George Bush senior forced from the Australian Embassy in Peking by Bill Green

I ripped a leather coat from the back of George Bush senior when he attempted to throw me out of the Australian Embassy in Peking (as it then was) in 1974. As he ordered me from the Australian Embassy I reached behind him, grasped the coat on either side of the vent and ripped it from him. The coat was an inferior “deer skin” coat, really pigskin, and the stitches were also weak. He had purchased the coat in China. I had also purchased one that day. We were in the crowded bar of the Embassy after a day at the Peking Trade Exhibition.

George was then the senior officer with what amounted to the China-America Liaison office that was created to win America permission for an Embassy in China. The Americans were piggy-backing on our Embassy, run by a young and terribly competent Stephen Fitzgerald.

The incident began when two trade exhibitors drank a little too much and thought I was a suitable candidate for verbal abuse because I was the press secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Jim Cairns, and he didn’t attend the drinking session. “Your fuckin’ boss is a pink lefty aresehole,” seemed to be the best they could produce but it was yelled into my ear every few minutes. I chose to ignore them until one pushed me and fell over, as did his companion shortly after.

I repaired to the toilet off the upstairs foyer. On emerging I was approached by the Hong Kong Trade Commissioner and told that the Ambassador had asked me to leave the Embassy. I smiled at him. He had imagined shock, horror and a humiliating exit.

“Are you going?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

He waved to two embassy guards to remove me. They came towards me across the foyer and I ran at them to at least have some momentum. They fell down and as I descended to the bar again I grabbed an aboriginal spear from the wall of the stair well. On approaching the table where Stephen was drinking I asked him if he had asked me to leave the Embassy. “Certainly not,” he said.

Returning to the bar I was handed a drink by Greg Clarke, Murdoch’s man in Tokyo, who had flown in with us in the RAAF’s VIP plane. Within a moment an American declared himself the culprit (he had obviously prevailed on the Trade Commissioner) and demanded that I leave the Australian Embassy. “But you’re a fuckin’ American,” I said. “How can you demand I leave the Embassy.”

“You’re leaving,” he said. I grabbed his coat and ripped it from his body. People emerged from everywhere to hold us. I heard someone ask if something should be done. Apparently not because several other people had already fallen over, obviously dead drunk. I saw George Bush senior leaving the Embassy bar with friends. I didn’t think too much about it except a Trade bureaucrat insisted I pay for the coat (I believe he was a senior in Trade). Not having a cheque book I borrowed one from a colleague. Fortunately the cheque later bounced.

However, the night was far from over. Stephen declared the bar shut sometime later and Jim’s press entourage left to be driven back to the hotel. At the hotel I asked for my bag from the boot. The driver refused to open it (all drivers then were members of Chinese security) and I approached the boot that had no handle and I imagined it was a Chinese puzzle. I lifted the number plate but it came off in my hand. I kicked the bumper bar but it fell off. Things looked dire.

The driver began to remonstrate with me in an abusive tone. I tied his car aerials in knots and began to walk away. Greg Clarke told me I’d have to apologise because the driver had called for the PLA (they had replaced the Red Guard) I turned back and said, “Sorry, mate.” I headed to the hotel foyer as fast as my dignity would allow.

There are many other aspects to this story, some I covered in my novel, Compulsively Murdering Mao, (Hodders), but I found I had to write the story on my blog because I woke up laughing about it some weeks ago, and that was a change.

Several times I have attempted to sell this story but I discovered editors tend to run from it. I know I could have if I persevered but having begun a career as a novelist I was reluctant. Would it cloud my reputation? I needn’t have worried.

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