Paul Letters
Paul Letters
Paul Letters is a novelist, journalist and historian.

Beijing reacted faster to the current outbreak than to Sars, which some in the outside world see as an improvement. In Hong Kong, however, many hold the view that the WHO is downplaying the deadliness of Covid-19 to appease China.


We still live in a world of authoritarian regimes of Russia, China and North Korea on one side, and the democratic US and allies on the other, with proxy-war rivalries playing out in Syria and Ukraine. With a renewed arms race and second cold war, what’s changed?


The mainland Chinese counterprotest has roots in the historical narrative of a China splitting apart under foreign pressure, which ties in with Beijing’s spin that foreign powers are behind Hong Kong’s protests.

The rising political fortunes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson – not to mention the US president, all of whom are no stranger to misleading voters – can only be understood as a product of our times.


Unless you know what discrimination feels like, you won’t truly understand why the tennis star raised a rumpus at the US Open. People who are minorities sometimes have to shout to be heard, rightly or wrongly.

Poverty and family dysfunction became the inspiration for ‘Three Years and Eight Months’, Icy Smith’s children’s book about the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong

Geologist and mountaineer Jarek Jakubec, who believes life as a refugee in the 1980s was easier than it is for today’s exiles, says leaving his parents behind was the hardest thing

The 75-year-old, who lives aboard a boat in the city, recalls early life in Stanley internment camp, fleeing China’s civil war, his bratty days in Japan and making HK$133,880 at his first trial in Hong Kong in 1987

After the terror of Japanese air raids, prison camp was a relief for Barbara Anslow, who kept busy writing or adapting plays for child prisoners to perform, doing communal work and queuing for food

There was little festive cheer 75 years ago, as the Battle of Hong Kong raged to a bloody conclusion. Some of the people who lived through the invasion recall how they suddenly found themselves in a war zone

Former King George V School boy Bruce Gordon tells Paul Letters about watching Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, being inspired to join US Air Force by Victoria Harbour visit to US aircraft carrier, and buzzing Soviet warships amid China attack plan 

From the warmth of Afghans to the mistrust and indifference he met in Hong Kong, ultra-budget traveller Maxime, who tries to live on HK$8.50 a day, has had a 40,000km journey full of contrasts. He tells Paul Letters why he took to the road and chooses to rely on strangers for his needs 

Unbridled democracy isn't going to happen and wouldn't work anyway. What could work is something much closer to full democracy than we were ever likely to see before the protesters asserted their case.

I was in Kuala Lumpur last weekend, where flags flew at half mast for the victims of flight MH17 and the key terms in the media coverage seemed to be "outrage" and "damning".

The history books misinform us that the cold war finished around 1990. Last month, Western sanctions on Ukraine provoked Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to compare the current situation with the cold war era.

The consequences of an assassination attempt against a senior Nazi in May 1942 still haunt parts of Prague and its surroundings, writes Paul Letters.

"The 21st century belongs to Asia: discuss". That was the debate for the inaugural Asian alumni event for Oxford University, recently held in Hong Kong. Oxford dons on both sides of the motion agreed on the obvious: China's military will be taken increasingly seriously and its economy, together with India's, will drive Asia's rise for some time. But, ultimately, they also agreed on the less obvious, which is far more interesting.

Russia has taken us back to imperialism by occupying a neighbouring country, but is Moscow's support for a vote for Crimeans to determine their own destiny such a terrible idea? It is if you're the government of China.

Prompted by the resolution that New Year heralds, one year ago I clicked on and lent some money to an impoverished Cambodian farmer. By October, I had been paid back in full and Sophea had some fertiliser to boost her rice-growing and a motorbike to take her children to school.

Hong Kong is one of the most advanced places in the world, but not when it comes to disability. For example, from Central to Causeway Bay, skyscrapers packed with medical clinics lack entrances with ramps. This is so absurd it's almost amusing.

A recent report entitled "The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship" criticised the growing global reach of China's censorship and its unrestrained investment aimed at spreading state-sponsored media abroad.

The US shutdown is an embarrassment both for America and for democracy - and their leaders are admitting as much. This comes at a time when democracy is being dangled in front of, and debated within, a growing number of nations from the Arab world, and here in Hong Kong.

Have you heard today's worldwide call for peace? No? Neither have the Syrians. September 21 is International Peace Day and, this year, British non-governmental organisation Peace One Day estimates at least 600 million people will "be aware" of it. A variety of Hong Kong schools are commemorating the day, as are internationally minded schools in mainland China and beyond.

The cold war is commonly referred to as a topic of history, yet it is not over - it has just regrouped, and now we face history in the remaking. Today is George Orwell's birthday, and he's looking good for 110.

Paradoxically, in order for Beijing to achieve its current objectives in the Korean Peninsula of stability and, moreover, a downsizing of the United States' presence, it must concede to displays of American military might in the region.