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Obituary: Dr. Werner Burger, the World’s Foremost Chinese Currency Expert

By Tim Huxley

World-respected numismatist Dr. Werner Burger, who died on 15 November at 85, was considered the preeminent expert on Qing dynasty currency. Born in 1936 in Bavaria, Werner discovered an interest in China during a school visit to a Chinese painting exhibition. 

Frustrated that no one on the field trip could read Chinese characters, he studied the language at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich before setting off for China via Cold War-era Czechoslovakia and Russia. He taught German at Fudan University in Shanghai, but the school closed in 1965 due to the Cultural Revolution. 

The authorities sent Werner to Suzhou to work as a sheep farmer. Unsurprisingly, the job did not satisfy his boundless intellectual curiosity, so he headed to Hong Kong, which became home for the rest of his life. Werner’s passion for Qing dynasty economic history evolved into a specialisation in numismatics. Having obtained the first and only PhD in Chinese numismatics from Munich University, Werner turned his focus to Qing currency and spent years searching for missing mint records. 

He also acquired coins from the era, which lasted from 1644 to 1912, rummaging around antique shops on frequent trips to China. Once, Werner collected 70 100-kilogramme bags of coins from a generous Hong Kong scrap metal dealer who had imported them from Indonesia, where Qing coins circulated until the 1940s.

Accompanied by his wife Lucy, who Werner met in Hong Kong in 1975, the expert assembled the world’s only complete collection of Qing currency, representing all 268 years of the dynasty. It took 16 years to finally gain access to the First Historical Archives in Beijing, where the missing mint records were discovered after workers demolished a wall during renovations. This remarkable find enabled Werner to complete his lengthy search and ultimately led to his seminal work, Ch’ing Cash, published in 2016 by the University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong Kong. The widely acclaimed volume has been hailed as the most definitive work on the subject. 

From Werner Burger’s magisterial book, Ch’ing Cash.

While researching and collecting Qing monetary history, Werner realised that the dynasty mismanaged its currency. This caused an economic disaster, which he concluded, led to the dynasty’s collapse and the cession of Hong Kong to Britain.

In addition to his numismatic research, Werner supported his wife’s humanitarian projects across China, from providing access to higher education for children from impoverished rural areas to installing infrastructure and sanitation facilities in Huaiji and Meizhou.

Despite being crippled by arthritis, Werner spent his later years cataloguing his collection and studying in his library. His inquisitive mind remained as sharp as ever; he stayed abreast of current affairs and voiced his often forthright opinions. Werner, who regularly visited the FCC, shared his findings during an illuminating club talk and always seemed most content while enjoying a glass of wine with friends and his beloved Lucy.

Werner expressed frustration that no other universities in the world (even in Hong Kong, where Chinese numismatics played a role in the city’s development) teach the subject. It is unlikely that anyone will ever have such comprehensive knowledge of Chinese currency or so enthusiastically share their passion with the world. 

2022: Time to Write That Best-Seller

New year, new ambitions. For those who aspire to add ‘book author’ to their CV, Carla Thomas quizzes publishing maven Jo Lusby for insider tips. 

We all get a little more goal-oriented at the dawn of a new year. Maybe it’s that squeaky clean feeling of settled ledgers, a calendar yet to be filled with Zoom calls, or just internal pressure to aim higher. 

And if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to sit down and write a book, then this one’s for you. We’ve enlisted FCC member Jo Lusby, the co-founder of China-focused literary agency, Pixie B, to weigh in. As a publishing veteran and the former North Asia head of Penguin Random House, Lusby knows a good story pitch when she reads one. 

She’s worked with Nobel Laureate Mo Yan, and was the first to spot Man Asian Literary Prize winner Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem. She even brought the British children’s classic, Peppa Pig, to mainland China. 

Speaking to The Correspondent, Lusby shares the highs and lows of her career, explains how to sell a book idea, and what to expect if it gets the green light. 


What’s the typical journey from book idea to store shelves?
Jo Lusby: If someone thinks they have a book in them, the very first step is to sit down and write. There is no such thing as a guaranteed hit or a definitive “no” when it comes to ideas – it’s all in the writing and execution. 

The next step is for an author to find an agent. This involves a bit of networking and a lot of online searching. You can try checking the acknowledgements of books that cater to a similar topic or readership – authors often thank their agents there. Literary agents will develop the text and get the proposal in shape, then submit to editors they think would be best suited for the work. From there, it usually takes up to a year for the book to actually hit the shelves. 

For non-fiction books, publishers will commit on the basis of a full proposal, including a synopsis, a couple of sample chapters, and an introduction to the author and what they hope to achieve. Works of fiction should generally be finished before a publisher will consider them. 

Lusby moderating a panel at the 2021 Hong Kong International Literary Festival. (Photo: Photo: Daniel Ogren & Tolga Akmen / AFP)

What kinds of story ideas stand out?
JL: The proposals I find the most exciting tend to approach a known subject from an unusual perspective, or shine a light on an entirely unknown topic that feels relevant. 

An agent needs to be persuaded that the story will have enough to sustain a book-length narrative, and the writing needs to be unforced and flow naturally. Other than that, publishing is an industry based on few absolutes – it’s really just a sense that this fills a need among either readers or commissioning editors. 


How much can someone expect to make from their first book?
JL: Certainly not enough to quit your day job, and don’t expect the hourly rate to make sense, either! First book deals can be as little as US$3,000-US$5,000, depending on the publisher and topic. On the upper end, there’s really no limit – Barack and Michelle Obama were reportedly paid US$60 million for their first two books

It comes down to simple mathematics and a perception of competition. If a publisher believes that other publishers will also be chasing the work, then they will offer a higher amount – upwards of US$100,000 – to take it off the table, or there could even be an auction situation, where rival publishers bid against each other on the advances to secure the work.


For those struggling to find a publisher, when should they throw in the towel?
JL: There’s no definite answer for this one either, but I think you should keep the faith as long as you and your agent still believe in the work. If you get to the point where you’re knocking on the same doors, however, then it might be time to give up.


What about self-publishing?
JL: Self-publishing is a good route for authors who have a ready-made audience – a lot of business book writers, for example, will offer books as part of their speaking circuit or training courses. An author will normally take a higher percentage of the book’s earnings with self-publishing – up to 50 percent instead of 10-15 percent on print, and 25 percent on eBook or audio – but it’s often a larger percentage of a smaller number. 

Be prepared to work very hard if you choose to self-publish. Independent bookshops will support local authors and are willing to take copies, but successfully selling self-published books outside of your immediate community is very difficult. Gaining visibility on major online retailers like Amazon requires a lot of time, energy and specialist skills. 

Mo Yan Mo Yan, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in literature, has been described as ‘China’s answer to Kafka’. (Photo: Bengt Nyman)

What kinds of services and support can you expect working with a publisher?
JL: From editing the manuscript to jacket design, marketing and PR, author tours, and sales and distribution, you should receive a full range of services. Different books will receive different levels of support from companies, but the starting point for getting good service from a publisher is making sure the editor who acquired it is excited. 

They are the person who has to sell the book internally to all their colleagues to make sure the sales people are excited to sell, the designer gives it a great jacket, and the marketing team brings their inspiration (and budgets!) to the launch. 


Can you tell us about a manuscript that really missed the mark for you?
JL: Many years ago, I received a manuscript for a children’s book from a Chinese publisher. They added that the translation into English would be done very quickly and at no cost… because the translator was a US-educated individual who was currently in prison (with plenty of free time on their hands!) and unable to accept money for work. I declined and never heard anything further. 


Which book are you particularly proud to have published?
JL: The first book I acquired for Penguin was Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, in 2005 [a semi-autobiographical novel about a student from Beijing sent to Mongolia at the height of the Cultural Revolution]. I had just set up the company’s first office in China, and I bought the book one month later. 

It went on to win the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize, and for a while was the highest-selling work of fiction in translation from China. It was a really exciting journey, not only because it was the first book I published, but also because it was showcasing a personal story and perspective that at the time felt very fresh to a Western readership. 


How has publishing in Hong Kong changed under the new political landscape?
JL: The entire publishing industry in Hong Kong has become much more conservative in terms of the authors they will work with and the books that will be published and sold. There are stories of publishers having books line-edited before they can be printed and bookshops selling potentially sensitive titles under the counter, if at all. Whether that’s just self-censorship by publishers or the printers themselves, nobody knows at this stage. 


Can you explain Peppa Pig’s 2018 run-in with the Chinese censors?
JL: Peppa Pig became a meme in China, with people creating spoof artwork of the character as a “gangsta”. This part of the IP [intellectual property] was banned – the memes – while the book publishing and TV broadcast continued uninterrupted. 

We actually sold more copies, because parents were panic-buying for their Peppa-addicted children in case they were pulled from the shelves. 

“Peppa Pig” was also briefly blocked as a search term online, but we saw a benefit to that, too; online retailers placed the product on their homepages so that shoppers didn’t have to search for it. 

In the lobby, find a wide array of books by FCC members on the club’s bookshelf. (Photo: Lakshmi Harilela)

What’s your best advice to anyone who wants to write a book?
JL: Just do it, and write as though nobody is reading. You can edit, cut, rework or entirely abandon the work, but the biggest challenge is getting what is in your mind down on paper. 

Take your time with it, too. People often share work with publishers too early, before it’s been properly crafted, edited or fully thought through. Get feedback from trusted friends before you show anyone you’re hoping to work with.


Best in the Business

J.K Rowling British author and screenwriter J.K. Rowling. (Photo: Tolga Akmen / AFP)

What makes a best-selling book? Even JK Rowling (above), whose tomes (estimated: more than 500 million copies sold) have spawned movies, franchises and theme parks, might be pressed to answer. Perseverance helps, as the former jobless café scribbler would attest; and being lucky enough to hit on a formula that segues with current appetites. 

But – no surprises here – don’t underestimate public taste. How else to explain Jeffrey Archer’s schlockbuster Kane and Abel (33 million) coming close to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (35 million), or EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey (15 million) trumping Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (13 million)? 


Not Quite As Easy as ABC

Three FCC stalwarts supply some hints on turning a manuscript into a masterpiece.

Mike Chinoy: “My biggest challenge writing China Live: People Power and the Television Revolution (Rowman & Littlefield: 1999) was finding my voice. I was lucky to have a good editor who told me ‘the reader wants to know not only what happened, but what you thought and felt about it – your private opinions and emotions.’ So I had to learn to set aside my journalistic objectivity, which I had spent long years honing.”

Johan Nylander: “I wish I had known when I was starting out how easy and fun it is to self-publish. I’ve written three books, and I published the last two – Shenzhen Superstars (2017) and The Epic Split (2020), both about China – myself. They sold much better than the first, although it was published by one of Scandinavia’s leading publishing houses.”

Vaudine England: “My latest book, Fortune’s Bazaar – The Making of Hong Kong, will be published by Scribner/Simon & Schuster in the US, and Corsair/Little Brown in the UK next summer [2022]. Two things are key to getting published: one is to have an important story to tell; the second is to have good friends who, in my case, asked their agent to recommend who I should contact to secure my agent. It worked!” 



Carla Thomas

Carla Thomas is a Canadian journalist. She is currently the editor of Liv magazine, Hong Kong’s health and wellness publication, and a freelance writer in her spare time. Her work has appeared in the SCMP, The Washington Post, Forbes, Time Out Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

Share Your Favourite FCC Memories With Us

Get ready for a very special issue of The Correspondent to mark the club’s 40th anniversary on Lower Albert Road – and we’re hoping that members will take part. Did you hear an inspirational speaker at the club? Find a mentor? Make lifelong friendships? Share your favourite memories with us!

We plan to feature the most colourful anecdotes in this commemorative issue. Share your memories ([email protected]) by 31 January for a chance to be included.

Capturing the Black Lives Matter Movement in Black and White

Ed Peters peers through the lens of FCC absent member Robert Gerhardt, who has been documenting the social justice movement for the past seven years. 

New Yorker Robert Gerhardt’s photographs have been published around the world, as has his writing on press freedom and human rights. But for the past seven years his work’s particular leitmotif has been the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. 

Black Lives Matter One of Eric Garner’s relatives shouts at police in Staten Island on 17 July 2019, the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death.

BLM sprang up in July 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot dead Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teen in Florida. Gerhardt picked up the story the following year, after the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in similar circumstances. Since then, Gerhardt has been concentrating on photographing demonstrations on his home turf with manual Nikon F cameras and Ilford HP5 film – a piquant rarity in the age of digital dominance. Dubbed “Mic Check” after the protestors’ rallying cry, his project represents a significant body of work. 

Black Lives Matter Protestors assemble in Columbus Circle, 28 March, 2018.

“Some protests were wall-to-wall people, sometimes it would be just a few dozen,” says Gerhardt. “Sometimes I was the only photographer there. And sometimes it was every news outlet with every camera they could get their hands on. But it always kept moving.”

Black Lives Matter Protestors march past the New York Public Library on 42nd Street on 18 April, 2016.

For a long time, the fact that the protests were going on around the country and nothing was changing weighed on people, he says. “They, and myself, found it hard to fathom how police officers were not held accountable when the evidence seemed so stacked against them.” 

Black Lives Matter Demonstrators confront police officers on the fifth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Times Square on 9 August, 2019.

“But it was this same outrage – that the killings kept happening and that no matter how many protests took place very little changed as a result – that seemed to drive people into the streets to protest time and time again.”

Black Lives Matter A Black Lives Matter protest on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem on 20 March, 2017.

Despite having taken thousands of images at BLM protests, one in particular sticks in Gerhardt’s mind. It’s not simply the lighting and composition that make it remarkable, it’s also because one of the subjects is holding up a sign that reads: “We Will Not Be Silent”.

Black Lives Matter BLM protestors urge police to ‘Stop Killing Our Children’ in Crown Heights on 19 June, 2020.

“I shot it in Union Square in November 2014. The sentiment on that sign has never left the BLM movement, which continues to be driven by anger and frustration,” he explains.

Black Lives Matter Police trying to keep protestors from leaving Union Square Park Area, New York City on 13 August, 2017.

Gerhardt’s photographs have met with near universal acclaim, but as one very well-known American once pointed out, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

“Feisty is one way to put some Far Right reactions,” he says. “But I do seem to have been spared the worst of the really horrible things that have been said online about other journalists. So far, anyway.” 

Rob Gerhardt Rob Gerhardt is an absent FCC member and a freelance photographer based in New York.

Journalist Arrests on the Rise in China

In December, journalism advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued “The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China”, an 80-page report cataloguing the assault on press freedom across the country.

In the foreword, RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire contends that President Xi Jinping had “restored a media culture worthy of the Maoist era, in which freely accessing information has become a crime and to provide information an even greater crime.” 

“The Great Leap Backwards” recalls the 1990s-2000s when mainland China authorities regarded foreign correspondents as a “necessary evil” that “fulfilled the essential role of informing the world on the economic and social development of China”. It then outlines numerous examples of journalists who have faced grave consequences for their frank reportage in recent years. As of 1 January, RSF estimates that as many as 127 journalists are currently detained in Greater China, more than any other country. The cites examples such as Haze Fan, a Bloomberg news assistant who remains in detention after being arrested for “endangering national security” in December 2020. 

It also notes Sun Wenguang, a retired university professor who police snatched in the middle of an interview with Voice of America in August 2018, and ousted Australian journalists Bill Birtles and Michael Smith. Both sought sanctuary in their country’s embassy in September 2020 after drawing ire for investigating the disappearance of Chinese-Australian CGTN TV presenter Cheng Lei. 

After holding Lei in “residential surveillance at a designated location” for several months, authorities formally charged Lei with “supplying state secrets overseas” in February 2021. The journalist has yet to be sent for trial as of 1 January.

In the section devoted to Hong Kong, entitled “Hong Kong: Press Freedom in Free Fall”, the RSF report chronicles a rapid decline of journalistic freedom, from the shuttering of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and jailing of its founder Jimmy Lai to the gradual neutering of RTHK, once highly respected for its outspoken coverage. The RSF report also notes police violence aimed at Hong Kong journalists and the weaponisation of visas. 

After Sue-Lin Wong of The Economist was denied a visa in November, the club issued a statement that ended: “We again call on the government to provide concrete assurances that applications for employment visas and visa extensions will be handled in a timely manner with clearly stated requirements and procedures and that the visa process for journalists will not be politicised or weaponised.”

Chinese state media outlet Global Times has rejected previous RSF reports, including the group’s annual World Press Freedom Index, and accused RSF of bias and political subversion under the guise of press freedom. 

After the RSF report came out, more than 200 officers raided the newsroom of Stand News on 29 December and arrested seven people linked to the publication. The outlet ceased operations hours later. Following the closure of Stand News, the online portal Citizen News announced it had shut down to “ensure everyone is safe in this time of crisis”. Citizen News is considered the last independent Chinese-language news site in Hong Kong.

“These actions are a further blow to press freedom in Hong Kong and will continue to chill the media environment in the city following a difficult year for the city’s news outlets,” the FCC wrote in a statement regarding Stand News. 

In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote: “Those who engage in activities that endanger national security and undermine the rule of law and public order under the cover of journalism are the black sheep tarnishing the press freedom and will be held accountable in accordance with law … Since the implementation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has returned to the right track, and the press freedom has been better protected in a more secure, stable and law-based environment.”

Year of the Tiger: Time to Heal

Feng shui practitioner Priya Subberwal sees a time of growth, healing and – glory be! – more travel in the year ahead. She gives Morgan M Davis a primer on how to activate our best energy in work and life.

FCC member Priya Subberwal trained as an interior designer but later studied Chinese metaphysics across Asia, tying her penchant for design to her knowledge of feng shui (the art of arranging spaces to achieve harmony in daily life). 

Today she runs Hong Kong-based Disha Consulting, offering clients guidance on how to improve feng shui in their homes and offices. Through “destiny readings” (an analysis of personal factors, such as time and date of birth), Subberwal also helps clients tap into their unique personal strengths and choose dates for important events, such as corporate launches, moving offices or buying a new home. 

With the Year of the Tiger starting on 1 February, The Correspondent spoke with Subberwal to catch a glimpse of what 2022 has in store and how feng shui could bring out the best of the year. Take heart, it looks like more travel could, maybe, possibly be on the horizon! 


What led you to pursue feng shui as a career?
Priya Subberwal: I’m a qualified interior designer. When I was in Mumbai, I came across a coffee table book about feng shui. At that point, I thought it would add to my interior design skillset and support my clients with more insights. 

When I moved to Southeast Asia in 2007, I had more resources and studied quite extensively in Singapore, Taiwan, China and Malaysia. 

I started including feng shui practices in my own house and saw a change. From there, friends and family asked me to help them. I also worked a lot with expatriates in Hong Kong – a constantly moving population. Every time someone comes and chooses a new home, feng shui becomes relevant. Eventually, after being in Hong Kong for some time, I began consulting with more businesses and started my company.


What’s the overarching purpose of feng shui?
PS: Feng shui helps people tap into the best energies from the environment and align them with their goals. The whole purpose is to enhance your life; it’s like Wi-Fi. You want to have a strong connection, so you choose the best location and direction to boost positive energy for that. Whatever objective you have in life, you can enhance it with feng shui.


What are your clients generally looking for?
PS: When it’s for an office, they look for career- and wealth-related advice. Since feng shui is goal-oriented, we want to activate the best areas to enhance business opportunities and ease any hurdles with their staff, bosses or relationships. For the home, there are so many other things we keep in mind – health, relationships, education, and more.


How do consultations work?
PS: Initially, I ask for two things – date and time of birth – because I need to establish a destiny chart, a personal dynamic energy (or Qi) map. Many people think it’s just about their year of birth, but it’s not that simple. 

Actually, there’s a cosmic trinity: the first item in the trinity is your destiny chart, which is written in stone. That’s your parents, your upbringing. The second is the feng shui, tapping into the environment to boost energies and help you achieve goals. The last one is “man luck”, essentially, what you do with the optimised energies. 

Everybody has four animal signs in their natal chart. The four animal signs represent one of the five elements – water, fire, metal, earth and wood – in their yin or yang form. The elements form combinations, clashes, harmonies or punishments, which play out in different aspects of our life: relationships, career, wealth and health. 

Priya Subberwal FCC member Priya Subberwal

What do most people get wrong about feng shui?
PS: Many people have a misguided notion that if they put a fish tank in one corner and a red vase in another, they’ve done feng shui. It is not that easy. You have to put in the work along with the feng shui to achieve your goal. The most basic yet effective ‘work’ would be to use the locations in a home or office with the highest vibrational energy of the year and avoid negative areas.


What do we need to know about 2022?
PS: Every year brings a new energy form. For example, 2022 is a Water-Tiger Year and will affect each person differently based on their destiny chart. Tiger is a wood element, which relates to growth, healing and medicine. The tiger is also a travelling star. It’s a more optimistic time coming up – a time of moving forward. 


What does this mean for FCC members?
PS: The southernmost space in your home or office is one of the most auspicious areas for the Year of the Tiger. Set up your desk there, if possible, and maybe light a candle daily. Another option would be to simply sit with your back to the south, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, strategise your thoughts and make a few work-related calls and emails.

Rest and relaxation are crucial for good health, so avoid sleeping in the southwest room or area of your home; the ‘Sickness Star No. 2’ resides there for 2022. If you don’t have this option, ensure that your bed’s headrest is not facing southwest.

If you’re in marketing, make your pitches from the west of the house or building. For 2022, that’s the area where you will have the most confidence and oratory skills.

Learn more about Priya Subberwal’s work:


Priya’s Toolkit

Tap into your best energy with these sources.

Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics
Plot your destiny chart online for free with this handy resource.


Stories and Lessons on Feng Shui
Author, feng shui master and astrology expert Joey Yap debunks myths and modernises the practice.

FCC Recipe: Beef & Guinness Pie

Hearty? For sure! Bursting with flavour? Most definitely! Learn to make the mother of all pies at home this winter season.


For the Pastry: 

200g All-purpose flour
1 pinch Kosher salt
110g Butter and lard, mixed
45g Cold water 

For the Pie Filling 

1kg Beef, cut into 2cm cubes
25g All-purpose flour
30g Unsalted butter
15g Vegetable oil
400g Sliced onion
400g Carrot, cut into 2cm slices
10g Tomato paste
10g Worcestershire sauce
500ml Guinness
300ml Beef stock
10g Granulated sugar
30ml Water
1 pc Egg, beaten
To taste Freshly ground black pepper
To taste Kosher salt 


Instructions for Pastry 

  1. Gather flour, salt and butter in a large bowl, kneading the mixture by hand (or with a blender) until it is crumbly. Note: Mix as quickly as possible to avoid warming the dough. 
  2. Add 30ml of very cold water. Form dough into a ball using the blender. Note: a cold knife may be used instead of a blender. Add more water if the dough feels too dry. 
  3. Cover the ball of dough in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. 

Instructions for Pie 

  1. Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper, add flour and toss until evenly coated. 
  2. Melt butter and oil in a pre-heated pan. Roast the beef cubes for 1 minute or until golden brown. Remove the beef cubes and set aside. 
  3. Add onions and carrots to the pan. Fry gently for about 2 minutes. 
  4. Return meat to the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, Guinness, beef stock and sugar. 
  5. Grind in plenty of black pepper and a little salt. Stir well and bring to a boil. 
  6. Cover the pan, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook slowly for about 90 minutes or until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened with a glossy sheen. 
  7. Remove from heat, place into a 1.5-litre deep pie dish. Leave to cool completely. 
  8. Heat oven to 200°C (400°F). Roll out pastry dough to 3mm thick. 
  9. Cut a 2cm strip from the rolled-out pastry. 
  10. Brush the rim of the pie dish with water and place the pastry strip around the rim, pressing it down. 
  11. Cut out the remaining pastry about 2cm larger than the pie dish. 
  12. Place a pie funnel in the centre of the filling. Note: This will support the pastry and keep it from sinking into the filling and becoming soggy. 
  13. Place pastry lid over the top. Press down on the edges and seal. Trim off any excess pastry and crimp edges with a fork. 
  14. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg. Make a hole in the centre to reveal the pie funnel. 
  15. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. 

Meet Benny Kwok Chi-ming, FCC IT Manager

Heading up the FCC’s computer department, Benny Kwok works behind the scenes to keep the club’s tech on track. 

You’re the FCC’s IT manager – is this a field that’s always interested you?
Benny Kwok: Remember Atari? It led the video games market back in the 1970s and ‘80s. Growing up in Hong Kong, I was fascinated by this game, and I’ve been interested in IT and computers ever since.


When did you join the FCC?
BK: 2015. I’ve been in the IT industry for 30 years. When this job came up, I jumped at the opportunity.


What do you like about it?
BK: The challenge! Every club event is a big event for me. The most exciting recently was introducing the Zoom sessions in 2020. They were a brand-new concept and quite a challenge to accomplish during the pandemic. Thanks to the trust of the Board and the General Manager, we’ve built up the system to host speakers from all over the world. 

The new FCC website is another fascinating project. As we continue to roll out new features, the site will provide more innovative functions for members and improve overall performance.


What do you do day-to-day?
BK: I’ll set up the computer and audiovisual system at FCC events, then supervise video production and editing. I’m also responsible for the FCC website content management, EDM preparation and distribution, computer programming, and monitoring and maintaining the club’s computer facilities. There are just two other people in the department, so we’re a close-knit team.


How about your family and downtime?
BK: I am married with one son, who is now 17. From the looks of things, he is going to do well in business. But – and I have to chuckle – he’s not the least bit interested in IT. 

In my free time, I’m very keen on photography, and specialise in landscapes with my Nikon D810. Before the pandemic, I used to go to Japan twice a year, usually to Hokkaido. I love the food and the scenery. I don’t speak much Japanese, but that’s where Google Translate comes in.


Benny Hill, Benny Goodman, Benny and the Jets – who do you relate to most?
BK: Actually, I think Benny Chan Muk-Sing, who directed the “New Police Story”, among other classic Hong Kong films. He worked behind the scenes; I work behind the computer.

A Deal for Junior Journalists

The FCC affords members access to the best talks in town, mouthwatering meals, rewarding connections, live music and an oasis in the heart of the city. To help early-career journalists and those whose income has been impacted by the pandemic, the club is pleased to introduce its “Special Promotion” for new Correspondent and Journalist members. Each month, the Membership Committee will review applications on a case-by-case basis. 

  • 1st year: HK$250 per month + annual staff bonus HK$250* 
  • 2nd year: HK$500 per month + annual staff bonus HK$500* 
  • 3rd year: HK$750 per month + annual staff bonus HK$750* 
  • 4th year: HK$1,100 per month + annual staff bonus HK$1,100*

*Gratuity payable 50 percent in June & 50 percent in December. 

Note: Minimum spend applies. 

From the President: The FCC’s Long History in Hong Kong

Dear FCC Members,

Once, while wandering the picturesque paths above the University of Hong Kong, I came across a small, white brick and granite coach house with oversized doors. It’s called “Stone House,” and a plaque outside describes it as the original home of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong. 

Built in 1923, the heritage building serves as a reminder of the FCC’s long narrative in the city. Ever since the club relocated from Shanghai to Hong Kong at the end of China’s civil war in 1949, it has been woven into the city’s history and psyche.

The club has moved around over the years. From Stone House, it shifted to a mansion on Conduit Road and quite famously became the set of 1955 romantic drama, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing”. It’s fitting, since the film’s male lead, Mark Elliott (played by William Holden), is an American reporter based in Hong Kong who dashes off to cover the Korean War. 

That wasn’t the only time the FCC appeared in popular culture. John le Carré’s celebrated 1977 spy novel, The Honourable Schoolboy, features the FCC, as does the 1997 film “Chinese Box” starring Jeremy Irons and Gong Li.

For years, foreign correspondents across the region treated Hong Kong more as a rest and recreation station than a story in its own right. When the Vietnam War broke out, Hong Kong provided a convenient, calm colonial backwater and vacation haven for reporters and photographers stationed in Saigon.

Hong Kong maintained its role as a key correspondents’ base during some of the region’s most dramatic news events. A large contingent of reporters, photographers and camera operators flew from Hong Kong to the Philippines to cover the 1986 “People Power Revolution” – which toppled the regime of Ferdinand Marcos – and ended up staging their own occupation of the Manila Hotel. 

I also used Hong Kong as my base as a Washington Post correspondent in the 1990s when I covered the fall of the Suharto regime in Indonesia, Hun Sen’s coup in Cambodia, and the arrest and trial of Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia.

Many stories have unfolded in Hong Kong, too: the Communist-led riots of 1967, the flight of the Vietnamese boat people at the end of the Vietnam War, the arrival of dissidents smuggled from China after the Tiananmen Square uprising as part of “Operation Yellowbird” in 1989 and, of course, the Handover to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. 

Since then, we’ve had avian flu, SARS, the 2014 Occupy movement and the 2019 unrest. And now, Hong Kong’s political makeover is well underway with the new National Security Law and recent changes to the electoral system.

One constant has been the central role of the Hong Kong-based press corps and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club; in its many iterations, the club has always been the main gathering point. It’s long been a truism that when less hospitable countries expelled correspondents, they would relocate to media-friendly Hong Kong, where freedom of the press was respected.

Since 1982, the FCC’s home has been the Old Dairy Farm Depot at 2 Lower Albert Road. So in 2022, we will be celebrating 40 years in our current location and 70 years since we first established “The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong”. We plan to stage a few commemorative events, and publish a bumper issue of The Correspondent in April, so stay tuned.

Our press club has quite a rich legacy. And it all began in that little white granite house at 15 Kotewall Road at the close of the Chinese civil war. If you’re in the neighbourhood, pay a visit to this opening paragraph of FCC history.

Keith Richburg
Hong Kong
17 December 2021

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