Gold to encourage defections, Colombian chocolate robbers and a vanishing Korean actress: 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
Beijing offers gold to encourage Taiwan defections, Colombian chocolate robbers hand out their loot to the poor, and a luxury Sai Kung home draws no takers at a government auction; these were some of the fascinating stories reported by the Post four decades ago this week.
February 19, 1978
● Mystery deepened surrounding the disappearance of South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee in Hong Kong when her former husband revealed one of her friends had also vanished around the same time. South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok claimed a close friend of Choi’s surnamed Lee, who was a local resident, could also not be found. Choi, who had arrived in the city on January 11 for a joint Hong Kong-Korean production, disappeared three days later.
February 20, 1978
● British officials claimed that reports about restricting emigration from Hong Kong to Britain when the country’s lease over the New Territories came to an end had been exaggerated. They said the reports had caused unnecessary misunderstanding and fear. At a meeting in London officials said the Chinese government had on past occasions repeatedly stated that the lease expiry date of 1997 was meaningless and irrelevant. The question of Chinese emigration to Britain upon the lease’s expiry was not identified as either an imminent or serious issue.
Cage homes, a kidnapped Korean actress and Soviet espionage gone wrong: headlines from four decades ago
● In Cyprus a gunfight broke out at Larnaca airport around a Cypriot plane on which the two Arab assassins of an Egyptian editor who was a confidant to Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat were holding 11 passengers and a four-man crew hostage. Explosions rocked the airport as Egyptian and Cypriot commandos armed with automatic weapons attempted to storm the sieged aircraft.
February 21, 1978
● A school of about 20 dolphins frolicked through Victoria Harbour escorted by two marine police vessels. The aquatic mammals – cousins of bottlenose dolphins at Ocean Park – took about three hours to make their way from Lei Yue Mun to Kellett Bank. The marine police kept a close watch to prevent a repeat of an unfortunate incident several years ago in which two skin divers speared and killed two dolphins in waters off Lai Chi Kok.
A falling space station, choppers to Macau and fear of oranges: Hong Kong headlines from four decades ago
● A Chinese delegation left Beijing for a month-long tour of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. The mission, led by Wang Pingnan, chairman of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, was the first high-level political delegation to visit India since the Sino-Indian border conflict of 1962.
● A newlywed French student, Odile Pierquin, and her Chinese husband, Li Tian, left Beijing for Paris after giving up on their idea of living in China. Li intended to continue his scientific studies in Paris while his wife was expecting their first child. The couple met at Fudan University in Shanghai and were married in November 1977 after spending nearly two years seeking permission from Chinese authorities.
February 22, 1978
● A top Chinese legal expert defended the death penalty, saying it was not yet possible to abolish capital punishment in China. The deputy director of the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Professor Han Yutung, said: “China’s law is a tool to realise proletarian dictatorship. In order to suppress the enemy and protect the people, it is not yet possible to abolish capital punishment.”
Protests by horse handlers, a Hong Kong hitman in New York and shady moneylenders: headlines from four decades ago
● A mother wept in San Po Kong Court as she told a magistrate why her three teenage children had been brought there on charges of hawking without a licence. She said the trio had been forced to work at her newspaper stall in Kwai Chung as it was the only way for the family to make a living. Her installation was on government land, even though she claimed she had paid HK$10,000 for it two years earlier.
February 23, 1978
● A truck carrying thousands of chocolate bars in Colombia was hijacked by left-wing urban guerilla suspects who drove it to a slum in Bogota and handed out the loot to the poor. Police believed the M-19 group, made up of middle-class university students, was responsible. The group had long sought to overthrow the government.
● Taiwan’s China Steel Corporation was found to be dumping high-tensile steel bars in Hong Kong – at HK$1,000 a tonne, HK$300 below cost. The firm said it was a result of the viability of the local steel rolling industry being threatened. Industry experts said Taiwan should make similar production reductions to those made in China in the 1960s to curtail steel exports to Hong Kong to ensure the local industry’s future.
February 24, 1978
● China’s armed forces offered rewards of up to HK$20 million in gold to Taiwanese military pilots and naval personnel prepared to defect with jets and destroyers. The offer was prominently displayed on the front pages of Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po newspapers with a detailed list of rewards for various kinds of machinery.
● Hong Kong’s most precious resource – land – continued to be highly sought after as three residential and industrial sites fetched a total of HK$128.6 million. But a luxury Sai Kung home was withdrawn from sale when no bid was received at the HK$3 million starting price.
February 25, 1978
● A 105-year-old woman named Zhang Takou was set to take part in China’s National People’s Congress later in the week, making her the oldest parliamentarian in the world. Zhang was chairwoman of an association of peasants in a small district in Guangxi.
Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history