Gold floods out of Vietnam and ICAC busts 40 police officers over drug links: 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, Beijing had just begun to allow Chinese people to travel more freely within the country. Before then, China had been isolated from the world, and many parts of the nation were known only to local residents. For those who know China today, with mainland tourists contributing billions of dollars to international tourism, it may be hard to believe that most of the country was barely mobile. Hong Kong, meanwhile, has never been short of ingenious ideas to tap the tourism market. Read on to find out more.
September 18, 1977
● Reports on this day revealed that millions of dollars worth of gold and cash were changing hands in Hong Kong and Bangkok every week as the Chinese community in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, tried hard to get their money out of Vietnam. Most of the money was intended to be used to support Vietnamese-Chinese businesspeople and their families, whose livelihoods had been shattered by the nationalisation of the country’s economy by new communist rulers.
September 19, 1977
● It was reported on this day that the Hong Kong Tourist Association’s director, John Pain, might have discovered a tourism gold mine when he welcomed 35 newlywed Singapore couples to Hong Kong on a honeymoon package tour. The couples, who had tied the knot in a group ceremony in the Lion City a few days earlier, received certificates from Pain to mark their stay in the city.
September 20, 1977
● The mighty tentacles of Hong Kong’s graft-busters, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, nabbed more than 40 police officers in its biggest single operation so far. The suspects were detained for questioning due to their connections with a former drug syndicate. Some 100 ICAC officers were mobilised in the operation.
● Amid concerns about marine pollution in the city, several tonnes of crude oil poured from a Danish container ship after it ran aground off Lamma Island, threatening fish farms nearby. Salvage experts from Singapore and Copenhagen were called in to help with the clean-up.
September 22, 1977
● China’s civil aviation industry, on the back of years of rapid growth, saw fit to begin a wide-ranging modernisation and expansion programme at major airports. Extensions to Beijing airport were a top priority and included a new runway, terminal building, control tower and hotel.
● Despite indoor smoking in public places today having been consigned to the ashtray of history in Hong Kong, on this day, the initial idea of providing separate areas for non-smokers was given a “thumbs down” by hotel and restaurant operators. Although most recognised that the smell of nicotine was unpleasant for many customers, they believed it would be difficult to segregate restaurant-goers.
September 23, 1977
● China was making plans to relax restrictions on travel within the mainland and open its doors to more overseas visitors. The news came as more mainlanders than ever before travelled between cities, and political events over the past decade had brought many Chinese visitors to the capital. One report said Beijing had a floating population of about 100,000 at any one time.
● In Hong Kong, a commission set up to inquire into a fatal incident at Shek Kong during a live broadcast of TVB’s Enjoy Yourself Tonight programme said it was set to hold a preliminary hearing in the coming few days. Two people were killed and scores injured when two lighting towers collapsed during the show three months earlier.
September 24, 1977
● Three Hong Kong residents were awarded the Silver Belilios Star for their bravery in rescuing passengers from a burning bus in Shek Kong on February 25. The recipients included a restaurant manager, employee, and British civil servant. The star was awarded in the colonial era as an honour for bravery in saving life on land.
Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history