had moved from Sydney to Jakarta, back to Sydney, then to Bangkok to Hong Kong, and back to Sydney and finally back to Hong Kong, the packing case books were weighty evidence of his love for reading.

There on the floor in front of the packing cases, (artfully placed by me to highlight the difference) was a small silver iPod Touch, with my library in it.

In sheer reading terms, my library was much bigger than my husband’s, running to many hundreds of books. And of course, it was light-years more convenient. It’s far easier to slip an iPod into a pocket or a handbag than it is to get books out of bookshelves, stack them in boxes, hassle around with shippers and movers and customs agents, haul them through houses and unpack them all over again.

Sian Powell Sian Powell

Weighing perhaps a few ounces, my iPod was a breeze, as is any other similar device, or even a smartphone with a reading app.

Yes, a paper book has a certain romance. A well-thumbed hardback can have a historical patina, imbued with a musty reverence for times past, sometimes with inscriptions redolent of an earlier age – “Dearest Ethel, happy birthday from your mother, August 1934”. After all, there’s nothing very poetic about sitting in a bay window, while a piano tinkles nearby, intent on a small sliver of electronically-connected metal.

But reading is surely more than just books? It’s the words, stupid, as the Bill Clinton election team might have said.

However they are conveyed from the author’s mind to yours – it’s the ideas and the phrases that count, not their outer casing. “Real” book lovers don’t even bother countering this argument – they generally just shrug and turn to a much-loved book, wedged into a bookcase groaning with books already read and sooner or later to be read, muttering about soulless digital reading, and the real fear of library wipe-out due to electronic glitches and crashes.

Back when I was an adventurous kid, roaming the world in the days of poste restante letters and queues for pay phones, I used to yearn for books. It was only practical to carry three or at the most four in my knapsack, and I used to swap them or replace them as much as possible. Often, though, I was reduced to reading the same few again, and again, and again. One friend used to take a weighty book and rip off the read chapters as he went, so steadily reducing the weight of the single novel in his baggage.

These days, the sheer ease of reading on a device is seductive. I can hold a small paperback in one hand and, at a pinch, turn a page with my thumb. But a device is an easy one-hand hold, and a swipe of the thumb turns the page. No need to switch on a bedside light, either, which reduces marital friction for those of us who don’t sleep so well.

Device readers can roam electronic libraries full of free books – authors’ copyright expires after a while, letting readers explore the wonders of Sherlock Holmes, or Jane and Lizzie Bennet, or David Copperfield for no charge. There are even some newbie authors who self-publish their books online, hoping to attract a following.

Regarding the current angst over iPhone and iPad overuse, I don’t count reading on my device as screen time. There’s no interaction or frenzied clicking. I just turn the pages and read the words until I get to the end of the book – and that, after all, is what reading is all about.

‘Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours per week’

Hong Kong has one of the longest working weeks in the world, but what motivates people to work hard if their career path and pay don’t match expectations? Stephanie Lin reports.

Young businesswoman in the office with her coworker at night working late.March 2019, professionals in the technology industry across mainland China protested against the 996 working week – 9am-9pm shifts, six days a week. Even though labour laws limit their workers to 40 hours a week plus 36 hours per month overtime, the 996 schedule is common among the country’s tech giants.

Overworking plagues many countries in Asia, and many professions – including journalism. Robin Ewing, director of international journalism at the Hong Kong Baptist University, estimates that although 15 to 50 per cent of fresh graduates from her programme join the industry, the number drops significantly after a couple of years working as a journalist.

Low pay, slow professional growth and long hours – even burnout – all contribute to the drain. Out of between 60-80 undergraduates from 10 years ago that she followed up, only four to five are still working in journalism, she said.

Robin Ewing Robin Ewing

However, Ewing considers the high turnover rate in the industry “normal”. “Many who study journalism do not necessarily know whether they want to be journalists,” Ewing said. 

Worried about the development of traditional media, DD, a former business reporter at the China Daily who wishes to remain anonymous, joined the public relations and investor relations industry after working four years in journalism.

“It was my plan to be in the industry for three to five years and gradually explore other opportunities in business,” DD said.

Austin Chiu, who worked at the South China Morning Post for five years as a reporter, left the industry to explore other career interests. “I love to write and that is why I chose journalism,” Chiu said. “It is a very rewarding job, though not in the financial sense.”


Chiu used to work an average of 12 hours a day and occasionally half a day over the weekend to report on court cases when he was a journalist. So why put up with the intrusive working hours?

The latest data by Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department estimate that 20 per cent of the city’s labour force worked an average 55-hour week last year. A survey by UBS in 2015 examined working hours in 15 occupations across 71 cities. Hong Kong came out top, with a 50.1-hour working week, 38 per cent above the global average.

Other local government studies have found that one in 10 employees work more than 60 hours a week and an estimated one per cent work more than 75 hours.

Lee Shu Kam, associate head of the Department of Economics and Finance at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, attributed the city’s overwork problem to its labour shortage. “Due to high rent and expenses, it has become very difficult to provide compensation attractive enough to entice those not in the labour force back to work,” Lee said.

The city’s Standard Working Hours Committee has advocated standardising working hours for low-income workers on a contract basis. Labour unions want to go further, pushing for a universal standard 44-hour working week.

Hairin Bahren Hairin Bahren

Lee says: “What Hong Kong needs is a regulation that establishes a cap on maximum working hours. Standardised working hours would only motivate those with low incomes to work even longer hours.”

Frances Yik Wa Law, associate professor of the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong, said that the government should have a policy that supports work and life balance – although her research did not find any significant correlation between long hours alone and sudden death. “Family is the core of our values and work-life balance is essential to safeguard this pillar,” Law said.

Hong Kong’s finance sector is prey to overwork, too. LC, who wishes to remain anonymous, had a short stint at an American consulting firm after he graduated, where he worked a regular 40-hour week but decided to move to one of the Big Four accounting firms for a long-term career goal. While at the accounting firm, LC worked an average 72 hours a week.

His health and quality of life deteriorated, but LC said he is not against a 996 schedule. “It really depends on what I am expected to do during those hours and whether I will be compensated fairly either through career development or salary,” he said.

On the other hand, Hairin Bahren left the financial industry after feeling unfulfilled and opened a franchised boutique barre studio in Hong Kong.

“I think it is work-life integration – I love my work because it is very rewarding. I have direct access to the end result of our team’s efforts and see the impact we have made on our clients,” Bahren said. “Work has made my life great and it will continue to be my priority in the years to come.” 


In response to a wave of protest against the 996 working week, Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, issued a statement online in April, calling it a “blessing” for those who have the opportunity to work it. “In this world, everyone wants success… so I ask you all: if you don’t put in more time than everyone else, how are you going to achieve your success?” Ma said.

Across the Pacific, Elon Musk, the CEO and co-founder of Tesla Inc., is also known for working notoriously long hours and getting very little sleep. In response to The Wall Street Journal’s report on the company’s hours and high-stress work environment, Musk tweeted that “there are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”.

Stephanie Lin is a business consultant who also freelances as a journalist. Prior to her relocation to Hong Kong, she lived on both the west and east coasts in the United States where she had several stints in the public sector, including the United Nations and the White House



‘I want to safeguard press freedom’: Meet the recipients of the inaugural Clare Hollingworth Fellowship

The first two winners of the new Clare Hollingworth Fellowship have been announced as the club pays homage to the memory of one of its most famous members. Morgan M. Davis reports.

Mary Hui and Jessie Pang have been named the winners of the FCC’s first Clare Hollingworth Fellowship.

Mary Hui Mary Hui

The fellowship, which is named in honour of the club’s late legendary member and renowned journalist, was created to acknowledge early-career journalists and current journalism school students in Hong Kong, giving them access to the city’s professional journalism community through the FCC.

Candidates for the award must be a resident of Hong Kong, have at least two years of journalism experience, and be under the age of 30 at the time the fellowship begins.

“The fellowship struck me as a brilliant initiative to bring in young members to the FCC and to foster deeper connections across different generations of journalists, and I wanted to be part of it,” said Hui, of her application to the programme.

Hui, who is already an FCC member, has been working in Hong Kong since early 2018, after completing her college education at Princeton University and an internship with The Washington Post in the U.S.

She attributes her success in starting her career in Hong Kong to the support and guidance other reporters and editors have given her as she has established herself in the city. “Journalism is a community and, I believe, the better the community, the better the journalism,” said Hui.

Hui began her Hong Kong career as a freelancer, reporting for The New York Times and others, and now works for Quartz, covering business and geopolitics in Asia. “My goal for the coming year is to soak up as much knowledge as I can about covering Asia so that I can report on it more deeply,” she said. “I also want to learn more about covering finance, economics and business, given how fascinating and fast-changing those areas are in Asia.”

Pang, who is set to begin a job as a correspondent at Reuters in September, attributes her success and fellowship award to her journalism school teachers at the University of Hong Kong and her colleagues during her internship at Reuters.

For Pang, her role as a journalist is deeply tied to her ambition to provide a voice to those that otherwise wouldn’t have one, and to report on issues, such as the extradition law protests in Hong Kong, so that others can understand.

“Journalists in Hong Kong have been reporting the extradition law protests thoroughly, so that readers around the world now understand the serious consequences the extradition law amendment bill can bring, and the struggles Hong Kong people are facing,” said Pang.

Jessie Pang Jessie Pang

“Given the political circumstances, I want to safeguard press freedom and contribute to the journalism community in Hong Kong,” said Pang. “I believe the FCC is the ideal place for me to start, as the club has a long track record of standing up and speaking up for our colleagues.”

As part of their fellowship, which will run from September 1, 2019, to August 31, 2020, the winners will be given complimentary access to all FCC talks, official gatherings and conferences, as well as access to the FCC’s facilities, while having their membership fees and monthly dues waived. The women will also be mentored by a member of the FCC Board or committees.

In exchange, the winners will produce and contribute a piece – written, photographic or video – for the FCC. They will also be committee members for the annual Journalism Conference, which takes place each spring, and contribute to the FCC community.

“In its first year, we were pleased and gratified by the level of talent and potential of the applicants for the fellowship,” said Jodi Schneider, President of the FCC. “Mary and Jessie both exemplify the qualities we were seeking in fellows.

“The fellowship is a key part of the FCC’s outreach efforts aimed at diversifying the membership base and bringing younger talent into the Club.” 

Remarkable Career Of An Extraordinary Correspondent

Clare Hollingworth, after whom the FCC’s new fellowship is named, died in 2017 aged 105 after a truly remarkable life and career. She joined the Daily Telegraph in London in 1939 as the newspaper’s first female defence correspondent, and soon bagged the scoop of the century when she reported on Germany’s invasion of Poland. Her career took her to the Balkans, Greece, North Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Vietnam and then to the China of Mao Zedong. She was also a treasured member of the FCC for more than 40 years, making significant contributions to the intellectual and professional life of the club.

Clare on assignment in Palestine in the mid-1960s Clare on assignment in Palestine in the mid-1960s


British Chief of Defence Staff, Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge (R), is greeted by veteran journalist Clare Hollingworth 02 December as Inge arrived at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong to speak at a club luncheon. Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP British Chief of Defence Staff, Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge (R), is greeted by veteran journalist Clare Hollingworth as Inge arrived at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong to speak at a club luncheon. Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP
Clare with Sir Edward Heath at a club function in 1987 Clare with Sir Edward Heath at a club function in 1987
Clare and Tim Page in Saigon during the Vietnam War in the early 1970s Clare and Tim Page in Saigon during the Vietnam War in the early 1970s

Obituary: Gary Ling, the calm and friendly cameraman with a love of dim sum

Cameraman and journalist Gary Ling Wah-kee, who dedicated his life to chronicling the modern story of Hong Kong, passed away on March 25 after a short illness. He was 67.

Cameraman and journalist Gary Ling Wah-kee. Cameraman and journalist Gary Ling Wah-kee.

I met him in January 2012, shortly after I had arrived in Hong Kong to work for BBC News. One of my colleagues had fixed a TV interview with British finance minister George Osborne, and I desperately needed a crew.

I met Gary at the Convention and Exhibition Centre for the Osborne interview. It was filmed quickly and efficiently. That was the start of a happy and fruitful partnership that would last for six years, during some of the most exciting and tumultuous times in Hong Kong.

I had actually heard about Gary back in 2005, when I spent a few months in Singapore working for Reuters TV. The producers were always talking about him and commenting on how good his stories were.

By that time, he was already a legend. Born and raised in Diamond Hill, the eldest of nine, Gary started in the TV business in 1975, working for Commercial TV. A year later, he would join Visnews, the precursor to what is now Reuters TV, and stay until 2012.

Gary and myself made our way to the village in a rather conspicuous yellow Honda Civic, but managed to give the authorities the slip to cover the tense standoff between the gutsy villagers and riot police. As always, Gary could be counted on to find the best local dai pai dong joints, where he would share his wealth of stories over a hearty meal and icy beers after a day in the field

As a Reuters cameraman, Gary travelled across Asia covering stories for clients and making lifelong friends along the way. He was also known for his calm, his professionalism, his warm smile and his love of dim sum.

One of those friends was Reuters correspondent James Pomfret, who called Gary “Mr Reuters”, with his camera always poised and ready.

“As a trusted colleague, we embarked on numerous adventures together through the years, from factory strikes, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to celebrity interviews and memorably, the Wukan ‘democracy village’ protests in 2011,” he said.

“Gary and myself made our way to the village in a rather conspicuous yellow Honda Civic, but managed to give the authorities the slip to cover the tense standoff between the gutsy villagers and riot police. As always, Gary could be counted on to find the best local dai pai dong joints, where he would share his wealth of stories over a hearty meal and icy beers after a day in the field.”

Gary was also known for being generous with his time and his knowledge. I vividly remember working with him on a story after he had retired from Reuters, only to have his former colleagues ask him for help on a tricky edit or camera setting.

Venus Wu, a former Reuters colleague of Gary’s, was also one of his protégés. “Before I met Gary, my ambition was to become a print reporter. But that changed after I spent a summer with Gary as a Reuters intern in 2009. Nothing beat the thrill of jumping into Gary’s van and tagging along with him for a shoot.

“Even when we filmed the most mundane assignments, like the stock market opening for the day, Gary was professional to a fault. Whenever we were in the field, I saw how he was friendly with everybody — from the security guards to other journalists who were supposed to be his competitors.”

With Gary’s encouragement, Venus landed another internship with Reuters TV the following summer, and eventually followed in his footsteps when he retired.

Both the BBC and I were exceptionally lucky that he “retired” when he did. Gary was loyal and hardworking, and he kept fit doing archery, ping pong and other sports.

But when there was breaking news, for example the Lamma ferry sinking or the start of Occupy Central, Gary was just a phone call away. My favourite moments with him were the times in between or after jobs, when we’d try to grab dim sum. I even convinced him to volunteer at the FCC, where he was the club’s videographer.

Gary is survived by his siblings, wife, son and daughter. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered, always. 

Juliana Liu

Obituary: Marilyn Hood, a private woman with a network of friends

Marilyn Hood, the FCC’s Marketing Manager, organiser of the Quiz Night and long-time club member, died on April 17 at Queen Mary Hospital after a struggle with cancer.

Marilyn, the eldest of three children, was originally from Macclesfield in northwest England. She married in her early 20s and came to Hong Kong, via South Africa, with her husband in 1977. The marriage didn’t last, but her love affair with Hong Kong did. She worked in recruitment and went on to establish her own recruitment agency, Network.

Marilyn (centre) with Annie Van Es and Andy Chorowsky at one of the legendary FCC Quiz Nights Marilyn (centre) with Annie Van Es and Andy Chorowsky at one of the legendary FCC Quiz Nights

She joined the club in 1986 and served on the Board as an Associate Governor from 2001 until late 2003, when she resigned from the Board in order to become the club’s Marketing Manager.

Marilyn was a central figure in the women-only lunch club, Red Lips, which was established in 1983 by her friend Dorothy Ryan. Marilyn was 33 at the time and Dorothy was pushing 40. It was a 20-something Australian Crown Counsel who inadvertently gave the group its name. He called them the “Red Lips”, referring to the Tsim Sha Tsui bar where the women who worked there were rumoured to be so old they remembered the Japanese Occupation. The women laughed at his attempted slight and took the name.

The Red Lips group had fun with names. At the Brigades Annual Gathering (a full BAG), any woman under 40 was referred to as a Baguette and anyone under 30 was a Miette du Pain (breadcrumb). Marilyn took over from Dorothy as the group’s leader, the Chief Bag, in 1997 and embraced the role, employing her excellent organisational skills and giving a rousing speech at the annual lunch at the FCC. The fun event always concluded with FCC staff presenting a Red Lips cake for dessert.

Former RTHK political reporter and now absent member Francis Moriarty recalls her fondly. The first time he met her she was in the club, flanked by Red Lips members, who were discussing something amongst themselves and glancing over at him. Eventually, one of them announced loudly, “All right, godammit, I’ll go find out.” She walked straight up to Francis and asked, sweetly, “Excuse me, I know we haven’t been introduced properly, but would you be kind enough to show me your teeth?” Francis obliged. After she’d inspected his teeth, she reported back to the group: “Yup, just what I thought. They’re all his.”

Francis also recalls a heated debate on the Board in 2003 over whether or not the club would join the march against Article 23, the government’s proposed national security legislation. The Board was split and Marilyn, an Associate Governor, had the deciding vote. She listened to the arguments on both sides and decided in favour of joining the July 1 march, aligning herself with the correspondents and journalists.

Marilyn loved to travel and enjoyed doing it in style, preferably business class if possible. But she was just as happy living a simple life on Lamma Island, which she moved to in the mid-1990s. If she wasn’t at the FCC, she was likely to be found on Lamma, walking her dog, Lanto, or drinking red wine with friends and putting the world to rights.

She had a sharp mind and was a big reader. In 2012, she resurrected the club’s monthly Quiz Night and talked Andy Chorowsky into being the quiz master. She was knowledgeable on a wide range of topics and had a penchant for literature and all things to do with space. If there was an opportunity to trumpet the achievements of women in the quiz, Marilyn didn’t miss it.

Closely associated with the club for two decades, she is as much missed by the staff as members. Carmen Cheung, the Membership Secretary, who worked closely alongside her, says she introduced Marilyn to her children, now 11 and six. The kids had Marilyn on their WhatsApp and if they got stuck with their English homework, they would message her and she would help out.

Marilyn’s dedication to her work and personal passions never wavered. She devised the questions for the Quiz Night from her hospital bed and continued to work on membership issues in her final weeks. Perhaps most impressively, only a few days before she passed away, she handed me a manila envelope and asked me to deliver it to the FCC. It was a completed membership form – she’d recruited one of the doctors at Queen Mary Hospital. 

She was a fun, feisty and sincere woman. Quietly private, but with a wide network of friends. Her absence will be felt by all her friends – at the club, on Lamma and beyond. 




From Hong Kong Radio to Classic FM: Nick Bailey on a career that took him across the waves

From his time on pirate Radio Caroline to being the voice that launched Britain’s Classic FM radio station, Nick Bailey’s 50-year career in broadcasting included a decade in Hong Kong. Here he recounts those days with fondness.

My first brush with Hong Kong was in 1972 while travelling back from Australia to the UK. I had booked myself into the YMCA in Tsim Sha Tsui and gave myself five days to find a job at what was then known as Radio Hong Kong.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”11″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]I’d been given a list of names from a journalist friend in Brisbane and although the first one on the list had died, and the second had just retired, I struck lucky with the third. Geoffrey Weeks had recently been appointed head of English radio and asked me to attend an audition the following Monday. I couldn’t believe my luck, although later I found out auditions were held every Monday because of the transient nature of the staff.

Through a fellow presenter, Bob Williams, an American who’d lost a leg in the Korean War, I found a place to live. It was called Palatine House which gave a discount to so-called “artistes”. It was only when I booked in and was shown a room with mirrors on the ceiling that I realised it was a brothel.

Hong Kong at that time was very colonial. Women and Chinese were not allowed into the Hong Kong Club, and no one thought China would want to reclaim the territory in 1997. This view was still popular when I returned in 1981 but this stint in the colony was in stark contrast to the “fleshpots” of Tsim Sha Tsui.

I was based in Sek Kong in the New Territories and tasked with setting up the English section of the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS). There was already a Gurkha service broadcasting in Nepali, and I shared an office with a Gurkha Major. From humble beginnings we managed to pinch a lot of the audience from RTHK and by the time I left three years later there was an operational studio in Tamar. I was posted on promotion to the London headquarters of BFBS but hated the job, so applied in secret to go back to Hong Kong with a job at RTHK. The truth was that I had really missed the buzz of Hong Kong and was happy to become a permanent expatriate.

In 1985 I returned as a freelance, by which time my wife was expecting our second child, and we lived in a tiny flat in Causeway Bay. The Joint Declaration between Britain and China that set out the principles of “one country, two systems” had been signed the year before and there was definitely a shift in attitude. Soon we were told not to refer to Hong Kong as a colony on air.

A year later I was given an expatriate contract and we moved to a large government flat in Buxey Lodge on Conduit Road overlooking the harbour. I was the original presenter, along with Nick Beacroft, of Hong Kong Today and remained with the programme for five years.

I covered the events of Tiananmen Square with my new co-host, Kit Cummings, broadcasting non-stop for nine hours on June 4, 1989. We also reported on the subsequent massive protests, in support of the Chinese students, which culminated in a million Hong Kong residents taking to the streets.

The following year my son Edward was born, which coincided with me taking over as head of Radio 3, and in 1992 we left Hong Kong when I took up the job of presenter at Classic FM in London.

I still miss Hong Kong and felt very much at home when I returned for the first time in 2012. My eldest daughter Sally, who was 10 when she left, still feels homesick whenever the weather turns humid. And my youngest daughter Lucy, who is teaching in Shanghai, would return to Hong Kong in a heartbeat if the right job came up. And so would I if I was 30 years younger.

Nick Bailey’s autobiography Across the Waves – From Radio Caroline to Classic FM, is available from



Tantalise your tastebuds with new cocktails at Bert’s

The new cocktail menu has arrived at Bert’s. Morgan M. Davis selflessly went along for a tasting.

Things are changing behind the bar at Bert’s. Beginning this month, Bert’s is offering a new summer cocktail menu, exclusive to the basement bar. The six new cocktails, designed by FCC beverage manager Michael Chan and bartender Ryan Chong, will be available for a limited time.

For Chan, the distinct drinks offer Bert’s an opportunity to cater to a younger demographic, and to offer more options beyond the wine and beer list that the FCC is known for. “We want to bring some new ideas to the FCC bar,” said Chan.

The new list consists of three alcoholic cocktails and three mocktails, as twists on classic drinks and summer punches. The mocktails, while designed to be non-alcoholic, can have alcohol added upon request, said Chan.

So here are the newcomers…

Kyoho Caviar Martini

Kyoho Caviar Martini Kyoho Caviar Martini

Like all of Chan’s designs, this delicate take on the classic martini is intended to be Instagram-worthy.

Starting at the top, the drink is crowned with a mountain of chamomile tea air, with bubbles that will last for more than an hour- although that seems unnecessary once you start sipping. The drink itself is a “millennial pink” colour, consisting of fresh gooseberry, vodka, orgeat syrup, lime and apple juice. And the bottom holds a layer of Japanese Kyoho molecular “caviar,” or tiny jelly-like pearls reminiscent of the popular bubble tea drinks.

The result is certainly not your grandfather’s martini. The drink is a perfect pre-dinner beverage with its soft flavours. But don’t be deceived by the floral finishes. The drink still serves up a bite at the end of every sip, and it can pack a punch.

Black Pirates and Rum

The Black Pirates and Rum The Black Pirates and Rum

This summer-worthy rum punch is all about the fruit. Nearly every cocktail on Chan’s new menu has a fruity base. Chan prides himself on using muddled fresh fruits to give the drinker more complexity in their cocktails, and something to chew on.

Once you snag the fresh blackberries and raspberries off the top of this one, you’ll taste a perfectly chilled purple punch. With a rum base, the refreshing mixture includes fresh blackberries, cassis liqueur, sweet and sour mix and pineapple juice.



Smoked Negroni

Smoked Negroni Smoked Negroni

This cocktail is the most traditional of Chan’s inventions, but, of course, it comes with a photo-op.

The drink itself consists of Tanqueray gin, Campari and vermouth rosso, served straight with an orange twist. But when it’s served, Chan or one of his team will appear with a smoke-filled decanter. The smoke, which comes with aromatic vanilla sprays, is poured into the cocktail in a dramatic fashion.

The result is not only theatrical, it also adds an interesting flavour combination, taking the classic negroni taste and making it less bitter. It’s a drink that fans of the original will love, as well as those that want something a bit easier to sip.

Berry Rosa

Berry Rosa Berry Rosa

The first of the mocktail creations, the Berry Rosa has been dubbed a “lady’s drink” by Chan.

It is bright pink in colour and is topped off with raspberries. While the drink looks a bit like a smoothie, chock-full of fruit, it’s still delicate, and visually elegant in a tall glass. The beverage mixes fresh raspberries, fresh strawberries, peach juice, Calpis and ginger ale.

The flavour sticks to the tongue while also quenching your thirsty sweet tooth.


Ginger Sour Cooler

Ginger Sour Cooler Ginger Sour Cooler

While the two other mocktails would pair perfectly with a splash of Prosecco, this drink truly needs no alcohol.

The mixture of fresh ginger, mint, sweet and sour mix and soda, topped with lemongrass as a stirrer, is exactly what everyone needs on a hot summer day. The ginger flavour is subtle, while the sour mix packs a bit of a punch, but without an acidic overtone. The flavours balance perfectly, making this mocktail easy to drink.


Bert’s Punch

Bert's Punch Bert’s Punch

The final mocktail has been set up to be a signature for Bert’s bar, and consistent with Chan’s fruit theme, it doesn’t disappoint.

The yellow, layered drink, served in a tall glass, includes fresh passionfruit, with orange and pineapple juice. This fruity mix is perfect for brunch. With a fruity aroma, helped along by the chunk of passionfruit garnishing the top, the flavours of this beverage will leave you wanting more. 



Morgan M. Davis is a finance reporter at Euromoney’s GlobalCapital. The Illinois-transplant moved to Hong Kong two years ago by way of New York City, accompanied by her trusty sidekick Gizmo the Yorkie. Morgan has reported on multiple sectors of finance, and holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University.

Line e'm up - the new cocktails Line e’m up – the new FCC cocktails
Morgan with a martini, Bert's style Morgan with a martini, Bert’s style
Michael Chan Michael Chan

Images of Tiananmen and Beyond: Photojournalists Tell the Story

Here, we show images from Tiananmen Square as featured in our On The Wall photo exhibition.

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What happens when government ministers decide what is true and what is false?

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act was passed in Singapore in May. Once signed into law, it will give government ministers sweeping powers to decide which statements are true and which false. Kirsten Han, an outspoken opponent of the act, explains her concerns.

Fake news Fake news

In November 2016, a photo began to circulate on social media. Taken in a public housing estate in the north of Singapore’s island, it drew attention to one of the public housing blocks, claiming that the roof had collapsed.

But the roof hadn’t collapsed; it was merely an optical illusion caused by the building’s terraced design. When All Singapore Stuff, the Facebook page that had distributed the image, realised this, they swiftly removed the post, although not before it prompted a small flurry of worry and concern. Some people, it was reported, called the police.

As “fake news” goes, this was pretty small potatoes compared to the disinformation crisis spreading across other countries, such as Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka. But that didn’t stop the People’s Action Party (PAP) government in Singapore from pouncing on it as an example of why the city-state needs to take action to deal with the scourge of misinformation.

Singapore’s Minister of Law K Shanmugam (2nd L) and Charles Chong, deputy speaker of the parliament and chairman of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, attend a press conference in Singapore on September 20, 2018 Singapore’s Minister of Law K Shanmugam (2nd L) and Charles Chong, deputy speaker of the parliament and chairman of the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, attend a press conference in Singapore on September 20, 2018

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, more commonly referred to as POFMA, is the PAP government’s newest weapon to, ostensibly, fight “fake news”. It’s the fruit of two years’ worth of chatter about introducing new legislation to combat “deliberate online falsehoods” — a move that K Shanmugam, Minister for both Law and Home Affairs, had said was a “no brainer” back in 2017.

The idea that something needs to be done about disinformation going rapidly viral on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube isn’t particularly controversial in itself. The problem comes in when trying to figure out the details: who gets to decide what is “fake”, and what should be done about it?

Under POFMA, any Singaporean government minister is given the power to issue correction notices, order takedowns, or direct internet service providers and intermediaries to block access to content. This exercise of executive power sidesteps the judiciary until the end — anyone inclined to challenge the minister’s order can only appeal to the High Court after the minister has rejected an application to review his or her own order. The law will apply to anyone in or out of the country, as long as the content is accessible by at least one end-user in Singapore. A clause at the end of the law also allows government ministers to exempt anyone they want from any provision of the act.

Essentially, POFMA has, in the first and second instance at least, made Singaporean ministers the arbiters of truth.

It’s problematic to give a government such sweeping powers over online speech, especially when it’s effectively a one-party state like Singapore. Predictably, civil society groups, journalists, academics and tech companies were concerned and unhappy about this state overreach.

The academics were among the first to marshal a strong, coordinated response: “Under these circumstances, POFMA is likely to make many academics hesitant to conduct or supervise research that might unknowingly fall foul of POFMA, or refer colleagues or students to faculty positions in Singapore’s respected universities,” they wrote in a letter to the Education Minister.

“This act discourages scholars from marshaling their expertise in precisely the areas where it is most needed — namely, pressing questions and challenges for which there are no clear answers or easy solutions.”

Journalists, including myself, followed with a statement: “By failing to distinguish between a malicious falsehood and a genuine mistake, the proposed legislation places an unnecessarily onerous burden on even journalists acting in good faith. Such a law will hinder rather than encourage the free flow of accurate information. News organisations might feel compelled to withhold important stories simply because certain facts cannot be fully ascertained. This is especially likely in Singapore where it is often not possible to get a response in time from the government.”

This resistance came in a context where it wasn’t even clear if Singapore was facing a disinformation crisis serious enough to warrant such a sweeping bill. Both the Green Paper and Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods had brought up examples of racist, hateful, violent speech found in other contexts, such as Myanmar, Indonesia and Germany, but were short on local examples.

Despite the resistance, the PAP government stood firm, as expected. “The Government is confident that most Singaporeans understand the bill’s main thrust. The concerted attempts by a small group of persons to mislead have not got any traction among most Singaporeans. The small group of persons I have referred to, speak in a shrinking echo chamber, with increasing shrillness,” wrote Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, Edwin Tong, in The Straits Times.

Parliament, dominated by the party, passed the law without amendments on 8 May 2019. But the Act has still yet to be signed into law — during the two-day debate, Shanmugam had promised that more details will be laid out in subsidiary legislation, which Singaporeans have not yet seen. It’s unclear when this “fake news” law will actually come into force.

Yet the law doesn’t actually need to come into force to become a worry — the passage of this bill in itself, in a country with a positive international reputation, legitimises such state regulation of online spheres of discourse. There’s also the issue of copycat legislation: would other authoritarian states look to Singapore’s POFMA and get ideas? And if the tech companies comply with Singapore’s demands under this law, would it legitimise similar demands from other jurisdictions, such as Turkey or China?

As Singaporeans wait and wonder who the first recipient of a POFMA directive will be, there are, unfortunately, no answers to these troubling questions. 

Kirsten Han is a freelance journalist in Singapore focused on social justice, human rights, politics and democracy. She is also editor-in-chief of New Naratif, a member-funded Southeast Asian platform. Last year she was a guest speaker at the FCC and she won this year’s Commentary Writing (English) Human Rights Press Award.



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