It took a truly great editor to push the Post clear of the competition: Henry Ching, who led the paper for 33 years When the Post was founded in 1903, the hope had been that it would both project the viewpoint of the British colonial regime (with the business establishment), and help to further the cause of republicanism in China. The Qing dynasty was tottering in Beijing and being increasingly challenged in Canton (Guangzhou) by Hong Kong-based revolutionaries. Nearly 20 years later, Hong Kong was still a colonial outpost and although the Qing dynasty was gone, Sun Yat-sen was still cooling his heels, waiting to become the first President of China. But there was a changing of the guard at the South China Morning Post. The Scottish Thomas Petrie was about to retire and a young ethnic Chinese man from Queensland, Australia, was champing at the editorial bit. Henry Ching, 31, was given the nod in 1922 by the managing director, Ben Wylie. He wanted the editorial baton passed to a brash, well-read, articulate 'local' with a reputation for intelligent, hard-hitting editorials. The board of directors looked askance at the idea of a Chinese face in the editorial chair. Would he gain the respect of the local establishment? Would he be able to join The Club? Would he find acceptance among the European community? If the board had doubts, Ching had none. He proved a trailblazer, setting a standard of editorial independence, particularly in leading articles, which drew a steadily growing readership from all sections of Hong Kong. In many ways he was a misfit. Not speaking much Cantonese, Ching found it hard to gain entry to the Chinese establishment. With a Chinese face he was not always welcomed to the inner sanctums of the European establishment, either. But he succeeded nevertheless. His perceptive, often trenchant editorials sometimes provoked leading advertisers to withdraw their business from the Post. But Ching was a man without fear or favour. Supported by Wylie, and an admiring band of European and Eurasian journalists, he helped push the Post to the highest circulation of any English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. He could never have been accused of being a namby-pamby in directing his staff. Notes of disapproval (and sometimes approval) would go out on sheets of green copy-paper - offcuts from the green newsprint used for the Trade and Transport section of the newspaper. His coverage revolved around news reports from the courts, public and council meetings, police rounds and social events. His China, Asia and world pages carried the best of what the world's leading news agencies could offer. News began on the centre page; the front page carried only classified advertisements. Known as Harry to his friends, Henry Ching's gruff, often taciturn exterior concealed a warm, generous heart. His annual staff parties brought all together in a convivial and relaxing atmosphere at his Happy Valley home. Ching held his chair from 1922 until the outbreak of war, when Japanese interests took over the paper. On the day before Hong Kong was reoccupied by the British in August 1945, a liberated Ching was immediately back in control. He even had a small news-sheet which was handed out free to inform residents trickling out of Stanley internment camp that the British Fleet was about to enter Hong Kong harbour. And when the local electricity supply failed to give the newspaper enough power to work the press, Ching negotiated a deal to have a landline linked to a submarine's generator. It was strung out through the city streets and used to power the Post printing machine. Not only was Henry Ching senior a highly admired and respected man, but two of his sons held leading positions in the community. Henry Ching junior was Secretary for Economic Affairs in the closing days of colonial Hong Kong, while Charles Ching, a leading barrister, was one of the three permanent members of the Court of Final Appeal in the early years of the Special Administrative Region. Ching continued until 1958, giving way to Stewart Gray, and with his retirement, the Post and its readers witnessed the end of an era. News was increasingly on the front page, which caught more attention, but there was not for some years a leader writer to match the quality of his editorials. Ching had one other self-imposed chore - a column called Bird's Eye View - which was full of wry, witty and always pithy comment on local and overseas affairs. How he maintained it day after day was something he would shrug off shyly. But it became the first priority for many readers as soon as they opened the paper. After the war, Henry Ching was awarded an OBE.