[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Hong Kong during the 1960s
On 1 July, Hong Kong marks the 10th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule after 156 years of British administration.

ALASTAIR TODD, FORMER COLONIAL CIVIL SERVANT

The 1960s brought political unrest to Hong Kong. In 1966 we had a great agitation about a proposal by the Star Ferry Company to increase the fares for crossing between Hong Kong and Kowloon. The actual increase was modest.

An old photo of the Star Ferry
The Star Ferry is one of the best known symbols of Hong Kong
I cannot now remember how it got so inflamed. It was not exactly a question of grinding the faces of the poor. But it got taken up by various lobbies who wished to test their influence, and then with a dispute going, an opportunity was available for agitators and gangsters to see what they might be able to gain in a troubled situation.

So began the Star Ferry riots. It was quite uncomfortable for a short time, but this was nothing to compare with what was to follow the next year, 1967.

For many months the Colony was subjected to a wave of terrorism violence, murder and intimidation which had its source in the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in China.

Chairman Mao had deliberately set loose his Red Guards on a campaign to complete the revolution, which in his view was petering out and losing momentum.

All good Communists were obliged to show loyalty by attacking any who held back - among those, of course, the arch enemies, the Imperialists who ruled Hong Kong
The Red Guards were turned loose to attack all authority, all those who were trying to run the country and build up its economic structures. No-one was safe; schools were closed, managers were routinely humiliated, intellectuals were terrorised, destruction reigned.

Hong Kong had its share of communists in schools, trade unions, news agencies and the like, and the mania that was raging in China began to rub off on them.

All good Communists were obliged to show loyalty by attacking any who held back - among those, of course, the arch enemies, the Imperialists who ruled Hong Kong.

Alastair Todd inspecting police recruits
Alastair Todd inspecting police recruits
It was a strange time in some ways. For example during these many months when the place was in turmoil, the flow of water from China which was so important was never interrupted.

The foreman who had to go over once a month to agree the figure for water supplied was never interfered with though he had on occasion to sit out some hostile propaganda.

So far as I was concerned the nearest I came to danger was one Sunday morning at the Cathedral, when a crowd anxious to go up Garden Road and demonstrate at Government House was stopped by the police who were lined up in depth on the road.

The background to our devotions was a swell of baying voices hurling abuse at the police. When in the end the police moved to disperse the mob, many threw themselves on the ground, poured tomato ketchup liberally over themselves, and out came the communist press photographers to record evidence of imperialist brutality.

The troubles in Hong Kong gradually subsided as firm control was re-established in mainland China.

FELIX YEUNG, INSURANCE CLERK

The Hong Kong I remember is the Hong Kong from the 1960s.

Junk in the harbour, photo by David Johnson
There used to be a real waterfront in those days, not like the narrow passage of water you get now
When I was a young man I used to walk at nights with my friends on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront and drink Coca Cola for the whole night. I lived in Mong Kok and it felt like a really great place. Now air pollution is so bad there.

I liked the old days.

In the 1950s and 1960s nearly all Hong Kong people were poor but we were also very happy. Some people were very rich but the majority were poor.

There used to be a real waterfront in those days, not like the narrow passage of water you get now. Now, there is barely a harbour.

These days many young kids feel pressure from teachers and parents and commit suicide. But when I was a kid, I played on the streets. Whole families lived in one low rise block. We all knew each other from the ground floor to the top floor. Now children just play on their own.

We had less unemployment in those days. Now many people between 40 and 50 are unemployed. In those days many people were factory workers but there is no factory work any more. People have lost their jobs but they haven't learned new skills.





FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific