For amateur radio users, radios are not only used
for listening to radio programs. They are also a channel for personal
contact and tools for constructing their own communication systems.
“We use amateur radios for leisure to produce our own experimental
phone systems,” said Paul Anderson, president of Hong Kong Amateur
Radio Transmitting Society.
“It is illegal to use amateur radios for broadcasting. We can only
use amateur radios for personal communication.”
Mr. Anderson has great satisfaction when he successfully contacts people
living far away.
Besides, he feels excited to have connections with countries like Singapore,
where amateur radio — or ham radio, as it is known colloquially
— is highly regulated by the government.
According to Mr. Anderson, ham radio has developed much since during the
Second World War.
Soldiers were trained to be radio operators. After the war, some of them
constructed their own radio communication systems.
Ham radio became popular because, at that time, telephone communication
was expensive and restricted to big cities.
“Amateur radio reached Hong Kong in about 1970,” Mr. Anderson
said. “Now 2,000 to 3,000 people have radio operation licenses in
He said that it was meaningless to compare amateur radio with other communication
tools, like telephones.
“They have different functions,” he said. “No fair comparisons
can be made.”
Stephen Tse, secretary of Hong Kong Amateur Radio Transmitting Society,
said the dynamic unpredictability of ham radio is its main attraction.
“There are a lot of variations I cannot predict,” said he.
“For example, I do not know when calls will be answered and who
is on the other side.
“I gain new experiences and friends through the calls.”
Apart from its leisure function, amateur radio can also serve the public.
They are usually used as a backup means of communication in mountaineering
and charity walks such as Trailwalker, which is organized annually by
Oxfam Hong Kong.
“Charity walks are often held in country parks, where mobile phones
don’t work well. Besides, phone lines may be busy when too many
people use phones,” Mr. Anderson said.
“In order to keep contact with medical support, we need amateur
radio for communication in those areas.”
Mr. Tse said, “There was an unexpectedly heavy rain during Trailwalker
2000, and it caused a landslide,” he said. “Fifteen people
were trapped on Tai Mo Shan and some of them had fevers.
“The radio system of Mountain Rescue Team of Civil Aid Service and
mobile phones could not work.
“Luckily, our amateur radios functioned well. Therefore, we could
report their location to the rescue team.”
Because Hong Kong Amateur Radio Transmitting Society is busy helping the
public, it needs government assistance to find a place to centralize operations.
“We are not asking for financial support,” said Mr. Anderson.
“We only hope that the government can provide us with a place for
a club station,” said Mr. Anderson.
“We cannot afford to rent an office,” said he. “Since
our society is a volunteer organization, our operation costs are supported
“However, in order to promote amateur radio, we need the club station
where a full setup of radios can be placed. Seminars and courses could
be held there, too.”
Ho Wing Leung, president of Hong Kong Amateur Radio Association, also
supports this request.
“A regular place would allow members to gather. They could share
experiences and make improvements on radio operations,” said Mr.
Other than the problem of finding a place, amateur radio operators have
to deal with signal transmission difficulties.
“There are lots of tall buildings in Hong Kong,” Mr. Ho said.
“They block signal transmission.
Therefore, the communication area is limited.”
“Basically, antennae allow better signal transmission,” Mr.
Tse said. “However, they are too big to be installed outside windows
of common flats.
“Besides, if the antennae are in positions having a weak radio network,
poor signal transmission will still result.”
In order to solve the problem, repeaters have been set up. Repeaters receive
signals sent from one place and then retransmit the signals to targeted
“Signals can farther this way. More people can be involved in communications
as a result,” Mr. Ho said.
According to Mr. Anderson, each radio user has a unique call sign that
consists of six characters.
The three-character prefix of a call sign represents the country, and
the three-character suffix represents the specific user.
“For example, ‘VR2’ represents Hong Kong, and I choose
‘BBC’ as my suffix,” Mr. Anderson said. “Therefore,
my call sign is ‘VR2BBC’.
“We call people’s call signs instead of real names on radio
to prevent confusion.”
After each radio communication, users usually exchange communication confirmation
cards. The cards serve as proof of the radio communications made.
Different cover designs of confirmation cards are allowed, provided that
they include the call signs of the two parties, times and dates of the
communication, frequencies used in the communication, modes of communication
and the signal reports.
“We have contacted scientists at the South Pole before,” said
Mr. Tse. “The confirmation card of that exciting contact is memorable.”