Introducing ‘When Silence Speaks: Press Censorship and Rule of Law in British Hong Kong,1850s–1940s’

Today we are introducing an article ‘When Silence Speaks: Press Censorship and Rule of Law in British Hong Kong,1850s–1940s’ by Michael Ng, The University of Hong Kong.

‘’Who is to say that the danger has passed? The greater part of the danger may have passed but some of it may have remained.’’

It may seems familiar in today Hong Kong, however, this comes from 1931 British colonial Hong Kong’s Central Magistracy. In February 1931, four vernacular newspapers (Wah Kiu, Nam Keung, Nam Chung, and Chung Hwa) were together prosecuted for breaching the Newspapers Regulations under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance by publishing a series of news reports on protests and strikes amongst prisoners in Victoria Gaol without the prior consent of government censors.

The trial hearing, which attracted considerable public discussion, was held at the Central Magistracy and widely reported in both the Chinese and English press. the defendants’ counsel, F. H. Loseby, before calling witnesses (including the government censor responsible for censoring the newspaper articles in question) for cross-examination, questioned the applicability of the Newspaper Regulations in peacetime Hong Kong. In the event that they were inapplicable, he averred, the charges should be dropped. He also submitted that the use of emergency regulations once times of danger and emergency has passed was a gross abuse of power. The prosecution, in contrast, insisted on the statutory interpretation that the regulations remained in force until repealed by the Governor, and said the sentence in the first paragraph.

Protests against the censorship of Chinese newspapers continued until the outbreak of World War II, and the arguments between the Chinese community and the colonial government were not confined to courtroom debates. In 1928, the leading Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong filed a joint petition with the Secretary for Chinese Affairs for the lifting of the censorship system, albeit without success. In July 1936, fifty editors of Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong submitted a jointly signed letter to Lo Man Kam, a Chinese legislative councilor, requesting that the matter of censorship be raised in the Legislative Council, which Lo duly did in the Legislative Council session on August 26, 1936, proposing a motion standing in his name that the censorship of Chinese Press should be abrogated.

The Colonial Secretary, representing the Hong Kong government, responded, making it clear that the administration’s anxiety justified the continuation of stringent censorship of the Chinese press. In a rebuttal of Lo’s arguments, he spoke of the public danger outlined in the Emergency Regulations Ordinance: That danger exists still, and will continue to exist until a definitely stable government exists in China. [… T]he welfare of Hong Kong depends on good relations with her customers in trade and […] nothing will sooner prejudice those relations than an impression that the Colony can with impunity be made a base from which to foment disorder. […] None will defend interference with the reasonable freedom of the press. [… However,] so long as unrestrained publication can do very serious injury to our relations with China, and with other friendly Powers and so to the Colony itself, just so long is prevention better than cure. We can see similar mindset appearing in today Hong Kong Court too.

Lo rose again to rebut the Colonial Secretary’s notion that prevention is better than cure: If the Chinese Press is to have only a measure of the freedom of the Press while that definition of public danger exists, then I feel that I for one will not live to see the day it is free. […] If you are going to give freedom to the Chinese Press only at a time when there is an idealist state, blissful inertia and benevolent governments without armaments, then I say to you, Sir, don’t give it, because there will be nobody in this world to enjoy it!

Michael Ng’s article reveals how the press, the Chinese press in particular, was continuously and systematically monitored and pervasively censored through the collaborative efforts of executive actions, legislative provisions and judicial decisions, this article further posits that the common law system practiced in British Hong Kong during the period under study was complicit in the imposition of an authoritarian form of law and order, and was more interested in preserving the British Empire’s overseas territorial and economic possessions and managing the power equation in the region than in safeguarding individual liberties in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is often praised for its rule-of-law colonial legacy, but this article argues that such narrative does not stand up to the scrutiny of archival study. The English law in Hong Kong history, rather than constituting a lens through which one can witness Hong Kong’s quest for modernity, is more akin to a mirror reflecting an ongoing cycle of coercion and resistance through law. Drawing on unexplored archival sources, the article first discusses how the colonial government used libel lawsuits to punish the press for criticism of the government in the 19th century, before turning to describing in detail the daily mandatory vetting of Chinese newspapers by colonial censors under the office of the Secretary for Chinese Affairs and related prosecution cases in the early 20th century.

(Who is to say that the danger has passed? The greater part of the danger may have passed but some of it may have remained.)

事實上,這段說話來自1931年英殖時期的香港法院。1931年2月,包括《華僑日報》在內的四份本地報章被控干犯《緊急情況規例條例》(又稱「緊急法」,Emergency Regulations Ordinance)下關於境報刊的條文——在未經政治審查同意前,刊出一系列域多利監獄囚犯抗議和示威的報導。

審訊於中央裁判司署進行,受公眾觸目,多家中文及英文報章都有報導。辦方律師F.H. Loseby在盤問證人(包括負責審查報刊的政府審查員)前,向法官質疑報刊條文不適用於和平時期的香港,他說如果不適用,控罪就應被撤銷。Loseby進一步說,當風險與緊急情況已過時仍然使用緊急法是嚴重濫用權力。反之,檢控方強調此法一直生效直至港督廢除,然後說出了文首那段說話。




Image courtesy of Hazell, Denis H. and Historical Photographs of China, University of Bristol

‘When Silence Speaks: Press Censorship and Rule of Law in British Hong Kong,1850s–1940s’ by Michael Ng, The University of Hong Kong.

Introducing ‘The Holocaust and Hong Kong: an overlooked history’

Today we are introducing an article ‘The Holocaust and Hong Kong: an overlooked history’ by Cheuk Him Ryan Sun, University of British Columbia.

This passage discusses the overlooked role of Hong Kong as a colonial entrepot in facilitating human mobility, trade, and refuge within the networks of the British Empire. While Hong Kong served as a transit port and refuge for various groups throughout history, the movement of Austrian and German-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust has often been neglected. Traditional narratives of Jewish refugee migration have focused on European and Western destinations, with Shanghai being mentioned as the primary port of refuge in Asia. However, recent scholarship adopting a Global Holocaust perspective has expanded the understanding of Jewish exile and the impact of the Nazi genocidal project worldwide. The author aims to elevate Hong Kong’s significance as another site within this broader landscape and examine the marginalized relationship between Hong Kong and the Holocaust.

As the avenues of escape began to close for Jews in Nazi Germany, one destination remained open: Shanghai. In the historiography about Jewish emigration to East Asia, Shanghai occupies the pedestal of being the only place in the world that did not have immigration barriers. This unique status came from the city’s position as a site of European semi-colonialisms: in addition to Chinese jurisdiction, parts of the city was divided between the French Concession and the International Settlement.

Many of the movement of Jewish refuge through Hong Kong was no secret. One South China Morning Post article published on December 19, 1938 painted a striking image: of the 538 German-Jewish refugees onboard the Conte Biancamano, few had any belongings besides their clothes, and fewer still had jobs lined up or spoke English. Most were families that included the elderly and young children. And many onboard were victims of the November Pogrom.

Hong Kong, as a British colony, had similar restrictions that regulated mobility as Britain did. Non-Chinese individuals seeking entry to Hong had to hold a valid passport or travel document accompanied with a valid entry visa. For most Jewish refugees, this was the major barrier that made Hong Kong inaccessible. However, the local Jewish Refugee Society, founded in response to the 1938 November pogroms, headed by Albert Raymond and other prominent members of Hong Kong’s Jewish community like Moses Talan and Lawrence Kadoorie, provided support by soliciting donations and offering temporary accommodations. They also obtained permission from the colonial authorities to allow refugees to enter the city during stopovers, providing a lifeline for some.

Jewish refugees who managed to secure entry visas often did so after arriving in Shanghai and obtaining a job in Hong Kong. Another option was family sponsorship visas, which was made possible by the government only after petitions from the Jewish Refugee Society. Yet few were able to breach Hong Kong’s ‘paper walls.’ The unfortunate reality was that for most Jewish refugees, their first and last encounter with Hong Kong occurred on the way to Shanghai.

For those Jewish refugees who found shelter in Hong Kong, a sense of normality briefly returned despite living in a foreign environment. However, the outbreak of World War II and the subsequent declaration of war by Britain against Nazi Germany on the morning of September 3 1939 changed everything. Governor Geoffrey Northcote and members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council followed in the response, placing Hong Kong under wartime rule. Immediately, Jewish refugees along with other German nationals, were considered “enemy aliens”, overnight, 99 male “enemy aliens” were sent to La Salle College in Kowloon for internment, but treated them with “respectable” European standards compared to those of Chinese refugees, for example they were initially allowed to hire Chinese staff to prepare meals, clean dishes, and do other chores. Although some internees were quickly released between late-September and early-October, they were required to carry pink identification cards, weekly check-ins at local police stations, and faced various restrictions on their activities, effectively turning Hong Kong into a colony-wide internment camp as they were forbidden to leave.

Eight months later, in the summer of 1940, Jewish refugees in Hong Kong faced expulsion due to fears of sabotage and fifth column activities following Nazi Germany’s rapid victories in Europe. However, the order of expulsion was retracted on the following day, June 7, the Hong Kong colonial government replaced it with a vague statement about a potential but undetermined action, causing uncertainty among the Jewish community. Eventually, the colonial authorities declared that those who did not leave by the new deadline of July 8 would not be assured separate internment from Nazi Germans and might not be interned in Hong Kong at all. With the possibility of finding refuge in Hong Kong eliminated, the Jewish Refugee Society and Lawrence Kadoorie collaborated with their counterparts in Shanghai to arrange for the remaining 60 Jewish refugees to leave Hong Kong by securing necessary documents. By the end of July 1940, all Jewish refugees, except for two families, had departed from Hong Kong.

The postwar period saw Hong Kong resume its function as a transit port – this time for Shanghai Jewish survivors eager to leave the city for home in Europe, or to new permanent destinations. The Jewish Refugee Society and Lawrence Kadoorie played a significant role in organizing the transit of these refugees through Hong Kong, working with organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (the Joint) and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in organizing the transit of Shanghai-based refugees through Hong Kong and to Australia. Meticulous planning was necessary due to the reluctance of the Hong Kong colonial government to accommodate a large number of refugees. 286 Stranded refugees were provided with housing and catering at the Peninsula Hotel by Lawrence Kadoorie while efforts were made to find transportation solutions between August 1946 and January 1947. The refugees themselves benefited from Kadoorie’s generosity with picnics on Chinese junks for children or outing to Kadoorie’s mansion located on the exclusive Victoria Peak. Eventually, the crisis was resolved, and by late January 1947, the last of the Shanghai Jewish refugees departed for Australia. Hong Kong continued to be an important financial and migration hub until its handover to China in 1997.

Integrating Hong Kong into Holocaust narratives entails shifting the focus from mass murder to mass migration and emphasizing the agency of individual refugees and their responses to displacement. It also involves adopting a refugee-centered approach that engages with British colonial politics. The passage argues that integrating Hong Kong into the Holocaust has broader implications beyond methodology, as it reveals an unsettling relationship where British colonial administrators and officials both saved and contributed to the displacement of refugees.



猶太難民途經香港並不是秘密。1938年12月19日刊登在《南華早報》上的一篇文章描繪了一個引人注目的場景: Conte Biancamano遠洋輪船上的538名德國猶太難民,除了衣物外幾乎沒有財物,更不要說已經找到工作或會講英文。其中大多數是包括老人和幼童在內的家庭。許多人都是「碎玻璃之夜」的受害者。(1938年11月9日至10日凌晨,納粹黨員、德國反猶民眾與衝鋒隊襲擊德國全境的猶太人的事件,且黨衛隊、警方和德國政府皆冷眼旁觀,沒有出手阻止。這被認為是對猶太人有組織的屠殺的開始)

作為英國殖民地,香港對人口流動實行與英國相似的限制。非華裔進入香港必須持有有效護照或旅行文件,並附有有效入境簽證。對大多數猶太難民來說,這是無法進入香港的主要障礙。然而,因應「碎玻璃之夜」而成立,由Albert Raymond與其他香港猶太群體知名成員如 Moses Talan和羅蘭士嘉道理(Lawrence Kadoorie) 領導的猶太難民協會(Jewish Refugee Society),通過募款和向難民提供臨時住所。他們還獲得了殖民當局的許可,允許難民在通往其他城市間中途停留香港,這成為了他們的救命草。


對於在香港找到住所的猶太難民來說,儘管生活在陌生環境中,卻也短暫重回日常。然而,二戰爆發以及隨後英國在1939年9月3日上午對納粹德國的宣戰改變了一切。香港總督羅富國(Geoffrey Northcote)和香港立法局成員隨即宣佈香港進入戰時狀態。猶太難民以及其他德國國民立刻被視為「敵國僑民」(enemy aliens),99名男性「敵國僑民」被送往位於九龍的喇沙書院拘留,但與中國難民相比,他們受到更好的「體面」待遇,例如最初允許他們聘請中國員工為他們準備飯菜、洗碗和做其他家務。儘管一些被拘留者在9月底至10月初被迅速釋放,但他們被要求攜帶粉紅色的身份證,每週到警察局報到,並面臨各種活動限制,他們被禁止離開,香港變成他們的拘留營。


戰後香港恢復作為轉運港的功能,這次是為急於離開上海返回在歐洲家園或新定居地的猶太倖存者。猶太難民協會和羅蘭士嘉道理在組織這些難民以香港作為中轉發揮了重要作用,他們與美猶聯合求濟委員會(American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee)和聯合國善後救濟總署(United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration)等組織合作,協助來自上海的難民途經香港往澳洲。由於香港殖民政府不願收納大量難民,因此他們需要仔細規劃。1946年8月至1947年1月期間,在努力尋找交通解決方案的同時,羅蘭士嘉道理為286名受困香港的難民提供半島酒店住所和餐飲。這些難民受惠於嘉道理的慷慨,孩子得以在中式船上野餐,或者前往嘉道理位於太平山的豪宅郊遊。最終,危機得到解決,至1947年1月底,最後一批上海猶太難民離開香港前往澳洲。


‘The Holocaust and Hong Kong: an overlooked history’ by Cheuk Him Ryan Sun, University of British Columbia.
Screen Captured From:
香港社會發展回顧項目 The Hong Kong Heritage Project

Introducing ‘Decolonising Britishness? The 1981 British Nationality Act and the Identity Crisis of Hong Kong Elites’

Today we are introducing an article ‘Decolonising Britishness? The 1981 British Nationality Act and the Identity Crisis of Hong Kong Elites’ by Chi-kwan Mark, Royal Holloway.

The introduction and passage of the 1981 Nationality Act coincided with discussions on the future of Hong Kong’s sovereignty in 1997, which triggered an identity crisis among the Hong Kong elites. This article by Chi-kwan Mark is about the 1981 British Nationality Act through the prism of Hong Kong. It examines how the Act and subsequent amendments affected the connection between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong against the backdrop of the 1997 question.

On 30 October 1981, the British Nationality Act received Royal Assent. Bringing nationality law in line with immigration policy, the Act created three separate categories of citizenship, including ‘British Dependent Territories Citizen’ (BDTC) for existing British dependent territories such as Hong Kong. During the deliberations over the bill, the Unofficial Members of the Executive and Legislative Councils in Hong Kong played an important role in lobbying the Thatcher government to protect the status and rights of British subjects in Hong Kong. With the emergence of the 1997 question, the Unofficial Members feared that the United Kingdom was distancing itself from Hong Kong as a prelude to decolonisation. No sooner had the 1981 British Nationality Act come into effect than the Anglo-Chinese negotiations over Hong Kong’s future raised serious questions about the continuation of Hong Kong’s ‘Britishness’ after 1997. The Thatcher government was willing to make concessions on the nationality issue as long as they did not risk opening the floodgates to Hong Kong immigrants, who were deemed to have no close connection with the United Kingdom. A general fear of non-white immigration underpinned the 1981 British Nationality Act and Thatcher’s forging of an exclusive British identity.

The symbolism of “Britishness” held significant importance for the Unofficial Members alongside the practical benefits. They constructed a Hong Kong identity with British characteristics, being proud of British values and institutions while considering Hong Kong their home. Emigration from Hong Kong did increase, but the majority of Hong Kong Chinese stayed, valuing the “Britishness” that contributed to Hong Kong’s economic success and its status as a free and legally-based city. The Unofficial Members exerted pressure on the Thatcher government during negotiations with China to secure a detailed agreement that would preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and way of life after 1997, reflecting their civic British identity against socialist China’s interference.

The Unofficial Members’ attachment to “Britishness” was primarily influenced by class and status rather than blood or race. Their identification with Britishness differed from the perspectives of ordinary Hong Kong residents, who seemed less interested in the legislative changes made in London. The majority of Hong Kong Chinese, unlike the highly educated elites, likely struggled to understand the complexities of terms like CUKC (Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies) and BDTC (British Dependent Territories Citizen). However, when negotiations over Hong Kong’s future began in 1982, most Hong Kong residents desired the continuation of British rule beyond 1997, even if they did not explicitly articulate a sense of “Britishness.”




‘Decolonising Britishness? The 1981 British Nationality Act and the Identity Crisis of Hong Kong Elites’

Introducing ‘Identity pride and exclusiveness: cross-border craftsmanship and Chinese tailors in post-war Hong Kong, 1945-1970’

Today we are introducing an article ‘Identity pride and exclusiveness: cross-border craftsmanship and Chinese tailors in post-war Hong Kong, 1945-1970’ by Katon Lee.

The tailoring industry is one of the traditional trades in Hong Kong, and “Shanghai tailoring” is one of its distinctive skills, attracting people from around the world to patronize. There is a story behind it.

Prior to the 1970s, Hong Kong was a migrant society. Due to political turmoil in China and significant discrepancies in living standards and economic opportunities, the city received a large influx of mainland Chinese immigrants in the post-war era. In the first wave of Chinese mass migration, which took place from the mid-1940s through to the 1950s, tens of thousands of Chinese tailors migrated to Hong Kong from Canton and Shanghai in search of political stability and personal safety. Thanks to their tailoring expertise and work experience, they began to develop a professional reputation in local society, earning themselves worldwide recognition as their suits emerged as one of the most representative cultural icons of the city in the eyes of many Western visitors. While some Chinese elites and businessmen would order suits from Cantonese and Shanghainese tailors for the purpose of dressing for work and social gatherings, the tailors’ target customers were predominantly Western tourists who demanded suits for everyday use and were better able to pay for them.

The Kung Sheung Evening News conducted some brief surveys that shed light on the tailoring landscape in early post-war Hong Kong. As noted in its article on 18 November 1946, at the onset of the migration wave, approximately 700 Chinese tailors fled from Mainland China and set up their establishments in the tailoring industry in 1946. After 1949, the CCP considered suits to be an ‘evil symbol’ of western capitalism, and suit businesses were quickly abandoned. More suit-making tailors, who were vilified as ‘capitalist roaders’, felt insecure living under communist control and decided to flee from Canton and Shanghai to Hong Kong due to its protection from communist governance. In this wave of post-war migration, most of the Chinese tailors migrating to the city were from Canton while only a small minority were from Shanghai. This pattern is the result of the now-strict immigration policies imposed by the colonial government in the 1950s to replace the lax controls. These measures required that all people who sought to enter the city by land from ports north of Guangdong must hold a Hong Kong entry permit. While non-Cantonese needed to obtain the permits either from the Office of the Charge d’Affaires in Beijing or through relatives in Hong Kong, Cantonese from Guangdong were exempt from this requirement. Under these stricter immigration controls, the proportion of Shanghainese tailors quickly dropped, becoming a distinct minority in the industry. However, they brought sophisticated industrial practices that oral history interviewees termed ‘a significant threat’ to their Cantonese counterparts.

With a long tradition of providing suit-making and tailoring services for Westerners, Shanghainese tailors enjoyed widespread fame in the suit market. Because they hailed from Shanghai, where Chinese and Western cultural and commercial interactions had long flourished – and where they acquired a form of cultural capital associated with what historian Leo Lee has termed ‘Shanghai modernity’ – Hong Kong’s Shanghainese tailors were able to best their Cantonese competitors in marketing high-end suits.

Recent scholarship has shown that in cosmopolitan urban spaces, identities are flexible, and migrants often integrate smoothly. But Shanghainese and Cantonese tailors who migrated to Hong Kong after World War II developed a different trajectory of identity transformation. Instead of simply integrating into a single social collectivity based on claims to a common Chinese ethnicity, they forged separate diasporic identities according to their places of origin. By problematising the arrival of Shanghainese tailors and their interactions with Cantonese tailors in Hong Kong, this article shows that pride in a place-based identity along with a strong sense of exclusiveness facilitated the maintenance of social boundaries by the Shanghainese community against the Cantonese. It argues that despite the common Chinese-ness of both migrant communities, place of origin was employed as a critical form of social identification and differentiation, creating an as-yet insurmountable barrier to the amalgamation of the two Chinese communities.

裁縫業是香港傳統行業之一,而「 上海裁縫 」是其特色技藝之一,吸引不少人從世界各地而來光顧,背後有段故事。



擁有為西方人製作西裝和提供裁縫服務的悠久傳統,上海裁縫在西裝市場上享有廣泛聲譽。由於他們來自上海,在那裡中西文化和商業交流長期繁榮——他們獲得了被歷史學家Leo Lee稱之為「上海現代性」的一種文化資本——香港的上海裁縫能夠在高端西裝市場上超越他們的廣東競爭對手。


Image From:
香港故事 – 世紀物語 (第51輯)
‘Identity pride and exclusiveness: cross-border craftsmanship and Chinese tailors in post-war Hong Kong, 1945-1970’

Introducing ‘The Making of Contentious Political Space: The Transformation of Hong Kong’s Victoria Park’

Today we are introducing an article ‘The Making of Contentious Political Space: The Transformation of Hong Kong’s Victoria Park’ by Chi Kwok and Ngai Keung Chan.

Opened in 1967, Victoria Park in Hong Kong was initially planned by the British colonial government as a recreational and monumental space, with an emphasis on orderliness, recreation, and non-political activities. However, in the 1970s, the emergence of the Defend Diaoyutai Islands Movement led to collective actions that transformed the spatial order of the park.
The movement involved small-scale demonstrations and forums, with the Hong Kong Federation of Students taking up the issue and organizing protests. On May 4 1971, the movement’s organizers attempted to hold a sit-in at Statue Square, but the police refused permission, suggesting Victoria Park as an alternative. The protesters eventually held an unlawful public meeting at Statue Square, and the police arrested 12 young protesters on May 4. The police’s recommendation in turn led to the politicization of Victoria Park.

The July 7 rally in 1971 became a critical event that integrated Victoria Park into the movement and challenged the colonial government’s spatial governance. The organizers planned to hold the rally in Victoria Park due to its enclosed nature and suitability for large-scale public events. However, the Urban Council vetoed the police’s permission, citing inconvenience to other park users and emphasizing the park’s recreational purpose. Despite it being illegal, the organizers defied the ban and held the rally in Victoria Park, highlighting the contestation over the park’s spatial norms .

The police warned participants that they could be arrested, but the organizers emphasized that the rally would be peaceful. However, the police used violent means to suppress the rally, making baton charges and injuring protesters and journalists. The repression of the rally triggered public dissent and condemnation of the police’s actions. Overseas Chinese organizations also voiced their support for the protesters. The repression failed to delegitimize the protesters’ actions, and the right to peaceful collective claim-making was introduced and legitimized through these actions. The repression also caused disagreement among elite groups, undermining the legitimacy of the colonial government. After the rally, Victoria Park was transformed from a recreational space to a political space, where peaceful collective claim-making became a legitimate form of political action. The police’s disproportionate violence opened up a discursive space for the re-narration of the proper spatial governance of the park.




(Image from ‘The Making of Contentious Political Space: The Transformation of Hong Kong’s Victoria Park’)

‘The Making of Contentious Political Space: The Transformation of Hong Kong’s Victoria Park’ by Chi Kwok and Ngai Keung Chan.

Introducing ‘Stamping “Imagination and Sensibility”: Objects, Culture, and Governance in Late Colonial Hong Kong’

Today we are introducing an article ‘Stamping “Imagination and Sensibility”: Objects, Culture, and Governance in Late Colonial Hong Kong’, by Allan T. F. Pang, University of Cambridge.

In August 1970, a quarrel about pigs arose between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Hong Kong government. Colonial officials had submitted designs of postage stamps commemorating the Lunar Year of the Pig, which would begin in January 1971. However, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Alec Douglas-Home rejected this outright: the pig image was in ‘bad taste’. Governor David Trench defended the design. Hong Kong people treasured the Lunar New Year stamps, he argued, and discontinuing this series would lead to public discontent. ‘Regret I do not consider it feasible to produce a satisfactory design commemorating the Year of the Pig without incorporating a pig’, Trench replied in a telegraph, ‘and I also do not consider it possible to explain the absence of a 1971 commemorative issue without causing much comment and some ridicule’. London and Hong Kong officials eventually compromised. After understanding the local importance of the stamps, Douglas-Home softened his tone and explained that he simply objected to the design, not the issue. Local officials accommodated Douglas-Home’s taste by replacing the local Chinese pig with a boar.

This article argues that the colonial government used postage stamps and coins to demonstrate its care for local customs and shape public opinion. The government aimed to bridge the communication gap between society and the state by featuring Chinese culture on these everyday objects. It also utilized people’s cultural attachment to China to create a benevolent image of itself.

The context for this colonial policy included local events and Anglo-Chinese diplomacy. Riots in the late 1960s highlighted the need to address social discontent and close the communication gap. The British and colonial governments recognized that Hong Kong’s future lay with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and sought to maintain the status quo while discussing the colony’s future with Chinese leaders.

Governor Murray MacLehose, who took office in 1971, devised strategies to safeguard British interests in future negotiations regarding Hong Kong. He aimed to make conditions in Hong Kong superior to those in China to discourage absorption by the Central People’s Government. This strategy included improvements in housing, education, and cultural development.
The colonial officials utilized Chinese culture to improve relations with the local population, many of whom had a cultural attachment to China. They recognized the importance of preserving Chinese customs and countering Chinese patriotism. Local leaders and social figures expressed their attachment to Chinese culture, and the younger generation demanded recognition of Chinese language and protested against Japan’s territorial claims.

The colonial government incorporated Chinese symbols into postage stamps and coins, working with the Crown Agents and the Royal Mint. By doing so, they aimed to secure people’s trust and support by aligning with the local population’s cultural preferences.



1971年上任的港督麥理浩Murray MacLehose制定了在關於香港前途談判中保護英國利益的策略。他打算讓香港的環境發展得更好、優於中國,以防止被中央人民政府控制下中國兼併。策略包括改善住房、教育和文化發展。



Photo and article source:
Allan T. F. Pang, Stamping ‘Imagination and Sensibility’: Objects, Culture, and Governance in Late Colonial Hong Kong


Introducing ‘Disseminating and Containing Communist Propaganda to Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia through Hong Kong, the Cold War Pivot, 1949–1960’

Today we are introducing an article ‘Disseminating and Containing Communist Propaganda to Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia through Hong Kong, the Cold War Pivot, 1949–1960’ by Florence Mok, Department of History, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

During the Cold War, Hong Kong played a crucial role as a strategic location for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to disseminate printed propaganda to overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. From 1949 onwards, the CCP established a strong presence in Hong Kong’s publishing and book retail industries, utilizing the capitalist environment of the city to expand its cultural influence. This ironic situation allowed the CCP to outperform the capitalists they opposed in terms of expanding their reach.

Intelligence gathered by British agencies at the time indicated that Chinese psychological warfare through print media was seen as a genuine threat to both colonial and post-colonial states in Southeast Asia. The number of left-wing printers, publishers, and bookshops in Hong Kong increased, and the importation of Chinese communist literature to Southeast Asia surged in the late 1950s.

The left-wing propaganda disseminated through Hong Kong included magazines that cultivated Chinese patriotism and affirmed the legitimacy of the CCP, as well as a limited number of books detailing revolutionary and communist ideologies. Analyzing surviving samples of these texts reveals shifts in Chinese statecraft and highlights tensions within the CCP between domestic and foreign policies, as well as between the promotion of radical ideologies and pragmatic considerations. Most of the left-wing propaganda adopted a soft approach, devoid of subversiveness, reflecting a policy of peaceful coexistence and the practical need to attract foreign remittances. However, the CCP also aimed to inform overseas Chinese about the socialist transformation taking place in China.

The article also sheds light on the tensions between United States agencies and the colonial administration of Hong Kong regarding how to control the influx of Chinese communist literature. While the United States expected strict control and even censorship of Chinese communist propaganda, the colonial government refused to comply, arguing that it was safeguarding basic legal freedoms. The Hong Kong government was also motivated by pragmatic concerns, fearing that a hard-line approach could lead to internal unrest and further deterioration of Sino-British relations. As a result, decolonizing Southeast Asian countries took their own initiatives to strengthen controls on imported communist books and periodicals, demonstrating how Hong Kong became a pivotal battleground in the propaganda war waged across Southeast Asia in the 1950s.

今天我們會介紹由新加坡南洋理工大學歷史系Florence Mok所寫的文章,關於1949-1960年香港作為冷戰樞紐下,如何傳播和遏制共產主義向東南亞華僑宣傳。




Image courtesy of President and Fellows of Harvard College and Historical Photographs of China, University of Bristol
‘Disseminating and Containing Communist Propaganda to Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia through Hong Kong, the Cold War Pivot, 1949–1960’