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The Hong Kong Gold Market and the Southeast Asian Gold Trade in the 1950s

  • Catherine R. Schenk (a1)
Abstract

In the 1950s Hong Kong was the centre of the Southeast Asian gold trade due to its traditional facilities as an entrepot. In the postwar period, however, this trade took place illegally, which distorted the direction of the trade. This article surveys the British attitude to the gold market in the immediate postwar period, using archival records from the British Treasury and the Bank of England. The changing pattern of the gold trade between the major centres of Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand is then described. The gold market offers an almost unique view of the pattern of smuggling trade in the region due to detailed reports in the local press and investigations at the time by the Bank of England.

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1 The term native distinguishes these banks from the many branches of overseas banks operating in Hong Kong which were prohibited from participating in the free markets.

2 1.000 fine gold = 24 carat gold.

3 Public Records Office, London, Treasury Files (hereafter PRO, T) T236/2033, Telegram from Grantham to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 9 June 1948.

4 PRO, T236/2034, Telegram from Secretary of State for the Colonies to Grantham, 6 November. 1948.

5 PRO, T236/2034, Telegram from Grantham to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 22 April 1949.

6 PRO, T236/2034, Telegram from Grantham to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 24 May 1949.

7 PRO, T236/2034, Letter to N. E. Young from Portsmore at Bank of England, 24 May 1949.

8 PRO, T236/2034, Telegram from Secretary of State for the Colonies to Grantham, 27 May 1949.

9 Bank of England Archives (hereafter BE), OV14/4, Report of FJ Portsmore's visit to Hong Kong, 27 June 1949.

11 BE, OV14/4, Hogg, P. L., Personal Report, 11 May 1953.

12 The Gold and Silver Exchange of Hongkong’, by ‘a Chinese Bullion Dealer’, Far Eastern Economic Review, 26 07 1951, pp. 123–4.

14 The Gold and Silver Exchange of Hongkong’ By a Chinese Banker, Far Eastern Economic Review, 24 07 1954, pp. 802–3.

15 Ibid. One Tael = 1.2033 Troy oz.

16 Macao Gold Trade’, Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 04 1952, p. 466.

18 Macao Gold Trade‘,Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 04 1952, p. 466.

19 Far Eastern Economic Review, 17 June 1954, p. 769.

20 Far Eastern Economic Review, 28 February 1952, p. 292.

22 Annual Departmental Reports, Director of Commerce and Industry, 1957/8, Hong Kong, p. 38.

23 Annual Departmental Reports, Director of Commerce and Industry, 1956/7, p. 30.

24 BE, OV14/9, Hogg, P. L., Personal Report, 11 May 1953.

26 A Proposed Philippine Gold Bullion Exchange’, Far Eastern Economic Review, 11 09. 1952, pp. 349–51.

29 Gold Trading in Thailand‘, Far Eastern Economic Review, 2 10. 1952, p. 450.

30 BE, OV 25/11, Note by Byatt, A. J., 14 October. 1952.

31 BE, OV25/11, Hogg, P. L., ‘Thailand: Gold’, 24 January. 1955.

34 BE, OV14/9, P. L. Hogg's Personal Report on a visit to Hong Kong, 11 May 1953.

35 BE, OV14/9, Hogg's, P. L. Personal Report on a visit to Hong Kong, 11 May 1953.

38 This account is detailed in Far Eastern Economic Review, 13 May 1954, p. 611.

39 Gold Trading in Thailand‘, Far Eastern Economic Review, 2 10. 1952. p. 449.

40 BE, OV14/9, Letter from J. M. Stevens of B.E. to Crick at UK Treasury and Supply Delegation in Washington, 3 Nov. 1953.

42 Far Eastern Economic Review, 13 May 1954, P. 611.

43 Green, T., The New World of Gold (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985), p. 160.

44 Jao, Y. C., ‘Hong Kong as a Regional Financial Centre: Evolution and Prospects’, in Leung, C. et al. (eds), Hong Kong: Dilemmas of Growth (Canberra: Research School of Pacific Studies, Australia National University, 1980), p. 172.

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Modern Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0026-749X
  • EISSN: 1469-8099
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-asian-studies
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