Final countdown: Living the dream, from Hong Kong to honorary manhood | Asia Pacific

Final countdown: Living the dream, from Hong Kong to honorary manhood

Final countdown: Living the dream, from Hong Kong to honorary manhood

Updated 13 August 2014, 12:32 AEST

In the third instalment of our farewell series, we catch up with former Asia Pacific reporter, Sue Lannin, who filed to the program from Hong Kong to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sue is now the ABC's business resources reporter, spending much of her time quizzing chief executives, analysing the economy and making sense of company balance sheets for Australian audiences.

But then she was 'living the dream' as a freelance foreign correspondent.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Sue Lannin, former Asia Pacific reporter. Sue is now the ABC's national business resources reporter.

LANNIN: For me, filing for Asia Pacific as foreign correspondent, a freelance foreign correspondent in Hong Kong and in Pakistan, was living the dream.
 
Now, a lot of the stories that I covered in Hong Kong involved politics, involved the handover of Hong Kong, from British rule to Chinese rule, which, of course, was an extremely pivotal point in Hong Kong's history. There were many worries about what would happen with Chinese rule.  Doing stories about the changes that were taking place in Hong Kong are really what resonates with me for Asia Pacific in that time.
 
LAM: Indeed, as you say, Hong Kong is a correspondent's dream, even today, because it's such a compact place and easy to get around and yet so many stories there?
 
LANNIN: Yes, look, it's not just the political stories and the relationship between Hong Kong and China. Hong Kong's also an international city, so when I was there, there was so many international conferences, like, for example, the World Bank held its annual conference there, the International Monetary Fund as well. There's many, many international leaders come into Hong Kong and during the time I was there, was the Asian financial crisis, so I also did a lot of stories about the impact of the Asian financial crisis on Hong Kong and how it was hurt by the Asian financial crisis. For the first time, many Hong Kong people couldn't find a job.
 
There's also a lot of really local Hong Kong tales, that are just fascinating, like for example, the Chinese festivals in Hong Kong, which are extremely important and also how ordinary Hong Kong people live. So Hong Kong is a really fascinating place, in terms of its location and in terms of geopolitics, but there's also a lot of local issues that resonate with audiences around the world, and especially in the Asia Pacific.
 
LAM: And, I think you're enjoyment of Hong Kong shone through in the very many reports that you filed from the territory. But apart from Hong Kong, you spent some time filing for us from Pakistan, as well. Now, that is some contrast really filing from two very different Asian destinations. Tell us about Pakistan?
 
LANNIN: Yes, I must say it was a bit of a culture shock when I went to Pakistan and, of course, women aren't meant to be seen in Pakistan and certainly when I went there, which was at the end of 2001, so a few months after the September 11th terrorist attacks took place.  I was one of the few female correspondents that was there, so, of course, that was a bit of an adjustment and you were constantly besieged with attention, which could sometimes be difficult when you were trying to report. But I really fell in love with Pakistan, I found Pakistani people to be so warm and open and they really cared about what the rest of the world thought about Pakistan, they were really concerned that Pakistanis are not terrorists, that they felt that they were the meat in the sandwich in George W. Bush's War against Terrorism.
 
I did a lot of stories for Asia Pacific about the threat of al Qaeda and Islamic militancy, but I also did stories about again, normal Pakistani people, about how women are forging a role in Pakistan and the struggle to be respected, to get a job, and in fact, your family allowing you to get a job, but how things were changing socially. 
 
Once I went to a Pashtun village, now Pashtuns are a tribal group in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the role of women, women are really seen as the property of the father, of the patriach. The conditions were that people lived in sort of mud brick compounds. There wasn't gas, so the women had to use a mud kiln to cook their bread, by using fire and also that's how they did their cooking, they had electricity. But still, even within those conditions, and even though they couldn't really go outside of the village, one of the daughters of the family I visited, was a teacher in the village school and the mother was in fact a local councillor. So things were actually changing and women were finding a voice within the limitations of Pakistani culture and Pashtun culture. But it was a real special opportunity for me to be able to go to the village. And one of the things about being a foreign woman in Pakistan is that you can talk to the men, whereas Pakistani women are very limited in how much interaction they can have with men outside the family,  but I could speak to men. I was respected as an honorary man, but I could also interview women, I could go inside the family compound and interview women. So that gave me I think a bit of an advantage.
 
LAM: How has your time with Asia Pacific and indeed your knowledge of the region. Do you find that especially relevant in your current beat?
 
LANNIN: Yes, absolutely. Look, I do a lot of stories about China, I focus on the price of iron ore, so having dealt with Chinese culture and Hong Kong culture, I understand the concept of face in Chinese culture, which is very important in forming contacts, so that has really helped me in terms of being able to interview Chinese companies about business issues, about iron ore, about the big miners, like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. Chinese investment and Asian investment in Australia are, of course, very important issues, and very lucrative for Australia, so my experience has really helped me and there's times when I will also draw on my experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
 
One of the stories I did last year, was about how Australia is helping Afghanistan to develop its mining industry. So it's been a real advantage for me to have had that time in Pakistan and in Hong Kong, and in Afghanistan and it was a real training ground for me on the Asia Pacific program. It gave me a great background that's really given me an advantage today in my reporting on resources and business.
 

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