Xinhua gets it all upside down again

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 October, 1993, 12:00am


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THE photographs on yesterday's front page caused diehard British patriots to choke on their breakfast muffins. When Xinhua (the New China News Agency) put up the big flags for its China National Day celebrations on Wednesday night, it put the UK flag upside down.

For reference, the thin red stripe on the left hand side should touch the vertical side where the flagpole would be, not run off the top.

Flying it upside-down is an internationally recognised signal for ships in distress.

Chris Patten recognised the flip-up immediately, he told colleagues yesterday morning. We should hope so. It's his flag. Flags are probably the first lesson in the crash course in protocol given to new governors.

However, the people at Xinhua obviously have more difficulty. It's the second year in the row they have made this mistake.

Even the 20,000 British people living in Hong Kong have difficulty too. We got maybe three calls yesterday.

Political pundits were quick to say this represented a calculated insult, with the seamier end of the UK press first in the queue.

But we think it is inconsiderate of the British Government to have a confusing flag, which is nearly but not quite symmetrical.

Surely a blatant attempt to confuse foreigners and make Brits feel superior.

The Australians, who are thinking of designing a new flag, should ensure their flag is easy to understand, perhaps putting THIS WAY UP in reasonably large letters at the top.

The British should make their flag metric, or something.

Businesses never make this mistake. Boeing, for instance, has made it possible even for small children to tell whether one of its jets is upside down or flying backwards. Mr Patten's Business Council should give him advice on this matter.

Forbidden fruit A NOTICE to the Pripen International Trading Company of Malta. Despite its name, the Joe Bananas bar in Wan Chai is not capable of supplying 30,000 cartons of bananas.

It will not be replying to your request for a quotation.

Past masters NO one should be surprised to see some of the ever-popular electronic organisers being used to keep the score at today's Cricket Sixes competition by executives who have forgotten how to use pencil and paper.

But not all these gadgets are as smart as they seem. Many readers, including Barrie Brandon and John Sanders, were pleased to be offered hands-on seminars on the IQ-8000 Electronic Organizer, a classic organiser with diary, note-pad - everything you needto put some discipline and organisation into your life.

The letters, post-marked September 29 and received yesterday, invited them to a demonstration on September 23.

World wise ONE unusual supporter of the decision by World International to flip its name back to Wheelock and Co is John Marden, the last taipan of the trading giant before Sir Yue-kong Pao took it over, who described it yesterday as a ''good idea''.

Despite having heart operations last year, he remains on the board of Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels and a couple of private companies, although he says he has ''no relations'' with the current management of World.

Contrary to reports at the time that he was kicked out of his office after a fierce row, he claims that the parting was quite amicable.

There is, of course, one glue that holds Mr Marden and World together: they are fighting a court case brought by an arm of the Danish Government seeking more than $500 million over the collapse of Wheelock Maritime International.

One of the reasons cited by World for the change is the long history of the Wheelock name. One recent visitor to Shanghai confirmed that the group's Chinese name is still well-known there.

A sense of history is definitely needed when it comes to the court case started by the Danes. The original writs were issued in 1988 and 1989. This week the protagonists found out the main hearing was provisionally scheduled for July 1995.

Paper chase A READER in Kowloon posted a letter to us last week. It was addressed to: South China Morning Post Building, GPO Box 47, South China, China.

It was posted in Kowloon, two miles from the Post building. But because Hong Kong was missing, it was delivered to our office in Beijing.

It sucks ONE recent theme coming from the mainland has been that China must use more of its internal resources, such as its scientific expertise, and be less reliant on that coming from abroad.

So here it is, freshly announced: the automatic revolving sweet lolly.

The ball-shaped confection from over the border has a small motor like that of an electric toothbrush which revolves the lolly in the mouth, thus avoiding the need for arduous licking.

Miracle worker PROSPECTS for a solution to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade talks brightened this week. Among the GATT officials photographed at a meeting was one called Jesus.