Of spies and club hostesses – Hong Kong headlines from three decades ago
A journey back through time to look at some significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post from this week in history
Three decades ago this week, Hong Kong was facing a labour shortage – a thorny issue, but not an unusual one, as the city was no stranger to such problems. Meanwhile, the infamously salacious Club Volvo (closed in 2012) in Tsim Sha Tsui, which boasted an impressive bevy of 1,000 hostesses during its heyday, stirred quite a bit of controversy by revealing plans for its listing on the local stock exchange. This week in history was also filled with spy stories and plenty of other unexpected events.
September 5, 1987
• Beijing dismissed the idea of setting up a special industrial zone in Hong Kong or importing workers from the mainland as an effective answer to the city’s critical labour shortage. Mainland officials were mostly concerned about the complexities that would arise with thousands of workers commuting to the city and back on a daily basis.
September 6, 1987
• Club Volvo announced that it would be listed on the stock market on November 26 and would offer 25 per cent of its stock to the public at a price of HK$60 million. The idea came about as the majority shareholder Loretta Fung said she believed “many companies [would be] interested in buying into Club Volvo”, and “it would be more fun to do it through a public flotation than simply raising the money by phoning a few people up”. At least Volvo would have had a better ring to it than Bboss (the new name adopted by the club after it was sued by the Swedish car manufacturer) on the stocks page of the morning paper.
• The Sunday Morning Post revealed that a British national suspected of being a KGB spy was ordered to gather intelligence on the British garrison in Hong Kong. Geoffrey John Higginson, 33, was said to have operated in the city from late 1985 to early 1986 to keep tabs on “foreign troops”.
September 7, 1987
• Thousands of employees of the Bank of China and its 12 sister banks were said to have been pressured into signing a petition to oppose direct elections in Hong Kong the following year. This was believed to have been part of a wider campaign that involved mainland organisations and other left-wing groups aimed at countering those lobbying for the introduction of direct elections.
September 9, 1987
• Some disgruntled legislators threatened to seek direct dialogue with the Hanoi government in an attempt to find a solution to the city’s worsening Vietnamese refugee problem. Councillors had long been annoyed by what they said was the colonial government’s failure to fulfil its responsibility to the territory on refugees.
• The South China Morning Post said it would seek leave to appeal to the Privy Council over its decision to reimpose a temporary ban on publishing extracts from Spycatcher, the controversial bestseller by former British secret service official Peter Wright.
September 10, 1987 • Hutchison Telecommunications confirmed it was the mystery company that was to launch a new commercial radio station (Metro Radio) in Hong Kong following government indications of a more liberal broadcasting policy.
Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the SCMP from this week in history