1950s in Hong Kong

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The 1950s in Hong Kong began against the chaotic backdrop of the resumption of British sovereignty after the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong ended in 1945, and the renewal of the Nationalist-Communist Civil War in mainland China. It prompted a large influx of refugees from the mainland, causing a huge population surge: from 1945 to 1951, the population grew from 600,000 to 2.1 million. The government struggled to accommodate these immigrants. Unrest in China also prompted businesses to relocate their assets and capital from Shanghai to Hong Kong. Together with the cheap labour of the immigrants, the seeds of Hong Kong's economic miracle in the second half of the 20th century were sown.

Contents

Background

Causeway Bay 1955 Causewaybay1955.jpg
Causeway Bay 1955

As the Communists drew near to a victory in early 1949, there were fears that Hong Kong was going to be invaded by the Communists. The British Government was determined to keep Hong Kong as a capitalist outpost within a communist sphere of influence, though the memories of the Berlin Blockade and the perceived antagonism of communist governments was still fresh in their mind. The garrison was reinforced and plans of emergency evacuation to Australia were made. However, the People's Liberation Army were ordered to stop advancing at the Sham-chun-Hong Kong border and Hong Kong remained a British colony.

Hong Kong was a valuable trade centre at the mouth of China and hoped that by retaining this connection doing business with the new government in Peking would be easier. To give up Hong Kong to the Communists without a fight would be seen as a national weakness in the face of the growing communist threat in Europe and Asia, especially the Emergency in Malaya. Debates did take place during the 1950s at the British Parliament in Westminster in which it was discussed that Hong Kong would have to be handed back to China if the colony's entrepôt trade could not be maintained. [1] The people were outraged at any suggestion of this, so the Government of Hong Kong became committed to turning Hong Kong into a manufacturing centre.

Demographics

Coat of Arms of Hong Kong (1959-1997), officially adopted in late January 1959 Coat of arms of Hong Kong (1959-1997).svg
Coat of Arms of Hong Kong (1959-1997), officially adopted in late January 1959

Population

The 1950s began with a large number of impoverished people without jobs and natural resources. The problem was further compounded with a flood of refugees from mainland China [2] who were able to cross due to the lack of border controls until June 1951. The People's Republic of China was established in 1949 under a reorganised Communist Party. As many as 100,000 people fled to Hong Kong each month under the new regime, many of whom were rich farmers and capitalists who brought with them management experience, though even more were criminals who established the influential triad society in Hong Kong. By the mid-1950s, Hong Kong had increased its population to a staggering 2.2 million. By 1956, Hong Kong's population density became one of the highest in the world. [3]

Rising buildings

In 1953, the Shek Kip Mei Fire left 53,000 homeless. This prompted major change: Sir Alexander Grantham, the 22nd Governor of Hong Kong, drew up an emergency housing programme that introduced the 'multi-storey building' as a common building form. His structures were capable of housing 2,500 people in a fire/flood-proof structure. The idea was to house as many and as fast as possible to deal with the homeless shelter crisis. Every floor in the building incommunal room, washroom, and toilet facility. Each person was granted 24 square feet (2.2 m2) per adult and half that for each child under 12. [4] The high rise buildings would become the norm, as skyscrapers have a small footprint compared to their overall volume.

Culture

Cantonese Opera HongKong003.jpg
Cantonese Opera

Lifestyle

At the end of the Japanese occupation, the Government of Hong Kong held a monopoly on the purchase and distribution of food and raw materials including rice and cotton yarn. Price controls by the Government were not eliminated until 1953. The period can best be summarised by low resources and an endless increase in population. Many mainlanders would cross the border to Hong Kong and establish illegal huts on rooftops and edge of mountains. [5] The integration of different groups from China and original tenants of Hong Kong would also create a society in which everyone had to wrestle with the overwhelming number of language dialects.

Education

Those who were born in Hong Kong were provided with education and housing by the government. The first group of refugees were only granted temporary asylums since the government believed they would return to the mainland. An estimated 9% of the government's expense were spent on education and health care. [6] The curriculum made it crucial that students did not feel associated with Hong Kong or China in any national sense. It emphasised that they were the middleman for the Sino-British trade relationships. [5]

An internal government paper in the period indicated about 34 schools in the urban area were actually classified as controlled by the Communists, including 24 in the New Territories. Another 32 schools by leftist elements such as staff and teachers. A new ordinance was passed in 1952 to allow any director of education to shut down a school believed to be controlled by political indoctrination. [7] The refugees mostly sought their education and social services from Christian churches. Actions were taken at the Heung Tao Middle School and Nanfang College. [8]

Entertainment

One of the main forms of entertainment in the 1950s was Cantonese Opera. Shaw Brothers Studio would also produce some of the first groups of martial art films. Their notable sword fighting style would be emulated on many movies and TV dramas for years to come.

Law and order

The Hong Kong 1956 riots was one of the first full-scale riots in the territory. It awoke the Government to the dangers of low wages, long working hours, and overcrowded conditions. [9] Tighter law control would diminish the triads in the period. Most of the social problems in the 1950s dealt with Nationalist and Communist factions on Hong Kong soil. The British Government in Whitehall, London, feared the Communists would promote anti-British sentiments in the colony. Thus, the Colonial Office in Whitehall encouraged the Government of Hong Kong to follow anti-Communist policies within the colony. The leading account of the 1956 riots appeared in a book by historian Rohan Price published by Routledge in 2020. [10]

Economy

Royal Observatory, Hong Kong, in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, in 1950 HKO1950.png
Royal Observatory, Hong Kong, in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, in 1950

Transportation

Hong Kong Taxi service was founded in 1947 with just a mere 329 cars. By the end of the decade in 1959, it had expanded to 851 cars. [11] The service became more popular since it does not require passengers to follow a particular bus route.

Industrial

In 1953, two land reclamation projects added 3,000,000 square feet (280,000 m2) to Hong Kong. The first project would specifically add runway space to the Kai Tak Airport. Additional land would turn Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan into industrial towns. [6] The early industrial centres churned out anything that could be produced in a small space, like buttons, artificial flowers, umbrellas, textiles, enamelware, footwear and plastics.

Hospital and hospitality

The handling of the refugees required the collaboration of numerous services and programs. The British Red Cross would set up their first branch in Hong Kong on 12 July 1950 as the Hong Kong Red Cross. They started in the Lai Chi Kok Hospital and began the Patient Concern Service. Blood donation also began in 1952 with 483 people donating in the first year. A Disaster Relief service was established in 1953 mostly to deal with the Shek Kip Mei fire. [12] The Hong Kong Tourism Association was established in 1957.

Finance

The banks at the time were not regulated by the Government. There were no central banks or monetary policies. The Governor did not want to regulate the Hong Kong Stock Exchange even though it had become a serious problem in financing the fast-growing economy at the time. Manufacturers constantly complained about the shortage of investments. [6] Pressure was coming from within and outside Hong Kong to get the policies fixed.

Related Research Articles

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New Territories Region of Hong Kong

The New Territories is one of the three main regions of Hong Kong, alongside Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. It makes up 86.2% of Hong Kong's territory, and contains around half of the population of Hong Kong. Historically, it is the region described in the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory. According to that treaty, the territories comprise the mainland area north of Boundary Street on the Kowloon Peninsula and south of the Sham Chun River, as well as over 200 outlying islands, including Lantau Island, Lamma Island, Cheung Chau, and Peng Chau in the territory of HK.

Shek Kip Mei

Shek Kip Mei, originally known as Shek Kap Mei, is an area in New Kowloon, to the northeast of the Kowloon Peninsula of Hong Kong. It borders Sham Shui Po and Kowloon Tong.

History of Hong Kong (1800s–1930s)

Hong Kong (1800s–1930s) oversaw the founding of the new crown colony of Hong Kong under the British Empire. After the First Opium War, the territory was ceded by the Qing Empire to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland through Treaty of Nanjing (1842) and Convention of Peking (1860) in perpetuity, with additional land was leased to the British under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory (1898), Hong Kong became one of the first parts of East Asia to undergo industrialisation.

History of Hong Kong Aspect of history

The region of Hong Kong has been inhabited since the Old Stone Age, later becoming part of the Chinese empire with its loose incorporation into the Qin dynasty. Starting out as a farming fishing village and salt production site, it became an important free port and eventually a major international financial centre.

Music of Hong Kong music

The Music of Hong Kong is an eclectic mixture of traditional and popular genres. Cantopop is one of the more prominent genres of music produced in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta regularly perform western classical music in the city. There is also a long tradition of Cantonese opera within Hong Kong.

1967 Hong Kong riots Pro-Maoist riots in Hong Kong

The 1967 Hong Kong riots were large-scale riots led by local communists in Hong Kong against the British Hong Kong government, in the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic of China.

Japanese occupation of Hong Kong 3.7-year occupation during World War II

The Imperial Japanese occupation of Hong Kong began when the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Young, surrendered the British Crown colony of Hong Kong to the Empire of Japan on 25 December 1941. The surrender occurred after 18 days of fierce fighting against the overwhelming Japanese forces that had invaded the territory. The occupation lasted for three years and eight months until Japan surrendered at the end of Second World War. The length of this period (三年零八個月) later became a metonym of the occupation.

Handover of Hong Kong Transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China

The transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, commonly known as the handover of Hong Kong, was the formal passing of responsibility for the territory of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China at midnight on 1 July 1997. This event ended 156 years of British rule in the former colony. Hong Kong was reestablished as a special administrative region of China, and largely continues to maintain its existing economic and governing systems distinct from those of mainland China.

1960s in Hong Kong

1960s in Hong Kong continued with the development and expansion of manufacturing that began in the previous decade. The economic progress made in the period would categorise Hong Kong as one of Four Asian Tigers along with Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

1990s in Hong Kong

The 1990s in Hong Kong marked a transitional period and the last decade of colonial rule in Hong Kong.

1980s in Hong Kong

1980s in Hong Kong marks a period when the territory was known for its wealth and trademark lifestyle. Hong Kong would be recognised internationally for its politics, entertainment and skyrocketing real estate prices.

Tung Wah Hospital Hospital in Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong

Tung Wah Hospital is a hospital in Hong Kong under the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. Located above Possession Point, at 12 Po Yan Street in Sheung Wan, it is the first hospital established in Colonial Hong Kong for the general public in the 1870s.

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British Hong Kong was a colony and dependent territory of the British Empire from 1841 to 1997, apart from a brief period under Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945. The colonial period began with the occupation of Hong Kong Island in 1841 during the First Opium War. The island was ceded by the Qing dynasty in the aftermath of the war in 1842 and established as a Crown colony in 1843. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when the UK obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898.

Hong Kong independence Political Movement for Hong Kongs Independence from China

Hong Kong independence movement is a political movement that advocates Hong Kong to be established as an independent sovereign state. Hong Kong is one of two Special administrative regions of China (SAR) which enjoys a high degree of autonomy as a part of the People's Republic of China, which is guaranteed under Article 2 of Hong Kong Basic Law as ratified under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Since the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the PRC in 1997, a growing number of Hongkongers have become concerned about Beijing's encroachment on the territory's freedoms and the failure of the Hong Kong government to deliver "genuine democracy".

Peak District Reservation Ordinance 1904

The Peak District Reservation Ordinance 1904, originally enacted as the Hill District Reservation Ordinance, is commonly called the Peak Reservation Ordinance and was a zoning law that reserved most of the Victoria Peak as a place of residence to non-Chinese people except with the consent of the Governor-in-Council. The law was in force from 1904 to 1930 where the deadly Third Pandemic of Bubonic plague took place in China, causing 100,000 deaths, and enormous number of Chinese influxed into Hong Kong, causing the 1894 Hong Kong plague. Contemporary historians’ views toward the Ordinance vary, with some attributing the Ordinance to health segregation, whereas others attribute it to social status segregation. The debate on the second reading of the Bill is recorded in the Hong Kong Hansard, which shows that the two Chinese members, Ho Kai and Wei Yuk, did not oppose the Bill but a minority of the "leading Chinese" in the community were against it.

Conservatism has deep roots in Hong Kong politics and society. As a political trend, it is often reflected in but not limited to the current pro-Beijing camp, one of the two major political forces in Hong Kong, as opposed to liberalism, a dominant feature of the pro-democracy camp. It has also become a political view taken by some localist political parties.

Hong Kong–Taiwan relations Relationship between Hong Kong and Taiwan

Relations between the government of Hong Kong and the Republic of China (Taiwan) encompass both when the Republic of China controlled mainland China, and afterwards, when the Republic of China fled to Taiwan.

Anarchism in Hong Kong emerged as part of the Chinese anarchist movement, when many anarchists sought refuge from the Qing Empire in the territory. It grew alongside the Chinese revolutionary movement, before the territory again became a safe haven for anarchists, following the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. Since then anarchists have formed a part of the Hong Kong opposition movement, first to British colonial rule and then to the rising authoritarianism of the Government of Hong Kong.

References

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  4. Choi, Barry (14 October 1978). "Focus on small flats" (PDF). South China Morning Post. Retrieved 7 February 2007.
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  11. HK Gov. "HK Gov Archived 6 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine ." Taxi Annual Traffic report. Retrieved 23 February 2007.
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