Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Disreputable Colony

I had occasion to have a look at Google Books recently, and found an excellent old tome called: China, A Popular History, by Oscar Oliphant, published in 1857. Here is one extract:
"Military and naval men, who have served in Africa and India, feel the effects of the sun at Hong Kong in a manner never before experienced. Neither the Indian sepoys, Malays, or Chinese, can endure the climate as well as Europeans, whose stamina they do not possess [this quote, from bitter ex-HK Treasurer Montgomery Martin, could not have been referring to the villagers that had lived in HK for generations - Ed.]... The Europeans who survive a brief residence in the climate, generally get a lassitude of frame and an irritability of fibre, which destroy the springs of existence."

This is a gloomy picture of our boasted Chinese acquisition, and may serve to teach us the way of making a better choice when next the occasion offers. The only commerce of any consequence which is carried on in Hong Kong seems to be in that detestable drug opium. This makes the island the resort of pirates, smugglers, and disreputable characters of all descriptions, so that robberies and murders are of nightly occurence. In 1844, the number of Chinese on the island was nineteen thousand, of whom, not more than one thousand were women and children. In the census were included ninety-seven women, slaves, and females attendant on thirty-one brothels, eight gambling-houses, and twenty opium shops! In six years not one respectable Chinese has settled at Hong Kong...Hong Kong is nothing better than a grave for Europeans and a refuge for the smuggling desperadoes of the mainland.

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