[UPDATED] Bad behavior at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club

Update: The man who behaved badly, then apologized, after not getting his table for 12 at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club is top Swedish diplomat Jorgen Halldin. He tells the South China Morning Post: “There is never an excuse for being upset, and I regret this deeply. I have the highest regard for the FCC, of which I have been a member for about a year, and this was a highly unfortunate incident.”

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Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club members have been advised to behave themselves.

“We’re not yet in the business of chopping hands off miscreants,” says the president’s memo. “And nobody wants to turn the Bar into a hushed library. But times change, and what might have been permissible three or four decades ago has no place in the Club today.”
FCC
After one member couldn’t immediately get a table for his party of 12, “he insulted staff during a loud tirade, and cut up his membership card in disgust. To which all we can say is: good riddance.”

My tipster reports the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club membership is a mix of journalists and “business/diplomatic/lawyer types” and “so it’s unclear who is being the douchebag in the incidents described below.”

From: FCC [Foreign Correspondents’ Club]
Sent: Monday, March 2, 2015 1:54 PM
Subject: FCC: Club Announcement – From the President

28 February 2015

FROM THE PRESIDENT

The Board of Governors draws members’ attention to the following column “From the President”, appearing in the forthcoming edition of the Correspondent magazine, regarding standards of behaviour expected from all at the Club.

FROM THE PRESIDENT
Very few places in Hong Kong can rival the electric atmosphere that prevails when our Main Bar is packed and buzzing with the hum of spirited debate, lively repartee and old friends catching up. Unfortunately, more than once on recent occasion, that atmosphere was soured for some by the antics of others, and the Board was forced to step in./CONTINUES

One wag likened us to religious hardliners early in this Board’s tenure, after we showed our intent to stamp out behaviour that crosses the line. We’re not yet in the business of chopping hands off miscreants. And nobody wants to turn the Bar into a hushed library. But times change, and what might have been permissible three or four decades ago has no place in the Club today — especially not when we are working hard to attract a new generation of members who can sustain the FCC long into the future.

Recent events have underlined that our rules also need to change, to give us more flexibility in confronting urgent disciplinary cases. We have done that as part of a painstaking redrafting of our Articles of Association, a months-long exercise that became necessary after the government introduced new companies legislation last year.

In the new Articles, we are seeking the ability to temporarily exclude a member in case of a serious incident, for up to 14 days, pending a full hearing. That way we can take urgent action where needed, while still preserving the right of members to defend themselves before the Board. Everyone has a right to that defence, whatever the allegation.

Alongside the Articles of Association, which are akin to the club’s constitution, our By-Laws spell out detailed rules for members. They include provisions on how to book a table, and the maximum number of guests per table.

One member threw a tantrum when he turned up with 12 people and was unable to get a table immediately in the Main Bar (where seating is capped at eight people per table). He insulted staff during a loud tirade, and cut up his membership card in disgust. To which all we can say is: good riddance.

Our staff are obliged to enforce those rules – and others that are all too often ignored. So don’t give them a hard time if they ask to see your card when taking your order, or remind you to take your phone conversation to a designated point.

Above all, the By-Laws stress that members should conduct themselves at all times “with decorum” towards each other, and “with respect” towards the staff. Don’t be surprised if action ensues should you flagrantly violate those principles. We were compelled to do that in two recent cases.

In one of those cases, staff came to the aid of one new FCC member in the face of aggression from another member. “I felt treated like family,” she said to me in praising their response. That was gratifying to hear. But of course, the situation should never have arisen in the first place. The offending member has been dealt with by the Board, and will not be returning to the club.

Members of our Club family may bicker from time to time, that’s natural. But the requirement for good behaviour is clear, and so is the Board’s determination to preserve the Club as a safe environment for everyone.




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