Shock therapy for ‘sexual perversions’, kung fu clashes and supersonic jetliners: Hong Kong headlines from four decades ago
A journey back through time to look at significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post during this week in history
Forty years ago this week, it seemed like supersonic jets like the Concorde would transform international air travel forever. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) had come into fashion for treating mental conditions in local hospitals. The city also began to dabble in democracy when a visiting British MP suggested giving locals more say at the lower levels of government.
October 16, 1977
● Clashes broke out between European and local extras during the filming of a kung fu fight scene at Golden Harvest studios. The clash took place after a small group of extras were called back to do more scenes after two gruelling all-night sessions. The fight scenes were for the film Game of Death that had been left unfinished when martial arts legend Bruce Lee died suddenly in July 1973.
● Commercial airlines operating on the Hong Kong-Bangkok route had lost millions of dollars since April 1975 when the communist government in Vietnam banned all aircraft from using the Amber One air corridor. One of the affected airlines was Cathay Pacific Airways, which clocked up losses of HK$15 million (US$1.93m) from higher spending on fuel.
October 17, 1977
● Behavioural modification treatment seemingly inspired by the novel A Clockwork Orange was used in some psychiatric hospitals in Hong Kong. Using locally-made shock machines copied from British equipment, medical staff attached electrodes to patients in an attempt to cure them of “antisocial” behaviour. The treatment was also used on transvestites and patients deemed to have “some of the more-serious sexual perversions”. As many as 60 patients were reportedly treated with ECT at Castle Peak Hospital every week.
October 18, 1977
● A British member of parliament said he would pursue the possibility of introducing more democracy in Hong Kong. During a 10-day state visit, Ian Wrigglesworth remarked he would like to investigate if some form of democracy was possible at the lower levels of government. “If there is the possibility of elected local government without offending the Chinese Government, this should be explored,” Wrigglesworth said.
● Two Beijing-controlled banks and a retail store livened up the city’s property market with acquisitions worth an estimated HK$200 million. The buyers, Kingcheng Bank, China State Bank and China Products Co Ltd, had a shopping list that mostly covered prime real estate in Central and Causeway Bay. Real estate developers said they believed the property-buying spree by China-owned agencies would certainly “stimulate the relatively dull commercial building market”.
October 19, 1977
● The Government Secretariat refused to reveal how many unofficial members of the Legislative and Executive Councils had drawn their full monthly allowances. Unofficial members were allowed a maximum of HK$4,000 a month for expenses. They could either draw this amount in one go every month or claim reimbursement of expenses up to HK$4,000 per month. The amount drawn in full would be taxed while reimbursement claims with receipts would not.
October 20, 1977
● A joint British-French crew landed the first Concorde at John F Kennedy Airport in New York, more than one and a half years after the plane’s operators first sought permission to do so. The test flight was to iron out any problems with landing the supersonic jetliner at JFKbefore it began offering commercial flights from there in the following month.
October 21, 1977
● Bulletproof rooms for searching passengers would be built at Kai Tak Airport. The new arrangement would mean that after passing through immigration control, travellers would enter a bulletproof area for security checks before being allowed into the departure lounge. The rooms would be lined with transparent or opaque glass able to withstand shots fired at close range from a 44 calibre gun. The changes were in response to airport security recommendations from the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
● A new Civil Service Regulation would be introduced to curb industrial action by staff associations and unions. The government said the new regulation arose from an increasing tendency on the part of a few staff associations and unions to resort to industrial action, which seriously disrupted services to the public.
October 22, 1977
● China’s universities and colleges once again accepted candidates from Hong Kong and Macau, resuming a practice that was terminated 18 years earlier. Upon graduation, these students would be sent to work in places where they were needed the most, as directed by the state. This would also be the first year since the Cultural Revolution that middle school graduates would be allowed to enrol in universities and colleges without having to do the previously mandatory two years of hard labour.
Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history