Out of Hong Kong: Club party bridges the colonial divide

HONG KONG - Last night, to the gentle riffs of the jazz band flown in specially from the Peace Hotel in Shanghai, one of mainland China's most senior cadres in Hong Kong celebrated an anniversary of sorts amid the recreated splendour of a pre-revolutionary, colonial era.

Lest anyone think, as he mingled among the brightest and richest of capitalist Hong Kong, that the acting head of the hardline New China News Agency, was going soft, rest assured that in almost every room the proceedings took place under the watchful eyes of Chairman Mao or against a backdrop of Cultural Revolution memorabilia.

By the Long March Bar, two effeminate Mao portraits looked out from the pop-art painting by Li Shan, a Peking artist. Downstairs, staring down from the dining hall's wall, was a meticulous drawing of the ageing revolutionary; only on careful inspection did one notice the coffee stains left by the club's owner when he over-enthusiastically took delivery of the work.

That's the way of the China Club and its proprietor, David Tang. Last night officials from China were feted. Tonight, had he not been in London for some serious brain-storming about Sino-British relations, Chris Patten, the colony's pro-democracy Governor, would have been taking to the dance- floor at part two of the anniversary bash. (Even Mr Tang's sense of humour drew the line at inviting them on the same night.)

No other club in Hong Kong plays host to Deng Xiaoping's children one week, and the Governor the next. Last night was a double celebration, at least for some of the guests; it marked the second anniversary of the China Club, and the four-year countdown to 30 June 1997, when China takes back Hong Kong.

Just as the China Club's decor expertly combines what China and the West offer, so did last night's wealthy clientele represent those set to make the most out of the sunset of colonialism and the years beyond. Most club members do not fear 1997.

In a colony not renowned for nostalgia, Mr Tang has created an exquisite retreat from the heat and bustle of Hong Kong. And it is a delightful irony that this perfect revival of 1940s Shanghai art-deco, (with membership at about pounds 11,000), is housed in the very building from which Cultural Revolution mainland cadres in 1967 exhorted the masses to rise up against the colonial government. They didn't.

Mr Tang, 38, is the master of ceremonies, imposing obsessive standards of good taste on his creation. He spent dollars 6m ( pounds 4m) setting up the club, and chose everything, 'down to the chopsticks'. His mischievous sense of humour is all around; the clock in the Long March Bar is set 20 minutes slow 'so people think it is earlier than it really is, and have another drink'. Behind the till in the dining room, a carved clock is set at ten to three in honour of Rupert Brooke - Is there honey still for tea?. But his passion is art, which fills every wall, a colourful celebration of Chinese painting from contemporary Mao kitsch to traditional classic landscapes.

The China Club was not designed to be the congenial interface between Communism and capitalism that it has become. Its rationale was more down to earth, according to Mr Tang. 'Some of us men, particularly, I think, rather fancy the idea of having one's own club or restaurant.'

Is it difficult to get in? 'The good thing is that it is not. I am very easygoing, and I am the only member of the committee.' He looks at everybody's application. 'The most important thing is that your cheque should clear first,' he laughs. 'After that I make sure that you are not a scallywag. In fact even if I think you're a scallywag, I might let you in because it is quite nice to have scallywags.' The most important thing is that people should want to come, he says.

They do come - British expatriates, the colony's politicians, the taipans of Nineties Hong Kong and their henchmen, the power-brokers, and the mainlanders. It is said that one of the key fund-raising lunches for the British Conservatives was held here.

The decor and furniture were carefully modelled on pre-revolutionary colonial Shanghai. 'I found that juxtaposition between the East and the West very interesting,' Mr Tang says. 'Shanghai was magical because there was this chemistry between East and West.' Last night on the dance floor, with four years to go, Sino-British relations were looking more cordial than they had for a long time.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us