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The ‘Problem of People’: British Colonials, Cold War Powers, and the Chinese Refugees in Hong Kong, 1949–62

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 January 2007

CHI-KWAN MARK
Affiliation:
Royal Holloway, University of London

Abstract

From late 1956 onwards, British colonial officials spoke of the postwar influx of Chinese refugees from the mainland to Hong Kong as a ‘problem of people’, with serious consequences on housing, social services and even political relations. The problem was also one of an international concern: both Communist and Nationalist China and the United States saw it in the wider context of their Cold War struggles. At first, the Hong Kong government was ambivalent about providing massive relief for the refugees, either by itself or by the United Nations. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s, the political importance of turning potential rioters into responsible citizens, and the Cold War implications of great powers' involvement convinced British colonials that the only lasting solution to the problem was not overseas emigration (with outside aid) but full local integration (through trade and industrialization). The international history of the Chinese refugee problem epitomizes the local history of the Cold War over Hong Kong.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2007 Cambridge University Press

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