Hong Kong 1967 Leftist riots
|Hong Kong 1967 riots|
Confrontation between rioters and the Hong Kong Police Force
|Date||May - December 1967|
|Methods||Demonstrations, strikes, assassinations, planting of bombs,|
|Status||Leftists failed to take over Hong Kong|
|Hong Kong 1967 Leftist riots|
Hong Kong 1967 Leftist riots refers to the large-scale leftist riots between pro-communists and their sympathizers, and the establishment. While originating as a minor labour dispute, the tensions later grew into large scale demonstrations against British colonial rule. Demonstrators clashed violently with the Hong Kong Police Force. Instigated by events in the People's Republic of China (PRC), leftists called for massive strikes and organised demonstrations, while the police stormed many of the leftists' strongholds and placed their active leaders under arrest. These riots became still more violent when the leftists resorted to terrorist attacks, planting fake and real bombs in the city and murdering some members of the press who voiced their opposition to the violence.
The initial demonstrations and riots were labour disputes that began as early as March 1967 in shipping, taxi, textile, cement companies and the Hong Kong Artificial Flower Works. These companies had a substantial number of pro-communist leftists. The unions that took up the cause were all members of HK Federation of Trade Unions with strong ties to Beijing.
The political climate was tense in Hong Kong in the spring of 1967. To the north of the British colony's border, the PRC was in turmoil. Red Guards carried out purges and engaged in infighting, while riots sponsored by pro-Communist leftists erupted in the Portuguese colony of Macau, to the west of Hong Kong, in December 1966. Despite the intervention of the Portuguese army, order was not restored to Macau; and after a general strike in January 1967, the Portuguese government agreed to meet many of the leftist demands, placing the colony under the de facto control of the PRC. The tension in Hong Kong was heightened by the ongoing Cultural Revolution to the north. Up to 188 protests were held.
Outbreak of violence
In May, a labour dispute broke out in an artificial flower factory in San Po Kong. Picketing workers clashed with management, and riot police were called in on 6 May. In violent clashes between the police and the picketing workers, 21 workers were arrested; many more were injured. Representatives from the union protested at police stations, but were themselves also arrested. The next day, large-scale demonstrations erupted on the streets of Hong Kong. Many of the pro-communist demonstrators carried Little Red Books in their left hands and shouted communist slogans including demands of "blood for blood". The Hong Kong Police Force engaged with the demonstrators and arrested another 127 people. A curfew was imposed and all police forces were called into duty.
In the PRC, newspapers praised the leftists' activities, calling the British colonial government's actions "fascist atrocities". In Beijing, thousands of people demonstrated outside the office of the British chargé d'affaires. In Hong Kong's Central District, large loudspeakers were placed on the roof of the Bank of China Building, broadcasting pro-communist rhetoric and propaganda, while students distributed newspapers carrying information about the disturbances and pro-communist rhetoric to the public.
On 16 May, the leftists formed the Hong Kong and Kowloon Committee for Anti-Hong Kong British Persecution Struggle and appointed Yeung Kwong of the Federation of Trade Unions as the chairman of the committee. The committee organised and coordinated a series of large demonstrations. Hundreds of supporters from various leftist organisations demonstrated outside Government House, chanting communist slogans and wielding placards. At the same time, many workers took strike action, with Hong Kong's transport services being particularly badly disrupted.
More violence erupted on 22 May, with another 167 people being arrested. The rioters began to adopt more sophisticated tactics, such as throwing stones at police or vehicles passing by, before retreating into leftist "strongholds" such as newspaper offices, banks or department stores once the police arrived.
The height of the violence
On 8 July, hundreds of armed militia from the PRC fired at the Hong Kong Police at Sha Tau Kok. Five policemen were killed in the brief exchange of fire. The People's Daily in Beijing ran editorials supporting the leftist struggle in Hong Kong; rumours that the PRC was preparing to take over control of the colony began to circulate. The leftists tried in vain to organise a general strike; attempts to persuade the Chinese serving in the police to join the pro-communist movement were equally unsuccessful.
The Hong Kong Government imposed emergency regulations, granting the police special powers in an attempt to quell the unrest. Leftists newspapers were banned from publishing; leftist schools were shut down; many leftist leaders were arrested and detained, and some of them were later deported to the PRC.
The leftists retaliated by planting more bombs. Real bombs, mixed with even more decoys, were planted throughout the city. Normal life was severely disrupted and casualties began to rise. A seven-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother were killed by a bomb wrapped like a gift placed outside their residence. Bomb disposal experts from the police and the British military defused as many as 8,000 home-made bombs. Statistics showed that one in every eight bombs was genuine.
In response, the police fought back and raided leftist strongholds. In one of the raids, helicopters from HMS Hermes – a Royal Navy carrier – landed police on the roof of Kiu Kwan Mansion. Upon entering the building, the police discovered bombs and weapons, as well as a leftist "hospital" complete with dispensary and an operating theatre.
The public outcry against the violence was widely reported in the media, and the leftists again switched tactics. On 24 August, Lam Bun, a popular anti-leftist radio commentator, was murdered by a death squad posing as road maintenance workers, as he drove to work with his cousin. Lam Bun was barred from getting out of his car and was burned alive. Other prominent figures of the media who had voiced opposition against the riots were also threatened, including Louis Cha, then chairman of the Ming Pao News, who left Hong Kong for almost a year before returning.
The waves of bombings did not subside until October 1967. In December, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai ordered the leftist groups in Hong Kong to stop all bombings; and the riots in Hong Kong finally came to an end. The disputes in total lasted 18 months.
It became known much later that, during the riots, the commander of PLA's Guangzhou Military Region Huang Yongsheng (one of Lin Biao's top allies) secretly suggested invading and occupying Hong Kong, but his plan was vetoed by Zhou Enlai.
By the time the riots subsided at the end of the year, 51 people were killed, including five police officers. Eleven officers were wounded. A British Army explosives disposal expert (Sgt. Charlie Workman of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps) and a firefighter were killed in the riots. In addition, more than 800 people sustained injuries, including 200 law enforcement personnel; 5000 people were arrested. Bombings killed 15 people, and injured 340 others. There were millions of dollars in property damage, measured in US$ – many times greater than the 1956 riot. Confidence in the colony's future declined among some of Hong Kong's populace, and many residents sold their property and relocated overseas. Some 2000 people were convicted after the arrests.
|Chan Kwong Sang (陳廣生)||13||1967-05-12||A Student barber, beaten to death by riot police squad at Wong Tai Sin Resettlement Area.|
|Tsui Tin Por (徐田波)||42||1967-06-08||A worker of Mechanics Division, Public Works Department, beaten to death at Wong Tai Sin Police Station after arrest.|
|Lai Chung (黎松)||52||1967-06-08||A worker of Towngas, shot by police in a raid, then killed by drowning.|
|Tsang Ming (曾明)||29||1967-06-08||A worker of Towngas, beaten to death by police in a raid.|
|Tang Tsz Keung (鄧自強)||30||1967-06-23||A worker of plastic products, shot by police in a raid against trade union.|
|Lee On (李安)||45||1967-06-26||A worker of Shaw Brothers, died while admitting to hospital from law court.|
|Chow Chung Sing (鄒松勝)||34||1967-06-28||A worker of plastic products, beaten to death by police after arrest.|
|Law Chun Kau (羅進苟)||30||1967-06-30||A worker of plastic products, beaten to death by police after arrest.|
|Fung Yin Ping (馮燕平)||40||1967-07-08||A Chinese police corporal, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok|
|Kong Shing Kay (江承基)||19||1967-07-08||A Chinese police constable, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok|
|Mohamed Nawaz Malik||28||1967-07-08||A Pakistani police constable, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok|
|Khurshid Ahmed||27||1967-07-08||A Pakistani police constable, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok|
|Wong Loi Hing (黃來興)||27||1967-07-08||A Chinese police constable, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok|
|Cheung Tin Sang (張天生)||41||1967-07-08||A militia from Mainland China, shot to death by Hong Kong Police at Sha Tau Kok|
|Cheng Chit Po (鄭浙波)||32||1967-07-09||A porter working at Western District, shot to death when attempting to save a student from leftist school being pursued by police.|
|Ma Lit (馬烈)||43||1967-07-09||A porter working at Western District, shot to death when attempting to save a student from leftist school being pursued by police.|
|Lam Po Wah (林寶華)||21||1967-07-09||A Chinese police constable, killed by a stray bullet after Cheng Chit Po and Ma Lit were shot to death.|
|Choi Nam (蔡南)||27||1967-07-10||A leftist protester, shot to death by police at Johnston Road, Wan Chai.|
|Lee Chun Hing (李振興)||35||1967-07-10||A worker of furniture, beaten to death by leftist protesters at Johnston Road, Wan Chai.|
|Lee Si (李四)||48||1967-07-11||A leftist protester, shot to death by police at Johnston Road, Wan Chai.|
|Mak Chi Wah (麥志華)||1967-07-12||A leftist protester, shot to death by police at Un Chau Street, Sham Shui Po.|
|Yue Sau Man (余秀文)||1967-07-15||A worker of Wheelock Spinners, shot to death by police.|
|Ho Fung (何楓)||1967-07-16||A worker of Kowloon Dockyard, shot to death by police at Kowloon City Police Station.|
|So Chuen (蘇全)||28||1967-07-26||A worker from a textile factory, shot to death by police at Mong Kok while attacking a bus in service.|
|Ho Chuen Tim (何傳添)||1967-08-09||A fisherman from Sha Tau Kok, arrested during a police raid against memorial meeting for killed leftist workers on 24 June. Died on 9 August.|
|Wong Yee Man (黃綺文)||8||1967-08-20||An 8-year old girl, killed by a homemade bomb wrapped like a gift with her younger brother at Ching Wah Street, North Point.|
|Wong Siu Fan (黃兆勳)||4||1967-08-20||Younger brother of Wong Yee Man.|
|Lam Bun (林彬)||37||1967-08-25||A radio commentator at CRHK, ambushed and burned alive by a group of leftist men posing as road maintenance workers during his way to office on 24 August. Died on 25 August.|
|Charles Workman||26||1967-08-28||A sergeant in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, killed by a homemade bomb planted at Lion's Rock Hill during defusing.|
|Ho Shui Ki (何瑞祺)||21||1967-08-29||A mechanical worker, shot to death by police at Tung Tau Village, Wong Tai Sin.|
|Lam Kwong Hoi (林光海)||1967-08-30||A technician at CRHK, burned alive with his elder cousin Lam Bun during his way to office on 24 August. Died on 30 August.|
|Aslam Khan||22||1967-09-03||A firefighter, killed by a homemade bomb during defusing.|
1960s leftist groups
Many leftist groups with close ties to the PRC were destroyed during the riots of 1967. Public support for the pro-communist leftists sank to an all-time low, as the public widely condemned their violent behaviour. The murder of radio host Lam Bun, in particular, outraged many Hong Kong residents. The credibility of the PRC and its local sympathizers among Hong Kong residents was severely damaged for more than a generation.
New leftist groups and legacy
Some of the members who participated in the 1967 riot have since regained a foothold in Hong Kong politics during the early 1990s. Tsang Tak-sing, a communist party supporter and riot participant, later became the founder of the pro-Beijing camp The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Along with his brother Tsang Yok-sing, they continued to acknowledge Marxism in Hong Kong.
In 2001, Yeung Kwong, a pro-Communist party activist of the 1960s, was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal under Tung Chee-hwa. The event was a symbolic gesture that raised controversy as to whether the post-1997 Hong Kong government of the time was approving the riot.
The legacy of the 1967 Hong Kong riots extends even to the Chinese lexicon; in Cantonese, a home-made bomb is often referred to as a Boh Loh (lit. Pineapple). This riot resulted in laws that prohibit fireworks without obtaining permission from the government.
The Hong Kong Police Force was applauded for its behaviour during the riots by the British Government. In 1969, Queen Elizabeth granted the Police Force the privilege of the Royal title. This title was to remain in use until the 1997 handover.
Depiction in the media
- In John Woo's action movie Bullet in the Head, the 1967 Riots are briefly shown.
- In the play/film I Have a Date with Spring, the riots (although only briefly referenced) are a key plot point.
- Wong Kar Wai's movie 2046 features backdrop of the riots, mentions of the riots and a few old newreels of the rioting.
- The film about modern Hong Kong history Mr.Cinema depicts the riots.
- 1960s in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong 1956 riots
- Hong Kong 1966 riots
- Spring Garden Lane
- Hong Kong 1981 riots
- 12-3 incident, a Leftist riot in Macau
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