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The 1967 Riots in Hong Kong: The Diplomatic and Domestic Fronts of the Colonial Governor*

  • Ray Yep

Abstract

This article examines the dynamics behind the Hong Kong colonial government's policy during the 1967 riots, a turning point in the colony's development. Starting as an industrial dispute, it soon erupted into a major crisis that prompted the British to consider evacuation from the territory. While the Governor, David Trench, was preoccupied with the colossal task of maintaining order on the domestic front, his success was heavily dependent on his progress on the “diplomatic front.” His perception of British interests did not always resonate with the views of the British diplomats in China. This article argues that the prevalence of Trench's proposed policy of firm suppression of local communists over the accommodating approach, suggested by the British diplomats in Beijing, was a result of his success in persuading the officials in London of the greater utility of his proposal in preserving British interests. The limited options available to Britain and Trench's shrewdness in exploiting the sovereign's uncertainty over the future of China contributed to the Governor's success in swaying the opinions of officials in London.

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* I am grateful to Paul Wilding, Anthony Cheung, Ian Holliday, Alan Smart, Robert Bickers, Ngo Tak Wing, Lui Tai Lok, Isabella Jackson and Thomas Mark for their comments and assistance. The article is a product of a research project funded by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, City University of Hong Kong (Project No. 7100277). Part of the research was conducted during my visiting professorship in the Centre for East Asian Studies, Bristol University in early 2005.

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