Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2007, 12:00am

From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1966

At the bottom of page 2 of the South China Sunday Post-Herald on June 19, it was reported that the mainland's premier, Chou En-lai [now known as Zhou En-lai ], had told Romanian Communist Party chiefs at a banquet held in Bucharest that ''a great socialist cultural revolution' was being unfolded in his country against 'anti-party and anti-socialists elements''.

'We want to demolish all the old ideology and culture and all the old customs and habits,' Chou told his hosts, according to a few paragraphs attributed to the New China News Agency (now called Xinhua). The report also quoted the Liberation Army Daily as saying 'the campaign against dissident officials and intellectuals was directed at defending the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' and preventing a return of the 'Chiang Kai-shek clique'.'

'If we do not carry out this revolution but allow the representatives of the bourgeoisie to carry out their schemes, some incident of the Hungarian-type or some counter-revolutionary coup d'etat of the Kruschev-type is bound to occur', the army newspaper reported. 'At such a moment, the possibility would arise of the Chiang Kai-shek clique returning to the mainland and great numbers of landlords and despots and their armed bands, hitting back and taking retaliation.'

It seems to have taken the Post a full day to grasp the significance of Chou's speech, which was appended to the end of a bland, wire-service report on a meeting in Geneva of 'the communist-backed World Peace Council'.

The following day, a Monday, Chou's speech received its due significance: A front-page lead and a leader informed readers that the Cultural Revolution had officially begun. Under the headline 'Chou Admits Purge In Peking', the front-page report stated the premier's speech marked the first time that 'a leading member of the Peking Government has admitted publicly, for the first time outside China, that a purge is going on in China of anti-Party, anti-Socialist and counter-revolutionary intellectuals'.

The leader stated that Chou's speech had confirmed months of 'Western speculation' whether such a purge was, in fact, going on. The fact that Chou had given the speech himself 'demolished' notions that he may have been a target of such a purge.

The death of two Post journalists had been a 'shock and bitter blow to all who knew them', said T.G.N.Pearce, the newspaper's publisher and managing director. John Stuart and Kevin Murphy, 'two young men in their prime', died on their way home, after putting to bed the previous week's issue of the South China Sunday Post-Herald. They had been 'swept to their untimely deaths by floods in Magazine Gap Road', just above Admiralty, the next issue reported. Stuart was from South Africa, where he had 'a varied and most adventurous career'. Murphy, an Australian, had joined the newspaper nine months previously, after a cadetship on the Melbourne Age and Sydney Telegraph.

The master and third mate of a Hong Kong-registered ship that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef off northeastern Australia on January 9 was ordered to be 'severely reprimanded' by a Marine Court of Inquiry. The grounding of the Eastern Argosy was due to the officers' negligence, according to the court. The captain testified that he had not used a pilot as he had passed through the Great Barrier Reef many times. The report does not state whether the hearing took place in Hong Kong or Australia but it does give the captain's full name - Maxwell Innes Groundwater. A listing for Jardine's in the shipping pages showed the ship continued to provide 'a fast service to Australia' this week.

A front-page picture showed a US soldier holding a canister as wide as his chest from which two thin tubes protruded. A set of headphones linked the soldier to the device. The tubes were 'nose bugs' which, if exposed to air, would react 'vigorously' to the presence of human beings, the caption said, adding that 'the US Army may use the device to prevent ambushes by the Viet Cong'. The previous day it was reported that the Vietnam war had cost the US 376 planes. Two-thirds of these had been downed in the bombing raids over North Vietnam which had begun 16 months previously. The figure of 376 did not include the loss of helicopters, 'which are known to be in excess of 60'.