A mega bridge, student activism and HK$1,000 banknotes: headlines from four decades ago
A journey back through time to look at significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post from this week in history
Hong Kong was heading for the big time in terms of infrastructure development four decades ago this week with a proposal to build a bridge linking Lantau Island with the New Territories and Kowloon on the mainland.
Meanwhile, the city experienced its first taste of student activism with Baptist College students threatening to launch a sit-in to protest against “a discriminatory tone” expressed in a government document assessing the institution’s standard.
December 26, 1977
● The famous little tramp of silent films, Sir Charlie Chaplin, died at the age of 88. Chaplin passed away peacefully at his white mansion in Corsier, overlooking the eastern end of Lake Geneva. In one of his final interviews he said: “Life is marvellous, a wonderful thing, but as you get on, you always think of moments past, and you always think of death.” He was survived by his wife, eight children and seven grandchildren.
● The Los Angeles “hillside strangler” claimed his 12th victim, bringing a new wave of fear to the city at the height of the Christmas season. Pasadena police said the latest victim was a young woman aged between 20 and 23, whose half-naked body was found on a deserted road near the Rose Bowl stadium soon after midnight. The strangler’s victims had come from various walks of life, from young students to prostitutes.
December 27, 1977
● Hong Kong’s Public Works Department was looking for consultants to conduct further investigations into the feasibility of building a bridge or tunnel to link Lantau Island with the New Territories and Kowloon on the mainland. The proposed crossing would be from Lantau via the islands of Ma Wan and Tsing Yi to Tsuen Wan. A decision whether to go ahead with the project was expected in early 1979.
● Maria Gao, one of China’s top ballerinas, said she was able to perform in Hong Kong with her husband only because of the downfall of the Gang of Four, a political faction composed of four mainland Communist Party officials including Madame Mao Zedong, who came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution. All cultural development and promotion in China came under control of the gang and was strictly prohibited.
● Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin failed in talks to achieve a breakthrough on the crucial Palestinian issue. The two also failed to issue a much heralded declaration of intent. On his return to Jerusalem, Begin confirmed it was because of differences over the troubled region.
December 28, 1977
● China admitted its grain harvest was the same as the previous year’s low and blamed it on the worst natural disasters since 1949. Foreign analysts said the country would soon have to return to world markets to buy grain. Beijing had not given figures, but the US estimated 285 million tonnes were harvested including soybeans.
China’s Department of Agriculture believed last year’s crop, excluding soybeans, was 267 million tonnes or three million less than 1975.
● Hong Kong police set up a cordon around the Sai Kung peninsula as they searched for a number of illegal immigrants suspected of arriving on a “snakeboat”. So far, officers had arrested two women and a 12-year-old boy, and were still hunting for 15 others believed to have arrived in the same 28-foot boat.
December 29, 1977
● Baptist College students were planning to organise a sit-in to protest against what they said was discrimination in the Green Paper on Senior Secondary and Tertiary Education, which concluded the standard of the college was “somewhere between that of a sixth form advanced level qualification and university level.”
In a survey conducted by the student union the week before, 43 per cent of the 2,000 teachers and students who responded voted for a demonstration against the consultation paper.
● The Red Cross was to investigate a complaint by Mr Justice Pickering that a youth’s life was endangered because a hospital laboratory was closed for most of the weekend. According to the Supreme Court judge, the youngster was bleeding heavily after being given the wrong Chinese medication and needed a transfusion within 48 hours.
December 30, 1977
● Triad Society Bureau detectives raided a flat in Tai Kok Tsui and smashed what they believed to be a “blue movie” processing centre. Officers arrested a man in the flat on Oak Street and seized more than 300 reels of obscene 8mm and 16mm films together with photographic processing equipment.
The films were believed to be for the local and Macau markets. Police said it would be difficult to estimate the value of the haul as they still needed time “to go through it slowly”.
● Palestinian leaders had decided to “liquidate” 34 alleged collaborators in Israeli-occupied territories, the Qatar newspaper Al-Arab reported. Seven execution groups had been alerted for the task. The names of the alleged collaborators were revealed during a four-hour meeting on the situation.
The first National Day festivities, rabid dogs and angry politicians: headlines from four decades ago
December 31, 1977
● The government decided against preserving Tsim Sha Tsui’s old Kowloon-Canton Railway Station because of the need for improved civic facilities. In rejecting the Hong Kong Heritage Society’s petition for conservation, the government said overall public interest would be best served by not preserving the entire complex, although the official decision did not mention the fate of the station’s clock tower.
● New HK$1,000 banknotes would be put into circulation on January 10, 1978, by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. A spokesman for the bank said the new note – the first of this denomination to be issued – would be available only in their main branches. The largest denomination then was HK$500, introduced more than 100 years ago.