Hong Kong Report for the Year 1967/Chapter 1

Hong Kong Report for the Year 1967
Chapter 1: Review: Confrontation

Since May 1967, communist organizations in Hong Kong have sought to impose their will on the government and the people by intimidating workers, fomenting work stoppages, by demonstrations and rioting, and by indiscriminate violence. It has been a testing time for the people of Hong Kong.

But these events must be seen in their proper perspective. The communist-initiated confrontation, between themselves and the Hong Kong Government is in no sense a popular movement; indeed it does not have the support of any significant section of the people, much less of the people as a whole. Those who have taken part represent a very small fraction of the population, and they have had no success in their attempts, either by persuasion or by intimidation, to gain support for their cause. The overwhelming majority of the people have shown clearly that they support the government and the maintenance of law and order.

Moreover, despite the claims made by the communist press, and despite the impression that might have been given by the world wide press coverage given to the disturbances, the ordinary life of the Colony has not been disrupted. The rioting that has taken place has been limited in area and in scope and has been contained. The stoppages that were called have had little effect on the Colony's economy. Throughout the summer, when the effects of confrontation were at their height, the ordinary man in the street was able to go about his work, not quite as usual and not without considerable inconvenience at times, but sufficiently easily to keep the business of the Colony operating efficiently.

The origins of confrontation stem directly from the cultural revolution in China, which has inculcated among its adherents a fervent patriotism and an intense adulation of Chairman Mao Tse Tung and his teachings. The dedicated Maoist has come to believe that he has a duty to propagate the gospel of the cultural revolution and that armed with the Thoughts of Mao he is invincible. Hong Kong was an obvious target for this missionary zeal. Its population is predominantly Chinese by race, who as 'compatriots' could be expected to rally to the attack against a colonial government; and its free economy is an affront to revolutionary doctrine. The recent events in nearby Macau had shown that a colonial government could be made to accept the communist demands; while nearer home a similar confrontation had been successful, in March 1967, in a dispute with a major shipping company in Hong Kong. It must have seemed to many ardent communists in the Colony that the time was ripe to bring the cultural revolution to Hong Kong.

The less fanatical among the communists may have been more concerned to preserve the very real economic advantages that a stable and prosperous Hong Kong has for China, and no doubt for themselves as well. But they could not oppose confrontation without appearing to oppose the teachings of Chairman Mao Tse Tung; they could only hope and do what they could to ensure that its physical effects would be limited. The outbreaks of violence that have occurred and the attempts that have been made to disrupt the economy of the Colony have made it clear that they have been unable to restrain or effectively control the more hot-headed elements among them, whose aim it is to dominate the government by any means. It was the latter who precipitated confrontation, as a result of a comparatively minor incident arising from a labour dispute.

In the early months of the year industrial relations in the Colony were generally good but there were a few disputes which had either been artificially inspired by the communists or were the result of deliberate political exploitation of a genuine industrial grievance. These involved four taxi companies, a textile factory, a cement company and the Hong Kong Artificial Flower Works. The Hong Kong Seamen's Union was engaged in a dispute with a shipping company and, at the same time, it continued its official boycott of the Government Seamen's Recruiting Office. These disputes were all confined to undertakings where there was a predominant or strong communist element in the work force, or where a communist trade union was involved.

The tactics employed were identical in each case. Workers were intimidated and threatened with physical violence. Attempts to settle the disputes were deliberately frustrated by the injection of political issues, expressed in the form of demands which were required to be accepted 'unconditionally'. These demands were followed by a succession of rowdy demonstrations, designed to intimidate the management, in which slogans and extracts from The Thoughts of Mao Tse Tung were chanted in unison. The attitude of the unions became increasingly truculent. A press photographer taking pictures of a typical demonstration was attacked and a demand was made that his camera be confiscated. Offers made by the Labour Department to mediate in disputes were dismissed as 'unwelcome meddling'. It became clear that the extremist elements among the communists might provoke a major clash at any moment.

The opportunity was provided on May 6. A group of dismissed workers from the Hong Kong Artificial Flower Works at San Po Kong were picketing the factory premises and, ignoring repeated warnings from the police, they persisted in illegally trying to prevent the removal of goods by the management. The police finally intervened and arrested 21 men. It was a minor incident; there was little or no violence and no one was seriously injured. It was, however, enough to provoke an immediate reaction; headlines appeared in the communist newspapers denouncing the government and accusing the police, in the most violent terms, of persecution and of brutally attacking unarmed workers. The Hong Kong and Kowloon Rubber and Plastics Workers Union, whose chairman was among those arrested, published four demands:

The Hong Kong Government must cease its brutality immediately and ensure that it is not repeated; All the arrested people must be released immediately; Compensation must be paid by the government for all injuries and damage and those responsible must be punished; There must be no government interference in labour disputes.

These demands were endorsed by the Hong Kong and Kowloon Federation of Trade Unions. Meetings were held in pro-communist organizations in support of the arrested workers and posters began to appear attacking the government and protesting against police brutality.

At the San Po Kong factory itself there were further demonstrations, with processions and the chanting of slogans. These inevitably attracted crowds of idle spectators as well as hooligans and mischief-makers and, when, on May 11, communist pickets threatened to break into the factory and there was a further clash with the police, there was a mob at hand ripe for violence. There was serious rioting, which spread from the streets in the vicinity of the factory to adjacent areas of Kowloon, and for three days mobs, including many who were paid to take part, battled the police, attacked and set fire to buses and other vehicles and broke into and looted government offices and staff quarters in an orgy of destruction. A curfew was imposed in the affected areas during the nights of the 11th, 12th and 13th, but it was not until the 14th that calm was restored. These disturbances were dealt with firmly by the police but with the minimum of force; no firearms were used and the army was not called upon for assistance.

Meanwhile, a campaign of intimidation had also begun on Hong Kong Island. An 'All-Circles Anti-Persecution Struggle Committee' was formed, with a membership drawn from all communist organizations in the Colony. It was given considerable publicity in the communist press. Delegations of employees of communist newspapers and department stores and representatives of communist trade unions and other organizations began to converge on Government House with petitions protesting against government brutality and insisting that the communist demands be met.

On May 15 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Peking issued a statement protesting against the action taken by the British authorities against Chinese residents in Hong Kong. (This statement possibly reflected the highly coloured reports put out by the communist press in Hong Kong. On May 23, for example, the New China News Agency alleged that 200 people had been killed or injured. As a matter of record, one person had been killed and not by police action but probably by a brick thrown or dropped from above him by one of the rioters).

In the days that followed the demonstrations at Government House increased; the demonstrators became more unruly and aggressive and the posters, both at the gates of Government House and elsewhere, more violent and seditious. Powerful loudspeakers were mounted on the Bank of China building, in the centre of the banking and business area of Hong Kong, which encouraged the demonstrators forming up in the vicinity with a stream of violently provocative propaganda, including vicious personal attacks on the Governor.

Propaganda was broadcast from other communist buildings in Hong Kong and Kowloon; the press campaign increased in violence; and there was an outbreak of rioting in Kowloon in the vicinity of the Magistrates Court where cases against those arrested at San Po Kong were being heard.

On May 20 it was announced by the government that while it was not proposed to revoke the right of any person to present a petition to the Governor, this must be done in an orderly manner. No further processions would be allowed and delegations wishing to present petitions must not exceed 20 people.

This decision was challenged on the following morning when organized groups of communists formed up at the bottom of Garden Road and demanded to be allowed to pass through the police cordon on their way to Government House. Permission was refused and there were a number of scuffles in the vicinity. The crowd, which had grown to more than a thousand, was dispersed by tear gas and by the early evening the situation was quiet.

On May 22 the communists returned to the attack and it soon became clear that they had planned a propaganda 'incident'. Groups of people again formed up in Garden Road and the police were again subjected to a barrage of heckling and abuse. Crowds were building up in nearby Statue Square and the loudspeakers at the Bank of China boomed out a continual stream of threats and appeals to violence. In this daunting atmosphere the police quietly stood their ground and in an impressive display of discipline ignored both the verbal provocation to which they were subjected, as well as the threatening gestures of the mob that faced them. But the communists were out to provoke violence. A constable was kicked and others were attacked. The police moved forward to arrest the man responsible. There was a general melée and the police used their batons. At once many of the demonstrators fell to the ground whether they had been hit or not; bandages (some of them already provided with artificial 'bloodstains') were produced and applied; the blood of those who had really been injured was liberally daubed on others. The results of these childish expedients were duly photographed by the communist press and subsequently published as evidence of police brutality, though what little effect this might have had was spoiled by the crowds of witnesses looking on from the Hilton Hotel, as well as by the full coverage of the scene by impartial press and television cameramen.

Further demonstrators appeared during the day and some buses and taxis were abandoned in the area, in an attempt to cause traffic jams and to add to the confusion. There was intermittent violence in Queen's Road and the adjoining streets and at 6.30 p.m., for the first time since the war, a curfew was imposed on Hong Kong Island.

It soon became apparent that anti-government propaganda and the spreading of false and malicious rumours was to be a major weapon in the communists' tactics. Communist newspapers published highly distorted accounts of the events that were taking place, designed to present the police and government in the worst possible light, and accompanied, as in the case of the disturbances of May 22, by contrived or unashamedly faked photographs. Rumours were fabricated with the intention of spreading confusion and panic; some plausible and more difficult to combat, others too improbable to deceive even the most credulous.

To a large extent these propaganda efforts were most effectively countered by the reports of the non-communist press, as well as by the Colony's wireless and television services that produced a steady stream of factual reports and pictures Further countermeasures were taken by government departments and by the Department of Information Services in particular, which took immediate steps to keep the public constantly informed of the true state of affairs by wireless broadcasts, press releases, short films that were distributed to all cinemas, and, where necessary and practicable, by word of mouth.

Additional, and unusual, publicity methods were brought into use. The loudspeakers at the Bank of China building were countered by setting up rival and more powerful loudspeakers at buildings in the vicinity which regaled the public with the music of Cantonese opera and effectively drowned the stream of communist propaganda. The battle was deafening and caused considerable, amusement to the onlookers, but it ended in the defeat of the communists who were unable to make any further effective use of this weapon.

The tactics employed by the communists up to the major incident on May 22 had not attracted any noticeable increase in support for confrontation and the attempts to make political capital out of the clash on that day met with little success. Indeed the feeling of the majority of the population was made clear by a number of public expressions of support for the government. A group of businessmen in the Colony set up a fund for the higher education of the children of police officers, which attracted support and donations from thousands of individuals. In a fortnight it reached a total of $3 million, an extraordinary acknowledgement by the people of Hong Kong of the debt that they owed the police.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, as well as kaifong associations and leading members of the community, publicly expressed their loyalty and confidence in the government. This lead was followed by similar expressions of support from numerous organizations representing a complete cross-section of the Colony and ranging from hawker associations to professional associations and business houses. They included clansmen and district associations, multi-storey building management associations, religious organizations and social organizations of almost every kind. In all some 620 letters, petitions and statements of support were received and, while it is difficult to estimate the total number of people they represented, the Hong Kong Buddhist Association and the kaifong associations between them claimed membership of well over a million people. In a political situation of such gravity, where many factors might lead people not to express an opinion, such massive support for law and order was particularly impressive.

There is no doubt that it also affected communist strategy as the tactics of street demonstrations and provocation did not continue on May 23. The campaign then entered a new phase; slogans were painted on the walls of public buildings and there was a rash of inflammatory posters. At the same time a series of token stoppages was engineered affecting transport, including the cross harbour ferries, the port and the dock companies and the main utility and service organizations. These stoppages had a certain amount of nuisance value, particularly those in the transport field, but they caused no lasting inconvenience.

On June 1, emergency regulations were made strengthening the law against the display of inflammatory posters and action was taken to remove them from government buildings and elsewhere. In the doctrine of the cultural revolution street posters are regarded almost as sacrosanct as being the visible expression of the will of 'the masses', and in Hong Kong they were defended with the utmost tenacity.

Some impetus was given to the force of this reaction by an editorial in the Peking People's Daily of June 3, which called on the Chinese in Hong Kong 'to organize a courageous struggle against the British and to be ready to respond to the call of the motherland for smashing the reactionary rule of the British'. The article also stressed that the working class in Hong Kong was to remain the main force in the struggle, but in Hong Kong the communist press chose to interpret it as a declaration of active support by the Peking Government and gave it wide publicity. Employees of the Star Ferry Company stopped work in protest at the removal of posters. At the Taikoo Dockyard the general manager and two senior staff members were surrounded and held prisoner by their employees. Workers at the government electrical and mechanical workshops, in Kowloon, and at the nearby Kowloon depot of the Hong Kong and China Gas Company, barricaded the door and armed themselves with iron bars and other offensive weapons. Police forced their way into both premises and arrested more than 500 workers, of whom 120 were charged with various offences. There were stoppages of work in other concerns and numerous scuffles and minor incidents occurred at several other places throughout the Colony. The People's Daily provided more fuel for the flames on June 10 by urging workers, peasants, the Peoples Liberation Army and the 'revolutionary masses' in China to prepare to support the struggle in Hong Kong with concrete action. Broadcasts on similar lines were put out by Radio Peking.

On June 23 there was another major incident. A small police party, photographing posters in Canton Road, was suddenly attacked by a gang of men armed with iron bars, bottles and sharpened files. The police, in self-defence, opened fire with their revolvers and in the ensuing battle two policemen were injured and one of the assailants was fatally wounded. The remaining attackers retreated into the premises of the Hong Kong Rubber and Plastic Workers Union, which was close by, and a strong police party was called up which, with some difficulty, forced an entry into the union premises. After fierce resistance, in which a number of police were injured, 53 people were arrested, of whom three later died of the injuries they had received.

This period of unrest came to a head on June 24 when a 'general strike' as called, heralded by another fanfare from the People's Daily. In spite of lavish payments by the communist unions, supported by a gift of $10 million from the All China Federation of Trade Unions, it was not a success. The Kowloon Motor Bus Company was the most seriously affected, but nevertheless managed to continue to provide an emergency service. The other transport companies maintained a reduced service, while the utility companies, though short-staffed, continued to operate effectively. The public was considerably inconvenienced, but a fleet of private cars and nine-seater vans appeared on the streets to fill the gap caused by the shortage of public transport and, despite claims to the contrary by the communist press, life went on much as usual.

One of the major factors that led to the comparative failure of these stoppages was the firm action taken by the government in dealing with its own employees. They were warned that these were not legal 'strikes' arising from an industrial dispute and that if they took part they would be liable to dismissal. Those who did take part, including, in the first phase, some staff of the Marine Department and the Waterworks, were interdicted from duty or discharged. Those who could subsequently show that they acted under duress, that they were forced to withdraw their labour through intimidation and the threat of violence, were reinstated and returned to work. Following this lead, similar action was taken by private companies affected which gave notice that absent employees would be considered for re-employment if they registered within a limited period. Those who did not do so were considered to be dismissed and were not paid from the time that they stopped work. Emergency regulations were also enacted by the government to make it an offence to intimidate or threaten any worker who wished to continue at work. These measures made it possible for both the government and private firms, by selective re-employment, to weed out those responsible for intimidation in their labour force and at the same time they encouraged the flow of loyal workers returning to work.

A further attempt to intimidate the government by the declaration of a four-day 'food strike' had little better success. Supplies of foodstuffs from China were refused by local communist importers–though by an apparent lack of co-ordination they continued to arrive by train at the frontier–and there was a shortage of pork and vegetables and a consequent rise in prices. The stoppage came to an end on July 2, and food prices returned almost to normal.

Later in the month there was to be a more serious threat to food supplies caused, not by confrontation in Hong Kong, but by the unsettled conditions in China, which led to a general disruption of communications. No trains arrived on the border on July 24 and 25 and, though there was an irregular passenger service thereafter, it was not until September 14 that any substantial imports arrived by rail. The main commodities affected were pigs and vegetables. Although limited quantities continued to arrive, irregularly, by sea and by road from China, the quantity was well below demand. Some of the shortfall was made good by imports from other countries, but a sharp increase in prices reflected the general scarcity. The situation slowly improved towards the end of September, by which time the amount of foodstuffs imported from China had again almost returned to normal.

One of the main targets in this phase had been the Port of Hong Kong, which was the subject of some of the most extravagant claims in the communist press. In fact, while the stoppage caused some disruption in the working of cargoes, the general efficiency of the port had been surprisingly little affected and an adequate service was maintained throughout. A further attack was launched in the middle of July by the Seamen's Union, which declared a general boycott of the port. Goods from Chinese ports by-passed Hong Kong and were re-routed through Singapore or through Japanese ports, while goods already landed from China and awaiting transhipment in Hong Kong were retained in the godowns. Communist organizations in Hong Kong declared that, because of the boycott, the port was at a complete standstill and advised leading shipping lines to tranship cargoes at other ports. This propaganda had some effect, in that some cargoes were diverted to other ports and some shipowners re-arranged their schedules to sail ships either to Hong Kong or to China ports, but not to both. The threat offered by the boycott in Hong Kong itself was met by an intensive counter-propaganda campaign mounted by the Marine Department to explain the facts and to answer queries from seamen and to counter the intimidation, both veiled and direct, to which they had been subjected. As a result 1,222 seamen reported for jobs at the Government Seamen's Recruiting Office during the first ten days the boycott was supposed to be in operation and in only two cases (where there were other considerations) were ships delayed for lack of a crew. A small number of seamen signed off their ships but were replaced, without difficulty, through the Seamen's Recruiting Office. Indeed in many cases those who had signed off re-applied for employment after spending a day or two ashore having, no doubt, decided for themselves that all was well in the Colony. During the second week of September four ships arrived in the port from China to discharge cargo consigned to Hong Kong, to mark the first break in the boycott; and since then the tonnage of cargoes from China has steadily increased.

These work stoppages, both in the port and elsewhere, were purely political and there is no substance in the suggestion that labour conditions have been the underlying cause of confrontation in Hong Kong. The labour dispute at the artificial flower works was discarded as soon as confrontation was under way, and the voluminous poster campaign and the endless propaganda that emanated from communist sources during the summer made no mention at all of industrial conditions.

While these events had been taking place in the urban areas the New Territories had remained comparatively quiet. There had been some demonstrations and a sporadic display of posters in the market towns and in the industrial complex of Tsuen Wan but, mainly due to the firm line taken by the leaders of the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk, who came out strongly on the side of law and order, there had been only a few minor incidents. In the sensitive area of the land frontier with China it had been mainly a propaganda war carried out on the Chinese side of the border. There had been demonstrations, often on a large scale; a loudspeaker had been set up at the border station of Lo Wu which at regular intervals poured out a stream of anti-British propaganda; trains from China were plastered with posters and even cattle imported into the Colony had slogans painted on their sides.

There was, however, no violence until June 24 when a crowd of about 200 people attacked the police post at Sha Tau Kok with stones and bottles. They were dispersed by gas shells and order was restored. This incident was followed on June 26, by the first protest made by the Peking Government at diplomatic level since confrontation began.

On July 8 there was a further mob attack at Sha Tau Kok. The police post was attacked and, when the police opened fire with gas and wooden 'baton' projectiles, both the post and the Rural Committee Office, where another police company had been stationed, came under heavy sniping and machine gun fire. A detachment from the 1/10 Gurkha Rifles was called out to assist the police and, with the aid of armoured cars, they relieved the police companies, which by then had five men killed and 11 wounded.

This incident received wide publicity and gave rise to some exaggerated and alarmist reports overseas. It was a serious affair but it was not an attempt at armed invasion of the Colony. No regular units of the Chinese Army were involved. All the evidence suggests that it was a purely local affair organized and executed by the villagers in the immediate vicinity.

Since then the border remained unsettled and, while there was no repetition of violence on the same scale, there was a succession of incidents at Lo Wu, at Sha Tau Kok, and at the road crossings at Man Kam To. A number of farmers living on the Chinese side own land in British Territory and, by long-standing agreement, they have been allowed to cross the border to work their fields. This practice has continued, but the truculent attitude displayed by the farmers has led to constant friction. The border bridge at Man Kam To has had to be closed for periods of several weeks, despite protests from the Chinese side, and because of the continuing unrest the army took over from the police the responsibility for patrolling the whole of the border area. Man Kam To, however, remained a trouble spot. Two off-duty policemen who inadvertently crossed the border at this point were forcibly detained; and a senior police inspector, who was engaged in trying to conciliate a group of villagers in the vicinity of the bridge, was seized by them and forcibly taken over the border. The inspector managed to escape, after being held for 36 days, and made his way back to Hong Kong. The two policemen were returned to the Colony at the end of November after talks held with Chinese border officials.

The Sha Tau Kok incident was interpreted by the communist press in Hong Kong as armed support for confrontation and it was followed by renewed violence both in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island. Demonstrations were staged in the vicinity of communist shops and other premises from which gangs emerged to ambush the police as they arrived to investigate. Attacks were made on police units and on drivers of public vehicles. From July 9 to 12 there was a widespread succession of incidents in which one policeman and seven rioters lost their lives.

July 12 marked a turning point. Up to this time the various methods of attack by the communists had been met and contained and they had gained no ground in their struggle. But it was they that had done most of the attacking and they had put considerable strain on the police and on the many public servants and others who had been forced to work long hours in the maintenance of public order. On July 12 the acting Colonial Secretary announced in the Legislative Council that from then on the government was determined to grasp and maintain the initiative. This promise was followed by immediate action. On that day, and on the days following, strong parties of police, backed up by military units, raided the principal communist strongholds, including union premises and schools; they seized stocks of home-made weapons and explosives as well as inflammatory posters and literature, and they took into custody a number of people suspected of subversive activities.

The initial raids were strenuously resisted. In an action against the Kowloon Dock Workers Amalgamated Union premises the defenders used bottles, daggers, acid and firebombs and it took the police three hours to complete the break in. The secretary of the union was killed during the struggle; and 81 people were arrested, to the obvious approval of other occupants of the building. Subsequent raids met with little or no physical opposition. Indeed the threat of invasion by the police, at any time, forced the opposition to avoid gathering for meetings at their usual premises and many centres that were raided were found to be unoccupied. Sporadic violence continued, but the communist organizations were disrupted and driven underground. They began to talk of a long struggle and, although their newspapers continued their stream of inflammatory propaganda and were now inciting to armed insurrection, their readers grew less and support for confrontation dwindled to a hard core of dedicated and fanatical men and women.

Pressure against the communist organizations was maintained. Action was taken against known centres of subversive activity and, in August, three communist newspapers were suppressed and two of their editors were prosecuted for sedition, an action which resulted in a strong protest from Peking. A similar protest had been made in July when an employee of the New China News Agency was arrested for taking part in an illegal assembly. The protest was rejected and was followed by the Reuters correspondent in Peking being placed under house arrest. Two other employees of the New China News Agency in Hong Kong were subsequently arrested on similar charges and the Peking Government, on August 20, issued what amounted to an ultimatum. Within 48 hours all three employees of the New China News Agency must be released and action against the newspapers and their editors must be withdrawn. Failure to do so would result in 'serious consequences'. This demand was also rejected. The threatened reprisal took place, not against Hong Kong, but against the office of the British Chargé d'Affaires in Peking, which was sacked by a mob on August 22.

In Hong Kong, confrontation entered a new phase of indiscriminate 'bomb' attacks. There was a hint of terrorism to come in the publication, in August, of a list of prominent members of the community who were said to be marked for assassination. But, in the event, the only victims were a well-known wireless commentator, Mr Lam Bun, and his cousin who, together, were drenched in petrol and burned to death in a particularly vicious attack which excited horror and disgust. Attacks were also made on individual police officers in order to gain possession of their firearms. In four such attacks two police constables were killed, an inspector severely injured and another constable slightly injured.

Explosive attacks, which at first were directed at selective targets, became indiscriminate. All known stocks of explosives and fireworks in the Colony were called in during August and September, but it is apparent that some stocks evaded the government net and the planting of bombs, both genuine and simulated, continued. This campaign was essentially a propaganda move, to stimulate the flagging communist support by a show of strength. Most of the 'bombs' have been simulated and many of them carried such messages as 'compatriots don't touch'. The majority of the real ones were made from black powder extracted from fireworks and produced more noise than danger. But some were deadly and all had to be treated with the utmost care. While the more militant among the communists no doubt hoped that these devices would cause casualties, particularly among the police and military bomb disposal squads that had to deal with them, the main aim appeared to be to sap public morale by the disruption that was caused and by the constant threat of danger. When innocent passers-by were killed or injured, as inevitably happened, the communist press sought to evade responsibility by describing the matter as an 'unfortunate accident' or by putting it about that not all bombs were planted by communists. But, whatever their intentions, the deaths that were caused, and particularly those of two young children, brought a general revulsion of feeling against the perpetrators.

Bomb attacks continued as an almost daily occurrence until the end of December. The visit to the Colony in October by the Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Shepherd, was marked by a noticeable increase of both real and simulated bombs, while in November there was a flurry of violence directed against police units. Since December 25, however, no explosive bombs have been planted and, while a number of suspicious objects continued to be reported, it appears to be likely that this violent phase of confrontation has come to an end. Since it began the police and service bomb disposal units dealt with 8,074 suspected bombs, of which 1,167 were genuine bombs.

In many cases children took part in these attacks. Teen-age girls have been arrested in possession of explosive bombs and, in at least one case, a schoolboy was injured by the explosion of a bomb he was carrying. Indeed, towards the end of the year there was a noticeable increase in the number of schoolchildren involved in activities connected with confrontation and in the truculence towards authority they displayed. These children were almost all pupils of communist-dominated schools in the Colony and it must be concluded that they were being encouraged in these activities by their teachers as part of a concerted plan by the communists to bolster up their dwindling ranks. Many of these schools had become centres for the storage and dissemination of inflammatory literature and even for the manufacture of bombs, both simulated and real. On November 27 a youth was severely injured in an explosion in the Chung Wah Middle School. The school was closed by the government, and this action evoked a protest from Peking.

Not all of those who took part in the demonstrations and riots have subscribed to the communist aims. Many were employees in communist concerns who were instructed to take part, and others–particularly the hooligans who exploited the initial riots at San Po Kong–were paid to do so. It is a sad commentary on communist tactics that they should have to employ children as well in these activities and to expose them, not only to arrest and imprisonment for their seditious activities, but also to physical danger.

It is also a reflection on their failure to gain general support for their cause. The incidents which attracted so much publicity overseas, have been the work of a small minority. The bulk of the population refused to become involved and has gone about its normal work. Indeed, in spite of the strident claims in the communist press, the efficiency of the Colony has been surprisingly little disturbed. While it is as yet too early to assess the long-term economic effects of confrontation, present evidence suggests that there has been no significant disruption in any of the major sectors. Industrial production was not affected at all, and exports continued at substantially higher levels than in previous years. The tourist trade continued satisfactorily in spite of alarmist headlines in some overseas newspapers. At the height of the disturbances substantial deposits were withdrawn from banks but, as most of the sums withdrawn were converted into Hong Kong currency, outflow of capital was contained within fairly narrow limits, although it was accelerated to some extent in June by the Middle East crises and consequent pressure on sterling. Their strong liquidity position enabled the banks to withstand these withdrawals without difficulty and without imposing any serious restriction on credit. From the end of August deposits began to return to the banks at a satisfactory rate. There had been no significant adverse effects on public revenue.

The bus companies, which were perhaps the hardest hit by confrontation, have made substantial progress in getting their fleets back on the road; other public transport services were almost back to normal at the end of the year. When on June 7, voting took place for five vacant seats on the Urban Council, the election passed off without incident and, indeed, a record percentage (for Hong Kong) of the electorate cast their votes. Confrontation did not affect such annual events as the cross harbour swimming race, the dragon boat races and the Cheung Chau bun festival while, in the autumn, the racing and football season started on schedule. A determined attempt was made to wreck Hong Kong Week which was held between October 30 and November 5 to publicize Hong Kong products. But, in spite of a marked increase in explosive attacks, the colourful festivities took place as planned and met with an enthusiastic reception from the many visitors who attended. The Chinese Manufacturers' Association's Jubilee Exhibition, in December, attracted a record number of visitors.

For many people the main preoccupation during the summer has been not so much confrontation as the water supply position. Hong Kong has no sizeable rivers and it is dependent on rainfall which is collected in reservoirs. By the current agreement with China, an additional 15,000 million gallons of water (which is paid for at the rate of $1.06 for a thousand gallons) is provided from her more ample resources each year, to be drawn during the period from October to June. By the end of 1966 the storage position was causing some anxiety and by an ad hoc agreement a further 1,800 million gallons was made available from China. In February, as a precaution, the daily supply period in Hong Kong was reduced from 24 hours to 16 hours.

Rainfall during May and June was below average. The full ration from China, including the agreed additions, was drawn by June 25 and during the month the supply period had to be reduced to eight hours a day and then to four hours every other day. On July 11, the total storage in the reservoirs stood at 3,277 million gallons, that is about 50 days supply. A request for an additional supply from China went unanswered and the situation was serious. On July 13 the supply period was further reduced to four hours every fourth day. Hospitals and other essential users continued to be given a full supply while squatter areas and industries received a daily four-hour supply and the resettlement estates a four-hour supply every other day.

As in the previous severe drought of 1963, the population put up with the discomfort with remarkable patience and cheerfulness despite communist attempts to exploit the situation. The position, however, was critical; any further reduction in the supply period would have been almost insupportable and would in any case have been unlikely to reduce materially the rate of consumption. Various possibilities were considered of obtaining additional water from other sources, but they offered little hope of success.

By good fortune there was timely rain in mid-July which eased the situation, and further heavy rain in mid-August and September. At the end of September it was possible to revert to a four-hour daily supply and with the resumption of water from China on October 1–at the beginning of a new supply period–the full 24-hour supply was reinstated.

In order to conserve supplies, however, saline water from Plover Cove was added to the water issued for general consumption. The resulting mixture, although salty to the taste, is below the maximum limit recommended by the World Health Organization and it has no ill-effects. It has, however, provided the communists with the opportunity to work up a campaign against this 'contamination'.

They have also seized upon the adjustments made to the exchange rates for the Hong Kong dollar, following the devaluation of sterling by Great Britain, and propaganda on this issue, and on the salinity of the water, provided the main themes for their newspaper and radio coverage for several weeks. The tone of this propaganda was, however, noticeably more moderate: the arguments were carefully presented and were designed to attract the support of those sections of the population which were most closely concerned. This departure from the violent language used by the communist press in previous months, as well as the apparent cessation of physical violence, may well indicate that a new phase of confrontation has begun.

Hong Kong has no quarrel with China, nor indeed with the communists as such. It is not an offence to be a communist (or to belong to any other political party) nor to practise the doctrines and beliefs of communism although it is an offence to translate these beliefs into action that conflicts with the law. The government has taken action against the supporters of confrontation, not because of their political beliefs, as the communist press has asserted, but simply because they have broken the law. Its basic aim and policy, throughout, has been to preserve law and order and to regain for the Colony its traditional role of providing a place for people to live and work in peace, whatever their race or political belief.

In this it has succeeded, at a cost to the Colony of 51 lives. Fifteen people were killed by bomb explosions, including two members of the police, an army sergeant and an officer of the Fire Services; and eight police officers were killed in other incidents.

The various counter measures that have been taken in Hong Kong have had the full support of Her Majesty's Government in London which has, on several occasions expressed its admiration for the determination with which confrontation has been contained. The three main phases of the communist attack; demonstrations to gain popular support; stoppages of work to paralyse the Colony's economy; terrorism to undermine morale; have all failed. Great credit is due to the police who have, throughout, exercised the greatest steadiness and restraint under the severest provocation and who have, at the same time, dealt firmly with violence, when it has arisen, with the minimum of force and at the cost of severe casualties to themselves. But the same spirit of determination and resolution informed all others who were concerned, whether they were members of the government, members of the armed forces or other auxiliary units, or private individuals. Confrontation is an issue that ultimately affected the lives of everyone in the Colony and they all played a part in meeting it: some in the planning and organization required to contain the different phases of the communist attacks; others by cheerfully working long hours, often under conditions of imminent personal danger, to keep the Colony functioning efficiently; and others, again, simply by going about their normal work and refusing to be panicked by communist threats and propaganda.

Confrontation may continue for some time in one form or another. With this spirit and with the firm support that has been given by Her Majesty's Government, the people of Hong Kong will continue to overcome whatever new threats they may have to face and, with their inimitable energy, will drive Hong Kong on to new peaks of prosperity and progress.