Remember A Day

The US and China’s rapprochement complete, a stock-trading schoolboy and deregulating toilet seats: 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, 20 December, 2018, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 9:12pm

Washington and Beijing’s resumption of diplomatic relations after 29 years, an Australian teenager banned from playing the stock market and a US state legislature lifting a decades-old restriction on oval toilet seats made headlines four decades ago this week.

December 17, 1978

China and the US declared world peace was more important than any dispute between them and said they would establish normal diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979. The two countries ended a 29-year “abnormal relationship” by issuing a communique in which Washington recognised Beijing as the only government of China and severed ties with Taiwan.

December 18, 1978

A 16-year-old “whizz kid” student speculator was ordered by his school to stop playing the Singapore Stock Exchange after running up transactions totalling S$300,000 (about HK$600,000). Andrew Kirk of West Beach, South Australia, a student at Singapore International School, attacked the school’s administration for being “autocratic, authoritarian and bureaucratic”.

December 19, 1978

A young man carrying a knife attempted to attack Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira but was seized before he could reach Ohira. Police said the man entered the compound of the Prime Minister’s official residence posing as a journalist. The motive for the attack was not known.

December 20, 1978

The Coca-Cola Company announced it would begin selling its soft drinks in China in early 1979. Its corporate chairman, J. Paul Austin, said that initially bottled and canned soda would be imported into China for distribution in major cities and tourist points. Bottling plants would later be established in the country.

A prisoner in Australia starved himself for five days so that he would be able to squeeze through his cell bars and escape. Despite his successful escape out of his cell, the famished prisoner was unable to leave the compound as he was too weak to climb over the outside wall, the Supreme Court in Adelaide was told.

American newspapers and magazines were planning to open bureaus in Beijing in early 1979. They were optimistic that China would eventually let in representatives from as many as 14 US news organisations.

December 21, 1978

The Philippine Immigration Commissioner, Edmundo Reyes, said the Central Bank had banned “excessive and unnecessary travel” to Hong Kong by Filipinos to minimise US dollar spending outside the country. The bank’s regulation, which came into force a week before, had already stopped more than 500 nationals from leaving for Hong Kong.

Tax dodger Gordon Francis got more than he bargained for when he fell in love, as the woman of his dreams was a tax inspector. His confidence in her turned out to be misplaced when she informed on him and 49-year-old Francis ended up in a London court after 13 years on the run with a false identity.

December 22, 1978

The people of Connecticut could rest easy at Christmas, as the state legislature flushed away the 40-year-old ban on enclosed oval toilet seats. State laws had required that in the interest of hygiene, toilet seats, whether public or private, must be horseshoe-shaped. Infringement carried a penalty of a fine equivalent to HK$475.

Five Japanese people masquerading as athletes competing at the Asian Games in Bangkok were arrested on charges of illegal possession of weapons. Police in Bangkok said they found six pistols and five cotton wool-packed underwater oxygen tanks at their hotel rooms. They were believed to be members of a Japanese criminal gang who police said were planning to smuggle the arms back into Japan inside the cylinders.

December 23, 1978

Blank television screens, scarce petrol, no Times newspaper, and the fear of terrorist bomb attacks were draining some of the festive spirit in Britain at Christmas. Thousands of extra police, many armed, patrolled London’s shopping areas, on the look out for members of the Provisional IRA, who that week had already bombed London and five other cities across Britain.

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