Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dry Shore Leave in Hong Kong After Midnight

Locals in Hong Kong have never really had much of a drinking problem. But that is not to say that no population in Hong Kong has not imbibed to excess. Indeed, the Western sailor was always the target customer of nocturnal entertainment of the "World of Suzie Wong" variety (and still is for the lascivious lasses on Lockhart and Luard Roads). From the beginning, the military personnel, both army and navy, would drink too much 'sam shu", and contributed in large part to the alarming death rate of the first garrisons (they would lose a regiment, it was estimated, every three or four years).

In this spirit, I thought I would provide you a glimpse of this drinking problem, and their consequent effects on law and order in Hong Kong, by this short exchange in the Legislative Council in 1899 (in which, incidentally, the original Mr. Lockhart participated):
The Acting Attorney-General: "...clause 4 and the following new clause be inserted in the Bill and numbered clause 3, namely:- "Subsection 4 of section 3i or Ordinance 24 of 1898 is hereby amended by substituting a comma for a full stop after the word licence, and by adding to such sub-section the following words, namely, 'and no liquor shall be sold or drunk on the premises by other persons than those of Chinese race between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.'"

The Acting Attorney-General explained that the object of introducing this new clause was to prevent European and American soldiers and sailors from drinking at Chinese restaurants during the hours when public houses are shut.

The Harbour-Master: I understand that the Chinese may drink all night but that Europeans and Americans may not do so. Is that so?

The Acting Attorney-General: That is so.

The Bill passed the committee stage and Council resumed.
And so it was that the European military man was prevented from imbibing alcohol alongside the Chinese citizens of Hong Kong, no doubt from past experience! Sadly the on such cases the public record is silent...

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