Remember A Day

Female jailbreakers, the opera mafia and a mystery severed leg: 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

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 9:26pm

Four decades ago this week, China rose to notoriety when it became “public enemy No 3” in Vietnam, while in New Zealand, a man lost the roof over his house as a result of a newspaper prank.

May 28, 1978

The Chinese government sent ships to Hanoi to evacuate Chinese residents in the wake of accusations of maltreatment and persecution. Vietnamese authorities categorically denied the charge and claimed that Chinese residents in Vietnam were better treated than Vietnamese nationals in China.

A five-woman gang freed an alleged West German terrorist from the high-security wing of West Berlin’s Moabit prison, visibly embarrassing authorities. The group escaped in a minibus that was later found abandoned outside a park nearby.

May 29, 1978

The Hongkong Telephone Company decided to buy the British Post Office’s ultra-modern information system, Viewdata. The new system consisted of a modified television set linked, via telephone, to a central computer. The device was designed for advertising, as a news service, an educational system, a message service, and even as an aid in working out complicated mathematics.

A massive security operation at Cordoba Airport in Argentina faced a potentially testy situation when guards conducting a body search were confronted with four kilted Scotsmen. The group had turned up to greet their national football team, which had arrived in the country for the World Cup.

May 30, 1978

A truck driver stopped on the side of Hume Highway near Melbourne when nature called and almost tripped over a box of cheques totalling about HK$52 million. The cheques, made payable to the Australian Taxation Department, had fallen from the back of a postal truck.

China offered to purchase three thermal power plants from Japan, estimated to cost about HK$1.4 billion. The plants were expected to be built near Shanghai in connection with an integrated steel mill at Baoshan.

May 31, 1978

The Soviet Union set up a guided missile base in a valley in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, with the missiles said to be directed at China. The move indicated that the Soviet Union had pushed Hanoi into embracing anti-China sentiment.

Police in Rome detained 17 leading Italian opera officials and questioned them about alleged corruption in the country’s state-backed opera houses. One prosecutor said that “the so-called mafia of Italian opera houses” had finally been brought to light in the operation.

A moon rock gift and a floral solution to an opium problem

June 1, 1978

It was claimed that China had become Vietnam’s “public enemy No 3”, according to US and Cambodian sources who had attended meetings with Vietnamese cadres. This phrase was said to have been used in a number of closed-door meetings attended by Hanoi officials.

A New Zealand man came home from work to find his three-bedroom house was missing its roof, windows, carpets, furniture and bathtub. This was apparently the result of a hoax newspaper advertisement, which had been telephoned to the paper under his name. The ad had invited people to take everything but the front fence.

June 2, 1978

Baffled Dutch police gave up their search for a man who lost a leg on a railway line near Almelo six months earlier. Nationwide inquiries at hospitals and with doctors had failed to trace the owner of the severed leg.

The New Territories was to have its first high-class residential area built in the northern part of Sha Tin new town overlooking Tolo Harbour. The scenic view was considered to be the best in the city, rivalling that from Jardine’s Lookout on Hong Kong Island.

June 3, 1978

American security guards confronted a Russian national inside a secret electronic listening post after crawling down a clandestine tunnel located under their embassy in Moscow. They found a startled technician sitting in front of a bank of consoles; he immediately fled the scene. The United States subsequently protested to the Soviet Union over the bugging of their embassy.

Shipping magnate Y.K. Pao headed the list of 69 Hong Kong residents who were honoured by Queen Elizabeth in her birthday honours list. He was made a knight bachelor. The list also marked the 25th anniversary of the queen’s coronation.

Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history