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Introducing… FCC new members, August 2020

The latest group of members to join the FCC is, as always, an interesting bunch. The membership committee meets regularly to go through applications and is always impressed by the diversity of people who want to join the Club.

Richard Albuquerque

I am the founding partner of Richard Albuquerque & Co., certified public accountants. Our firm is in its 16th year. I came to Hong Kong in 1992 from Mumbai for a holiday, and it became my home. I was a book-keeper when I decided to study accountancy. I passed my first exams before my son Liam was born in 1997; I finished my final exams before my daughter Laila was born in 2001. I thank my wife Shirley and the kids immensely for their support. I enjoy travelling, the gym (coached by my son), swimming, reading and watching movies.


Jeremy Choy

I am managing director of China Renaissance Securities (HK) Ltd. My first encounter with the FCC was rather difficult. One night my wife and I were in the mood for jazz, and we had heard the FCC had the best jazz in town. We walked in (in hindsight it’s more sneaking in), enjoyed a piece or two, and you can guess what happened next. I decided to join the queue for membership. What also attracts me is the spirit the FCC stands for, an open forum for all voices to be heard. This is particularly important at this critical juncture for Hong Kong.


Tom Rogerson

As well as joining the FCC, I’ve hit another milestone of completing my seventh year in Hong Kong. It seems like only yesterday I  moved here from Manchester and have loved every one of the fast-paced, Hong Kong minutes. I joined Private Capital in 2017 and am the fourth employee to join the Club, which is on the doorstep of our office – a blessing and a curse! When I’m not helping people change the way they think about investing, you’ll find me on the golf course, running up a hill, or in my kitchen cooking pasta…


Veronica Han

I arrived in Hong Kong 10 years ago – single, young, ambitious, smart, skinny. Now, I am a working mum with two crazy boys, trying to find a balance with work, family and private life, like so many! I moved from Frankfurt, Germany, to be with my husband. I work in the logistics industry, which has given me the opportunity to meet people from so many backgrounds. I’ve been a privileged guest at the FCC on several occasions. I enjoy the atmosphere of the Club; the people, the conversation. And I’ve become a huge fan of the Indian cuisine!


Brendan McGloin

I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, studied in London, and have been in Hong Kong since 2012. For most of that time I’ve been the head of Asia for a UK-based risk consulting firm, but I recently took the plunge, mid-pandemic and all, to start my own research firm with a couple of partners. We’re aiming to open up later this year. In the meantime, the FCC (workroom and then Main Bar and not the other way around) is quickly becoming a second home.


Chin Leng Lim

I make ends meet, people laugh, though sometimes also quite cross. I teach class as Professor of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I have not unpacked some of my belongings carried around the world since I was a teenager. My wife Lyn and I met during treaty negotiations; I may have pretended to have a smattering of Arabic, but can read Malay in the Arabic script. I have been on a camel, jumped out of a Jeep at night, and am known to practise law as a member of the London Bar. I am always gleeful of company, but never of teetotallers. Lyn is a far better creature.


Alan Chan

Alan ChanI was born and educated in Hong Kong. I am a quantity surveyor for BKAsiaPacific Group. I enjoy travelling and one day early in my career I was told that Australia was looking for overseas quantity surveyors. I couldn’t wait to go there. I worked and stayed there until the interest rate shot up to 18 per cent to send me back home in 1990. The venture proved to be very interesting and worthwhile. At least, it gave me a full Australian accent. My subsequent ventures took me to China, India, Singapore and the Philippines.


Robert Karr

I spent my earlier career working in automatic identification systems such as bar codes and RFID technologies which eventually brought me to Hong Kong where my lovely wife, Adeline, had been working in the airline industry since the 1980s. In 2013 I was part of a small group that started STAR Systems International which services the world with technologies for electronic tolling, parking and electronic vehicle registration systems. I am now chief executive. I live in Tung Chung and am fluent in Spanish and can ugly my way through Portuguese. Being from Philadelphia, some may say that I mangle English quite a bit also.

Mari Dhamodran

I run my own firm, Aptus Prime Ltd, that specialises in trust and corporate services and I’ve been in this industry for most of my career. My profession allows me to meet people from across the world. I have lived in Burma, India, and Australia and moved to Hong Kong in the early ’90s. I’m a keen sports enthusiast and love playing tennis and cricket. I also enjoy reading and am an ardent supporter of investigative journalism. Some of my other hobbies include expanding my knowledge of different red wines, exploring the hidden gems of Hong Kong’s restaurant scene, and watching legal dramas.


Dr William Lo, JP

I was trained as a neuroscientist in the ’80s then moved on to the commercial world via McKinsey & Company. I have been in and out of the media and related industries a few times. I was the founder of Netvigator, the largest ISP in Hong Kong, in the mid-90s and vice-chairman of South China Media at the end of the last decade. In between I was CEO of Citibank and ED of China Unicom as well as the vice-chairman of I.T and Kidsland, the fashion and toys retailer, respectively. At the moment, I chair my own digital marketing company, Captcha Media, and am a lead independent non-executive director at TVB.


Marcy Trent Long

I am relatively new to the field of journalism, after 20 years in the energy sector and several years with environmental non-profits.  Frustrated with the complexity of recycling in Hong Kong, I began hosting a weekly RTHK3 feature called Trash Talk. One thing led to another, and I partnered with chinadialogue to produce a long form podcast series about China’s policies and initiatives to address the rise of ocean plastic waste. The Sustainable Asia Podcast was born – and in our first year we were nominated for Asia’s Best Podcast. The logical next step? Join the FCC community. My husband Dirk and I are excited to be a part of this historic institution.

Choy Hon-Ping

I am the vice-executive chairman of New World China Limited and the chairman and managing director of Hip Seng Group, the construction company of New World Development Company Ltd in Hong Kong. I have over 40 years’ experience in the property and infrastructure construction sector. I have also served as director for numerous listed property developers and construction companies. I have overseen and participated in projects in Hong Kong, Macau, and the Middle East. I have five children and five grandsons, some of whom are living overseas. I enjoy watching movies and photography.


Benny Yip

I serve on the Institutional Relationship Management team in the Global Client Development department at HKEX. I joined HKEX in September 2015 after holding a similar role at CME Group in Hong Kong for two years. I have 24 years of industry experience, most of them as a cash equity trader across the U.S., Europe, and Asia markets. My trading experience includes buyside trading, sellside trading, sales trading, proprietary trading, program/algo trading, and being the head of five different sales trading and trading desks. I have a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business. I grew up in New York and relocated to Hong Kong in October 2010.

Man Cheong Tsoi

My wife Bonnie and I are glad we can have an opportunity to meet you all at the FCC. I am retired and my wife is a doctor. We married in 2014 and our wedding was held at St Paul’s Church, which is so near to our Club. We love travelling and our most exciting moment was to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the first day of 2019! My hearing has been bad since I was young and has become worse after marriage so you will always see us together at the Club as my wife is my ears now!


Jérémy André

The year I was born, 1984, describes well the times we live in. My heart belongs to the shores of Brittany, where I spent my holidays as a child. I grew up in the grey and wet suburbs of Paris, into my 20s drinking, dreaming, studying and teaching history. After a six-month trip to China in 2010, I slowly became a journalist. I lived two years in Iraq, covered the battle of Mosul, the genocide in Sinjar, the invasion of Afrin by Turkey and the fall of the caliphate in Baghouz in Syria, the 2019 protests in Hong Kong and now Covid-19, being appointed Asia Correspondent of French newsmagazine Le Point in January 2020. I love exploring uncharted territories and am a guide for the forbidden parts of the catacombs of Paris.

Ying-Wai Wu

British born, I’ve lived in London most of my life. I decided to give Hong Kong a try in 2009.  A place I was familiar with from childhood holidays (including the ’97 handover), yet not so familiar since I never stayed long. I have a soft spot for Hong Kong since my family grew up here. I’ve worked in the financial industry (buy and sell side) in London, and saw Hong Kong as an opportunity after the 2008 financial crisis. I am now vice-president, compliance, for Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong. I have an appetite for great cuisine, and a passion for the arts, music and film. I like to get away whenever time permits, whether a lazy beach holiday or more cultural offerings.

Edward Beeley

Dissolute work-shy freeloader seeks friendship, diversion, entertainment for self and charming wife Liane within hallowed halls of local institution. Deep passion for press freedom and self-expression combined with lethargic, pretentious snows-of-yesteryear melancholy and rapacious millennial consumerist avarice. Work: engineer turned solicitor delivering outstanding full-spectrum client service etc in Asia’s World City. Play: satire, guitar, dreadnought battleship construction and fire control, hiking. Activism: occasional; beloved chairman/celestial leader of British Chamber of Commerce youth wing. Likes: conversation, arts, adjectives. Dislikes: writing to a word lim…

Christopher Jones

I climbed Mount Everest and fought off sharks while swimming the Amazon … sounds great but unfortunately it’s not true! Part of the reason none of that is true is because I pursued a career in finance. I am managing director at Deutsche Bank AG, which I joined in 2008. I enjoy my work … hey if I did not, I would be atop Mt Everest! Well, actually in a way I am; I am blessed with a lovely wife and a beautiful 14-year-old daughter. I play field hockey and am an avid sports enthusiast. I collect South Asian art and vintage watches and would love to collect classic cars but unfortunately only have one in Hong Kong, a 1969 E-Type … I am a contented man.

Vikram Singh

I visited Hong Kong in the mid-80s as a student when Kai Tak was still operational but never imagined then we would move to Hong Kong. We’ve been on the move my entire airline career having lived in India, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, South Africa, the Netherlands and Qatar. I now run an airline services business, Air Logistics Ltd. Business has kept me in a plane most weeks for the past 10 years and it is surreal to have been on the ground for over two months now during the COVID-19 pandemic. And watching my team around the world stepping up to continue shipping cargo – to do our part to keep goods and essential items moving in this unprecedented crisis.

Petra Carlberg

Together with my husband, Anders, I was introduced to the FCC by our hiking friends. As a Swede, I enjoy outdoor life. When I moved to Hong Kong, I joined a hiking group to continue with my hobby. Pimm’s, the labrador, is a happy companion on the hikes. My background is a mix of exploration and enjoying my home ground. My past includes British boarding schools and living in the 1980s in the United Arab Emirates. I have always worked more or less connected to international business, mainly in the supply chain, with extensive travelling around the world.


Grounded? Take a dive in Hong Kong to reveal underwater gems

COVID-19 has grounded travellers in recent months, so Hong Kong people have been exploring closer to home. Keen diver Christopher Dillon has great tips for exploring the treasures beneath the waters around these islands

Flatworms repel predators by excreting foul-tasting mucus Flatworms repel predators by excreting foul-tasting mucus

Mention Hong Kong as a potential dive location and you’ll probably hear “Why in God’s name would you want to dive there?” or “Can you actually dive in Hong Kong?” You’re unlikely to confuse Hong Kong with the Philippines, but you can dive here. And there’s plenty to see, including wrecks, reefs and marine life.

Hong Kong’s main dive sites can be divided into three groups. South of Hong Kong Island, there are sites near Po Toi, and Beaufort and Waglan islands that are a short distance from Aberdeen. These locations generally have poor visibility, typically 1–5 metres, due to their proximity to the heavily populated Pearl River Delta.

In the northeast, Rocky Harbor and Port Shelter are accessible from Sai Kung. Sites here include Bluff, Basalt and Shelter islands. Further north, there’s diving in and around Double Haven, including Crescent, Double and Crooked islands. With calm seas, it’s also possible to dive the Ninepin Group, which are southeast of Clear Water Bay.

Diving off Crescent Island and Round Island, near Plover Cove, NT, Hong Kong

Sites in the northeast are near blue water, which results in visibility of up to 12 metres. From Double Haven, you can see Shenzhen’s massive Yantian Port. Divers visiting these sites pass through the Tolo Barrier, a Hong Kong police checkpoint in the Tolo Channel. Clean water, beautiful scenery and a variety of sites make Double Haven a personal favorite.

The South China Diving Club ( and commercial operators such as Scuba Monster ( and Diving Adventure ( offer regular expeditions to sites throughout Hong Kong. Dives are staged from junks, dedicated dive boats and speedboats, with amenities ranging from spartan to hot lunches and showers. Operators generally provide tanks and weights, and you can rent fins, buoyancy compensation devices, dive computers, regulators, masks and wet suits. You’ll need to show a certification card to dive with these groups.

What can you see?

For history buffs, there are cannon, anchors, heavy chain and the occasional piece of World War II ordinance. Accumulated silt and time mean many of these items are well hidden.

Hong Kong is home to many species of sea anemone Hong Kong is home to many species of sea anemone

Despite Hong Kong’s reputation for pollution and overfishing, there’s lots of life in our waters. Octopuses, cuttlefish, nudibranchs, crabs, eels, rays, brightly coloured coral and hundreds of species of fish are common. Hong Kong Geopark’s spectacular rock formations overlook many sites in the northeast.

For more than 20 years, Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has installed and maintained nearly 700 artificial reefs. Located in and outside marine parks, the reefs are built from a variety of materials, including steel-hulled ships and old tyres. The reefs serve as feeding, spawning and nursery areas for grouper, bream, snapper, sweetlips and other species.

Diving in Hong Kong is relaxed

Strong currents are uncommon and most dives are less than 15 metres deep. Visibility is best in winter, when water temperatures can drop to 18–19 degrees Celsius. That calls for a 7-millimetre wet suit and hood or a dry suit. In summer, water temperatures are around 28–29 C, which is comfortable in a 3-millimetre wet suit or a shorty suit. Hong Kong dives are shallow, so there’s little call for nitrox or exotic gas blends.

Christopher Dillon, here on a recent dive, wants others to discover the joys of diving Christopher Dillon, here on a recent dive, wants others to discover the joys of diving

Compared to Australia, where visibility can reach 40 metres, Hong Kong’s turbid water isn’t ideal for shooting wide-angle photographs or video. But macro photography, with close-ups of smaller subjects, can work well. Point-and-shoot cameras with operating depths of up to 10 metres are available from major manufacturers.

Hong Kong does have hazards, including Diadema sea urchins covered with foot-long, needle-sharp spines and weedy stingfish, which are well disguised and have toxic spines along their backs. Container ships in busy shipping channels don’t mix well with divers, nor do inattentive pleasure craft operators.

Why Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a great place to learn to dive. Major industry organisations, including the British Sub Aqua Club, NAUI, PADI and SSI, are represented here and there are dozens of dive shops and indoor and outdoor pools. Through dive shops, NAUI, PADI and SSI offer inexpensive “try dives” that combine a couple of hours of classroom instruction with a pool session where you can experience the underwater world firsthand.

Low visibility makes Hong Kong suitable for macro photography Low visibility makes Hong Kong suitable for macro photography

In Hong Kong, even remote dive sites are easy to reach. We are also near the coral triangle, which encompasses Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. One of the planet’s most important centers of biodiversity, the coral triangle is home to some of the world’s best diving. Outside the triangle, there’s excellent diving in Thailand, Japan and other destinations, including historic World War II shipwrecks in Chuuk.

Whether you’re learning to dive, honing your skills for an overseas trip, or enjoying a sunny Sunday in the New Territories, Hong Kong diving is worth a peek beneath the surface.

*More of Christopher’s diving photos are available at

Christopher Dillon was chairman of the Hong Kong–based South China Diving club from 2018 to 2020. He has been a member of the FCC since 1992 and is principal of Dillon Communications Ltd

The ex-convict now broadcasting to a captive audience of Hong Kong prisoners

Bruce Aitken, who spent 10 months in jail, broadcasts to prisoners in Hong Kong every Sunday night. Here he looks at how the pandemic is giving people insights into what it means to forfeit freedom

Bruce in the studio while broadcasting to his ‘captive audience’ Bruce Aitken in the studio while broadcasting to his ‘captive audience’

The present world calamity caused by the COVID-19 virus has given us all a chance, wished for or not, to get off of our treadmill and take a good look around, smell the roses and reflect on what is important to us in life. It gives us all a taste of imprisonment in many ways.

Social animals by nature, we have tasted the loss of freedom of movement and of choice, to meet with family and friends, for healthy affection and fulfilment of our dreams. For many it has focused attention, perhaps for the first time, on faith and the spiritual.

These same losses are experienced in much more profound ways by people who are imprisoned in Hong Kong’s correctional institutions. They often face long years forgotten by a society that focuses on punishment and monotony rather than on rehabilitation. The physical environment in prisons here is good compared to most countries in terms of cleanliness and hygiene, but there is still much to be desired. A good example is access to educational opportunities.

As we experience a taste of being somewhat confined or even briefly in quarantine, think of what it must be like to spend 10, 15 or more years in a prison such as Stanley Prison or Shek Pik Prison for men, or Lo Wu Correctional Institution or Tai Lam Centre for Women, for the crime of being a drug mule.

Day after day is the same, inmates required to work for a pittance, allowed only one 10-minute phone call home every month, with basic food and a small selection of snacks purchased from inmate wages. The snack selection has not changed in many years.

While I do not condone the crime, often committed out of poverty, it is the small fish, the mule, that pays the price while the big fish, the kingpins, often remain free.

Ignorance of the laws in Hong Kong can result in serving many years in prison. Even with a third off for pleading guilty, there is little hope of remission, even for the best model prisoners. (See box below)

The old Monopoly game offered a “Get out of Jail Free” pass to the lucky player but in real life those securely locked down in Hong Kong prisons are there for the duration.

Some respite is offered every Sunday night, for two-and-a-half hours, when they tune in, on their tiny purchased radios, to AM 1044 Metro Plus and the Hour of Love and Prison Visitation on the Air, programmes that I have produced and hosted for 16 years.

Stanley Prison Stanley Prison

Known as Brother Bruce to my captive audience, the programme conjures up release from the chains that confine the soul, the spirit and the mind within the dark cocoon of prison walls. As one man writes in addressing his cell in Stanley Prison: “Physically I might never escape from you. But every Sunday from 8.30pm-11pm I will escape from you through the airwaves if you like it or not.”

What is unique about the programme is that listeners in Hong Kong and around the globe have an opportunity to learn much about the lives of peoples of all nationalities in our correctional institutions. In their walled-off society, inmates come to rely on their faith, and on ways to help each other when times are tough – such as loss of a loved one, missing their children growing up without them, birthdays and holidays spent confined.

On the radio programme, real letters from inmates are received and read live into the public realm, dozens of short recorded messages are received from friends and family, and live messages from around the world are streamed on Facebook.

The programme has become a critical lifeline for prisoners, especially foreigners who have no local family support. Prisoners write and their families phone in requests to read letters, play special songs and exchange greetings in many languages.

In this picture taken on March 2, 2017, a prison officer opens a gate at Stanley Prison in Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) In this picture taken on March 2, 2017, a prison officer opens a gate at Stanley Prison in Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

With its steady diet of scripture readings, along with praise and worship music, the Hour of Love offers both a welcome tissue for isolated tears and a source of happiness and joy.

There are no dull moments while on the air. As many a prisoner has said over the years Prison Visitation on the Air is not only great fun, it offers inmates a profound understanding of how good men and women can sometimes do things that society considers objectionable.

Support for the programme relies on donations, and our mission has evolved into not only the hours required to produce and broadcast live every Sunday night, but also days of travel visiting inmates on a one-to-one basis.

Nothing makes a person happier than having a visit while in prison. A sense of self-esteem and happiness radiates, and the visiting guest comes away with a sense of purpose and peace. And it is open to everyone.

FCC member Bruce Aitken is from New Jersey, U.S., and has lived in Hong Kong since 1972. Convicted for money laundering in the late 1980s, he wrote the bestseller The Cleaner, The True Story of one of the World’s Most Successful Money Launderers about the experience

‘Just as I came across a rainbow on the third day of the PolyU siege, I still have hope’

By any standards this has been an extraordinary year for Jessie Pang and Mary Hui to be the FCC’s first Clare Hollingworth Fellows. Here they share some thoughts on protests, the pandemic and press freedom.

Marco Leung, 35, unfurling banners against the now withdrawn extradition bill on the rooftop of Pacific Place on June 15, 2019. He died after he fell from construction scaffolding Marco Leung, 35, unfurling banners against the now withdrawn extradition bill on the rooftop of Pacific Place on June 15, 2019. He died after he fell from construction scaffolding

At the time of writing this reflection, Hong Kong has entered another watershed moment. Some Western governments, business leaders and international rights groups say Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong is the beginning of the end for China’s freest city.

I didn’t realise what it truly meant to become a Clare Hollingworth Fellow until I found myself following in her footsteps. Just as Clare Hollingworth didn’t expect to cover wars or break the news of World War Two after being a journalist for less than a week, I never thought I would be reporting in the eye of the storm and witnessing my hometown turn into a conflict zone.

A rainbow forms near the bridge where protesters escape past riot police at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) campus that had been on lockdown for a week in Hong Kong, November 19, 2019 A rainbow forms near the bridge where protesters escape past riot police at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) campus that had been on lockdown for a week in Hong Kong, November 19, 2019

I was less than one year out of college when protests escalated. When I woke every morning, all I wished for was to become more experienced. Yet, here I was, covering the ebbs and flows of nearly daily protests and sometimes violent clashes between police and protesters on the frontlines for almost a year.

Every day presented new challenges. Like many of my fellow journalists and Hongkongers, I witnessed key moments throughout the protests. Those images are still vivid in my mind and motivated me to continue to report to the world the events as they unfolded in Hong Kong.

An exhausted protester sleeping on the No. 2 bridge of Chinese University of Hong Kong on November 13, 2019 An exhausted protester sleeping on the No. 2 bridge of Chinese University of Hong Kong on November 13, 2019

I often wonder what happened to the protester who gave me his gas mask and filters when he found out mine was broken on my way to the airport; what happened to the protester who took my number to ensure I left the No. 2 bridge at CUHK safely?

I wish I had the chance to revisit some of those moments and faces and ask them: “How are you now?” or “Can you tell me your story?”

Lawmakers Eddie Chu and Jeremy Tam face riot police on July 1, 2019 Lawmakers Eddie Chu and Jeremy Tam face riot police on July 1, 2019

International rights groups say Beijing’s proposal to impose a national security law in Hong Kong has only exacerbated concerns over press freedom in the city and could have grave implications for civil and media liberties. Balanced and truthful reporting on Hong Kong has never been more important.

Just as I came across a rainbow on the third day of the PolyU siege, I still have hope.

I have met and become friends with so many talented journalists during the protests. I know that we, fellow journalists, will continue to pursue and present the truth impartially, to show the beauty and the complexities of our city, and to let people tell their story.

Jessie Pang, Reuters


Hong Kong-based lawyer and writer, Antony Dapiran; Mary Hui, a reporter for Quartz; and vice convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, Bonnie Leung Wing-Man talking about the Hong kong protest- What happened and what's next. at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCC) on July 10th 2019 Hong Kong-based lawyer and writer, Antony Dapiran; and Mary Hui, a reporter for Quartz; at the FCC on July 10, 2019

Like everything else this year, the Club’s inaugural Claire Hollingworth Fellowship has been swept up in the world’s wave of disruption. We were just getting into the swing of organising panels for the annual Journalism Conference when the prudent decision was made to postpone the event. Soon, social distancing regulations were tightened, and I avoided going to restaurants and bars altogether. Close contacts were also kept to a small circle of people. The handful of Club events that I did attend were lunch panels over Zoom. Such is 2020.

Still, even as the fellowship draws to a close, I look forward to continuing as a member of the club and joining the Club’s Press Freedom committee.

Mary Hui, Quartz

Congratulations to Jennifer Creery of Hong Kong Free Press and freelance reporter Tiffany Liang who have been named as the Clare Hollingworth Fellows, 2020-21. Interviews with the award winners will appear in October’s The Correspondent.

On The Wall: As strong as the war, as soft as the peace

Photographs and words by Nicole Tung

The Hong Kong-born photojournalist and 2018 recipient of the James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting, Nicole Tung says: “I’d say the increased targeting of journalists around the world makes this profession much more difficult, and I have either had to stop working in one place or go about it in a different way – Syria was one example of that.”

A protestor throws a tear gas canister back at the riot police in Tsuen Wan neighbourhood in Hong Kong, China on August 25, 2019 following the end of a rally in which thousands participated. 
People celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Peoples’ Republic of China as several dozen people joined a gathering to show their support of the Chinese government despite concerns that anti-government protests would continue on the day, on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.
Life after ISIS: Men bathe in thermal baths in Hammam al Alil two days after Iraqi forces liberated the town from ISIS as they retreat further into Mosul.
Khaled Mohamed and his bride-to-be step out of the bride’s house before their wedding ceremony in Mosul, Iraq. Both Khaled and his brother Hashem (not pictured) married their fiancees on the same day surrounded by family and neighbours. 
Members of the Raqqa Civil Defense pray before at least 15 bodies and remains of people they retrieved from a mass grave, before reburying them in a cemetery further away from the city center, as seen in Raqqa, Syria. June 2018.

Women, some suspected of being ISIS family members, are seen at a screening point near Baghouz, Syria. February 2019.

Osama Abdulmonem, 27, readies a wedding dress for display in his shop in Mosul, Iraq. Abdulmonem’s shop remained open under ISIS but he had to sell used dresses as there was no way of importing new material or ready-made ones from outside of the city, especially Turkey, where he usually acquires them. 
Men sit in a tea house smoking and playing dominoes in east Mosul, Iraq. The tea house remained open during ISIS’s rule over the city from 2014, but no board games, dominoes, or any other entertainment was allowed. 

A mother cries while she cradles her son Laith, whom she had not seen for two years as they were finally reunited at the Hassan Sham camp for internally displaced persons near Mosul, Iraq. 

‘Press pause’ leaves Hong Kong’s freelancers time to think about the future

Freelancers are used to living precariously and they have been hit hard by the fall-out in the media industry during the coronavirus pandemic. Marianna Cerini reports

At the end of February, as the coronavirus outbreak quickened across Asia, one of the editors I regularly work for sent me an email asking to press pause on two travel stories I was working on. A few days later, another editor said a project we had discussed turning into a recurring gig had been put on hold.

Edwin Lee Edwin Lee

Now six months into what’s become a global pandemic, I don’t know when, or if, both jobs will get picked up again.

I am not alone. Across the world, Covid-19 has forced millions of people out of work. Just like me, many freelancers – already a vulnerable segment of the workforce – have had assignments cancelled and their incomes cut drastically.

In the UK, a survey of 5,600 people by the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU) found that 71 per cent of freelancers in the creative industries are afraid they won’t be able to pay their bills. Three-quarters of more than 5,000 independent workers have lost contracts or gigs in the U.S., according to a poll by the Freelancers Union in April, with 90 per cent expecting further losses.

Within this landscape, journalists have been among those hit hard. A British National Union of Journalists (NUJ) poll revealed a third of self-employed media workers has lost all their work. A survey by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), showed that out of 1,308 staff and freelance journalists from 77 countries, 65.4 per cent of respondents had suffered pay cuts, job losses or worsening job conditions during the pandemic.

As a sharp drop in advertising revenue is causing media outlets to fold, furlough or layoff their staff, the picture isn’t likely to improve any time soon.

Laurel Chor Laurel Chor

In most western countries, freelancers are now tapping into monthly unemployment benefits, or relief initiatives like the American CARES Act, a US$2 trillion federal stimulus package that offers unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and pay cheque protection loans to independent workers and contractors. Far from being perfect, these measures are at least providing temporary support.

Things look quite different in Asia, including right here in Hong Kong.

Some 700,000 people, including freelance journalists and reporters, make up the SAR’s gig economy, but studies to check how they are coping are scarce.

And while the government’s latest HK$137.5 billion (US$18 billion) relief package will grant workers at least 50 per cent of their salaries for six months (capped at HK$9,000 a month), independent labour is looking at a one-off subsidy of HK$7,500 – but only if you have a Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) account and have made contributions in the past 15 months.

That leaves freelancers who haven’t set up their own business or opened an MPF account out of luck.

“Contract-based workers and self-employed people are being overlooked by the government,” says Matthew Keegan, a news and features freelance journalist. “It’s highlighted how precarious freelance work is in the city.”

Keegan, in Hong Kong since 2014, has also been frustrated at the fact that only permanent residents and new arrivals with low income will be eligible for the HK$10,000 cash payment scheme announced in the early days of the outbreak and expected to start rolling out this summer.

Matthew Keegan Matthew Keegan

“I’ve found that decision slightly unfair, considering I have been a taxpayer and resident here for six years. Many of us will miss out because we don’t have PR status yet.

“I’ve had my eyes on other grants and schemes, but I’m doing OK so far – not great, but OK – mostly reporting on the virus, so I think I’ll just wait and see.”

Edwin Lee, a freelance video-journalist and producer, shares similar views. “I am a permanent resident, and I’ve had my work cut by more than 50 per cent since January, but I don’t think I’ll apply for the handout,” he says. “Fellow freelancers have told me not to bother – there’s a fair share of paperwork and hoops to jump through to get it. I’m mostly relying on my savings.”

Photojournalist Laurel Chor says: “I wish the Hong Kong government did more to support its creative community. I just spent two months in France, where the government sees the value in their independent artists and actively gives them support — that’s what’s helped create a vibrant creative scene that makes waves globally.”

Instead of institution-backed financial aid, she has applied to a grant for Covid-19 coverage – “not an emergency support one,” she says, as she, too, has been relying on her own savings – to get back to work with the right kind of resources.

Many others have also done so. When the Pulitzer Center announced the Coronavirus News Collaboration Challenge programme in March – a grant for newsrooms and journalists in the U.S. and abroad to report on the underdiscussed issues of the pandemic – it received 300 applications in two weeks (the opportunity is now closed). “I think many saw it as a call to arms globally,” says the organisation’s executive editor Marina Walker. “Yes, the whole sector is suffering, but people are hungry to return to work and tell stories, and might be especially keen on getting reporting funds over personal ones. Freelancers above all. They are still too often an invisible segment of the media world, so any funding allowing them to do their job is a lifeline right now.”

It’s likely the crisis will make many rethink how sustainable freelancing is. It’s also likely governments worldwide might be forced to address the future of work.

Keegan says: “Most people who go into freelancing know how unpredictable it can be, the importance of savings, of keeping expenses low, of being prepared for times of need. That is why many of us have been getting by these past months. Freelancers are resilient.

“Is that a feasible way of approaching work long-term? Probably not. It would be nice to have some sort of lasting security.”


Organisations offering funding for journalists during Covid-19 include:

The International Press Institute:

The Rory Peck Trust offers grants to professional journalists who have lost commissions as a result of the pandemic. To apply you must be able to receive a grant from a British registered charity:

The International Women’s Media Foundation Journalism Relief Fund is open to female journalists, including freelancers. Processing times may be lengthy. Details on fund’s website.

The Pulitzer Center is accepting applications for its international, data journalism, and Bringing Stories Home grants:

You can apply for the HK$7,500 government handout at the Hong Kong government’s website.

Marianna Cerini is a freelance journalist writing about culture, travel and lifestyle. In Asia since 2010, her work has been published by CNN Style, Al Jazeera, and The Daily Beast among others



Apology for FCC Japan magazine cover sparks resignations

At least six journalist members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan have resigned in a row over its board’s “craven collapse” to the Tokyo Organising Committee for the 2020 Olympic Games after it complained about the cover design of the FCCJ’s monthly magazine.

President Khaldon Azhari reads out the FCCJ’s apology President Khaldon Azhari reads out the FCCJ’s apology

The April edition of the magazine, Number 1 Shimbun, had an article with tips for journalists on reporting the coronavirus pandemic and coincided with the postponement of the 2020 Games until next summer.

The cover art by designer Andrew Pothecary showed the Games’ logo, altered to incorporate the distinctive “T” of the COVID-19 molecule.

Pothecary, who has since become the target of threats on social media, declined to be interviewed for this story but told the Asahi newspaper that the design was “satire” with no intention to demean Japan.

April’s Number 1 Shimbun with cover design removed April’s Number 1 Shimbun with cover design removed

The Tokyo 2020 design and the International Olympic Committee’s logo have been parodied in cartoons numerous times previously. Nevertheless, the Tokyo Organising Committee (TOC) wrote to the FCCJ on May 19 requesting the removal of the “extremely disappointing” design as it was a breach of copyright.

Khaldon Azhari, FCCJ president and president of PanOrient News, claims the board was “surprised” at the reaction of the Olympic organisers and said “sources also informed some board members, including myself, TOC will go after the club on legal grounds”.

Julian Ryall Julian Ryall

Azhari said the club’s lawyers concluded that it would not win a legal challenge, although the TOC made no mention of commencing a legal case, and the club should comply. He said the board was “unanimous” in its decision not to stand its ground on freedom of expression or freedom of the press.

Other copyright experts say that the FCCJ would have had a solid case if it had fought its corner. “Clearly, the cover offended some people in our host country, Japan,” Azhari said at a press conference at the FCCJ on May 21. “We would like to express our sincere regret to anyone who it may have offended on all sides of the issue.”

Other board members disagree that acceding was “unanimous”. One said that most “thought it was a toothless threat and not worthy of a response”. The majority also saw the matter as “a clear freedom of the press issue and that the club should take a clear stand”.

The issue became big news in Japan, triggering angry calls to the front desk of the FCCJ. A number of staff received threatening calls on their mobile phones.

Concerned that a legal case would cause the FCCJ financial distress, the board withdrew the image. Greg Starr, the editor of the magazine, says he and Pothecary were “thrown beneath the bus”. Both have resigned.

“The fact that the board collapsed so utterly meant, to me, that there was no reason to stay around,” Starr said. He does not believe the image was a violation of copyright and is angered at Azhari’s apology.

“He did not give us any chance to defend ourselves before the board,” Starr said. “People can be offended, but the FCCJ does not have to apologise every time that someone powerful complains.”

Michael Penn, founder of the Shingetsu News Agency, is among the members who have resigned. “For me, defence of the freedom of the press is the core reason we have the FCCJ and it is written into our articles of association,” he said. “Until the FCCJ stands for the principles that it should stand for, I don’t want any part of it.”

Julian Ryall has been based in Japan since 1992 and is a correspondent for the South China Morning Post, The Daily Telegraph in London, Deutsche Welle in Germany and other publications around the world.

Are you blue or are you yellow? The colours dividing Hong Kong

Politics took on a different hue this year and the colour of someone’s loyalty determined where they ate, met and shopped. Photographer May James and student journalist Lauren F. Lau report

Restaurant’s clear ‘blue’ message to customers Restaurant’s clear ‘blue’ message to customers

Hong Kong has always been a vibrant city, the “Pearl of the East” which lures many. But two decades on from the 1997 handover and it seems like Hong Kong’s inner glow has dimmed.

The political engagement of Hongkongers has taken a turn since June 2019. Long gone are mild protests with general demands; a new era of strong-willed sentiment has shaken the people. The two sides are more clear-cut than ever, and colour-coded.

In the yellow camp are the pro-democracy supporters. They were strongly against a proposed extradition bill to China, now withdrawn but which caused social uproar last summer, and oppose being ruled from Beijing. The blue camp is pro-government, pro-police and pro-Beijing.

Café owner in blue T-shirt with ‘blue’ souvenirs for sale Café owner in blue T-shirt with ‘blue’ souvenirs for sale
‘Blue’ customers eat between COVID-19 dividers filled with messages of support for Hong Kong police ‘Blue’ customers eat between COVID-19 dividers filled with messages of support for Hong Kong police

Yellow and blue are essentially the new identity politics of Hong Kong. There is no longer a space for those that don’t pick a side, even though historically politics was never that important to Hongkongers.

Being the international financial centre it is, the money-driven people of Hong Kong used to seek convenience and efficiency in almost every aspect in life.

Now, it has all changed. Fundamentally, the people of Hong Kong have decided to hold onto what matters – their values and virtues. Justice must prevail, for both sides.

The crack has gone beyond the point of return. “Construction projects” were widely supported in the past year, when furious front-liners shattered glass panes and destroyed the premises of many businesses that expressed support for the government.

This behaviour created the concept of the “yellow economic circle” –  people support the pro-democracy camp by spending money only on businesses that share their politics. Mobile apps now help people locate where “yellow” restaurants and shops are. Supporters have researched all sorts of businesses, including coffee shops, beauty brands and supermarkets, naming those that should be patronised.

The blue camp has created similar platforms to promote businesses. The new pro-establishment Hong Kong Coalition is setting up a website to identify businesses that need an economic boost after the double blow from citywide protests last year and the pandemic.

The tensions created from the protest have torn society apart, and personal relationships have not been spared. Marriages, families and friendships have been traumatised. Threats to kick family members out of the household have become common insults at the dinner table. One year later, these shattered bonds are breaking the city’s heart.

FCC and Wall Committee member May James has been a freelance photographer since 2016. She documented the Hong Kong protests last year, working for Hong Kong Free Press, AFP, Bloomberg Asia and many other titles.

Lauren F. Lau was born and raised in Hong Kong and is a journalism student at HKU. She has written for SCMP and The Standard and is currently a reporter at iCable News, HKIBC.

Cake decorated with the pro-democracy chant of ‘Hong Kong Add Oil’ Cake decorated with the pro-democracy chant of ‘Hong Kong Add Oil’
Torn apart: This young ‘yellow’ medic, aged 18, comes from a ‘blue’ family who are threatening to ‘kick him out’ of their home Torn apart: This young ‘yellow’ medic, aged 18, comes from a ‘blue’ family who are threatening to ‘kick him out’ of their home
A cafe artist drawing “Hong Kong Add oil” on a chocolate drink at a pro-democracy “know as Yellow” cafe A cafe artist drawing “Hong Kong Add oil” on a chocolate drink at a pro-democracy “know as Yellow” cafe
A ‘yellow’ online protest game A ‘yellow’ online protest game

The Correspondent, Jul-Sep 2020

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