Pandas, ‘indecent’ stamps and a stray torpedo: 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
Hong Kong playing host to two giant cuddly creatures from Guangzhou and commemorative stamps in the United States featuring a naked baby Jesus made the headlines four decades ago this week.
December 3, 1978
● Hollywood actress Sophia Loren was convicted of currency smuggling by a court in Rome and fined the equivalent of HK$95 million while her film producer husband, Carlo Ponti, as the main defendant, was ordered to pay HK$166 million.
● About 430 relics dating back 1,000 years were found in a pagoda in China’s southwestern border province of Yunnan, the New China News Agency reported. The finds included Buddha statues made of bronze, gold, silver, porcelain and iron.
December 4, 1978
● As gender equality awareness rose, a number of Egyptian women instead preferred segregation for a reason. A congress on women and transport had asked for the return of harem compartments on buses and trains to protect female commuters from being accosted by men in crowded vehicles. Their request had been rejected.
● Urban terrorists set fire to the main computer in a Transport Ministry office in Rome causing millions of dollars in damage, police said. The attack was carried out by a group calling themselves the Armed Anti-Imperialist Movement. Thousands of files and microfilms representing more than 20 million transport documents were destroyed.
December 5, 1978
● Hong Kong was under permanent threat from the bubonic plague and it would remain so until it was rid of its old buildings, which were not rodent-proof, warned government pest control officers. They said local architects had failed to realise that voids in ceilings and panelling were ideal hiding places for rats.
● The Bureau of Internal Revenue in the Philippines said it would order its 1,200 tax examiners off the job during Christmas to prevent potential extortion of “presents” from the public.
December 6, 1978
● A poster on Beijing’s “democracy wall” called for an exchange of mail and visits between China and Taiwan. The poster creator, Li Tse-min, urged for consultations through an unnamed third country to make such arrangements, which would see tourist traffic between Taiwan and China.
● Two panda VIPs – Bao Ling and Bao Li – arrived in Hong Kong on a three-month loan from Guangzhou Zoo. The new residents had settled in well in an enclosure specially built for them at Ocean Park. More than a million people were expected to flock to see the furry pair.
December 7, 1978
● The People’s Daily reported that the Chinese government would put an end to arbitrary justice and all citizens, however powerful or highly placed, would be equal before the law. In a full-page feature on the Chinese legal system, which indirectly took a swipe at leader Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution, the party paper said everyone would have the right to be defended by a lawyer.
● A Melbourne butcher stole A$1,000 from his employer, lost it in a government-run betting centre, then held up the shop to get the money back. But he netted only A$316, so he later raided a bank to make up the difference. Vernon Mangin was jailed for 3½ years.
December 8, 1978
● Three women from Garden City in Kansas claimed the US Postal Service was selling indecent material – Christmas commemorative stamps depicting a naked baby Jesus – and wanted their money back. The stamps featured a sculpture by the 15th century artist Andrea della Robbia titled Madonna and Child with Cherubim.
● The Hong Kong government announced plans to increase tuition sessions as part of a major restructuring of schools operated under the English Schools Foundation from the 1979 school year. Fees would go up from HK$1,900 to HK$3,500 in the junior section per year and from HK$3,040 to HK$5,300 in secondary schools.
December 9, 1978
● A 4.6-metre torpedo went out of control during a test-firing and ploughed into a Sydney beach, scattering swimmers and sunbathers. The missile, which carried an unarmed warhead, malfunctioned after it was launched from a Navy test range.
● Promising preliminary results in the search for a cholesterol “cleanser” had put a Chinese University lecturer in a world race to find a treatment that could prevent heart attacks. In experiments on cell cultures, Dr Walter Ho Kwok-keung of the university’s biochemistry department had isolated a protein in human blood which, when combined with an element found in egg yolk, was able to “clean” blood vessel walls of cholesterol deposits.