Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2007, 12:00am

From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1948

Writing in the Straits Times - and reprinted in the Post - journalist J.C. Belhargue labelled Hong Kong a 'spiv's paradise' with a 'terrible air of apathy'.

'I arrived in Hong Kong unprepared for the cold that seemed to permeate the very thickest of borrowed overcoats, the embarrassing cordiality of the few, the rank bad manners of the mass of the people and the terrible air of apathy that seemed to hang over the colony.'

He went on to note that Singaporeans were much better-mannered than their HK counterparts. 'Ferry passengers astonished me with their acrobatic antics in forcing themselves to the head of queues ... Women were particularly bad-mannered, using elbows and feet to gain first place.' Belhargue did have some praise for the city though: 'Life is gay in Hong Kong. There is plenty of money in circulation and the cost of living is extremely low.' He also noted its natural beauty, tall, modern buildings and 'teeming waterfront'. His last words though were: 'I still haven't solved why such a beautiful city could breed such ill-mannered and apathetic people.'

Under the headline 'Reds launch offensive', the Post carried a report on China's civil war. Communist forces were reported to have launched an offensive on all Nationalist bridgeheads on the north bank of the Yangtze to force the Nationalists into surrender and in 'a determined effort to occupy Nanking and Shanghai as bases for a nationwide manhunt for war criminals' - including Chiang Kai-shek.

Nationalist leaders were reportedly extremely pessimistic about the chances for peace in the face of new communist demands, which included that talks should be held simultaneously while their troops crossed the Yangtse. The offensive followed a personal telegram to Mao Zedong from acting president Li Tsung-jen expressing his willingness to be 'burned in oil or dismembered as a war criminal if it would hasten peace'.

He also appealed to Mao to mollify the surrender terms. The reports of communist attempts to cross the Yangtse sent the already-inflated Nationalist Gold Yuan into a steep dive, losing 30 to 50 per cent of its value overnight.

King Abdullah of Transjordan predicted that the political situation in the Middle East might force the creation of a Greater Syria, combining such states as Syria, Iraq and his own. Speaking to the United Press, King Abdullah said: 'Never since the Crusades have such strong forces existed that drove Arab states into closer political and economic unity.' The 67-year-old king of the Hashemite kingdom did not specify the forces, but implied that a major one was the development of the Palestine state.

In New York a Manhattan magistrate told three youths that tossing tomatoes at foreign dignitaries was not an 'American democratic practice'. The three were charged with throwing tomatoes at British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin when he arrived in the city. Two received suspended sentences and the third was acquitted.

Japanese prime minister Shigeru Yoshida caused doubts about his country remaining neutral. 'Some people think that Japan will assume the position of a permanently neutral nation, but I doubt whether we can maintain such as position,' he said, citing Belgium in the first world war as an example.

Concerning Japan's participation in a Pacific defence pact, Mr Yoshida said that if a pact were drawn up along the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty, it would be impossible for his country to join because it was unarmed.