There are a fair few files relating to the history of Hong Kong among the large collection of Foreign and Colonial Office archival material still retained by the department, largely held at Hanslope Park. This ‘secret archive’ was finally acknowledged in 2011 following a ruling by High Court judge as part of a suit brought by five Mau Mau members over torture and mutilation during the Kenya ‘Emergency’ in the 1950s. Following the Carey Report on files relating to colonial administration, the FCO has released a series of inventory records providing some details of those files. This post looks at Hong Kong-related material found in the latest two inventory lists to be made public by the FCO, released in March 2014 and 2015. The full lists can be found here, while Excel documents with the Hong Kong-related listings can be downloaded here:
The material has an overall date range of 1915 to 2000, with many of the listings relating to large groupings of files carrying such a wide range making more difficult the task of identifying potential clusters of and gaps in the material (such as for more controversial episodes such as the 1967 riots, which may be contained within some of the larger record collections but for which there is nothing obviously related in the 2015 release, for example). Within the 2015 inventory, there is slightly Hong Kong-related material listed than in 2014, with roughly 2,200 fewer items taking up approximately 23 fewer metres of space.
Based on the categories used by those conducting the inventory, this archival material comes in many forms, including everything from loose bundles of paper to envelopes and microform copies. This material even contains some floppy disks and computer back-up tapes, which raise some questions about the potential for future preservation and accessibility if and when this material is made accessible to researchers, since use of this material is dependent on now out-of-date technology.
Hong Kong-related material covers a wide range of topics, with just a selection of them being: immigration files, including asylum applications; Sino-British Liaison Group files, including reports, memoranda, and meeting materials relating to work on the Joint Declaration and handover; documents on ‘counter-subversion’ activities concerning groups such as the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation; and even includes reports and booklets relating to the administration’s mid-1990’s sewage strategy.
Here are some further details about Hong Kong-related material found in each inventory:
Total Items: 282,349
Total Boxes: 3,368
Linear Length: 454.92m
Date Range: 1915-2000
Formats: Envelopes, Loose Papers, Loose Documents, Files, Folders, Loose Bundles of Paper, Cardboard Map Holder, Diaries, Ring Binders, Bound Report Booklets, Bound Volumes, Books, Microfiche, Microform, Computer Back-up Tapes, Floppy Disks
Total Items: 284,624
Total Boxes: 3,542
Linear Length: 478.035m
Date Range: 1915-2000
Formats: Envelopes, Loose Papers, Loose Documents, Files, Folders, Loose Bundles of Paper, Cardboard Map Holder, Diaries, Ring Binders, Bound Report Booklets, Bound Volumes, Books, Microfiche, Microform, Computer Back-up Tapes, Floppy Disks, Bundle