The British Empire Library

May Days In Hong Kong: Riot And Emergency In 1967

edited by Robert Bickers and Ray Yep

Courtesy of OSPA

Bernard Williams (Assistant Defence Secretary HK 1965-68)
This book brings together eight papers by various academics, which were presented at a workshop at the City University of Hong Kong in May 2009.

Ray Yep describes the different views taken by the Hong Kong governor, the British charge d'affaires in Beijing, and the Foreign/Commonwealth Office. He concludes that London supported the governor's firm approach because it could see no alternative. Lawrence Wong describes the measures taken by the government against the leftists, and the public reaction to them. He concludes that most of the public supported the government rather than the rioters or Beijing. Robert Bickers gives more detail of the Macau confrontation, which determined the Hong Kong authorities to take a firm stand. John Carroll compares the 1967 situation with the left-wing Hong Kong General Strike of 1925.

Georgina Sinclair describes the organisation and largely successful tactics of the Hong Kong Police during the disturbances. Catherine Schenk writes about the banking and financial impact of the riots. David Clayton examines the very minor effect of the disturbances on labour laws. Alan Smart and Tai-lok Lui confirm that no major social initiatives were made until the arrival of the next governor Sir Murray MacLehose in 1971.

In his introduction to the volume. Professor Bickers makes the point that the Hong Kong administration was very much part of the Colonial Service. "Its leading officials were men who had served in colonial administrations across the world" . It is true that the Governor, Sir David Trench, started his career in the Solomon Islands, where he served in the Defence Force during the War and was awarded the MC. He subsequently did a successful tour in Hong Kong, then promoted to Commissioner Western Pacific before returning to Hong Kong as Governor. He returned to London for six weeks (apparently on sick leave) at the end of June 1967, and the Colonial Secretary Michael Gass, formerly of Gold Coast/Ghana and Western Pacific, became Officer Administering the Government. Gass continued Trench's firm policies, and had the very difficult job of dismissing the irresolute Commissioner of Police Edward Tyrer and replacing him with his deputy Ted Eates, with previous service in Africa.

However, the Special Duties team, which masterminded the local politics of the emergency and secured public support, was largely local. It was led by Jack Cater, who had come to Hong Kong in 1945 with the British Military Administration, and had set up the very successful local fish and vegetable cooperative marketing organisations. He later set up the Anti-Corruption organisation (ICAC), and became Chief Secretary. Denis Bray (the ideas man) was born in Hong Kong and had fluent Cantonese, as well as a first-class Cambridge degree in mathematics. He later set up the City District Officer scheme and became Secretary for Home Affairs. David Ford was seconded from the British Army as an expert on psyops; he later became Director of Information Services and Chief Secretary.

British Empire Book
Robert Bickers and Ray Yep
Hong Kong University Press
978 962 209 082 8


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