A Divided History And Its Present: Hong Kong 1967/2017

Confrontation between rioters and the police during the 1967 Riot, 1967, Hong Kong.

(Photo: 香港舊照片Old Hong Kong photo)

Last year was the 50-year anniversary of one of the most controversial and turbulent moments in the history of colonial Hong Kong – the 1967 riots. The mainstreamaccount of the violent disturbances is that the San Po Kwong labour dispute triggered a series of strikes and demonstrations, which rapidly snowballed into a bloody “anti-British struggle” of the Hong Kong leftists, a spill-over of the Cultural Revolution in mainland China. From May to December 1967, 51 died. 15 of the dead were lost to bomb attacks and 1936 rioters were subsequently convicted of criminal offences. Among the victims, the very popular Commercial Radio talk show host, Lam Bun, who was known for his vehement criticism of the extremist actions of the leftists, was virtually burnt to death in his car. Around the same time, two children — a brother and sister aged 2 and 8, were brutally killed by a bomb hidden inside a parcel they picked up in a rubbish bin in North Point. Fifty years on, the traumatic 1967 riots remain a highly sensitive and taboo subject and have left an indelible mark on the psyche of Hong Kong people.Every time my parents recount what happened at that time in their childhood, they tell me sombrely about the “communists’ self-made bombs” (土製菠蘿, literally ‘mud-made pineapple’) in the streets and their fear of not being able to go to school anymore. Far from being a distant historical event, the riots have been and still are entangled in Hong Kong’s contemporary political climate.