John Simpson

Hong Kong fury

Whatever the authorities in Beijing say, the anger on the streets of Hong Kong isn’t synthetic, nor is it stirred up by ‘foreign forces’. The serious, dedicated atmosphere of 2014’s umbrella protest, which lasted 79 days, is back, only this time with more violence. Of course, the vast majority of Hong Kongers won’t be personally

What Cuba was really like under Fidel Castro

Havana 27 February 1993 `Que undo est el, how beautiful he is,’ sighed a stately woman beside me in the crowd, showing a remarkable lack of teeth and a prodigious amount of bosom. I thought about the portly figure in the green uniform who had just driven off in his unmarked Mercedes. A living monument, certainly;

Roll up for the Bo Xilai show

In a stuffy courtroom in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, a major political triumph is being celebrated. Bo Xilai, the Communist princeling, challenged the system and lost, and the system is having its revenge. Under Marxism-Leninism a trial isn’t an exploration of truth, it’s a balletic demonstration of the rightness of the political system.

Why is Nelson Mandela’s health a state secret?

When President Jacob Zuma reassures a journalist, as he did last week, that Nelson Mandela’s condition is improving slightly, the entire world sighs with relief. Yet it has become hard to get trustworthy information about the man the world most admires. Mandela’s wife Graça doesn’t seem to be so involved in the key decisions about

End of the Party?

The 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party had begun, and President Hu Jintao was droning his way through his last big speech before stepping down for good. Irritatingly, he raised his voice to a low shout every time he reached the end of a significant sentence. That was when the assembled delegates were expected

What should happen now?

If you work for the BBC, you dislike seeing the outfit’s name in the headlines. It usually means the BBC is in trouble. No good complaining that much of the British press (to the bewilderment of people outside the country) have it in for the BBC, big time. Nor is it any good pointing out

Rebel island

Hong Kong isn’t what it was. Under British rule it was meek and mild, careful not to rock the boat, forever nervous about its future under China. The rich bought property in Chelsea and Vancouver, put their children into good schools and universities in Britain and America, and did whatever it took to get another

The office of last resort

Beijing There is no mistaking the place. It isn’t just the crowd of men and women sitting on the steps of the small official building; it’s the way they look as individuals. Once you’ve come across a group of petitioners in China, you can always spot them again. They are usually middle-aged or elderly and

Dear boss…

Dear Director General Many congratulations on getting the best job in world broadcasting. Enjoy it as much as you can, while you can; in my 46 years at the Beeb, few directors-general have left as they would have chosen. Several were forced out before their time was up — usually as the result of bad

Bias, Boris and the Beeb

The Today programme ended, and John Humphrys walked out of the studio yawning and stretching. The phone was ringing in the empty programme office, and he picked it up. A spin-doctor’s foul-mouthed rant about how rotten and biased and stupid the programme had been came pouring out of it. Humphrys asked after a couple of

Savile Row revolutionary

 ‘You can’t imagine how insecure it makes our politicians when they consider that they haven’t been elected.’ The man in the Savile Row suit and the hand-made shirt gave me a shrewd grin. Even the price of his haircut would have kept a ­Chinese farmer going for a year. ‘What’s the answer?’ I had to

A new Argy-bargy | 2 April 2012

Another article to mark the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War — this one from the current issue of the magazine. It’s by John Simpson and analyses the current tensions between Britain and Argentina. Buenos Aires Buenos Aires is as exhilarating, as unpredictable, as stylish as ever. But the economic boom is over. Times are

A new Argy-bargy

Buenos Aires Buenos Aires is as exhilarating, as unpredictable, as stylish as ever. But the economic boom is over. Times are hard once again, more shops in Calle Florida are boarded up, the sales are pretty frantic. And so, as Jorge Luis Borges, the blind sage of Calle Maipu, just off the superb Plaza San

Putin power

Sunday will be Russia’s Coronation Day. The emperor is back from his constitutionally imposed four-year break, Dmitri Medvedev, the fill-in, finds his coach turning back into a prime ministerial pumpkin, and Vladimir Putin will be president for another term: only this time it’s been extended to six years. President of Russia till 2018, and he’ll