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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan 489, May 16, 2004

Hong Kong Radio on the Air Shortwave

A major political change directly affecting the lives of more than five million people took place in Asia in the middle of the year 1997. The small and dependent enclave of Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule after more than one and a half centuries as a British territory.

Actually, Great Britain gained control of Hong Kong in three progressive stages, and in the year 1898 a 99 year lease was signed between England and China. This lease expired at the end of June 1997 and England handed back to China all of the Hong Kong territories.

The territory of Hong Kong covers more than 1,000 square miles, though only 400 square miles is land area. It is a rugged territory, made up of more than 235 islands plus the mainland peninsulas. At the time of annexation 100 years ago, the whole area was no more than a series of small fishing villages. The name, Hong Kong, in the Cantonese language, means, "Fragrant Harbour."

The usage of wireless communication began in Hong Kong around the end of World War I with the establishment of three spark gap transmitters. These stations were BXY on Stonecutters Island and BZV at Port Nolluth, which were both operated by the British navy; and VPS at the familiar location, Cape D'Aguilar, which was operated by the Post Office for international communications.

A series of test broadcasts was made in 1926 with the presentation of live concert programs, and the first broadcasting service commenced on June 30, 1928, with regular scheduling on 475 kHz using a power output of 150 watts. This new station was allocated the callsign 5HK, with the number 5 indicating the territory and the letters HK representing rather obviously Hong Kong.

This station was replaced soon afterwards by two other stations, which identified as GOW on the mediumwave channel 1,000 kHz, and VPS3 on the channel 800 kHz. The callsigns of these units were subsequently changed to the more familiar ZBW and ZEK, with programming on one channel in English and the other in Chinese.

A series of experimental broadcasts on shortwave commenced in 1930 over a low powered station in the 49 metre band under the callsign ARI. Regular broadcasting on shortwave began in 1935 with the installation of a 250 watt transmitter under the exotic callsign ZBW. This low powered unit was replaced in 1938 by the very famous and still active 2.5 kW Marconi SWB transmitter.

Under the Japanese administration of Hong Kong for a period of three and a half years extending from 1941 to 1945, the radio station was on the air under the occupation callsigns, JQHA and JZHA, with apparently one call for mediumwave and the other for shortwave. International radio monitors in Australia, the United States, and New Zealand reported hearing the exotic little shortwave transmitter periodically, usually on the air in the international shortwave bands.

Following the war years, the two program channels were re-established, one in Chinese and the other in English. Commercial broadcasting was introduced into Hong Kong in 1960, and the entire technical facilities were upgraded eight years later, in 1968.

It was at this stage, after 38 years of service, that the small and famous shortwave transmitter from 1938, ZBW was retired.

However, many years later, in 1980, it was thought that the old 2.5 kw. transmitter was re-activated for weather broadcasts during the South China Sea boat-race from Hong Kong to the Philippines. However, QSL cards issued by Hong Kong Telecom indicate that one of their many communication transmitters was in use for the boat race weather broadcasts.

This is the current electronic scene in Hong Kong. There are seven mediumwave transmitters, 60 FM transmitters, a dozen radio networks, and five networks of television. In addition, there is the shortwave communication facility located at Cape D'Aguilar which houses all of the shortwave transmitters that are used for communication with aircraft and shipping, as well as for regular Volmet weather bulletins and the occasional boat race broadcasts.

The AWR collection of QSL cards in Indianapolis contains several exotic QSLs from radio stations located in Hong Kong. These historic QSL cards include the BBC East Asian Relay Station, BFBS Hong Kong, Radio TV Hong Kong, several communication channels, as well as two picturesque cards for the unit that was used for the boat race broadcasts.