The Refugee Problem
In 1950 the Civil War in China between the Nationalists and Communists that had raged from the 1930’s was coming to an end after the open war with the Japanese from 1937 and before had ended with their defeat in 1945. The Communists were thus completing their conquest of China and were in the final stages of concluding it in the southern provinces bordering Hong Kong. Many of the Nationalists had gone to Formosa, now Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek, and great numbers of refugees were seeking shelter and sanctuary from the turmoil in Hong Kong. The refugee problem was extreme. Many lived in poverty and in overcrowded conditions in vast shanty towns on the hills around Kowloon and the Chinese settlements on Hong Kong Island.
Some sense of the refugee problem comes from reviewing the population of Hong Kong in 1950 and 1955. In 1950 Hong Kong was home to 1.629 million people 1. Just five years later it was home to 2.087 million people. This is an addition of 400,000 people, more than 1000 to each square mile of the British Colony. The vast majority of these people were born in Hong Kong, the remainder the refugees from China. Europeans were a small minority.
China After the Revolution and Hong Kong
The presence of the Chinese Communists across the border in Kwantung province was an obvious threat to Hong Kong. The Communist dogma was against all forms of imperialism, and to have a foreign nation and particularly Britain in possession of Chinese territory was an anathema.
In the event the Communists under Mao Tse Tung did not proceed to take the colony back by force – and that was just as well for me – for it proved a useful place to export the refugees, and served a commercial role. Formosa caused tension because the Chinese under Mao regarded it, and still do, as an integral part of China. What would happen was entirely uncertain. But Communist aggression and expansion was resisted in the Cold War then beginning to be waged with the Communists in Europe under Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung in the East who seemingly were acting in concert.
The Korean War and Hong Kong
Not long after my arrival in Hong Kong in February 1950, the Chinese Communists in June 1950 influenced the North Koreans to attack South Korea without warning. So began the Korean War that escalated when afterward in November Chinese Red Army “volunteers” joined forces with the North Koreans. Although the fighting ended, no peace accord was signed, and the tensions between North and South Korea remain to this day.