Rat-infested hospitals, ‘sermons’ for speeding and a scrapped land auction: 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
Well-fed rats infesting Hong Kong public hospitals and a study to assess the feasibility of building an airport near Lantau Island were some of the top stories reported during this week four decades ago.
April 23, 1978
● George Bush, a former US envoy to China, advocated normalisation of American relations with China. Bush also said at a Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club lunch that he shared the concern of Chinese leaders over the intentions of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, China’s conditions for normalisation included a promise from Washington to withdraw its troops from Taiwan and break diplomatic ties with Taipei.
April 24, 1978
● A plague of rats struck three Hong Kong government hospitals – Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary and Princess Margaret – and officials warned that little could be done to eradicate the problem because hospital food was easily available to the rodents, whose numbers were thriving as a result.
● East German drivers caught speeding on the country’s motorways were to receive Sunday sermons on the highway code. Traffic officials said the compulsory lessons and more radar speed traps were part of a crackdown in the wake of an increase in the number of accidents.
● Millions of Russians swept streets, built cars, launched ships and carried out various other free services to mark the annual “Subbotnik”, also known as a national day of free labour. It was compulsory for citizens to contribute wages earned on this day to the USSR.
Nixon’s Hong Kong ‘lover’, Charlie Chaplin’s grave and a strike over toilet breaks: headlines from four decades ago
April 25, 1978
● Form Five students of Wellington College were told not to hold a graduation dinner to honour their teachers. The school had received a complaint that there was no proper account of how the money collected from students was to be spent. Its deputy principal said the school had always discouraged such affairs because they sometimes took place in expensive restaurants and could be quite an unnecessary financial burden to parents.
April 26, 1978
● A 6,825 sq ft piece of government land was withdrawn from sale because of haggling over the opening bid. The land in Upper Lascar Row was offered for auction at a starting price of HK$22 million (US$2.8 million). There were no bids, and when one interested party asked for the opening price to be lowered to HK$18 million, the auctioneer cancelled the sale.
April 27, 1978
● The government took another step towards the construction of a new multibillion-dollar airport near Lantau. Planning for the project entered an 18-month study phase, during which the government wanted an assessment of the airport’s engineering feasibility. Government consultants estimated the cost (in line with rates from 1974) to be about HK$3.6 billion. This included part of the cost of building a bridge from the New Territories to Lantau.
● Governor Murray MacLehose told British industrialists that the Crown Colony of Hong Kong was a long-term market worth cultivating. Additionally, everyone would be welcome to participate in its success. He also told attendees at a business seminar in London the city was “happily free from labour difficulties”. “The adaptability, vigour and inventiveness of its workforce and management alike was proverbial,” he said.
April 28, 1978
● A senior Chinese Army officer, General Yang Yong, warned Europe of danger from the Soviet Union at a banquet for Chief of the British Defence Staff Neil Cameron. Yang, a deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, criticised the USSR for “sharpening its sword” to threaten Europe.
● The Hong Kong government announced that it would recruit top officers from overseas to fill 11 new posts in a major move to strengthen the police force. The creation of these posts followed recommendations from police senior management on the need to bolster the force, particularly in its training, discipline, management services and staff relations.
● The British House of Commons was told that MacLehose’s governorship had been distinguished by outstanding achievements in Hong Kong’s social and economic development, which owed much to his leadership and dedication.
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April 29, 1978
● South Korean patrol boats sank a North Korean spy vessel in a brief clash that left at least three people dead. South Korea’s anti-espionage command said the appearance of the 10-tonne North Korean boat was a sign that Pyongyang might start a new campaign to send agents to the South in espionage activities.
Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history