Sunday, May 01, 2005

Communists in Hong Kong

This being the First of May, I thought it appropriate to reflect on the past of Communism in Hong Kong. Naturally, just before and after World War II there was a substantial number of Chinese Communist agents in Hong Kong, shadowing Japanese and Chinese Nationalists alike. Their headquarters, surprisingly, were right on Queen's Road Central, right about where the New World Tower building is today. Back in the 1930s, there was a famous tea shop on that site, and it served as an effective front for Communist agents working in and around Hong Kong.

But with the Japanese invasion, the occupying Japanese troops would not tolerate a Communist presence in the territory. The spearhead of leftist resistance to the occupation came from the East River guerillas, largely coming from Hakka villages in the New Territories. Given the desperate straits Britain found itself in with the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore by 1942, they began to develop a working relationship with the guerillas, particularly with the British Army Aid Group headed by Sir Lindsay Ride. However, as an Allied victory became more and more certain, political considerations made this alliance untenable, as was the case in the Malayan jungles.

By the end of the war, with the Cold War about to descend, any explicit Communist political presence was not tolerated, and tension grew even stronger during the Korean War. But the institutions of the Communist Chinese in the mainland could not really be ignored for long after their takeover of China in 1949, and institutions like the Bank of China and the Xinhua, or New China News Agency, became the Chinese proxies in Hong Kong. Leftist sympathizers in the local population were not small, and became most apparent during the Star Ferry, or Red Guard riots in 1967 (their demonstrations in Central near some British batsmen ultimately led to the demise of the cricket club set up on the old Murray Parade Ground, now Chater Garden). Those young radicals like Jasper Tsang Yok-Sing, forged in the arbitrary colonial repression of that era, continue to play a major role in the (mostly) unelected section of Legco in the form of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong .

Interestingly, I once posed a question to Jasper Tsang about his Communist past, and about whether he felt his ideals of that era were betrayed by the capitalism, oops, the socialism with Chinese characteristics, of the current era. He did not answer my question directly, but he did say that he still admired Mao Tse-Tung a great deal more than Deng Xiao-ping. Which effectively did answer my question...Anyway, that's all for now. Happy May Day!

1 comment:

joann said...

It's true. My co-author's life story is about being a Communist in Hong Kong after the Second World War. His story Song of the Azalea just published by Penguin Canada talks about how he was recruited and how he recruited others. He was a witness of the 1967 May Riot in Hong Kong.