Obituary: Christopher Hunter

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Christopher Hunter (1964-2021)

Christopher Hunter, the former executive editor of China Business Law Journal and India Business Law Journal, passed away at his home in Berkhamsted, England, on Sunday 21 November 2021.

A journalist and a scholar of Chinese, Hunter lived in Hong Kong from 1987 to 2016. He had been suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) for more than 25 years.

Hunter was the executive editor of India Business Law Journal at the time of its launch in 2007. He was also a co-founder of China Business Law Journal in 2009. Both journals are published by Vantage Asia. Prior to this, he worked at the Financial Times in Nanjing in the 2000s, and was China editor at Asia Law & Practice, a division of Euromoney Institutional Investor, in the 1990s.

“Chris was a boss, mentor, and most of all a friend,” said James Burden, a director at Vantage Asia. “My first taste of his unorthodox approach to life came when he interviewed me for a job at Asia Law & Practice. ‘What would you think if I fired you?’ was one of the first questions he asked.

“Somehow, I got the job, managed not to get fired, and Chris became my mentor in the world of legal publishing. Ten years later, I sought Chris’s mentorship again when I started my own venture – Vantage Asia – in which Chris and others subsequently became partners.

“His presence gave me the confidence to strike out on my own, while his intellect, analytical mind and talent for finding faults in just about everything made him a fantastic sounding board for ideas. His quirky sense of humour and boisterous laugh eased the pain of getting a new business up and running. We all miss him immensely.”

Kelley Fong, a director at Vantage Asia and the publisher of China Business Law Journal, also has fond memories of working with Hunter. “Despite his illness and physical limitations, he was passionate about the quality of content and the development of the business,” said Fong. “He was inspirational, brave, knowledgeable and positive. He was a very caring person who gave us comfort and security, and the spirit of striving for the best. It is my hope that we can keep his spirit alive as the company moves forward.”

Quirky humour concealed a beautiful mind

Dominic Carman, a former managing director of Asia Law & Practice, recalls: “Chris Hunter was a unique individual ̶ thoughtful, incisive and unafraid to offer a trenchant opinion. I was very fortunate to benefit from his tremendous knowledge of Chinese law, language and culture.

“As a work colleague at Asia Law & Practice in the mid-1990s, he was loyal, industrious and committed. Beneath his quirky sense of humour, there was an often serious and sometimes valuable message. He will be much missed.”

“The world is a smaller place without Chris Hunter,” added Patrick Dransfield, a colleague of his at Asia Law & Practice. “I first met Chris at a Student Christian Movement debate in Leeds during the spring of 1983. He took great delight and shared sometimes biting wit during a particularly heated debate, as I recall. Our working relationship began with Euromoney’s Asia Law & Practice, where we collaborated on several publications.”

Adrian Clarke, former director of FT Electronic Publishing, said Hunter joined the Financial Times with a brief to improve relationships at an FT venture in Nanjing. “Chris’s business acumen, knowledge of Chinese culture and language, unflustered approach and determination delivered results,” he said.

“Chris analysed the 40-person operation that FT was running. He helped develop and then execute our strategy of positive engagement with the goal of exiting the project when the contract came up for renewal. He managed this skilfully with the partnership ceasing without rancour in 2001.”

Clarke said Hunter’s four years working for periods in Nanjing were at times challenging, as MS had begun to impact him. “I remember his good humour in dealing with often prickly negotiations and the trouble he went to in building personal relationships in Nanjing,” he said. “His karaoke rendition of a famous (I’m told) love duet with a senior female official in Nanjing still lives in my mind and won mass applause from the audience. It was clear the staff, locals and Westerners, admired and respected him.”

A memorial service was held in Hong Kong on 20 January.