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A Failed New Deal in Hong Kong: From Constitution to Repression, 1946-1949

Between 1946 and early 1949, Hong Kong witnessed two significant transformations, both of which were caused by the change in governorship in 1947. Governor Young’s proposed constitutional reform and identification of KMT as the primary troublemaker soon gave way to Grantham’s rejection of major reform and introduction of counter-CCP policies. By 1948, the Hong Kong government decided to take action against the CCP’s infiltration and control of several important areas of the colony’s cultural, political, and economic life. By mid-1949, according to the Hong Kong Police Special Branch, the CCP had infiltrated ‘nearly all the important unions, schools, singing groups, cultural associations, etc.’ and had become ‘menacing and powerful’.1 Furthermore, the turmoil in surrounding territories such as Malaya and Korea and the wider British conflict with the USSR created problems for Hong Kong’s open immigration policy, especially regarding the movement of communist revolutionaries and Soviet propaganda.

Tsang has argued that Hong Kong ‘minimised the effect of the Cold War by ignoring it’.2 In reality, despite the fact that the CCP was ignoring Hong Kong (if only regarding the question of sovereignty), Grantham actively, explicitly, and persistently attempted to combat the perceived communist menace. Beginning in 1948, as observed in a Colonial Office note, Grantham ‘took a number of steps to curb the infiltration of the Chinese Communists i .3 As in Cyprus, the Hong Kong government met the communists on a number of cultural battlefields, especially regarding © The Author(s) 2017

C. Sutton, Britain’s Cold War in Cyprus and Hong Kong, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-33491-2_7

immigration, public order, education, and labour unions. As this chapter will detail individually, the Hong Kong government enacted numerous laws, the likes of which were being repealed around the empire in the context of colonial reform. Positive polices were limited, and such repressive legislation proved rather futile against the chinese communists as they generally obeyed the law in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, Hong Kong had become a significant battleground in the imperial Cold War.

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