Flogged Britons, trousers for horses and a burning woman: 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
Angry British MPs protesting against the flogging of two Britons for making and selling alcohol in Saudi Arabia and a rule to put trousers on cab horses in Belgium were some of the news items making headlines four decades ago this week.
June 11, 1978
● A British parliamentary delegation offered to send a sample of the Harrier jump jet to China, which had shown interest in the plane. It suggested sending a display team there as a step towards the possible purchase of the Harrier by the Chinese, who were more interested in the land version, rather than the sea version, of the jet. Each Harrier was priced at about HK$27 million.
● An exiled East German scientist had passed secret Warsaw Pact chemical warfare contingency plans to the West, news magazine Der Spiegel reported. The article said the information included a Soviet-inspired plan to knock out America’s Antarctic radar network by disabling personnel with a gas-filled missile.
June 12, 1978
● The US was set to end decades of indecision by formally recognising China in early 1979. This was reported by the English-language China News, which quoted a Chinese-American scholar “closely associated with the US National Security Council”.
● Soviet bloc diplomats walked out of a banquet in the Great Hall of the People for the second time in four days after Chinese vice-premier Li Xiannian accused Moscow of “trying by every means to barge into the South Pacific region”. The walkout came during a welcome banquet for a Fijian official delegation, led by its prime minister. The previous walkout came about after senior vice-premier Deng Xiaoping criticised Soviet involvement in Africa.
June 13, 1978
● The Vietnamese government intended to seal off its land border with China later in the week to prevent further mass escapes by refugees fleeing the country. Following this, the government planned to increase its naval patrols to plug escape routes offshore.
June 14, 1978
● China showed its interest in the military might of the United States by – for the first time – sending officials to visit the USS Enterprise, an American nuclear aircraft carrier. This was a sign of Chinese approval of the American military presence on the seas of Southeast Asia, particularly in view of recent Soviet naval displays of force, observers said.
● Sha Tin’s future 10-storey Kowloon-Canton Railway station complex was to be the first of a new generation of train stations. It would have a building on top of the station structure similar in concept to the Mass Transit Railway stations, except that the Sha Tin station would have government offices above it instead of commercial or residential units.
June 15, 1978
● Angry members of the British parliament urged the government to consider withdrawing the UK’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia after two Englishmen were publicly flogged for flouting an alcohol ban. The pair, who worked for a British firm building an airport extension in the northwestern city of Ha’il, were arrested six months earlier for making and selling alcohol.
● Wearing the saffron robes of the Ananda Marga sect, a Swiss woman sat cross-legged behind a monument in a park in Manila, the Philippines, doused herself with petrol and burned herself to death. Before her self-immolation, the 25-year-old woman circulated leaflets saying she was going to kill herself “purely to express her love for humanity”.
● At least HK$3 billion worth of property would be created on 7.2 acres of land in Tsim Sha Tsui East in the following two to three years. The land, east of Chatham Road along the waterfront near today’s Polytechnic University, was released after the Kowloon-Canton Railway terminal was moved from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hung Hom.
June 16, 1978
● A team of top executives of the Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry Company were negotiating with Chinese government officials in Guangdong province over the possibility of introducing an intercity hover ferry service.
June 17, 1978
● Cinema tickets were set to go up by 8 to 14 per cent in price the following month. Tickets for the front and back stalls and circle seats in first-class cinemas would cost HK$4, HK$5.50 and HK$8 respectively.
● Plans were in the works to fit cab horses in a Belgian city with trousers to comply with an anti-street-fouling order by local city officials in Bruges. The measure, to be effective from July that year, was aimed at keeping pedestrian areas where horse cabs were allowed clean for the benefit of tourists.
Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history