Hong Kong 1967 leftist riots

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Hong Kong 1967 riots
1967 Hong Kong riots-Communists and Police.jpg
Confrontation between rioters and the Hong Kong Police Force
DateMay - December 1967
MethodsDemonstrations, strikes, assassinations, planting of bombs
StatusLeftists failed to take over Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government retained control of Hong Kong.
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Hong Kong 1967 leftist riots
Traditional Chinese六七暴動

The Hong Kong 1967 riots were large-scale riots between pro-communists and their sympathisers, and the Hong Kong government.

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. The colonial government banned leftist publications and closed leftist schools, and leftists retaliated by planting decoy and real bombs in the city. Several pro-Beijing protesters were beaten to death by police, and leftists murdered some members of the press who voiced their opposition to their cause.[2]


The initial demonstrations and riots were labour disputes that began as early as May 1967 in shipping, taxi, textile, cement companies and in particular the Hong Kong Artificial Flower Works, where there were 174 pro-communist trade unionists.[3] The unions that took up the cause were all members of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions with strong ties to Beijing.[4]

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.[5] The tension in Hong Kong was heightened by the ongoing Cultural Revolution to the north. Up to 31 protests were held.[6]

Outbreak of violence[edit]

In May, a labour dispute broke out in a factory producing artificial flowers in San Po Kong.[7][8]

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.[citation needed]

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. The Hong Kong Police Force engaged with the demonstrators and arrested another 127 people.[9] A curfew was imposed and all police forces were called into duty.[10]

In the PRC, newspapers praised the leftists' activities, calling the British colonial government's actions "fascist atrocities".[11]

On 22 August, in Beijing, thousands of people demonstrated outside the office of the British chargé d'affaires, before Red Guards attacked and ransacked the main building, and then burned it down.[12]

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, prompting the British authorities to retaliate by putting larger speakers blaring out Cantonese opera.[10] Posters were put up on walls with slogans like "Blood for Blood", "Stew the White-Skinned Pig", "Fry The Yellow Running Dogs", "Down With British Imperialism" and "Hang David Trench", a reference to the then Governor.[13] Students distributed newspapers carrying information about the disturbances and pro-communist rhetoric to the public.[citation needed]

On 16 May, the leftists formed the Hong Kong and Kowloon Committee for Anti-Hong Kong British Persecution Struggle.[14] Yeung Kwong of the Federation of Trade Unions was appointed as its chairman. The Committee organised and coordinated a series of large demonstrations. Hundreds of supporters from 17 different leftist organisations demonstrated outside Government House, chanting communist slogans.[15] At the same time, many workers took strike action, with Hong Kong's transport services being particularly badly disrupted.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

The height of the violence[edit]

On 8 July, several hundred demonstrators from the PRC, including members of the People's Militia, crossed the frontier at Sha Tau Kok and attacked the Hong Kong Police, of whom five were shot dead and eleven injured in the brief exchange of fire.[16] 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 ethnic Chinese serving in the police to join the pro-communist movement were equally unsuccessful.

The British 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. An eight-year-old girl, Wong Yee Man, and her two-year-old brother, Wong Siu Fan, were killed by a bomb wrapped like a gift placed outside their residence.[17] Bomb disposal experts from the police and the British forces defused as many as 8000 home-made bombs, of which 1100 were found to be real.[18] These were known as "pineapple" bombs.[19][1]

On 19 July, leftists set up barbed wire defences on the 20-storey Bank of China Building (owned by the PRC government).[20]

In response, the police fought back and raided leftist strongholds, including Kiu Kwan Mansion.[19] In one of the raids, helicopters from HMS Hermes – a Royal Navy carrier – landed police on the roof of the building.[21] Upon entering the building, the police discovered bombs and weapons, as well as a leftist "hospital" complete with dispensary and an operating theatre.[9]

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; prevented from getting out of his car, he was burned alive.[22]

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 newspaper, 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.[23]

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.[24]



By the time the rioting subsided at the end of the year, 51 people had been killed, of whom 15 died in bomb attacks, with 832 people sustaining injuries, while 4979 people were arrested and 1936 convicted.[9] Millions of dollars in property damage resulted from the rioting, far in excess of that reported during the 1956 riot.[23] Confidence in the colony's future declined among some sections of Hong Kong's populace, and many residents sold their properties and migrated overseas.

List of deceased (partial)
Name Age Date of Death Comment
Chan Kong-sang[25] 14 1967-05-12 An apprentice hairdresser, died in the course of riot at Wong Tai Sin Resettlement Area.
Tsui Tin-po[26] (徐田波) 42 1967-06-08 A worker in the Mechanics Division of the Public Works Department, died in custody at Wong Tai Sin Police Station after arrest.
Lai Chung (黎松) 52 1967-06-08 A Towngas worker, shot by police in a raid, then killed by drowning.
Tsang Ming (曾明) 29 1967-06-08 A Towngas worker, beaten to death by police in a raid.
Tang Chi-keung (鄧自強) 30 1967-06-23 A plastics factory worker, shot by police in a raid against a trade union.
Chau Chung-shing (鄒松勝) 34 1967-06-24 A plastics factory worker, beaten to death by police after arrest.
Law Chun-kau (羅進苟) 30 1967-06-24 A plastics factory worker, beaten to death by police after arrest.
Lee On (李安) 45 1967-06-26 A worker at Shaw Brothers, died while being admitted to hospital from a law court.
Fung Yin-ping (馮燕平)[27] 40 1967-07-08 A police corporal, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok border.
Kong Shing-kay (江承基)[27] 19 1967-07-08 A police constable, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok border.
Mohamed Nawaz Malik[27] 28 1967-07-08 A police constable, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok border.
Khurshid Ahmed[27] 27 1967-07-08 A police constable, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok border.
Wong Loi-hing (黃來興)[27] 27 1967-07-08 A police constable, killed by militia from Mainland China at Sha Tau Kok border.
Zhang Tiansheng (張天生) 41 1967-07-08 A militiaman from Mainland China, shot to death by Hong Kong Police at Sha Tau Kok border.
Cheung Chi-kong (鄭浙波) 32 1967-07-09 A porter working in Western District, shot to death during a riot
Ma Lit (馬烈) 43 1967-07-09 A porter working in Western District, shot to death during a riot
Lam Po-wah (林寶華)[27] 21 1967-07-09 A police constable, killed by a stray bullet during a riot
Choi Wai Nam (蔡惠南) 27 1967-07-10 A leftist rioter, shot to death by police in Johnston Road, Wan Chai.
Lee Chun-hing 35 1967-07-10 A furniture worker, beaten to death by leftist protesters in Johnston Road, Wan Chai.
Li Sze (李四) 48 1967-07-11 A leftist rioter, shot to death by police at Johnston Road, Wan Chai.
Mak Chi-wah (麥志華) 1967-07-12 A leftist rioter, shot to death by police at Un Chau Street, Sham Shui Po.
(unknown) 1967-07-12 A leftist rioter, shot to death by police at Soy Street, Mong Kok.
Ho Fung (何楓) 34 1967-07-14 A worker at Kowloon Dockyard, killed in police action against the Kowloon Dock Workers Amalgamated Union.
(unknown) 1967-07-14 A leftist rioter, shot to death by police at Reclamation Street, Yau Ma Tei.
Yu Sau-man (余秀文) 1967-07-15 A rioting employee of Wheelock Spinners, shot to death by police.
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)[17] 8 1967-08-20 An 8-year-old girl, killed, along with her younger brother, by a leftist homemade bomb wrapped like a gift at Ching Wah Street, North Point.
Wong Siu-fan (黃兆勳)[17] 2 1967-08-20 Younger brother of Wong Yee Man.
Lam Bun (林彬) 37 1967-08-25 A radio commentator at Commercial Radio Hong Kong, killed by incendiary attack of 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 when a leftist homemade bomb he was defusing at Lion Rock exploded.
Ho Shui-kei (何瑞麒) 21 1967-08-29 A rioting mechanical worker, shot to death by police at Tung Tau Village, Wong Tai Sin.
Lam Kwong-hoi (林光海) 1967-08-29 A technician at Commercial Radio Hong Kong, killed by incendiary attack with his elder cousin Lam Bun during his way to office on 24 August. Died on 29 August.
Aslam Khan 22 1967-09-03 A firefighter, killed by a leftist homemade bomb during defusing.
Cheung Chak (章集) 38 1967-09-03 A rioting bus driver, wounded in police shooting on 30 August. Died of pneumonia on 3 September.
Yau Chun-yau (邱進友) 1967-09-20 A Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club worker, killed by explosion of his own bomb near barracks at Kam Tsin, Sheung Shui.
Lo Hon-bun (盧漢彬) 1967-10-01 A leftist rioter, killed by police shooting.
To Hung-kwong (杜雄光) 19 1967-10-13 A police constable, killed by leftist bomb in Wanchai [28]
Tong Tak-ming Peter (唐德明) 18 1967-10-14 A middle school student, killed by leftist bomb in Wanchai.
Ronald J. McEwen 37 1967-11-05 A senior police inspector, killed by leftist bomb in Causeway Bay while trying to clear area. Many injured.[28]
PC Sit Chun-hung 1967-11-28 Stabbed to death by leftists in Shek Kip Mei [28]
PC Lee Koon-san 1967-12-9 Shot to death by leftists in Kam Tin [28]
List of confrontation convicts who died in custody
Name Prisoner no. Date of Death Comment
Tsang Tin-sung 27381 1968-01-27 A 32-year-old worker who took part in Mong Kok Riot on July 15, 1967, sentenced to 14 months in jail. Found dead after hanging himself in the morning of January 27, 1968.
Tang Chuen 28017 1969-12-29 Chairman of a pro-communist workers union who initiated a riot in Taikoo Dockyard on June 6, 1967, sentenced to 6 years in jail. Died from liver diseases in Queen Mary Hospital on December 29, 1969.

1960s leftist groups[edit]

Many leftist groups with close ties to the PRC were destroyed during the riots of 1967. The murder of radio host Lam Bun, in particular, outraged many Hong Kong residents. The credibility of the PRC and its local sympathisers among Hong Kong residents was severely damaged for more than a generation.

New leftist groups and legacy[edit]

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 Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Along with his brother Tsang Yok-sing, they continued to promote Marxism in Hong Kong.[29]

In 2001, Yeung Kwong, a pro-Communist party activist of the 1960s, was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal under Tung Chee-hwa, a symbolic gesture that raised controversy as to whether the post-1997 Hong Kong government of the time was approving the riot.[30]

In 2017, hundreds of protesters who took part in the 1967 riots were hailed as heroes in a memorial ceremony at Wo Hop Shek public cemetery to mark the 50th anniversary of the uprising. Former finance sector lawmaker Ng Leung-sing and the Federation of Trade Unions' Michael Luk Chung-hung, along with Chan Shi-yuen, head of 67 Synergy Group were some of the prominent attendees. They called for Beijing to vindicate the protests, which they have continued to refer to as a "patriotic act against British colonial tyranny".[31]

Social reforms[edit]

The 1966 and 1967 riots in Hong Kong served as a catalyst for social reforms in Hong Kong, with the implementation of positive non-interventionism in 1971, while David Trench grudgingly introduced some social reforms, it wasn't until Murray MacLehose greatly expanded the scope of reforms which transformed lives of residents in Hong Kong, thus becoming one of the Four Asian Tigers.[2] The 1970s marked starting of the Lion Rock Spirit.


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 end of British rule in 1997.[32]

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing went on to become Hong Kong's most important Chinese real estate developer.[33] Chinese philosopher and educator Chien Mu, founder of the New Asia College (now part of the Chinese University of Hong Kong), left for Taiwan.[34] He was appointed to the Council for Chinese Cultural Renaissance by President Chiang Kai-shek.[35]

HK Police revisionism controversy[edit]

In mid-September 2015, media reported that the Hong Kong Police had made material deletions from its website concerning "police history", in particular, the political cause and the identity of the groups responsible for the 1967 riots, with mention of communists and Maoists being expunged.

For example, "Bombs were made in classrooms of left-wing schools and planted indiscriminately on the streets" became "Bombs were planted indiscriminately on the streets"; the fragment "waving aloft the Little Red Book and shouting slogans" disappeared, and an entire sentence criticising the hypocrisy of wealthy pro-China businessmen, the so-called "red fat cats" was deleted.[36]

The editing gave rise to criticisms that it was being sanitised, to make it appear that the British colonial government, rather than leftists, were responsible. Stephen Lo, the new Commissioner of Police, said the content change of the official website was to simplify it for easier reading; Lo denied that there were any political motives, but his denials left critics unconvinced.[37] The changes were subsequently reversed.

Depiction in the media[edit]

  • 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 newsreels of the rioting.
  • The film about modern Hong Kong history Mr.Cinema depicts the riots.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Police rewrite history of 1967 Red Guard riots". Hong Kong Free Press. 14 September 2015.
  2. ^ a b Dewolf, Christopher (8 August 2018). "1967: When the Bank of China Building Became a Giant Propaganda Machine".
  3. ^ Fire on the rim: a study in contradictions in left-wing political mobilization in Hong Kong, 1967, Stephen Edward Waldron, Syracuse University, 1976, page 65
  4. ^ Political Change and the Crisis of Legitimacy in Hong Kong, Ian Scott, University of Hawaii Press, 1989, page 99
  5. ^ Portugal, China and the Macau Negotiations, 1986-1999, Carmen Amado Mendes, Hong Kong University Press, 2013, page 34
  6. ^ Hong Kong, C.W Lam and Cecilia L.W Chan, Professional Ideologies and Preferences in Social Work: A Global Study, Idit Weiss, John Gal, John Dixon, Praeger Greenwood Publishing, 2003, page 107
  7. ^ Colony in Conflict: The Hong Kong Disturbances, May 1967-January 1968, John Cooper, Swindon Book Company, 1970, page iii
  8. ^ Hong Kong Artificial Flower Works, San Po Kong, location of the start of the 1967 riots, industrialhistoryhk.org; accessed 16 June 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Gary Ka-wai Cheung, Hong Kong's Watershed: The 1967 Riots, Hong Kong University Press, 2009, page 32, page 86, page 123
  10. ^ a b Where There Are Asians, There Are Rice Cookers: How "National" Went Global via Hong Kong, Yoshiko Nakano, Hong Kong University Press, 2009, page 4
  11. ^ Survey of People's Republic of China Press, Issues 4032-4051, US Consulate General, 1967, pages 23-25.
  12. ^ Colin Mackerras, The New Cambridge Handbook of Contemporary China, Cambridge University Press, 2001, page 10.
  13. ^ Robert Bickers & Ray Yep, May Days in Hong Kong: Riot and Emergency in 1967, Hong Kong University Press, 2009, pg. 72.
  14. ^ May Upheaval in Hongkong, Committee of Hongkong-Kowloon Chinese Compatriots of All Circles for the Struggle Against Persecution by the British Authorities in Hong Kong, pg. 8 (1967).
  15. ^ Asian Recorder, Volume 13, 1967, page 7832.
  16. ^ Hong Kong (Border Incidents), Hansard, HC Deb 10 July 1967 vol 750 cc93-7
  17. ^ a b c Then & now: these were our children, South China Morning Post, 19 August 2012
  18. ^ Underground Front: The Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 2010, page 113
  19. ^ a b North Point tour takes participants back to the 1967 Hong Kong riots, South China Morning Post, 6 October 2013,
  20. ^ Bonavia, David (19 July 1967). "No Need for More Hongkong Troops". The Times. London. p. 4. ISSN 0140-0460.
  21. ^ Justice in Hong Kong, Carol A. G. Jones, Routledge-Cavendish, 2007, page 402
  22. ^ Orientations: Mapping Studies in the Asian Diaspora, Kandice Chuh, Karen Shimakawa, Duke University Press, 2001, page 205
  23. ^ a b Chu, Yingchi. [2003] (2003). Hong Kong Cinema: Coloniser, Motherland and Self. Routledge publishing. ISBN 0-7007-1746-3
  24. ^ Revealed: the Hong Kong invasion plan, Michael Sheridan, The Sunday Times, 24 June 2007
  25. ^ HKRS152-1-389 CHAN KONG SANG
  26. ^ HKRS152-1-372 TSUI TIN PO
  27. ^ a b c d e f In Memory of Those Members of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and the Hong Kong Police Force Who Lost Their Lives in the Course of Duty, Hong Kong Police Force
  28. ^ a b c d Asia's Finest Marches On. p145 Roll of Honour
  29. ^ Hong Kong and the Reconstruction of China's Political Order, Suzanne Pepper in Crisis and Transformation in China's Hong Kong, Ming K. Chan, Alvin Y. So, M.E. Sharpe, 2002, page 64
  30. ^ Introduction: The Hong Kong SAR in Flux, Ming K. Chan in Crisis and Transformation in China's Hong Kong, Ming K. Chan, Alvin Y. So, M.E. Sharpe, 2002, page 15
  31. ^ "Why leftists should stop seeking vindication on 1967 riots". EJ Insight. 12 May 2017.
  32. ^ A Battle Royal Rocks Imperial Yacht Club, Christian Science Monitor, 10 June 1996
  33. ^ Entrepreneurship and Economic Development of Hong Kong, Routledge, Tony Fu-Lai Yu, 1997 page 64.
  34. ^ Asiaweek, Volume 16, Issues 27-39, 1990, page 58
  35. ^ Religion in Modern Taiwan: Tradition and Innovation in a Changing Society, Philip Clart, Charles Brewer Jones, University of Hawaii Press, 2003, page 56
  36. ^ "Why are the police tampering with 1967 riots history?". EJ Insight.
  37. ^ "Police chief defends editing of '1967 riots' history on website". EJ Insight. 16 September 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]