Feeling the Stones: Reminiscences 9622096557, 9789622096554

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Feeling the Stones: Reminiscences
 9622096557, 9789622096554

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Feeling the Stones

' . .. crossing a river feeling the stones with your feet' - Deng Xiaoping '~W:5.®BI!M'

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'Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish'- Dao De]ing '~:;k!iff:'i~VJ~f!f'

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Feeling the Stones Reminiscences by

David Akers-Jones

* « * # i tH & *f c H O N G KON G U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S

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Hong Kong University Pres s 14/F Hing Wai Centr e 7 Tin Wan Pray a Roa d Aberdeen Hong Kon g © Hon g Kon g University Pres s 200 4 First published 200 4 Reprinted 200 4 ISBN 962 20 9 65 5 7 All rights reserved . N o part o f this publication ma y b e reproduced o r transmitted , i n any form o r by any means , electronic o r mechanical , includin g photocopy , recording , or any information storag e o r retrieval system , without prio r permission i n writing fro m th e publisher .

British Librar y Cataloguing-in-Publicatio n Dat a A catalogue recor d fo r thi s book i s availabl e from th e Britis h Library . Secure On-lin e Orderin g h ttp ://www. hkupress. org

Printed an d boun d b y United Leagu e Graphi c & Printin g Co . Ltd. i n Hon g Kong , Chin a

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For Jan e

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Jane i n 200 2 just befor e sh e passe d away . We ha d bee n i n Hon g Kon g for 4 5 years .

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Contents

Foreword Lord Preface x

Wilson of Tilly orn i x

i

Prologue 1 1. Arriva l 9 2. Th e New Territory 1

3

3. Tsue n Wan and th e Islands, 1959-196 1 1 4. Yue n Long, 1962-196 7 3 5. Seed s of Reform 5

9

5

1

6. Th e Cultural Revolution 6

1

7. Principa l Assistant Colonia l Secretary (Lands ) 6 8. A Visit to Chin a in 1973 : FIFA 7

5

9. Chin a and FIFA: The End of Waiting 8 10. Bac k to the Land 9

7

7

1

11. Breakin g Down the Fences 9 12. Th e Expiring Lease 10

7

5

13. 'Hon g Kong People Ruling Hong Kong' 11 14. Behin d the Headlines 12

3

1

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Contents 15. Xiame n 12

7

16. Th e Beginning of Negotiations 13

3

17. Negotiation s Concluded , 1983-198 5 14 5 18. Signature s and Celebration s 15 19. Chie f Secretar y 15

1

7

20. A Fresh Chapte r Begins 16

5

21. Ligh t and Nuclear Powe r 17

3

22. Los s of Sir Edward Youde 17

9

23. Th e Walled City 18

5

24. Th e Arrival of Sir David Wilson and Retirement 18 25. A New Home 19

9

7

26. A Change of Life: 198 9 20

1

27. Politica l Development 1987-1990: Tiananmen and the Boat People 20 5 28. Si r David Wilson 21

1

29. Anothe r Voice 21

7

30. Th e Years Between, 1992-199 7 22

9

31. Defamatio n an d th e 'Second Stove' 23

5

32. Election s and the Second Stove Lights Up 23 33. Countdow n 24

5

34. Settlin g Down 25 35. Weathe r Report 26 Envoi 27

1

Index 27

5

9

3 3

vin

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Foreword The Rt. Hon Lord Wilson of Tilly orn

MJ

ong Kon g ha s bee n ver y fortunat e i n it s civi l servants , bot h

•J

Hon g Kon g Chines e an d expatriates . The y for m on e o f th e

•I pillar s o f th e phenomena l succes s o f th e territor y sinc e th e •/ en d o f the Second World War. Anothe r eve n more substantia l mI pilla r ha s o f cours e bee n th e shee r energ y an d driv e o f th e Chinese people of Hong Kong, both those born there and those who cam e from Mainlan d Chin a a t times of political upheaval north o f th e border . Allowing vigour , determinatio n an d th e urg e t o bette r one' s lo t t o take a productive cours e is a key attribute of good government. "Rulin g the country i s like cooking a small fish" i s the wording o f a fine piec e of calligraphy with which thi s book opens. I t is a good choic e for th e stor y of a man who knew in his bones just what that meant and who understoo d also another ancien t Chines e text : "Th e way t o govern a country i s firs t to make th e people prosperous" . From his first arrival in Hong Kong in 1957, David Akers-Jones made it his business t o understand an d ge t to know th e people of Hong Kong , their culture , thei r histor y an d thei r ambitions . H e must ran k a s one o f the las t o f tha t grea t bree d o f Distric t Officer s wh o kne w intimatel y th e people an d th e are a fo r whic h h e wa s responsible . H e neve r los t hi s enthusiasm fo r listening to the views of younger generations, as anybody lucky enoug h t o hav e attende d hi s informa l discussio n dinner s wil l remember well . For anyon e wh o want s a n understandin g o f ho w Hon g Kon g ha s

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changed, an d th e rol e playe d i n thi s b y dedicate d an d knowledgeabl e expatriate civi l servants, thi s book o n th e lif e le d by David Akers-Jones , backed i n he r life-tim e b y hi s equall y involve d wif e Jane, i s a first-rat e and fascinatin g introduction . Perhaps one of the most unexpected fact s to emerge from th e book i s that it was not until 197 3 that David Akers-Jones visited Mainland Chin a and, eve n then , he was one of the first Hong Kong civil servants after th e Communist victor y i n 194 9 t o b e allowe d t o d o so . Suc h wa s th e gulf , until relatively recently, between Hong Kong and Mainlan d China . Ho w things hav e change d sinc e then ! Bu t chang e i s th e life-bloo d o f Hon g Kong. Tha t Hong Kong rode change with such skill owed a great deal t o the dedication , wisdom an d love for th e territor y an d it s people o f thos e like David Akers-Jones .

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Preface

m hi

s book is not a history of post-war Hong Kong; it is an accoun t

m o f experiences o f and reflection s o n livin g and working i n Hon g M Kon g o n th e doorste p o f mainlan d Chin a fro m 195 7 until , a s a • Specia l Administrative Region , we crossed the threshold o f the ne w m century . It is an account of some of the challenges I faced as a member of the government, and, because I found politics of such absorbing interest, inevitably it contains much about political development and logs aspects of th e marc h o f event s leadin g t o th e retur n o f Hon g Kon g t o China . I t also contain s description s o f untowar d event s an d ground-breakin g decisions which I hope are of more general interest . It is often sai d tha t Hon g Kon g suffers fro m a border mentalit y an d prefers t o thin k o f th e presen t boundar y betwee n Hon g Kon g an d th e mainland a s a protective barrier . M y wife an d I crossed th e border , a s i t was called then , int o Chin a man y times : first i n 197 3 when th e violenc e of the Cultural Revolution had abated but the country was still in the grip of it s hars h an d frequentl y violen t theorie s o f refor m o f though t an d attitude. A fe w year s later , followin g it s openin g t o th e world , w e sa w how throughout th e land Chin a was stirring, and how far removed it was from man y of the available descriptions. To give the book more balance, I have included amon g thes e pages an accoun t o f some of thes e visits. The record is incomplete because my memory is incomplete. It is not an autobiography, a chronology of our lives, but a record of things whic h stand ou t most in the memory. There will be those who will say 'Oh, bu t it was not lik e that' , an d I ask thei r forbearance .

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I hop e i t wil l b e rea d b y a wide r audienc e tha n simpl y thos e wh o have lived or ar e living in Hong Kong , and tha t the y will find occasiona l delight and enjoy readin g about how Hong Kong, this special small place of crowde d pavements , skyscrapers , gian t ships , mountains , seascape s and forests , ha s managed , withou t natura l resources , t o surviv e an d flourish. Today, government i s more challenged as it strives to find it s identity within th e governing embrac e o f China , and ther e is tension, strai n an d effort as Hong Kong struggles with unexpected and unfortunate challenges . Of cours e ther e ar e no w n o expatriate s recruite d directl y int o th e administrative service , although , perhap s surprisingl y t o th e unbelieve r who woul d thin k tha t thes e last vestiges o f colonialis m ha d bee n swep t away a t th e momen t o f reunification , ther e ar e stil l a number o f Britis h administrative officer s wit h a goo d knowledg e o f Chines e i n senio r positions lef t ove r fro m th e colonia l er a an d stayin g on . Tha t said , ther e are now opportunities throughou t Hong Kong for thos e from aroun d th e world who look for th e rewarding empathy of living and working amon g the people o f China . We staye d o n afte r retiremen t becaus e w e scarcel y kne w anywher e else an d becaus e i n Hon g Kon g w e hav e s o man y friend s an d s o muc h involvement. Ther e wa s wor k t o b e continue d i n man y voluntar y organisations. Retire d i n England , w e woul d hav e been lik e th e sa d ol d man i n th e Chines e poe m wh o lef t hi s nativ e villag e s o lon g ag o hi s whiskers ar e white , an d whe n h e return s th e childre n laug h a t hi m although h e speaks lik e one of them the y don't know who h e is. Would w e d o i t again ? Yes , and wit h th e knowledg e no w gained , I hope would do a better job of those things left undone which we ought t o have done. A member o f the administrative servic e in Hong Kong had s o much opportunit y t o uncover ideas , sow seed and watch the m grow. Th e government neve r seeme d shor t o f money t o back a good idea, t o knoc k it into shape , and within a few years literally t o turn i t into concret e o r a change o f policy . Paper s o n policie s an d project s di d no t gathe r dust : government wa s a living, bubbling thin g an d neede d thes e spontaneou s

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injections o f both ideas and energy to keep pace with the challenge of the need, withou t an y significan t natura l resources , t o provid e a livelihoo d for th e swellin g population , an d t o keep stokin g th e fire s o f burgeonin g prosperity. We have had wonderful, rewarding lives in Hong Kong and our thank s go out t o s o many colleague s and friend s wh o hav e shared thes e years.

David Akers-Jone s 2002

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Prologue

m n January 1945 1 left the woods, the quiet villages, the soothing curves m o f th e Sout h Downs , seventee n year s old , stil l a schoolbo y self m consciou s i n a handsome gold-buttone d bridg e coa t whic h reache d V belo w my knees. The train rattled and swayed through the cold, bleak m night , passin g throug h th e di m orang e gloom o f stations with name s removed t o fool invading armies, until with the coming of day we arrived, tired, a t grey , wintry, war-time Hull . I had grown up in a quiet country village in Sussex and attended th e local churc h primar y school . A s th e cloud s o f war gathered , m y fathe r lost his lifetime employmen t a t the local brickworks, the fires in the kiln s were pu t ou t an d h e spen t th e wa r years , until retirement , i n th e Civi l Defence organisation . M y mother, who traine d th e church choir , ran th e Women's Institut e an d supporte d man y villag e activities , returne d t o teaching fo r he r war work but , sadly, died while I was still a boy. When invasio n threatene d th e south coas t I was evacuated with th e rest of the Worthing Boys' High School to Newark in the Midlands. Afte r several months th e school straggled bac k an d classe s resumed, but eve n then schoo l was often interrupte d b y hours spen t i n th e air raid shelter s which fringed th e school sports ground. When freed from school, an added boyhood excitemen t wa s t o cycl e an d tram p th e Susse x Down s t o th e wreckage o f German aircraf t sho t down duriing th e air raids of the Battle of Britain. Fo r war work w e joined i n th e haymaking an d harvesting . A t school I had rise n t o be th e leading cade t in th e Army Cade t Corps , an d

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Feeling the Stones

as my call-u p fo r militar y servic e approached th e obviou s thin g seeme d to be to join the army. But in 1944, with the war coming to an end, military service would no t hav e provided a very broad experienc e o r opportunit y to travel. A friendly retire d Merchant Navy Captain suggested joining th e Merchant Navy , an d helpe d m e t o appl y t o th e Britis h Indi a Stea m Navigation Company . Service at sea counte d equall y fo r militar y service, and fift y guinea s indentured m e fo r fou r year s a s a n apprentic e i n th e 'B.I.' , a s i t wa s affectionately known . Th e mone y wa s repai d i n smal l amounts , mont h by month, until after fou r year s it would be expended. I t was augmente d by 'danger money' paid t o merchant seamen in wartime, which curiousl y doubled i f you survive d si x months a t sea. My unifor m ha d bee n mad e i n Leadenhal l Street , London , b y th e practised hand s an d quie t sympathy o f Miller, Rayner and Haysom, wh o had fitte d ou t generations o f young men, supplying them with th e brow n and white topis, white drill tunics, shirts and shorts, caps and cap covers, packed i n a steel trunk. I n Hull, this bruising, sharp-cornered trun k wa s borne on th e shoulders o f Indian seamen in red-sashed, blue smocks an d white, round caps , up th e long gangway and ladders of the ship, to be lef t between th e bunks i n a crowded cabin , home t o four apprentices . The Mantola made no claim to beauty. She was a solid, straight up an d down 9,000 tons with cargo holds fore and aft and, amidships, a three-deck box structure o f cabins. In peacetime sh e had a black-painted hul l with a white stripe and two white bands around a black funnel, al l now reduced to the ranks beneath a n unidentifiable an d protective grey. The British Indi a Company had a long history and its many ships were a familiar sigh t in all ports east of Aden. It lingered on for some time after th e war, succumbin g eventually to the container revolutio n o f the seventies. Two days in Hull were spent i n a 'dome', a concrete igloo with dive bombers projected ont o its ceiling, learning the rudiments o f gunnery — knowledge whic h wa s preciou s littl e us e later , whe n th e convo y wa s intercepted b y lurking E-boat s dow n th e col d reache s o f th e Nort h Sea , flashes an d explosion s fille d th e night air , and I was in a gun turre t wit h a gun abou t which I knew nothing .

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The nex t fou r year s wer e spen t aroun d th e coas t o f India , o n lon g hauls t o Australia, t o Burma an d Thailand , shuttlin g between Singapor e and Bangkok with rice and kerosene, west along the equator to Seychelles, and t o Mombasa, Zanzibar , Lindi , Dar-es-Salaam, Tang a an d Mikindani , carrying fuel for the tanks of the giant tractors of the soon-to-be-abandone d groundnut scheme . We moved from shi p to ship — carg o liners, troop ships, steam ship s and coasters — across sea so calm it mirrored th e stars, mountainous sea s that sent the ships groaning, reeling and staggering, or with the sea hissing at the bow, climbing the long, pillowing, silken swells of the Indian Ocean , brown with dust from distan t shores. I experienced the pleasure of sighting another shi p o n th e wid e expans e o f ocea n an d th e deligh t o f sightin g whales and flyin g fish ; I saw phosphorous star s in the lavatory flus h an d the mirage o f approaching coastline . Disjointed memorie s o f those years surface i n the mind: crew s fro m Gujerat, carpenter s fro m China , Malays , Goans , Indians , Muslim s an d Hindus; an d a veteran quartermaste r o n th e troo p shi p Nevasa , Fran k Huntley, wh o ha d joined th e shi p a t he r launchin g shortl y afte r Worl d War I and had remained o n the ship since then, now a small figure with a red swollen nose reputed t o drink a bottle a day (he died, I believe, when the ship was scrapped). I remember th e thrill of keeping watch, swingin g at a buo y o n th e wid e cocoa-crea m water s o f th e Irrawadd y wit h th e passenger tax i boats skimmin g acros s th e rive r an d th e dongin g o f th e prayer bel l fro m th e gleamin g spir e o f th e Shwedago n risin g abov e th e sleeping city. I remember coalin g i n Calcutta , watchin g th e continuou s stream o f men and women i n blackened loincloth s and saris, mounting a long swaying and bouncing plank with quick steps and deftly dumpin g a basket o f coal throug h th e risin g dus t int o th e bunkers below ; and the n the sweatin g fireme n i n th e chokin g hea t o f th e engin e room , heaving , with long swings, coal into the white-hot furnace. I remember being hoveto in a violent gale in the Australian Bight, with stalls of valuable racehorses among th e carg o o n deck . I remember scrapin g acros s th e muddy bar t o Bangkok o n th e M. V Kola, an d the n th e thrillin g journey o f a big shi p

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Feeling the Stones

surging thoug h brow n estuar y wate r betwee n narrowin g palm-fringe d river bank s an d stretchin g padd y fields . An d I remember bein g strike bound fo r week s i n Sydney, tied up behin d Lawhill, on e o f the las t four masted grai n ships . So the days and four birthday s passed without a holiday and withou t return unti l we buffeted ou r way, in a gale, slowly throug h th e Strait s of Gibraltar o n Durinda . Sunderland was cold. The dockworkers, gaunt men, trudged th e iron decks speakin g a strange tongue . Departure fro m th e ship an d th e sea i s as unceremonious a s arrival. It is not tha t sailors ar e unfriendly, bu t i t i s a life o f arrival an d departure , o f welcome an d goodby e — bette r no t t o become to o attached . Afte r al l that ha d passe d i n thos e fou r years , ther e was just a simpl e 'Wel l then , cheerio , al l th e best! ' A t thi s momen t o f parting I had no w t o choos e between a life a t sea or th e continuatio n o f an educatio n interrupte d fo r fou r year s by th e demand s o f war. I chos e Oxford. Britain remained impoverished. Clothes , meat, sugar, butter and petrol were rationed. After fou r year s away at th e other sid e of the world, I was a stranger. Thos e next years have an air of unreality, a bubble i n time , i n which in 1951, 1 met and married my wife, Jane, much t o the disapprova l of he r parents , wh o ha d highe r hope s tha n a penniles s Oxfor d undergraduate struggling to make ends meet on an insufficient governmen t grant. T o pay fo r thi s bold venture , I worked i n th e lon g vacation a s a n engineer o n a Salters river steamer, three men in a boat carrying our loa d of tripper s u p an d dow n th e Thames , tyin g u p a t nigh t alongsid e th e water meadows. One evening, leaning on the lock gate at Marlow, I struck up a conversation with a man walking his dog, which led to me becomin g a lifelon g membe r o f th e Roya l Centra l Asia n Societ y (no w th e Roya l Society fo r Asia n Affairs ) and , althoug h I did no t kno w it , presage d a return t o Asia. At Brasenose , I learne d somethin g o f th e origin s o f th e Englis h language, sound change s in the dialects of Anglo-Saxon, Ol d French an d Old English Paleography . Then , armed with a degree in these obscuritie s 4

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and preciou s littl e else , th e Oxfor d Universit y Appointment s Boar d suggested I apply for work a s trainee manager i n a second-hand jute ba g factory i n th e Mil e En d Road , o r i n th e petroleum , soa p an d chemica l industries! The great smog of 195 2 had just cleared from th e London streets. O n a winter morning I visited th e jute bag factory, where gnome-like wome n with a sack for apron , a sack fo r cloak , a folded sac k fo r hood , worked a t giant, clacking sewin g machines, an d huge vacuum tube s reached dow n from th e roof to carry the gunny dust away. My courage and my knowledge failed thes e tests . My four year s spen t growin g u p i n th e Merchan t Nav y eas t o f Sue z had lef t m e wit h a desire t o return . Bu t a t tha t time , commercia l firm s were not recruiting married young men, especially those with no busines s experience, t o star t thei r career s i n th e East . Th e Colonia l Offic e wa s more relaxed . Not wanting t o join th e government, I had used th e back o f the firs t application fo r th e colonia l servic e a s a shoppin g list . W e applie d fo r another form, and armed with my experiences of the Far East, a smattering of Easter n languages , an d a readin g o f A Pattern of Islands b y Arthu r Grimble, I passed the scrutiny of a board of colonial veterans. I was handed on to the venerable Dr Brunei Hawes, who pronounced me fit to return t o the Far Eas t as a cadet in the Malayan Civi l Service. There followe d almos t a year o f waiting fo r Jane an d me , the sprin g filled workin g a s a housemaster an d housemothe r a t a boy's preparator y school in Sussex. The headmaster, M r Mowll, brother o f the much-love d Archbishop of New South Wales and visiting bishop to South-West China , was a membe r o f th e Magi c Circl e an d coul d quel l wellin g tear s o f homesickness b y suddenly producin g a n eg g from behin d a small boy' s ear. The summer w e spent teachin g at Gordonstoun. I t was the last ter m of Dr Kurt Hahn, founde r o f the school s at Salem an d Gordonstou n an d the Outwar d Boun d trainin g schoo l a t Aberdovey , an d thi s bega n ou r long association with Outwar d Bound . Then ther e wer e a fe w shor t week s a t th e Schoo l o f Orienta l an d

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Feeling the Stones

African Studies , ostensibly t o learn Malay. Since I had already some Malay from working fo r a year with Malay seamen, I began a lifetime o f learning Chinese. We look back o n ou r thre e years in Malaya with delight . A s thoug h there was n o though t o f looming Independenc e an d th e en d o f a caree r before i t had scarcely started, and as if there was all the time in the world, instead o f bein g pu t t o wor k I was t o lear n Hokkien , a n obscur e an d complicated Chines e dialec t spoken i n th e former Strait s Settlements o f Penang, Malacca, an d Singapore , which man y centuries before ha d bee n settled by immigrants from Fujian province in China. Other Chinese recoil from th e complexities of Hokkien, with its strange words and tones which change fro m thei r origina l tona l valu e a s yo u talk , an d i n whic h pronunciation of the written word character retains its centuries-old soun d and is different again . As Sir Gerald Templer said curtly, but not unkindly , to me when h e asked t o see his new recruits , 'That will fix you' . Jane worke d fo r a while fo r Lad y Templer , an d on e mornin g hear d Sir Geral d shoutin g 'Doe s anyon e her e kno w anythin g abou t Outwar d Bound?' We did, an d thu s began ou r involvemen t wit h th e setting up o f the firs t Outwar d Boun d Schoo l in Malaysia and , later , in Hong Kong . The Chan Family Ancestral Hall, at the end of Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur, stands t o this day. It had been rente d by the government fo r th e language schoo l wher e w e would-be scholar s sa t fo r tw o years beneat h the eave s o f th e verandahs, unde r zoomin g swallow s an d whirlin g fans , while unperturbed famil y members brought offerings o f flowers an d frui t and li t joss sticks before th e tablet s o f their ancestors . At the en d o f tw o years we coul d hol d a conversation, writ e simpl e sentence s an d slowl y read a newspaper. M y teacher, a poet and writer, chose my Chines e nam e by taking th e Hokkien pronunciatio n o f Jones as Chiong [ i t ] an d Aker s as Yek Kiat [ ^ H ] . So , for the rest of my life, I became Chion g Yek Kiat i t J&kW, pronounced differentl y b y speakers in various dialects: 'Zhong Yat Kit' in Cantonese, th e prevailing dialec t of Hong Kong. The name ca n b e translated i n man y ways ; 'modes t o r seren e hero ' i s probably wha t m y teacher wished fo r me . 6

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I wa s sen t t o b e Distric t Office r i n Alo r Gaja h i n th e Malacc a settlement. Ther e wer e padd y field s a t th e en d o f th e law n and , i n th e lallang gras s behin d th e house , tw o untende d headstone s markin g th e graves of ensigns killed i n the Naning wars of th e nineteenth century . ( I wonder, ar e the y still there? ) The hous e wa s ope n t o th e winds , wit h wid e verandah s hom e t o many bats, and up th e slope past the tennis court were the swing doors of the Distric t Office , throug h whic h villager s an d goat s wandered a t will. There were scattered kampongs o f stilted houses with curved atta p roofs , some wit h blu e delft-tile d step s fro m a n earlie r Dutc h coloniser ; ther e were a fe w small , sleep y countr y marke t town s wit h thei r India n shopkeepers an d Chines e towkays (owners) . There were eerie, silent regiments o f rubber trees , wide paddy fields , rain forest o n the hills and long stretches of golden sanded coastlin e line d with indolen t palms , a Portugues e fort , aborigina l settlements , Ne w Villages into which ha d bee n corralle d Chines e squatter s collecte d fro m the fringe s o f th e jungle, vetera n Scottis h planters , an d i n th e jungles, terrorists who kept a record of our journeys around the district and whos e lurking presenc e i n th e jungle mad e drivin g a t night, swishin g past th e lines o f rubber trees , a creepy business. As we entered, light s ha d t o b e dimmed a t the gates of fenced-in villages . Gurkhas with loaded weapon s boarded our small Morris Minor, and at the other side of the village closed the gate s behin d us , leavin g u s t o driv e o n int o th e blac k nigh t an d enclosing trees . We had only a year in Alor Gajah before Merdeka, Independence, bu t we had been in Malaya long enough t o grow a lifetime o f liking. We ha d to leave. Merdeka came, and we were offered eithe r a short stay in anothe r colony i n Africa, als o approaching independence , o r a transfer t o Hon g Kong. My four year s at sea had take n me no furthe r eas t than th e Gul f of Thailand. No w was the chanc e t o see China . This book, then , is about Hon g Kong , about China , abou t journey s taken fro m Hon g Kong ; it is about Hon g Kong' s efforts t o prepar e itsel f for lif e afte r 199 7 whe n th e colon y woul d b e returne d t o China' s

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Feeling the Stones

sovereignty; i t is about goo d deed s an d dirt y deeds . It is not a diary, bu t rather a series of chapter-essays recounting a journey tha t has lasted mor e than fift y years .

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Arrival

mm IM /m

y w^e a n d * a n d o u r bab y son arrived in Hong Kon g on e blazin g ho t summe r mornin g i n 1957 , afte r a three-da y

f1 / • fligh t from Englan d which ended with the plane skimmin g I M / • ove r th e hill s o f Kowloon , swoopin g swiftl y dow n t o th e IW m runwa y an d bumping past traffic waitin g at a level crossin g for th e plane t o land. We crossed th e harbour b y launch an d sa w fo r th e first time the steep hillsides, the mountains, the blue waters of the harbour and th e greyin g building s o f th e city . Hong Kon g was strugglin g twelv e years after th e war t o adjust t o th e fate tha t ha d lef t i t as lonely as it ha d been whe n occupie d b y th e Britis h a hundre d year s before , isolate d o n the coas t o f southern China . The foundin g o f th e People' s Republi c i n 194 9 an d th e change s i n China's political and economi c landscape had a profound effec t o n Hon g Kong. Although it was the last left of the nineteenth-century Treaty Ports, it wa s n o longe r a n entr y por t t o China . Chin a wa s virtuall y close d t o Hong Kong and t o the outside world. The population ha d swolle n in th e aftermath o f war fro m fiv e hundred thousan d t o more tha n tw o million , with hal f livin g i n a n amazin g an d ingeniou s architecture , a straggl e o f wood an d tin-sheet-covere d rooftop s stretchin g u p th e hil l slope s an d hiding amon g tree s along stream courses . From ou r apartmen t i n Mid-Level s w e coul d se e th e solemn , undistinguished buildin g o f th e Commerc e an d Industr y Departmen t where I worked amon g th e man y offic e building s alon g th e waterfront . We lived in on e o f that band o f houses and apartment s halfwa y betwee n

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Feeling the Stones

the waterfron t an d th e skylin e home s o f senio r citizen s o n th e Peak . Although we were not paid much, it was enough t o employ two amahs i n white buttoned-acros s tunic s an d blac k trousers . W e looke d acros s th e harbour with its ever-changing crowd of merchant ships turning at buoys, at sampans , launche s an d barge s threadin g thei r wa y amon g th e ships , and junks from Chin a making their way nonchalantly through the bustle, taking a shortcu t throug h th e harbou r o f capitalis t Hon g Kon g befor e sailing northwards u p th e coast to communist Swatow . On th e far side of the harbou r wer e th e gre y tenement s o f Kowloon, ringe d b y range afte r range o f mountains fadin g int o th e blue o f China . Although i t received a plentiful suppl y of cheap vegetables, pigs an d other supplies from China , Hong Kong was ready for the worst to happen, ready fo r supplie s t o b e cu t off , read y fo r a siege . I became par t o f th e team whic h ensure d tha t w e ha d severa l months ' suppl y o f ric e i n warehouses, stockpile s o f firewood fo r cooking , soya beans fo r essentia l vitamins and corne d bee f fo r protein . I had, too , to control and kee p ou t of the hands of the communist bloc, strategic chemicals used by tin-she d factories t o mak e ename l pot s an d pan s an d coatin g fo r ga s mantle s t o light the lamps of the third world. I learned how to buy soya beans on th e world market, about th e danger of blown cans in bully beef past the 'useby' date , and ho w t o bu y an d sel l black cord s o f mangrov e timbe r fro m Borneo, which wer e choppe d and , before th e adven t o f bottled gas , sol d by grocers fo r cookin g rice in the kitchens o f Hong Kong . The ric e trad e wa s dominate d b y th e Chaozhou , a close-kni t community makin g u p one-fift h o f Hong Kong' s population, wh o com e from th e marches o f Fujian an d Guangdon g i n southern China . Becaus e of emigratio n i n previou s centuries , th e rice merchants o f Thailand als o come fro m Chaozhou . The y spea k a nasa l dialec t int o whic h the y ca n switch a s thei r privat e world , unintelligibl e t o othe r Chinese . Mos t ric e for Hong Kong is imported by these merchants and sold at silent auction s in whic h onl y th e selle r ca n se e th e bi d mad e b y th e buye r wh o come s forward t o move a bead or two on the auctioneer's abacus. No one speaks; a no d o f th e hea d an d busines s i s done . Ric e i s bough t an d sol d i n a n 10

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interlocking trai n of relationships where each in the chain seems to be in debt to the other: farmers to exporters, importers to exporters, wholesalers to importers , retailer s t o wholesaler s an d housewive s t o shopkeepers . Money passe s dow n th e chai n fro m kitche n t o padd y field , wit h a fe w days o r week s betwee n payments . Behin d th e simpl e proces s o f buyin g and sellin g wa s a ricochet o f social , ethni c an d economi c relationships , all of which had to be kept in balance, stretching from th e crowded street s of Hong Kon g t o rice farmers i n th e fields o f Thailand . My firs t tw o year s i n Hon g Kon g amon g th e merchant s an d shopkeepers an d th e ra w materia l o f lif e an d industr y wer e a usefu l background fo r what was to follow . Hong Kon g was stirring, beginning t o find it s post-war identity , lef t to its own devices by Whitehall an d Westminster. I t was putting aside its colonial status , developin g a sens e o f responsibilit y an d self-reliance , realising the need to make a start on housing the millions who had arrived following th e end o f the China' s civil war; realising a need t o bring orde r out o f disorder ; realising , mor e keenl y tha n i n th e pre-war years , tha t i t was a place with peopl e who ha d thei r rights . Hong Kon g had no t bee n included in the post-war reappraisal of Britain's imperial role and the status of its colonies. It had briefly toyed with introducing a more representativ e municipal government and then, overwhelmed by the flood of immigrants from th e mainland, move d cautiousl y toward s it s termina l dat e of 1997 . This slower pace was dictated by political reality. There was none o f the hast e o f othe r colonie s t o introduc e election s becaus e o f loomin g independence. Hon g Kon g recognise d tha t th e uncertai n futur e woul d last until it was known what would happen when th e lease of most of th e colony, the New Territories, expired. This was to give Hong Kong time to develop sociall y an d economically , t o buil d a great dynami c cit y an d t o become on e o f th e wonder s o f th e world . Th e 'huddle d masses' , th e millions who sought refuge i n Hong Kong, brought with them machines , money and skills to start up industry in ramshackle sheds. The government responded b y building grey , barrack resettlemen t blocks , on e roo m t o a family, with kitchens and lavatories shared between the blocks. Children ,

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the Stones

always amazingl y clea n an d neatl y dressed , loade d wit h schoo l bag s clambered upstairs to rooftop schools. Hawkers, selling everything a family needed, fille d th e spac e betwee n th e blocks . Ren t wa s low , foo d fro m China plentifu l an d chea p an d lif e hard . Uncomplainin g familie s spen t years in thes e crampe d room s drive n by the desire t o lift themselve s an d their childre n ou t o f poverty. The firs t tende r root s o f Hon g Kong' s cultura l lif e wer e slowl y extending. Th e Sino-Britis h Club , whos e member s include d academic s and professionals fro m th e Chinese, British and Portuguese communities , had amon g it s member s th e gentl e an d distinguishe d poet , Edmun d Blunden, a professor a t that time at the University of Hong Kong. I became its secretary. The club played a seminal role in promoting th e building of a ne w Cit y Hall , which ha d bee n lackin g i n Hon g Kon g sinc e th e earl y years o f the centur y when th e place of the old colonnade d Cit y Hall was taken by the Hongkong an d Shanghai Bank. It played a major rol e in th e formation o f th e Hon g Kon g Philharmoni c Orchestr a an d arrange d th e first rudimentar y Art s Festiva l i n th e newl y complete d pie r o f th e Sta r Ferry. After scourin g Hon g Kon g for musician s who coul d pla y Chines e instruments, a s fa r a s I know th e firs t publi c concer t o f Chines e musi c was held i n 195 8 in th e elegan t hal l o f the Clu b Lusitano . No w Chines e orchestras and concerts of Chinese instrumental music are everywhere to be heard . The city of Victoria, on th e island of Hong Kong, and Kowloo n were separated b y mor e tha n th e harbour . Kowloo n wa s a differen t place , a different society , a necessary place to pass through o n th e way to the golf course. There was no need to risk a journey to Kowloon, as all the comfort s of life coul d be had in Hong Kong, and in any case it involved a tiresome crossing by ferry. The business and professional life of international Hon g Kong too k plac e o n th e island . Thi s ha d bee n s o sinc e th e nineteent h century, an d eve n t o thi s da y man y islander s kno w littl e o f Kowloon , although thre e tunnel s no w lin k th e tw o sides . We wer e soon , wit h al l our belongings , t o cros s o n th e ferr y t o thi s othe r world , fo r almos t a lifetime of work in what was, in 1959 , the rural hinterland of Hong Kong.

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2

The New Territory

A bov e th e dr y windblow n grass , th e humpe d summit s o f / • surroundin g hills and grey lichen-covered rocks, a yellow biplane j ^ ^ B drone d agains t towerin g cloud s an d sky . A weighted pennan t /• fluttere d t o the ground, a message to say 'You have been posted 'm t o th e New Territories as District Officer' . When thi s news came we were staying in a lonely stone hut, one of a number o f scattered holiday homes for missionaries high on Hong Kong's largest island, Lantau. A friend, flyin g in a Tiger Moth biplane, had spotte d us and throw n dow n his exciting news. We read the scribbled note as the yellow wings grew small in the sky and looked around th e wide horizon , a worl d o f secre t island s an d ridg e upo n mysteriou s blu e ridg e o f mountains reaching across the New Territories into China. District Office r in Hon g Kong' s Ne w Territorie s woul d b e differen t fro m Distric t Office r among the kampongs, rice, rubber, and jungle of Malacca from wher e we had com e tw o year s before . I t woul d mea n learnin g a ne w dialect , Cantonese, afte r havin g alread y spen t tw o years , no t entirel y wasted , learning to speak Hokkien, the language of the next province northward s along th e coas t from Hon g Kong . District Officer s wer e eccentric specialists, occasionally seen but no t much t o b e heard ; a n unwelcom e reminder , perhaps , tha t Hon g Kon g was stil l a colony. We were t o join thes e exclusive s an d t o begin twent y years' wor k o n th e othe r sid e o f th e dividin g harbou r an d beyon d th e mountains. Hon g Kong' s swellin g populatio n wa s growin g b y a millio n

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Feeling the Stones

every ten years, and factories were working night and day to supply cloth, garments, plastic flowers, wristwatches, pots and pans and simple electrical ware to the world, and to provide employment for impoverished millions . It was a tim e o f grea t chang e an d challenge . Ne w town s ha d t o b e buil t and infrastructur e provided . T o do this , land ha d t o be found . Squatter s swept fro m th e hillside s o f th e cit y ha d t o b e resettled . Terrace s wer e scraped fro m th e hills and th e earth dumped t o cover centuries-old field s and t o push th e foreshore ou t into th e sea. In twenty years these were t o become citie s of half a million people, wiping out farm s an d villages an d thrusting ove r lan d an d amon g live s whic h ha d no t change d muc h fo r centuries. The Distric t Office r wa s i n th e mids t o f this : a creatur e o f Imperia l Britain foun d whereve r re d appeare d o n th e globe . Ther e wer e Distric t Officers i n Africa, South-Eas t Asia, on remote islands, in the West Indie s and in India; faintly eccentric figures in their white shorts and long socks, wearing a solar topi, or on parade grounds in easily crumpled, plain, white, buttoned-up uniform s an d trailin g sword, and later in dark grey worsted suits and trilby hat. At the height of their powers they were police officers , magistrates and Land Officers, variousl y known by the Chinese, casuall y but without disrespect, together with the rest of the expatriate community , as 'red-haired', 'foreig n devils ' or 'big noses'! There were Land Officers, Collector s and District Officers throughou t the Empir e - title s whic h understate d th e lightl y born e bu t heav y responsibility whic h reache d int o th e hear t o f th e tradition s o f societ y wherever the y wer e t o work . The y adjudicate d o n boundar y dispute s among the bunds dividing one field of rice from another , or of plantations of coconu t palms , decide d o n inheritanc e an d pronounce d o n th e resolution o f quarrels involving customs which were not their own. The y collected rent, sold land and acquired it for public purposes, and certifie d all privat e transaction s betwee n th e peopl e i n thei r jurisdiction . The y were th e eyes and ear s of colonial government, politica l officers , an d th e 'father an d mother ' o f the people.. The New Territories were literally new territory added to Hong Kon g 14

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The New

at th e en d o f th e nineteent h century . At tha t time , th e Germans , Frenc h and Russian s wer e eac h takin g advantag e o f a debilitated governmen t i n China to secure substantial land holdings. In that distasteful phrase, China was 'u p fo r grabs' . Th e Americans , too , a s a sidesho w t o th e Spanish American War, were assembling a fleet i n the deep shelter o f Mirs Bay in Hong Kon g waters a s a prelude t o intervening i n th e Philippines . The islan d o f Hon g Kon g togethe r wit h th e en d o f th e Kowloo n Peninsula gave no room to manoeuvre, no cordon sanitaire between Hon g Kong an d China . A mudd y tida l rive r ove r th e mountain s wel l t o th e north o f Kowloon was thought t o be a better boundary. I t would creat e a buffer o f rural lan d betwee n Hon g Kon g an d th e villages o f China an d a hinterland fo r th e growing city, and it would provide room for th e city to breathe an d expan d an d fo r th e troop s t o exercise . Inclusio n o f th e surrounding se a up t o th e hig h water mar k o n th e Chines e shore , an d a twenty square mile boundary embracin g a straggling necklace of islands, provided a welcom e saf e stretc h o f territoria l wate r fo r He r Britanni c Majesty's ship s an d fo r th e yacht s o f th e taipan s t o sai l unmolested . However, a t th e en d o f th e nineteent h centur y ther e wa s a growin g conscience in Westminster a t th e propriety o f appropriating outrigh t th e territory of other nations, and so, with some huffing an d puffing i n Britain's parliament and the slow arrival of hesitant telegrams, the land was leased for 99 years until 199 7 rather tha n being summarily annexed like the rest of Hong Kong . Claiming thi s ne w acquisitio n provide d moment s o f anxiet y an d tension whe n Britis h troop s advance d acros s th e territor y an d wer e attacked by villagers, and eve n farce when th e relieving forces settin g of f from Kowloo n i n a gunboa t i n thic k fo g hi t rock s an d ha d t o procee d with dente d prid e an d bow. There were later moment s o f humour whe n deciding o n th e lin e o f th e boundary : th e ma p produce d fro m th e lon g boot o f th e Chines e intermediar y ha d s o little detail tha t i t had t o be se t aside fo r on e surveye d b y th e British . Later , troops , undeterre d b y th e shallow mudd y strea m whic h wa s t o b e th e border, kep t o n going , an d meeting n o resistance , marche d northward s throug h ric e paddie s an d

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Feeling the Stones

unconcerned villages , eventuall y t o b e ordere d t o retreat , protesting , t o the river line . In Hon g Kong , despit e petition s an d protest s fro m th e captain s o f commerce, a walled villag e (th e so-calle d Kowloo n Walle d City ) wher e the visiting Chinese magistrate had his tax-collection office was exclude d from th e lease . Within a short whil e th e sensitivit y o f including a bit o f the Qin g government apparatu s withi n th e controlle d are a was brushe d aside as posing an unacceptable security threat. The magistrate was obliged to vacate his yamen. Bu t more o f that later . By 1899 all had been settled and th e rights of the inhabitants se t ou t by proclamation , an d headmen , t o ac t a s intermediarie s — committe e men — ha d been appointed . Th e attractive gates, curiously made of iro n rings, at the entrance t o one of the small walled villages where resistanc e was th e strongest , wer e take n a s boot y i n retributio n fo r it s vigorou s opposition, and removed to Ireland to the home of the Governor, Sir Henry Blake. They were brought back, ceremonially, a quarter of a century later. Land an d propert y ru n a s a continuous, importan t threa d i n th e lif e of Hon g Kong . Th e ver y firs t Governo r receive d a roya l repriman d fo r privately parcellin g ou t th e prim e site s o f lan d o n th e barren foreshore , some leased for 999 years to the most influential o f the merchant houses . Such favouritis m wa s brough t quickl y t o a n end . Lan d thereafter , b y peremptory orde r fro m th e Quee n i n Balmoral , was t o be sol d a t publi c auction t o the highest bidder. A hundred an d fifty year s have passed an d this remains a guiding principle. Land was a scarce and valuable resource, and the sale of land by the government was from th e earliest beginnings a principal source of revenue. Even today, property and construction accoun t for hal f o f the Hong Kon g economy . Instead o f the few inhabitants who greeted the first boat in 184 1 as it beached on th e narrow foreshore o f the steep slope of Hong Kong Island , there were, in th e newl y lease d territory , thousand s o f acres o f privatel y owned fertile farmland. There were owners of property who, through thei r carefully kept genealogies, could trace their land titles back many hundreds of years. 16

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The New

It made no difference tha t the land was in China. The first thing to be done, in 1899 , was to follow routine s develope d i n India and South-Eas t Asia, to measure, map and record ownership o f all land and property an d then t o lease it back t o th e owners. Order wa s then restored . S o anxiou s was th e administratio n t o complet e thi s tas k tha t lan d surveyor s wer e brought i n fro m India , an d thei r fain t pencilling s i n Urd u i n th e Lan d Registers ca n stil l b e see n besid e th e Chines e names . No w th e peopl e were anchore d t o thei r lan d holding s an d th e Lan d Office s becam e th e centre o f rural life . Memorials recording buying and selling, mortgaging, inheritance an d the settlement o f disputes wer e all registered i n th e Land Office , an d th e District Office r — th e Lan d Office r — wa s th e arbite r o f i t all , his fina l signature settlin g th e legalit y o f all transactions . Muc h later , th e factua l and accepted accuracy of these musty records going back to the beginning of th e centur y wa s o f paramoun t importanc e whe n th e expansio n o f development int o thi s rural hinterlan d began . After th e en d o f th e Pacifi c Wa r chea p importe d ric e replace d ric e won by back-breaking toi l in the paddy fields o f the New Territories. The sons o f th e soil , th e villagers , lef t th e land , man y o f the m t o migrat e t o Britain an d late r t o continenta l Europe . Poore r immigran t farmer s fro m Chaozhou floode d i n an d bega n t o suppl y vegetable s t o th e market s o f Kowloon an d Hon g Kong . Batter y chicke n farmer s an d large-scal e pi g farmers rente d other land, and the n small-scale factories sprea d from th e city a s th e need s o f good s fo r expor t grew . Abandone d car s an d construction machinery , worn-ou t bulldozer s an d crane s wer e dumpe d on th e land , an d empt y containe r boxe s fro m th e containe r shippin g revolution wer e pile d hig h abov e th e villages . The smilin g rura l plains , golden twic e a year with ripenin g grain , were no more . Sir Henry Blake, Governor whe n th e new territor y wa s 'acquired' i n 1898, made a point of reassuring the people that their ancient rights would be respected an d tha t Chines e law and custo m would be followed. 'Lan d required for public offices, fortifications, o r the like official purposes would be bought at a fair price.' The 'official purposes ' were at first limited to the

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the Stones

building o f roads, public office s an d reservoirs , and, generall y speaking , the payment o f a 'fair price ' settled th e matter. The owners of property i n the New Territories are inclined to take a wholly pragmatic view of things. If ther e i s a mor e comfortabl e livin g environmen t t o b e ha d tha n th e lightless, waterless , drainless , centuries-ol d ancestra l home , the y hav e little compunctio n abou t knockin g i t down , unrestraine d b y sentimen t for thing s old . I f thei r land , too , can yield a more profitabl e retur n tha n farming the y wil l no t b e hindere d b y havin g t o tur n thei r back s o n a traditional way of life. This attitude was an important factor when it came to th e building o f the new town s an d th e acquisition o f ancestral land . To sidestep contraventio n o f thes e earlie r promise s an d th e certai n objections which would follow, a way had to be found in which the owners of agricultura l lan d coul d profi t fro m developmen t withou t themselve s having t o be involved i n building an d development . Examinatio n o f th e plan fo r th e new tow n provide d th e answer . I t was estimate d tha t three fifths o f the land acquired would be needed for infrastructure an d 'officia l purposes' an d two-fifth s woul d b e availabl e fo r privat e development . Landowners wer e abl e t o surrende r thei r agricultura l lan d an d receiv e this rati o o f buildin g lan d i n exchange , payin g th e differenc e i n valu e between th e two . Thi s simpl e 5: 2 formul a no t onl y pave d th e wa y fo r eventual urbanisation, bu t with th e sharp rise in land prices, enabled th e landowners to sell their rights to building land and to become rich beyond belief. One o f my first jobs a s a District Office r wa s t o acquir e lan d fo r th e widening o f the road throug h Tsue n Wan and t o start to remove a village which ha d been there for man y dynasties. The formula o f land exchang e and a generous grant of land for the building of new village houses which were more spacious and comfortable tha n the dark, ancient, village houses provided a quick an d simpl e solution ; an d with thi s same formula cam e widespread developmen t a s Hong Kong expanded .

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3

Tsuen Wan and the Islands, 1959-196 1

Tsuen Wan Tsuen Wan was over the hills and along the coast west of Kowloon. Whitewalled villages were hidden in valleys; huts and factories straggle d up th e hillsides; families lived on tiny sampans at anchor in the bay, and vegetables were grow n anywher e no t immediatel y wante d fo r livin g an d working . From 195 9 w e live d i n Tsue n Wa n fo r jus t unde r a year , whil e th e incumbent Distric t Officer , Ha l Miller (late r Si r Hal Miller, a Member o f Parliament and Chairman of the Conservative Party), returned to England. The resettlement o f urban squatter s from Kowloo n into seven-store y grey barrack s o f concret e ha d begun . Thes e block s wer e crampe d an d uncomfortable, bu t familie s wer e away, at last, from leak y roofs an d saf e from fir e and typhoo n winds. Silk-weaving factories fro m Shanghai , with their tall wooden looms for weaving fine patterned brocades, were housed in a specia l bloc k wit h hig h ceilings . Industrialists , wit h thei r money , machines and men brought fro m Shanghai , were busy spinning, weavin g and dyeing cloth for export to the West in such quantities that Britain, t o protect the Lancashire industry, retaliated with import quota restrictions . Tin beaters, knitting machines , pressing machines making bright plasti c flowers wher e n o flower s grew , an y activit y tha t woul d mak e a living , were cramme d int o seven-store y factor y block s simila r t o thos e whic h housed th e people . In a nearby inlet from th e sea, the pale grey hulks of aircraft carriers ,

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the Stones

relics o f th e Korea n War , wer e bein g broke n fo r scra p t o b e rolle d int o reinforcing rod s fo r th e buildin g boo m t o come , an d acros s th e wate r a monstrous, rottin g midde n o f rubbis h wa s slowl y fillin g par t o f th e bay . In anothe r corne r o f th e growin g town , nigh t soil , collecte d i n 'honey buckets' from tenements without lavatories, was stored in tanks to 'mature', later t o b e pumpe d int o tanker s an d distribute d t o vegetabl e farms . Cinemas wer e buil t an d bank s opened , an d churche s an d clinic s foun d space among th e many shops . The ol d villages , whic h wer e slowl y bein g encircled , electe d thei r representative leader s and , collectively , forme d a so-calle d 'rura l committee'. Th e committe e spok e fo r everyon e an d everythin g tha t wa s taking place : custo m an d tradition , typhoo n damage , th e increasin g encroachment o n th e live s an d possession s o f people , schoo l shortage s and medica l facilities . There was no town council, no Development Board, no focus for thi s swirl of activity. I was supported by a staff of Chinese, old hands who tol d me wha t the y though t I ough t t o know , ho w t o placate , cajole , fin d imaginative solution s t o emergin g problems , an d a t informa l meeting s harness th e energie s o f th e leaders and th e wealthy t o do th e thing s tha t the government, with its practical plans and barely sufficient policie s an d money, wa s unabl e t o do . Ther e wa s n o recognise d slaughterhouse , n o market for th e butchers — the sale of meat took place on stalls beside th e footpaths — n o playgroun d fo r th e releas e o f energy , n o outle t fo r philanthropy. Eve n th e Distric t Offic e wa s house d i n a woode n shed , despite it s preciou s collectio n o f lan d deed s an d record s fro m th e las t half-century. We wer e a mixe d bunch : a youn g Britis h banker , th e courteous , determined, shrew d owne r o f a dyein g factory , a portl y an d breathles s former Shangha i cinem a cler k wh o no w owne d a strin g o f bank s an d cinemas, a politically astute , lean, village elde r wit h sunke n cheek s an d slicked-back hair , an d th e benign, evasiv e chairma n o f th e rural counci l of th e entir e Ne w Territories . Thes e wer e th e principa l leader s o f thi s growing town. These were the people who found the money and drumme d

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Tsuen Wan and the Islands, 1959-1961

up suppor t t o buil d school s an d t o hel p th e missionar y clini c an d wh o organised basketbal l game s o n lan d reclaime d fro m th e sea . I t was they , after a short discussio n with me, who were the founders o f what becam e one o f Hong Kong' s leading and respecte d charit y hospitals . Tsuen Wa n i s ringe d b y mountain s whic h slop e steepl y u p behin d the tow n t o a thousand-metre summit , ofte n shroude d i n mist. It s man y villages were hidde n i n narrow valley s o r o n th e shel f o f land borderin g the sea. Each village was a private society, the houses built row on row i n a small compressed rectangle with narrow lanes between, reached on foo t along windin g path s betwee n smal l field s o f ric e an d vegetables . The y were grey-tile d wit h lime-washed , windowles s walls , eac h wit h a smal l courtyard. Through th e main arched entrance to the village, a central and wider path led to the great, faded crimso n doors of the ancestral hall, and on the wall behind th e altar, a bank of narrow shelves held the small slips of woo d recordin g th e name s o f famil y forebear s fro m th e tim e o f th e founding o f th e village . Behin d eac h village , i f spac e permitted , wa s a thicket of dark and evergreen banyans with fat and twisted trunks, trailing their ai r roots t o th e ground. On e o f these villages has been spared fro m demolition an d survive s amon g th e towe r blocks , highways , walkway s and th e railway, as a visible reminder o f times past . Half hidden in the trees backing on to the mountain an d looking ou t to the sea and islands were temples and monasteries, their quiet precinct s in sombr e red s an d yellows , grey tiles , courtyards an d cloister s hom e t o solitary monks an d old, stooped nuns in grey habits, in sharp contras t t o the feverish activit y o f the tow n below. Tsuen Wan had been a small country town, a collection of shophouses serving the needs of many villages in the surrounding countryside as well as families living on fishing boats and sampans in the bay. When we lived there th e scrub-covere d slope s whic h stretche d lik e tongue s fro m th e surrounding hill s were being terrace d fo r ye t mor e housin g blocks , an d streams o f dum p truck s wer e fillin g i n th e bay , squashin g th e sampan s into a corne r unti l thei r families , too , had t o move ashor e into housing . Forty year s late r Tsue n Wa n ha s grow n int o a grea t conurbatio n o f a n 21

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Feeling the Stones

unbelievable 700,00 0 people, with marble-entranced shoppin g malls , an underground railwa y terminus, and multi-storey buildings with factorie s lodged o n eac h floo r instea d o f apartments ; an d th e bay , wher e i n th e fifties th e grey-hulled ships of war were lying to be broken up, has become by a strange twis t o f fate th e largest containe r por t i n th e world . The acceptanc e o f remova l an d resettlement , an d continua l displacement of people on an epic scale, has all taken place without majo r disorder, going almost unnoticed by the rest of Hong Kong, and has been a recurring feature fo r th e past half century as a million people have been added ever y te n years t o Hong Kong' s population. No w th e increase ha s slowed, an d prosperit y an d late r marriage s hav e brough t wit h the m a decline in family size, but to balance this, people are living longer and lif e expectancy in Hong Kong is one of the highest in the world. I n addition , every day, mainly to reunite families, on e hundred an d fifty men , wome n and childre n cros s th e lin e dividin g Hon g Kon g fro m th e res t o f Chin a and settl e in Hong Kong. Small though th e daily count is , in te n years i t means homes and social services will be needed for an extra half million . Many other s com e no t onl y fro m Chin a bu t fro m aroun d th e worl d t o serve the needs of an expanding and changing economy. Some forty years ago, a British Colonial Secretary spoke of Hong Kong's 'problem of people'. He was not wrong, but the solution lay in cleverly devised public housin g programmes and an expanding economy. Hong Kong will not stop growing until some time in the twenty-first centur y a balance can be found betwee n the pressure o f population fro m withi n Chin a an d th e capacit y o f Hon g Kong to absorb more people . We were to live among this community in Tsuen Wan, to get to kno w its peopl e an d t o watc h i t grow . W e live d i n a small , flat-roofe d hous e built by the Parsee owners of the local brewery, with a pillared door and a curious circle of interconnecting rooms. It had a spectacular view looking out over humped islands and a constant passage of boats thrusting agains t the current or careering wildly with it. Sailing junks with their high sterns, swinging umber sails, and nonchalant deckhand s beat their way past th e house taking a short cut through Hong Kong waters to ports further alon g 22

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Tsuen Wan and the Islands, 1959-1961

the coast. Sometimes at night the sampans of 'bright light' fishermen woul d scull beneat h th e clif f an d tos s i n thei r fis h bombs , scoopin g u p th e unconscious fis h an d scatterin g onl y when , wit h a shou t an d a hurle d brick, I caused a rival, unsuspected explosion . I t was as though w e were in th e loung e o f a liner ; hour s coul d pas s watchin g th e sea . No w th e house ha s bee n smartene d u p wit h a ca r par k an d viewin g platfor m fo r tourists t o photograp h th e grea t ne w bridge s whic h spa n gap s betwee n the islands an d lea d t o th e cit y and th e airport . While still in Tsuen Wan, I was to receive villagers resettled from th e site o f th e floo r o f Hon g Kong' s lates t reservoir , She k Pik . I went i n th e company o f my fello w Distric t Office r t o the schoolhouse o f a village o n Lantau Island . Alread y th e bulldozer s wer e a t wor k scourin g th e valle y floor fo r th e reservoir . I rang th e schoo l bell t o tel l th e villagers t o leav e their houses and watched as they said goodbye to their village for the last time and walked with their few possessions, without looking back, to th e pier, t o a landin g craf t whic h wa s t o tak e the m t o thei r ne w home s i n urban Tsuen Wan. By the evening nothing was left. With quiet acceptanc e born of centuries of hardship, the deal for thei r removal had been struck , and fro m the n o n the y go t o n with thei r ne w urban lives , far awa y fro m their ancestra l hom e After almos t a year I had bee n involve d i n clearin g land , settin g ou t the terms for the removal of villages, finding land for a community centre , persuading th e mea t merchant s t o tak e thei r pig s t o a slaughterhouse , building a temporary market for the butchers, agreeing with the architect that the Shanghai silk merchants needed a special building for their looms, fixing th e boundaries of a Taoist Institute, convening the first meetings of a Hospital Board, helping to settle a protracted disput e with the owner of an ironworks, reaching agreement with the shipbreakers to tow their hulks to another bay, finding another bay for a log pond for the wood merchants, resettling ship repai r yards o n a n islan d opposit e th e town , dealin g wit h the aftermath o f a typhoon whose drenching rain had broken a catchwater and washed away half the main road, and a fire among squatter huts which had lef t severa l hundre d homeless . O f cours e wor k o n thi s omniu m 23

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Feeling the Stones

gatherum o f subjects coul d no t b e conclude d i n on e year, but wor k ha d begun. W e then moved to another life among the scores of islands which, more by luck tha n judgement, ha d been enclose d in th e new squared-of f boundary wit h Chin a i n 1898 .

The Island s Leaving Tsuen Wan, I was to relieve the District Officer o f the islands, Dr James Hayes , fo r mos t o f 196 1 while h e returne d t o Englan d fo r 'hom e leave'. Afte r thre e o r eve n fou r year s i n Hon g Kong , hom e leav e mean t two months' trave l by ship an d the n a t least six months' holiday . We ha d t o mov e fro m ou r hous e overlookin g th e se a t o th e bus y streets o f Kowloo n t o b e nea r th e pie r an d th e Sir Cecil Clementi, th e launch which carried officials t o the villages and settlements of the islands. We discovered fro m a relative o f the Clementi s who live d down th e lan e from m y wife's home in Berkshire that Lady Clementi was alive and well. Sir Ceci l ha d retire d i n 192 6 a s on e o f Hon g Kong' s mos t distinguishe d and remembered Governors. He was a member of a great family of soldiers and publi c servant s whos e nam e i s found o n memorial s throughou t th e East, a Chinese scholar whose calligraphy still marks th e entrance t o th e archway o f a monaster y i n th e wester n Ne w Territories . W e sen t a photograph o f th e launc h an d bega n a brief correspondenc e wit h Lad y Clementi. I can see Lady dementi's confiden t handwritin g t o this day as her relie f ni b sputtere d acros s th e page — 'Ceci l was a great walker, on e of hi s mos t memorabl e journeys wa s fro m Turkesta n t o Kowloon' ! Th e Clementis were married in Hong Kong's St John's Cathedral at the turn of the centur y an d spen t thei r honeymoo n i n tent s i n th e easter n Ne w Territories high abov e th e sea looking ou t pas t a cluster o f islands t o th e broad waters of the Pacific Ocean . Incidentally it was Sir Cecil who, as he was retiring, recommende d tha t th e questio n an d extensio n o f th e Ne w Territories leas e shoul d b e negotiated . Th e Chines e governmen t wa s i n disarray and in his view there would never be a better time . His proposa l was not pursued . 24

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Tsuen Wan and the Islands, 1959-1961

The Sir Cecil Clementi, wit h her pale blue hull and cream funnel, wa s a familiar sigh t for many years, chugging with dignity on her errands, but was gradually outmatched by fast ferries, jetfoils and catamarans. To justify herself t o the auditors, she was designed t o carry, in a tiny hold, buildin g materials, cemen t fo r villag e paths an d pipes fo r wate r supplies . Makin g space for a hold mean t tha t ther e was little room fo r a cabin; a night ou t to reach distant villages meant a night asleep on deck for thos e who wer e hardy enough to brave the certain possibility of an early morning shower . On th e inside of the saloon doo r was a photograph o f a distinguished Si r Cecil i n ful l dres s uniform , han d o n sword , an d fo r thos e wh o knew , if you slippe d th e catch behind th e photo, ther e was a mirror fo r th e ladie s to straighte n thei r hats , de rigueur befor e goin g ashore ! Fo r th e entertainment o f village elders , th e launc h ha d a tin y galle y an d a coo k famous for his single dish of chicken curry. Around the cramped, hospitable table many problems were ventilated and solved. I can still hear the country dialect of a village elder with toothless face and clawlike hand, twisted by the premature explosio n of a fish bomb, explaining the difficulty o f living in his village on a shore miles from anywhere . The Sir Cecil Clementi wa s much loved. Like so much of old Hong Kong she has gone to the breakers. Not muc h ha d change d i n th e island s wher e tim e bega n man y thousands of years ago, as is witnessed by shards of pottery, post holes fo r houses, and the remains of meals of aboriginal people, the Yue, who hav e links to the people of Vietnam and even further afiel d to Burma and south west India . Hong Kong , as it says blandly in Hong Kong's Basic Law, has been part of China since ancient times, and if proof is needed it is there in a solitar y dome d Ha n tom b amon g th e crowde d housin g estate s o f Kowloon. On the islands were typical grey villages with their tightly packed rows o f houses, secur e fro m marauders , backe d b y tree s an d hills , thei r paddy and vegetable field s slopin g down t o the sea. One by one I visited them, spending long days tramping over hills and along foreshores, sittin g with village elders talking about their lives and families and the problem s of remotenes s fro m th e bright light s o f th e city . The ol d men , som e stil l with thei r seaman' s caps , as young me n ha d gon e t o sea . No w ben t an d 25

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the Stones

weather-beaten, the y woul d tal k abou t th e grea t port s o f th e world , London, Liverpool , Swansea, while quietly living out thei r live s at hom e once mor e amon g th e ric e fields , th e rhyth m o f th e season s an d thei r timeless villages. Not al l th e island s wer e sparsel y populated . Cheun g Chau , shape d like a dumbbel l an d ove r a n hour' s ferr y rid e fro m Hon g Kong , wa s a small marke t tow n fo r th e fishin g flee t whic h crowde d a t ancho r i n it s sheltering western arms. Ships' chandlers, rice shops, restaurants, medicine shops with thei r drie d herbs, strange things in bottles and row upon ro w of labelled drawers of the Chinese pharmacopeia, and grocers with strings of pungent salte d fis h line d th e crowde d alleyways . I t was a privilege t o step ashore into thi s other world and, in case there were any lurking evi l spirits, t o be greete d firs t b y a burst o f firecrackers o n th e pier an d the n the leaders o f the island communit y wearing long blue gowns in honou r of their officia l visitor ; a privilege to be warmly welcomed into an almos t independent land , as if untouched b y colonial rule . A stream o f supplicants throughou t th e day visited the island templ e to the God o f the North. There were no prayer books or Sunday services; the templ e was ther e an d n o on e would thin k o f an enterprise , th e birt h of a child, failure or success in business, marriage, setting sail or returnin g safely to harbour, without a visit to the temple to kneel before th e altar t o find ou t what th e gods had i n store by shaking ou t on e of the numbere d sticks fro m a bamboo cylinde r o r by clatterin g dow n th e wooden oracl e 'beans'. I t was a dignified buildin g reache d b y ston e step s betwee n gre y granite guardian lio n dogs, a drift o f incense smoke makin g th e air blue, the templ e keepe r i n a worn ves t stooped ove r hi s books o f horoscopes , indifferent t o th e hopes an d fear s an d prayers tha t fille d th e air . Each year , in th e courtyar d frontin g th e temple , thre e hig h cone s o f bamboo pole s wer e buil t an d dresse d wit h a close-packe d coa t o f whit e steamed buns . T o on e side , unde r a canopy , huge , frightening , painte d paper statues of the guardian gods on a frame o f bamboo slivers provided an auxiliar y altar . O n a da y appointe d b y geomancers , afte r consultin g the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac, a procession was held

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Tsuen Wan and the Islands, 1959-1961

around the narrow alleyways of the island, past a gaily decorated reviewing stand wher e th e island elder s in thei r lon g gowns welcomed th e Distric t Officer an d othe r official s an d guests . Precede d b y gong s an d plaintive , reedy pipes, clashing cymbals and the deafening beat of the huge drum of the island musicians , lions and unicorn s prance d along . Childre n unde r the age of five, colourfully dresse d either as legendary figures o r to depic t contemporary scenes , performe d magica l balancin g acts , on e chil d balancing on another's tiny outstretched palm or on a fan, without revealing the hidden rigid iron frame to which they were strapped. They were borne on the shoulders o f elderly women t o provide entertainment fo r th e god s and, o f course , fo r th e throngin g islander s an d thei r guest s fro m a les s traditional world . After nightfall, at a given signal and with a great 'Haroosh!', the young men o f the island scramble d u p th e tower s o f buns, grasping a s many a s they coul d t o giv e t o famil y an d friends . Sometime s th e tower s keele d over unde r th e strain , sometime s ther e wer e fight s t o seiz e th e greates t number o f buns. Finall y th e paper god s were burnt an d lif e returne d t o bustling normality. Nowadays a regulated distribution of buns takes place, and the old excitement is no more. The soggy buns are said to bring goo d luck an d healt h t o th e recipient s an d th e whol e festiva l i s sai d t o b e a thanksgiving fo r deliver y fro m pestilence . Althoug h th e islan d claim s i t for it s own , I have see n simila r version s o f thi s festiva l i n othe r part s o f China, an d suspec t i t has a far mor e ancient, long-forgotte n history . Beneath th e everyda y activitie s o f thes e marke t town s an d village s were rivalrie s an d factions . A District Commissione r o f eccentri c habit , reputed t o hav e greete d hi s guest s whil e hangin g b y hi s toe s fro m a doorway, introduced a set of election rules — the Barrow Rules — so as to bring some legitimacy and real representative status to local leaders. Young District Officers afte r th e war, many of whom had served in the Forces, or in on e instanc e i n th e Friend s Ambulanc e Uni t durin g th e Civi l War i n China, wer e swep t alon g wit h th e democrati c spiri t o f thos e post-wa r years, an d usin g th e Barro w Rule s introduce d an d hel d one-man-one vote villag e elections . Village s wer e groupe d togethe r t o for m rura l 27

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Feeling the Stones

committees, and provided with a written constitution which, as time went on, was made more comprehensive and detailed. Their role was advisory, but because of the strength of rural opinion, their advice could not lightl y be ignored . Whil e n o on e woul d preten d tha t ther e wa s full-blow n democracy i n th e New Territories, already by the 1960s , as distinct fro m urban Hon g Kon g an d Kowloon , ther e wer e th e beginning s o f a representative syste m o n which i n later years it was possible t o build . Men dominate d rura l life . Daughter s lef t thei r villag e t o be marrie d and entere d th e village of their husbands; sons brought thei r brides bac k to live in the village of their ancestors. This frequently resulte d in villages where a singl e surnam e prevaile d an d dominate d villag e life . Lan d an d property wer e inherite d b y men , and , reflectin g this , onl y me n ha d th e vote. Followin g th e exampl e o f m y predecessor s I introduce d a ne w constitution for Cheung Chau, paving the way for the registration of voters and supervised elections for the island's representatives. All Cheung Cha u residents wer e registered , includin g merchant s an d thos e wit h specia l interests, fisherme n livin g i n houseboat s o n th e water , an d member s o f the powerful Chambe r of Commerce. The island electorate ran into several thousands, an d a t the tim e more people voted and election s were harde r fought tha n thos e for the urban counci l for th e whole of Hong Kong. Th e attempt t o pass the new constitution gav e rise to a bitter struggle : vested interests wer e defeated , fac e wa s lost , appl e cart s wer e overturned , bu t after a meetin g whic h laste d int o th e night , whe n th e secre t ballo t wa s counted th e new constitutio n ha d won th e day. In the first tier were the village representatives. The second tier, which grouped villages together in rural committees, collectively formed a rural council o r Heun g Yee Kuk. Th e origin s o f the Heung Yee Kuk, however , belonged t o a n earlie r era . I t harke d bac k t o th e 1920s , a tim e o f grea t turbulence an d shiftin g fortune s i n mainland China , o f power struggles , warlords, th e growt h o f politica l movement s suc h a s th e Chines e Communist Part y an d th e Guomindang , an d o f differin g ideologies . I t would hav e been superficial t o suppose tha t Hong Kong' s citizens woul d not be affected an d would remain impartial observers of these great events. 28

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Tsuen Wan and the Islands, 1959-1961

Emotions came to a head in 1925 . A group of textile workers were locked out of a Japanese mill in Shanghai, and a n angry protest followed , whic h led to a worker being shot. Thousands then marched on the police station in Shanghai' s Nankin g Road . Th e polic e fire d o n th e masse d protestor s and eleve n wer e killed . Thi s wa s followe d b y a length y strik e i n Hon g Kong, a boycott o f British goods and a walk-out o f thousands o f workers who returned t o their native villages. In June of that year, a similar protes t march in Canton was fired on by British troops from Shameen, the foreig n concession. Fifty-tw o Chines e wer e kille d an d a hundre d wounded . I t was a time of great anxiety, o f rising nationalism an d th e mobilisation o f political forces , particularl y rura l an d peasan t movements . Th e Heun g Yee Ku k wa s bor n a s a groupin g o f rural , commercia l an d industria l interests a s a loca l reflectio n o f thi s genera l moo d an d wa s eventuall y given recognitio n b y th e governmen t a s th e Rura l Counci l fo r th e Ne w Territories. It remains so to this day, with a n even more elevated status, a mention i n th e Basic Law and representatio n i n th e Legislative Council . Then, as now, most of its representations and confrontations wit h th e government wer e abou t land . Whe n Si r Henr y Blak e ha d issue d hi s proclamation t o the people of this newly acquired and leased territory, he had, after all, said that their customs would be respected. To the landowners this meant that they would have the same freedom t o do what they wished with their land as they had enjoyed fro m tim e immemorial, and nearer t o the present, during the Qing dynasty. In the 1920s this difference o f opinion centred o n th e attempt by government t o extract a payment fo r th e righ t to build on their land. Despite Sir Henry's declaration, soon after th e New Territories wer e lease d th e Governo r o f Hon g Kon g ha d persuade d th e British governmen t that , fo r th e sak e o f goo d governanc e an d th e maintenance of law and order, the laws of Hong Kong should be extende d to the new territory. Queen Victoria, in Balmoral, Scotland, gave her han d to thi s fia t b y a n Orde r i n Counci l i n 1899 . Never min d wha t Si r Henr y had said , dispute s ha d t o b e settle d thereafte r accordin g t o th e law s o f Hong Kong as a whole. In th e lat e 1950 s electora l frau d an d vot e riggin g i n formin g th e 29

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Feeling the Stones

thirteenth ter m o f the rural counci l led the government t o intervene an d to bring into being a representative structure with statutory backing. Rural committee chairmen and vice chairmen, Justices of the Peace and a handfu l of electe d specia l representative s forme d th e ne w Heun g Ye e Kuk Rura l Council, whos e statutor y responsibilit y i t no w wa s t o advis e th e government o n al l matter s affectin g th e Ne w Territories . Th e ne w committee o n Cheun g Chau , togethe r wit h twenty-si x othe r rura l committees, sent its representatives t o thi s council . Hong Kon g Islan d an d Kowloo n ha d n o simila r institution . Ther e was a n urba n counci l consistin g o f som e member s appointe d b y th e Governor an d other s electe d o n a limited franchise . It s remit principall y included th e cleanin g an d hygien e o f urba n Hon g Kong , an d publi c housing an d recreation . Wit h thi s limite d franchis e an d responsibility , political parties, th e Civi c Association and th e Reform Clu b struggled t o excite a largely indifferent electorate . Their annual debates tended to stray outside thes e statutor y boundarie s bu t the y scarcel y cause d a ripple o n the surface of the political life of Hong Kong. There was nothing resembling the man-to-man plain speaking and sometimes hard-fought debate s which characterised lif e in the New Territories. District Officers, accustome d t o the system o f consultation an d public battles which characterise d lif e i n the country , carrie d thi s spiri t wit h the m whe n the y wer e promote d t o positions i n th e centr e o f government , an d i n th e cours e o f tim e i t wa s they wh o becam e th e proponent s amon g thei r peer s fo r a mor e ope n government fo r th e whole o f Hong Kong . Cheung Cha u wa s separated by a narrow channe l from Hon g Kong' s largest island, Lantau. In 1840, after weeks of bickering over the surrender of British seamen accuse d o f murdering a Chinese, Liu Wei-hsi, during a brawl in Tsim-Sha-Tsui at the tip of the Kowloon peninsula, the Emperor's commissioner in Canton, Lin Zexu, expelled the British from Macao . The British were armed with th e results of a prophetic marine survey made in 1794 by th e frigat e Jackall, on e o f th e flee t o f ships which accompanie d Lord Macartney' s fruitles s embass y t o Chin a t o se t u p a permanen t diplomatic mission. Jackall saile d past Lantau, because of its unsheltere d 30

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Tsuen Wan and the Islands, 1959-1961

soft-mud anchorage , t o ge t t o th e dee p wate r an d narro w channe l separating Hon g Kong Islan d fro m Kowloon . Afte r that , Lantau wa s lef t in lonely grandeur until 1898 . It is an island of considerable beauty, rising via a n undulating stretc h o f sharply ridge d peak s t o a height o f nearly a thousand metres . Small villages gre w up wher e centurie s o f erosion an d tidal retreat had left patches of arable land fanning ou t along the shoreline. In 1960 the construction of the Shek Pik reservoir was to turn the attention of Hong Kong's planners to the island for almost the first time. A motorable road wa s neede d fro m th e neares t sheltere d ferr y pie r t o th e reservoir , houses wer e neede d fo r engineers , an d then , becaus e o f it s remotenes s and becaus e ther e wa s lan d fo r whic h ther e wa s n o othe r use , prison s were built t o house a n overflo w o f offenders fro m urba n Hon g Kong . Bordering a n ancien t pat h o f grea t granit e slab s leadin g steepl y upwards fro m th e fishin g por t an d sal t pan s o f Ta i O were monasterie s and nunnerie s amon g shadin g banya n trees , providin g a fe w preciou s remaining year s o f quie t retiremen t an d praye r fo r elderl y amahs , som e still keeping the long black queue o f their single status, who ha d thriftil y saved durin g thei r long years o f work . Po Lin , th e largest o f thes e monasteries , a Buddhist foundation , lay _ on the small plateau beneath th e peak. After it had been renovated in th e 1970s, th e abbo t cam e t o se e me , a s Secretar y fo r th e Ne w Territories , about buildin g a grea t bronz e Buddh a o n a conica l moun d facin g th e monastery. The Hong Kong government's secular policies gave no officia l encouragement t o religion , bu t peopl e everywher e floc k t o temple s an d seek the comfort of prayer. Although doubting that the huge sum of money to achiev e i t woul d eve r b e raised , I gav e th e projec t m y blessin g an d recorded m y agreemen t i n a letter . Thi s pu t a stam p o f authorit y an d respectability to the fundraising. Th e letter became a treasured possessio n of th e monastery , an d fo r obviou s reason s was o n public view i n a glas s case fo r man y years . With th e openin g u p o f Chin a i n 197 8 th e monk s and their supporters were able to draw on China's resources to design an d cast, i n a n armament s factory , th e huge segment s o f bronze t o mak e u p the statue. The great Buddha was built and stands today, an arm raised i n 31

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Feeling the Stones

benediction, looking over the broad waters of the Pearl River estuary, and visited b y thousands . I n recognitio n o f m y contributio n I was aske d t o participate wit h th e the n representativ e o f th e Chines e governmen t i n Hong Kong, Director Xu Jiatun, head o f the New Chin a News Agency, in lowering the last bronze panel into the crown of Buddha's head: a colonial civil servant an d a Party member i n strange communion ! Governor Si r Ceci l Clementi , befor e h e lef t Hon g Kon g i n 1926 , granted a favour t o a devoted woman servant who herself wanted a piece of land in that quiet valley leading to the peak on which to build her ow n small retirement nunnery . Fift y year s later I received a request t o permi t renovation an d expansio n o f thi s nunner y o n t o th e adjoinin g empt y hillside. Agai n i t seeme d t o m e tha t nothin g bu t goo d coul d com e o f providing, at no expense to government, for devotions which bring solace and peace to so many. Now there stands a faithfully designe d an d crafte d Temple o f a Thousand Buddhas , with cloister s an d refectory , o n th e sit e granted b y Governor Clement i t o his amah . The mountain s o f Lantau ris e steeply , gree n an d blue , fro m th e sea , the northern shoreline stony and grey and the south bathed by clear ocean waters lappin g silver-sande d beache s an d hidde n coves . A small fort , a few hundre d year s ol d an d i n whic h a handfu l o f Manch u troop s ha d been stationed , guarde d th e sea s t o th e south . I t stoo d o n a smal l stee p promontory looking over the Pearl River estuary, neglected and forgotten . The colone l o f a battalio n fro m th e Roya l Warwickshir e Regiment , temporarily servin g i n Hong Kong , asked m e fo r a place t o cam p an d t o undertake a community project . I suggested the y camp o n th e foreshor e behind a crescent of golden sand and clear and map the fort. They pitched their tent s an d enjoye d a wee k awa y fro m routine . O n th e las t nigh t I visited them on Clementi fo r a mess dinner beneath canvas, in full kit, th e regimental silve r o n th e table . Win e an d por t flowe d freel y an d th e completion o f a successfu l projec t climaxe d suitabl y b y th e officer s escorting my dinghy back to the boat, marching, fully clad, into the warm waters o f the South Chin a Sea .

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Tsuen Wan and the Islands, 1959-1961

Following th e building o f the Shek Pik reservoir a t the beginning o f the 1960s , other development followed slowly. The citizens of Hong Kong discovered Lantau and its treasured environment almost for the first time . A few year s befor e th e retur n o f Hon g Kon g t o China , a n islan d o n th e north shor e of Lantau was chosen a s the site for a n airport t o replace Ka i Tak, into which th e planes still roared, almos t incessantly , ove r th e roof s of urba n Kowloon . Buildin g th e airpor t o n Nort h Lanta u involve d th e construction o f three bridges to cross the gaps between the islands whic h fronted ou r ol d house in Tsuen Wan, and th e building of highways and a rail line from downtow n Hong Kong. Now the airport stands hugely grey, with scallope d roof , o n th e fa r horizo n an d th e grea t hangin g bridge s glow a t nigh t wit h string s o f light s an d pin k an d purpl e floodli t piers . And in the valley below the peak, adjoining th e airport, shine a thousan d lights of a new town to house workers for the airport and daily commuters to Hon g Kong . A s thoug h i t wer e a symbol o f furthe r change s i n store , that Lantau i s destined t o play an even greater part in the development of Hong Kong, the great new airport stands near to the walls of a crumblin g Qing dynast y fort . As fo r us , fou r year s an d mor e ha d passe d sinc e leavin g England . This wa s mor e tha n th e norma l tou r o f dut y befor e returnin g t o ou r 'country of origin' for the regulation several months' leave — long enough, if you carelessl y overstayed th e six months th e ta x collectors allowed, t o be liable to pay British income tax! We were to be away for more than si x months, so , t o avoi d th e ta x collector , toward s th e en d o f ou r leav e w e had t o leave th e Berkshire countrysid e an d with ou r tw o childre n spen d some extr a week s amon g th e sno w i n Switzerland . Fro m ther e w e embarked a t Geno a t o retur n agai n t o th e farmland , marke t town s an d villages of the New Territories, to Yuen Long, a district which covered th e whole o f the north-west .

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4

Yuen Long, 1962-196 7

M/

ue n Lon g wa s know n fo r it s prou d an d independen t spiri t

K/ an d ha d fough t wit h determination , bu t wit h hopelessl y M / inadequat e weapons , a s th e Britis h troop s advance d westward s • acros s th e territor y i n 1899 . I t wa s a distric t o f man y villages , a • centra l marke t town , ric e fields , fishpond s o f grey mullet, oyste r beds along the coast, and a fairy-tale history which linked the oldest group of villages t o a Sung princess. Hong Kong was always short of water, but there was plenty to be had north o f th e borde r i n th e river s whic h stretche d fo r hundred s o f mile s inland fro m th e Pear l Rive r estuary . I n 195 7 th e Chines e governmen t offered t o buil d a reservoi r nea r th e borde r t o suppl y Hon g Kon g wit h water fo r whic h Hon g Kon g would pa y what i t charge d th e Hon g Kon g consumer. I t was a good deal, and Hon g Kong agreed. An earth da m wa s built just across the border from Hon g Kong in six months, by thousand s of workers carryin g baskets an d wheelin g barrow s o f soil, an d fro m th e dam a huge black pipe was to snake its way across the paddy fields t o feed into the Tai Lam reservoir in Yuen Long. The villagers objected noisily . It meant acquirin g farmland , interferin g wit h th e geomanti c environ s o f villages an d causin g a lot o f disturbance. Th e villagers were determine d to exact their pound of flesh. A former Assistant Commissione r of Police, a no-nonsens e Sco t calle d Norma n Fraser , wa s hastil y summone d bac k from retirement, and he found th e right degree of compensation to quieten their discontent . I n 196 2 I was appointed t o succeed him .

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Feeling the Stones

Shortly after ou r arriva l in Yuen Long, the continual trickl e of illegal immigrants wh o mad e thei r wa y by lan d an d se a int o Hon g Kon g fro m neighbouring Guangdon g turne d int o a flood . Ther e ha s bee n n o satisfactory explanatio n fo r thi s sudden exodus . Some say it was because of th e distres s an d foo d shortage s bein g fel t i n village s afte r th e 195 7 Great Leap Forward, when the energies of the whole nation were diverted from foo d productio n an d concentrate d o n attempt s t o mak e stee l i n backyard furnaces. Other s say that rumours had circulated that the border was open . I t was a n extraordinar y event . I went wit h Norma n Frase r t o the border, and standing on a small grassy hill we watched, in the summer sun, the long lines of people winding down the steep mountain paths like an epi c bein g playe d ou t agains t th e grea t wid e scree n o f China . Men , women and children rested, hands hooked on the wire, with quiet anxious faces pressed against the rickety fence used t o mark th e boundary o n th e British side . When nigh t fel l a hundred arm s pulled dow n th e fence an d the watchers an d waiters walked acros s the fallen wir e into Hong Kong . Over a hundred thousan d people came into Hong Kong during thos e months. Som e were rounde d u p an d sen t bac k acros s th e borde r wher e the railway line from Chin a crosses into Hong Kong. People from th e city rushed t o th e border lookin g fo r thei r relatives . There wa s pushing an d shoving and som e attempt i n sympathetic village s t o prevent thi s force d repatriation, an d then , as though a tap had been turne d of f in China , th e flood o f people ceased . Hong Kong, 'a barren island with hardly a house upon it', has always been hos t t o immigrant s fro m th e res t o f China , t o thos e wh o see k t o make thei r fortun e o r merel y t o chang e thei r lives , an d ar e attracte d t o Hong Kong's promise of rags to riches or good fortune. There are attempts to sto p them , bu t th e journe y t o Hon g Kong , wit h it s long , indente d coastline, inaccessibl e ove r lon g stretches , an d th e constan t passag e o f thousands o f rive r vessels , i s worth a try . Until th e en d o f th e seventie s there was no agreement with the authorities in Guangdong over the return of illegal immigrants, and up until then if they reached home ground an d 'touched base' , t o cove r wha t wa s really a serious situatio n wit h a light 36

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Yuen Long, 1962-1967

hearted sportin g phrase, they were able to register and obtain an identity card and security. As I write now , in 2003, immigratio n fro m Chin a continue s t o be a subject o f daily concern. In those days thirty years ago, in the districts of the New Territories which reached up to the border of the Shenzhen River, illegal immigration fro m Chin a was part o f the backdrop t o our work. In 1958 , while th e res t o f Hon g Kon g wa s sleeping, a catastroph e unfolded ove r th e hills o f the north-west Ne w Territories. Th e heaven s opened, an d in a brief perio d deluge d Yue n Long with severa l inches of rain. Yue n Long , situate d o n a plain no t many fee t abov e se a level, was flooded, peopl e were drowned, crops and livestock destroyed. This led to a grea t schem e o f floo d contro l whic h involve d drivin g th e embracin g arms of wide concrete ditches through fields, fishponds, villages and even the tow n itself . To put a brave fac e o n it, and as a palliative t o this grea t upheaval, a plan was prepared for this quiet market town, and development began which has continued ever since. From being a small country town , Yuen Long is now a city of several hundred thousan d people . Yuen Long , reache d alon g a narro w roa d twenty-fiv e mile s fro m downtown Kowloon, had been largely left alone by the mandarins, taipans and dweller s o n th e Peak . Indeed , ther e wa s not muc h t o sho w i n th e 1960s for more half a century of colonial rule. There was a narrow road , and at the approach from th e south-east tw o small, wooded hills, on one, the district office, o n the other, the police station. These were little mor e than cottages with verandahs and tiled roofs tarred black against torrentia l summer rains . Half a mile dow n th e road a straggle of shophouses line d the main street . With the construction of the flood contro l drains — 'nullahs', as they were called, a Hindi loan word brought by Indian surveyors — Yuen Long began it s march int o th e twenty-first century . Th e road t o the town was widened, whic h mean t cuttin g it s way through a village. This calle d fo r the ordaine d ceremon y t o propitiate th e gods, presided ove r by a Taoist priest in full canonical s o f red and yellow with a stiff, black beretta. The names o f the village me n were inscribe d o n paper slip s t o be solemnl y 37

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Feeling the Stones

burnt; a cockerel ha d it s throa t cu t an d it s blood, mixe d wit h wine , wa s sprinkled o n th e ground . Th e villager s an d th e priest , murmurin g hi s mystic Taois t incantation s t o th e tinklin g o f a smal l bell , walke d th e boundaries o f th e villag e i n solem n procession . Th e god s satisfie d an d the villagers compensated , demolitio n commenced . This was a scene t o be repeated tim e an d agai n durin g th e next fe w years as bulldozers and dump truck s destroyed the rural surroundings of the town to make way for tower blocks, offices an d housing estates and to provide Yuen Long with th e amenities whic h ha d no t bee n dispense d i n the firs t sixt y years o f colonia l rule . Ther e ha d bee n n o complain t fro m Yuen Long that it had been left t o its own devices and way of life; equall y there was now a calm acceptanc e o f the changes tha t were t o take place. No doub t man y woul d liv e mor e comfortably , bu t a wa y o f lif e wa s t o disappear an d with i t an attractiv e pastoral scene . The onl y marke t ha d bee n built , no t b y th e government , bu t b y a Hop Yick 'shared interest' company. The citizens and leaders of Yuen Long had i n th e pas t provide d fo r th e need s o f th e community . Loca l charit y had buil t a small hospita l dispensin g traditiona l medicin e an d wa s jus t beginning t o provide people with a western alternative . Firefighting wa s done by th e villagers themselve s with coppe r sleev e pumps, which no w gathered dus t an d verdigri s behin d th e altar s i n ancestra l halls . Village s had their own security guards, and where the long arm of the government's tax collectors did not reach there was even a local system of taxation, th e Weighing Scale Commission. Th e commission was put out t o tender an d a levy paid on every transaction in the market certified against the weighing scale. The weighing scales themselves, used by stallholders in the market, were suspended fro m a horizontal pole along which a gradated scale was marked b y brass nails ; the goods t o be weighed wer e placed a t on e end , the weight s a t th e other , an d th e merchan t suspende d th e pol e fro m a chain i n th e middle . Th e mone y collecte d fro m th e Weighin g Scal e Commission wa s use d fo r goo d works , providin g subsidie s t o school s and helpin g th e poor an d needy . There wer e thre e market s i n th e norther n Ne w Territories , clos e t o 38

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Yuen Long, 1962-1967

the borde r wit h mainlan d China : a t Tue n Mun , Yue n Lon g an d Ta i Po , and eac h ha d a Weighin g Scale . Tsue n Wan , formerl y a collectio n o f scattered villages, had never reached the status of having a regular market, but the other three towns held their markets by mutual consent on separate days throughout the year, three days for each in each half month accordin g to th e lunar calendar . Yuen Long boasted a small cinema and an amusement park of doubtfu l reputation, bu t th e main entertainmen t too k plac e in th e earl y mornin g when th e men o f the town gathered in th e restaurants fo r thei r breakfas t of ric e porridge, steame d dumplings , bea n cur d an d crisp , fried, golde n brown flou r sticks , ther e t o discus s th e eb b an d flo w o f rural life , feud s and rivalries, the rise and fall of personalities and the strange workings of officialdom. They had much to talk about in 1963 . This was the year when Typhoon Wanda, gathering strength over the South China Sea as it neared the estuary of th e Pear l River , raged fo r man y hour s ove r Hon g Kong , with th e roa r and howl of a jet plane. At the warning of a typhoon essential staff staye d in the District Office i n order to venture out, as soon as the winds abated , to report flooded hut s and villages and roads blocked by fallen trees , and to summon help if needed from the nearby military camp. The frightenin g wind howled and roared for hours. Yuen Long was in the west and suffere d its usua l flooding , blown-of f roof s an d falle n trees , bu t tha t yea r th e hurricane wind s pushe d th e se a befor e i t a t hig h tid e an d floode d th e towns an d village s alon g th e easter n coast . Man y wer e drowned . Ship s broke their moorings, and, drifting before the gale, ended up like stranded whales o n th e island s t o th e west . Fishin g boat s whic h ha d no t foun d shelter capsize d o r were smashed agains t the rocks. Old men like myself tell tales o f Typhoon Wanda which , unti l anothe r lik e it come s along , i s still, nearly fort y year s later, the benchmark fo r al l subsequent storms . It was a s thoug h th e god s wished t o destro y u s b y sendin g u s mad . The year of typhoons was followed b y drought. The sun shone like Indi a before th e monsoon , th e field s wer e parched, an d despit e hel p fro m th e reservoir i n Chin a ou r reservoir s bega n t o dry . With increasin g severity , 39

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the Stones

household water rationing was tightened to four hours' supply every fourth day. Those living on the hillsides and in squatter settlements formed lon g queues patientl y waiting fo r a turn a t standpipes, and carrie d awa y thei r precious bucket s an d can s t o las t fou r day s unti l th e standpip e ta p wa s turned o n again . Tanke r ship s wer e chartere d t o sai l up th e Pear l Rive r towards Canton to a point where the sea water was sufficiently dilute d by fresh wate r fro m distan t mountains . Ther e the y fille d thei r hold s wit h water pumpe d fro m th e rive r t o sai l back t o Hon g Kon g where , fro m a rapidly constructed pier at Sham Tseng, a pipeline allowed it to discharg e into th e dryin g Tai Lam reservoir . We were fortunate becaus e Dunrose, the District Officer's house , had its own suppl y o f water fro m a stream fa r u p i n th e hills. This drie d t o a trickle in the great drought, bu t di d not dr y up completely . We suddenl y became ver y popula r wit h ou r friend s fro m tow n wh o enjoye d comin g out fo r th e uninhibited pleasur e o f a shower an d t o fill thei r cans to tak e back t o town . The elders of Yuen Long played their part, and after a day of abstinence from mea t the y dresse d in white long gowns and accompanie d b y me — for th e presenc e o f a hig h officia l wa s require d attendanc e whe n ther e was serious business t o perform — woun d thei r way up int o th e hills t o the sourc e o f th e perennial strea m which fe d th e plain. There , beneath a huge leanin g granit e boulder , w e offere d u p thi n stick s o f incense thre e times an d mad e thre e bow s t o th e god s a t a smal l shrin e i n th e gloo m beneath th e rock . Ou r dut y done , leavin g th e incens e smouldering , w e wound ou r wa y back acros s th e fields . Sur e enoug h i t rained , bu t sadl y not enoug h t o break th e drought . The headquarters of 48 Brigade, the military units of the British Forces stationed i n th e New Territories, was situated eas t of Yuen Long town i n a broa d plai n o f village s an d padd y field s surrounde d b y mountains . Gurkha infantry battalions of the brigade were stationed in outlying camps nearer th e border. Ther e were Churchil l tanks , artillery an d helicopters , and o n a small airstrip, eve n an occasiona l visit by fighter planes . It wa s an impressiv e organisatio n whos e brigad e commander s wer e invariabl y

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Yuen Long, 1962-1967

strong personalities. No one questioned how much use the brigade would have been in th e even t o f a shooting war with th e several-million-stron g People's Liberation Army, but they were a reassurance, and as it transpired, they wer e t o pla y a n importan t rol e durin g th e year s o f th e Cultura l Revolution. All units wer e anxiou s t o hel p i n whatever wa y the y could . The birthday of Tin Hau, a local deity of great importance in the community of farmers an d fishermen , provide d a n opportunity . Every year on the birthday of Tin Hau, a patron goddess of fisherme n and farmers, a procession too k place from eac h village to a temple whic h was no w land-locke d bu t whic h hundre d o f years before ha d bee n buil t within eas y reac h o f th e sea . Thi s wa s n o ordinar y procession . Village s tried t o outvie eac h othe r i n the magnificence o f their towerin g tableau x of brightly coloure d paper o n a frame o f slivers of bamboo, covered wit h pink flowers, images of servants to please the goddess and other elaborat e scenes. Fro m eac h templ e th e ageles s smal l image s fro m loca l shrine s were carrie d o n th e poles of a personal sedan in thei r gilded tabernacles , followed b y a straggle o f families , youn g an d old . Cymbal s clange d ou t their staccat o messag e punctuatin g th e wailin g an d parmpin g o f smal l brass trumpets , an d cracker s cleare d th e devil s fro m thei r path . Ther e was hug e excitemen t amon g th e crowd s linin g th e route . Th e extensiv e Chaozhou communit y o f merchants an d vegetabl e farmers , wh o ha d n o village an d temple s o f thei r own , ha d th e mos t highl y traine d ban d o f rhythmic, clashing cymbals and a troupe of dancers, with painted bodie s and faces in the style of the performers o f the Peking Opera, who weave d from sid e t o sid e i n imitatio n o f th e padde d snak e imag e hel d b y th e leading dancer . Ther e wer e prancin g lio n an d unicor n dance s an d lon g coiling dragon s wit h thei r attendan t clashin g o f cymbal s an d thumpin g of huge drum s wheeled o n a special barrow. As they reached th e templ e at th e en d o f thei r pilgrimag e ther e wa s a rough an d tumbl e t o captur e lucky numbers which were fired from a crude bamboo mortar and floate d down; and then the roast pigs, which had been carried on crimson wooden trays a s offering s t o th e altar , wer e sli t fro m hea d t o tai l an d th e mea t divided amon g th e throng . Tired , elated , th e villager s straggle d bac k t o their homes and the gods were returned t o their temples for another year.

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Feeling the Stones

The Tin Hau festival was an opportunity to invite the brigadier of our local force s t o conduc t a review o f a different kind . A carpeted stan d o n bamboo scaffolding wa s built in the main street and there stood Brigadier Taggart wit h loca l dignitarie s t o revie w th e passin g Ti n Ha u parad e o f village gods , dragons , lion s an d unicorns , wit h it s accompanimen t o f drums, cymbal s an d trumpets . Thi s parade , whic h replace d th e forme r higgledy-piggledy wandering procession to the temple, was a great success. Thousands no w floc k t o se e i t an d i t i s a regular dat e i n th e Yue n Lon g calendar. After th e procession we went of f to lunch o n honey-basted roas t pig, monster oyster s from th e bay fried i n deep batter, and heav y grey mulle t from loca l fish ponds steamed with pickled lemon. This took place in th e villa o f Chi u Lu t Sau , Justice o f the Peace , a genial, rotund, wealth y ric e merchant. Subsequentl y Chi u Lu t Sau invited u s t o become 'godparents ' to hi s eldes t grandson . A solemn smal l boy was brought i n and h e knel t before us , offered u s te a and a pair o f chopsticks an d bowed thre e times ; we i n tur n presente d hi m wit h a ric e bowl . Our s wa s no w a seriou s relationship and we have been close personal friends t o him and his famil y for forty years. Our 'kai tsai' is now a successful accountant and stockbroker and himself father of three boys, two of whom have just entered university in England . The Festiva l Revie w was th e beginning o f lasting friendship s an d o f many project s i n whic h th e officer s an d me n o f 4 8 Brigad e helpe d th e local community, building paths and roads to outlying villages as training for thei r bulldozer drivers , and bringing ou t thei r rubbe r boats t o rescu e flooded villages . The troop s wer e no t a toke n force . Th e tank s regularl y rumbled an d screeche d thei r wa y throug h th e tow n t o fir e thei r gun s along a range of hills and occasionally conducted fiel d trainin g across th e dried stubbl e o f paddy fields . Th e artillery , too , had a number o f specia l points aroun d th e distric t fro m whic h the y wer e abl e t o fir e thei r bi g guns, lobbin g thei r shell s ove r th e surroundin g village s an d frightenin g passing motorist s ou t o f thei r wits . O n th e Queen' s Birthda y th e troop s left th e New Territories for a grand parade through the streets of Kowloon 42

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Yuen Long, 1962-1967

with bands and pipers, tanks and guns, and smart marching battalions of Gurkhas. Thi s was Hong Kon g in th e 1960 s until militar y parade s wen t out o f fashion . Norman Fraser, my predecessor, had been determined that Yuen Long should ente r th e First Division o f Hong Kong's 'amateur' footbal l league . (All the players were in fact recompensed for their services and the quality of the team depended on the funds available. ) Led by the portly, red-face d chairman o f th e Meat Merchants Association , loca l leaders provided th e resources, players wer e enrolle d and , movin g u p throug h th e divisions , Yuen Long became th e champions when I arrived in 1962 . In due cours e there was a triumphal processio n throug h th e tow n accompanie d b y th e rapid fir e o f string s o f firecrackers , followe d b y celebratio n dinners . A s District Office r I was presiden t o f th e loca l Sport s Associatio n an d a s a result I became a membe r o f th e genera l committe e o f th e Hon g Kon g Football Association an d subsequently it s European vice president, late r its vice patron. (Te n years later thi s was to lead me to become on e o f th e very few members of the government to visit China.) The team was dubbed the 'Farmers ' an d continue d t o pla y i n th e firs t divisio n unti l expense , uncertainty o f success and dwindlin g suppor t le d it to withdraw. By that time, followin g urgin g fro m a spirite d an d energeti c membe r o f th e Portuguese community th e Hon. A. de O. Sales, who was chairman o f the Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, I helped the president of th e associatio n rewrit e th e constitutio n t o introduc e professiona l football, an d t o en d th e days of the 'shamateur' . There wa s n o footbal l groun d i n Yue n Long , bu t th e government' s distinguished, austere and inspiring authority, the Financial Secretary, Sir John Cowperthwaite , was willing to help people who were willing to help themselves, s o h e agree d t o acquir e th e land , provide d th e peopl e buil t the ground. Our house became the meeting place for subscription dinners , the community rallie d round, th e money was raised and th e ground wa s laid out. On it the government subsequently built a modern stadium. Th e villages o f Chin a hav e no footbal l o r sports grounds, and this , of course , was tru e o f th e Ne w Territories : lan d i s for using , no t fo r playing . Yue n 43

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Feeling the Stones

Long amon g al l th e town s an d village s o f th e Ne w Territories , afte r s o many years, was th e first t o have a football pitch ! This spirit o f self-help i s part o f the Chines e etho s an d ther e ca n b e no place with more charitable organisations than Hong Kong. Hong Kong's first hospita l fo r Chines e wa s provide d b y Chines e philanthropist s an d schools wer e eithe r provide d b y churche s o r b y Chines e organisations . Yuen Lon g wa s n o exceptio n t o thi s philosoph y o f self-help . Th e firs t hospital which prescribed Chinese herbal medicines was founded by local philanthropy, s o to o wer e th e firs t schools . Year s later, th e governmen t gradually bega n t o hel p wit h subvention s an d subsidies , bu t eve n so , generally th e managemen t o f hospitals, school s an d s o fort h wa s lef t t o the people . Thi s wa s particularl y tru e o f th e Ne w Territories . I t was no t until th e fiftie s an d sixtie s tha t th e District Office s wer e provided wit h a simple plan fo r village primary schools which coul d be built in module s by local contractors wit h fund s provide d b y the government . The family' s responsibilit y fo r lookin g afte r elderl y parents , too , persists without persuasion while our near neighbour, Singapore, has had to legislat e t o provid e fo r thi s Confucia n rubric . An d parent s g o t o extraordinary lengths to scrimp and scrape to provide their children wit h the best education they can afford — and the children respond obedientl y with outstandin g results . Thi s urg e t o improve , an d no t t o wai t fo r a benevolent governmen t t o provide , ha s contribute d immeasurabl y t o a continuous upward movement of Hong Kong society. There are countless stories simila r t o tha t o f th e lif t attendan t wh o sen t hi s son s t o Oxford , and parents i n a tiny resettlement fla t whose famil y o f children qualifie d in Canad a a s doctors, lawyers and accountants . Each year has its festivals and remembrances. Some are unobtrusive, when worship is a private matter, such as the burning of joss sticks at th e door o r at the wayside scene of a traffic accident . Other s are great publi c occasions, when long narrow boats with dragon heads and tails, propelled with a s man y a s sixt y paddlers , surg e forwar d t o th e step s o f a templ e bordering o n th e se a s o tha t th e bulging carve d eye s o f th e drago n hea d may b e brough t t o lif e b y a daub o f re d antimony ; always , too , before a 44

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Yuen Long, 1962-1967

dragon, lio n o r unicorn dance , ther e is the same bringing t o life an d th e murmured prayer, 'May fair winds blow, gentle rain follow and the natio n and peopl e be at peace'. True t o thes e traditions , ever y te n year s i n Yuen Long an d i n man y other town s an d villages , there i s a week-long propitiatio n ceremon y t o clear the evil spirits away from th e years ahead and, by nights and days of fasting an d ritual, t o bring prosperity t o the tow n an d its people. A huge 'opera house', an elaborate cathedral-like edifice of bamboo and tin sheets, is built within a few days, and i n it audiences o f a thousand o r more ca n watch folk opera written around the legends of China's history. The players, with brightly painted faces to exaggerate and distinguish their roles, richly embroidered robes , peacoc k an d pheasan t feathers , high-pitche d nasa l voices an d elegan t gestures , ar e loved b y countr y audiences . Monstrou s statues o f th e god s mad e o f coloure d pape r o n a framewor k o f bambo o slivers occupy a pavilion in another corner of the festival ground, with a n altar for incens e an d offerings. I t is a week of rigorous fasting an d praye r for the elders of the town, while the rest of the community comes together to unit e i n praye r fo r a goo d future . Th e villag e elder s tak e thei r responsibilities ver y seriousl y On e year , a young , stron g an d health y doctoral research student from Britai n was permitted t o join thes e rituals of fasting an d praying and waking at unusual hours , and was completel y and utterly exhauste d by it. At the end of the week, in a dramatic fire, th e paper gods are consumed in a tower of flame and topple to their end. Th e scaffolding come s down an d th e players depar t a s swiftly a s they came . These were the regular festivals, but there was nothing t o focus year round general interest in the arts. I called the head teachers of the distric t schools together on e summer afternoon an d timorously suggested to thi s formidable assembl y th e formatio n o f a n Art s Committee . Ther e wa s instant acclamation and agreement. It was a committee waiting to happen. An opera was held to raise funds fo r a year of exhibitions of paintings an d photographs an d t o bu y Chines e instrument s fo r a n orchestra . Self financing balle t classe s wer e arrange d an d becam e immensel y popula r with, quite extraordinarily for this isolated Chinese market town, a French 45

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Feeling the Stones

ballet instructor . A void ha d bee n filled . Year s late r thes e activitie s ar e continuing an d hav e serve d a s a mode l whic h sprea d t o th e eightee n districts o f Hong Kong . Those wer e year s o f har d wor k an d enjoyment . A t weekend s th e accumulated work of the week, away from th e interruptions and decision s in th e office , waite d t o be done . Urba n developmen t gathere d pace , an d with i t gre w th e deman d fo r land . Fo r mor e complicate d lan d dealing s the offic e ha d help , at first wit h a call from a chartered surveyo r onc e o r twice a week , an d then , a s developmen t increased , full-tim e help . Th e clearance of squatters for development for which no resettlement buildings were available required inexhaustible patience to persuade them to accept a meagre disturbanc e paymen t an d cas h t o buy cemen t an d material s t o build themselve s anothe r flims y hut . Buying , selling , mortgaging , inheriting, resuming , disputing, ever y type of land dealin g created by a n economically activ e communit y ende d u p an d was recorded i n th e Lan d Registry of the District Office. An extremely complex rural society looked to the independent, fair and impartial leadership of an official t o galvanise it, to intervene and solve its disputes and t o make proposals for activitie s which simpl y needed a word fro m a non-partisan voic e from outsid e th e community a s a catalyst for action . The government ha d a scale for th e provision o f community centre s but Yue n Long , wit h it s vigorou s community , bu t a populatio n o f onl y about a hundre d thousan d i n an d aroun d th e town , wa s to o smal l t o qualify. We were a thriving, vigorous community without a centre, without a Town Hall. The government accepte d th e challenge: 'Give us the centr e and w e wil l loo k afte r it. ' I t wa s buil t and , surmountin g protes t fro m some official s i n th e centra l governmen t wh o though t i t fa r to o gran d a title, it became th e Yuen Long Town Hall. A local management committe e was formed , an d Yue n Lon g no w ha d a plac e o f it s ow n fo r th e Art s Committee t o hold it s exhibitions, for balle t classe s and th e orchestr a t o practise, fo r th e registration o f marriages an d fo r a kindergarten . As I have mentioned, Yuen Long was twenty-five miles along a narrow and winding road from Kowloon , and although many years later the road 46

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Yuen Long, 1962-1967

was widene d t o becom e a highway , a t th e tim e o f whic h I writ e afte r leaving Yuen Long for a few miles th e roa d passed throug h a corridor o f paddy fields and flooded field s of water chestnut and lilies, with here an d there small grey brick village houses huddled together . Nea r th e village s a straggle of open-fronted shop s lined the road and spilled their goods o n to the footpaths, while behind th e fields and villages the hills rose highe r as the road neared th e sea at Tuen Mun (th e name means something lik e 'fortress gate ' i n Chinese , bu t i t wa s know n onl y a s Castl e Pea k b y th e English speakers) . The shelte r o f Castl e Pea k bay was a forest o f leaning masts , brown , folded sail s and the rounded fat sterns of fishing boats rearing high abov e the water ; othe r smalle r junk s wit h fla t stern s kep t i n a huddl e b y themselves, and slow, sculling sampans enlivened the scene. On a bluff i n a bend i n th e road was a temple t o th e thre e religion s o f Confucius , La o Tse an d Buddha , whic h overlooke d th e ti n shack s o f predator y fis h merchants, loan agents to the fishing flee t who sold thei r catch o n t o th e market. There were provision stores and ships' chandlers, and just off th e shore a decorated two-decked barge for celebrations, weddings and feasts . From there the road followed the foreshore for ten miles or so, winding in and out of small sandy coves and rocky headlands, and passing throug h the growin g tow n o f Tsue n Wa n befor e enterin g th e crowde d street s o f Kowloon. I have perhaps give n th e impression tha t onc e ther e we neve r left Yue n Long , but severa l time s a week w e mad e th e twenty-fiv e mil e journey to Kowloon, and if we needed go further the n crossing the harbour meant waitin g i n patien t line s fo r th e vehicl e ferr y o r catchin g on e o f Hong Kong' s major touris t attractions , th e Star Ferry . It was on on e of these journeys tha t I went t o tea with Trevo r Clark , a tall, rather gaunt, senior member of the government who had previously served in Nigeria. We met in the coffee sho p of the Hilton Hotel, togethe r with Captain Olaf Work, manager of Holts Wharf on the tip of the Kowloon peninsula an d hom e o f th e Blu e Funne l line . We al l thre e kne w o f th e Outward Boun d organisation : Trevo r fro m th e schoo l i n Nigeria , Ola f from th e Hol t Shippin g Compan y whic h wa s on e o f th e founder s o f 47

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Feeling the Stones

Outward Bound, and myself from m y term at Gordonstoun where we had met D r Kur t Hahn whos e ide a Outwar d Boun d was. It had bee n devise d in respons e t o a request fro m th e British governmen t t o se e what migh t be don e t o reduc e th e sometime s needles s los s of life a t sea i n wartime . Jane and I had spent a few days at Aberdovey, the home of the first Outwar d Bound school , and w e had helpe d i n foundin g a school in Malaysia . Courses a t th e world-wid e Outwar d Boun d organisatio n ai m t o develop confidence , principall y i n young peopl e o f all shapes, sizes an d backgrounds, tha t they are capable of overcoming some of the seemingl y impossible challenge s the y wil l encounte r i n thei r dail y lives . No w w e three gathered ove r te a i n th e Hilton Hote l and agree d tha t th e Outwar d Bound experience was one which would bring enormous benefit t o Hong Kong's youn g people , wh o ha d littl e opportunit y i n thei r crowde d cit y environment t o gaug e thei r potentia l an d experienc e th e challeng e an d pleasure o f hiking, climbing , camping , sailing and canoein g beneath th e rugged cliffs along the remote eastern seaboard. With the support of leading companies familia r wit h th e aim s o f th e movement , an d i n du e cours e with generou s hel p fro m th e Jocke y Club , Hon g Kon g joine d th e movement. Sinc e then ten s of thousands o f young men and women hav e experienced th e releas e o f energy , develope d th e ne w attitude s t o th e outdoors an d foun d th e confidenc e tha t com e fro m participatin g i n Outward Bound , an d thi s has added immeasurabl y t o Hong Kon g life . We had been in Hong Kong for nine years and in Yuen Long for mor e than four . Durin g this time we had been 'home' to England once . Service in th e colonies , eve n i n a develope d cit y lik e Hon g Kong , mean t lon g years awa y fro m famil y an d friend s i n th e Unite d Kingdom . Ou r lif e i n the New Territories meant that we had been even more cut off than usua l from a circle of Hong Kong friends. Whe n w e returned t o England, afte r a brief enquir y afte r ou r healt h an d journey, n o on e was the slightest bi t interested in what we had been doing while away for so long on the coast of China! But for us, those four years in Yuen Long changed our lives, for not only had we become remote from England, we had also been somewhat isolated fro m th e norma l lif e o f expatriate s i n Hon g Kong . Now , afte r 48

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Yuen Long, 1962-1967

forty year s hav e passed , w e ol d friend s fro m Yue n Lon g stil l mee t t o celebrate birthday s an d weddin g anniversarie s an d sometime s jus t t o gossip.

49

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5

Seeds of Refor m

M dministrativ e officer s i n th e colonia l servic e wer e formerl y / • known , diminutively , a s Cadets , an d befor e leavin g fo r Hon g /M Kong , o r afte r a fe w year s there , wer e sen t o n a speciall y /V designe d cours e a t Cambridg e University . I had misse d this , '• bu t i t wa s agree d tha t i t woul d b e goo d fo r m y sou l t o ge t away for a bit. Because of the years already spent in district work I asked to g o t o Oxfor d t o mak e a specia l stud y o f loca l governmen t unde r th e supervision o f Professor Brya n Keith-Lucas, an authority on comparativ e local governmen t wh o ha d bee n greatl y involve d i n advisin g o n constitutions fo r newl y independen t territories . W e foun d tha t th e professor ha d recently moved from Oxfor d t o the new University of Kent at Canterbury , so , i n Septembe r 1966 , w e rente d a n ancien t cottag e a t Boughton Alup h an d fo r th e nex t tw o term s I worke d unde r hi s supervision. I rea d widel y abou t th e wa y othe r grea t citie s ha d tackle d thei r problems o f governanc e — Ne w York , Montreal , London . I compare d continental systems with th e British and reflected o n the likely influenc e of China's domestic politics on our affairs. I thought tha t Hong Kong was not big enough t o be split into a number o f small councils followin g th e British model. Ou r idea l way forward, i f we were starting from scratch , I concluded, wa s t o hav e a Greate r Hon g Kon g Council , bu t i t wa s no t practical to introduce an elected lower tier of government with far-reachin g powers withou t changin g th e Legislativ e Counci l whos e member s wer e

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Feeling the Stones

appointed b y th e Governor . A Greater Hon g Kon g Counci l woul d soo n challenge th e existenc e o f the more important Legislativ e an d Executiv e Councils. Moreover, far-reaching chang e in the sixties and seventies could not realisticall y b e introduce d withou t discussio n betwee n th e governments o f Britai n an d China , an d woul d undoubtedl y lea d t o a n unpredictable reactio n an d rais e prematurel y th e questio n o f th e ver y future o f Hong Kong , for whic h n o on e was prepared . 'One Country, Two Systems', 'Hong Kong People Ruling Hong Kong'. These word s use d b y Den g Xiaopin g hav e bee n repeate d tim e an d tim e again i n th e past fiftee n years . 'One Country , Tw o Systems' describes th e situation which had always been the case since the founding o f the colony in 1841 . Hon g Kon g wa s administere d an d it s political , socia l an d economic system s develope d i n a vastl y differen t wa y fro m tha t o f th e rest of China. There were always two systems, China and Hong Kong. On the othe r hand , 'Hon g Kon g Peopl e Rulin g Hon g Kong' , a s a n objectiv e under th e British, had so far failed t o make much headway. The inclusio n of people's representative s i n th e council s o f government wa s rehearsed , with differen t emphase s an d a t differen t times , almos t fro m th e ver y beginning o f th e settlemen t i n 1841 . I t wa s no t somethin g whic h th e British overlooke d o r faile d t o procee d wit h i n a deliberat e attemp t t o hang o n t o th e reins o f power. I t was looke d a t tim e an d agai n an d the n set aside as inappropriate o r untimely . Gladstone, i n Marc h 1848 , summe d u p Britain' s objective s i n occupying Hong Kong , and his words resonate until th e year o f the fina l transfer o f sovereignt y i n 1997 . 'I t [th e occupatio n o f Hon g Kong ] wa s decided,' he said, 'solely and exclusively with a view to commercial interests and for those engaged in trade with China. As a Naval and Military station, except for the security of commercial interests, Hong Kong is unnecessary' These words set th e tone . Hong Kong' s Governor s persistentl y trie d t o pris e ope n th e door . Governor Bonham , a s earl y a s 1849 , recommended th e appointmen t o f representatives of commerce to the Executive and Legislative Councils so as 'to afford opportunitie s a t all times of enabling th e public generall y t o 52

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Seeds of Reform

make thei r wishe s an d desire s know n t o th e loca l government'. I n 185 6 Governor Bowrin g writes : 'M y principa l objectiv e i s t o introduc e th e popular elemen t int o it s governmen t s o a s t o mak e tha t elemen t subservient t o it s prosperity, a s I have reaso n t o believe it s introductio n would be acceptable to public opinion.' Bowring went further t o propos e representation o f the foreig n an d Chines e community . I t was th e middl e of th e nineteent h century , an d official s an d politician s i n Grea t Britai n were totall y ignoran t o f circumstance s i n Hon g Kong . Bot h thes e recommendations wer e rejecte d b y London becaus e i t was though t tha t they were premature . Nevertheless, Governor s kept o n trying , and in 1880 , in response t o a recommendatio n fro m th e youn g an d impulsiv e Governor , Pope Hennessy th e firs t Chines e voic e wa s hear d i n th e Legislativ e Counci l when N g Cho y wa s appointed . Bu t eve n thi s singl e appointmen t wa s objected t o by the merchants, lawyers and professionals o f the expatriat e community. In 1892 they made representations to the House of Common s over th e hea d o f th e Governo r an d th e Secretar y o f Stat e tha t they , an d only they , should elec t members t o th e Legislative Council , and tha t th e franchise shoul d no t exten d t o th e Chines e becaus e thei r sympathies , their famil y interest s an d thei r tradition s 'la y wit h th e neighbourin g Empire', meaning, of course, China. This proposal by the expatriates would have meant, in Governor Robinson's words, 'a small alien minority shoul d rule the indigenous majority'. 'Th e mercantile community', Robinson said, 'do not settle here and their only concern is to make a decent competenc y and the n t o leave. ' Thei r proposals , t o Robinson' s wa y o f thinkin g an d that o f th e Secretar y o f State , wer e outrageou s an d ha d t o b e rejecte d outright. Hong Kong should remain a Crown Colon y in the firm contro l of its officials . In 189 6 a second Chines e membe r wa s appointed t o th e Legislativ e Council, an d onc e agai n simila r argument s wer e deploye d b y th e expatriates. Chines e merchant s an d thei r familie s an d workers , i t wa s said, wishe d onl y t o ge t o n wit h thei r busines s an d employment , an d regarded themselve s a s still livin g in a part o f China . Fo r thes e reasons , 53

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Feeling the Stones

the colonia l power di d not believe it was necessary t o take any measure s to han d ove r power t o th e indigenous community , an d i n any case , the y had mad e n o deman d o r agitation t o participate i n government . These voice s hav e t o b e hear d agains t th e nineteenth-centur y background of Britain's imperial ambitions, of notions of racial superiority reinforced b y strongly held religious beliefs. They have to be seen agains t the unfoldin g dram a o f th e encroachment s o f foreig n trader s an d th e cultural invasion of China, the determination t o win the trade war and t o open up Chin a t o western commerc e and Christianity , and repeated call s for Chin a t o open up its markets ( a drama whose last act has been played out a hundred years later with China's application to join the World Trade Organisation). Neither ca n what might have been best for Hong Kong be considered i n isolation . Mind s were mad e up i n Hon g Kon g an d Britai n at the end of the nineteenth centur y by what was happening in the rest of China — th e gradual declin e an d fal l o f the Qin g dynasty, the horrifyin g and drawn-ou t terro r o f th e Taipin g Rebellion , th e Boxer Rebellio n an d the sieg e o f th e Embassies , th e ris e o f nationalism an d th e overthro w o f Manchu rule . They were trouble d times . We move to when Governor Stubbs, after his arrival in 1919, gave his view o f the situation. Talkin g of the Legislative Council , he said : 'The cas e o f thi s Colon y differ s fro m thos e o f suc h place s a s Malt a and Ceylon in that there is no permanent population except to some extent the Chinese , o f who m th e vas t majorit y hav e neve r take n th e slightes t interest i n th e administratio n o f th e Government . Th e European s ar e a migratory b o d y . .. [T]h e result of establishing an unofficial majorit y [i.e . in the Legislative Council] woul d be to substitute Government by a body of amateurs, whose interest s ar e necessarily thos e o f the moment rathe r than th e future , fo r Governmen t b y trained professionals. ' In Chin a th e year s befor e th e beginnin g o f th e Secon d Worl d Wa r were ful l o f uncertaint y an d turbulence . Agains t thi s backgroun d Hon g Kong had it s own particula r troubles . There were anti-foreig n strike s b y mechanics and by Chinese seamen. Workers downed tools and withdre w their labour . Man y lef t Hon g Kon g an d returne d t o thei r village s i n 54

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Seeds of Reform

Guangdong, confirmin g th e assessmen t o f previou s Governor s tha t th e broad loyalty and sentiment o f the working population wa s toward thei r own hom e town s and villages . 'The gradua l declin e o f Europea n dominanc e o f Hon g Kon g ca n b e traced from thi s pivotal movement. Chines e participation in every avenue of Hon g Kon g wa s no w a n establishe d fact , an d a ne w generatio n o f Chinese wa s growing , influence d b y ideal s fro m th e Mainlan d ye t determined t o assert themselves in their home of Hong Kong.' (The Quest of Noel Croucher, by Vaudine England, Hong Kong University Press 1998 ) It wa s no t unti l afte r th e Secon d Worl d Wa r an d th e middl e o f th e twentieth century that serious attention was once again given to the issue of loca l representation . Th e en d o f th e wa r marke d th e crossin g o f a watershed an d th e determinatio n o n th e par t o f th e electe d Labou r Government i n Britai n t o brin g th e curtain s dow n o n th e Empire . Th e stated objectiv e o f th e Britis h Governmen t t o it s colonie s becam e th e granting o f self-governmen t leadin g t o independence . Hon g Kon g wa s not lef t ou t bu t neede d a differen t approach . I t coul d no t hav e move d towards independenc e becaus e o f th e certai n interventio n an d probabl e occupation by Chinese forces. The chosen path, once again, was to try to make the government more representative. Sir Mark Young, the Governor, put forward ill-thought-ou t proposals for giving the people of Hong Kong a greate r sa y i n thei r affair s base d upo n th e creatio n o f a colony-wid e municipal council. The idea was not new but when previously put forwar d it had been alleged, with some justification, tha t a municipal council whose boundaries wer e co-extensiv e wit h th e boundarie s o f th e colon y woul d threaten the very existence and power of the Legislative Council; as indeed it would. Despit e this, Sir Mark pressed o n and announce d hi s proposal , setting aside his misgivings secretly expressed to the Colonial Office a s to the popular enthusias m fo r thes e reforms . Refugees fro m th e mainland flooded in to escape the closing stages of the civil war in China. Arguments against the municipal council proposals were raise d b y th e appointe d member s o f Executiv e an d Legislativ e Councils, while other, more popular nationalist voices were raised in their 55

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Feeling the Stones

support b y many Chines e organisations . Si r Mark,who seem s alread y t o have had '1997' at the back of his mind, nevertheless reported t o Londo n that his proposals were greeted with considerabl e apath y by the Chines e community, and he ascribed this to the fear that the council would become a battleground fo r politica l force s — Guomindan g an d Communist . H e went on to say, with great intuition, that in any case, many Chinese foresa w the return of Hong Kong to China and did not wish to involve themselve s in something whic h coul d b e judged t o be unpatriotic . Sir Mark Young's ter m o f office cam e t o a n en d i n 1947 , and h e wa s succeeded b y Si r Alexande r Grantham . Th e volum e o f refugee s fro m disturbances i n Chin a gre w at an alarmin g rate . Legislative Counci l wa s strengthened by the appointment of a few more members, and the proposal to creat e a n electe d municipa l counci l wit h power s whic h woul d hav e threatened it s existence was dropped . Hitherto n o attemp t ha d bee n mad e t o recrui t Chines e officer s int o the higher, exclusively British expatriate ranks of the senior civi l service, the Cadets . Although thi s would not hav e been as politically sensitive a s moving toward s a more representativ e government , i t cam e fa r to o lat e and slowly , an d contraste d poorl y wit h othe r colonie s reachin g independence where localisation was an early established policy. It seemed as though Hon g Kon g had al l the tim e in th e worl d From the n on , fo r a period o f almos t twent y years, Hong Kon g wa s preoccupied wit h developin g th e econom y an d housin g th e homeless . The repercussions o f the Korean War an d th e chillin g atmosphere o f th e Cold War which seemed to hold the whole world in suspense spilled over into Hong Kong; the lingering political antagonisms followin g th e defea t of th e Guomintan g arm y erupte d int o mo b violenc e i n 1956 ; ther e wa s tension across the Taiwan Straits and the shelling of Quemoy. In the sixties there was the sudden influx of over a hundred thousand illegal immigrants who poure d ove r th e border fro m neighbourin g Guangdong . Ther e wa s drought an d lon g queue s a t standpipes . Th e wors t typhoo n i n livin g memory ha d swep t acros s Hon g Kong , leavin g a trai l o f deat h an d destruction. I n 196 6 an d 1967 , ther e wer e mor e riots . I t i s a n 56

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Seeds of Reform

understatement t o say that Hong Kong had more than enough t o do. The situation was unstable, the community restless, living from hand to mouth in appalling condition s an d no t havin g put dow n it s roots. It wa s a n atmospher e no t conduciv e t o elevate d thought s abou t democracy and political reform. As the author and astringent commentato r Dick Wilson said, 'It would have been like trying to organise elections o n a railway station' . Despite thi s storm y background , a t th e en d o f th e sixtie s Governo r Sir Davi d Trenc h decide d tha t somethin g ha d t o b e don e t o mak e government mor e representative . H e appointed a civil servant t o write a report on what should or could be done, particularly in view of the growing population an d developmen t o f ne w towns . Th e Urba n Counci l looke d after urba n Hon g Kon g an d th e Kowloo n Peninsula , bu t no t th e Ne w Territories wher e ne w town s o f hal f a millio n eac h wer e alread y bein g built. A handful o f members of the Urban Council were elected on a narrow franchise, bu t th e publi c attitud e t o thi s opportunit y t o exercis e thei r civic right s wa s on e o f positiv e uninteres t an d ver y fe w o f th e limite d electorate bothered t o vote . The Dickinson Report on Local Administration duly appeared in 1966. It was, I suppose, inevitable tha t it would recommen d a British model of local governmen t an d overloo k th e fac t tha t i n Britai n tha t mode l wa s being challenged , with muc h debat e about th e usefulness o f some of th e lower tiers of government. Britain was thinking of regions when Dickinso n was proposing smalle r councils , ignoring th e fact tha t in a place the siz e of Hong Kon g ther e was econom y an d efficienc y t o be foun d i n a singl e authority. Som e member s o f Dickinson' s workin g part y disagree d wit h his proposals and instead recommended a s a first step that district office s should be set up in the urban area similar to those in the New Territories, so as to bring government close r t o th e people . This secon d attemp t t o ma p ou t a mor e representativ e syste m o f government a t a local leve l was du e t o receiv e anothe r rud e shock . Th e first attemp t after th e war had been overtaken by the end of the civil war in Chin a an d a n influx o f refugees. Thi s second attemp t was also t o fail . 57

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Feeling the Stones

In 196 6 simmering discontent in the densely packed and comfortles s housing estates of Kowloon boiled over onto the streets. People were tired of year s o f har d wor k wit h littl e improvemen t i n thei r lives . Unrest , agitation an d discontent foun d a focus aroun d a minor increase in crossharbour ferr y fares . A young ma n bega n a hunger strik e a t th e ferr y an d before th e situatio n wa s take n seriousl y b y th e government , riot s brok e out in Kowloon. The police responded with tear gas and baton charges. A curfew wa s imposed, which caugh t me and my wife enjoyin g a n evenin g out with friends . Tea r gas began t o seep into th e restaurant, s o we brok e the chain which, not unusually, barred the rear exit and hurried for hom e along th e no w empt y streets , leavin g ou r ca r t o th e merc y o f th e mob , who wit h som e delicac y late r brok e th e parkin g mete r bu t lef t th e ca r unscathed. The governmen t wa s take n b y surprise . Wha t ha d suddenl y gon e wrong? Th e Chie f Justice , Si r Michae l Hogan , hel d a n inquir y which , after hearin g blam e an d recrimination , conclude d lamel y tha t th e government wa s ou t o f touc h wit h th e people , tha t ther e wa s a communication gap . But ther e wer e tiding s o f a mor e seriou s nature . Hon g Kon g wa s anxiously watching events in the mainland, where mobs had taken to th e streets t o attac k 'rightists ' an d an y wh o ha d bourgeoi s connection s o r who ha d strayed fro m th e path o f Mao's thoughts, or who was associate d in any way with or polluted by western ideas and culture, even attackin g and destroyin g China' s preciou s heritage . I t was th e beginning o f a tim e of turmoi l whic h wa s t o last for twelv e years. Dickinson's idea s fo r loca l councils i n Hon g Kon g wer e quietl y forgotte n an d disappeare d int o oblivion, an d i n du e cours e Distric t Office s wer e introduce d int o th e crowded cit y streets. It i s a curiou s overla p tha t despit e th e outrage s o f th e Cultura l Revolution, which are well documented, th e admission o f China into th e United Nation s actuall y too k plac e in Octobe r 197 1 in th e mids t o f thi s turmoil and the exile to distant farms of some of China's foremost leader s and mos t distinguishe d intellects ; and tha t i n Februar y o f th e followin g 58

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Seeds of Reform

year, th e visit o f President Nixo n an d Secretar y o f State Henry Kissinge r took place , which le d t o th e communiqu e issue d i n Shangha i a t th e en d of thei r visit . I n thi s important cornerston e o f all subsequent policy , th e United States and Chin a stated thei r views on world affairs, i n particula r the questio n o f Taiwan , wher e th e Unite d State s acknowledge d tha t al l Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain tha t there is only one China an d tha t Taiwa n i s par t o f China , an d tha t th e Unite d State s Government di d not challeng e tha t position . China had come in from th e cold, and shortly afterwards th e Chines e Ambassador t o th e Unite d Nation s declare d tha t th e questio n o f Hon g Kong wa s no t a matte r fo r th e Unite d Nation s t o decid e an d deliberat e but wa s a matte r fo r Chin a t o decid e whe n th e tim e wa s ripe . A fir m marker had been put down twenty-six years before the ending of the New Territories lease , a warnin g t o Britai n no t t o tr y an y cleve r tricks , an y unilateral politica l adventures . I n an y case , with Chin a i n th e throe s o f the Cultural Revolution it was inconceivable tha t Hong Kong could hav e begun a sensible dialogue on political development. China' s words in th e United Nations were a warning t o other countries not t o meddle, and fo r the British it pointed the way to approach the question of the future whe n the tim e was ripe. The Hong Kong government moved cautiously to open its ears to th e views an d advic e o f th e public . Board s an d committees , whic h wer e advising th e governmen t o n al l aspect s o f polic y an d activity , wer e strengthened by bringing in fresh, younger blood. These several hundre d committees, involving several thousand o f Hong Kong's citizens, surviv e to thi s day . Professo r Ambros e Kin g o f th e Chines e Universit y terme d this th e 'administrativ e absorptio n o f polities'. It was not Machiavellian , but n o doub t invitin g leader s o f publi c opinio n t o si t dow n t o discus s policy and plan s with governmen t official s stoppe d peopl e takin g t o th e streets. Moreover , i t seeme d a t th e tim e tha t ther e wa s n o othe r choice . The challeng e t o th e critic s wh o sa y s o frequentl y an d repetitively , 'Bu t yes, democracy shoul d have been introduced earlier' , is to ask 'But whe n would you have done it?' Looking back at those years of mass immigration 59

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the Stones

from Chin a and the struggle in the sixties against all manner of outrageous fortune i s to say 'Well, what about the seventies?' China was in the grip of the Gang of Four, the Cultural Revolution was at its height, Chin a was in unimaginable turmoil , th e Britis h Embass y i n Beijin g ha d bee n sacke d and burned , school s an d universitie s were closed , libraries , temple s an d much o f China's heritage destroyed, and intellectuals and China' s leader s denounced and set to cleaning pigstyes and wearing dunce's hats. The socalled window s o f opportunit y reveale d a storm-tosse d world , shakin g fists, patien t squatter s queuin g fo r water , housewive s an d businessme n demanding thei r mone y fro m bankrup t banks . Shoul d Hon g Kon g hav e pushed o n regardles s o f China ? Th e answe r lie s in th e short shrif t give n to proposal s introduce d i n 1995 , without China' s acquiescence , b y th e last Governor o f Hong Kong .

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6

The Cultural Revolutio n

m n 196 7 th e year s o f th e Cultura l Revolutio n bega n traumaticall y • W e watched the British Consu l in Macao being made to stand in th e • burnin g su n t o endur e th e vilificatio n o f th e masse s H e wa s the n • withdraw n fro m Maca o to Hong Kong, never to return. Corpse s wit h m thei r hand s boun d floate d dow n th e Pearl River, and th e strikes an d riots of the Cultural Revolution spread to Hong Kong. There were marches to Government House, vehement denunciations of the British and attempts to forc e th e governmen t t o capitulate . Mob s surge d ou t o f crowde d resettlement estate s followe d b y tea r ga s volleys an d bato n charges , an d rioting surged back and forth alon g the streets. There were savage attack s on people , an d ther e wer e explodin g bombs . A courageou s Chines e journalist was burned t o death in his car. Helicopters landed o n the roof s of building s t o flus h ou t cell s o f rioters . Th e Ban k o f China , drape d i n banners bearin g revolutionar y slogans , ha d barbe d wir e o n it s roo f t o prevent this while, typically, across the road on the cricket ground, white, flannelled cricketer s continue d thei r game s agains t th e backdro p o f slogans, banners an d revolutionar y songs . For a few months I went back t o Yuen Long as District Officer , ther e to meet ol d friend s an d t o urge the m t o remain calm . 1 walked abou t th e town and visited th e market i n an eerie atmosphere o f suspense. We ha d a fiel d telephon e wire d fro m th e Gurkh a barrack s nex t t o ou r hous e t o our bedroom, which sometime s i n th e middle o f the night would emi t a frog-like croa k followe d b y a Gurkha voic e saying 'Testing, testing' .

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Feeling the Stones

After a fe w week s I wa s appointe d Deput y Distric t Commissioner , and my days as a District Officer cam e to an end. Kenneth Kinghorn , th e District Commissione r o f the New Territories, was a stocky figure with a chuckling sens e o f humour wh o ha d a rumoured reputatio n fo r lockin g difficult file s behin d th e combinatio n o f his saf e an d wh o like d t o si t i n his office, whe n everyon e else had long gone home, with a bottle of beer, puffing a cigar while quietl y reading hi s papers . There were threats to the lives of leaders who had responded t o a call to express their support fo r th e government. Smal l but dangerous bomb s were explode d a t som e o f thei r offices , an d rea l bombs an d fak e bomb s wrapped i n re d paper , sometime s wit h th e warnin g 'Compatriot s kee p away', wer e lef t i n th e roads , causin g a grea t dea l o f nuisance . I n eac h New Territorie s town , publi c securit y organisation s wer e forme d and , following threat s o n thei r lives , members o f th e executiv e o f th e Heun g Yee Kuk , th e Ne w Territorie s Rura l Council , wer e allowe d t o carr y revolvers, which the y di d i n bulging trouse r pockets . When th e northern boundary of the new territory had been drawn i n 1898 it sliced of f par t o f Chin a wher e i t projected, lik e a headland, int o the South Chin a Sea, leaving a bay on each side. From the head of the bay in th e west , an d goin g eastwards , th e borde r followe d th e cours e o f a short river which, while broad at the mouth, quickl y narrowed t o a small stream as it rose into the mountains. From there the border passed throug h a narro w ga p an d the n droppe d dow n t o anothe r ba y i n th e eas t wher e there wa s a smal l marke t town . Her e th e borde r ha d bee n draw n dow n the middle o f the stree t o f a small village and fishin g port , Sh a Tau Kok , with, literally , Chin a o n on e sid e o f th e stree t an d Hon g Kong' s Ne w Territories o n th e other, with n o barrier i n th e middle . Hong Kong police were stationed in small 'Beau Geste' forts at various points alon g th e borde r t o kee p a watchfu l ey e mainl y fo r illega l immigration fro m acros s the way. Northwards, the border looked o n t o a typical rura l scen e o f farmland , gre y bric k village s an d farmer s quietl y working in the commune fields against a backdrop of steep, grass-covered mountains. In 196 7 the atmosphere changed as the fever and agitation of 62

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The Cultural Revolution

the Cultural Revolution spread t o the communes north o f the border. O n one fateful day , militia advanced across the boundary at Sha Tau Kok an d opened fire , killin g polic e i n th e smal l polic e post . Th e polic e wer e no t equipped t o dea l wit h arme d incursions , an d Gurkh a troop s wer e despatched t o reliev e them . Fro m the n on , fo r mor e tha n twent y years , soldiers maintained securit y an d deal t with illega l immigration al l alon g the border, unti l nea r th e tim e o f the return o f Hong Kon g to China . Farmers fro m th e nort h ha d alway s ha d th e righ t t o cros s ove r t o tend t o their crops in their ancestral fields south o f the river. In 196 7 thi s peaceful modus vivendi cam e to a rude halt. The farmers who crosse d int o Hong Kon g brough t wit h the m brigh t re d banners , th e excitemen t o f revolution and a detestation of the foreigners who occupied their countr y and o f th e polic e wh o serve d them . W e wer e variousl y an d insultingl y called 'white-skinned pigs' and the police 'yellow running dogs'. The main crossing point o f th e river a t th e border consiste d o f a temporary bridg e of steel girder s with a small police pos t a t its end . Thi s was th e point a t which lorrie s assembled t o pick u p vegetables and livestoc k destine d fo r Hong Kon g markets . I n 196 7 th e farmer s crossin g daily , mornin g an d evening, within a few fee t o f the Hong Kon g police coul d no t refrain , i n their stat e o f hig h emotio n an d revolutionar y zeal , fro m tauntin g an d confronting thei r yello w runnin g do g compatriots , jus t a s thei r fello w revolutionaries wer e doing in th e streets of Hong Kon g and Kowloon . On one occasion down by the bridge, a District Officer, Trevo r Bedford, and a Battalion Commander , MacAlister , wer e encircle d an d threatene d with axe s an d mattocks . Shortl y afterward s a n extraordinar y thin g happened. Tw o off-duty police , mistaking th e way, rode o n a motor bik e across th e borde r an d disappeare d fro m sight . Polic e Inspecto r Fran k Knight, wh o wen t t o investigate , wa s hustle d b y angr y peasant s acros s the border bridge and likewise disappeared. A barricade was thrown across the bridge and movement acros s th e border cam e to a halt. It was easy to close th e border bu t clearl y it could no t remain closed ; ther e was a need to restore th e flow o f produce an d t o let the farmers ge t on with lookin g after thei r fields . Negotiations , whic h bega n wit h thre e reading s take n 63

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Feeling the Stones

from Chairma n Mao's red book of writings, were held just across the border between a delegatio n fro m Hon g Kong , consistin g o f th e Distric t Commissioner Kennet h Kinghorn , th e Assistant Politica l Adviser t o th e Hong Kon g government , an d myself , togethe r wit h loca l official s fro m China. Thes e wer e strang e an d anxiou s time s t o fac e th e criticism s an d demands o f Chines e official s i n thei r sombre, rankless uniforms, the n t o return, a s the sun was setting, to a waiting helicopter t o be whisked bac k to Hong Kon g to report th e day's discussion . After man y suc h lon g discussions , publicly reporte d agreemen t wa s reached t o pay compensation fo r crop s which had die d fo r lac k of water, to remov e stretche s o f barbe d wir e fro m fields , t o exchang e certai n personnel bein g hel d b y Hon g Kong , an d fo r th e retur n o f th e tw o wandering policemen . Polic e Inspecto r Knight , despit e hi s considerabl e girth, ha d earlie r manage d t o clim b ou t o f the building i n which h e wa s being held, and in the darkness had made his way across the fields, crossed the strea m an d wriggle d u p unde r th e borde r fenc e t o retur n t o Hon g Kong. To the west of the territory, oyster beds fringed th e shallow waters of Deep Bay . Rock s encruste d wit h larg e oyster s wer e lai d ou t i n line s stretching fro m th e shore across th e oozing tida l mud int o deepe r water . International protocols meant nothing in these muddy waters; the villagers from She k Ha, on the Chinese side, lived on whichever side of the border convenience an d profi t dictated . On e mornin g i n Octobe r 196 6 a grea t fleet o f junks, re d banners streamin g i n th e wind, surge d acros s th e ba y and surrounde d a n oyste r be d reachin g ou t fro m th e Hon g Kon g shore . Officials sen t t o investigat e wer e abuse d an d intimidate d an d reminde d that Ma o Tse-tung would prevai l an d live for ever , that they , and not th e errant villager s wh o ha d opte d fo r a n eas y lif e i n th e fleshpot s o f Yue n Long o n th e Hon g Kon g side , wer e th e rightfu l owners , an d moreove r they had document s issued by the Hong Kong British authorities , whic h had expire d man y years before, t o prove it. Valour was sensibly th e lose r and discretion the winner. Behind the scenes negotiations between villagers settled th e issue. Those on the Hong Kong side understood better how t o 64

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The Cultural Revolution

farm tha t particular oyste r bed, but the y had t o recognise th e paramoun t authority o f th e revolutionar y committe e o f th e commune . Agreemen t was reached an d tensio n relaxe d . Sometimes th e situation bordered o n th e absurd; fo r example , whe n the cattl e coming across the border i n railway wagons had revolutionar y and offensiv e slogan s painte d o n thei r sides . Worker s i n th e slaughterhouses o f Hon g Kon g wen t o n strik e unti l th e queu e o f man y thousand pig s a day needed fo r Hong Kong's markets backed up int o th e interior of China. Common sense eventually prevailed and slaughterhous e operations starte d u p again . O n anothe r occasion , a t th e en d o f a da y fraught wit h tension , th e Gurkh a compan y bugler s a t on e o f th e post s matched thei r skill s with thos e o f th e Border Defenc e Uni t o n th e othe r side. Long month s wit h dail y incident s alon g th e border require d a cal m and sensitive approach to prevent escalation into an even more dangerou s situation. I n counsellin g a cal m approac h th e Governo r onc e muse d t o me, 'Sometimes I wonder whic h sid e you're on. ' But we were close to th e action and better judges of reaction and were able to coordinate th e dail y level o f respons e t o whatever provocatio n ther e ha d been . A committe e was formed under the aegis of the Commander 48 Brigade, Brigadier Peter de C . Martin , wit h membershi p draw n fro m th e Police , Arm y an d Ne w Territories Administratio n (PAGENT) , whic h me t dail y t o analys e an d decide ho w t o respon d t o thes e potentiall y dangerou s situations . Afte r these excitement s wer e over , th e committe e continue d an d wa s extraordinarily usefu l subsequentl y i n counterin g surge s o f illega l immigration, deciding how to strengthen our border fence, causing a road to be built along the length of the border and working out how to replace the ol d bridge a t Man Ka m To. The rioting, the bombs, the burnings and the killings came to an en d and i n 196 8 Hon g Kon g returne d t o a nervou s an d shake n normality . Individuals an d organisation s ha d rallie d t o th e sid e o f th e authorities , but man y wer e s o frightene d tha t the y ha d turne d tai l an d heade d fo r Canada, th e Unite d Kingdo m an d th e USA . In China , however , th e 'te n 65

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the Stones

years of turmoil' were just beginning, and for the next decade Hong Kong anxiously watche d th e twist s an d turn s o f cultural revolutio n i n th e lif e of the people o f China . The government did not concern itself solely with the suppression of riots bu t mounte d skilfu l campaign s t o wi n ove r heart s an d mind s an d sustain confidence. The communication gap, identified by the Chief Justice as a facto r contributin g t o th e Sta r Ferr y riot s o f th e previou s year , wa s brought int o shar p relie f by the event s o f 1967 . It was quickly close d b y adopting thos e idea s o f member s wh o ha d openl y disagree d wit h th e findings o f th e Dickinso n Repor t o n loca l administration i n 1966 , Hon g Kong and Kowloon were divided into city districts. Shop fronts for District Offices wer e set up int o which people coul d walk fro m th e street t o tak e their trouble s o r t o as k fo r informatio n an d advice . Th e invisibl e wall s between th e bureaucrat s i n on e departmen t an d anothe r wer e broke n down, and where useful thei r work was coordinated by a District Officer . Mutual Ai d Committee s wer e forme d i n public housin g estates , eac h o f which housed ten s of thousands o f people, as well as in private high-ris e apartment blocks, to bring people together to share a common interest i n the security an d upkee p o f their buildings .

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7 Principal Assistant Colonia l Secretary (Lands )

W

l it h th e gradua l retur n o f confidence afte r th e stress an d / tensio n of 1967, Hong Kong property prices began to rise. / M y masters judged it was time to move me away from rura l politics an d developmen t an d crise s o n th e border t o Hon g Kong Island , awa y fro m peopl e t o paper , t o files , minutes , memoranda an d th e preparatio n o f a strea m o f paper s fo r th e weekl y meeting of the Governor's Executive Counci l — Hong Kong's Cabinet. I t was before the Colonial Secretary, sensitive to the changing mood, change d his title to the more politically correct Chief Secretary, and senior officials , who had long since discarded their white drill uniforms for business suits, ceased t o b e addresse d a s Cadet s an d becam e simpl y Administrativ e Officers. Governmen t wa s lean , an d a s Principa l Assistan t Colonia l Secretary I was responsible, together with three assistants, for Land Policy, Public Works , Ren t Control , Housin g an d Rating . Propert y an d construction accoun t fo r nearl y half o f the economy, th e stock exchang e index i s influence d b y it , bank s ar e heavil y dependen t o n it , an d i t i s a major topi c of conversation. Restricted circulation (blue) and confidentia l (chrome yellow) papers flowed fro m ou r office i n a never-ending stream , and mor e tha n hal f th e tim e o f th e Governor' s adviser s o n Executiv e Council was taken up wit h land , property an d development . Rent control of pre-war tenement s was introduced immediately afte r the wa r whe n a tid e o f refugee s flowed int o Hon g Kon g an d th e fierc e demand fo r accommodatio n ha d cause d rent s t o skyrocket . Gre y an d

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the Stones

crumbling pre-war buildings with open floors and a kitchen and washroom at th e bac k wer e subdivided , a family i n eac h cubicle , sharin g commo n facilities. A principal tenan t on each floor collecte d rent from th e haples s families o n behalf o f the owners . Laws now prevented th e landlord fro m increasing rent, and inevitabl y havin g had hi s income fro m th e propert y forcibly reduced , he did nothing to maintain his buildings which fell into increasing disrepair . With th e easin g of th e housing situatio n an d th e consequen t easin g of the pressure on rents, and with th e growing number o f public housin g estates, legislatio n wa s introduce d graduall y t o remov e ren t contro l i n keeping wit h Hon g Kong' s philosoph y t o le t th e marke t decide . Thi s revived some interest in redevelopment; but eve n today, in this glitterin g modern cit y and despite the intense effort t o build sufficient housing , th e legacy of divided tenement s an d cubicl e life linger s on . Sub-tenant s stil l pay an exorbitan t ren t fo r th e privilege o f living with thei r childre n i n a small windowles s space , wit h nowher e t o han g thei r washing , sharin g lavatories an d kitchens with othe r families . A major confrontatio n occurre d in 1972 . Hundreds o f leases on lan d in Kowloon were due to expire in 1973 , when the y would be renewed t o bring them into line with New Territories leases which had an automati c right o f renewal unti l thre e day s before 3 0 June 1997 , when th e lease of the Ne w Territorie s itsel f expired . Th e Kowloo n leases , when the y wer e written, optimistically entitled the Crown to charge a premium on renewal, which i n th e government' s vie w should b e based o n marke t value . Afte r all, so the argument went, the owners were getting back title to land for a further perio d an d shoul d pa y wha t i t wa s worth . Thi s wa s logica l an d legal but not practical. It touched a raw nerve of Chinese sensitivity. Thi s was, after all, part of China and the concept was alien. There were protests and petitions, meetings with the Governor, and debates in the Legislative Council. Th e governmen t relente d an d agree d t o charg e a new an d lo w rent base d o n th e rateabl e value . Anothe r stor m ha d passed , an d incidentally in its passing a way had been found t o manage the renewal of title t o land i n th e leased Ne w Territories, whose lease s were also du e t o expire in June 1997 .

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Principal Assistant Colonial Secretary (Lands)

The building of Hong Kong never seems finished; reclamation follow s reclamation an d th e harbou r narrows , building s ar e tor n dow n an d replaced with something higher. The deafening bangin g of pile drivers is taken fo r granted , an d tunnel s pierc e th e mountain s an d burro w unde r the harbour. Architecture has changed from the dull and practical to multicoloured glass-walle d building s adorne d wit h cathedral-lik e tower s an d globes. When we arrived, the harbour was crowded with cargo ships, and wharves an d warehouse s line d th e shore . Shippin g change s i n th e earl y seventies mean t tha t wharve s wit h warehouse s wer e n o longe r needed . Companies were formed t o build a container port which has grown to be the largest in the world. Now as you look across at Kowloon from Victoria, the centra l par t o f Hon g Kong , you se e th e cliff-lik e wall s o f hotel s an d offices. Gon e ar e th e immens e funnel s an d th e grea t stron g ship s o f th e Blue Funnel Lin e which docke d a t Holt's wharf nex t t o th e Sta r Ferry a t the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula; now hotels, shopping malls and office s stand i n it s place . I aske d th e propert y compan y whic h demolishe d th e warehouses to construct a promenade deck around the end of the peninsula from which people could enjoy the harbour view of Hong Kong and watch the ship s g o by. Disappointingly, ther e ar e fe w othe r place s o n th e city' s long waterfront wher e it is possible to walk along the side of the harbour . However, al l i s no t lost , an d a s I write, plan s ar e being implemente d t o reintroduce an d exten d thi s obviou s attraction . A t th e en d o f th e promenade, al l tha t i s lef t o f th e railwa y station , wher e on e coul d onc e buy a ticke t t o Londo n crossin g Chin a an d Siberia , i s th e cloc k towe r standing i n inexplicable solitude . If you look west from Hong Kong beyond the harbour, the steep ridges of mor e gree n island s ris e fro m th e sea , an d i n th e distanc e th e blu e o f Lantau Islan d beckons, a n islan d which i s bigger tha n Hon g Kong itself. There i s s o muc h mor e t o Hon g Kon g tha n th e crowde d street s o f th e central city which give s it so much o f its international reputation . I n th e hills abov e th e easter n shor e o f Lantau , th e bel l towe r an d chape l o f a small Trappist monastery hides in the trees and supplied fresh mil k fro m monster, heavy-uddere d Friesian s t o our hote l guests . 69

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Feeling the Stones

Next t o the monastery i s Discovery Bay, where small villages nestle d between th e steepl y risin g mountai n an d th e wide sand y ar c o f th e ba y Behind th e villages there was a large tract of scrub-covered hillside , some grass plantations and a small farm in a hidden valley owned by the Lantau Development Compan y Ther e was a small pier and shed s for a n abattoi r built especially to provide for the importation of cattle from th e Norther n Territory o f Australia , t o preven t th e Australia n ship s fro m becomin g contaminated throug h contac t wit h disease s fro m livestoc k fro m Chin a and South-Eas t Asia. No cattle were ever imported an d ther e are few wh o even remember thi s strange proposal. Later in the sixties it was suggested that the shallow waters of the bay might be filled in in a wide reclamatio n for a town o f half a million. Thi s plan, too , died a death amon g th e files . Some years later a proposal was put to the government for the building of a self-sufficient moder n residentia l subur b a t Discover y Bay. It woul d have a gree n environment , n o moto r vehicles , an d woul d ru n it s ow n ferry servic e t o th e city . Th e owne r o f al l th e land , Edwi n Wong , wa s persuasive; hi s model s o f th e schem e wer e convincin g an d seeme d t o epitomise th e entrepreneuria l spiri t whic h ha d mad e Hon g Kong . H e refined hi s proposal s an d indicate d tha t th e publi c requirement s woul d all b e met : th e polic e an d fir e stations , th e wate r supply , th e road s an d drains. A t tha t poin t financia l disaste r overwhelme d ambition ; th e mortgagor threatene d tha t unles s someon e coul d b e foun d t o tak e hi s place, th e ban k holdin g th e mortgag e (a s i t happened , th e Mosco w Narodny Bank) would foreclose, and by implication, Russia would become the extraordinar y owner s o f a large trac t o f Hong Kon g hillside. A Hong Kong citize n renowne d fo r hi s quie t busines s acume n steppe d i n an d took over. Gradually over the next few years, the principles of the scheme were established and building began. Now the town is a success story and has a character of its own; the atmosphere which inspired its initiator ha s been maintained and the peace and quiet is jealously guarded by its many thousand residents . I t fel l t o m e t o explai n thi s schem e an d othe r larg e ideas fo r developin g lan d t o th e ne w Governor , Si r Murray MacLehose , who arrive d i n 1971. 70

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Principal Assistant Colonial Secretary (Lands)

Sir Murray (late r Lord MacLehose) was a tall, thin, no-nonsense ma n from th e Diplomatic Service who had a vision for Hong Kong and a clear perception of what we ought to be doing to put our house in order. Ther e were many things under ou r noses which were not being done which w e officials shoul d have seen for ourselves — but had not! The appointmen t of Sir Murray broke with th e custom o f appointing Governor s who wer e familiar wit h colonia l administration , havin g serve d i n othe r colonies , and kne w ho w th e syste m worked . Althoug h Si r Murray cam e fro m th e Diplomatic Service , h e ha d previousl y bee n i n Hon g Kon g a s Governo r Sir Robert Black's Political Adviser. Durin g tha t tim e he must have mad e up his mind that Hong Kong was ready for a shake-up. Whether Whitehal l had though t throug h th e consequence s o f bringin g i n a Governo r fro m outside th e Oversea s Civi l Service twenty-si x year s before th e chang e o f sovereignty, i t certainl y turne d ou t t o b e a n inspire d decision , an d th e establishment of a closer link with the Foreign Office meant that forbidde n topics relatin g t o 199 7 wer e mor e easil y mentioned . O f cours e i t le d t o disappointment amon g thos e reachin g th e en d o f thei r career s tha t th e pinnacle of the Colonial Service career had been removed, that they could no longer climb to the top and that promotion now stopped at the level of Chief Secretar y It would have been simple for Hong Kong to have gone on muddlin g along, tinkering with thing s and making adjustments her e and there . We needed a refit. I t was time to clean up Hong Kong in more ways than one . The foundation s o f th e grea t cit y which wa s t o retur n t o Chin a i n 199 7 owe muc h t o Si r Murray' s attac k o n th e debilitatin g acceptanc e o f poo r housing an d rubbis h strew n streets, crime and corruption an d t o replac e negligence wit h th e sens e o f prid e an d belongin g whic h hi s leadershi p fostered. Not lon g afte r hi s arrival , managemen t consultant s McKinse y an d Company were appointed to look at the way Hong Kong was administered. This led to a reorganisation and redistribution of responsibility, the creation of polic y branche s an d polic y secretaries , an d th e separatio n o f th e formulation o f policy from it s execution. The object o f these reforms wa s 71

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Feeling the Stones

to creat e a mor e dynami c an d decisiv e governmen t a s a necessar y preparation fo r th e task s which la y ahead . Why wa s Hon g Kon g s o dirt y compare d wit h Singapore ? Wh y wa s crime on th e increase? Why were there persistent reports and suspicion s of corruptio n i n ou r polic e forc e whe n ther e wa s a speciall y assigne d anti-corruption unit within it? Sir Murray initiated and in his shirt sleeves personally led Keep Hong Kong Clean and chaired Fight Crime campaig n meetings, an d transferre d responsibilit y fo r th e figh t agains t corruptio n from th e police to an independent body. And in what was a seminal speech, he sai d tha t th e shortag e o f decen t housin g wa s th e greates t sourc e o f unhappiness in Hong Kong. He followed this up by asking me, as Principal Colonial Secretar y (Lands ) t o le t hi m know , a s soo n a s possible , ho w many housing units would have to be built to solve the housing proble m within te n years . I calle d a smal l grou p o f official s together , eac h wit h knowledge o f a bit o f the answe r — overcrowdin g i n private tenements , the number o f squatters, the natural growth in population, immigration , and so forth. Usin g the back of an envelope, we came up with the answe r that w e neede d t o buil d housin g fo r 1. 5 millio n peopl e t o mee t urba n demand. Another group, led by the New Territories District Commissioner , Denis Bray, estimated that there were another 300,000 needing permanen t accommodation i n rural areas. These figures becam e th e target for a ten year housing an d developmen t programme : new town s were t o be built , interconnecting highway s constructed , harbour s reclaime d an d village s and farmland cleare d and compensated. The building and expansion int o modern Hon g Kon g had begun . In th e earl y seventie s a Hon g Kon g textil e industrialis t initiate d a proposal t o build a n oi l refinery i n Hon g Kon g t o bypass th e refiner y i n Singapore. Here was an opportunit y t o join th e industrial big league an d to brea k ou t fro m textiles , toys , watches , plasti c flower s an d electrica l goods, whic h share d th e bul k o f Hon g Kong' s industry . Lamm a Islan d just t o th e sout h o f Hon g Kon g wa s th e chose n site , an d detaile d investigation began . I wen t wit h colleague s t o Japa n i n orde r t o b e persuaded that oil refineries were not really bad after all! The visit provided 72

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Principal Assistant Colonial Secretary (Lands)

a brief opportunity to see serene temples and gardens as well as throbbin g machinery, nests of pipes, tanks, chimneys and drifting steam . But muc h as we tried to overcome th e environmental impact by putting oi l tanks i n rock caverns , measurin g decibels , an d sitin g th e chimney s amon g mountains, th e serenit y o f th e vie w t o th e sout h o f Hon g Kon g woul d have gone for ever , of islands stretching t o the horizon floatin g i n a calm sea. And then, quite suddenly, the price of oil shifted and investors' interest in buildin g a refiner y evaporated . N o mor e wa s heard , an d Hon g Kon g was spared thi s first o f its many futur e ecologica l challenges . Three year s quickl y passe d i n producin g pape r afte r pape r fo r th e weekly meeting s o f Executiv e Counci l involvin g everythin g t o d o wit h land administration , buildin g an d development ; i n formulatin g policie s to mee t ne w challenges ; i n writin g persuasiv e memorand a o n grant s o f land for worthwhile causes, on land for international schools, on a policy for urban renewal. There were memoranda o n land for container terminal s and universities, an Arts Centre, land for special industries, an agreemen t with the China Light and Power Company and the oil terminal companie s to build a bridge t o their islan d installations, and policies t o approve th e change of land use from shipyards, sugar refineries and warehouses which lined th e waterfront i n th e nineteent h centur y s o tha t th e great housin g estates o f today coul d be built . My colleagues an d assistant s i n th e Land s Branch an d al l who wer e involved in land and development share d th e excitement of contributin g to that great swirl of activity which hits the Hong Kong visitor as he walks along its downtown pavements. For me it was endlessly exciting, as I lay awake at night writing in my mind the phrases for the papers which would bring about th e successful completio n o f these great undertakings .

73

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8

A Visit to China in 1973: FIFA

M desir e to know more and t o understand better the complexity of / • Hon g Kong' s swirling, extraordinar y lif e ha d le d m e t o follo w /• a n opportunit y t o becom e involve d i n th e intricacie s o f th e /V worl d of soccer, its players, officials an d local and internationa l *m politics . Stud y o f th e languag e ha d als o le d m e int o histor y and a growing desire to delve more deeply, to discover China at first hand , to kno w mor e abou t th e grea t countr y t o ou r north . I never fel t tha t w e had 'gone native' as the whispered word has it, but perhaps that' s how we looked to those who had not had the opportunities for the deep immersion which work i n th e New Territories involve d We share d thi s curiosit y t o lear n more , i n a very smal l way , an d o f course muc h later , wit h thos e impulse s whic h le d Mildre d Cabl e an d Francesca French across the Gobi Desert, and Isabella Bird, the widow of a country parson, t o travel alone in 189 4 on a five-plank wu ban throug h the 'Yangtz e Valley and Beyond' . I n 197 3 there occurre d a n unusua l an d unexpected opportunity for us to visit the virtually closed world of China. The Hon g Kon g Footbal l Associatio n ha d fou r vic e presidents: tw o Chinese, one European, and as a legacy of the time when the Forces played a prominent rol e in th e sporting life of the colony, a representative o f th e Armed Services. I was elected European vice president and, in 1973 , was asked by the president, Henry Fok Ying-tung, who was later to become a Deputy t o the National People's Congress, whether we would like to visit China. Sinc e th e en d o f th e civi l wa r i n 194 9 an d th e creatio n o f th e

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Feeling the Stones

People's Republic , i t wa s unhear d o f fo r anyon e fro m th e Hon g Kon g government t o visit China . Chin a was a closed world. This was a uniqu e opportunity. Th e invitatio n wa s discusse d wit h Si r Murra y MacLehos e who, rathe r t o m y surprise , gav e u s permissio n provide d w e fle w fro m London. T o cross th e border fro m Hon g Kon g would hav e give n ris e t o unwelcome speculatio n abou t th e reasons fo r ou r visit . The fever and pitched battles of the Cultura l Revolution had entere d a les s violen t stage . I n 197 1 Chin a wa s admitte d an d Taiwa n expelle d from th e United Nations. A team of ping-pong players from th e USA had played thei r histori c game s i n Beijin g an d i n 197 2 Presiden t Nixo n an d Secretary o f Stat e Kissinge r ha d visite d Chin a an d signe d th e Shangha i communique restorin g thei r fracture d relations . Som e worl d sport s organisations ha d alread y recognised Chin a an d relegate d Taiwa n t o th e status o f Chin a Taiwa n o r Chines e Taipei . Bu t th e Federatio n o f International Footbal l Associations , FIFA , t o whic h th e Hon g Kon g association belonged , ha d expelle d th e representativ e o f th e People' s Republic in the 1950 s and eve r since had maintained th e membership o f the former 'Republi c of China' representative fro m Taiwan . It was absurd that th e national team s o f China — a t that time representing a quarter o f mankind — mor e tha n twent y year s afte r th e foundin g o f th e People' s Republic coul d no t pla y socce r outsid e China . I t wa s agains t thi s background tha t I was invited t o Beijing . On a cold, wintry day in 1973 Jane and I went nervously to the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place, London. We were nervous because Hong Kong had not long before bee n throug h th e traumatic experience s o f 1967 . No one i n th e Hon g Kon g governmen t ha d bee n permitte d t o ventur e int o China an d ther e wa s n o communicatio n betwee n Hon g Kon g senio r government officials and their counterparts. China had been a closed world for ove r twenty years, and we were now about t o talk to Chinese official s and t o visit China when onl y a few years before, i n an attempt t o humbl e the British administration, riots had rocked Hong Kong. Our reception a t the Embassy t o apply for visas was impersonal, but i n a week o r two , we were given visas t o arrive in Chin a o n 1 3 February 1973 . 76

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A Visit to China in 1973 We went by a strange route, flying from Paris to Cairo, then Rangoon , and o n t o Shanghai . W e wer e alon e an d abou t t o ente r a n unfamilia r world, mad e fearful , too , b y th e dir e pronouncement s o n th e custom s declaration form s o n th e penaltie s fo r no t bein g abl e t o giv e a n exac t account o f mone y spen t i n Chin a o r fo r no t ensurin g tha t we left Chin a with everything with which we had entered. Jewellery had to be itemise d on th e declaration for m earrin g by earring . The plane from Rangoon to Shanghai was almost empty; nobody spoke to us . We were leavin g on e worl d fo r another . Arrivin g i n Shanghai , w e queued for immigration i n the dimly lit hall among men swathed agains t the col d i n grey , blue an d gree n padde d overcoat s an d sof t caps . Swiftl y we wer e ushere d ou t o f th e lin e o f waitin g passenger s an d ou r worrie s were over. 'No need t o fill in forms, you are our guests!' There were a few hours t o wait, spent talkin g idly with th e help of an interpreter speakin g the commo n languag e o f mainlan d China , Putonghua , rathe r tha n Cantonese, to a representative o f the All China Sports Federation and th e head of Shanghai football. Then we walked across the tarmac in light rain to the four-engined propello r plane to Beijing, filled with men in blue and green rankless uniforms , fla t cap s or fur cap s with ea r flaps, and friendl y faces. Tw o hours later , a s we approache d Beijing , the y pointed ou t t o u s in th e dus k th e patche s o f snow an d wintr y farmland . A t the foo t o f th e steps w e wer e greete d b y a smilin g Secretar y Genera l Sun g Zhon g an d other official s o f the All China Sport s Federation, amon g the m M r Da i n cloth ca p and huge padded coa t and young, thin Mr Liu, who were t o be our companion s fo r th e next tw o weeks. We drank glasses of tea and chatte d in the dim light of the VIP roo m and wer e quickl y drive n of f i n blac k limousine s wit h smoke d glas s windows alon g darkene d street s an d pas t patche s o f pile d snow , bar e branches, ghostly figures o n lightless bicycles and a few cars. The Pekin g Hotel, with it s hug e banquetin g halls , high-ceilinge d room s an d empt y corridors, was old , comfortable an d warm. We had a suite of rooms, an d scarcely ha d tim e t o wash afte r ou r lon g journey befor e dinne r wit h a n official. H e asked u s what we wanted t o do while in China . I said I left i t

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Feeling the Stones

to him, and he replied, with an old-fashioned look , that he knew what we wanted an d the n reele d of f th e thing s w e woul d d o an d th e place s w e would visit on our thirteen-day journey. These were the cities which hav e become so familiar t o the millions who now visit China, but during thos e wintry day s we were strangers fro m anothe r world amon g th e crowds of local Chinese . We drov e t o th e forme r Imperia l Palace , th e Forbidden City . Froze n snow la y i n th e shadows , an d th e courtyard s thronge d wit h peopl e i n blue padde d winte r coats , gre y an d gree n uniforms , fu r caps , re d stars , and rudd y pin k faces . Thi s wa s a pattern w e wer e t o se e everywher e i n China. Whatever th e time and no matter what the weather and day of th e week, there would be crowds of sightseers looking at pagodas, museums, gardens, and temples, and filling the markets. Here already was a differen t China fro m tha t create d b y th e media . I t was a strange paradox . O n th e one hand a people, unregimented, walking freely about , warmly clothed , enjoying thei r leisure time, and on the other, a people in the throes of one of th e grea t upheaval s i n moder n times , involvin g a natio n o f nearl y a billion — th e Cultura l Revolution . We were standin g a t last in th e impressive centr e o f a great countr y the scen e o f s o man y confrontation s betwee n th e Middl e Kingdo m an d the West . W e stoo d spellboun d a t th e vastnes s o f th e squar e i n fron t o f the towering crimson walls of Tiananmen, its great doors closing the tunnel leading to the palace. We walked slowly through and entered the spacious courtyards leading from on e palace hall to another, their yellow tiled roof s all clothe d i n a wintry haze . We were silent before majesti c raise d halls , blue, red and gold, with their carved balustrades and white marble dragoncarved panel s leadin g u p t o eac h ne w platform , an d wit h thei r bronz e lion dogs, phoenix incense burners, red pillars and decorated ceilings; we marvelled a t treasure s o f jade, gol d an d ivory , amon g the m a recentl y discovered buria l sui t o f small jade tiles . For tw o day s we visited stadia an d trainin g facilities . We saw youn g athletes strengthening thei r muscles by dragging their feet through sand , and suppl e chil d gymnast s spinnin g string s o f somersaults . W e als o 78

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A Visit to China in 1973

watched a ping-pong tournamen t betwee n Cub a an d China , an d joine d the Cuban s to watch th e film The Red Detachment of Women. We visited a craft factor y producing ivory objects, cloisonne, stone carvings, and ricepaste figures , an d where the y carried ou t eggshel l painting an d paintin g the insid e o f snuf f bottles . W e watche d a n elderl y ma n carvin g a jad e bowl, wh o carefull y unwrappe d th e bindings aroun d th e handles fo r u s to se e th e ful l beaut y o f hi s workmanship . Ther e wer e dinner s an d speeches, sweet rose wine and thimbles of strong white spirit. 'Friendshi p first and competition second' — an unlikely thought which always brought a disbelievin g smil e t o face s roun d th e tabl e — wa s th e sayin g the n i n vogue, an d i t provided a useful toas t a s Chin a pursue d he r wa y t o bac k into th e world o f international competition . On Friday , 1 6 February 197 3 we woke earl y fo r a visit t o Tsing Hu a University. I had earlier asked to visit a university during this revolutionary period in order to catch a glimpse of another side of China's life. Parties of workers wer e shovellin g u p sno w o n th e stree t a s w e drov e alon g th e bumpy roads to the almost deserted great buildings of the broad campus . We wer e met , i n thei r blue , buttoned-u p jackets , b y member s o f th e Revolutionary Committee of the University and some teachers. A professor explained that there had been ten thousand students who had all graduated during th e earl y part o f the Cultura l Revolution , but the n th e universit y had closed . I t had no w opene d agai n with a planned studen t enrolmen t of fou r thousand . The y wer e tryin g t o evolv e a ne w approach , a combination o f wor k an d study , an d t o absor b student s wh o ha d bee n selected fro m al l over th e countr y b y revolutionary committee s fo r bot h their revolutionar y zea l an d thei r academi c prowess . I t was har d t o tell , but on our walks around th e classrooms there seemed little evidence tha t this approach was working. The library was poorly supplied with books , but ther e wer e othe r importan t hopefu l auguries : i n on e roo m packin g cases marke d th e firs t deliver y o f a gif t o f computers ! W e drov e away , waving t o ou r forlor n host s o n th e steps , saddene d b y th e waste d interruption o f the Cultura l Revolution . The Summe r Palac e wa s shadow y i n a cold, grey , winter mist , wit h

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the Stones

lingering sno w pile d aroun d th e root s o f ancien t gnarle d cypresse s an d the tal l temple roofs los t in cloud. Thic k ic e covered Kunmin g Lak e an d embraced th e charmin g necklac e o f hooped bridge s linkin g th e islands . Weather mad e no difference t o the hundreds o f visitors who were takin g photos, laughin g an d leanin g agains t th e bronz e drago n an d phoenix , sliding o r takin g a short cu t across th e frost-covered ice , and th e soldier s from th e People' s Liberatio n Army , i n thei r brigh t olive-gree n uniform s and re d star caps , enjoying a day's leave. It was here that th e Empress Dowager, with her retinue, enjoyed he r summers in rooms of intricately carved furniture, cupboard s with drago n doors, an d porcelai n an d jade ornaments , an d looke d ou t a t courtyards , pavilions, an d ornatel y painted , meanderin g verandahs . An d facin g he r across the lake was her insolent whim, constructed using money intende d for th e Navy , a white marbl e cop y o f a Mississippi paddle steamer ! There wa s seriou s tal k a t dinne r i n th e evenin g whe n official s fro m the All Chin a Sport s Federatio n se t ou t China' s position o n th e questio n of China' s membershi p o f FIFA . I t was suggeste d tha t Si r Stanle y Rous , the the n chairman , nee d not conside r himsel f boun d b y decisions take n many year s previously . I said I though t China' s membershi p shoul d b e put t o th e vot e a t FIFA s annua l meeting ; an d s o i t was, tim e an d again , but only after several years of debate and obstructive politicking was China able t o resume her place in th e world body . In th e nigh t th e wind ha d blow n th e cloud s awa y and th e hug e re d flags o n Tiananmen swirle d against an intensely blue sky. We were take n through the vast spaces of the Great Hall of the People where the architect lived o n sit e in 195 8 and complete d th e building in less than a year. Th e meeting hall holds seven thousand people, with no pillars to obstruct th e view of the stage. Banquets for over a thousand are held there, and meetings take place in palatial provincial rooms where Hong Kong, after it s retur n to China , wa s t o hav e it s own place . Thi s great building wa s a dramati c reminder o f the immensity o f Chin a an d its huge population . There was no time to linger. We were quickly driven away in our grey saloon throug h street s line d wit h th e dust y lo w roof s o f th e hutung

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A Visit to China in 1973

courtyard houses , villages within th e cit y whose ancien t wal l was bein g demolished and history disregarded to make a convenient route for a ring road. We drove o n throug h winter farmland , pas t vineyards and field s o f winter wheat and on up a narrow road winding through rocky hills to th e Great Wall. A biting wind blew fro m th e bleak, desolat e land an d snow rimmed mountains to the north. On the wall soldiers, sailors and families , their faces raw with col d as they struggled up th e slopes, were as pleased as we were to realise an ambition shared by all Chinese — to stand at last upon th e Grea t Wall , guarde d throug h centurie s o f bitte r weathe r b y garrisons drive n b y th e unimaginabl e terro r o f tribe s t o th e north . O f a visit t o th e wall , D r Johnso n ha d reputedl y said : 'Yo u woul d d o wha t would be of importance in raising your children to eminence. There would be a lustre reflected o n the m fo r your spiri t and curiosity . The y would a t all time s b e regarde d a s th e childre n o f a man wh o ha d gon e t o se e th e Great Wall of China . I am serious, Sir.' We returned t o the plain to the tombs where, secure in a valley below the protecting wall and at the end of a broad avenue, great marble statue s of elephants , camels , mythica l beasts , courtier s an d warrior s line d th e route o f th e solem n corteg e a s i t passe d t o th e las t restin g plac e o f th e emperors o f Ming . There , se t amon g cypresse s an d surrounde d b y mountains, the emperor was buried in a great hall deep in the earth dow n flights o f stee p steps . Th e whit e marbl e slab s o f th e barre l roo f fitte d smoothly withou t a chin k between , an d a marble thron e wit h a drago n carved lazily along its back stood behind the great doors across which th e last servant to enter had dropped th e bar, closing the tomb as the burnin g incense slowl y extinguishe d an d th e candle s flickere d ou t t o thei r lon g night. We returned t o the sunlight from thi s secret place and were show n the gol d vessels , head-dres s an d othe r ornament s whic h wer e mean t t o accompany th e emperor throug h eternity . We ha d enjoye d ou r fe w day s i n Beijin g an d wer e sa d t o leav e th e long, haz y corridor s o f th e Pekin g Hote l fo r th e trai n rid e t o th e south . Secretary Genera l Sun g Zhon g an d hi s colleague s wer e waitin g i n th e gloom o n th e col d platfor m wit h a moving farewel l an d a n invitatio n t o

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Feeling the Stones

come again . Littl e di d we kno w ho w ofte n i n th e years ahea d w e woul d find ourselve s once more in Beijing, watching it develop from quiet , dar k streets and sombre uniforms t o the bright lights and mammoth building s of the en d o f the century . That evening , befor e w e climbe d int o ou r bunk s o n th e train , w e passed a delightful hou r introducing Liu, our interpreter, t o the pleasures of Scrabble. We slept, woken briefly by the long whistle of passing trains , and i n th e mornin g w e wer e movin g throug h fla t farmland . Droopin g willows bordere d irrigatio n stream s an d eve n th e railwa y embankmen t was planted with cabbages; every inch was cultivated around th e villages of mud bric k roofe d wit h ric e straw. Peasant s acros s th e vast expans e o f this agricultura l plai n wer e levelling , weedin g an d ditching , o r pullin g rubber-tyred carts , working untiring and silent. We steamed on for hour s without change, until approaching Nanjing we rose on to the great viaduct leading t o th e bridge acros s the broad, brown water s o f the Yangtze. Plane tree s lin e th e street s o f mos t Chines e cities . I n summe r the y create a tunnel o f green shade ; in winter i n Nanjing, thei r bare branche s were latticed together over our heads along streets of shops and workshops. So conditioned wer e we by pictures o f a regimented communis t societ y that we had not expecte d t o see shoppers and such busy streets. We were lodged in what seemed to be a former missionary's compoun d with spaciou s house s scattere d amon g magnolia s an d droopin g pines . We drov e i n slantin g rai n t o Zhon g Sha n Ling , th e tom b o f D r Su n Ya t Sen. High i n quiet woods, reached alon g a broad slopin g avenu e broke n by steppe d terrace s an d line d b y prayerfu l deodars , stoo d th e grea t mausoleum. It s dark blue tiles were outlined agains t th e grey sky; abov e were wheeling hawks, below, bright yellow oilskin umbrellas and cheek s reddened b y rain drive n o n th e wind . Early next morning we drove again to the bridge and past the sentr y with his drawn, thin-bladed, shining bayonet who guarded thi s vital lin k between nort h an d sout h China . Fa r below , steamers , barg e train s an d square-sailed junks moved on the brown flood, and above us towered th e steel girder s o f th e grea t bridge . W e stoo d i n th e raw , bitin g win d a s a train belching smoke an d stea m thundere d ponderousl y past . 82

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A Visit to China in 1973

When the Russians had withdrawn their support from Chin a in 195 2 they left th e bridge barely begun, unkindly takin g their plans with them . There were problems of finding the right steel and then building the bridge 35 metres deep into the water o f the fast-flowing river . We were told tha t at the peak fifty thousan d workers and volunteer students had come fro m the district s aroun d Nanjin g t o wor k o n th e bridge , usin g th e masse s when ther e were no machines to do the work. Below, in the entrance hal l of the bridge tower , ther e was a great white statue o f Chairman Ma o Tsetung, his hand lifte d i n salute, against a background o f rich red glass. Driving past towering , colourfu l poster s o f the Cultura l Revolution , of worker s o f al l nation s stridin g int o th e risin g sun , thei r determine d fists clenched , we arrived at a grimy vehicle works which ha d started lif e in th e far nort h a s an armaments factor y bu t which now , removed t o th e south, painstakingl y produce d a minuscul e thousan d lorrie s a year . Workers' wage s wer e n o mor e tha n 10 0 RM B (renminbe i o r 'people' s currency'), but foo d an d lodgin g were cheap , and althoug h cotto n clot h was rationed, there were ample supplies of woollen and synthetic materials. As livin g proo f o f this , bundle d u p agains t th e cold , Comrad e Da , ou r constant companion , wa s wearing no less than fou r layer s on his legs — two pairs of inner pants , one white and on e grey, a blue knitted pai r an d thick woollen trousers — while beneath his padded long coat there seemed to be no less than five more layers of jackets, pullovers and vests. Various layers eventually ha d t o be shed o n th e journey sout h t o Guangzhou , t o be stuffed temporaril y into a travel bag, as the climate became, for Mr Da, a northerner, uncomfortabl y warm . Our onwar d journe y too k u s t o Wux i i n a n unheate d diese l trai n which hoote d it s wa y throug h th e plai n borderin g th e river , it s sturdy , white-walled villag e house s se t i n field s o f winte r wheat . A crow d o f bystanders watche d curiousl y a s we loade d ourselve s int o th e gre y 'Re d Flag' saloons and then drove beeping our way through the narrow streets, lined wit h th e blotche d gre y trunk s o f plan e trees . Th e streets , almos t empty of cars, were crowded with people walking, cycling, pushing lade n carts and packe d int o buses.

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the Stones

The patter n o f th e nex t fe w day s a t Suzho u an d Hangzho u wa s th e same: streets, parks, monuments an d ornamenta l gardens , all filled wit h people. Busy farmland an d tea plantations and temples which had survived the first fierce onslaught of the Cultural Revolution were once again fille d with curiou s visitors . Everywher e w e were me t b y official s fro m th e Al l China Sports Federation, everywhere we were banqueted. There was much to learn. We watched grea t bags of silk cocoon s tippe d int o ho t wate r t o loosen the glue binding the threads together and saw the careful unwindin g of th e thi n filaments . W e sa w youn g girl s carvin g sandalwoo d fan s an d making exquisit e small , painte d figure s fro m blac k clay . At th e Suzho u Embroidery Institut e w e looke d i n aw e a s th e girl s stitche d gossame r threads o f coloure d sil k t o bring t o lif e exquisit e picture s o n fin e gauz e which coul d b e viewed equall y well from eithe r side . In Guangzhou , neare r t o home , th e peopl e wer e les s relaxed , les s content, awar e o f th e contras t betwee n thei r live s an d th e live s o f thei r kinsmen i n Hong Kong. We said farewel l t o Da, left ou r Scrabbl e behin d for young Liu and boarded the train for the border. It was a strange feelin g to approach Hon g Kon g from th e othe r side , north o f the border, an d t o pass the small office in which in 1967 1 had spent so many anxious hours. We were at the end of a journey which had taken us out of one world int o another, a world behin d th e Bamboo Curtai n abou t whic h s o muc h ha d been written an d spoken . We had see n th e crowded cities , the parks an d the countryside, not arranged for our benefit and different fro m the picture painted b y th e medi a o f a dour , surl y an d regimente d people . Bu t w e could not forge t th e other , different, pictur e o f those who were spendin g wasted years in bitter condition s an d harsh toil , exiled far fro m hom e b y the turmoi l o f the Cultura l Revolution . All travellers to strange and exciting places have shared the experience of returning hom e t o a casual enquiry , an d before yo u ca n get the word s out o f you r mouth , th e conversatio n switche s t o familia r topic s and , disappointed wit h th e lac k o f interest, yo u ar e left wit h you r memories . The memory o f that first journey in Chin a is with us still. It removed ou r apprehensions o f thi s strange an d generall y unfamilia r world . Althoug h

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A Visit to China in 1973

the reason fo r th e visit ha d bee n China' s ambitio n t o regain he r plac e i n the worl d governin g bod y o f football , FIF A (an d I ha d no w a bette r understanding o f her position), we had ha d a n opportunit y t o see Chin a at first hand, many years before her decision to modernise and open up t o winds from around the world. The knowledge we gained stood us in good stead i n th e years ahead , whe n Chin a wa s mentioned b y thos e wh o ha d not set foot in it. As for football, i t was the first o f many visits around th e world t o fin d a solution t o China' s entry . I have include d a n accoun t o f this long-drawn-ou t affai r fo r i t reveal s a little-known aspec t o f China' s growing relations with the wider world and the international community . My ow n vie w o n th e questio n o f th e clai m o f th e People' s Republi c t o represent Chin a o n the world body of football wa s no different fro m tha t of the United Nations which had voted Chin a in in 1971 . On this issue in the years that followed, sometime s as a delegate to FIFA and t o the Asian Football Confederation , I naturally gav e my support t o China . In every way it had been an extraordinary visit. The United Kingdo m had been on e of the first countrie s t o recognise the new regime in Chin a following th e defea t o f th e KM T force s an d thei r retrea t t o Taiwa n i n 1949. The famous games of ping-pong had been played, and it was amusing to rea d tha t th e new s bulletin s distribute d t o hote l guest s reporte d ou r visit to Beijing in the same breath as they noted the visit of Henry Kissinger to Hong Kong . Alone amon g my colleague s in th e government , an d because o f thi s involvement i n th e mysteries o f th e world o f football, I had bee n abl e t o visit Beijin g an d tal k wit h th e Chines e Ministe r fo r Sport . I t woul d b e another fiv e year s befor e th e Governo r himsel f woul d visi t Beijing . M y visit marke d anothe r phas e i n th e mouldin g o f my approac h t o matter s involving Chin a an d thei r resolution . I t wa s anothe r ste p i n th e lon g journey which had firs t brought me to the Far East, to learn Chinese an d to read extensively about China's history, particularly its last two hundre d years. In 196 7 I had als o com e face t o face with th e fierce rhetoric o f th e Cultural Revolution , an d al l wh o worke d i n th e Ne w Territorie s wer e exposed ever y day to discussion with thei r parishioners an d ofte n ha d t o

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Feeling the Stones

fight thei r corner and sometimes to explain a different poin t of view fro m higher authority . Thes e experiences , cultura l an d administrative , wer e gradually shapin g m e fo r th e more momentou s decision s which were t o follow.

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9

China and FIFA: The End of Waiting

[ n the seventies, soccer was still the principal spectator sport in Hong Kong and key matches would attrac t many thousand s o n their day s off. Whe n ther e wa s tim e I joined th e crowd s i n th e stand s o n Boundary Street . I t gav e m e a n opportunit y t o lear n abou t anothe r / part o f Hong Kong life. This link with footbal l ha d led t o my visit t o China, an d i n m y rol e a s vic e presiden t o f th e Hon g Kon g Footbal l Association 1 became a delegat e t o th e Congres s o f th e Federatio n o f International Footbal l Associations, FIFA, where th e question o f China' s entry was voted upon . In June 197 4 the Congres s was held in th e fairgrounds o f Frankfurt , a vas t comple x o f building s wher e Frankfur t ha s bee n stagin g fair s fo r hundreds o f years . Ther e wer e abou t fou r hundre d delegate s o f who m 122 were voting members . Ther e was little excitemen t unti l th e motio n proposing th e admissio n o f Chin a wa s introduced ; the n delegat e afte r delegate, speakin g wit h grea t emotio n an d rhetoric , supporte d China' s admission. Kuwai t propose d th e motio n an d Iran , Pakistan , Jamaica , Ethiopia, an d Saud i Arabia supporte d it . Th e Swis s delegat e the n spok e solemnly and effectively, remindin g th e voters that if they voted t o admi t China b y a simpl e majorit y contrar y t o th e constitutio n o f FIFA , the y would be guilty o f misconduct . After al l th e polemic s an d th e passio n ther e wa s a wrangl e a s t o whether th e vote required a three-quarters o r simple majority. Th e resul t turned on this constitutional issue. In such a large assembly it was almost

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the Stones

impossible to secure the necessary three-quarters majority and the People's Republic o f Chin a los t by about te n votes. There was the n a vote fo r th e presidency an d Si r Stanley Rous , wh o my note s recor d ha d alienate d th e Sovie t bloc b y hi s suppor t fo r Chile , and th e pro-Chin a grou p b y hi s inflexibilit y o n th e Chin a issue , wa s defeated b y the Argentine candidat e Raou l Havelange, who the n began a reign which wa s to last for mor e tha n twent y years. Later tha t yea r th e issu e wa s debate d a t th e Asia n Footbal l Confederation i n Teheran. I was one of two delegates to the meeting fro m Hong Kong, and because of the interest then current in the Sallang Tunnel which wa s being constructe d b y Russia throug h th e Pamirs , we decide d to travel via Delhi and Afghanistan befor e flying on to Teheran. We looked with aw e a t th e jagged mountain s surroundin g Kabul , befor e motorin g down t o the narrowing defile o f the Khyber Pass, scene of one of Britain's major militar y defeats , an d u p th e narro w windin g roa d t o th e newl y opened tunne l whic h wa s t o pla y suc h a n importan t rol e i n th e late r invasion b y Russia . No w a s I write, afte r th e destructio n o f th e Worl d Trade Centr e i n Ne w York and th e need t o delive r Afghanista n fro m th e grip o f th e Taliba n an d A l Qaeda , I remember thos e jagged mountain s and hostil e country, th e poor villages of stone and mud , th e turbans an d loose cloths , th e donkey s an d bicycle s an d th e thronge d bazaar . Afghanistan, wit h its long history of invasion and conquest, a melting pot of races and religions , is once again emerging from turmoil . At the meeting in Teheran, China' s entry t o the Asian Confederatio n was no t o n th e agenda , bu t b y a simple majorit y vot e i t wa s decide d t o add it as an emergenc y item . Th e majority o f Asian delegates the n vote d to admi t th e People' s Republi c t o membershi p o f th e Asia n Footbal l Confederation, t o tak e th e plac e o f Taiwan . Asi a ha d defie d th e international body , an d thi s the n resulte d i n a stand-off , wit h FIF A threatening t o expe l Asi a fro m th e worl d body . Th e Asia n Footbal l Federation stoo d firm , an d fo r th e international federatio n i t proved to o big a step to expel the whole of Asia from th e world body so the stalemate lasted for several years. The FIFA Congress met in Montreal at the start of

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China and FIFA: The Fnd of Waiting

the Montrea l Olympic s wit h n o resolution , an d agai n i n Bueno s Aire s before th e World Cu p in 1978 . In Buenos Aires a different approac h was employed. A resolution was proposed that it was more appropriate for the People's Republic to represent China in accordance with the FIFA statute of one country, one association. But that was too simple. The meeting began early, and there were nineteen speeches on the China question. Finally the amended resolutio n was pu t to th e vote an d passed. Th e Chairman , t o everyone's astonishment , the n said it should be put to a later Congress to decide. There was uproar, crie s of 'No' , an d consternatio n fro m th e floor . A n adjournmen t wa s calle d lasting a n hour . Th e officer s returne d t o th e platfor m t o announc e tha t the Executiv e woul d conside r th e situatio n an d cal l a n Extraordinar y Congress i n a year o r tw o t o decide! Four years had passed since the question had been raised in Frankfurt . Asia, controversially, had shown the way. Gradually the climate of opinion changed, som e diehard s departe d th e scene an d mor e countrie s cam e t o see that whatever th e legal arguments fo r denyin g Chin a membership , i t was illogical and absurd to keep China out of the international body. Finally a way had been found based on the one country on e association principle. After ou r meeting in Buenos Aires we were driven to the stadium fo r the openin g o f th e World Cu p throug h a parkland o f wintry tree s line d with statues. After the obligatory rhythmic display, the flags, stars, balloons and bands, the fine words of sport and friendship, and the grand occasion , the openin g matc h betwee n Wes t German y an d Polan d wa s a wretche d affair, th e players leaving the pitch t o jeers fro m th e packed stadium . We left Argentin a b y way o f Bolivia an d Peru . Descendin g b y plan e between snow peaks we landed, light-headed, at La Paz high in the Andes, and entere d a world o f people with mahogany complexion s an d aquilin e noses, th e women wit h laye r o n laye r o f skirts, bowler hat s an d shawls . At dawn , w e drov e alon g a ston y roa d throug h th e russe t sunrise , hal f way t o heaven , t o th e shor e o f Lak e Titicac a an d the n acros s th e lake , stopping by a sparkling stream amids t mud-walle d villages , tiny patche s of golde n barle y o n th e hil l slope s an d browsin g donkeys , alpac a an d 89

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Feeling the Stones

llama. O n th e lake , unperturbed flock s o f flamingo, bittern , wader s an d herons searched amon g th e reeds. A boat from antiquity , woven of reeds, paddled slowl y pas t an d countr y peopl e wit h weather-beate n face s an d voluminous skirt s adde d a touch o f blue and red t o the golden land . Our trai n fro m Pun o climbe d slowl y awa y fro m th e lak e throug h a valley of yellow tufty grass, dry stubble and occasional fields of late, eared barley. Range upon rang e of hills reached into the sky, some so high the y were dusted with snow. At 14,000 feet, we reached the pass of the highest railway i n th e world . The n w e coaste d lon g hour s dow n t o Cuzco , th e golden grass giving way to willows, eucalypts and poplars backed by steep black, re d an d gol d hills and patches o f golden barle y From Cuzco in the cool morning a toy train switched back and forwar d until, having worked it s way to the top of the basin, we looked dow n o n the tin y brow n tile d roof s o f th e tow n nestlin g i n th e hill s an d beyon d them t o th e mountain snow . The valle y narrowed t o a gorge into whos e cliffs ancien t narro w trail s were cut. Everywhere were orchids, begonias, yellow daisies and bromeliads . From the station at Machu Picch u th e bus followed hairpin bends u p to the lost city in the skies on the crest of a precipice. We wandered amon g old terraces of cultivation and the great grey, perfectly fittin g stone blocks of temples, meeting places, prisons, sacrificial stones, and sundials, while all around us were the jagged purple and blue ranges of forested mountains . The spirits of an ancient people filled the air speaking their strange tongue. We were awestruck by their dedicated years of work, prayer and sacrific e and transporte d b y the magi c of Machu Picchu . It was an uplifting en d to a long journey and a disappointing meetin g in Buenos Aires, but ultimately the way had been found fo r Chin a to tak e her place in the world of international football. These accumulated effort s in the world of sport, over many years, finally culminate d i n the decisio n of the International Olympic Committee to grant the 2008 games to China, and th e admissio n o f th e Chines e Footbal l tea m t o th e Worl d Cu p competition i n Japan an d Sout h Kore a i n 2002 ; and no w ther e is even a representative from Hong Kong, Timothy Fok Chun-ting, on the Olympic Committee. 90

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10 Back to the Land

A hundre d years ago the markets and villages of the New Territories / • wer e linke d b y tracks , th e mor e importan t flagge d wit h grea t /• slab s o f granite , climbin g ove r th e mountains , throug h th e /• padd y fields and along the shoreline. There were no carriages, /• wagon s or carts — no vehicles — and therefore nothing which could tur n a car t trac k o r a bridl e pat h int o a road . T o mak e th e Ne w Territories more accessible, more governable, roads had to be pushed ou t along th e coast t o the west and, most important, t o the north ove r a pass in th e hills to Tai Po, which i n April 189 9 had resisted th e occupation o f ancestral land s b y th e invadin g Britis h troop s takin g ove r thei r ne w possession. Reports describe a force of a thousand armed men entrenche d in position s o n th e hills , whos e musket s faile d t o inflic t injur y o n th e British, who fired thei r cannons in reply. Bombs had exploded. There ha d been angr y riot s a t th e Ta i P o templ e an d a fusillad e o f brick s ha d descended o n negotiators, who scattere d into th e hills, where fro m thei r hiding plac e in th e scratchy undergrowth the y watched a hundred o r s o men bur n thei r flims y polic e pos t o f bamboo mats . Th e arriva l o f troo p reinforcements quelle d th e oppositio n who , i t was suspected , ha d bee n reinforced b y Triad s an d hoodlum s fro m acros s th e ne w borde r a t Shenzhen. Tai P o marke t stoo d a t th e en d o f a lon g inle t fro m th e se a whos e narrow mout h broadene d int o wide , calm water flanke d steepl y o n bot h sides by the grass slopes of rugged mountains, vivid green in summer an d

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Feeling the Stones

sunburned brow n i n winter , interrupte d her e an d ther e alon g th e watercourses b y th e vestigia l tree s o f primordia l forests , hom e o f wil d boar, barking deer, pangolin, snakes and civet cats. When the road reached Tai Po, engineers, looking for a source of material to create an embankmen t across th e mu d flats , slice d th e to p of f a smal l islan d tha t stoo d a t th e entrance t o th e town . This created a delightful an d breez y place t o buil d a house and a home for th e first Distric t Officer o f the new territory, with a breathtaking view down the channel to the sea. This house, Island House, was our hom e fro m 197 3 for th e next twelv e years. Tai Po at tha t tim e was a small countr y town . I t had recentl y grow n in siz e when row s o f apartments ha d bee n built alon g th e main stree t t o resettle villagers removed from the site of a new reservoir which was needed to keep pace with Hong Kong's continuing search for water. This reservoir was buil t b y dammin g gap s between island s an d the n pumpin g ou t th e seawater, but it had left land-locked villages, backed by steep mountains , without acces s t o th e ope n sea . Th e evacuee s wer e countr y people , bu t they fitte d int o th e measure d pac e o f lif e i n th e marke t town , an d fro m then o n Ta i Po began t o grow. The water a t th e Tai Po end o f the inlet was shallow, and a t low tid e shining mud flat s lay behind ou r house, from whic h we looked dow n o n the fishin g boa t anchorage . Th e hous e stoo d fou r square , whitewashed , verandahed, wit h a tiled black tarre d roof . Behind th e house wa s a tree lined stretch o f lawn and a great granite sugar-loaf boulder. I n the corne r of th e house , a light towe r provide d a not ver y serious attemp t t o guid e ships dow n th e channel . Hug e tree s covere d th e slopes : rosewood , camphor, lychee and shimmering, silver, thick-barked eucalypts. Around us o n thre e sides were th e peaks an d slopes o f high hills , and t o th e eas t the silve r sea . A narro w drivewa y linke d th e hous e t o Ta i P o an d th e outside world . I wen t t o Ta i P o a t th e star t o f th e MacLehos e ten-yea r housin g programme, firs t a s Distric t Commissioner , bu t withi n a fe w week s th e appointment wa s change d t o tha t o f Secretar y fo r th e Ne w Territories . The appointmen t a s Secretar y wa s anomalou s an d frowne d o n b y th e 92

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Back to

purists. I t di d no t fi t int o th e McKinse y patter n whic h separate d th e formulation o f polic y fro m it s execution , becaus e strictl y speakin g th e Secretary for the New Territories had both a policy input and a managerial and executive role. The job required a new authority, a Secretary, and th e target t o build housin g fo r s o many in such a short tim e required a mor e dynamic approach. Until then housing had been fitted into other priorities; now there was to be an intensive ten-year all-out effort to solve the question of poo r housin g onc e an d fo r all . Tenement s wer e t o b e relieve d o f overcrowding, squatter s wer e t o be remove d fro m hillsides , people wh o had live d fo r year s i n cramped , stifling , woode n huts , because the y ha d not lived in Hong Kong for long enough to qualify fo r a permanent home , were t o b e cleared , an d houses , huts , factories , an d anythin g gettin g i n the wa y o f developmen t remove d an d th e owner s resettled . Th e government se t asid e a separat e budget , create d a ne w engineerin g department an d appointe d projec t managers . I ha d th e jo b o f overal l coordination an d ha d t o ensur e tha t al l was kept i n balance an d that , i n the furious pac e o f development, huma n factor s wer e not forgotten . Our team was left t o get on with its work without interference. Ther e were occasiona l visit s fro m th e Governo r but , fo r th e mos t part , othe r high official s staye d away . We seeme d t o hav e mor e visit s fro m amaze d members o f the British Parliamen t tha n fro m ou r ow n government . On the way to Tai Po, land in the Sha tin valley fringed th e shores of a broad inlet. It lay hidden from Kowloon behind a barrier of thickly wooded mountains whose arms stretched ou t in sharp peaks and outcrops of grey granite, amon g whic h stoo d a grou p o f strangel y balance d rock s i n th e form o f a peasant woma n holdin g a child, know n a s Amah Rock . I n th e blue distanc e t o th e north , th e Pa t Si n (Eigh t Immortals ) rang e o f eigh t peaks close d th e view . A few centuries-ol d village s wer e dotte d aroun d the valley . I n on e corne r wer e whit e flowerin g tun g oi l tree s and o n th e valley floo r gre w a typ e o f ric e wit h shor t har d grain s formerl y sen t a s tribute to the emperor; and where the paddy fields ended, before reachin g the sea, were fishponds fattenin g gre y mullet an d carp . In th e earl y day s o f th e century , winding dow n th e valley alon g th e

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the Stones

edge of the water, the Kowloon to Canton railway had been pushed throug h the mountains and opened the valley to the city. Around the railway station a smal l hamle t o f shop s an d roas t pigeo n restaurant s ha d gathered . B y their side was a small disused airstrip. It was here on 1 8 March 191 1 tha t Charles Van den Born, having patiently waited for th e wind t o drop, firs t took Hong Kong into the age of air travel in his contraption of wood, wire and doped linen. Crowds , led by the Governor, had collected and specia l trains packed wit h spectator s waite d o n th e tracks , but afte r a long wai t in the cold afternoon, al l departed. They were too impatient, for th e wind dropped and, watched by the remaining faithful enthusiasts , the aeroplane puttered it s wa y int o th e ai r an d circle d th e airstrip . ( A replic a o f thi s Farnam biplan e no w hang s i n th e ne w ai r termina l a t Che k La p Kok , opened i n July 1997. ) We began building th e new tow n a t Shatin i n 1974 . Now, at the en d of the century, its population ha s long since passed th e half million mar k and eac h ne w extensio n seem s t o poin t t o opportunitie s fo r furthe r expansion t o meet a never satisfied demand . Bulldozers stepped the lower slopes o f th e hills into broa d platforms , an d a constant strea m o f orang e dump truck s wound dow n th e hillsides and carried the spoil to fill in th e sea, avoidin g th e village s bu t reclaimin g th e vegetabl e fields , th e padd y and the fishponds. The new town literally rose out of the water — housin g blocks twent y t o thirt y storey s high , markets , schools , polic e an d fir e stations, playgrounds an d parks . Ther e was eve n space , by fillin g i n th e sea, t o build a new racecourse , a big brother t o th e racecourse i n Happ y Valley on the island of Hong Kong, with stands for seventy thousand, an d in th e centr e o f the trac k was created a landscaped park . In th e mid-seventie s th e increas e i n oi l price s cause d a di p i n th e economy and threatene d t o slow down work of reclamation. T o meet th e challenge th e se a itsel f wa s sol d t o developer s t o fil l i n an d buil d thei r own small town. The railway was electrified an d th e right to build in th e air over the sidings and the stations was sold, to become soaring residential blocks t o hel p pa y fo r th e railwa y Afte r week s o f negotiatio n th e ol d huddle o f tin-shed shops at the centre of the settlement was demolished .

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Back to

In its place a concert hal l and a new shoppin g centr e were built lookin g out ove r th e par k an d th e rive r channel . Som e year s later , whil e actin g Governor, i t was a great delight t o me t o plant a banyan tre e and t o ope n the hall for it s first concer t with Si r Neville Mariner an d th e orchestra o f St Marti n i n th e Fields . All thi s ha d bee n don e i n les s tha n te n years ; where the only music then heard was the clash of cymbals and the urgen t drumbeat o f a lio n dance , no w wa s th e sophisticatio n o f a n orchestra l concert. This pattern was followed a t six new towns. Each had its engineerin g and planning team, and each had its District Officer t o safeguard th e public interest and to negotiate the safe removal and clearance of tens of thousands of people, mostly fro m flims y shack s into a safe have n o f concrete an d a home high in the air. It never ceases to astonish how different experienc e in Hong Kong has been from citie s of the West. Families from th e villages and farmland s o f the mainland, wh o ha d settle d i n huts o n th e land an d hillsides o f Hon g Kong , move d int o multi-storeylan d wit h non e o f th e fuss an d failur e o f hig h ris e home s elsewhere . Havin g faile d a s a socia l experiment, high rise blocks are being demolished elsewhere, while Hong Kong builds higher and higher. Part of the reason for this different attitud e lies in Hong Kong's much criticise d high density. Our high homes are not surrounded b y vacan t parkland . Ou t o f th e windo w othe r housewive s can be seen going to market, children going to school and elderly residents watching th e fis h i n water gardens . There is always something t o see. Our pla n a t firs t wa s t o buil d town s whic h ha d bot h home s an d factories s o that residents did not have to spend hours on crowded buse s getting to work in another town . Our carefu l plan s were frustrated a t th e end of the seventies as China's economic reforms cause d the migration of industry to China where labour costs were cheaper. Hong Kong's economy changed t o serv e th e finance , investment , hote l an d touris t industrie s and as employment shifted awa y from th e new towns to downtown Hon g Kong and Kowloon, priorities shifted t o the building of roads and railways for commuters . At the end o f twelve exciting and dramatic years we had reached ou r

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Feeling the Stones

target. We had buil t home s fo r 1. 5 millio n people , but sadl y we had no t solved th e housin g problem . Illega l immigratio n fro m th e swellin g population of southern China and natural growth had caused Hong Kong's population t o run ahea d of our aspirations. So it seems that at the end of every te n years ther e is a new beginning, ne w promises an d a new effor t to solve the housing shortage, new targets to be set and the pursuit o f th e will o' the wisp when everyon e i n Hon g Kon g will be happily housed .

96

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11

Breaking Down the Fences

Mh

e river selecte d b y the Colonia l Secretary , Stewart Lockhart , i n

m 189

8 t o mar k th e limi t o f Britain' s 'ne w territory ' intrusio n int o

• Chin

a starts as a stream in the mountains a t the eastern en d o f th e

M boundar y I n 197 6 its upper ston y course meandered dow n past a n • abandone d lea d mine and throug h paddy fields an d quiet grey-bric k villages unti l i t reache d th e se a i n th e west. I t passed unde r th e rustin g iron girders o f a Bailey bridge, so calle d after it s inventor, designe d t o b e thrown quickl y acros s river s fo r advancin g armies , but no w ove r whic h barrows o f vegetables were daily wheeled an d pigs and cattl e transferre d on their journey from th e distant interior of China to the markets of Hong Kong. It wa s ove r thi s crossin g a t Ma n Ka m T o tha t a Publi c Work s Department steamrolle r mus t hav e foun d it s way into Chin a durin g th e occupation b y th e Japanese. I n my office wa s a file containin g on e shee t of paper recounting how a team went to bring back the steamroller a t th e end o f th e war . I t recorded a solemn discussio n abou t th e retur n o f thi s renegade roller, which too k place over cups of tea, seated under a tree in one of the villages in neighbouring China. How I wish that all our problems could be solved in such a gentlemanly fashion ! At th e Baile y bridg e crossing , th e wate r slowe d t o wher e th e tid e from th e bay to the west twice daily pushed back its muddy brown waters. Downstream th e rive r widened , twisted , an d turne d betwee n th e hig h banks of fishponds fashione d ou t of the flood plain, and then crept slowly

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Feeling the Stones

over wid e flat s o f glistenin g mu d whic h a t lo w tid e line d Dee p Bay , s o called because i t marked a deep indentation i n th e coas t of China . Oyster bed s lin e bot h side s o f th e bay , fo r whic h lease s ha d bee n issued by th e Hong Kon g government, an d farmer s traditionall y crosse d from villages on the mainland side to tend the beds. The leases had expire d and in the troubled times of the Cultural Revolution the ownership of the beds was a source o f friction an d disput e a s to th e legalit y o f incursion s by mainlan d worker s int o Hon g Kon g waters . Th e bed s yiel d a plum p monster oyste r to o risky , becaus e o f pollution , t o b e eate n ra w bu t succulent frie d i n batter o r threaded o n a string t o be dried, like washin g hanging on a line, for later consumption. Oyste r farmers faste n a wooden handlebar t o a plan k an d us e thi s t o thrus t themselve s t o thei r oyster encrusted rock s ove r th e squelch y mud . O n th e mudflats , wate r bird s flock in their thousands to feast on fiddler crabs, mud skippers and shrimps stranded b y the receding tide . Lining th e shore , tal l gree n mangrov e thicket s concea l a fring e o f tidal fishponds. A daily deposit o f mud ove r centuries has left inlan d th e original shore which, as the sea retreated, was then fringed by paddy field s growing a strain o f rice which would gro w in brackish water onc e a year when th e rains came . Beyond th e paddy field s ar e fishponds wher e gre y mullet fr y gathered fro m th e bay are fattened o n a diet of droppings fro m the pigs an d duck s kep t i n shed s built ove r th e ponds . Finally , betwee n the fishpond s an d th e fores t o f evergree n mangrove s whic h lin e th e ba y there are tidal ponds whose sluice gates are opened t o let in the floodin g tide with its cargo of unsuspecting crabs and prawns who swim and fatte n in the pond. They are netted in the mouth of the sluice gate as the pond is emptied o n a falling tide . This fecun d wetlan d ecolog y was given t o th e World Wide Fund for Nature (of which I became the chairman) to manage, and is now protected by the international Ramsa r Convention . There, particularly during the winter migrations, great flocks of water birds feed and fatten on the mudflats. Some have flown immense distances, many from Lak e Baikal in Russia, while cranes come to escape the snow s of Nort h China , an d a fe w hundre d o f th e sol e remainin g blackface d 98

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Breaking Down the Fences

spoonbills i n th e worl d com e t o scoo p u p a wintry harvest . Othe r tin y birds ar e recorde d a s havin g flow n t o Japan an d t o Wester n Australia . Now ther e ar e extensiv e boardwalk s throug h th e mangrove s an d hide s from whic h visitor s an d group s o f schoolchildre n ca n watc h thi s magi c display. The Treat y of Nanking, leasin g th e New Territories t o Grea t Britain , drew th e boundaries o f th e ne w territor y a t th e hig h wate r mar k o n th e north ban k o f th e border rive r an d a t high water o n th e coastlin e o f th e bays t o th e eas t an d th e west . Fift y year s late r ther e wa s a n unwritte n understanding that, since the establishment of the People's Republic, Hong Kong vessels did no t exercis e th e right t o approach o r lan d o n th e shor e of eithe r bay . Similarl y avoidin g frictio n o n th e lan d border , th e fenc e followed th e south, or Hong Kong, bank of the river. These were practical and sensibl e arrangement s whic h kep t th e securit y force s o f bot h side s from becomin g entangled . Bu t th e hig h wate r mar k boundar y le d t o a curious situatio n whe n i t cam e t o removin g th e rustin g Baile y bridge , which ha d bee n pu t i n place by th e arm y afte r 194 5 an d whic h wa s th e only vehicle crossin g o f the border . In th e years before 1976 , and afte r th e excitement s o f 1967 , tensio n had graduall y lessene d o n th e border. Farmer s were onc e again crossin g to Hon g Kon g t o cultivat e thei r lan d an d ther e wa s tal k o f openin g a through trai n servic e t o Guangzho u (Canton) . Th e rust y bridg e a t Ma n Kam To was too weak to carry trucks to pick up vegetables and livestock . I led a small grou p o f Hong Kon g official s t o discuss with official s fro m China th e constructio n o f a permanen t concret e bridge . W e me t i n th e railway statio n acros s th e borde r fro m th e Hon g Kon g statio n a t Lowu , and i n a friendly meetin g reached agreemen t o n th e basic principles: th e type o f bridge t o be built an d wh o woul d b e responsible fo r buildin g it . We also agreed to follow the terms of the treaty demarcating administrativ e responsibility, tha t th e bridge pier t o be built o n th e high water mark o n the Chinese side would be built by Chinese engineers. Hong Kong would build th e rest . Ou r bridg e wa s a practical , no-nonsens e design . Ou r colleagues from Chin a suggested more attention to aesthetics. We agreed, 99

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Feeling the Stones

and so the bridge was built with key pattern rail s and more elegant lam p standards! But befor e wor k coul d start , th e rustin g bridg e ha d t o b e move d t o one side . Bot h side s worke d a s a team . Sinc e i t wa s a military bridge , I watched th e Gurkha engineer s pull back th e bridge onto th e Hong Kon g side and launch a temporary bridge across to the side of the old one. Later the beam s fo r th e concret e bridg e wer e als o pushe d acros s i n th e sam e way. On 3 June 197 6 I went t o the bridge and stood, while rain buckete d down, to watch the removal of the Bailey bridge. In a simple way literall y building bridges after many eventful years, the basis for future cross-borde r cooperation wa s established . No w ther e is , i n addition , a secon d wid e bridge crossin g i n th e wes t complet e wit h immigratio n an d custom s controls, where fleets of container trucks, buses and cars queue every day to cros s the border . The border fence was a poor barrier to determined illegal immigrants. Until you hav e seen with your ow n eye s it is not possible t o believe tha t strong will and muscle s in a few seconds coul d carr y you ove r a sixteenfoot-high fenc e toppe d wit h barbe d wire . O n th e Hon g Kon g sid e thi s barrier woun d it s wa y u p int o th e mountains , int o thic k undergrowt h and across stream courses , making observation o f the length of the fenc e impossible. A t th e en d o f th e seventie s th e tid e o f immigrant s swelle d until sometimes several hundred made the crossing in a day. The unwritten rule had always been that if you were caught coming in you were pushe d back but, if you evaded capture, often with the complicity of villagers and van drivers , an d reache d th e sanctuar y o f Hon g Kon g you ha d touche d base and were not sent back. Indeed, until th e bridge was built there was no convenien t wa y of returning illega l immigrants t o th e mainland . Once again we met official s acros s th e border i n th e railway station , and agreed a method, using a closed and windowless truck , for returnin g illegal immigrants found i n Hong Kong without identity cards across ou r new permanen t bridg e a t Ma n Ka m To , back t o thei r home s i n China . Every resident of Hong Kong was issued with an identity card, and carrying it was made compulsory: t o go to school or hospital, to get a job, to ope n 100

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Breaking Down the Fences

a bank account , al l needed a n identit y document . Whe n th e card s wer e issued, those immigrants already in Hong Kong were registered and given a car d an d thereafte r anyon e caugh t withou t a card , anywher e i n Hon g Kong, was rounded up , taken t o the border an d carried in a truck acros s it. From there they were returned to their villages. We knew from persisten t crossers wh o wer e caugh t tim e an d tim e agai n tha t th e punishmen t fo r crossing t o Hon g Kon g wa s no t severe . Graduall y th e fenc e wa s strengthened, sensors were attached to it, and a motorable track was built behind it , and with th e help o f the bridge th e floo d o f illegal immigrant s dried t o a determined trickle . Following the opening of China in 1978, in an atmosphere of detente, it wa s no t lon g befor e fas t catamara n ferrie s fro m Hon g Kon g bega n t o travel t o town s alon g th e river s whic h criss-cros s th e Pear l Rive r delt a and plane s bega n direc t flight s t o China , an d instea d o f trudgin g acros s the bridg e a t th e borde r yo u coul d boar d a trai n i n Kowloo n an d trave l non-stop t o Guangzhou . Thes e changes , unexcitin g i n themselves , signified th e beginning o f transformation i n th e life o f Hong Kong . The quie t lan d o f villages , padd y field s an d fishpond s nort h o f th e border wa s als o t o chang e dramatically . Somewher e i n th e office s o f th e central government i n Beijing, withou t Hon g Kon g knowing, a decisio n had been take n t o develop a city across the river from Hon g Kong. It was to becom e a Specia l Economi c Zone . I accompanie d th e Governor , Si r Murray MacLehose, at the end of 1981, together with his Political Advisor, David Wilso n (wh o becam e Governo r i n 198 7 an d Si r David) , t o mee t the mayo r an d th e planner s an d t o winkl e ou t wha t w e coul d o f thei r plans. We were shown a minuscule plan of a development zone stretching from eas t t o west , blanketin g th e whol e o f th e regio n betwee n th e mountains t o th e nort h an d ou r rive r line . Workers' line s wer e alread y being constructed , an d everywher e ther e wa s demolition , earthmoving , construction an d mos t o f all , confiden t determination . W e cam e awa y convinced by what we had seen and heard that Hong Kong would have to respond t o thi s challenge , tha t Hon g Kon g people woul d hav e t o shak e off their disdain bordering on contempt for what was happening in Chin a 101

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Feeling the Stones

and establis h bot h forma l an d friendl y channel s o f communication . Crowds o f press an d camera s fro m Hon g Kon g followe d u s o n ou r visit . 'Look to the north,' the Governor said on his return, but years of isolation and lookin g outwar d t o th e res t o f th e worl d ha d becom e ingraine d i n many Hon g Kon g mind s an d eve n now , mor e tha n twent y year s later , there are a stubborn fe w who have little interest in seeing the changes fo r themselves. It is astonishing to reflect tha t a city and its suburbs reachin g seven millio n peopl e coul d b e buil t i n twent y years alon g ou r norther n boundary an d tha t a quarte r o f a millio n peopl e a da y woul d cros s th e bridges fro m Hon g Kon g int o Chin a fo r work , shopping , eatin g an d entertainment. The Shenzhen University was among the first buildings to be built in this new city to the north. I remember standing on the roof inspecting th e campus with , onc e again , tha t strang e feelin g o f lookin g bac k fro m th e other sid e o f th e fenc e a t th e water s o f Dee p Ba y and th e mountain s o f Hong Kong . Th e Vic e President, white-haired , spok e slo w but excellen t English. I asked hi m where he had learned it , and h e replied tha t he ha d been one of the Boxer Indemnity scholars and had studied in the 1930 s at Imperial College , London . Th e Boxe r Protocol , signe d afte r th e Boxe r rebellion a t the turn o f the century, awarded an indemnity o f about $33 3 million to the foreign powers to be paid over a period of years. The British and th e American s di d no t simpl y pu t i t int o th e Treasury , bu t i n a n enlightened way, used the money to create an education fund fo r Chines e to receiv e highe r educatio n i n thei r countries . Th e Vic e Presiden t I was chatting wit h wa s on e o f thes e scholars . Hi s Englis h ha d survive d th e long years of isolation and the harsh penalties of the Cultural Revolution . He remembered hi s stay in England with great affection. Other s o f thes e Boxer Indemnit y scholar s wer e highl y distinguished , an d a t leas t on e became a Nobel Priz e winner. Thi s outcom e o f th e Boxe r rebellio n an d the siege of Peking i s a fascinating sideligh t o n international relations . In plac e o f th e silenc e o f th e previou s twent y years , th e visit s t o Shenzhen, th e agreements we reached an d th e officials w e met paved th e way, a t tha t time , fo r greate r informa l contac t betwee n th e Hon g Kon g 102

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Breaking Down the Fences

government an d official s o f th e Ne w Chin a New s Agenc y whic h represented the Chinese government in Hong Kong. We were able to follow up ou r visit s wit h th e directo r o f th e agency , X u Jiatun, ove r dinne r a t Government House , where he and Si r Murray talke d abou t ways furthe r to improve cross-borde r communication . The lon g year s o f isolatio n whic h ha d begu n i n 1949 , whe n th e People's Liberatio n Arm y halte d it s advanc e agains t th e retreatin g arm y of the Guomindang at the boundary fence, were over. There was no mor e dramatic indication of this than the changes at the border, or Boundary as it is now correctl y called .

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12

The Expiring Lease

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i evelopment , ge t up an d go, has been an abidin g theme i n th e I lif e of Hong Kong from the moment on a cold winter mornin g / o f 2 6 January 184 1 whe n Captai n Ellio t too k possession . There was nowhere t o live, but within a matter of months th e first houses and offices had been built along the foreshore. Behind them, steep, treeless hillsides strewn with huge granite boulders reache d up t o th e skyline ridge o f th e island. A trace, following a track along th e foreshore, wa s laid ou t fo r th e Queen' s Roa d whose winding route , no w far from the waters of the harbour, remains even today a crowded principal transport artery . Beyond th e harbou r i n whic h th e merchan t an d nava l ship s la y a t anchor wa s th e enticin g land o f the Kowloo n Peninsula . I t was not lon g after 184 1 that unsanctioned expansio n of the colony began to take place there an d a kind o f squatter colon y gre w up, and durin g typhoon s ship s made use of the safer anchorage in the western arm of Kowloon Bay rather than th e exposed waters of the central harbour. Despite all this unofficia l activity, a surprisingly long nineteen years passed before th e enterprisin g Harry Parkes, the British Consu l i n Canton , exchange d a paper with th e Governor Genera l o f Canto n leasin g th e souther n en d o f th e peninsul a for 50 0 tael s of silver. This ac t of unofficial imperialis m wa s frowned o n by th e power s tha t be, but wa s no t repudiated . Late r th e commande r o f the Hong Kong garrison, Major Genera l von Straubenzee, lent support t o the acquisitio n an d pointe d ou t tha t th e burgeoning cit y o f Victoria fel l

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Feeling the Stones

easily withi n th e rang e o f Chines e gun s situate d o n th e peninsula . Thereafter event s in a wider aren a provided a n opportunit y t o regularis e matters. Taking advantage of the seizure of the lorcha Arrow ( a lorcha is a small sailin g vesse l wit h a Wester n hul l an d Chines e rigging ) b y th e Chinese, hostilitie s wer e commence d b y th e British, a n inciden t know n as the Arrow War . Hostilitie s were ende d b y th e 186 0 Treaty of Tientsin , which further opene d China to entry by the Western powers. Harry Parkes, not missin g a trick , manage d t o tac k ont o th e treat y th e cessio n o f th e southern par t o f the Kowloon Peninsul a t o th e British . Kowloon a t tha t tim e was simply a part o f rural China , a busy plac e of farmland, villages , temples and markets, and it was not until the end of the century with the leasing of the New Territories in 189 8 that the rest of the peninsula north of Boundary Street up to the Lion Rock range of hills and beyond t o the Shenzhen river came under British administration an d subsequent development . Land i n thi s ne w territor y wa s usuall y divide d int o smal l lot s fo r paddy farming, an d lan d holdings were small, irregular, inaccessible an d incapable themselves of making a contribution t o our housing target. But in a few case s ther e were familie s wh o owne d muc h large r holdings , bi g fishponds, orchards and extensive areas where the sea had been impounded behind a bund, and these larger tracts could be developed by their owner s into housin g estates . In th e north-wes t o f th e Ne w Territories , i n 1912 , th e governmen t had sol d t o a famil y trus t th e righ t t o enclos e severa l hundre d acre s o f marshland fro m th e se a t o b e use d fo r brackish-wate r padd y an d fis h farming. A bund wit h sluic e gate s was built alon g th e seawar d en d an d the wild marshland brough t int o productive use. But from the n o n ther e was continua l frictio n betwee n th e owner s o f th e forme r mars h an d th e inhabitants o f ancestra l village s whos e drainag e channel s ha d bee n interrupted b y these interlopers. Things cam e to a head eac h year when , during the heavy rains of summer, the area flooded and the men controllin g the sluices would not let the water flow away so they could catc h the fis h which ha d escape d fro m thei r overflowin g pond s an d wer e swimmin g 106

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The Expiring Lease

freely abou t i n th e floods backe d up behind th e bund. Ther e were angr y protests fro m th e villager s an d scene s o f wil d excitemen t a s th e villag e children plunge d int o th e water t o catc h th e fish . Later, in th e sixties, in th e desperate searc h t o increase Hong Kong' s water supply , i t wa s propose d tha t th e 'marsh ' shoul d b e use d t o hol d water pumpe d fro m th e flood plai n o f Yuen Long. But as agreement wa s reached t o pipe more water t o Hong Kong in huge pipes reaching acros s the countr y fro m th e Eas t Rive r fa r awa y i n China , thi s othe r pla n wa s filed awa y and i s now forgotten . During th e seventie s th e remainin g 'trustee ' sol d th e area , Ti n Shu i Wai, t o a propert y develope r wh o pu t forwar d a n astonishin g pla n t o build a tow n fo r hal f a millio n people . Th e governmen t administratio n was at a loss as to how to respond. Coul d it, should it, be taken seriously ? Could on e compan y b e allowe d t o embar k o n suc h a n extravagan t proposition? We were in the throes of our own plans to build on a scale of millions and ther e were those who could not readily accept the diversio n of government effor t an d resource s t o dea l with thi s application. Other s were deeply sceptical that a private developer could accumulate the capital resources t o buil d o n suc h a n ambitiou s scale . Ther e wa s subconsciou s annoyance tha t a single develope r shoul d hav e possessio n o f s o larg e a parcel o f land, which would hav e take n th e government year s t o acquir e and scrape together and finance. The government was accused of dragging its heels and no t stickin g t o its side of the bargain t o provide th e linkin g road system , bu t b y th e tim e th e proposal s ha d flowe d backward s an d forwards, committees met and dissolved, and owners, officials, consultants , lawyers, planners, architects and engineers come and gone, a fresh questio n had arise n a s t o wha t woul d happe n whe n th e Ne w Territorie s leas e expired. T o develop such a large area would exten d beyond th e expiry, in 1997, of th e lease . Other developers , unfaze d b y thi s questio n an d wit h sufficien t resources, could see the potential and took up th e challenge. There was a division o f th e spoils ; th e governmen t too k on e shar e an d th e privat e developer his . Sand was pumped fro m th e sea bed o f Deep Bay to fil l u p

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Feeling the Stones

the fis h pond s an d reclai m th e area . I t i s wit h a wr y smile , now , remembering th e earlie r sag a an d protracte d arguments , tha t I see, a s I pass on tha t way to Yuen Long, the soaring towe r blocks of Tin Shui Wai puncturing th e skyline , a ligh t railway , shoppin g malls , schools , socia l centres an d a new tow n o f tens o f thousands o f people. There wer e thre e aspect s o f thes e privat e initiative s whic h weighe d heavily o n th e min d o f government . Firstly , i t wa s importan t no t t o b e seen to be granting a particular developer a favour which was not available to others and thus raise the spectre of corruption and croneyism; secondly, the schemes should fit in with the government's general policies and plans for providin g housing ; an d thirdly , ther e shoul d no t b e a significan t diversion of government effort t o provide supporting infrastructure. I dare say, too, that subconsciously ther e was a reluctance among some official s to acknowledg e tha t sometime s th e privat e secto r coul d com e u p wit h something whic h ha d no t bee n though t o f i n th e corridor s o f power . Nevertheless, som e o f thes e scheme s wen t ahead , provide d the y wer e self-supporting. All o f the m introduce d a n elemen t o f preciou s variet y into a property market which was in th e doldrums. Apartments i n Hon g Kong compare d wit h elsewher e ar e small, an d ver y fe w hav e th e luxur y of gardens , gree n an d recreationa l space . Som e o f thes e development s provided houses with gardens instead of flats in high-rise apartment blocks and, fo r a lucky few , fulfilled a suppressed nee d fo r roo m t o move, fres h air, and th e chanc e t o grow a few flowers. By the end of the seventies the expiry of the ninety-nine-year leas e of the New Territories on 1 July 199 7 was getting too close to enable property developers t o g o t o th e bank s fo r mone y fo r plan s whic h woul d tak e many years to come to fruition. Whil e they were left with th e shortenin g end o f thei r leas e i n Hon g Kong , som e wer e alread y goin g nort h o f th e border t o build factorie s wher e the y coul d acquir e th e righ t t o use lan d for twenty-fiv e years , with a promise o f renewal. For thos e tha t had ear s to hear , thi s wa s a clea r an d earl y indicatio n tha t a solutio n woul d b e found t o the Hong Kong dilemma; for if Hong Kong investors could acquire rights to use land in Shenzhen for twenty-five years just across our borde r 108

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The Expiring Lease

in China , wh y shoul d the y no t hav e th e sam e privileg e i n Hon g Kon g when Hong Kong returned t o China ? Ther e was, of course, no answer t o this and fo r most i t was too good t o be true t o believe that in 199 7 leases would simpl y b e renewed . Th e futur e o f property developmen t becam e more an d mor e a topi c o f conversatio n an d waggin g o f chins . I t wa s something whic h coul d no t b e lef t t o sor t itsel f out ; almos t al l th e lan d needed fo r futur e expansio n wa s i n th e Ne w Territories , whic h woul d return t o Chin a i n 1997 . Quit e apar t fro m urba n expansion , lan d wa s needed fo r project s whic h wer e vital t o th e econom y suc h a s extendin g the container port, constructing power stations costing billions, building a ne w airpor t i n th e longe r term , an d muc h mor e besides . Hon g Kon g simply had t o know th e answer . The years of Hong Kong's isolation were over, China was opening t o the world, and Hong Kong people were travelling freely into China. There was a new and pragmatic leadership in Beijing. Surely the unmentionabl e could no w b e mentione d agains t a background o f rea l problem s rathe r than a s a n academi c exercis e i n foreig n relations ? I t wa s tim e fo r th e Governor of Hong Kong to pay a second visit to China, the last one having been a s long ag o a s th e 1950s , so littl e communicatio n di d Hon g Kon g have with China. While visits by British Ministers were planned as part of the genera l tha w i n Sino-Britis h relations , i f th e Governo r went , Hon g Kong people would expect the subject of the lease, which was uppermos t in thei r minds, t o be raised . It was against this background that the visit by Sir Murray MacLehose took place in March 1979 . There is a first-hand accoun t o f this visit, th e first for more than twenty years, by Sir Percy Cradock, British Ambassador to Chin a a t th e time , i n hi s book , Experiences of China. Contrar y t o th e custom whereby th e details o f the subsequent discussio n were first deal t with by lesser officials , Chairma n Den g Xiaoping decide d tha t he woul d be the first t o see the Governor. In the vast spaces of the Great Hall of th e People Den g starte d b y saying , i n essence , tha t sovereignt y ove r Hon g Kong la y wit h Chin a whateve r th e politica l futur e wa s fo r Hon g Kong , but i t would remai n capitalist ; an d h e use d a Chines e expressio n t o sa y

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Feeling the Stones

that investor s wer e no t t o worry , rathe r sentimentall y translate d a s 'pu t their heart s at ease'. He refused t o be drawn o n the limited suggestio n b y the Governo r tha t lan d lease s coul d simpl y b e extende d beyon d 199 7 while leavin g th e mor e sensitiv e question s o f th e governanc e o f Hon g Kong o n on e side . Den g repeate d tha t investor s wer e no t t o worr y an d that other matters could be left till later. It was a rebuff which did nothin g to solve th e question o f the expiring lease , and was a very tam e messag e to rela y t o th e Hon g Kon g busines s community . Th e medi a wer e no t satisfied an d kep t th e pressure u p fo r man y years, itching t o know wha t more ha d been said . In the follow-up t o this visit there were straws in the wind indicatin g that Chin a woul d recove r sovereignt y i n 1997 , but disappointingly , th e question o f wha t t o d o abou t th e expirin g lease s i n th e Ne w Territorie s was t o dra g on fo r a further fou r years . In 1981 , to make plain an order of priority, China published her ninepoint proposal s fo r Taiwan . Thes e wer e tha t afte r reunificatio n int o th e body of China, Taiwan could continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy as a specia l administration . Broa d hint s wer e the n give n ou t indicatin g that thes e proposal s coul d appl y equall y t o Hon g Kong . I t wa s eve n suggested durin g a visi t t o Beijin g i n January 198 2 t o th e Britis h Lor d Privy Seal , Humphre y Atkins , wh o a s a junior Foreig n Offic e Ministe r was responsibl e fo r Hon g Kong , an d mor e substantiall y t o Si r Edwar d Heath three months later, that Hong Kong should study the proposals fo r Taiwan. Deng Xiaoping, as Sir Percy Cradock records in his book, put th e question directl y t o Heat h a s t o whethe r a solutio n o n th e line s o f th e nine-point pla n fo r Taiwa n could be agreed, in which sovereignt y woul d pass t o Chin a whil e Hon g Kon g woul d remai n a fre e por t an d a n international investmen t centre . I t would b e ru n b y Hon g Kon g peopl e and woul d becom e a Specia l Administrativ e Region . Thes e hint s an d nudges were not pursue d b y the British government . Apart fro m high-powere d encounters , a t anothe r level , afte r thirt y years o f no t speakin g t o on e another , Hon g Kon g communit y leader s found tha t the y coul d trave l t o Beijin g an d coul d mee t th e leader s o f 110

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The Expiring Lease

China fac e t o fac e an d tal k abou t th e futur e o f th e plac e the y ha d mad e their home . Thi s wa s a n extraordinar y chang e i n thei r live s an d ha d a profound psychologica l effect. Hon g Kong was again being treated as part of China . Th e venee r o f colonia l Hon g Kong , ha d i t bee n realised , wa s already beginning t o be worn away . It is hard for anyone to come away from th e country's capital city and such meeting s unmove d b y th e impressio n o f its siz e an d greatness . All were tol d th e sam e message , an d mos t cam e awa y warme d b y thei r encounters an d conversation s wit h th e leader s o f th e nation . Fo r thos e visitors fro m Hon g Kong, the meetings carrie d with them , in addition t o their swellin g emotio n an d prid e i n thei r country' s lon g history , i f onl y subconsciously memories of the humiliation o f the Manchu invasion an d domination, o f violen t an d shamin g encounter s wit h th e West , o f th e injustices mete d ou t b y th e Versailles Treat y which allocate d th e forme r German colonia l possession s i n Chin a t o Japan, o f invasion b y an d wa r with Japan , an d o f th e endin g o f th e civi l war . Afte r a miserabl e tw o hundred years , as Mao said in Beijing i n 1949 , 'China ha d stoo d up' . Hong Kong's community leaders , the Vice Chancellor o f Hong Kon g University, organisations representing industry and commerce, charitabl e associations, the Hong Kong Observers (a group of young and enthusiasti c commentators o n th e politica l scene) , th e Heun g Ye e Kuk, th e electe d representatives o f the indigenous peopl e of the New Territories, all thes e and man y individual s travelle d t o Beijin g fo r a n audienc e wit h China' s leaders. Th e sam e messag e wa s repeate d man y time s an d the n repeate d by th e medi a i n Hon g Kon g t o a wider audience . Sovereignt y woul d b e resumed. No mentio n wa s mad e o f continuin g Britis h administration . Hon g Kong people , no t th e British , woul d b e rulin g Hon g Kong . Si r Perc y Cradock write s tha t o n onl y tw o occasion s di d a delegatio n spea k i n support o f continuin g Britis h administratio n an d the y wer e me t wit h a sharp rejoinder. Whatever thei r private thoughts and worries might hav e been, other s listened t o the message tha t th e rule the y had know n fo r s o long, and under which so many had prospered, was coming to an end. I n 111

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Feeling the Stones

Britain th e governmen t wa s preoccupie d wit h th e Falkland s imbrogli o and unabl e t o interpre t an d diges t th e stron g an d unpalatabl e message s that wer e comin g fro m China . Th e realit y ha d t o wai t unti l th e Prim e Minister hersel f visited Beijing in September 1982 . Meanwhile, lan d i n th e Ne w Territories , wher e th e bul k o f development wa s takin g place , continue d t o be sol d o n a lease expirin g three day s before th e en d o f June 1997 , th e en d o f th e leas e o f th e Ne w Territories fro m China . Hon g Kon g ha d t o wait anothe r tw o years t o b e reassured by the conclusion of the agreement with China that these leases would be renewed on expiry in 199 7 for a further ter m of fifty year s unti l 2047, an d ne w lease s woul d carr y a ter m o f fift y year s reachin g eve n beyond 2047 .

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13 'Hong Kong People Ruling Hong Kong'

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\ efor e decidin g wit h th e suppor t o f hi s Executiv e Counci l t o embark upon his visionary programme to build homes for on e \ an d a half million people in ten years, Sir Murray MacLehos e f ha d remarke d tha t th e shortag e o f decen t housin g wa s th e biggest singl e sourc e o f unhappines s i n Hon g Kong . No w thi s source of unhappiness was to be removed. But it was not simply a question of housing ; schools , polic e an d fir e stations , clinics , shoppin g centre s and markets , park s an d playgrounds , al l thes e ha d t o be provided i f th e people wer e t o be persuade d t o leav e th e familia r environmen t o f Hon g Kong and Kowloo n an d move t o th e unknown Ne w Territories . Work began simultaneously a t six small towns and almost overnigh t the inhabitant s o f thes e peaceful site s foun d themselve s livin g nex t t o a great constructio n effort . Eac h was a world o f trenches , cranes , diggers , steel rods , hammerin g pil e drivers , truck s an d concrete , an d swarmin g workers. Fields were buried beneath a deep layer o f orange dirt from th e hills, and wher e lan d was reclaimed fro m th e sea , no soone r ha d i t bee n filled than piles were driven deep down through it, sometimes sixty metres or more, until the y reached bedrock. A little more tha n thre e years later , families were moving into their new but small apartments, excited at their new environment an d their escape from bein g crowded togethe r i n bun k beds with toilets doubling as kitchens. The new arrivals to the old market towns were so content with their new homes and living environment tha t the though t neve r seeme d t o ente r thei r head s tha t the y ha d n o on e t o

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Feeling the Stones

represent them. What representation there was, was by a committee elected by the villagers who ha d been surrounded an d swamped by the high-ris e buildings. Tsuen Wan , whic h i n 195 8 ha d receive d th e firs t thrus t o f urba n expansion, by 1978 had grown to the size of a city. Multi-storey apartments had climbed over the hills and into the next valley, and bridges had linke d it to its neighbouring island. It was a quaint anachronism that a population of severa l hundre d thousan d wa s stil l represente d b y a rural committe e elected by a few hundreds. Sir Murray asked me what I thought. My interim solution was to create an advisory board whose members would be chosen and appointe d b y th e Governor . Withou t displacin g th e existin g powe r centre, thi s bod y woul d brin g togethe r th e variou s stakeholder s i n th e town's affair s an d woul d includ e th e chairma n o f th e rura l committe e around whose villages the town had been built. The members would give advice to the District Officer, wh o managed th e town, its people and thei r affairs. Th e concept was put t o the Governor's Executive Council , whic h supported it . Th e boar d wa s give n n o executiv e responsibilit y bu t wa s empowered t o discus s anythin g affectin g th e well-being o f th e resident s and wa s no t preclude d fro m steppin g outsid e purel y loca l concerns . Nothing was ruled out. When thei r lives were affected the y could discus s the shortcoming s o f th e centra l government , an d even , whe n th e tim e came, th e futur e o f Hong Kong . The experimen t wa s successful, an d w e had take n th e firs t ste p toward s creatin g a syste m o f representativ e government. I t wa s infectious . Othe r advisor y board s followe d i n al l eighteen district s o f Hong Kong . In June 198 0 the government published proposals entitled 'A Pattern of Distric t Administratio n i n Hon g Kong' . Thi s Gree n Pape r note d th e introduction o f compulsor y secondar y education , demographi c change s and the shift of population to the new towns, and the need for participation in thei r management . Until then , Hon g Kon g ha d bee n centrall y directed . I t wa s tim e t o 'give close r attentio n t o monitorin g th e effect s an d coordinatio n o f government programme s a t the distric t level' . A small group o f officials , 114

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'Hong Kong People Ruling Hong Kong'

myself included, had met privately with the Chief Secretary, Sir Jack Cater, and recommende d addin g electe d representative s t o th e boards . Thi s recommendation, too , wa s accepte d b y th e Governo r an d Executiv e Council. Fo r th e elections , voter s neede d onl y t o b e residen t i n Hon g Kong fo r thre e year s an d t o b e ove r th e ag e o f 21 . For th e tim e being , 'within the imperative of stability which the special circumstances of Hong Kong require the other arms of government, the Executive and Legislative Councils, woul d continu e t o evolv e a s required b y thei r ow n particula r circumstances'. A journey o f a thousand mile s begins with th e first step . It was decided , firs t o f all , t o elec t one-thir d o f th e member s o f th e boards i n eac h o f th e district s o f Hon g Kong , an d whe n thei r term s o f office expire d after thre e years, to increase this proportion t o two-thirds . The remainde r o f th e board s consiste d o f member s appointe d b y th e Governor. These members were drawn from among people in each district who coul d bring particular knowledge and experience t o the work o f th e boards but wer e unlikely t o participate i n public, and possibl y political , elections. Although th e appointed member s wer e removed a s a result o f the change s introduce d durin g th e governorshi p o f th e Rt . Hon . Christopher Patten , their membership was restored by the government of the Specia l Administrative Regio n afte r 199 7 an d continue s t o thi s day . The inclusion o f appointed member s i s generally supporte d b y both th e elected members and by community leaders in the districts. It is criticised and condemned by democrats o n ideological grounds, but th e appointe d members brin g specia l knowledg e an d experienc e t o th e wor k o f th e boards, which i s what count s a t the district level. It is a measure o f thei r contribution that some appointed members are even elected to be chairmen of their councils . While thes e development s wer e takin g place , younge r peopl e representing different sector s of the community were introduced into th e Legislative an d Executiv e Councils , but thi s amounte d t o nothing mor e than a stopgap measure. No thought had been given to a situation whic h would no t involv e Britis h administration , an d hithert o th e approac h t o developing a mor e representativ e syste m ha d bee n conducte d a t a 115

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Feeling the Stones

measured, some would say leisurely, pace in keeping with this view of the future. Changing th e syste m o f representatio n durin g th e cours e o f an y discussion wit h Chin a abou t th e future coul d onl y be carried ou t withi n the limit s o f wha t migh t b e acceptabl e t o China , otherwis e discussio n would have come to a halt. We were treading on eggshells. I was involved in writing plan s fo r chang e which coul d b e implemented an d explaine d without dir e consequence s fo r th e negotiations . Writin g the m mean t writing the m alone , because th e issue s involved agains t th e backgroun d of th e discussio n wer e so sensitive . In April 198 4 I helped t o draf t a booklet fo r publi c consultatio n - a Green Pape r - o n th e 'Furthe r Developmen t o f Representativ e Government', which was to be published in 1984 , just two months befor e the agreement with Chin a was signed. I n it Hong Kong was to develop a system o f governmen t t o represen t authoritativel y th e view s of , an d b e accountable to , th e people . Hon g Kon g wa s t o preserv e an d buil d o n existing institutions and to maintain government by consensus. It would allow for further development . The words used to spell out the government approach t o this described th e Hong Kong system as follows: 'i t operate s on th e basi s o f consultatio n an d consensus . I t i s not a system base d o n parties, faction s an d adversaria l politics. ' I t i s sai d tha t th e syste m ha d grown u p aroun d tw o separat e approache s a s to ho w th e people shoul d be represented : first , base d o n wher e the y lived ; second , base d o n wha t they did. These were described separately as geographical and functiona l constituencies. The Green Paper rejected suggestions that direct elections to th e centra l governmen t shoul d b e introduce d ther e an d then , i n th e following words : 'direct election s hav e emerge d o r bee n introduce d a s a standard featur e o f th e governmenta l syste m i n man y countrie s wher e they hav e prove d wel l suite d t o th e societ y the y serve. ' I t wen t on , i n sublime understatement , 'the y hav e not , however , bee n universall y successful a s a means o f ensurin g stabl e representativ e government' . I n Hong Kong the preservation o f stability and harmony were of paramoun t importance: 'Direct elections would run the risk of a swift introduction of 116

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'Hong Kong People Ruling Hong Kong'

adversarial politic s an d woul d introduc e a n elemen t o f instabilit y a t a crucial time.' Direct elections had t o wait; these cautious rationalisation s also hid th e reality o f Chin a lookin g ove r ou r shoulder . Functional constituenc y member s wer e t o b e electe d t o represen t organisations and associations whose members - engineers , accountants, doctors, etc. - coul d contribute their expertise to the work of the Legislative Council. Thi s wa s a developmen t - a n extensio n - o f th e polic y whic h the Governo r ha d bee n followin g i n makin g appointment s t o th e Legislative Counci l from amon g these functional sectors . The system ha s been attacked an d criticise d agai n for its lack of democracy, but i t serve d a usefu l purpos e durin g a perio d o f chang e whe n stabilit y wa s a majo r concern. Muc h o f th e legislativ e programm e involve s technica l an d financial matter s an d i t i s arguable tha t th e presenc e o f thes e expert s i s useful whe n thes e subjects ar e being debated . In orde r t o introduce member s representin g th e place where peopl e lived, i t was als o proposed tha t member s o f th e Distric t Board s becom e an Electoral Colleg e to elect members t o the Legislative Council, so as to avoid th e 'introduction o f adversarial politics' at a crucial time . The Gree n Pape r proposals settin g ou t thi s approach wer e generall y well received. They filled a communication gap and the majority accepte d the need for this gradual approach: 'the need to ensure that the prosperity and stabilit y o f Hon g Kon g ar e no t pu t a t risk b y introducin g to o man y constitutional change s to o rapidl y was widely recognised. ' Bu t it ruffle d China's feathers. China suspected that there was a hidden meaning hinting at a n independen t Hon g Kon g behind th e words tha t ha d crep t int o th e final version , tha t th e syste m woul d b e 'firml y roote d i n Hon g Kong' . This was no more and no less a reflection o f the words 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong', and looked at another way, it was a way of saying tha t there was to be no lingering or hidden control . But were the British up t o their trick s again ? There wer e mor e mundan e matter s o f publi c administratio n t o b e decided. Histor y ha d lef t Hon g Kon g wit h unbalance d u r b a n administration an d management . Urba n growt h ha d centre d o n th e sit e 117

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Feeling the Stones

of the original settlement in 1841 and its extension in 1860 to the Kowloon Peninsula. Until the end of the nineteenth century, rural China surrounde d Hong Kon g wit h padd y field s an d ancien t village s an d ringe d i t abou t with sparsel y populate d Chines e islands . Th e Europea n busines s an d residential district s wer e wel l planne d an d lai d out , bu t th e surgin g population o f th e Chines e settlement whic h gre w up aroun d th e centra l district wa s overcrowded , withou t sanitatio n an d infeste d wit h rats . Inevitably, plagu e put a stop t o pretence tha t i t coul d loo k afte r itself . A Sanitary Boar d wa s forme d an d wa s th e embry o fro m whic h municipa l government grew . When th e New Territories were leased, it was the stated intention o f the Britis h Government , apar t fro m providin g a n umbrell a o f la w an d order, to leave them mor e or less as a settled rural community. I t was no t thought tha t ther e was a need for an y form o f municipal body, a council , to overse e the m an d t o establis h som e for m o f loca l government . Th e villages had their representatives, and there was an Advisory Council, th e Heung Yee Kuk, for the whole New Territories. District Offices substitute d for loca l authority, an d cleansing , sanitation , medica l an d othe r service s were graduall y provide d b y governmen t department s an d extende d a s the nee d arose . But ther e wa s n o overal l municipa l counci l wit h publi c representation. Indeed , ther e was a wholly anomalous situation whereb y qualified voter s living in the New Territories had no council of their ow n but could vote for the Urban Council of Hong Kong, whose remit was the island o f Hon g Kon g an d Kowloo n u p t o th e encirclin g mountains , bu t nothing beyon d them . New town s ha d bee n buil t wit h population s o f severa l hundre d thousand, an d althoug h eac h tow n an d distric t no w ha d a managemen t board, ther e wa s n o coordinatin g bod y t o provid e municipa l services . The essentia l questio n wa s whethe r t o exten d th e Hon g Kon g Urba n Council to the New Territories or to create a special council. Several factor s had t o be weighed; extensio n o f the Urban Counci l would hav e involve d fresh elections ; each town already had its distinctive features, and as with the post-war Mark Young proposals, an overarching Urban Council would 118

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'Hong Kong People Ruling Hong Kong'

have created , i n effect , a powerfu l Greate r Hon g Kon g Counci l overpowering a weakling non-electe d legislature . Th e leas t contentiou s solution was to create a New Territories Regional Council which avoide d all thes e pitfalls. Tim e was of th e essence . The plan t o set up a Regiona l Council with municipal responsibilities was announced with little fanfar e and onl y toke n mutterin g i n th e spring of 1984 . The people had been told by Chinese leaders that Hong Kong people would b e ruling Hon g Kong . There were few , if any, firm idea s emergin g as t o ho w thi s woul d com e about . Thos e o f u s wh o wer e draftin g th e proposals did not have a free hand . We had t o work within th e system a s it existe d an d wha t w e di d ha d t o b e capabl e o f rational an d unexcitin g explanation. I t was desirable for it to be published an d publicly accepte d before th e text of the much bigger question of the overall agreement wit h China about the future was finalised. There were still thirteen years before 1997; the pace o f change had t o be steady and incrementa l i f it were no t to ris k interventio n b y Chin a an d pu t economi c prosperit y i n jeopardy , and it had t o maintain a stable political environment . The White Pape r o f November 198 4 followed th e April Green Pape r and se t out th e intention t o make a start in 1985 . Hong Kong was set o n the road to implement the ambiguous words in the agreement with Chin a that the Legislative Council 'would be constituted by elections'. It promised that i n 1985 , twenty-fou r member s woul d b e electe d b y functiona l an d residential constituencies , electe d member s woul d slightl y outnumbe r those appointed by the Governor, and although there were to be ten officia l civil servan t members , the y woul d b e i n a minority . I n othe r words , i t would be possible for elected representatives to unite to defeat governmen t proposals. Th e Whit e Pape r promise d a revie w i n 1988 . Th e event s surrounding thi s review ar e described i n chapter 20 .

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14

Behind the Headlines

m h e rubri c 'positiv e non-intervention ' i s muc h use d t o describ e • Hon g Kong's economic philosophy. It came from Sir Philip Haddonm Cave , Hong Kong's Financial Secretary from 197 1 to 1981. However, M i t is forgotten b y those who parrot it that Haddon-Cave qualified hi s m word s with th e cavea t that i n time s of dire necessity, the rule shoul d not put the economy in a straitjacket. Eac h year his annual budget addres s to the Legislative Council had us shifting wearily in our seats for betwee n three and fou r hour s a s he justified wit h labyrinthine analysi s th e short term and long-term aspects of government finance s an d prospects for th e economy. But Sir Philip was far from being a dull man; alongside his keen intellect, acid tongue, impatience with ineptitude and firm control of our finances dwel t a lively sense o f humour an d th e spirit o f a bon viveur . But the philosophy o f encouraging private initiative and investmen t to which hi s rubric alluded was deeply embedded i n the culture of Hong Kong. From th e beginning o f settlement in the nineteenth century , Hon g Kong's transport system , its buses, trams and ferrie s wer e organised an d funded b y privat e subscription ; so , too , wer e it s electricity , ga s an d telephone services. The government's role was to provide an infrastructur e of roads , drain s an d wate r supply , la w an d orde r an d th e regulator y framework i n which business could operate; and to collect sufficient taxes , fees an d charge s t o pa y fo r i t all . School s an d hospital s wer e largel y sponsored b y communit y organisation s an d religiou s bodies , an d wer e subvented by the government which tried, as far as possible, not to become

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Feeling the Stones

involved i n management . Interventio n too k plac e whe n ther e wa s a n outbreak o f plagu e o r som e suc h crue l reminde r t o th e governmen t t o rouse itself as , for example , when i t provided housing when fire s burne d down th e squatte r settlement s o f refugee s fro m th e civi l war i n China . Otherwise th e governmen t tried , withou t pickin g winners , t o stimulat e and creat e th e condition s i n which entrepreneur s coul d flourish . Hong Kon g societ y i n th e year s afte r th e Pacifi c Wa r change d profoundly an d becam e mor e travelle d an d worldly wise. In eac h o f th e districts into which Hong Kong as a whole was divided there was a sports organisation an d a n art s association, an d youth group s were expanding . Funds were raised for squash courts, football pitches and swimming pools, and the Jockey Club, from its charity fund, built concert halls. Ballet classes took hold and district Chinese orchestras were formed. From skills learned at th e Outwar d Boun d Trainin g School , mountaineering , canoein g an d sailing became new leisure activities for Hong Kong's young people. Tens of thousand s o f Hon g Kong' s student s wer e bein g educate d i n school s and universities overseas . Hong Kong was becoming more cosmopolita n and more internationa l i n outlook . While o n holida y in th e summe r o f 1980 , sitting o n boulders i n th e clear ai r o f th e mountain s i n Kashmir , Jan e an d I though t abou t th e housewives i n ou r ne w town s livin g i n tin y high-ris e flats , sometime s twenty or thirty storeys above the ground, looking after thei r children fa r from thei r ancestra l villages , ol d friend s an d neighbours . Bac k i n Hon g Kong I gathere d togethe r a grou p o f youn g wome n fro m th e housin g estates, university lecturers, and so forth, t o discover whether ther e was a need fo r a n organisatio n simila r t o th e Women' s Institute s o r Townswomen's Guild s o f th e Unite d Kingdom , whic h woul d provid e a social nexu s fo r th e wome n fro m th e housin g estates . Ther e wa s littl e argument about the need, the only question was when. In about a month the firs t organisatio n wa s formed. Other s followe d an d ar e still workin g successfully today , bringing new skills and interests and ne w friendship s into th e lives of these high-rise houseboun d wives . Island House , wher e w e live d fro m 197 3 unti l 1985 , was a perfec t 122

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Behind the Headlines

setting in which t o uncover an d stimulate these energies for change . Th e great trees which flanked th e lawn, the strange house with its light tower , the terrac e lookin g eastwar d dow n th e harbou r wit h it s fring e o f velve t green ridge d hill s fadin g int o distan t blue , al l thes e create d a specia l atmosphere conducive to loosening inhibitions, putting present anxietie s behind an d thinkin g abou t th e future . Meetin g afte r meetin g too k plac e there, an d ever y s o ofte n th e Governo r woul d come , i n shirtsleeves , t o join i n discussion s abou t curren t problem s an d th e future . Thes e wer e evenings whic h inevitabl y sparke d of f discussio n abou t politica l development i n Hon g Kong , question s o f th e future , an d wha t wa s happening acros s th e border i n Guangdong . Overseas visitors, Members of Parliament, Ministers and members of the Roya l Family include d Islan d Hous e i n thei r itinerar y o f visiting th e new towns . Th e Youn g Fabians , le d b y Barones s Eiren e White , wer e somewhat discomfited t o discover that we were doing so much without a political cree d and without a heavy ta x burden. A surging economy , lo w rate of tax, no subsidy for public utilities and a 'consumer pays ' principle enabled Hong Kong to provide many of the benefits o f socialism within a capitalist economy . Educatio n an d medica l service s wer e chea p an d available t o all, and a non-contributory socia l service safety ne t was par t of th e syste m w e too k fo r granted , togethe r wit h chea p housin g fo r hal f the population. We had a Fabian connectio n i n my brother-in-law, D r R. S. Pease, whose grandfather had been one of the founders of the movement, and we were able to remind the m o f their motto, 'Pray devoutly, hamme r stoutly', which might have been used to describe Hong Kong. These were occasions a t which I tried t o dispe l th e pejorativ e laissez-fair e 'anythin g goes' label we had acquired over the years, by describing the positive an d progressive socia l policies of the government . After th e openin g o f Chin a t o th e outsid e worl d i n 1978 , visitor s from th e mainland were added t o our guests. These were lunch parties a t which conversatio n flowe d freel y an d interestingly . I t was a lif e o f grea t variety. In a single week in September 1980 , Timothy Raison, Minister fo r Home Affairs , cam e t o lunch , followe d b y a group o f nuclear physicist s

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Feeling the Stones

who wer e on thei r way t o the South-Western Physic s Institute i n China ; the Provos t o f Worcester College , Oxford, Lor d Asa Briggs, came t o fin d out wha t wa s happenin g i n Hon g Kong ; Member s o f Parliamen t fro m Westminster cam e to see what was being done - bu t talke d mainly abou t their ow n work in Britain!; commissioners and leaders of the Guides an d Scouts joined i n a social barbecue; and th e week was rounded of f with a tea party for a troupe o f Hong Kong girl folk dancer s who ha d been a hit in London . Gurkha battalions were stationed in a number of permanent barrack s in th e norther n Ne w Territories , an d sinc e th e Sh a Ta u Ko k inciden t i n 1967, whe n the y ha d relieve d th e Hon g Kon g polic e fro m thei r borde r duties, the y ha d bee n guardin g an d patrollin g th e borde r agains t illega l immigration. By the eighties the tanks which used to roar, rattle and screech their way to the firing rang e through th e streets of Yuen Long were gone. Gone, too, were the artillery which frightene d motorist s out of their wit s as they practised thei r shooting from firin g points close to the main road . The civi l administration enjoye d th e added dimensio n t o thei r live s and work provided by the army who were ready, as part of their training , to help with community projects, in floods and typhoons and in buildin g roads. All enjoyed thei r warm hospitalit y a t mess dinners o n ceremonia l occasions. On Tuesday, 28 October 198 0 a dinner was held at Governmen t House fo r th e departin g Secon d Battalio n 2n d Kin g Edwar d VIF s Ow n Goorkhas, th e Sirmoo r Rifles . Thi s was a grand occasio n a t which, afte r dinner, the champion piper of the Queen's Own Highland Regiment strode piping behind the seated diners, to the bewilderment of the Chinese guests unfamiliar wit h thi s triba l ritual . Lieutenant Colone l Jackman , Commandan t o f a battalio n o f th e Sirmoor Rifles , wrote m e a letter dated 2 September 198 0 which reveals , from persona l experience , th e exten t o f th e contributio n th e battalion s made durin g th e tim e when th e borde r wa s unde r pressur e fro m illega l immigration, particularl y durin g th e perio d a t th e en d o f th e seventie s and early eighties before the border fence had been built into a formidabl e barrier. I n his own moving words he tells part of the proud history of th e 124

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Behind the Headlines battalion, th e histori c significanc e o f th e da y the y lef t th e borde r wit h bugles playing, th e cooperatio n betwee n al l of us w ho w o r k e d i n th e N e w Territories a t tha t time , a n d th e surg e o f illega l immigrant s strugglin g t o reach h o m e bas e i n H o n g Kong : Since th e Battalion' s retur n t o Hon g Kon g fro m th e U K i n Apri l 1977, 3 1/ 2 years or forty month s ago , it has spent 2 0 months o n anti-illegal immigratio n operations . I n th e las t 1 6 months alon e 13 month s hav e bee n spen t o n thes e operations . Th e Battalio n has apprehende d 18,00 0 illega l immigrants , wit h 17,00 0 bein g arrested i n the last 1 6 months. Five awards for bravery have been received an d on e soldie r ha s die d o n operations . On 1 4 September 198 0 the Battalion will come off the frontie r for th e las t tim e before i t move s t o Brune i i n Novembe r fo r tw o years o f duty there . 14 September is a significant da y for 2n d Goorkha s fo r it was on thi s day in 1857 , during th e Indian Mutiny, that the Regimen t was finall y relieve d afte r holdin g th e main pique t o n Delhi ridg e for ove r thre e months . Durin g tha t tim e 32 7 me n wer e kille d o r wounded out of a total strength of 490, including 8 out of 9 British Officers. They were the highest casualties of any Regiment or Corps engaged i n Delhi . To this da y th e Regiment celebrate s Delh i Da y on 1 4 September ever y year. In th e Day s o f th e Ra j whe n th e Regimen t returne d fro m operations o n th e North-West frontie r o f India, it was customar y for us to march home from th e nearest railway station to our line s to the accompaniment o f drums and bugles - ther e being no band in thos e days . I t seem s mos t fittin g therefor e tha t w e shoul d celebrate Delh i Da y thi s year , an d mar k ou r relinquishmen t o f Border duties , by marching fro m Lo k Ma Chau , th e western en d of the Frontier, into our lines at Cassino to the accompaniment o f our bugles . These touchin g word s mor e tha n eve r recal l th e contributio n m a d e to th e life o f H o ng Kong , particularl y th e N e w Territorie s wher e w e spen t so m a n y year s o f ou r lives , by th e officer s a n d m e n o f th e Britis h Forces , during th e grea t change s tha t wer e takin g plac e an d th e challenge s tha t were bein g face d betwee n th e e n d o f th e Pacifi c Wa r an d reunification .

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15 Xiamen

C

^ ur firs t visi t t o Chin a ha d take n place in 1973 . Later, in th e | seventies , I visite d th e fast-developin g cit y o f Shenzhen , / o n th e othe r sid e o f th e rive r fro m Hon g Kong , an d accompanied th e Hong Kong soccer team to Guangzhou fo r the inaugural football match of what was to become an annua l event. The match took on a greater significance a s it marked the return t o normalisation o f relation s betwee n th e ordinar y peopl e o f Hon g Kon g and the rest of Guangdong. The mostly male spectators packed the stadium wearing th e blue jacket an d cap s of the past, all smoking s o heavily tha t the still air of the stadium fille d wit h a pall of blue smoke . When trave l t o Chin a becam e almos t commonplac e i n th e year s following 197 8 an d th e openin g o f China , almos t alon e amon g senio r government officials , m y wife an d I took th e opportunit y t o trave l ther e as often a s we could. I include accounts of some of these visits in order t o paint a picture of the changes taking place in China and to put events and changes i n Hon g Kon g in thei r wide r context , an d t o show tha t th e tw o places ha d begu n t o mov e close r togethe r wel l before th e conclusio n o f the agreement with Chin a abou t Hon g Kong's future . The economi c refor m programme , an d th e openin g t o th e world o f opportunities fo r investmen t i n Chin a a s part of the reforms, mean t tha t in 1982 we were able to visit Fujian province, home of the Hokkien dialect which I had spent two years, nearly thirty years previously, learning under the whirling fans at the Chan family ancestral hall in Kuala Lumpur. Ou r

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Feeling the Stones

companions o n th e journe y ha d bee n bo m an d brough t u p i n Fujia n many year s befor e an d wer e returnin g hom e fo r th e firs t time . I t was a s though I , too , were goin g home , s o deepl y incise d i n m y memor y wer e the descriptions o f Xiamen I had learned by rote, and so thoroughly ha d I been steepe d i n th e language an d live s of my teachers . Fujian i s isolated from th e rest of China by mountain ranges throug h which runs a single-track railwa y line. Partly because of this isolation, it s spoken dialect has developed differently fro m th e rest of China, and within Fujian provinc e itsel f th e languag e o f th e capital , Fuzhou , i s differen t again fro m th e res t o f th e province . Th e Fujianes e ar e a proud, separat e and determined people, fine-tuned by isolation and hardship. As we arrived in Fuzhou, th e provincial capital , we were taken t o visit Yung Quan Si , a Buddhist monastery o n Wu Shan overlooking th e town. The road loope d up th e mountai n throug h th e trees , wher e her e an d there , seekin g th e sunlight, wild white roses, red azaleas and purple rhododendrons skirte d the way. It was th e tim e fo r famil y group s with thei r baskets o f offering s slowly t o wen d thei r wa y u p th e slop e t o thei r famil y graves . Passin g them, we went on higher into an ancient forest o f moss-covered tree s to a temple rising up th e slope on platforms, with dusty-red, pillared cloister s and yello w roof s agains t th e green o f th e forest . Flagge d path s le d t o fa r pavilions and great boulders laid bare by the stream were deeply inscribed with th e thoughts and remembered poetr y of travellers and worshippers . On on e hug e ston e a singl e ideogra m fo r Buddh a th e Enlightene d On e covered th e surface, deepl y carved an d picked ou t i n red so that it stoo d in thre e dimensions , makin g it s dramatic statement . At dinner tha t evenin g the Vice Governor stresse d th e importance of improving th e transpor t infrastructur e an d abou t th e wor k goin g o n t o develop th e port s an d airport s a t Fuzho u an d Xiamen , an d spok e surprisingly openl y a t tha t earl y date , i n 1982 , abou t th e rol e o f Hon g Kong in improving relations with Taiwan just across the straits from Fujian . From Fuzhou a steam train too k us up th e valley of the brown Man g River t o A n Ping , passin g village s wit h tampe d mu d an d woode n wall s beneath dark-tiled, curved roofs. At An Ping, while we loaded up the car s 128

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to take us to Wu I mountain, a small crowd collected to catch a glimpse of these curious arrivals from another world: one of our friends had a striped suit, my wife had auburn hair, and a thir d had silver-painted toenail s an d curly hair . We wer e whiske d away , hurtlin g throug h th e countryside , hor n blowing, scatterin g pig s an d chicken s an d swervin g dangerousl y pas t growling an d obstinat e timbe r lorries . In th e river beside th e road, a raf t of logs was being poled slowly down with the current, against an endurin g background o f rice field s an d smal l conical mountains . After a night o n har d board s w e wer e u p earl y th e nex t mornin g t o the loud, scratchy, recorded broadcast of revolutionary songs which acte d as the muezzin cal l to work i n th e communes. Breakfast wa s in th e grea t bam o f the commun e wit h it s peeling walls. The peasants , ready fo r th e day's work, sa t a t round table s with a continuous fixe d bench , ben t low , slurping grea t bowl s o f noodles. We ate more sedatel y o f rice gruel , eg g cake, preserved cabbag e and 'wool ' made fro m slowl y frying por k whic h is stirre d unti l i t breaks int o fibres . Outside , t o ou r surprise , th e publi c wall newspaper s i n thei r glas s case s announce d th e resignatio n o f Lor d Carrington a s Foreign Minister . New s o f the Falklands War had reache d furthest Fujian ! Breakfast over , we were off in the sunshine to climb and stroll aroun d the great stone cliff s o f Wu I . Far dow n below, the waters o f the windin g river were blue and green, bordered by the brilliant spring leaves of neatly coiffed te a bushes. We rode on bamboo raft s wit h curled bows, and wer e poled throug h rapid s an d acros s dee p clea r pools . W e walke d ancien t stone paths , pas t statue s lyin g i n th e gras s waitin g fo r restoratio n an d through terrace d te a gardens, and wondered a t boat burials hundred s o f feet abov e us in a carved-out hollo w in th e cliffs . While Fuzho u i s th e capita l cit y o f th e province , th e forme r treat y port of Amoy (E-mng in Hokkien an d Xiamen in Putonghua), because of its deepe r wate r an d it s roa d connection s t o Guangdong , ha s overtake n Fuzhou commerciall y and as an attraction fo r investment. I n 198 2 it was quickening to the call of economic reform. Many shops were still boarded,

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Feeling the Stones

there were fe w vehicles o n th e stree t an d th e predominan t colour s wer e blue and grey , but dow n a t the airport i t was a different scene . Hundred s of worker s wer e workin g wit h rudimentar y equipment , picks , shovel s and wheelbarrows , buildin g fo r th e future , t o mak e Xiame n on e o f th e show place s amon g th e coasta l cities . No on e should leav e Xiamen without crossin g by ferry ove r th e mile or so of water t o Gulangyu, a humped islan d lying across the front o f th e main town, home in imperial times to the treaty port officials, th e customs officers, th e consuls and th e rich, retired sugar, rubber an d ti n merchant s from South-Eas t Asia . We strolle d pas t th e burn t remain s o f th e Britis h Consulate an d th e foreig n cemeter y wit h it s gravestone s broke n durin g the angry emotions of the Cultural Revolution. We peered past the pillars into th e empt y shel l o f a tycoon' s house , surrounde d b y othe r house s where his wives had lived; the billiard table was still there with torn baize, an ancien t Hoove r wa s proppe d agains t a wall , an d th e marbl e statue s still stood on the newel post. We could almost hear the tinkle of champagne glasses an d th e cocktai l chatte r o f earlie r days . We foun d th e house s i n which our friends and companions had spent their childhood, and perhaps we passed th e bungalow i n which ou r Governor , Si r Murray MacLehose , had live d before th e war, while learning Hokkien . Ours was a memorable visit. We were fortunate t o be able to see thi s world a t an earl y stage in th e process o f change an d modernisatio n and , from wha t we had seen and the frank conversation s we had had, to com e away reassured about the reforms taking place in China and by extension, Hong Kong's own future, heavily dependent as it was upon China's stability and it s opening t o the world outside . We had ha d a n opportunit y t o tal k with provincia l leaders , t o se e lif e i n th e countryside , t o witnes s th e construction o f ne w roads , an d t o wal k an d tal k amon g th e ordinar y people. It was many years yet before reunification, but here were the visible signs of the China to which Hong Kong was to be restored. China seeme d set o n a path o f reform an d chang e i n th e live s of its people fro m whic h there would b e no turnin g back .

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This visit was also important for me personally because it meant tha t when I later too k part as a member o f Hong Kong's Executive Counci l i n the negotiations about Hong Kong's future, I did so with more confidenc e in th e eventua l outcom e tha n thos e who ha d no t ha d a n opportunit y t o see Chin a a t firs t hand . I t was a n outcom e which , havin g see n wha t w e had seen , we coul d now contemplat e with mor e confidence . In 198 2 I believe it i s fair t o say tha t ther e was a still a good dea l of scepticism abou t th e reforms an d change s takin g place in China . I shall never forget how , in one of our visits to Hangzhou, we stood an d toaste d noisily wit h loca l leader s wh o sai d o f th e Cultura l Revolution , 'I t wil l never happen again!' People in Hong Kong, however, many of whom ha d lived through th e early days of the People's Republic, had a less sanguin e perspective. The view of Hong Kong's future see n from th e West and als o by doubters i n Hong Kong was that it was going to be 'taken over ' by th e communists and that the People's Liberation Army would come marching in. This visi t t o Fujia n wa s th e firs t o f man y visit s t o Chin a wit h ou r Chinese friends durin g the following years . We flew t o the far north-eas t to Jilin provinc e an d visite d th e corne r o f Chin a wher e th e border s o f China, North Korea and Russia meet. We travelled in a minibus for thirtee n days along the Silk Road from Lanzhou to Kashgar and later from Lanzho u down throug h Sichua n t o Chengdu . W e visited th e forme r Britis h nava l base a t Weihaiwe i an d pai d ou r respect s t o th e grav e o f Confuciu s a t Chufu. W e stood on the summit of many mountains and saw the scener y which has made China famous, Gweilin, Huangshan, Taishan, Ermeishan, and th e mountai n ridge s a t Jinggongsha n wher e China' s leader s ha d planned th e Lon g March . An d o f cours e w e watche d Shangha i an d th e towns an d citie s aroun d i t becom e transforme d fro m th e dim-li t gre y buildings o f the past into th e modern world .

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16

The Beginning of Negotiations

•h m th

e departure and arrival of Governors ar e punctuation mark s i n e lif e o f a colony; you ar e never quit e sur e wha t th e nex t ma n

• wil l be like. There is certain to be a change of style, and no Governo r • i s lik e another . Jus t a s i n electe d governments , th e civi l servant s m provid e continuity and for better or worse put a brake on revolutionary change; an d perhap s wha t i s mor e important , the y provid e a collectiv e memory, an invaluable aid when contemplating dramatic changes in policy Each o f Hong Kong's Governors, and now Hong Kong's Chief Executive , could no t hav e bee n mor e differen t fro m on e another . Afte r te n year s with Si r Murray MacLehose, in 198 2 Hong Kon g was due fo r a change. Sir Murra y ha d arrive d i n 197 2 whe n Hon g Kon g ha d no t full y recovered fro m th e direc t challeng e o f th e disturbance s o f th e Cultura l Revolution. Governmen t Hous e ha d bee n bese t by rioting mob s wavin g the re d boo k o f Mao' s thought s an d th e Governo r ha d bee n abuse d b y demonstrators. Confidence had drained away, and though citizens voiced their suppor t fo r th e colonia l government , ther e i s no doub t tha t Hon g Kong had been made rudel y awar e of the looming presence o f China . By 1972 , althoug h th e turmoi l i n Chin a whic h ha d begu n i n 196 6 was continuing , Hon g Kon g gav e a great sig h o f relie f whe n immediat e danger seemed to have passed. The stock market, which had been held in check, boomed . Release d fro m fear , housewives , amahs , professiona l people, clerk s an d civi l servant s wer e caugh t u p i n investmen t fever . Inevitably, th e balloo n burs t a s quickl y a s i t inflated , leavin g luckles s

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Feeling the Stones

investors t o pic k u p th e pieces . I t wa s a restles s time , ful l o f anxiety , directionless. Si r Murray , comin g t o Hon g Kong , gav e i t a rudde r an d steered an unwavering cours e through years that were difficult, no t onl y for Hon g Kong , bu t mor e widel y fo r th e worl d economy . Thi s wa s particularly s o durin g th e crisi s i n th e mid-seventie s brough t o n b y escalating oi l prices, when Hon g Kong chartered a monster oi l tanker t o hold som e oi l in reserv e an d trie d withou t succes s t o thin k o f ways an d means to deal with the problem of growing unemployment. Here the bosses and thei r worker s cooperate d t o shar e th e wor k ou t rathe r tha n hav e their co-workers laid off. Bu t all in all Sir Murray's programmes of refor m helped Hong Kong weather these storms and brought stability, prosperity and, abov e all, pride t o th e people at their achievemen t Ten years had passed, and it was time to leave. After weeks of farewel l visits, speeches, lunches an d dinner s an d a t th e clima x o f departure, Si r Murray was taken ill. He recovered surprisingly quickly and after a splendid send-off displa y by massed bands, parading troops and dancing children , he shoo k hand s wit h th e member s o f hi s council s a t th e Queen' s Pier , crossed th e harbour i n his launch an d quietl y departed . Sir Edwar d Youde , a distinguishe d diploma t an d scholar , wh o eac h morning firs t rea d th e Chines e papers , ha d bee n Britis h Ambassado r i n Beijing. H e wa s quiet , patien t an d unwavering , kind , considerat e an d humorous, and , secon d t o hi s famil y an d hi s work, like d nothin g mor e than t o retrea t t o th e rewardin g solitud e o f Hon g Kong' s wetlan d bir d sanctuary. H e too k ove r a t a tim e whe n th e governmen t machin e wa s running smoothly and the economy prospering. Sir Murray's visits to China had broke n th e ic e wit h Chines e officials . Th e subjec t o f 199 7 wa s n o longer taboo . All thoughts were now o n how t o engage Chin a i n seriou s discussion. Sir Edward and Pamela, his wife, also a Chinese scholar, arrived on a fine wind y da y o n 2 0 Ma y 1982 . Fro m th e beginning , thei r war m friendliness impresse d th e media , thos e the y me t a t th e airpor t an d al l involved in the welcoming ceremonies. They stood on the foredeck o f the Lady Maurine, the Governor's launch, a miniature royal yacht, small, white 134

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The Beginning of Negotiations

and immaculat e a s sh e mad e he r wa y slowl y acros s th e harbou r wit h bands playing, fireboats sprayin g their fountains, and helicopters trailin g red, white an d blue smoke . As they neared th e Queen's Pier a playful win d blew the launch awa y from th e landing , an d th e waiting guest s twic e readie d an d relaxed , bu t finally th e ne w Governor , i n starche d white , plume d ha t an d sword , stepped confidentl y ashore . A s h e walke d alon g th e line s o f assemble d councillors and reviewed the Gurkha troops, while guns boomed out thei r royal greeting, he gave no sign that, some time earlier, the screw holdin g the feathers had somehow come loose and had been boring into his sparsely covered scalp ! The members of Executive Council , in morning dress, and th e Chie f Justice, in breeches, ruffs an d scarlet , were assembled i n a semicircle o n the red-carpeted stag e of th e Cit y Hall for th e oaths o f office, th e speec h of welcom e fro m th e Chie f Secretar y Si r Phili p Haddon-Cave , an d th e Governor's address . Si r Edwar d spok e o f th e futur e wit h th e followin g words: 'It i s no t surprising , give n th e circumstance s o f th e lease , tha t thi s issue should now be raised. I believe there are good grounds for confidenc e and tha t th e omen s ar e good . Th e commitmen t o f He r Majesty' s Government t o Hon g Kon g and th e interests o f its people remain s firm . The relationshi p wit h th e People's Republic o f Chin a o n which s o muc h depends, has neve r been more cordial. ' He went o n to say that there was: 'a common recognitio n o f the vital importance o f the continued prosperit y and stability of the Territory an d a common wis h t o preserve them. ' These measured word s put th e people o f Hong Kon g on notic e tha t the issue of the lease was something tha t had t o be addressed. His word s did no t rais e fals e hopes , but allude d t o th e meeting s an d visit s which , after thirt y years, had broken the silence of Hong Kong's relationship with the mainland an d echoed the view, shared with the Chinese government , that stabilit y an d prosperit y wer e all-important . A s w e wer e t o tir e o f hearing ove r th e next fe w years, his address implied, i n Deng Xiaoping' s words, 'Tell your businessmen t o put their hearts at ease and not to worry'

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Feeling the Stones

I had been appointed a member o f the Governor's Executive Counci l in 197 8 and so became one of the cabinet of advisors to the new Governor. Some years previously, as Secretary for th e New Territories, I had met Si r Edward Youde when, while British Ambassador to China, he paid a private visit to Hong Kong . We had travelle d by boat from th e harbour t o Castl e Peak, passing th e containe r por t an d th e new tow n o f Tsuen Wan, t o yet another ne w town , Tue n Mu n o r 'fortres s gate' , whic h wa s bein g buil t around a long established settlement with many hundred years of history. We had driven up a steep track through pine trees to a vantage poin t beside a n ancien t templ e overlookin g th e ne w town , passin g unde r th e arch wher e Si r Ceci l Clementi , Governo r i n th e 1920s , ha d inscribe d a salutation. Si r Edwar d sa w th e ne w tow n an d als o caugh t a glimps e o f historic Hong Kong, and could see that, although we were busy expandin g and developing, there were deeper currents to be recognised and respected. The templ e wa s itsel f a reflectio n o f tw o beliefs , Taois t an d Buddhist , with th e buildings interlocked, an d no t surprisingly, i t was the source o f an insolubl e disput e betwee n th e trustee s o f th e tw o part s wh o wer e struggling t o obtai n titl e t o th e valuabl e land s owne d b y th e monaster y and neede d fo r development . Th e monaster y beneat h th e branches o f a great banyan tre e and protecte d b y giant boulders, ha d see n better days , but wa s redolen t o f a n ag e when, hig h u p th e sid e o f th e Castl e Peak , i t kept watch ove r th e small market tow n an d th e fishing flee t a t shelter i n the bay. We went o n t o visit th e village o f Sha Ta u Kok at th e eastern en d o f the boundary where the colony and mainland Chin a met in the middle of the street and where, in 1967 , militia ha d opene d fir e o n th e Hong Kon g police post. I n Sha Tau Ko k you entere d th e world o f unchanged China , decaying shops lined the road to the pier with their pots and pans, bamboo brooms, hard , drie d shrimp s an d string s o f withered, salte d fish , ric e i n great sacks and numerous beans. We travelled out on a police launch t o a small islan d bus y wit h th e week-lon g ritual s o f ten-yea r propitiatio n ceremonies. Vegetaria n foo d i s eate n an d ther e ar e continuou s hour s o f exhausting prayer ceremonie s which hav e never been full y explained . 136

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The Beginning of Negotiations

On thi s earl y visi t th e ma n wh o wa s eventuall y t o becom e ou r Governor alread y ha d see n th e containe r port , bein g entirel y develope d by private enterprise companies who were quick to perceive the revolution that was taking place in transport by sea. Within months, areas of the sea had bee n sold , fille d an d piled , an d a por t fo r th e ne w ship s built . Si r Edward had seen the giant cranes which within a few years were to develop Hong Kong into on e of the greatest ports in the world, ready to deal with the demand placed on it by the explosive economy of southern China . He had see n a ne w tow n fro m th e step s o f a n ancien t monastery ; h e ha d walked carefull y dow n th e Hon g Kon g sid e o f th e stree t i n vie w o f th e border defenc e soldier s o f China ; h e ha d see n th e seren e beaut y o f th e eastern coast , wit h it s emeral d islands , clea r water , an d distan t blu e mountains; an d h e ha d witnesse d th e solemnity , th e ancien t ritua l an d the joyfu l expectatio n whic h ar e par t o f a successfu l propitiatio n o f innumerable gods . I t wa s a usefu l preparatio n fo r hi s appointmen t a s Governor. Sir Edward Youde administered calmly and quietly, reading his papers and files, talking to many people and visiting widely to see for himself th e housing estates, squatter villages, and factories, as well as his department s of government . Throughou t hi s tenure , an d despit e th e pressur e o f negotiations abou t th e future, h e continue d t o do thi s unobtrusively. A s the years passed, his unremitting work and travel and his quiet friendlines s worked its way deep into the affections o f a people who take their time to make up thei r minds about a person and build up their assessment of his character episod e by episode . At the behest of his predecessor, McKinsey Management Consultant s in 197 3 ha d pu t thei r stam p o n th e governmen t machine , dividin g th e administration int o polic y branche s an d strivin g fo r a clea r separatio n between the ivory tower of policy and the departments in the trenches. In practice th e separation was blurred, an d fro m th e start did no t full y tak e into accoun t th e existenc e o f literally hundred s o f government advisor y bodies where policy issues received their first airing. As the years passed, working relationships had to be adjusted t o new requirements, the growth

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Feeling the Stones

of government , physica l an d politica l development , th e expandin g population, and the emergence of care for the environment. And gradually the change s brough t abou t b y McKinse y wer e eroded . Despit e this , Si r Edward inherite d a well-oiled an d responsiv e civi l service. Another million people had been added t o the population durin g Sir Murray's ten-yea r ter m a s Governo r an d si x ne w town s wer e i n varyin g stages o f development . Distric t Board s ha d bee n forme d an d election s were in the offing. Th e members of the Legislative Council, although stil l appointed by the Governor, were now a more representative reflection o f the various aspects of the life of the community and of its social structure. Sir Edward had arrived in Hong Kong when the question of the futur e was a t th e to p o f th e agend a o f Executiv e Council , an d ther e i t staye d until hi s tragi c death i n 1986 . The decisio n b y Si r Murray, with Foreig n Office agreement , t o rais e th e questio n o f th e shortenin g ter m o f Ne w Territories lease and of downstream property leases has been much debated and criticised. This criticism borders on the absurd. How long could Hong Kong go on pouring money into th e development o f the New Territorie s without knowin g what would happen when th e lease expired? Althoug h Sir Murray's suggestions had been met with a negative response in China , they had raised at the highest level of the government of China the looming and serious practical problem of the shortening lease. It was disappointing, but inevitable , tha t Si r Murray' s suggestio n tha t thi s proble m coul d b e solved b y administrativ e measure s take n i n Hon g Kon g carrie d wit h i t the implication tha t th e British were proposing a course o f action whic h would hav e blurred th e questio n o f sovereignty an d th e retur n o f Hon g Kong t o China . Bu t i t wa s wort h a try , an d t o hav e pu t forwar d mor e radical solutions straight away would have resulted in even more criticism. Sir Murray' s repetitio n t o investor s o n hi s retur n t o Hon g Kon g o f Deng Xiaoping' s phras e 'pu t thei r heart s a t eas e an d no t t o worry ' di d exactly the reverse, and served only to fuel th e fires of speculation. Doub t and uncertainty continued . Th e months an d years passed and it was no t long before even casual conversations on the street turned to the question of th e future , 'Wha t d o yo u thin k i s goin g t o happen? ' Th e nine-poin t 138

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The Beginning of Negotiations

plan Chin a had offered t o Taiwan in 198 1 had been brought up again as a way forward durin g the visit to China by Humphrey Atkins in the sprin g of 1982 in preparation for the autumn visit of the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Although there was no spontaneous reaction to this suggestio n at tha t time , fo r thos e wh o ha d ear s t o hear , th e ide a tha t th e Britis h should study the plans for Taiwan gave the British government somethin g to thin k about . Chin a wa s als o tellin g it s frequen t visitor s fro m Hon g Kong tha t Hon g Kon g coul d enjo y th e measure s hel d ou t t o Taiwan , retaining a high degree of autonomy and keeping its economic and othe r systems intact . I t woul d no t hav e t o follo w th e socialis t policie s o f th e mainland o r loca l communis t part y leadership . A s Den g Xiaopin g ha d said, it would be 'one country, two systems'. It was at this point, with th e long-awaited visi t b y Mr s Thatche r t o Beijin g jus t a fe w month s away , that Sir Edward Youde took ove r th e reins in Hong Kong . Expansion of teenage education, changes taking place in the economy, increasing sophisticatio n an d exposur e t o th e worl d brough t abou t no t only b y trave l bu t b y th e ever-increasin g numbe r o f student s returnin g from overseas , were changing Hong Kong. There was a large gap between the number o f elite schools and the number o f children seeking places in them. Year after year many thousands of young people went for educatio n overseas, t o th e Unite d Kingdom , Canada , th e US A an d Australia , an d many returned, adding to an increasing political awareness. Some of those who returne d forme d a group calle d 'Th e Observers' , whose view s wer e published i n thought-provoking article s in th e South China Morning Post and were in th e vanguard o f subsequent politica l debate . Millions were travelling to mainland China . Imperceptibly an d wit h increasing momentum , Hon g Kon g an d Chin a wer e becomin g mor e interdependent. M y notes recor d visit s an d lunche s a t Islan d Hous e fo r visiting delegation s o f hig h officials , deput y governor s fro m ou r neighbouring province s o f Guangdong an d Fujian , an d a very enjoyabl e lunch with a delegation in 198 1 led by Wang Daohan, then the charmin g and livel y mayo r o f Shanghai , who , a s I write , i s People' s Republi c representative on ARATS, the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits .

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Feeling the Stones

More of Hong Kong's people, too, because of the changes taking place within China , wer e beginnin g t o be les s apprehensiv e a t th e though t o f eventual reunificatio n wit h th e mainland . T o some thi s wa s a welcom e rediscovery o f patriotis m an d identity , whil e other s wer e nervou s bu t already sense d th e inevitabl e conclusio n tha t ther e wa s goin g t o b e a n end to British administration; yet others sought a guarantee of a safe haven, which force d husband s an d wives to separate i n order t o acquire foreig n residency. There were few, if any, heretical voices calling on the British t o stay. Some were later to accuse Britain of deserting Hong Kong, but thes e accusations turned rather on the withdrawal of their British resident status than th e eventua l reunificatio n wit h Chin a an d th e expungin g o f wha t was, t o th e Chinese , th e degradin g nineteenth-centur y surrende r o f national territory . In retrospect i t may seem to have been completel y unrealistic, but a t the time it was inevitable that Whitehall, Westminster, Government Hous e and th e members o f Executive Counci l should argu e for th e retention o f British administration . Whil e acknowledgin g Chines e sovereignt y Executive Council had the lives of five million people to worry about an d could no t let go lightly a government an d administration tha t they kne w well, withou t havin g a clea r ide a o f wha t woul d replac e it . Whil e understandable, this caused the Chinese members of the Executive Counci l to b e castigate d fo r bein g unpatriotic . Bu t remembe r th e yea r — i t wa s during the Cold War and the world was divided into two camps separated by curtain s o f iro n an d bamboo . Nothin g comparabl e t o th e retur n o f Hong Kon g t o a communis t countr y ha d occurre d i n history . Thi s wa s the starting point of negotiation, not the righting of the wrongs of history There wa s world opinio n an d th e mind-se t o f th e medi a t o consider . A retreat to the ceded territory of Hong Kong and Kowloon, a kind of'fortress ' Hong Kong, was even considered fo r a time. This absurd idea came fro m minds ignorant o f the fact that the boundary between th e ceded territor y and th e territor y leased in 189 8 ran throug h th e middle o f Kowloon an d that more than a million people lived on the other side of Boundary Street, and tha t th e lifeline, th e airport , convenientl y situate d i n Kowloon , wa s 140

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The Beginning of Negotiations

actually in th e territor y whose leas e would expir e in 1997 . So, too, were power stations , reservoirs and th e containe r port . Hong Kon g di d no t sto p wor k whil e th e diplomati c stor m cloud s gathered. In 1982 the first part of the railway to the border was electrified , creating a new, fast suburban trai n service, and th e Mass Transit Railway , Hong Kong's underground, was connected to the new town of Tsuen Wan. Behind our house the level crossing of the railway had been replaced by a new road bridge and the first tower blocks of the new town of Tai Po were appearing over our treetops . Great projects t o improve the infrastructur e and build housing , office s an d factorie s wer e being advanced, n o matte r what was going on the political front. Here was no sign of an administration running dow n bu t rathe r a quickenin g o f th e pac e o f chang e an d development. Hong Kong was lucky that during this period of drawn-ou t negotiations abou t it s future , i t enjoye d a period o f sustained economi c growth; the government coffers were full and it was able to invest in thes e reassuring developments , thereby creating a feeling o f 'business as usual' in the midst o f extremely serious political concerns . On ou r island a tailor bird was weaving its nest from a hibiscus leaf, a white-eye wa s building it s tin y cu p i n th e aprico t tree , the oriole s ha d returned from thei r southern migration, herons and egrets plundered th e foreshore an d a cheek y kingfishe r dive d int o th e swimmin g pool . At a n international festival , choir s fro m Finland , Iceland , Puert o Rico , th e Philippines an d ou r ow n Children' s Choi r san g their heart s out . Soon after his arrival, on 26 June 1982 , the Governor and Lady Youde came to supper at our Island House to meet a group of young people who were moving ahead. Guest s included Christin e Loh, who was to becom e a Legislativ e Councillor , Ann a Wu , wh o wa s t o becom e a Legislativ e Councillor and later chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission , Margaret Ng, who became a barrister and was later to represent th e Legal Functional Constituenc y i n th e Legislativ e Council , Andre w Li , wh o became Chie f Justice i n 1996 , and s o on . Thi s was on e o f many relaxe d evenings a t Islan d Hous e fo r th e Governo r t o meet youn g people . The y spoke, without mincing words, of their hopes and fears for Hong Kong in 141

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Feeling the Stones

the weeks leading to Mrs Thatcher's visit to China and before negotiation s which wer e t o decide ou r futur e wer e t o begin i n earnest . These evening s ha d begu n te n year s befor e durin g th e MacLehos e era an d wer e t o continu e fo r severa l mor e years , th e las t takin g plac e shortly afte r th e arriva l o f th e las t Governor , Christophe r Patten . Conversation wa s uninhibite d an d privat e an d i n n o instanc e wa s confidence breached . The y gav e th e Governo r a usefu l insigh t int o th e thoughts an d worrie s fo r th e futur e o f a grou p o f intelligent , articulat e young people , an d whe n h e returne d t o hi s desk , helpe d hi m shap e hi s own search for a solution, knowing that it would either command suppor t or fai l fo r th e lac k o f it . I n th e year s o f negotiatio n wit h Chin a whic h followed, thes e get-togethers became increasingly important. As the drama unfolded i t was essential t o listen t o particular worries and opinion s an d to the reactions to information being relayed by Chinese officials t o visitors to Beijing . Sir Edward Youd e joined th e British official s wh o accompanie d Mr s Thatcher int o th e Grea t Hal l o f th e Peopl e o n 2 4 Septembe r 1982 . Th e main purpose o f this meeting was to get agreement t o start negotiations , and this was achieved, although some months then passed before meeting s began. Th e hig h ceilings , hug e pillars , great auster e space s fo r greeting , and vas t meetin g room s eac h assigne d an d decorate d i n th e style o f on e of China's provinces, are awesome. Chairs are arranged to reflect the gravity of meeting s s o tha t th e principa l speaker s hav e t o tal k uncomfortabl y sideways t o one another with th e interpreters sittin g behind, which doe s not pu t visitor s a t eas e fo r a cos y cha t bu t rathe r resemble s a set-piec e with th e other s i n attendanc e silentl y facin g on e anothe r i n a horsesho e shape. For the British Prime Minister this was a discussion about sovereignty and administration . Fo r th e Chines e there was never any question abou t the recover y o f sovereignty . Thi s ha d alread y bee n sai d man y time s t o many people and was even said again by the Prime Minister Zhao Ziyan g to th e pres s assemble d o n th e rout e int o th e meetin g room . However , MrsThatcher emphasised , i n Beijin g an d i n a late r pres s conferenc e i n 142

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The Beginning of Negotiations

Hong Kong , th e validity o f th e treatie s cedin g Hon g Kon g and Kowloo n and leasing the New Territories. This rubbed salt in the wounds by, in th e words o f th e Chinese , 'providin g ironcla d proo f o f th e natur e o f Britis h imperialism i n th e nineteent h century' . Fo r Chin a an d fo r Chines e everywhere, th e Hong Kon g treatie s were a symbol o f China' s weakene d state during the alien and faltering Manch u dynasty . This was now a new, confident, stron g Chin a dealin g wit h imperialis t concession s extracte d from th e Manchu s who , centurie s before , ha d positione d thei r official s throughout Chin a speaking and writing a different languag e much as our colonial official s did ! Th e recover y o f sovereignty was a sacred mission , and to continue to allow foreigners to govern a part of China was abhorrent. The lines were drawn fo r th e negotiations whic h wer e t o follow . After visitin g Chin a an d befor e he r pres s conferenc e i n Hong Kong , the Prime Ministe r me t wit h th e officia l member s o f Executive Council . We were told the negative outcome of her discussion with Deng Xiaoping. The proble m no w facin g u s was t o persuad e Chines e leader s tha t Hon g Kong's prosperit y an d th e confidenc e o f th e internationa l communit y rested o n British law and administration, an d tha t th e ultimate authorit y for thi s came from th e British parliament. At that early stage we were no t visionary or trusting enough t o think of a solution which would keep th e systems intact , th e civi l service working a s before, th e Commo n La w i n operation wit h ou r ow n Cour t o f Fina l Appeal , an d membershi p o f international organisation s continuing . Tha t cam e later, after a long slo g of two years' negotiation . Throughout these years, Executive Council was fully informed abou t the negotiations, which otherwis e were a closely guarded secret . Instea d of the weekly Tuesday morning meetings, the agenda of Executive Counci l was divided into two . On Tuesdays, the ordinary business o f Hong Kon g was deal t wit h an d o n Wednesdays , th e future . Toward s th e en d o f th e period, with the approach o f the deadline of September 198 4 given to th e negotiators by Deng himself fo r bringing an end to discussion, Executiv e Council me t daily , a specia l roo m bein g se t asid e s o tha t w e coul d rea d sensitive papers in complete security . 143

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Feeling the Stones

Much has been written about the twists and turns of the negotiation s themselves. Ther e i s not muc h mor e t o be said . Th e tw o year s betwee n the arriva l o f Si r Edwar d Youd e a s Governo r an d th e initiallin g o f th e Joint Declaratio n divid e int o two . Th e firs t yea r wa s spen t defendin g a position unacceptable , a t th e ver y outset , t o th e Chines e government . This le d t o a hiatu s i n th e autum n o f 198 3 an d t o th e solutio n t o th e impasse put forwar d b y Sir Percy Cradock . Negotiations wer e gettin g nowhere . Hon g Kon g kne w fro m visitor s to Beijing , article s i n th e pres s an d talk s with Chines e official s i n Hon g Kong tha t Britis h obdurac y wa s th e stumblin g block . I t wa s a tim e o f great anxiet y an d crisis . Ther e wa s a run o n th e Hon g Kon g dolla r an d panic buyin g i n th e supermarkets . Hon g Kong' s Financia l Secretar y Si r John Bremridge, in New York for a meeting of the International Monetar y Fund, was , a s luc k woul d hav e it , o n a launc h preparin g t o watc h th e America's Cu p when th e news came recalling him t o Hong Kong. He ha d spoken out strongly against a fixed exchange rate and embarrassingly di d so at the airport o n his return t o Hong Kong , not knowin g tha t while h e had bee n awa y othe r official s i n Hon g Kon g ha d agree d t o a plan t o d o just tha t pu t forwar d b y John Greenwood , a n economis t wit h th e G T fund managemen t group . Subsequently , a t meeting s betwee n th e Prim e Minister and Bank of England officials i n Washington an d after a visit by officials t o Hong Kon g in 1983 , the Hong Kon g dollar was linked t o th e US dollar an d continue s t o be linked t o this day. The run o n th e dollar brought home just how fragile confidenc e wa s and, althoug h th e currenc y wa s stabilised , peopl e wer e not . The y wer e tired and anxiou s and wanted a n end t o waiting. It was soon t o come .

144

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17

Negotiations Concluded , 1983-198 5

/

[ n December 198 3 the Governor and Executive Councillors travelle d to London without his officials fo r an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe , Sir Percy Cradock, and other ministers and officials, t o discuss the impasse th e negotiations abou t th e futur e ha d reached .

Time wa s runnin g out . I n Septembe r 1984 , i f n o agreemen t wer e reached, China' s ow n twenty-poin t pla n fo r Hon g Kong , whic h ha d already been published, would be implemented. The twenty points were seductive but contained nothing on the detail of Hong Kong's legal system and governance, its economy an d social system, and no guarantees tha t the twent y point s woul d materialis e an d tha t Hon g Kong' s wa y o f lif e would b e maintained . A t thi s point , Si r Perc y Cradoc k supplie d th e intuition, th e imagination, and th e words t o bridge th e gap between th e two sides . Sir Percy had returne d t o London fro m bein g Ambassador i n Beijin g to becom e Mr s Thatcher' s foreig n polic y adviser , an d i t wa s h e wh o supplied th e formul a whic h wa s t o brea k th e deadloc k an d t o lea d t o agreement. Hi s proposa l wa s t o tak e th e Chines e proposals , th e twent y points, an d othe r statement s whic h ha d bee n mad e an d t o se e whether , using them as a base, a solid structure could be built which would ensur e continuing autonomy , freedom , stabilit y an d prosperit y fo r Hon g Kong . If this could be done the Prime Minister would be willing to recommen d to Parliament th e transfer o f sovereignty to China and the accompanyin g

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Feeling the Stones

arrangements fo r th e administratio n o f Hon g Kon g b y China . O n thi s basis down-to-eart h negotiation s began . As we entere d 198 4 ther e wer e onl y nin e month s i n whic h t o pu t together th e detailed description o f Hong Kong's government an d way of life, with the solid backing of a legal system and administration to preserve it. This was required if any agreement was to survive and be acceptable t o Hong Kon g people an d worl d opinion . Sir Edward Youde worked tirelessly, making visit after visit to Beijin g and when necessary to London, as a member o f a negotiating tea m led by the Britis h Ambassado r t o China , Si r Richar d Evans , wh o ha d replace d Sir Percy as Ambassador. Anothe r tea m worked i n Hong Kon g and late r in Beijing , sendin g paper s backward s an d forward s betwee n th e Hon g Kong an d Maca o offic e o f th e Ministr y fo r Foreig n Affairs , Executiv e Council in Hong Kong , and th e Foreign Offic e i n London . Against thi s edg y backgroun d ther e wa s a n unexpecte d diversion . Unmindful o f th e touchines s o f tax i driver s t o anythin g affectin g thei r livelihood, the government gazetted legislation to increase taxi registration and licensin g charges . Taxi drivers have a hard life ; thei r shifts ar e long , their nerves stretched and rewards meagre. Hearing about the legislation, they reacted forcefully an d predictably, encouraged, n o doubt, by havin g seen o n televisio n a few months previousl y ho w effectivel y Frenc h lorr y drivers and farmers succeede d in holding their government t o ransom b y blocking roads. Since they were already on the streets, the drivers parke d their cab s a t bus y intersection s i n Kowloon , bringin g traffi c t o a halt . Kowloon was gridlocked. On 13 January, unable to reach Kowloon because the onl y roa d fro m th e Ne w Territorie s wa s blocked , I queue d wit h thousands of others to squeeze onto packed trains into town. The driver s were unmoving . The government stanc e was not t o allow itself t o be blackmailed. A s the evening of the 13t h wore on, the main crossroa d junctions i n centra l and nort h Kowloo n wer e blocked. I t was impossible t o to w th e vehicle s away and security vehicles were unable to move freely. Tough young me n from th e crowde d tenement s o f Mon g Ko k an d Ya u M a Ti , know n fo r 146

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Negotiations Concluded, 1983-1985

dealing i n drugs, prostitution an d gambling , taunte d th e police; a petro l bomb was thrown against a bank, and rioting and looting followed. I held meetings wit h th e drivers ' leader s an d gav e m y advic e t o Legislativ e Council an d t o th e governmen t tha t th e tax i driver s ha d a stranglehol d on Kowloo n an d tha t wors e disorde r woul d follo w unles s th e situatio n could be brought unde r contro l by withdrawing th e legislation. A strong group o f Legislative Councillor s had com e to the same conclusion. The y informed Si r Philip Haddon-Cave, actin g Governor i n th e absence o f Sir Edward Youd e who wa s i n Londo n fo r talk s with th e Foreig n Secretary . The legislatio n wa s withdrawn , an d th e taxi s reverse d awa y fro m th e junctions an d melte d int o th e night . The year 198 4 brought wit h i t month afte r mont h o f grey skies an d cold weather. Sprin g came and went almos t unnoticed . I t was as thoug h the heaven s wer e reflectin g th e sombr e mood , th e anxiet y an d strai n o f the drawn-out negotiations . Meeting after meetin g too k place in Beijing , the Governo r continue d t o shuttl e backward s an d forwards , th e publi c were i n th e dar k abou t wha t dea l wa s bein g made , an d I mad e speec h after speec h optimisticall y remindin g th e audience s o f th e fundamenta l strengths which woul d se e us through . Ther e were visits by Members o f Parliament, amon g the m Georg e Robertso n MP , wh o wa s t o becom e Minister fo r Defenc e i n the government o f Prime Minister Tony Blair; Sir Richard Luce, minister responsible for Hong Kong; and Sir Geoffrey Howe , Foreign Secretary , who briefed Executiv e Counci l o n his visit t o Beijing , and sai d i n plai n word s a t a pres s conferenc e tha t sovereignt y an d administration woul d pass to China. It had take n a long time to get thes e words out . As the weeks passed nerves were frayed, minds were tired. China was exasperated wit h th e pernicket y car e th e Britis h sid e were takin g t o ge t the eventua l agreemen t a s comprehensiv e an d detaile d a s possible . W e preferred quite properly to get things down in black and white. To heighten mistrust, Jardine Matheson, one of the companies which had been involved in th e landin g i n Hon g Kon g i n 184 1 an d a pilla r o f th e commercia l community, announce d th e remova l o f thei r lega l domicile t o Bermuda .

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Feeling the Stones

China was equally furious when Sir Roger Lobo, Executive and Legislative Councillor, propose d a motio n i n th e Legislativ e Counci l tha t an y agreement ha d t o b e acceptabl e t o th e council . Th e combine d council s had also written a manifesto t o which China took grave exception. Chin a held firml y t o the constitutionally correc t view that th e negotiations an d agreements wer e th e perquisit e o f th e sovereig n power s an d no t fo r th e humble citizen s o f Hon g Kong , sinc e Chin a ha d neve r abandone d th e view tha t Hon g Kon g wa s par t o f China . Althoug h innocen t o f thi s manoeuvre b y Si r Roger , Britai n di d no t escap e blam e fo r no t curbin g what appeare d t o b e a n orchestrate d campaig n b y unrul y councillors . Against an d despit e thi s unpropitious background , b y th e en d o f Marc h 1984 th e shap e an d eve n som e o f th e wordin g o f th e fina l tex t wa s emerging. There wa s a momen t o f hig h dram a whe n th e proposa l fro m th e Chinese side to establish a joint commissio n (se e Experences of China, b y Sir Percy Cradock, John Murray 1994) to oversee the transition to Chines e rule wa s see n a s smackin g o f Chines e interferenc e i n Hon g Kon g eve n before th e transfer. I t seemed eminently sensible to me that the two side s should cooperat e about the working arrangements o f government whic h would straddle 1997 . Such a proposal would ensure that both sides would work togethe r t o sort out and decide matters in which both government s had a n interest, an d dea l with a host o f minor practica l matters which, if ignored, coul d hav e give n ris e t o misunderstanding s an d delay s whic h would stil l b e unresolve d whe n reunificatio n too k place . I hav e neve r quite been able to understand th e opposition t o this proposal. It reflecte d once again the basic lack of trust tha t existed between th e two sides, an d provoked a strong reaction fro m othe r Executive Councillor s who saw it as a n earl y surrende r o f sovereignt y an d interferenc e i n th e runnin g o f Hong Kong. Mine was a lone voice in its favour. Eventually , however, th e proposal wa s amende d an d accepted , th e introductio n o f th e join t commission delaye d unti l afte r th e fina l ratificatio n o f th e agreement , and arrangements fo r its meeting in Hong Kong postponed unti l 1988 . It was als o agree d tha t th e tw o side s would continu e t o mee t an d tal k fo r 148

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Negotiations Concluded, 1983-1985

three years after th e transfer. This extension was a useful tidying-up period, but i t wa s als o cosmetic , an d b y extendin g th e operatio n o f th e Join t Liaison Group, as it came to be called, it applied a Band-aid to the handover. As the last paragraphs o f the final agreemen t were being written, a n intervention b y Si r Geoffre y How e le d t o th e inclusio n o f a vitall y significant fe w words in the text of the Joint Declaration : thes e were tha t the Legislative Council of Hong Kong would be 'constituted by elections'. On thes e thre e words depende d th e steps Hon g Kon g was t o tak e i n th e years ahead toward s a democratically electe d government .

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18

Signatures and Celebration s

• hroughou t th e long, hot, summer days of 198 4 discussion abou t M th e agreemen t wit h Chin a ha d continue d i n Executiv e Council , • an

d a t times less formally aroun d th e table in Governmen t House .

m Th e agreemen t wa s t o tak e th e for m o f a declaratio n b y bot h m governments , followe d b y a n elaboratio n o f China' s basi c policie s towards Hon g Kon g t o be contained i n a number o f annexes . We were al l caugh t u p i n th e dram a o f thos e day s o f secrec y a s th e text and its annexes emerge d section by section afte r th e drafts ha d bee n passed round from Hong Kong to London and Beijing and had been finall y amended an d approved . Th e Governor , o n hi s visit s t o London , wa s sometimes accompanie d b y non-official member s o f Executive Council , and at other time s he travelled alone between al l three places, explainin g and pleadin g an d fillin g i n th e gap s which th e bar e words o f telegram s failed t o do . At times , i n discussion , I too k a differen t tac k fro m m y colleague s based on what I thought the people would want us to do, what they would accept an d wha t I thought thei r reaction s woul d b e t o particular bit s o f the agreement . I wa s optimisti c tha t th e resul t wa s goin g t o b e muc h better tha n whe n w e had starte d o n thi s lon g journey. We seemed t o b e getting the best of both worlds. The administration, the government, would continue a s before bu t it would no longer be administered by the British but b y th e Hon g Kon g peopl e themselves . Th e civi l servic e an d al l th e systems which had been developed over the years would continue as before

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Feeling the Stones

— th e Commo n Law , a n independen t judiciary , an d basi c right s an d freedoms. What coul d be better than that? And as I write in 2002, several years afte r th e retur n o f sovereignty , wh o woul d hav e believe d tha t b y now ther e would still be expatriate British officials sprinkle d throughou t the administration an d the police force, who were allowed t o continue i n their employmen t b y th e governmen t o f th e Hon g Kon g Specia l Administrative Regio n o f China . Finally, i n th e earl y mornin g o f 2 6 Septembe r 1984 , th e Governo r flew t o Beijin g t o b e presen t a t th e initiallin g o f th e agreemen t b y th e leaders o f the delegations , H.M. Ambassador Si r Richard Evan s and Vic e Minister Zhou Nan, and then to fly back in the afternoon when distributio n began o f th e booklet containin g th e Draft Agreement . I t was a draft onl y insofar a s i t ha d no t ye t bee n ratifie d b y th e Britis h Parliamen t — tha t would tak e a furthe r fe w month s — bu t i t was not a draft i n th e usua l sense tha t i t was ope n t o amendment. Ther e coul d be no furthe r chang e in the agreement which had been reached. This was the finished work. I n three days, two million copies were distributed and were acclaimed, almost without exception , a s a remarkable achievement . 'Muc h bette r tha n w e had hoped ' was the universal comment . I t was a comment tha t night at a dinner party at the Kowloon Club which I had founded some years before. Guests an d waiters alik e all said the y accepted it . It so happened , an d n o doub t thi s was Deng Xiaoping' s objectiv e i n urging us on, that the thirty-fifth anniversar y of the founding of the People's Republic was to take place on 1 October 1984 , following th e initialling of the agreement . Sixtee n delegate s fro m th e Hon g Kon g government , le d by th e Executiv e Council , wer e invite d t o Beijin g t o tak e par t i n th e celebrations. Beijin g wa s changing . S o much wa s newl y built , s o muc h being built, and there was a relaxed feeling and liveliness among the people strolling the pavements o f the capital. The last time I had been in Beijin g was tha t col d Februar y i n 1973 , durin g th e grea t Cultura l Revolution . Then we had stayed in the Peking Hotel with its draughty doorways letting in whistlin g blast s o f freezin g ai r an d it s long , gloom y corridor s an d echoing dining room. Now we were in the latest hotel with a glass-walled elevator tube , comfortable atrium-loung e an d ornamenta l garden . 152

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Signatures and Celebrations

Leaves i n th e mountain s o n th e way t o th e Grea t Wall were yellow , red and copper-gold in the autumn sun. Orange persimmons were ripening on the trees and th e heavy, drooping heads of the second grain crop were waiting t o b e harvested . Th e street s o f th e cit y wer e line d wit h flower s and it s building s decke d wit h lights . Th e Premie r a t a banquet fo r fou r thousand guests in the Great Hall of the People spoke with satisfaction o f the agreement fo r th e return o f Hong Kong . The mornin g mis t cleare d fo r th e gran d Thirty-Fift h Anniversar y Parade alon g Chan g A n Avenue , passin g th e Tiananme n gateway . Th e square wa s fille d wit h 200,00 0 youn g people , wh o wit h thei r coloure d flip-boards create d an immense carpet of colour and at a flick o f the wrist spelled ou t differen t message s o f greetin g an d congratulation . Den g Xiaoping, a sturdy figure in an open limousine, passed down the ranks of the procession callin g out greetings to the troops, 'Tung zhi men ni hao?' ('Comrades, are you well?'), at which they roared a guttural 'Hao' in reply. For two hours th e procession passed Tiananmen, for two hours we stoo d with other dignitaries at the foot of the wall leading to the Imperial Palace watching th e spectacl e o f troops, tanks , rockets, dancers, athletes, float s and miracle s o f precisio n marchin g an d burst s o f colour . Fo r w e Hon g Kong visitors it was a remarkable clima x t o the years o f waiting. Hong Kon g ha d bee n promise d fift y year s o f n o chang e t o it s fundamentals, it s wa y o f managin g th e economy , la w an d wa y o f life . These wer e se t ou t i n genera l term s i n th e Joint Declaration , bu t Hon g Kong neede d it s ow n detaile d roa d ma p fo r lif e afte r 1997 . Hong Kon g had accepted the deal, there were no demonstrations, and life in the streets of Hong Kon g was normal . Thing s wer e ou t i n th e open , gon e were th e meetings behind closed doors, the future was decided. It was now a matter for representative s o f Hon g Kon g an d China , rathe r tha n th e sovereig n powers, to draft a Basic Law, based on the agreement, which would become part o f China' s ow n constitution . Thi s wa s t o tak e a furthe r fiv e years , longer tha n th e agreement itself had taken . Meanwhile, the British in th e Liaison Group were to work with China, mutually to sort out what needed to be done to introduce changes to systems so that they could continue t o function, an d s o tha t laws would hav e effect afte r th e handover .

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Feeling the Stones

Hitherto, the ultimate appeal by aggrieved litigants from judgement s of the Supreme Court in Hong Kong had been made to the Privy Counci l in London. After 199 7 this would stop. However China, with extraordinar y magnanimity, ha d agree d tha t Hon g Kon g should hav e it s ow n Cour t o f Final Appeal . Her e wa s rea l evidenc e o f China' s determinatio n t o mak e explicit th e separatio n o f th e tw o systems . Remarkabl y an d generously , China went a step further an d agreed that 'as required', judges from othe r Common Law jurisdictions could join the Hong Kong judges on the court. Here Chin a was agreeing that , fo r example , tha t Australian judges coul d take a seat in th e Cour t o f Final Appeal in Hong Kong. This 'as required ' phrase gave rise to prolonged mistrustful wrangling by Hong Kong lawyers as to how many judges this meant at any one time and delayed the setting up o f th e cour t an d th e withdrawal o f the Privy Counci l o f Great Britai n from th e procedur e o n appea l fro m decision s o f th e Suprem e Cour t o f Hong Kong. China was going out of her way to demonstrate sincerity bu t there were those in Hong Kong without th e same generosity of spirit an d trust. One mornin g a fe w week s later , i n Si r Edwar d Youde' s stud y a t Government House , he tol d m e tha t I was t o tak e ove r th e post o f Chie f Secretary i n 198 5 whe n Si r Phili p Haddon-Cav e retired . Thi s wa s unexpected. All my postings had been so full of interest, full of excitement, full o f opportunity tha t we had never schemed o r planned t o move on t o higher things , neve r though t abou t promotion . Sinc e th e cold , blacked out wintry evening in 194 5 when I had left home to join my ship in Hull, life ha d flowe d fro m on e thin g t o another ; no t withou t punctuation s o f anxiety, but inevitably 'Whe n you are ready you will know what to do.' A new chapte r o f life was beginning . The year 198 4 ended as it had begun. Members of Parliament, befor e they had t o vote in th e Commons , wanted t o see for themselve s how th e people were taking the agreement which had been reached without thei r participation. The y went awa y surprised an d satisfied . Ther e were othe r visits too . Princ e Phili p spen t tw o hour s chattin g i n th e loung e a t th e airport wit h member s o f the World Wide Fun d fo r Nature , whose Hon g 154

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Signatures and Celebrations

Kong chairma n 1 was, an d enquirin g abou t progres s wit h ou r wetlan d reserve; I greete d th e Olympi c Volle y Bal l Tea m fro m Chin a an d th e gymnastic team from Guangxi, and wedged between lunches and dinners, gave a garden party for a hundred guests on the lawn of our Island House. The media, too, unleashed fro m th e embargo o f the past two years, hun g on everyone's word to try now to unravel the future beyond the agreement. After th e pas t week s o f excitemen t w e wen t t o Bangko k t o recove r our breath . Memorie s cam e floodin g bac k o f 1947 , when I had spen t a year as third mate o f the M.V Kola, a 3,000 to n coaster runnin g betwee n Singapore an d Bangkok . I n Singapor e w e ha d anchore d wit h th e othe r coastal vessels and Bugis schooners in the inner harbour off Collyer Quay, behind th e protectin g mole . W e loade d od d things , must y gunn y sack s full o f empt y bottle s o r onions , an d a t Pula u Bukum , th e oi l termina l island of f Singapore , shin y four-gallo n can s o f kerosene. Th e journey t o Bangkok too k thre e an d a hal f days , thre e an d hal f day s wer e spen t i n port a t eithe r end , an d th e roun d tri p too k tw o weeks . Ou r dec k cre w were Malaysian, th e engin e roo m cre w fro m Pakistan , Chines e steward s fed us and looked after our cabins, and loading the cargo was left to Chinese compradores, who in return were allowed to carry thirty tons of cargo fo r themselves. Our prett y littl e shi p ha d chugge d throug h th e Strait s an d turne d north up the east coast of Malaya past the green, inviting islands of Tioman, now a touris t destinatio n bu t the n largel y uninhabited , an d o n int o th e open water s o f th e Gul f o f Thailand . Thi s wa s a delightfu l journe y fo r most o f th e yea r bu t i n th e winter , whe n th e north-eas t monsoo n ble w from China , th e se a pile d u p o n th e coas t an d the n rolle d bac k makin g our journey rolling, pitching and tortuous and blind in squalls of tropical rain. After day s of creaking and lurching we found shelte r and relief nea r the green-hatte d limeston e island s an d brow n water s a t th e entranc e t o the rive r leadin g t o th e cit y Ou r shi p ha d bee n especiall y buil t fo r th e coastal trad e an d crosse d th e bar a t th e river mouth , barel y churnin g it s way over th e mud an d leavin g behind a frothy, cocoa-coloure d track . The journey u p th e rive r ha d bee n dreamlik e a s we glide d betwee n

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Feeling the Stones

the narrowin g bank s throug h th e brow n wate r wit h it s littl e island s o f water hyacinth , slowl y flowin g t o th e sea . We tie d u p a t th e wharves o f the Bombay Burmah Compan y to load our cargo of long-grained Siames e rice fo r th e retur n journe y Heav y sack s wer e carrie d o n th e sweating , calloused shoulder s o f a stream o f Chinese wharf workers, a dirty sweat cloth twiste d roun d thei r heads , thi n muscula r leg s trottin g u p lon g bouncing planks , an d wit h a def t shru g droppin g eac h sac k int o place . Ashore in 1947 , the shopkeepers had not discarded their traditional broad, black, shiny trousers, turned and belted at the waist over a white vest. I n the city the French-built tram s ran, and in th e bars were cane chairs an d slow circlin g fan s troublin g th e ho t an d humi d air . Klon g waterway s overhung wit h grea t branching flam e tree s bordered th e quie t suburba n streets. Now nearly forty years later, I returned to Bangkok to the memor y of these forgotten things , and to look from afa r a t the future lyin g in wai t for Hon g Kong . The wheel had turne d ful l circle . What a strange destin y had brought th e third mate of the Kola in 194 8 back to that same place t o begin anothe r tur n o f the wheel.

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Chief Secretar y

•h e announcemen t tha t I was t o succeed Phili p Haddon-Cave a s • Chie f Secretary at the beginning o f June 198 5 brought mor e tha n • twent y year s o f lif e i n th e Ne w Territorie s t o a n end . Unlik e m y • colleague s I had neve r cu t m y teet h o n th e cloistered discipline s of m establishment , economics and finance, and there was, no doubt, some muttering i n th e corridor s abou t th e unusualness o f my appointment . We would hav e to leave Island House, which had been our home fo r twelve years . I t ha d bee n hom e fo r th e office r responsibl e fo r th e government o f th e Ne w Territorie s an d it s affairs sinc e th e beginning o f the century and, because it was situated among the people he administered, had become an important symbol of government's concern for the separate identity an d welfare o f the New Territories. As it happened, an d perhap s emphasising the closer integration of the New Territories with urban Hong Kong, Island House was never again to be the residence o f a governmen t official. It too k a fe w week s t o disengag e fro m year s o f wor k clos e t o th e people. Cabinet s of personal papers had t o be destroyed, including years of speeche s an d barro w load s o f mementoe s o f officia l occasions , an d I had t o mak e a sa d farewel l t o m y Chines e secretary , Mr s Tar n Ho-yin , who nearl y alway s worked i n th e evening s i n th e offic e lon g afte r I ha d left. Sh e wa s word-perfec t i n English , helpfu l t o he r colleague s an d a friend t o so many. She was firm with my shortcomings and admired by all for he r generou s capability . Sh e wa s a tru e representativ e o f man y

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Feeling the Stones

thousands who contribute so much to the efficient runnin g of Hong Kong. They ar e th e unsung heroes . Just before we said goodbye to Island House, there occurred an election day for Distric t Boards on 7 March 1985 . In these election s nearly half a million people voted and elected two-thirds of the members of each board. The boards were no t loca l government an d hav e been criticise d becaus e they ha d n o executiv e responsibility , fo r exampl e fo r employin g staf f t o clean the streets and building and managing buildings. Instead they could make their voice heard about anything affecting th e lives of the people i n their district and criticise the policies and decisions of central government. More important, an d symbolically, on the edge of what the foreign medi a still referred t o as 'Red' or 'communist' China, we were holding one person, one vote elections for an organisation which could criticise the policies of its government . This anomaly an d th e reassurance it gave to thos e who wer e willin g to see its significance an d th e hope it held for th e future nevertheles s di d not appease those who did not wish to be comforted. Fo r me, the elections were a pleasant reminder of the two terms I had spent at the University of Kent studying the strengths and weaknesses of forms of local government. Here i n Hon g Kon g w e ha d don e awa y wit h th e restriction s whic h hampered discussio n i n mor e conventiona l loca l councils , whose ambi t of responsibility and discussion was restricted by law. In place of a vacuum with no representation, n o sense of belonging and responsibility, we were building a structure whic h would , hopefully , bin d th e districts an d thei r people together . Industrialisation an d export s durin g th e previou s twent y year s ha d placed Hon g Kong , althoug h no t a nation , amon g th e to p te n tradin g nations of the world and had earned us membership o f the world body of the General Agreement o n Tariffs an d Trade, GATT. To serve this tradin g empire the government established representative and trade developmen t offices i n Geneva , Brussels , Washington , Ne w Yor k an d Tokyo . Befor e returning throug h Chin a t o Hong Kong to become Chie f Secretary, I had a useful opportunit y t o visit these offices, t o talk with ministers, to speak 158

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Chief Secretary

to academics and learned societies, to appear on television, and by spelling out wha t th e agreemen t wit h Chin a ha d achieved , t o attemp t t o alla y some of the widespread worry about the return o f Hong Kong to a Chin a which was little known, less trusted and seldom visited by Western leaders and opinion-makers . The tour ended in China, and my wife flew to join me in Beijing. We stayed i n th e Embass y an d enjoye d th e warm hospitalit y o f Si r Richar d Evans an d hi s wif e Grania . I lef t th e Embass y on e mornin g t o hav e a friendly tal k wit h Vic e Minister Zho u Nan , late r t o replac e X u Jiatun a s head o f th e Ne w Chin a New s Agency , whic h represente d th e Chines e government i n Hon g Kong , an d wh o ha d le d th e Chines e tea m i n negotiating th e agreemen t wit h th e British. Late r i n ou r travel s we wer e accompanied b y a youn g assistan t fro m th e Ne w Chin a New s Agency , Qiao Zhonghuai, who in 2001 became a Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs . On th e mornin g w e lef t fo r Shangha i ther e wa s tim e t o walk roun d the quiet, leafy enclosure of the Embassy garden with its relics, half-hidde n in the shrubbery, fro m th e legation burnt by the Red Guards in 1966 ; the font fro m th e chapel , som e statues , th e memoria l tablet s t o thos e kille d during th e Boxer rebellion , an d th e plaque t o th e memory o f Si r Rober t Hart, who, in th e last decades o f the Qing dynasty, had founde d an d ru n the Chines e custom s service . Shanghai in 1985 was still a run-down city of crowded terraced houses in th e forme r foreig n concession s o f France, German y an d Britai n wit h their exoti c tile d roofs , mansard s an d dormers , cupola s an d gothi c towerlets, each now the crowded home of many families. Here and there , the garden s o f wealthy merchant s coul d be glimpsed throug h trees . Th e heavyweight commercia l building s o n th e Bun d facin g th e slo w brow n river ha d no t ye t woke n fro m almos t hal f a centur y o f slumber . I n a n office i n the former Hon g Kong and Shanghai Bank building I met Mayo r Wang Daohan, who ha d onc e lunched wit h us at Island House an d wh o gave me an outline of the plans which, by the end of the century, were t o transform Shangha i onc e more into a great modern internationa l city . We flew o n to Xiamen for a second time. Fujian provinc e had lost n o 159

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Feeling the Stones

time since modernisation began in 1978 , building bridges, railways, deep water ports, industrial park s and airport s an d lining its streets with tree s and flowers . Th e grand villas of wealthy rubber, sugar and ti n merchant s from South-East Asia on the island of Gulangyu were restored and painted. Along the coast, past Xiamen's famous university, there was even a strange relic o f a forgotte n war , a n enormou s green-painte d Krupp s 189 1 nava l gun, 1 6 inche s o r more , strippe d o f it s mechanisms , pointin g blindl y seaward o n it s travers e an d makin g us e o f th e roun d for t o f a n earlie r century. Clos e by, a dance hal l and restauran t no w pu t t o use th e empt y tunnel o f an abandoned air-rai d shelter . Guangzhou wa s the last of the cities on ou r southward journey, an d we stayed in th e White Swan Hotel looking over th e murky waters of th e Pearl River at a grey, tired city of crowded narrow streets shabbily awaiting renewal. Once more we experienced the strange emotion of entering Hong Kong from mainland China , gliding slowly by train through the rich green rice field s an d fishpond s o f th e delta , crossin g th e broa d brow n rivers , passing fro m a worl d whic h ha d bee n close d fo r s o lon g t o th e othe r world o f Hong Kong . Arriving in Hong Kong's Central Government Offices , I sat in a small room acros s th e corrido r fro m m y future offic e readin g file s an d papers . Sir Philip Haddon-Cave, saying little, went on with his work until, on 2 0 June, he poked his head around the door and said he had finished clearin g out — and left. Two weeks later, on 5 July, Sir Edward Youde, the Governor, went on vacation for six weeks. I was sworn in as Acting Governor by th e Chief Justice in the Executive Council chamber, reciting the oaths of offic e in th e presence o f th e othe r councillors , an d i n a few solemn words wa s reminded o f the burden an d responsibility o f office . The desig n o f th e Chie f Secretary' s house , Victori a House , ha d bee n supervised by Lady Maurine Grantham, the American wife of Sir Alexander Grantham, Governo r i n th e 1950s . I t wa s a graciou s America n colonia l house built with entertainmen t i n mind. Fro m th e terrac e th e ground fel l away for hundreds o f feet and we looked across the dense city buildings of Victoria alread y reachin g u p t o pierc e th e skyline , t o th e harbou r ful l o f 160

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Chief Secretary

lighters, bumboats , liners , tankers , visitin g destroyers , ferries , tug s an d barges, and then, raising one's eyes, Kowloon with its steep encircling hills, the distant mountains of China and the shining waters to the east and west of Hong Kong. The suddenness of this stretching panorama, with its sharp contrasts, a s you walke d throug h th e hous e t o th e lawn , too k th e breat h away Around the house, despite the passage of so many years and so many occupants, th e garden had not been a principal concern o f previous Chie f Secretaries. W e se t t o wor k t o di g a fishpon d an d brough t i n tree s an d boulders, and during the hot summer months of 1985 dared to disturb th e ordered flowerbed s an d the expanse of grass with new planting. With th e agreemen t signed , almos t a t onc e Hon g Kon g an d Britis h officials starte d o n th e next thirtee n years of their liaison meetings. The y met alternately in Beijing and London, and later in Hong Kong, trudgin g the corridor s i n thei r dar k officia l suits , convenin g thei r anxiou s assemblies, gathering and dispersing with their files, telegrams, grapevines, second-guessing an d whispered surmisings . The Liaison Group made it a priority to decide the form and wordin g of document s t o b e use d i n lan d dealing s whos e validit y woul d las t fo r fifty years . Her e wa s read y proo f tha t th e Chines e governmen t mean t i t when i t sai d tha t thing s woul d remai n unchanged . Th e expirin g lan d lease of the New Territories had been th e reason for starting negotiation s about the future. Now the property developers could put this worry behind them. Land had played a dominant role in Hong Kong life since the settlers in the 1840s had squabbled over who was to have the best bits of foreshore. Revenue fro m lan d sales , property tax , stam p dut y o n dealing s i n land , bank profit s an d taxe s o n th e incom e o f property companie s accounte d for 5 0 per cent of the government's revenue and played an unreliable an d unhealthily dominan t rol e in th e economy. This became a serious worr y in th e future whe n th e economy went int o recession and property price s slumped, an d wit h them , too , governmen t revenue . Lan d lease s eve n occupied a special annexe of the Joint Declaration. China, concerned tha t the British were going to run off with the people's patrimony and squande r precious lan d resource s before th e post-1997 governmen t ha d it s hand s 161

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Feeling the Stones

on the controls, had stipulated that the total amount of land to be granted during th e perio d leadin g t o 199 7 shoul d no t excee d 5 0 hectare s a year and tha t th e revenu e fro m lan d disposa l durin g tha t perio d shoul d b e shared equally between the British Hong Kong government and the futur e government o f the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region . Fifty hectares was an arbitrary figure plucked out of the air. It seemed enough a t th e tim e but was not, an d by the tim e government's plan s an d policies had been met there was never sufficient lan d to meet the appetites of private development o r for a balanced housing programme. Because of this short supply and because of an accelerating economy lan d increase d in value t o astronomic levels . Additional land coul d no t be sold t o tr y t o bring th e price dow n an d hom e buyers were forced t o pay absurd price s for their apartments. The concomitant was that, through wise investmen t by a Joint Land Commission set up to supervise this part of the agreement, taking a hal f shar e o f lan d sal e proceeds , th e incomin g governmen t i n 1997 gained a dowry of billions. Liaison betwee n Britai n an d Chin a wa s intende d t o ensur e tha t th e British handed over Hong Kong in good working order. Senior expatriat e civil servants had to be replaced, and laws had to be translated and, where needed, disengage d fro m th e law s o f England . Thi s wa s a tas k fo r th e Hong Kon g government , bu t a n organisatio n oversee n b y th e Chines e government had to be established t o draft th e Basic Law for th e incomin g Special Administrative Regio n binding Hong Kong to the central People' s Republic governmen t an d removin g He r Britanni c Majesty , th e Queen , from rul e o f Hong Kon g at midnight o n 30 June 1997 . Annex 1 of the Joint Declaration had this to say: 'The National People's Congress shall enact and promulgate a Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative regio n o f th e People' s Republi c o f Chin a .. . stipulatin g that afte r th e establishmen t o f th e Specia l Administrativ e Regio n th e socialist syste m an d socialis t policies shal l no t b e practise d i n th e Hon g Kong SAR and tha t Hong Kong' s previous capitalist syste m and life-styl e shall remain unchange d fo r fift y years. '

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A draftin g committe e wa s appointe d b y th e Chines e government , consisting of a selected group of Hong Kong representatives together with lawyers an d leader s fro m Beijing . T o give credibilit y t o thei r work , th e Hong Kon g member s assemble d a consultativ e committe e o f ove r 15 0 people t o advis e them . Withi n thi s number , a grou p o f busines s an d professional peopl e wh o share d simila r view s coalesced , know n a s th e Business and Professional Group, which grew in size until it became known as the Group o f 89. They played a pivotal role in bringing th e drafting t o a widely accepted conclusio n in January 1990 , four an d a half years later, and were to form the nucleus of a Federation of Business and Professiona l people, th e BPF, after 1997 , when th e drafting wa s over . The compositio n o f the Legislative Counci l which was to take offic e in 1995 , for th e las t tw o year s o f colonia l Hon g Kong , was o f particula r importance. I f it were electe d i n conformit y wit h th e Basic Law, it coul d then hold office bot h before an d afte r th e transfer o f power in 1997 . This concept o f a 'through train ' fo r electe d councillor s was agreed by China , and wa s a cou p fo r th e drafter s o f th e Basic Law and behind-the-scene s persuasions. It demonstrated ho w far Chin a was willing to go to ensure a seamless transition between British Hong Kong and its post -1997 identity. It was quite remarkable to have reached agreement that councillors, elected under British administration by the colonial government, coul d continu e to hold offic e i n part of the People's Republic of China fo r tw o years afte r reunification an d unti l th e next election s were held i n 1999 . The train, alas, was to be derailed at the frontier o f transition becaus e of Britis h determinatio n t o pursu e a scheme fo r election s develope d b y the las t Governor , Christophe r Patten . Hi s objectiv e wa s t o increase th e size o f th e constituencie s whic h represente d specia l interest s an d professions i n a wa y whic h di d no t confor m t o th e origina l intentio n when thes e constituencie s wer e firs t introduced . No r di d i t confor m t o the intention of the drafters o f the Basic Law. This gave rise to a prolonged dispute whic h coul d hav e bee n settle d b y askin g thos e o f u s wh o ha d written the Green and White Papers on representative government whic h

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Feeling the Stones

had create d thes e constituencies , an d th e drafter s o f th e Basi c Law wh o lived i n Hon g Kong , what thei r intentio n wa s when the y wrote th e law . But thi s opportunit y wa s ignore d i n pursui t o f ingeniou s scheme s t o broaden th e electorat e which, a s China warned, wer e doomed t o fail .

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20

A Fresh Chapter Begins

[ n th e months an d years following th e signing of the agreement th e Governor continue d hi s frequen t travel s t o Londo n an d Beijing , forcefully puttin g hi s point o f view on th e many questions raise d i n its implementation. Each time he left, as Chief Secretary and his deputy / I took ove r a s Acting Governor , an d when h e was away I chaired th e meetings o f Executiv e Counci l an d wa s presiden t o f th e Legislativ e Council. Meetings o f th e Executiv e Counci l too k plac e i n th e governmen t secretariat in an unadorned room around a long marmalade-coloured tea k wood table , with n o distractin g picture s o n th e walls , no concessio n t o comfort. A t 9.3 0 ever y Tuesda y mornin g th e Governo r entere d throug h his door at the end of the table as his clerk announced 'His Excellency th e Governor'. Member s the n sa t and discussio n o f the agenda fo r th e wee k began, starting with the approval of the decisions of the last meeting to be signed by the Governor. These were not a record of who said what or how a decision had been reached, merely the decision itself. The private record of who said what was kept for the archives by the Clerk of Councils, who sat quietl y i n a corne r takin g notes . Official s wh o wer e neede d fo r discussion of agenda items waited their turn to be called, entered and sat , 'boding tremblers' , a t th e othe r en d o f th e table . Ther e the y waite d apprehensively fo r question s o n thei r presente d papers , bu t otherwis e did not join th e discussion . Legislative Counci l meetings , o n th e othe r hand , too k plac e i n th e

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Feeling the Stones

colonnaded forme r Suprem e Cour t o f Hon g Kong , constructe d i n th e first year s o f th e twentiet h centur y o n lan d reclaime d fro m th e harbour , next to the cricket ground and to the right of the Hongkong and Shangha i Bank s o as , incidentally, no t t o obstruc t th e bank's view o f th e harbour ! The Governor sat where the Chief Justice had previously sat, on a canopied, penitential, hard tea k wood thron e salvaged from a former marin e court . Hong Kong moved on as the economy and society adjusted t o changes in the Chines e and world economy , and made use of the opportunities i t afforded fo r ou r entrepreneur s t o inves t i n China . Ther e i s a thrustin g ambition, cleve r adaptability , an d a desir e t o outwi t an d t o exce l whic h make themselve s fel t eve n walkin g th e pavement s o f Hon g Kong . Th e government i s caugh t u p i n thi s restles s excitement , projectin g an d planning, building and demolishing, with senior officials working in thei r offices lon g after busines s ha s closed fo r th e day. There was now a new and closer relationship with China as we began on th e twelve-yea r journey t o transition . No w a ne w topi c ha d entere d popular discussion and a new need arisen to be kept unofficially informe d of th e progress bein g mad e i n draftin g th e Basic Law. It was t o tak e fiv e years t o draf t th e Basi c Law , and durin g thi s tim e I had man y lon g an d fruitful discussion s an d conversation s wit h member s o f th e draftin g committee. It was a time of adjustment an d an acceleration o f the changes set i n train by the reforms an d th e opening o f China t o the outside world. Th e stream of investors, industrialists, lawyers, accountants, and at a differen t level, family member s travellin g to Chin a swelled t o a flood. Hon g Kon g was doubl y blesse d tha t th e retur n t o Chin a coincide d wit h th e chang e from a closed communis t Chin a t o one of economic reform i n which th e country thirste d fo r contac t wit h th e worl d outside . Ho w differen t an d difficult i t would have been if things had been as they had for the previous thirty o r s o years : a Chin a o f campaign s an d 'struggles' , o f th e Cultura l Revolution, an d a Chin a close d t o th e outsid e world . Suppos e w e ha d had t o carr y o n unti l th e expir y o f th e Ne w Territorie s leas e waiting fo r China t o begin discussio n abou t th e future ? 166

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A Fresh Chapter Begins

The omens were good. Those who, to be on the safe side, had obtaine d a foreign domicile, returned to Hong Kong, finding that their qualification s were unsuitable t o gain employment o r to practise overseas, or that ther e were no vacancies, or that they could not stand the food any longer! Mos t of the older generation found tha t when all was said and done Hong Kong suited the m best ; the y missed thei r friends , th e food an d th e pleasure o f walking about thei r ow n Chines e city . Britain was to administer Hong Kong until responsibility was handed over t o China , bu t a t th e sam e tim e i t wa s t o cooperat e wit h Chin a t o ensure a smooth transition. These two requirements did not always march happily together and tended to be interpreted differently b y the two sides. The British took a rather robust view of their independent responsibility , the Chinese were ever-anxious that there was not a hidden motive, a hidden agenda behind the British and Hong Kong government actions and policies. Hong Kong's new relationship with China brought into the open differin g views o f ou r communis t neighbou r an d ho w fa r w e coul d rel y o n th e promises mad e abou t th e future , an d fo r th e unbelievers , a desir e wa s revealed t o erect barriers an d t o seek international suppor t fo r them . As I have related , i n th e seventie s th e Hon g Kon g governmen t ha d begun inchin g forwar d wit h it s plan s fo r minuscul e politica l change . A Legislative Counci l which ha d previousl y been dominate d b y a majorit y of th e Governor' s official s ha d give n awa y it s majorit y t o a n increase d number of members chosen from amon g the public and appointed by the Governor. Th e buildin g o f ne w town s i n th e rura l Ne w Territorie s fo r families displace d o r resettle d fro m th e crowde d slum s o f Kowloo n ha d led to the creation of the District Boards as a sounding board for criticis m of government an d a way of releasing any simmering discontent , a s well as to make proposals for needed improvement to the lives of people living in the crowded building s o f the city and in th e decaying villages. In May 1984, at the height of the negotiations leading to the agreement, ignorin g the tens e atmospher e an d afte r eight y year s o f direc t colonia l administration, th e government announce d it s plans in a Green Pape r t o increase th e electe d element s i n thes e local boards. 167

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Feeling the Stones

The in k wa s scarcel y dr y o n th e Join t Declaratio n befor e thes e proposals in the Green Paper became firm policies in a White Paper. Thi s underscored th e statement in the Joint Declaration tha t 'the Governmen t of the United Kingdom will be responsible for the administration o f Hong Kong [unti l 1997 ] wit h th e objec t o f maintainin g an d preservin g it s economic prosperit y an d socia l stability and tha t th e Governmen t o f th e People's Republi c o f Chin a wil l giv e it s cooperatio n i n thi s direction' . However, i t coul d b e sai d b y China , wit h som e justification , tha t th e changes tha t were proposed i n the White Paper were also covered by th e agreed function o f the Joint Liaison Group, 'to discuss matters relating t o the smoot h transfe r o f powe r i n 1997' . Politica l refor m certainl y ha d a bearing o n a smooth transfe r o f power. Ther e had bee n n o discussio n o f this sensitiv e area , an d thi s gav e rise t o th e firs t outburs t o f displeasur e from Chin a afte r th e signing of the agreement . The director of the New China News Agency in Hong Kong, Xu Jiatun, wagged his finger and accused the British of deviating from the agreement. A month later , the director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Offic e i n Beijing, Ji Pengfei, visited Hong Kong. He met District Board leaders an d came t o lunc h a t ou r hous e o n th e Peak , bu t decline d a n invitatio n t o visit Legislativ e Council , thu s underlinin g th e fac t tha t Chin a regarde d the council a s an advisory body without legislativ e authority. Ji said tha t in orde r t o compl y wit h th e Joint Declaratio n i t wa s bes t t o chang e a s little a s possible, and no t t o chang e th e political syste m unles s i t woul d be beneficial , agai n givin g a stron g hin t tha t ther e ha d bee n a lac k o f consultation wit h Chin a ove r politica l reforms . Th e deput y directo r o f the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office , L u Ping, also spent some weeks in Hon g Kon g i n earl y 1986 , meetin g principall y wit h th e Basi c La w drafting an d consultativ e committees . In January 198 6 th e Foreig n Offic e ministe r responsibl e fo r Hon g Kong, Timothy Renton, speaking in Hong Kong, added fuel t o the flame s when h e suggeste d tha t Hon g Kon g peopl e wer e fre e t o choos e wha t government the y wanted! Throw-awa y line s like this sowed th e seed fo r years of doubt and controversy which lasted until the transition t o Chin a in 1997 . But there were other thing s t o worry about . 168

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A Fresh Chapter Begins

The illusion o f a great happy family o f people across th e globe livin g under th e care and protection o f the British flag belonged t o an age when to trave l fro m th e far-flun g corner s o f Empire , an d particularl y India , meant a n arduou s an d expensiv e journey b y sea . Th e difficult y an d th e cost alone kep t th e million s o f 'children' o f th e Empir e fro m floodin g t o the famil y hearth . I n contrast , officials , armies , merchants, an d i n som e cases their wives and children, were transported at their employer's expense thousands o f mile s fro m Grea t Britain , t o b e employe d i n th e variou s responsibilities an d reward s o f Empire . The y travelle d 'home ' a t lon g intervals, first by sail and then by steam. The British India Steam Navigation Company, which I had serve d fo r a brief fou r years , played a n importan t role i n thi s transport ; i t ha d speciall y designe d troo p ship s an d wa s a regular carrie r t o th e Far East . After the Pacific War times were hard in rural Hong Kong, particularly in th e villages tha t depende d o n th e meagre return s fro m on e cro p eac h year o f brackish-wate r paddy , grow n i n th e north-wes t o f th e Ne w Territories. A glut of rice from the cheap rice-producing countrie s of SouthEast Asi a drov e th e farmer s o f Hon g Kon g fro m th e land . The y found , with peasant perspicacity, tha t so long as they could prove that they were true famil y member s o f that great commonwealt h o f nations, th e Britis h Empire, the y coul d obtai n a passport an d trave l t o England , an d late r t o continental Europe . Fo r a villager, thi s wa s relativel y easy . I n th e Lan d Registry of the District Offices were the proofs ready to hand that applicants were bona fide descendants of families living in the New Territories at the turn of the century. A simple declaration sworn before the District Office r enabled the m t o obtai n a passport t o travel to England . Never slow to miss a trick, in the sixties a company was formed by an ingenious villag e leade r fro m tha t sam e are a o f poo r padd y lan d i n th e north-west, t o charter jumbo jets on regular flights t o Heathrow t o carr y villagers and their families cheaply back and forth. S o from th e rice prices of Asia and chea p ai r fares began th e burgeoning o f Chines e restaurant s in Western Europe. The deserted village paddy fields they had left behin d became vegetable, chicken an d pig farms, managed by new arrivals fro m 169

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Feeling the Stones

the mainland, many of them illegal immigrants, while indigenous villagers armed wit h thei r Britis h passport s foun d a mor e profitabl e occupatio n satisfying th e appetites o f th e West for a more adventurou s cuisine . During th e nex t twent y year s ther e wer e migration s t o th e Unite d Kingdom o f Asian s fro m Ugand a an d peopl e fro m Pakistan , fro m Indi a and from th e West Indies. One by one the loopholes to immigration wer e plugged by legislation in Parliament, and the former eas y assumptions of citizenship disavowed . Thi s issu e cam e t o a hea d durin g th e year s o f negotiation abou t Hon g Kong' s future . Hon g Kon g wa s no t lik e othe r former colonies where, on acquiring independence, their citizens acquired the nationality o f a newly independent country . I t was stated by some i n crude, uncomplimentar y term s tha t Britai n wa s handin g ove r severa l million peopl e t o communist rule . There was an understandable worry in London tha t there would be a mass exodus . See n fro m anothe r angle , Britai n di d no t wis h t o b e see n encouraging peopl e t o leav e whe n th e sol e purpos e o f th e negotiation s was to secure a stable and prosperous future fo r Hong Kong and to enable people t o remai n there . Nevertheless , fo r man y peopl e i n Hon g Kong , this was one more step into an uncertain limbo. Those that had the means and wer e unwillin g t o accep t th e assurance s o f th e futur e eithe r wen t themselves, o r sen t thei r wive s and families , chiefl y t o Canada , th e USA or Australia t o acquir e residency an d a passport, th e husbands shuttlin g backwards an d forwards , 'spacemen ' a s the y wer e calle d i n Chinese , whenever the y coul d spar e th e tim e from work . Som e wives went t o th e USA to give birth to their children, but the mass of the people had nowher e to go . There was tal k o f betrayal an d abandonmen t withou t recognitio n of the reality of how Britain could deal with a mass influx o f people. Tha t was Britain' s problem . (Thi s wa s a n attitud e mirrore d i n 199 9 an d countered i n simila r fashio n b y restrictive legislation , whe n Hon g Kon g itself was threatened b y a possible influx o f over a million kinsmen fro m the mainland claimin g righ t of abode in Hong Kong. ) At a more popular level there had been discontented grumblin g for a number of years over nationality. With the withdrawal of the privileges of 170

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A Fresh Chapt

passports and citizenship from its colonial territories, Hong Kong citizens had ende d u p wit h th e accurat e bu t disparagin g descriptio n o f Britis h Dependent Territories Citizens. If that were not bad enough, Explanator y Note 64 of the Joint Declaration said: 'since Hong Kong will no longer b e a British Dependent Territory after 3 0 June 199 7 it will not be appropriat e for thos e wh o ar e Britis h Dependen t Territorie s Citizen s b y virtu e o f a connection with Hong Kong to be described as such after tha t date.' They were to be called British National Overseas Citizens, whatever that meant, and woul d b e entitle d t o us e Britis h passport s describin g the m a s such , but nevertheless , woul d hav e t o stan d i n th e pejorativ e alie n queu e o n entry to Britain. What now, they said, of the long ties of loyalty, friendshi p and responsibility ? The chang e gav e ris e t o man y question s whic h wer e t o tak e som e years to resolve, but it also sparked of f other, additional questions . Wha t would becom e o f the ethni c minorities? Hon g Kong' s Indian populatio n had bee n loya l citizen s o f Hon g Kon g fo r man y generation s an d woul d now becom e stateless . What, too , abou t th e widows o f serviceme n wh o had fough t valiantl y an d ha d die d fightin g fo r Hon g Kong ? Whic h countries would recognis e th e new passport? Wer e millions o f people i n Hong Kon g goin g t o fin d ther e wa s nowher e t o g o afte r 1997 ? Thes e feelings, som e rational , som e irrational , ar e easil y understood. Her e th e Liaison Grou p demonstrate d it s usefulness. I n July 198 6 agreement wa s reached tha t Britis h Nationa l Oversea s passport s woul d contai n a n endorsement t o the effect tha t th e holder ha d a Permanent Identit y Car d and the right to live in Hong Kong. In other words, they were not 'stateless' and if need be could be returned to Hong Kong. After some time, countries recognised th e BNO passport and after month s and years of petitions an d pleading a n acceptabl e solutio n wa s foun d fo r th e widow s o f soldier s who ha d fough t fo r Hon g Kong, and fo r th e ethnic minorities . Despite th e earlier misgivings , eventually th e BNO passport becam e a well-accepted , second-bes t trave l documen t and , wit h it s issu e established, half the population acquired this status and the passport tha t goes with it , and hav e it to thi s da y

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21

Light and Nuclear Power

• her e were other more practical happenings t o scratch th e nerve s m o f an already anxious community. Tw o measures of the growth of m Hon g Kong are the need for more and more water and the building •o

f power stations . Factories work aroun d th e clock, and th e light s

m o f offic e tower s bur n int o th e nigh t a s analyst s an d other s wor k midway betwee n th e financia l market s o f Americ a an d Europe . Th e brilliant shop signs of the crowded streets are symbols of a city that neve r seems to sleep. The two power companies, Hong Kong Electric and Chin a Light and Power, which supply Hong Kong and the islands and mainlan d Kowloon an d th e Ne w Territorie s respectively , eac h buil t ne w gian t stations, models of their kind whose smokeless chimneys poke like giant joss sticks above the skyline of the hills. It was not enough. When nuclea r power was less an object of protest than it is today, time was spent lookin g around the colony to see whether, in its small compass, there was a remote corner where a nuclear station could be built. But it was a fruitless quest , as ther e wa s nowher e t o b e foun d sufficientl y distan t fro m town s an d villages, neither in the remote north-east nor the far south-west. The idea that Hon g Kong should hav e its own nuclear statio n was dropped . Sir Lawrence (late r Lord) Kadoorie, chairman of the China Light and Power Compan y an d a man o f vision, understood th e precariousness o f Hong Kong's position as a capitalist colony and a tiny bit of empire on th e coast o f th e Chines e giant . H e saw that th e futur e la y in building stron g links of mutual interest with China. He realised, too, that industrialisatio n

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Feeling the Stones

of the Pearl River delta and modernisation o f the cities of southern Chin a would al l requir e immens e supplie s o f power . Hon g Kon g itsel f woul d need mor e power , bu t befor e th e ful l capacit y o f a modern powe r plan t could b e use d i n Hon g Kong , electricit y surplu s t o loca l requirement s could be supplied acros s th e border t o th e Pearl River delta where it was in shor t supply . A start ha d alread y been mad e b y 1980 , when overhea d power line s began carryin g electricit y fro m Hon g Kon g north acros s th e border into the grid of the Guangdong Power Company. And in the course of discussio n t o interconnec t th e transmissio n networ k further , th e question wa s raise d o f constructin g a nuclea r powe r statio n t o suppl y both Guangdon g an d Hon g Kong . B y th e en d o f 198 0 th e technica l feasibility o f th e ide a ha d bee n confirmed . Discussion s abou t th e futur e of Hong Kon g had no t ye t begun bu t her e alread y was specific evidenc e of how importan t Chin a viewe d he r futur e rol e and relation s with Hon g Kong and th e future . The tw o Hong Kong power companie s separatel y enjo y a monopol y in their basic supply areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and operat e under scheme s o f contro l limitin g profit s an d ensurin g tha t the y mee t their obligation s t o serv e th e need s o f th e growin g populatio n an d economy. When the feasibility of constructing a nuclear power plant some distance acros s th e borde r i n mainlan d Chin a ha d bee n confirmed , agreement to proceed was reached between the UK, China and Hong Kong. A joint ventur e compan y woul d b e forme d i n which Hon g Kon g woul d have a 25 per cent interest and take 70 per cent of the power. The nuclea r island o f th e statio n woul d b e Frenc h an d th e conventiona l island , th e generators, British. It was estimated to cost US$ 3.5 billion. But specifically it was t o be a Chinese power plan t built i n China . The political significance of this giant project, which involved so many participants, put a stamp of confidence o n th e future, an d it underscore d China's commitmen t t o Hon g Kong . Here was power flowin g acros s th e border, firs t fro m Hon g Kon g t o th e mainlan d an d then , wit h th e completion of the nuclear station, from the mainland to Hong Kong. Britain and France were helping to build the station and then later to manage th e 174

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Light and Nuclear Power

plant fo r a period , t o trai n an d wor k alongsid e Chines e scientist s an d operators. An d i f Hon g Kon g ha d n o long-ter m futur e a s a separat e capitalist entit y an d ye t wa s expecte d t o continu e t o pa y th e goin g rat e for th e power it consumed, why was China investing in such a long-ter m project? Lor d Kadoori e sa w th e significanc e o f this , bu t fo r thos e wh o had no ear s to hear i t was pushed t o the background a s just anothe r par t of Hong Kon g development . Public interest was low key and focused o n the safety aspects, coming mainly fro m thos e wh o di d no t trus t China' s competenc e t o buil d an d maintain a nuclear powe r station . Th e management an d maintenanc e o f buildings in China was poor: 'Look at the hotels,' they said. Then in April 1985 came the Chernobyl meltdown with its disastrous escape of radiation. Now ther e was justifiable anxiety , and street protests an d mass signatur e campaigns followed, le d by some teaching staff o f the Chinese University. Processions were organised, led by Legislative Councillors. However, Allen Lee Peng-fei, one of the Legislative Councillors, took a contrary view and was reported as saying that 'Daya Bay has been skilfully exploited by activist groups in fannin g th e citizens o f Hong Kong into a frenzy o f fear' . Things came to a head during the summer of 1986 while I was Acting Governor an d whe n th e Legislativ e Counci l wa s no t i n session . A fact finding missio n o f councillors le d by Executive Councillo r M s Tarn Wai Chu was circling the globe visiting nuclear installations. Before the mission returned an d coul d report , som e member s o f th e council , flexin g thei r muscles an d tryin g t o sidelin e th e fact-findin g mission , presse d m e t o recall the council for a special debate. This request would have raised th e temperature withou t contributin g t o informe d discussion . I refuse d t o recall th e counci l until th e mission ha d returne d an d until detail s o f th e operation, monitoring and safety measures of the plant were known. When these were made public, when hundreds of visits to the plant while unde r construction wer e takin g place and when peopl e were able to tal k t o th e serious an d reassurin g Chines e enginee r i n charge , ther e wer e n o mor e protests. Eventuall y tw o debate s too k plac e i n th e Legislativ e Council ; the first attempted t o stop th e construction an d was heavily defeated, th e 175

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Feeling the Stones

second too k a more balanced view and concentrate d o n asking for safet y measures t o be scrupulously pursue d by th e government . Countries like France, the supplier and builder of the reactor, depen d upon nuclea r energy . Hong Kong has serious air pollution, an d th e Day a Bay power station, 70 per cent of whose electricity flows into Hong Kong, helped stave off the need for further pollutin g fossil fuel plants; moreover the electricit y wa s cheape r t o produce . A specia l communicatio n lin e crossing the border to the Hong Kong Observatory was installed to monitor radiation levels . Everything possibl e was done t o reassure. I n Decembe r 1993, thirteen years after th e idea had first been discussed between Chines e officials an d Lord Kadoorie, the plant began supplying power to the Hong Kong grid . The smouldering worries about Daya Bay served t o bring politician s together an d gav e an added impetus t o th e need t o reach a consensus o n the clause s t o b e include d i n th e Basi c La w dealin g wit h th e politica l system afte r 1997 . I n th e summe r o f 198 6 a coalitio n o f drafter s o f th e Basic Law , Legislativ e Councillors , academics , lawyers , Distric t Boar d members and municipal councillors agreed on a future legislatur e of sixty members, hal f o f who m woul d b e directl y elected , th e othe r hal f t o b e divided betwee n representative s o f functiona l group s an d thos e electe d by an electoral college. When the draft was finalised in January 1990 , this was th e agree d formul a t o b e implemente d phas e b y phase , u p t o an d after 1997 . The views were moderate; there were no angry demonstrations, no shakin g fists , n o banner s demandin g instan t democracy , bu t rathe r a sombre realisatio n o f wha t wa s attainabl e i n th e fac e o f China' s often expressed concer n for stability. This concern was described officially , bu t boringly fo r th e impatient fist-shaker , a s 'gradual and orderl y progress' ! About thi s tim e I was returning on e da y from a helicopter surve y o f our new town developmen t an d fle w ove r terraced steps cut into a rocky hillside which had been intended for the barracks of a battalion of Gurkhas to stem an earlier surge of illegal immigrants crossing to Hong Kong, an d which became the victim of British budgetary defence cuts. The site sloped steeply down t o the water an d th e bare terrace s looked ou t o n a scene of 176

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Light and Nuclear Power

islands floating in an empty sea. We circled the site while I photographed, and I carrie d th e photo s bac k t o th e Governor . I t wa s th e Governor' s ambition t o buil d a thir d universit y t o mee t Hon g Kong' s nee d t o concentrate more on science and technology. The site was chosen and th e University o f Scienc e an d Technolog y wa s built i n a record thre e years ; since its opening in 199 4 it has become one of Asia's leading universities. My work a s Chief Secretary was fast comin g to an end, but ther e was no let-up in the stream of ministers, councillors, professors, young leaders, lawyers and journalists who cam e to breakfast, lunc h an d dinner . First it had bee n th e agreement , no w th e topi c move d o n t o what wa s goin g t o happen i n 1997 . We had endlessl y to reassure, to point ou t tha t we had a detailed agreemen t wit h China , ratifie d b y bot h government s an d registered wit h th e Unite d Nations . Hon g Kon g woul d continu e it s membership of world organisations, the legal system would remain intact , the capitalis t economi c syste m woul d continue , lan d lease s woul d b e renewed and new ones issued for fifty years , and if a symbol were neede d to reassur e an d t o signif y improve d Sino-Britis h relations , He r Majest y the Queen an d Princ e Philip had been welcomed i n China . The augurie s could no t hav e been better, but disbelie f continued .

177

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22

Loss of Sir Edward Youde

C

i n Friday, 6 December 1986 , a fine peaceful mornin g in early J winter , Emily Lau, a journalist an d contributo r t o the Far J Eastern Economic Review an d late r a popularl y electe d Legislative Councillor known for her sharp and wide-ranging criticism, ha d com e t o breakfas t a t Victoria House . We wer e sitting looking out across the harbour quietly chatting about current affair s when th e phon e rang . M y persona l assistan t aske d m e t o com e t o th e office immediatel y as news had come that Sir Edward Youde, who was o n a visit to Beijing, had died in his sleep at the residence of the Ambassador, Sir Richard Evans . The Governo r ha d bee n accompanyin g a trad e missio n an d ha d completed a las t da y o f talk s wit h Zho u Na n an d L i Ho u a t th e Hon g Kong and Maca o office . H e had die d peacefully i n his sleep, to be foun d in the early morning by his personal assistant, Richard Hoare. Lady Youde and Dame Lydia Dunn were visiting Xian and were flown back to Beijing. The Ambassador move d t o clear away barriers of regulations t o allow Sir Edward t o cros s international boundarie s an d b e brought bac k t o Hon g Kong. I n th e absenc e o f th e Governo r i n Beijin g I wa s alread y Actin g Governor; suddenl y th e sole responsibility a s Governor was mine . Sir Edwar d wa s no t supporte d b y a politica l part y an d a gaggl e o f politicians. He stood alone . Now he was lost to Hong Kong in th e mids t of delicate and ongoing discussions with China about the Basic Law, about the developmen t o f th e politica l structure , abou t passport s an d abou t a

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Feeling the Stones

nuclear powe r plan t being built o n ou r doorstep . But Sir Edward's deat h meant muc h mor e tha n th e los s o f a quietl y determine d leader . I n hi s unassuming wa y he had identifie d wit h th e people and was held in grea t affection b y them . Thi s was demonstrate d b y th e crowd s which greete d him whe n h e mad e hi s weekl y visit s t o housin g estates , hospital s an d schools. There was no on e to step into his shoes; for tha t we would hav e to wait months. I was due to retire and meanwhile would have to keep u p the momentum o f government . Executive Councillor s me t an d I tol d the m th e sa d news . Si r Mar k Heath, a huge man, Director o f Protocol and a former Ambassado r t o th e Vatican, Davi d (late r Si r David ) Ford , wh o wa s t o tak e ove r fro m m e a s Chief Secretary , bearde d Ala n Scott , Deput y Chie f Secretary , quie t an d authoritative Genera l Boam , Commande r o f th e Britis h Forces , efficien t Alistair Lang , Cler k o f Councils , thei r staff s an d man y other s arrange d the details of an unscripted ceremon y for th e funeral i n his own territor y of the first Governo r t o die in office. All Sir Mark could discover was tha t a thousan d troop s coul d marc h i n processio n an d tha t a seventeen-gu n salute could be fired. Arrangements were made to bring from Londo n th e Minister for Hong Kong, Timothy Renton, Sir Patrick Wright, Permanen t Secretary at the Foreign Office, David Wilson, also from th e Foreign Offic e and responsibl e fo r Hong Kong, and th e Ambassador, Si r Richard Evans , from Beijing . British serviceme n wer e regularl y flow n t o an d fro m th e Unite d Kingdom in RAF transport planes and it so happened on e of these was in Hong Kong . Approva l wa s quickl y an d readil y give n b y th e Chines e authorities fo r i t t o fl y t o Beijin g t o brin g Si r Edward , hi s wif e an d companions bac k t o Hong Kon g the following day . We waited on the rainy tarmac in the evening, together with members of Executiv e an d Legislativ e Councils , i n blac k silen t line s a s th e coffi n was lifte d fro m th e aircraf t wit h skil l an d precisio n b y Coldstrea m guardsmen. The n we drove in slow procession throug h th e streets, eerily emptied of traffic. Thousands of people lined the pavements and pedestrian bridges to see their much loved and respected Governor pass. To them h e 180

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Loss of Sir Edward Youde

had wor n himsel f ou t wit h year s o f shuttlin g backward s an d forward s between Hon g Kong , London an d Beijing, working fo r the m an d future . The flag-drape d coffi n la y i n stat e i n th e ballroo m o f Governmen t House. Al l da y Sunda y an d Monda y man y thousand s o f people , youn g and old , rich and poor , wound thei r way up th e hill in long lines t o sig n the condolenc e boo k an d pa y thei r respects . On Tuesday morning I presided at an Executive Council meeting with the Minister, Timothy Renton, in attendance. The funeral then took place. The coffi n wa s lifted fro m Governmen t Hous e by guardsmen an d place d on a n ope n carriage . I n th e brigh t Decembe r sunshin e w e wen t slowl y down th e hil l t o S t John's Cathedral , Gurkh a troop s wit h arm s reverse d slow-marching to the regular beat of muffled drums , Sir Edward's insignia carried o n velve t cushion , Lad y Youde an d he r tw o daughter s i n th e ca r with it s Crow n insignia , mysel f an d Jan e walkin g behin d followe d b y councillors an d othe r principa l mourner s an d mor e troops . As a youn g Thir d Secretar y o f th e Britis h Embass y i n Nanjing , Si r Edward had played a conspicuous role at a dramatic moment. During th e last stages of the civil war he was despatched by the Ambassador t o wor k his wa y throug h th e troop s o f th e People' s Liberatio n Arm y linin g th e river, t o tal k personall y wit h Ma o Tse-tun g t o secur e th e releas e o f th e frigate Amethyst an d allo w it to steam dow n th e Yangtze to Shanghai. H e had lived and worked fo r fou r separat e periods in th e capital Beijing an d had a wealth of valuable experience behind him. His years of governorship had bee n dominate d b y negotiation s ove r th e futur e an d tha t thes e ha d been brought t o a successful conclusio n owe d much t o his wise and fir m counsel. H e worked withou t sparing . Fo r recreatio n h e retire d eithe r t o Hong Kong' s wetland sanctuar y a t Ma i P o wit h telescop e an d tripo d t o watch birds , o r t o wal k amon g th e mountain s i n th e nort h o f th e Ne w Territories. Hong Kong had los t both a Governor an d a dear friend . Analysts, speculator s an d soothsayer s ha d a fiel d da y weighin g th e chances fo r wh o wa s t o b e appointe d t o replac e Si r Edward . Graduall y the fiel d narrowe d dow n t o Davi d Wilson , th e Foreig n Offic e officia l heading the British team on the Joint Liaison Group. He, too, was a Chinese 181

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Feeling the Stones

speaker, ha d been a previous political adviser t o the Governor an d was a member o f the British team during negotiations about th e future. H e was no stranger to the hotchpotch of topics which the future was throwing u p and th e minefields h e would mee t along th e way. Meanwhile, until Sir David's arrival, Hong Kong's problems were m y problems. I moved my office t o Government House and David Ford moved into mine a s Chief Secretary . David For d ha d firs t com e t o Hon g Kon g i n 196 7 a s a specialis t i n psychological warfare t o hel p with measure s t o counte r thos e who wer e attempting t o destabilise Hong Kong during the Cultura l Revolution. H e was to serve under both Si r David Wilson and his successor, Christophe r Patten. A review of the next steps in developing the system of representativ e government ha d bee n promise d fo r 198 7 i n th e 198 4 Whit e Paper . Concurrently th e Basi c La w draftin g committe e wa s drawin g u p it s recommendations fo r th e compositio n o f th e governmen t t o tak e offic e in 1997 . Obviousl y workin g fro m separat e angles , th e tw o approache s had t o converg e an d coincide . I t mad e n o sens e t o introduc e reform s which woul d b e swep t asid e a t th e handover . I t would hav e ha d seriou s consequences an d would have meant pressing ahead with change durin g the las t remainin g year s leadin g t o th e handove r agains t a torren t o f criticism fro m Chin a an d a probable breakdown i n communication . Th e effect o n the economy would have been dire, resulting in a flight of capital from the markets and erosion of the people's savings. It was an unthinkable scenario. Despit e thes e foreseeabl e consequences , ther e ar e thos e wh o criticise the British for timidity and failure to take this last-minute chanc e to introduc e a full y fledge d on e man , on e vot e democrati c system , disregarding th e dange r t o th e agreemen t whic h ha d bee n reache d wit h so much effort . Suspicion o f wha t th e Britis h wer e u p t o cam e fro m anothe r unexpected quarter , fro m a must y piec e o f legislation . A s lon g ag o a s 1865 the British parliament had passed a Colonial Laws Validity Act. This act stipulates that whenever half of a colonial legislature is elected it shall 182

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Loss of Sir Edward Youde

become a 'representative legislature' which shall have full power t o mak e laws — i n othe r words , t o becom e virtuall y independent . Thi s wa s ammunition fo r th e democrats an d a legitimate caus e fo r concer n t o th e Chinese. In February 198 7 Mr Lu Ping, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office , put down a marker. In a clear warning to the British side, any political reforms, h e said, if introduced before 1997 , must be i n line wit h th e syste m lai d dow n i n th e Basi c Law , an d i f not , an y representative system would be abandoned in 1997. People generally were uninterested i n wha t the y saw a s arcane posturings: i n January a publi c opinion poll conducted fo r th e South China Morning Post showed tha t 4 2 per cent of the public were just not interested in election procedures while a mere 39 per cen t said tha t ther e should be some form o f direct electio n to th e legislature . Th e British ha d agree d th e need fo r convergenc e wit h the Basi c La w bu t th e timin g o f a revie w i n 198 7 coul d no t hav e bee n more unfortunate, comin g as it did before ther e was any clear idea abou t what was likely t o be in the law. These predicaments were what had sen t Sir Edwar d Youd e shuttlin g betwee n th e thre e citie s an d wer e th e inauspicious background agains t which th e promised revie w was to tak e place later i n th e year . Political reform was not the only worry. There were suggestions abou t reducing th e number o f British troop s i n Hong Kon g with stil l te n mor e years to go before th e handover. Executive Counci l was concerned abou t the effec t thi s woul d hav e o n confidenc e an d stabilit y an d Britain' s commitment to stand by Hong Kong until the return of sovereignty. Troops of th e garrison ha d take n ove r responsibilit y fro m th e civilia n polic e fo r patrolling th e border durin g th e disturbances o f the Cultura l Revolutio n in 1967 , and had been an effective deterren t t o illegal immigration. Som e time befor e th e transfe r o f power , th e polic e ha d t o b e ease d bac k int o position on the border. It was too early for withdrawal but not too soon to be thinking about this and other means to reduce the size of the garrison . The question o f reducing th e garrison brought hom e th e reality of 1997 , and councillor s wer e concerne d tha t th e remova l o f thei r protectiv e umbrella woul d sen d th e wrong signal t o residents.

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Feeling the Stones

Meanwhile all was not well in China. In Shanghai. In December 1986 , social tensions caused by the impetus of economic reform ha d unleashe d unseasonable calls for political reform which had swollen into quite serious demonstrations b y student s an d workers . Ther e wa s a smalle r demonstration i n sympath y i n Shenzhe n acros s th e borde r fro m Hon g Kong. This unrest provoked a strong reaction from the leadership in Beijing against liberals within the Party, who were roundly denounced. The South China MorningPost o f 12 January 1987, quoting unspecified sources, wrote that Den g Xiaopin g ha d sai d tha t furthe r protest s mus t b e deal t wit h severely and tha t he had ordere d a crackdown o n liberals: 'We have bee n too la x in curbin g th e tid e of bourgeois liberalism. ' The Genera l Secretar y o f th e Chines e Communis t Part y (CCP) , M r Hu Yaobang , ha d no t bee n see n fo r som e days , because, i t wa s said , h e was wor n out . H e ha d actuall y qui t offic e o n 1 6 January 1987 . Variou s other official s an d academic s los t thei r positions. Mis s Deng Lin, Deng' s daughter, speaking earlier in Hong Kong in support of her father, deplore d the demonstrations, drawing attention t o improvements tha t reform ha d brought an d callin g fo r patienc e an d stability . Thes e event s happene d long before th e prolonged disorder s an d subsequen t crackdow n o f 198 9 and ar e now generall y overlooked , bu t th e fir m wa y in which the y wer e handled shoul d hav e sent an unmistakable warnin g t o later protesters .

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23

The Walled Cit y

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ow that we were on speaking terms with China and before th e arrival o f Davi d Wilso n ther e wa s a n opportunit y t o solve , thankfully fo r the last time, the vexed question of the Kowloon Walled City. Before the signing of the lease of the new territor y in 1898 , th e norther n hal f o f th e Kowloo n Peninsul a wa s governed and administered by the Chinese. So, too, were the surroundin g hills, the spectacular rocky feature resembling a crouching lion, Lion Rock, and the land and villages surrounding the bays to the east and west of the peninsula. This farmland was dotted with tightly clustered grey-tiled roofs and whitewashe d wall s o f Chines e villages and thei r accompanyin g an d numerous temples . In th e eas t o f Kowloon a walled an d fortifie d village , which becam e grandiosely know n a s the Kowloon Walled City , was the seat of Chines e officialdom an d house d a garriso n o f a fe w hundre d Chines e troops . A paved granite track led down from it s gatehouse to a simple landing place in Kowloon Bay where Chinese fighting ships could anchor. It was agreed, when th e lease of the New Territories was negotiated, tha t within the city of Kowloon Chinese officials shoul d continue to exercise jurisdiction an d that the y coul d continu e t o us e th e roa d fro m Kowloo n t o Sa n O n i n Guangdong, an d tha t th e landin g nea r Kowloo n coul d continu e t o b e used for the convenience of Chinese men-of-war, merchant and passenge r vessels. However, this accommodating attitude did not persist. It was only a shor t whil e afte r th e leasin g i n 189 8 tha t th e continue d presenc e o f

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Feeling the Stones

Chinese official s withi n th e Kowloon Walled Cit y created an anomalou s and unacceptabl e situatio n fo r Hon g Kong' s ruler s an d wa s see n a s 'inconsistent with the military requirements for the defence of Hong Kong'. British jurisdiction ha d been extende d t o th e whole o f the ne w territor y by a n Orde r i n Counci l give n b y th e Queen , s o why shoul d th e Walle d City be excluded? Contrar y t o previous understandings an d agreements , it was peremptorily taken over on the 16 May 1899 and the Chinese troops and official s wer e tol d t o pack thei r bags and depart . Following it s seizure , thi s walle d 'city ' o r villag e wa s treate d n o differently fro m othe r villages in the leased territory . As it was owned b y the villagers it was left alone. Development of surrounding farmland too k place, and as the years went by, except for the Walled City gradually eve n the villages of Kowloon themselves were either acquired by the government or by private developer s for urba n development . Kowloon was a growing township, the Walled City was a uncontrolled and malodorou s slum . I n 193 3 the Hong Kon g government mad e a vain attempt to take control. The residents took their protests to the government in China , which reminded th e British of the convention an d th e fact tha t according t o it s term s i t remaine d unde r th e jurisdiction o f Chin a eve n though Chines e official s wer e n o longe r statione d there . Th e Britis h decided t o leave well alone . Later, durin g th e wa r years , th e Japanese marche d prisoner s o f wa r from thei r cam p i n Wes t Kowloon , bedraggle d an d emaciated , t o tak e down the fortifying wall s of the city and use the granite blocks and bricks for th e improvemen t o f th e Ka i Ta k airport . Squatter s late r assiste d th e process o f demolition an d built thei r huts where th e wall had been . An attempt to clear the Walled Cit y was made again in 1948 . On thi s occasion th e response reflecte d th e deteriorating situatio n cause d by th e civil war in China. The Chinese government in Nanjing politely and firml y required th e Britis h t o releas e peopl e wh o ha d bee n arrested , t o pa y compensation fo r damag e done, and to remove th e police, and conveye d a stron g hin t t o th e Britis h no t t o roc k th e boa t whic h was , by then , i n danger o f capsizing altogether . Th e British acquiesced . 186

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The Walled City

Conditions deteriorated. Buildings in the Walled City, which towere d as high as fourteen storeys , were built without plan s and without prope r foundations, and dark, dank and cavernous alleyways followed th e pattern of the narrow lanes of the former village. It was a haven not only for dru g addicts an d prostitute s bu t fo r unlicense d doctor s an d dentist s an d fo r thousands o f immigrant familie s wh o coul d not affor d eve n th e rent o f a bedspace elsewher e i n Kowloon . I t wa s a no-g o are a fo r governmen t officials; however , welfare group s coul d g o in, and soo n afte r ou r arriva l in Hong Kon g in 195 7 my wife, Jane, joined a welfare grou p which wen t each wee k int o it s dar k interio r an d distribute d vitamin s an d mil k t o a long queue o f thin, wan-faced children . To make matters worse, and to add to the misery, the Walled City was almost unde r th e fligh t approac h t o th e airport an d a t busy times , ever y five minutes jet planes screamed an d roared thei r way to land, skimmin g the rooftop s o f thi s craz y collectio n o f skyscraper s leanin g dangerousl y against on e another . Exasperated , i n 196 3 th e Hon g Kon g governmen t made ye t anothe r attemp t t o clea r th e 'city' an d resettl e th e residents . I t succeeded n o better tha n previously . In 199 7 th e whole o f Hong Kon g was going t o com e under Chines e jurisdiction, includin g th e wretched Walle d City . In 198 6 relations wit h China were good and, looked at objectively, there were persuasive reasons for allowin g th e British t o clear up thi s disgraceful blemis h o n Kowloon , and not to leave the problem to be solved by China. Compensation woul d have t o b e pai d t o owners , residents , shopkeepers , hawkers , factories , doctors an d dentists. Hong Kong had th e money and rehousing coul d b e found fo r al l legitimate residents. The suggestion was put t o the official s in the New China News Agency and they in turn quietly sounded ou t th e Kaifong (residents ) Welfar e Association . The y satisfie d themselve s tha t the comple x problem s o f clearanc e woul d b e handle d wit h sensitivit y and tha t a committee , t o includ e representative s o f th e Resident s Association, would be formed t o advise on specific issues. After rebuffin g the British so many times , China no w agreed tha t the y could g o ahead . 1 held meetings in Government Hous e with a tight group o f official s

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Feeling the Stones

on whom was impressed th e need for tota l secrecy Secrec y was essential, otherwise th e clearanc e an d demolitio n woul d hav e become th e subjec t of loca l debat e an d internationa l interes t an d a probably unmanageabl e political football . Buildin g clearance s ar e planne d lon g i n advance , an d so great is the demand for decent housing that if news of a clearance leaks out, ther e is a rush t o fill up an d stak e a claim to ever y spare corne r an d bedspace i n buildings t o be cleared . With th e Walle d Cit y ther e wa s a doubl e nee d fo r secrecy , bot h practical an d political . There were no leaks . To maintain secrecy , squad s of officials wh o were to do the screening of residents and businesses were told that the y were going to a different destinatio n unti l the y were abou t to boar d th e truck s i n th e earl y mornin g whic h too k the m t o th e 'city' . Surprise was complete and by the end of the day the initial screening ha d been completed. We then knew that the clearance and demolition woul d involve housing an d compensatio n fo r 33,00 0 inhabitants . And s o th e Walled Cit y was cleared . Ther e wer e businesses suc h a s unlicensed dentist s who ha d left China , some with a qualification whic h was not recognised i n Hong Kong, operating in stalls along the roadside ; there were the buildings which had been used by Chinese officials. Ther e were prostitute s an d dru g addict s an d endles s variation s o f th e huma n condition to be sorted out, compensated and resettled. Gradually the gaunt grey buildings wer e emptie d an d demolishe d and , i n it s place, as part o f the agreemen t wit h Chines e officials , ther e i s no w a pleasan t Chines e garden containin g a few relics of th e past eventfu l history .

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24

The Arrival of Sir David Wilson and Retiremen t

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e firs t month s o f Hon g Kong' s year pas s quickly . Celebration s

• fo r th e Ne w Year , reckone d b y th e luna r month s i n January o r • February , follo w th e winding-down o f business and th e settling of M accounts . Famil y reunion s sen d hundred s o f thousands awa y fro m m Hon g Kon g t o visi t thei r relative s i n thei r nativ e village s i n th e mainland; others tour scenic spots in China and the world. Workers fro m Chinese restaurant s i n Europ e retur n t o thei r nativ e villages in th e Ne w Territories. Workmen down tools, quiet descends on building sites, barges and boats are docked, ships sail away, and for onc e the sea is as empty a s before a n advancin g typhoon . Hon g Kong , once in a year, is quiet . This welcome interruptio n t o th e frenz y o f normalit y follow s clos e on th e heel s o f Christma s an d th e Wester n Ne w Year . Qin g Ming , th e spring grave-sweeping , an d Easte r the n arriv e with anothe r lon g break . The memory of those days is one of flower markets, fireworks, ornamenta l orange trees , peac h blossom , luck y re d packets , an d a n encouragin g message delivere d b y me a s Acting Governo r whic h wa s t o be televised . Against thi s auspicious background ther e were flickers o f political shee t lightning. 'Britain and Chin a Clas h over Voting' was a February headline in th e South China Morning Post. 'Pro-Beijin g sources ' wer e quote d a s sayin g there might be no direct elections to the Legislative Council before 1997 . Lu Ping, deputy director of Beijing's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office , had said that political reforms, if any, introduced before 1997 must confor m

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Feeling the Stones

to th e Basic Law which woul d no t b e complete d unti l 1990 . To counte r this it was reported tha t on his last visit to Beijing, Sir Edward Youde had warned Chines e official s tha t tw o 'heavyweight ' Executiv e Councillor s might resign if direct polls were not approved. These were warning shots, and th e way ahead o n political refor m woul d hav e t o wait for th e arriva l of Sir David Wilson . Meanwhile there were other more frivolous anxieties . Several months before, we had generously succumbed to the persuasions of a film compan y to allow Victoria House, our residence in my former role as Chief Secretary, to be used fo r a party scen e in th e filmin g o f James Clavell' s book Noble House. W e ha d no t move d t o Governmen t Hous e fo r th e fe w month s before th e arrival o f th e new Governor , an d guest s who woul d normall y have stayed ther e now cam e to Victoria Hous e t o stay with us . So it was that Kenneth Baker, British Minister for Education , and hi s wife, wh o ha d earlie r bee n invite d t o sta y with th e lat e Governor , wer e now ou r guests , an d thei r visi t coincide d wit h th e commotio n o f th e shooting of the scenes designated for thos e particular days. The situatio n called fo r carefu l planning . Carpenters had fitted a flimsy new and 'grander' entrance to the house and the signal to start filming was given as we whisked th e Bakers off fo r an evenin g o f racing unde r th e floodlights . A s the Crow n ca r wound it s way alon g th e narro w road s o f th e Peak , th e pink , gold , blu e an d blac k Rolls Royces which had been pressed into service for the filming from th e rich and famous swep t smoothly up th e drive and filled th e car park. Th e filming o f the party scene of 'taipans and tycoons' , with 'extras ' provided by family members, their friends an d our staff in their starched white an d black, bega n wit h th e openin g o f th e newl y magnificen t fron t entranc e and move d insid e t o where table s were sprea d an d 'champagne ' flowed . We endured an anxious evening entertaining the Bakers in the Governor's box a t th e races , and returne d t o th e house. The car s were gone and th e cables, generator and paraphernalia removed as though nothing had take n place whil e w e wer e away ! Th e nex t da y th e camera s returne d a s ou r guests wer e onc e mor e awa y o n thei r officia l visits ; Pierce Brosnan, th e 190

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The Arrival of Sir David Wilson and Retirement

star o f the film , swep t in and ou t o f the prop fron t doo r i n dramatic fur y until it, too , collapsed fro m exhaustion . On a more serious front, ther e were ideas to stretch th e imagination . The need for a new airport had been a topic of conversation and concer n not only in Hong Kong but for all travellers who landed at Kai Tak. Planes roaring in flew alon g the hills which bounded Kowloo n t o the north an d then a t a few hundred fee t above the roofs and execute d a sharp bankin g turn t o the right ove r th e washing lines, peering into th e windows o f th e elderly, greying apartment blocks, before hittin g the runway. Kai Tak ha d seemed capable of almost indefinite expansion as bits and pieces and mor e parking bays were added to the terminal. But expansion meant more an d more planes were flyin g ove r crowde d Kowloon . Ther e had been tal k o f building a new airport for years, but the ideal solution could not be found . In 198 7 a brilliant , visionar y engineer , Gordo n (no w Si r Gordon ) Wu, chairman of a major constructio n firm, in alliance with a Who's Who of propert y an d developmen t firms , pu t forwar d a proposal t o buil d a n airport islan d i n th e sea t o th e west o f Hong Kong, with shippin g berth s and lan d fo r developmen t o f ne w town s an d roa d an d rai l link s t o th e border. 'Tycoons Unite on Second Airport', ran the headline. The Hongkong and Shangha i Ban k an d th e Ban k o f Chin a wer e sai d t o b e read y wit h finance an d so , too , were mainlan d Chines e investor s i n Hon g Kong . I t was a grandiose schem e an d th e emergenc e o f such a n allianc e spok e o f confidence. It was really too much for the government, too imaginative, probably full o f snags, but it made those at the top do some serious thinking. Som e questioned why an airport should not be built on the boundary with Chin a to serve both Hong Kong and the mainland. This seductive idea had earlier been scotche d becaus e i t woul d hav e mean t aircraf t o f countrie s wit h which Chin a had no diplomatic relations overflying th e mainland. Later , in 1987 , it was equall y impractical becaus e i t would hav e meant aircraf t flying ove r th e emerging town o f Shenzhen, where th e Shenzhen Specia l Economic Zone, getting in first, was building its own airport. The decision which wa s announce d cam e dow n t o a sparsely inhabite d island , Che k 191

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Feeling the Stones

Lap Kok, to the west, lying just to the north of the larger island of Lantau, to be reached b y highways, bridges an d a railway fro m th e centr e o f th e city. Even then the final decision to go ahead did not come until two years later, in October 1989 , and it was used as a morale booster for Hong Kong which was still coming t o grips with th e traged y o f Tiananmen . I fle w t o Londo n i n Februar y 198 7 t o brie f Si r Davi d o n wha t t o expect when he arrived and to give my view of the political turn o f events and the warning signals about democratic reform which had been comin g from Beijing . I als o spen t hal f a n hou r wit h th e Foreig n Secretary , Si r Geoffrey Howe , and wit h Si r Patrick Wright, hea d o f the Foreig n Office , met Member s o f Parliament an d talke d t o the media . Sir David Wilson maintained tradition and arrived on 9 April 198 7 in full fig , with helmet , sword , feathers flying , sailin g across th e harbour i n the Governor' s launch , greetin g th e member s o f hi s Executiv e Counci l and inspectin g th e guar d o n th e Queen' s Pie r before takin g th e oath s o f office i n the City Hall in front o f the assembled dignitaries of Hong Kong. His matter-of-fact inaugura l address pledged his determination to maintain the pac e o f progres s an d no t t o neglec t anyon e i n th e process . O f th e review o f the syste m o f representation, h e said: 'Thes e are serious issue s with far-reaching consequences . We must approach them calmly and with common sense . If there is to be change it should be prudent and gradual. ' The fat was already in the fire. To maintain momentum, th e Green Paper , 'Review o f Development s i n Representativ e Government' , ha d bee n published just before Si r David arrived and th e British Foreign Secretar y had been able to give the Chines e Foreign Minister , Wu Xieqian , an ide a of its contents a t a meeting just before i n Berne in earl y April 1987 . I now ceased to govern and was appointed th e Governor's adviser fo r six months. I descended t o a huge empty room in the lower ground floo r of Governmen t House , rea d an d wrot e paper s o n Hon g Kon g politics , and fro m tim e t o tim e talke d thing s ove r wit h Si r David. I n particula r I came across th e axiom tha t strong party government generall y leads to a decline in committees and weak government means more. Certainly Hong Kong then , an d i n late r years , wa s n o exception : ther e wa s n o stron g 192

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The Arrival of Sir David Wilson and Retirement

party governmen t s o tha t wheneve r ther e wa s a proble m a committe e mushroomed lik e magi c and , sinc e ther e wer e (an d are ) s o many , ther e were not enough individuals with th e necessary talents to be found t o sit on them. Each member, therefore, wore many hats and dashed franticall y from on e meeting to another, breathlessly, arriving late and leaving early. In the final analysis there had to be an end to this never-ending consultatio n and a more decisiv e form o f government ha d t o take its place. Leaving m y dungeo n i n Governmen t House , I travelle d t o Brussel s and Vienn a an d mad e reassurin g speeche s t o sceptica l audience s wh o thought the y knew al l there was to know abou t th e communist blo c an d did no t wan t t o hea r a message tha t ther e migh t be somethin g differen t happening i n th e Fa r East . N o on e wishe d t o kno w tha t Chin a wa s changing. The contras t fo r Western audience s with thei r experience an d emotions cause d b y th e Col d Wa r wa s to o great . Ho w coul d suc h a n agreement hav e been reached wit h a communist power ? In 1987 , the wettest summer in Hong Kong's history, we moved fro m the spacious, colonial grandeur of Victoria House to another governmen t eyrie, a pin k bungalo w highe r u p th e Pea k fro m whic h th e groun d fel l away precipitously, almost to the harbour's edge. It was one of those houses dotted abou t th e cooler , grass y slope s o f th e Peak , i n th e earlie r year s before th e road s wer e built , linke d b y path s alon g whic h seda n chair s passed, dog s were walked an d businessmen hurrie d t o th e Peak Tram . They stand, those houses, in the early photographs o f Hong Kong — England, Surrey in Asia — picnic parties among the grass and rocks, hats, long skirts , parasols, an d i n th e background, hoverin g houseboys . No w the houses, if they still survive, are enveloped in trees and those that have not survive d hav e bee n develope d int o terrace d house s an d apartmen t blocks. The Peak, like the rest of Hong Kong, has had t o succumb t o th e greedy demand s o f a thrusting economy ; but a s a sole concession t o th e past, the rise an d fal l of the ridgeline has to be preserved in the profile o f its ubiquitous, low-ris e apartments . I was anxious tha t we should not lose momentum i n th e building of relations wit h Guangdon g whic h ha d bee n starte d b y Si r Murra y

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Feeling the Stones

MacLehose and continue d by Sir Edward Youde. It was too soon after hi s arrival fo r Davi d Wilson himsel f t o visit, an d i t was arranged that , a s hi s personal adviser, I would lead a party of senior officials t o exchange views and idea s abou t futur e infrastructur e development , road s an d railways , with ou r counterpart s i n th e provincia l government . M y hope wa s tha t this would establis h th e foundatio n fo r clos e and regula r cooperation . We travelle d b y train , meanderin g slowl y an d comfortabl y throug h the wet landscape of the delta, seeing the first signs of double-tracking o f the railway , half-completed highway s an d urba n expansion . Guangzho u (Canton), too, was expanding and developing and feeling the strain, and , despite ou r escor t i n their securit y vehicles, barking staccato command s and waving flags, ordering all before t o wait obediently by the roadside or in th e gutter , we moved onl y slowly throug h traffi c jams . It was over-optimistic of me to hope that in 1987 we would be able to break down the psychological barriers in Hong Kong created by the years of colonia l rul e an d exposur e t o Western culture . Hon g Kon g remaine d strangely unintereste d i n th e grea t economi c resurgenc e takin g place o n its doorstep , an d wha t bega n a s a grea t hop e fo r high-leve l futur e cooperation and regular meetings remained a topic of discussion betwee n officials fro m Hon g Kon g an d Guangzho u unti l th e tur n o f th e centur y instead o f turnin g int o decisiv e actio n t o solv e commo n problems . Meanwhile highways , railway s an d grea t bridge s spa n th e river s o f Guangdong an d criss-cros s th e delta . Larg e town s an d industria l an d science parks have sprouted where, until the reforms o f 1978 , there were country towns, quiet villages, fishponds, vegetable farms and paddy fields. Economic refor m i n Guangdong had its ugly side. Local authorities, anxious no t t o mis s ou t o n th e glea m o f prosperity, were able t o acquir e land from villager s in excess of the need for measured expansio n t o mee t real demand , an d a s yo u drov e alon g th e delt a roads , scarre d hillside s lined th e rout e an d forme r padd y field s la y fallo w beneat h a burden o f bright, brow n infertil e soil , waitin g fo r industry . Th e skeleton s o f abandoned buildin g project s wer e a star k reminde r o f th e failur e o f excessive enthusiasm. However, ten years later, by the turn of the century, 194

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The Arrival of Sir David Wilson and Retirement

the delta was showing signs of becoming a coherent developmen t are a of forty millio n people . This was the last time I would visit China as an official. I t was time to move o n an d begi n a new life , an d tim e t o sa y goodbye a s an officia l t o many friends . Th e Wilsons hel d a dinner part y fo r u s in th e ballroom o f Government House , young musician s fro m th e Academ y o f Performin g Arts played, an d fo r th e first tim e in tha t venue Hong Kon g shed a bit of the formalit y o f its colonial past .

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25

A New Home

[ t had been arranged that I would remain as Sir David Wilson's adviser for si x month s afte r hi s arrival , but w e neede d t o mov e ou t o f th e house provide d b y th e governmen t int o a hom e o f ou r own . I ha d earlier said t o Sir Edward Youde, when h e told me tha t I must follo w / the rules and retire at sixty, that I intended to stay in Hong Kong. Few, if any, civil servants had ha d a career similar t o mine. For us it had bee n normal t o be posted fro m on e appointmen t t o another, no t t o spend to o long i n an y on e plac e o r post . Mos t civi l servant s worke d i n th e urba n offices o f the government and lived in apartment blocks scattered aroun d the city, and moved into larger, more comfortable apartments as promotion came their way. We, on the other hand, had spent years living in the New Territories wher e ther e wer e house s wit h garden s fo r Distric t Officers , close t o th e people i n thei r distric t care . (Thing s have changed. Non e o f the houses are now lived in by District Officers, whic h tells the story of a changing society: one became an education centre and nature trail for th e World Wide Fund fo r Nature; one became a centre for recuperation fro m AIDS; one bungalow has been demolished for multi-storey redevelopment ; and anothe r i s the viewing platform fro m whic h visitors photograph th e great bridges spanning th e islands t o lead t o th e airport. ) We were fortunat e t o have lived in th e countr y a s it developed fro m market town, ancient villages, paddy fields and vegetable farms to satellite towns, highway s an d railways , sorrowfull y acceptin g th e planne d obliteration o f a wa y o f lif e an d a livin g environmen t an d workin g t o

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Feeling the Stones

ameliorate som e o f th e deleterious effect s o f development. No w in 198 7 we needed ou r ow n hom e an d onc e more looked t o the New Territories . In th e year s befor e an d immediatel y afte r th e war , th e ambitio n o f many o f Hon g Kong' s Chines e manager s an d professional s ha d bee n t o own a bathing pavilion along the shoreline stretching out from Kowloo n to th e west , an d fo r th e wealth y t o buil d a countr y retrea t fo r weeken d enjoyment, t o entertain thei r friends t o tennis, to swim, to play mahjon g and t o indulge thei r fondnes s fo r growing miniature trees . Gradually th e bathing pavilion s wer e pu t t o mor e popula r us e b y club s an d societie s and th e houses were rented t o those who were bold enough t o risk livin g in semi-isolation i n a society which was less secure tha n i n th e past . With th e help and advic e from a friend w e looked u p th e overgrow n driveways o f th e houses t o th e west o f Kowloon. Mos t had alread y bee n bought by property developers for redevelopment into apartment blocks. There was one which could not be redeveloped into a high rise because of planning restriction s an d was , therefore , o f n o interes t t o rea l estat e developers. I t stood alone , deserted , vandalise d an d overgrown : Drago n View. It had no t bee n live d i n fo r a number o f years and i n Hon g Kong' s tropical climat e th e tendril s o f creeper s an d burstin g vegetatio n ha d enveloped th e drivewa y an d blankete d th e paths an d terrace s o f th e ol d house. The doctor who had decided in 195 3 to build on this hillside spu r had like d it s isolation, it s uninterrupted vie w o f mountains an d se a an d its scop e fo r gardening . No w th e door s wer e missing , window s wer e shattered, ceiling s were lying on th e floor. Bu t my wife was convince d i t was th e plac e fo r us . We visite d th e house , bringin g gardenin g tool s t o cut ou r wa y throug h branche s an d creeper s unti l w e coul d loo k ou t t o the blue mountains facing us across the seaway and to the islands of distant Hong Kon g an d neare r Lantau . The n miraculousl y o n a tre e i n th e overgrown garden for a brief moment I saw a rare and brilliant green-blu e bird, Verditer' s flycatcher . Thi s seeme d t o b e a n omen . W e decide d t o contact th e owner . Madam Lee, widow of Dr Raymond Lee Yeo Hsuan, an eminent forme r citizen, wa s livin g i n Canada . D r Le e had bee n a member o f th e Britis h 198

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A New Home

Army Aid Group operating in China during the Pacific War and had mad e an epic journey o f about a thousand mile s across war-torn Chin a t o tak e charge o f a famine relie f operatio n i n western Guangdong . O n retur n t o Hong Kong he continued a distinguished career and had become an Urban Councillor, an d subsequentl y lef t fo r Canad a t o joi n s o man y o f hi s compatriots i n retirement . H e ha d lavishe d attentio n o n th e garde n o f Dragon View , buildin g pathway s int o th e hills , terrace s an d pavilions , with benche s carefull y place d t o watc h th e lateen-saile d junk s a s the y tacked thei r wa y alon g th e quie t channe l betwee n hi s garde n an d th e clouded peaks of the island of Lantau. Th e house too k its name from th e Chinese villag e alon g th e road , Tsin g Lun g Tau , 'th e hea d o f th e gree n dragon'. This is an important elemen t in the geomancy of Feng Shui: th e green dragon and the white tiger rest on either side of a location, which is 'good fen g shui' . The dragon' s vein ra n dow n th e line of th e nearby hill s and reste d i n th e sea . We contacte d D r Lee' s son, Edmund , als o a doctor , wh o wa s actin g for hi s widowe d mother . H e wrot e t o u s a s follow s (an d I includ e hi s letter i n ful l i n vie w o f what too k plac e in a n attemp t t o calumniat e m e some years later): 'Many thanks for your letter enquiring about the house at Castle Peak. It belong s t o m y mothe r an d I ca n onl y spea k o n he r behalf . A s yo u probably know the house is in a state of disrepair due to repeated vandalism from nearby villagers. However structurally it is still pretty sound. Certainl y it needs rejuvenation. I f you ar e interested pleas e feel free t o inspect th e house an d it s environs. We have receive d severa l enquirie s recentl y an d the price o f $1.5 million ha s been suggested. ' We replied t o his letter tha t th e cos t of putting th e house in a liveable condition would require at least $260,000 and asked if he would consider a slight reduction. H e agreed t o a small reduction and a price of $1,425,000 . We had neve r me t an d were onl y t o d o so in th e offic e o f th e solicitor s t o complete the purchase. The land on which the house was built had only been roughly surveyed at the beginning of the century on what were known as demarcation sheet s

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Feeling the Stones

prepared by the surveyors from India . The lease plan looked like a child's drawing don e wit h a setsquar e abou t hal f a n inc h i n size , an d whe n measured more accurately the house had been built quite a few feet sout h of where it should have been. We needed t o rectify th e boundaries to pu t the house in the midst of its land by giving up land behind an d receivin g the sam e amoun t i n front . I t ha d bee n sold , too , rathe r extraordinarily , without an y driveway to get from th e house to the nearby road. In retur n for a fee we were then granted a right of way to the road, but no ownershi p to the land over which it passed. We were to live there for almost fourtee n years unti l we, too , ironically, were in th e way of th e widening o f Castl e Peak Roa d — th e very same road, a s it passed throug h Tsue n Wan, fro m which I had helpe d t o move a whole village in 1959 . After month s o f hammering , sawing , plastering , paintin g an d rearranging, th e hous e wa s ready . I ha d finishe d si x month s a s th e Governor's adviser and we moved in on 1 1 November 198 7 at one o'clock , the date and time having been carefully selecte d by a Feng Shui master by consulting our horoscopes, cross-referenced t o the Chinese cycle of years and th e lunar calendar . A friend arrive d with a suckling pig on a wooden platter, basted with honey and roasted to a crisp and freckled ric h brown . The gods were satisfied an d we were free to celebrate in the usual manner. Gradually, a s the years passed, despit e ou r ho t an d humi d summer s an d long dr y winters , th e garde n becam e a treasur e lan d o f unusua l plant s flowering throughout the year and was much visited by fellow horticultura l enthusiasts.

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26

A Change of Life: 198 9

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i rago n Vie w was a delight, perche d o n it s hillside spu r abov e I th e narro w Castl e Pea k Road , which passe d betwee n i t an d / th e sea. It was half-hidden b y the overhangin g branches o f two sprawling Flame of the Forest trees (Delonix regia) whose vivid scarle t flower s i n th e sprin g announc e th e retur n o f th e sun t o th e norther n tropics . Through th e house, th e sudde n vist a o f th e sea, th e steep , mountainou s island s beyon d an d distan t Hon g Kon g brought a gasp of delight from visitors. The ground sloped steeply upward behind th e house throug h dar k woodland, hom e for snake s an d spiders , with long trails of purple bougainvillea, gordonia with flowers like poached eggs, and mauv e bauhinia . A trickle o f water, which afte r rai n becam e a torrent, fed a small pond in a sanctuary of creepers, branching fern frond s and wild ginger, a retreat fo r fiv e shy terrapin . As w e settle d int o ou r ne w lif e i t wa s no t lon g befor e ther e wer e offers o f thing s t o do . We were alread y bus y wit h voluntar y work : Jane was Chie f Commissione r o f mor e tha n 36,00 0 Gir l Guide s an d I wa s chairman o f th e World Wide Fund fo r Nature , president o f the Outwar d Bound Trus t an d chairma n o f a n Oxfor d scholarshi p fun d fo r Chines e research students . I becam e chairma n o f th e fil m sta r Jacki e Chan' s charitable trus t an d o f Operatio n Smil e Chin a Medica l Mission , whic h sends medical teams to China t o operate on children whose faces neede d corrective surgery , particularl y fo r clef t lip s an d clef t palate s whic h ar e common i n rural China .

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Feeling the Stones

There wer e board s an d committee s o f schools , hospital s an d sport s organisations, and after a break to ensure that ther e was no conflic t wit h my government work , I became a non-executive directo r o f a number o f companies, on e o f which gav e m e a n opportunit y t o trave l t o Australi a and also to make numerous visits to meet officials i n the Finance Ministr y and insuranc e industr y o f China . Bu t most interestin g an d importan t o f all, i n 198 8 I wa s aske d t o becom e th e firs t chairma n o f a newl y independent Housin g Authority no w free d fro m governmen t chains . Many year s before , o n Christma s da y 1953 , th e ashe s wer e stil l smouldering from a disastrous fire which, in the tinder-dry winter air and gusty nort h winds , ha d rage d throug h a shanty tow n o f squatters . Fift y thousand peopl e wer e homeles s fro m th e inferno . Realisin g tha t th e immigrants wer e i n Hon g Kon g t o stay , an d tha t mor e an d mor e wer e continuing t o arrive , Hong Kon g began t o build. Onc e begu n ther e wa s no stopping. Forty years later, half of Hong Kong's population, three million people, lived in high-rise housing blocks built i n response t o th e fires o f the fifties. Befor e building coul d begin, squatters were cleared into othe r tin-shed shelter s unti l the y coul d mov e bac k int o high-ris e permanen t homes. Despite thi s tremendou s effor t th e situation neve r seeme d t o ge t better. Hon g Kong' s population wa s growin g b y a t leas t a millio n ever y ten year s throug h bot h natura l increas e an d th e stead y strea m o f immigrants, legal and illegal , from th e rest of China. Th e estate s built i n the crisis years of the fifties an d sixties, after twenty-fiv e years or so, were now substandard an d had to be demolished and rebuilt and their familie s housed i n newe r estates . Th e wealthie r resident s o f rente d ne w estate s had t o be enticed ou t t o buy newly built moder n flats . Meanwhile, ther e were still well over a hundred thousan d familie s — half a million peopl e — on a waiting list. These, for the most part, were families living stoically in rundown tenement s subdivide d int o tin y cubicles. It was not possibl e to increase the pace of building because of the paragraph in the agreement with China which restricted the disposal of land by the government befor e 1997 t o fift y hectare s a year. Fo r som e things , such a s expansion o f th e

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A Change of Life: 1989

container port , universitie s an d s o forth , th e limi t wa s waived , bu t th e restriction impose d unnatura l constraint s o n th e disposa l o f lan d fo r housing. I le d a delegatio n fro m th e Housin g Authorit y t o se e housin g development in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. All those years of living apart from the mainland, apprehensively viewing China as it went throug h its turbulent years of political upheaval, and at that time with no particula r wish to visit villages from which they had long been separated, had create d on th e par t o f som e Hon g Kon g peopl e a reluctanc e t o recognis e th e changes that were now taking place and an unwillingness to acknowledg e the reality that, following reunification, th e border would become a mere boundary Som e were lacking in curiosity, or were putting off the inevitable as lon g a s the y could . Som e member s o f th e Housin g Authorit y share d this lack of curiosity, and so our visit was planned with the aim of breaking down th e barriers. In eac h o f th e citie s w e visited , ne w monste r housin g estate s wit h comprehensive facilitie s wer e being built. Ther e was much t o admire — things, too, to criticise — but the direction o f change was easily seen an d sensed. Shanghai had picked up some ideas from Singapore in its approach to some of its housing and rehousing problems, and each city was stirring with energy , vitality and change . Meanwhile, across the border in Shenzhen, glass-walled tower blocks were peeping over the hills, visible from Hong Kong. Shenzhen had already grown into a well-developed city with crowded traffic intersections, broad, tree-lined avenues, parks and gardens. (These later were to earn it a prize as the Garden Cit y of the World!) Th e airport at Huang Tien in Shenzhe n was no w servin g fort y citie s i n Chin a an d wa s linked t o Hon g Kon g b y fast ferr y Furthe r t o th e west , constructio n wa s du e t o star t o n a ne w bridge at the Bocca Tigris, Humen, at the mouth o f the Pearl River, where the firs t battl e o f th e nineteenth-centur y opiu m war s ha d take n place . The development of Shenzhen from a small township, villages and padd y fields to a great city took twenty years, and in that time it had grown to an

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Feeling the Stones

incredible size of nearly seven million. It not onl y rivalled Hon g Kong in the siz e o f it s populatio n but , becaus e o f it s lo w prices , wa s a plac e t o shop, t o eat and t o have your clothe s and curtain s made. But in the earl y nineties, very fe w wished t o see the writing o n th e wall.

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27

Political Development 1987-1990 : Tiananmen an d the Boat Peopl e

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l he n Si r David Wilson arrive d i n 1987 , the Gree n Pape r / revie w o f Hon g Kong' s politica l syste m ha d jus t bee n / publishe d in an atmosphere unfavourable t o bold initiatives. China had said that anything unacceptable to China and no t in conformity wit h th e Basic Law was doomed no t t o surviv e the transfe r o f sovereignty. The public response t o the review was mute d except fro m th e fe w wh o wer e especiall y intereste d i n politica l development. Th e majorit y preferre d t o kee p wel l awa y fro m politics . The mai n poin t a t issu e concentrate d o n whethe r Hon g Kon g shoul d have elections in 1988, before th e drafting o f the Basic Law was complete, or wait until 199 1 when th e Chines e position woul d be clear . Signature campaign s wer e hel d t o obtai n suppor t fo r earl y direc t elections. Anonymous opinio n surveys also conveyed th e same message. An independen t Surve y Offic e t o advis e o n th e respons e t o a publi c consultation paper decided to take signature campaigns as one submission and individua l signe d letter s a s separat e submissions . Mas s signatur e campaigns ar e a simple way to engende r suppor t an d deman d ver y littl e thought an d responsibilit y fro m thos e wh o ar e presse d t o sig n a s the y hurry on their way to work, whereas individual letters, although produce d wholesale on a copier, were judged t o have a greater legitimacy. That was the view o f the Survey Office . It was no surpris e tha t th e White Pape r published i n 198 8 to repor t the resul t o f th e surve y an d finalis e recommendation s fo r chang e

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Feeling the Stones

concluded tha t submission s wer e generall y in favou r o f direc t elections , but that views were divided over the timing of their introduction. However, when i t wa s discusse d i n Executiv e Counci l i t wa s finall y decide d tha t elections should be held in 199 1 when what was in the Basic Law would be known. Ther e was strong criticism o f this decision, crie s of chicanery , and ridicul e fo r th e independen t finding s o f th e Surve y Office . I t i s no t possible t o predict i n what way Chin a woul d hav e reacted i f Hong Kon g had gone on to hold elections in 1988 , but we can be certain that it would have bee n ver y damagin g t o relations i n th e lea d u p t o 199 7 an d t o th e cooperation s o desperatel y neede d i f th e transitio n wa s t o b e smooth . The decisio n wa s not changed . Despite thes e excitements , i n genera l thing s settle d down . Th e economy was booming and the drafting o f the Basic Law was progressin g well. This latter require d muc h effort , fo r no t onl y were th e essentials of Hong Kong' s wa y o f life , law , socia l an d politica l syste m an d econom y being spelled out, but the drafters were tightening up much of the hurriedly prepared wordin g o f th e Sino-Britis h Agreement. Bu t th e period o f cal m did not last long. The committee continued it s painstaking work in 198 9 against a background o f increasing disquiet about event s in China . O n 6 April, th e anniversar y o f th e Shangha i demonstration s i n 1976 , Hon g Kong newspaper s reporte d tha t student s i n Beijin g ha d defie d a ban o n meetings t o discuss how t o speed up democrati c change . There was political unrest elsewhere in former communis t countries . Reformers i n Russi a ha d defeate d communis t part y candidate s i n parliamentary elections . In Poland th e independent worker' s movement , Solidarity, wa s legalised , whil e o n televisio n ther e wer e nightl y scene s from Seou l of students and workers locked in combat with riot police. As fate would have it, Hu Yaobang, a Chinese leader who had sided with th e students i n th e 197 6 protests, died . Wreaths were laid a t th e monumen t to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen where in 197 6 they had been laid t o commemorate th e death o f Zhou Enlai . There were reports tha t marche s had als o take n plac e i n Shanghai . B y 20 Apri l 2 0 th e crow d o f worker s and students in Beijing had swollen to 100,000 and there had been protests 206

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Political Development 1987-1990: Tiananmen and the Boat People

and attempts t o break in to Zhongnanhai, th e seat of government. Fund s and tents were collected and sent to the demonstrators fro m Hon g Kong . Hopes o f a peacefu l outcom e wer e kindle d an d the n a s rapidly , extinguished. Th e Russia n presiden t Mikhai l Gorbache v visite d Beijin g at the end of a thirty-year break in relations, and to the humiliation o f the government, wa s unabl e t o ente r th e Grea t Hal l o f th e Peopl e b y usin g the grand entrance , but ha d t o go in throug h th e back door . O n 1 8 May the Chines e Premie r warne d tha t 'i f th e movement di d no t en d i t woul d be more chaotic than th e Cultural Revolution'. The situation was seriou s not onl y in Beijing but throughou t th e countr y and bordering o n a state of anarchy' (South China Morning Post, 1 9 May 1989) . On 1 9 May, before th e fina l disaster , troop s bega n t o mov e int o th e capital, meetings were banned an d martial law declared. The occupatio n of the square by the students not only continued but efforts wer e made t o barricade th e roads leadin g t o it. On 2 3 May troops moved close r t o th e centre o f th e city . Student s the n vote d t o leav e o n 3 0 May , but decisiv e leadership t o accomplis h thi s wa s lackin g and , grievously , man y wer e still ther e whe n th e arm y opene d fir e durin g th e nigh t o f 3- 4 June and , using tanks an d troops , moved i n t o clear the square . The effect o n Hong Kong was traumatic. Wearing the black and white colours of mourning, marchers filled th e streets, shoulder t o shoulder b y hundreds o f thousands , an d cars , taxis , lorrie s an d buse s tie d blac k streamers t o thei r aerials . T o shar e i n thei r distres s w e travelle d i n b y train from ou r home in the New Territories and joined the mass of quietly moving crowd s o n thei r wa y t o th e racecours e — th e onl y larg e ope n space in the urban area. The racecourse was filled by a mass demonstration, and everyon e converged ther e to hear harsh words of condemnation an d to sing patriotic songs. After a while, with heavy hearts and troubled minds, we left fo r home . The event s o f Tiananmen ar e long remembered. A n Alliance fo r th e Support of Democracy in China was formed. Some members left the Basic Law drafting committe e in protest, never to return. Reacting to the public mood, the Governor, Sir David Wilson, once again raised with the British

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Feeling the Stones

government th e question o f providing an escape route, a passport for th e people of Hong Kong. He could do no less, but once again this was rejected. Three things were, however, promised. A privileged fifty thousan d familie s of th e professiona l an d manageria l classe s wer e selecte d an d obtaine d British passports ; a Bil l o f Right s wa s introduce d int o Hon g Kong ; an d the constructio n o f a new airpor t t o boost moral e was announced . There wer e othe r distractions . Whil e a privilege d fe w wer e constructing their escape route out of Hong Kong, a new flood of refugee s from Vietnam was pouring in. Hong Kong had already done its bit to help deal wit h th e refuge e crisi s whic h immediatel y followe d th e en d o f th e war in Vietnam. Accounts of Hong Kong seldom mention the long saga of Vietnamese refugee s whic h wa s th e troublesome , costl y an d continuin g backdrop to all the other things Hong Kong had to worry about and lasted for twenty-fiv e years , until th e end o f the century . It ha d begu n when , followin g th e fal l o f Saigo n i n 1975 , th e Clara Maersk, a Danish carg o ship, scooped u p boatload s o f refugees fro m th e sea as she steamed in the direction of Hong Kong. She arrived with nearl y four thousan d men , wome n an d childre n crowde d o n he r deck s an d superstructure, linin g th e rails and looking anxiously fo r refuge . Man y a rusty an d broken smal l boat at th e end o f her working lif e followe d tha t dramatic beginning , an d helpe d b y a tattere d sail , limpe d an d chugge d her way up th e coas t t o sanctuary . Later, shortly before Christma s 1978 , the Fluey Fung, a rusting carg o ship, had been 'chartered' by corrupt officials wh o sold tickets to freedom . Gold, paid to the captain, was later discovered hidden in the engine room. Hong Kon g wa s reckone d t o b e a sof t touch . Th e shi p wa s ordere d t o anchor in the open sea near islands to the south of Hong Kong and told to proceed o n he r voyag e t o Taiwan . Th e captai n calle d Hon g Kong' s bluf f and refused t o move, and the ship stayed there, pitching and rolling, well into January while the critical world watched. It was cold, wet and stormy; there was no alternativ e bu t t o let her ente r with 3,30 0 sic k an d hungr y refugees wh o ha d been living for ove r a month i n hellish condition s an d without sanitatio n i n th e holds .

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Political Development 1987-1990: Tiananmen and the Boat People

By the en d o f tha t year , 1979 , ther e wer e ver y nearl y 100,00 0 boa t people i n Hon g Kong . A s succeedin g year s passe d thes e number s ros e and fell ; som e wer e resettled , other s came . Bu t i n 1989 , when w e wer e anxiously watching events in Beijing, we also had to patrol the seas to th e south where more boats were arriving than in any other year since 1979 . These wer e no t thos e fearin g reprisa l fro m th e ne w regim e bu t peopl e duped int o seekin g a n easie r life overseas . The world had developed compassion fatigue and turned its attention away fro m Vietna m t o eve n mor e seriou s an d intractabl e problem s i n Africa. Hon g Kon g wa s tire d an d exasperate d b y thi s endles s flo w o f migrants. I t ha d ha d enough . Thi s tim e the y wer e no t give n th e sam e welcome as previous arrivals, but were locked behind barbed wire in closed camps and with few exceptions categorised as economic migrants. Thes e were peopl e wh o wer e escapin g fro m th e hardshi p o f th e regimente d economy o f communis t Vietnam , jus t whe n tha t econom y wa s bein g reformed an d liberated . Ove r th e nex t fe w year s the y wer e loade d ont o planes and sent back, at first carried on board protesting and then walking on less reluctantly a s life i n Vietnam graduall y improved . By the middle of January 1990 , the drafters o f the Basic Law had just about complete d thei r fiv e year s o f work. All tha t remaine d t o b e don e was to reach final agreement with China on the development of the political system afte r th e return o f sovereignty an d als o in th e years leading t o it . This latte r poin t wa s importan t because , provide d th e syste m an d th e composition o f th e Legislativ e Counci l i n 199 7 wa s i n conformit y wit h the Basi c Law, it could , upo n confirmatio n b y a Preparatory Committe e to b e establishe d i n 1996 , becom e th e firs t Legislativ e Counci l o f th e Special Administrativ e Regio n afte r 1997 . Thi s wa s th e 'throug h train' , the imaginative contributio n t o the smooth transfe r o f sovereignty . With the objective of securing this agreement o n the development of the political structure before and after 1997 , unbeknownst t o Hong Kong, the Secretar y o f Stat e fo r Foreig n an d Commonwealt h Affairs , Dougla s Hurd, began a correspondence in January 199 0 with the Chinese Foreig n Minister, Qian Qichen. The British were anxious to secure as many directly

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Feeling the Stones

elected seats to the legislature as possible in response to what was perceived as an overwhelming demand in Hong Kong: 'failure t o do this would ris k severe damag e t o Britis h authorit y i n th e perio d befor e 1997. ' Othe r subjects i n th e letter s include d th e formatio n o f a n electora l colleg e t o elect a number o f seats, a restriction o n th e number o f foreign national s who coul d be elected and separate majority voting for the passage of bills and motion s b y thos e representin g functiona l constituencie s an d thos e elected by direct elections and by the electoral committee . Any exchang e o f letter s betwee n foreig n minister s i s extremel y important. These letters were no exception. They narrowed the differenc e between th e tw o sides , and ende d wit h th e Foreig n Secretar y writing t o the Chines e Foreig n Ministe r agreein g t o limi t th e numbe r o f directl y elected seats in 199 1 to 18 , on th e understanding tha t ther e would be 2 0 in 1995 , 24 in 199 9 and 30 in 2003. The Foreign Secretary went on to say that h e agree d i n principl e wit h th e arrangement s fo r th e electora l committee proposed by China. He continued to express his concern abou t the restriction s o n foreig n national s participatin g i n th e legislatur e an d on the separate voting system. On the voting system, Chin a believed tha t this woul d provid e a necessary chec k an d balance . O n th e participatio n of foreig n national s i n th e legislature , Chin a sai d thi s wa s a necessar y restriction becaus e o f th e numbe r o f foreig n passpor t holder s i n Hon g Kong, an d i n an y cas e it was fa r mor e libera l tha n i n othe r parliaments . China was, however, willing to recognise that apart from expatriates, many Chinese in Hong Kong hold foreign passports, and to exclude them entirely would hav e deprived th e legislature o f some of her leadin g citizens . Although the y knew something was delaying the conclusion o f thei r work, th e member s o f th e Basi c La w draftin g committe e i n a plenar y session were kept waiting in China to finalise the draft until the exchang e of letters between the foreign ministers was complete. Only then did the y sign of f o n thei r nearl y fiv e years ' work. Fo r reason s whic h hav e neve r been adequately explained, this correspondence was not made public until its dramati c productio n b y Chines e official s durin g th e visi t o f th e Rt . Hon. Christophe r Patten , who had taken over as Governor, on his visit to Beijing i n the autumn o f 1992 .

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28

Sir David Wilson

t

ach Governor had his style, and just as each governorship wa s ' distinguishe d b y th e problem s an d anxietie s o f th e day , so th e solutions depended on the Governor's particular personality and leadership qualities . Si r David Wilson, who wa s Governo r now , inherited a different an d difficul t se t o f problems just tw o year s into his governorship . He brough t wit h hi m a quiet , thoughtfu l styl e an d th e cal m an d diplomacy neede d t o balance th e sometime s conflictin g demand s o f th e administration o f Hon g Kon g wit h th e nee d t o cooperat e wit h China . The explosion o f discontent an d dissatisfactio n i n Beijing i n Tiananme n took plac e i n th e middl e o f 1989 , just tw o year s int o hi s governorship . David Wilson ha d t o calm Hong Kong and restore confidence tha t Hon g Kong's future di d not li e in ruins . Viewed fro m th e outside , Tiananme n seeme d t o spel l a n en d t o al l the progress tha t ha d bee n mad e i n socia l and economi c reform , a n en d to the opening of China t o the outside world, and to mark a return t o th e hard-line policie s o f forme r years . Happily , thi s wa s no t t o b e so . Den g Xiaoping's policies continue d a s before, eve n while th e rest o f th e worl d was recovering from th e shock and horror at what the y had seen on thei r television screens . One of the morale-boosting initiatives was the government's decision, four month s afte r Tiananmen , at long last to build a replacement airport , which Si r Davi d announce d i n th e Governor' s polic y addres s a t th e beginning o f the 1989-199 0 legislativ e session .

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Feeling the Stones

The constructio n o f a n airpor t capabl e o f handling a throughput o f 80 millio n passenger s a year woul d entai l th e reclamatio n o f a n airpor t island fro m th e muddy depths of the sea, and would involve the buildin g of immense bridges, tunnels, highways, and also a railway. There was n o disguising i t woul d b e a stupendou s engineerin g feat , costin g US$1 6 billion. The Chinese leaders, recovering from Tiananmen, reacted predictably to thi s decision. Ther e had been n o discussion ; what were the British u p to now? What ha d happened t o the promise of cooperation? Th e equall y predictable response was that this was a decision within the administrative power o f th e Hon g Kong-Britis h government . Th e Chines e questione d where Hong Kong was to find the money. Would the incoming government in 199 7 be lef t wit h a n intolerabl e amoun t o f debt ? Ha d al l th e option s been explored ? Thes e ma y have been reasonabl e enoug h questions , bu t nevertheless Hon g Kon g needed t o push on . Having alread y spen t year s in th e bureaucratic siftin g processes , it did not wish t o face interminabl e discussion wit h Chines e official s whic h woul d hav e resulte d i n furthe r delay an d woul d hav e take n th e shin e of f thi s bol d initiative . I t migh t well have pushed th e project into th e period stretching up to and beyon d 1997, the n t o b e overshadowe d b y th e chang e o f sovereignty . Th e announcement ha d t o be made now o r never; the political fall-out coul d be dealt with later . Fall-out ther e certainly was. There followed almost two years of patient but determined negotiatio n before a n Airport Agreemen t wa s signed betwee n th e tw o governments ; and eve n the n th e wranglin g di d no t stop . Meanwhile , a s luc k woul d have it , wit h a n expandin g econom y an d risin g revenues , Hon g Kong' s fiscal reserve s improve d dramatically . Eve n thoug h mor e direc t capita l was injected int o the airport, it became clear that it was far from drainin g Hong Kong' s reserves . I n 199 7 th e Hon g Kon g Specia l Administrativ e Region, becaus e o f a flourishin g econom y an d astut e investmen t o f it s surplus revenues , woul d inheri t foreig n currenc y reserve s whic h wer e among th e highes t i n th e world . The airport negotiations were brought t o a head with a visit from th e 212

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Sir David Wilson

Prime Minister , John Major , t o Beijin g i n Septembe r 1991 . He wa s th e third governmen t leade r t o visi t Chin a afte r Tiananmen , followin g th e Japanese an d Italia n prim e ministers . I t ha d take n tw o year s fo r th e international quarantine , whic h ha d bee n impose d o n Chin a afte r th e events o f 1989 , t o b e lifted . Th e Britis h Prim e Ministe r accepte d thi s invitation t o visit Beijing despit e th e obviou s criticism s h e coul d expec t from hi s parliamentar y colleague s an d th e media . Bu t no t onl y di d hi s visit ratchet the airport forward, i t helped show Hong Kong's own leader s and peopl e tha t sanction s an d ostracis m wer e unhelpful i n encouragin g the refor m programm e i n China , whic h wa s continuin g a s thoug h Tiananmen ha d no t take n plac e Although much criticised as a period lacking in decisive government, looked a t mor e objectivel y ther e wa s muc h o n th e credi t side . Durin g David Wilson' s governorshi p furthe r progres s ha d bee n mad e i n th e development o f the political structure; agreement over the 'through train ' concept fo r legislator s ha d bee n achieved ; th e draftin g o f th e Basi c Law had been completed; and the negotiation over the airport had taken place and a n agreemen t signed . Th e event s o f 198 9 i n Chin a ha d bee n a n unexpected set-bac k t o the period o f much-vaunted 'gradua l and orderl y progress'. They put into a temporary deep freeze of mistrust the improving relations with the West brought about by the previous ten years of refor m and openness . Some criticise d th e Governo r fo r bein g weak an d indecisiv e fo r no t pushing ahead with elections when in fact he had, with the support of the British Government, fought hard to increase the number of directly elected members to the Legislative Council and had supported the 'through train ' whereby th e electe d councillor s o f 199 5 woul d continu e t o hol d offic e after 1997 . H e ha d also , afte r Tiananmen , voice d a hopeles s recommendation t o the British Governmen t t o restore citizenship t o th e over thre e millio n Britis h Dependen t Territorie s citizen s o f Hong Kong . But rumours were rife that he was to leave, fuelled by reports from Londo n that th e Prim e Ministe r himsel f ha d bee n lobbie d b y Conservativ e an d business circle s in London t o replace him .

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Feeling the Stones

These speculation s surface d afte r th e Prim e Minister' s visit t o Hon g Kong on his way back t o London fro m th e airport talk s in Beijing. Whe n asked, th e Prime Minister replied, shortly and enigmatically, tha t 'there is no vacancy in Government House'. This seemed to put the matter to rest; and i t wa s therefor e a complet e shoc k t o Hon g Kon g t o rea d o n Ne w Year's Day, 1992 , tha t ther e was indee d a vacancy, tha t Si r David Wilso n was to leave Hong Kong and would be given a seat in the House of Lords. Hong Kon g reactio n wa s tha t h e ha d bee n treate d shabbil y an d peremptorily by the British Government. More particularly, there had been no warnin g t o Hon g Kong' s Executiv e Council , n o consultatio n an d n o opportunity t o remonstrate. I t would hav e been more acceptable if ther e had been a n announcement a s to who was to replace him, but a decision about tha t was not mad e unti l afte r th e British election s i n th e spring o f 1992, and th e new Governo r di d not arriv e until 9 July. Despite th e despondenc y followin g th e mas s demonstration s an d military crackdown in China, and despite the preoccupation with politics and constitutiona l affair s an d discussio n o f the airport development , th e bread and butter work of governing Hong Kong continued uninterrupted . The record of social and economic development in the Wilson years, 19871992, is impressive. The superstructure of the crystal tower of the seventystorey Ban k o f China , designe d b y I . M . Pei , was completed , containe r cargo throughput exceeded that of Rotterdam, one of the largest hospitals in the world was opened, a light rail system began operating, and a second harbour tunne l connectin g Kowloo n with Hong Kong was completed . It i s a n understatemen t t o sa y tha t Hon g Kon g ha d bee n slo w t o respond t o th e nee d t o be mor e activ e i n promoting education . Primar y education became compulsory only in 1971,13 0 years after th e foundin g of th e colon y Thre e year s o f secondar y educatio n fo r al l wa s adde d a dilatory seven years later in 1978 . The number o f students who were able to go on to study for a degree at Hong Kong's two universities in 199 7 was hopelessly inadequate . Al l i n all , Hon g Kong' s educationa l syste m ha d fallen fa r behind the standard needed to meet the challenges of the futur e and a changing economy. In an almost desperate attempt to catch up, th e 214

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5ir David Wilson

expansion o f university places too k place during Wilson's ter m o f office , to provide greater opportunities fo r Hong Kong's young people t o stay in Hong Kon g t o stud y rathe r tha n t o trave l overseas . However , becaus e secondary education had lagged so far behind, it was at first impossible to find sufficien t student s wit h th e necessary standard s t o ente r university . The expansio n an d effor t t o catc h u p establishe d a targe t fo r th e futur e and dre w attentio n t o th e problem , bu t tru e improvemen t wa s t o tak e many mor e years. These random fe w instances are selected from th e achievements an d progress which kep t Hong Kong, despite its lack of natural resources, o n a path o f uninterrupted growt h durin g a period o f great uncertainty. Bu t they wer e no t enoug h t o satisf y Davi d Wilson' s detractor s an d wer e disregarded b y ill-informe d critics . Christophe r Patten , a Conservativ e Member o f Parliamen t an d long-servin g Cabine t Minister , ha d los t hi s constituency sea t of Bath in th e spring of 1992 . John Major' s questio n o f who t o appoin t i n plac e o f Si r Davi d Wilso n ha d bee n answered . Thi s solution satisfie d thos e wh o though t tha t i t was tim e t o tak e th e job o f government awa y fro m official s wh o ha d mad e a life's wor k o f studyin g China an d Chines e an d pu t a politicia n i n place : someon e wh o woul d 'stand up' t o Chin a i n a penalty shoot-out ove r elections .

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29

Another Voice

•h

e Governor's launch, the Lady Maurine, tiny among the fire float s

• squirtin

g their fountains, edged across the harbour. At the quayside

m behin d the Queen's Pier, once again the customary troops and bands m wer e waiting, swords poised t o salute and bayonets glittering; arm s • wer e presente d wit h a smart clatte r an d councillor s an d thei r ladie s were introduced. But no more white drill, epaulettes and fluttering feather s of office, n o more morning dress; the Governor, to mark the change fro m official t o politician, wore a suit like the rest of us. It was the beginning of the en d o f the old colony : tim e to change . Curiosity is the principal emotion which the arrival of a new Governo r arouses, and so we flocked t o the City Hall to see and hear what th e ne w man ha d t o say . After hi s swearing-i n b y th e Chie f Justice, Christophe r Patten spoke , flatterin g Hon g Kon g fo r it s achievements , talkin g o f th e challenges in the years remaining before 199 7 and noting what he terme d the hallmark s o f th e Hon g Kon g system : th e rul e o f law , freedom , democratic participation by the people at every level and an open marke t economy. He vowed t o improve and strengthen government, t o maintai n and improve competitiveness, to continue to build the infrastructure an d to battl e agains t inflation , t o safeguar d th e lo w ta x econom y an d t o us e our wealth t o help th e less privileged, t o be relentless in the fight agains t crime and, having heard tha t th e relationship between Britain and Chin a was stil l bedeville d b y misunderstandin g an d lac k o f trust , t o wor k t o remove obstacle s an d t o cooperat e with China . H e conclude d b y sayin g

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Feeling the Stones

that as Hong Kong's Governor he had no secret agenda. In fact he seeme d to have brought with him opinion s about Hong Kong which were share d by his predecessor . They were stirring words, words carefull y chosen , words with shar p edges, wit h n o prevarication , n o blurrin g th e message . Th e speec h wa s rousing an d wel l received . Now , th e audienc e thought , w e ar e goin g t o have th e crisp , decisive governmen t neede d t o get us read y fo r th e eve n bigger chang e t o com e i n 1997 . There was n o hin t o f th e constitutiona l changes t o b e develope d secretl y wit h th e hel p o f a fe w trustie s durin g the summe r month s o f 1992 , whic h wer e t o b e lai d ou t i n hi s polic y address t o th e new session o f the Legislative Counci l in th e autum n an d to a shocked an d bewildered China . Following hi s swearing-i n ceremony , th e Governo r lef t th e red carpeted stage and mixed with th e assembled notables, shook hands an d spoke a few words to as many as he could. To me he said enigmatically, T have heard a lot about you', smiled, an d passed on . As chairman of one of the principal quasi-government organisations , the Housin g Authority , I was invite d t o se e M r Patte n durin g th e earl y part o f th e summer. I spoke t o him abou t th e difficulty electe d member s of Legislativ e Counci l wh o wer e als o member s o f politica l partie s experienced i f the y wer e appointe d t o Executiv e Council , i n havin g t o accept th e concep t o f collectiv e responsibilit y fo r Executiv e Counci l decisions when the y ran contrar y t o thei r party's politics. I also though t he should visit China, and said so. But the secret brew being cooked up in Government House during those summer month s to disrupt th e 'gradua l and orderly progress', the measured principle of change prescribed in th e Basic Law, made a visit t o Chin a a t tha t tim e quit e ou t o f th e question . Chinese officials would be sure to raise the sensitive question of elections, about whic h th e foreig n minister s ha d reache d a n agreemen t b y correspondence. Indeed, China was already nervous because of an earlier suggestion b y Alastai r Goodlad , th e ne w ministe r responsibl e fo r Hon g Kong, tha t perhap s th e Basi c La w coul d b e changed , an d als o b y th e appearance on the steps of number 1 0 Downing Street alongside the Prime 218

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Minister, John Major, of the Hon. Martin Lee and Yeung Sum, newly elected Legislative Council members, who both represented the United Democrats and were both members of the Alliance in Support of Democracy in China , which ha d calle d o n Prim e Minister L i Peng t o step down . Members of Legislative Council who broadly represented the business community and who sought to develop a cooperative working relationship with Beijin g ha d forme d a grou p o f councillor s whic h the y called , mysteriously, the Cooperative Resource Centre (CRC). At the end of June 1992, in time-honoure d way , they troope d t o Beijing fo r a meeting wit h President Jiang Zemin. China, already apprehensive at what the politician Governor wa s u p to , blandly bu t pointedl y tol d Alle n Le e Peng-fei , th e leader o f the CR C delegation, tha t th e route map o f the Basic Law was t o be followed . Th e messag e wa s clear . Chin a wante d a smoot h transitio n and a smooth transfer o f sovereignty. Allen Lee responded that they would like t o se e th e tw o side s sittin g dow n t o discussions . Bu t whil e firin g these warnin g shot s Chin a proceede d a s thoug h he r defence s wer e invulnerable, tha t th e solemnly invoked Basic Law was already complet e and comprehensive . I n fac t i t wa s capabl e o f differen t interpretations , and ther e wer e space s an d term s i n i t whic h assumed , fro m wha t ha d gone before , wha t wa s mean t now , withou t furthe r explanation . Th e drafters ha d neve r imagine d tha t someon e woul d g o throug h i t wit h a fine-tooth com b t o discove r way s o f gettin g roun d it s provisions . Eve n the representatives o f different politica l groups in the Legislative Counci l had neve r looke d a t it in thi s way. Meanwhile problems with the airport financing provided backgroun d music. On e o f China' s 'principled ' objection s t o th e projec t fro m th e beginning ha d bee n tha t i t was so grandiose , s o expensive , tha t thi s las t folie de grandeur of the departing colonists would drain Hong Kong's coffer s dry. Chin a aske d fo r wha t wa s a ridiculously smal l su m t o be lef t i n th e treasure chest when the flag came down. Hong Kong's reserves were huge. China's fears were summarily and gleefully dismisse d by the government. A change t o the membership o f Executive Counci l in the summer o f 1992 was needed t o clear the way for th e changes to be announced a few

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Feeling the Stones

weeks later in the Governor's policy address. The Hon. Dame Lydia Dunn, Chinese, articulate, glamorous and forthright Senior Member of Executive Council, suggested t o her fellow members, some of whom als o sat in th e Legislative Council , tha t i n orde r t o giv e th e ne w Governo r a fre e han d they, including herself, should resig n en bloc. This they did, thu s endin g a long-establishe d custo m tha t som e member s woul d si t i n bot h th e Legislative and Executiv e Councils . The new-broom, livel y Young Turks brought i n t o Legislativ e Counci l som e years before b y MacLehose had , after a fe w years ' apprenticeship , bee n promote d t o Executiv e Council . There the y had worked ou t a route map for futur e politica l developmen t at private meetings with David Wilson. They were now removed by thei r own honourabl e gesture , leavin g Dam e Lydi a Dun n t o b e reappointe d and to continue her leadership of the council. There was talk of a backroom deal, but in one stroke the cross-membership with the Legislative Counci l came to an end, and Martin Lee, member o f Legislative Council , popula r leader o f th e Democrats , whethe r h e wa s willin g t o serv e o r not , thu s became ineligible fo r membershi p o f Executive Council . Thus without a shot bein g fire d th e Governo r wa s abl e t o ri d himsel f o f troublesom e councillors wh o ha d bee n involve d i n th e draftin g o f th e Basic Law an d who woul d certainl y hav e opposed , i n Executiv e Council , wha t wa s t o happen next . On 7 Octobe r 1992 , Christophe r Patten , speakin g t o th e openin g session of the Legislative Counci l in the former Suprem e Cour t building , which ha d bee n erecte d t o commemorat e th e Jubilee o f Quee n Victoria , titled his address , 'Our Next Five Years: The Agenda fo r Hong Kong'. He spoke in crisp, plain words of Hong Kong's enduring qualities — stabilit y and prosperity , minima l government , th e lin k t o th e U S dollar , th e formation o f a Busines s Council , teache r retraining , mor e an d bette r teachers, smalle r classes , whol e da y schooling , a comprehensiv e socia l security system, and the pursuit of economic growth rather than increasing taxation t o provid e th e fund s fo r thes e socia l policies . H e spok e o f accountable g o v e r n m e n t h o n o u r i n g performanc e pledges , th e environment, an d la w an d order . Thes e wer e al l thing s th e ma n i n th e 220

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Another Voice

street wante d t o hear . Durin g th e nex t fiv e year s som e wer e achieved , some made a start, and some were dropped, while years later many remain as will-o'-the-wis p objective s dancin g ahea d o f Hon g Kong' s powe r t o achieve as population growt h and unexpected challenge s push the m ou t of reach . A substantial part of the address outlined proposals for constitutiona l reform. Som e of these, such as the lowering of the voting age to 18 , were not controversial. Others were. Elections for the Legislative Council were due i n 1995 . Mr Patte n propose d explorin g ho w t o build u p democrac y without contravenin g th e Basic Law and th e Joint Declaration. Th e Basic Law had take n five years to write and those who had worked o n it firml y believed tha t the y ha d square d th e circl e an d settle d th e syste m whic h was to tak e Hong Kong through th e transition, and tha t would allo w th e Legislative Counci l electe d in 199 5 t o carry o n throug h th e handover i n 1997 until 1999 . It was not t o be so. The tw o municipa l council s an d th e ninetee n distric t board s eac h included member s appointe d b y the Governor . Thi s was t o enabl e the m to include community leaders who were disinclined t o stand fo r electio n because o f age, occupation o r profession. The y were thos e t o whom th e community ha d looke d fo r leadershi p fo r man y years . The y ha d demonstrated thei r usefulnes s o n th e boards an d were welcomed b y th e elected members . Now the y were t o be abolished . The functional constituenc y members in the Legislative Council were anathema, no t onl y t o Westminste r politicians , bu t t o politica l commentators worl d wide , a s wel l a s t o th e pro-democrac y factio n i n Hong Kong . Functional constituencie s ha d develope d fro m th e previou s informal syste m whereb y th e Governo r ha d appointe d member s t o represent a wide range of professional an d occupationa l groups 'throug h which muc h specialis t knowledg e an d valuabl e expertis e ha d bee n provided t o th e Council ' (Ma y 198 7 Green Paper) . In practice, althoug h the syste m wa s working , th e functiona l constituencie s wer e a n anachronism. Som e ha d a minuscul e electorat e an d coul d b e ope n t o manipulation, s o were easily the butt of criticism for thei r elitism and fo r 221

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Feeling the Stones

the advantage they gave to special groups. These criticisms obscured, an d continue to obscure, objective evaluation. Whether the y were performin g well and serving a useful purpos e was of no interest to their critics. Some were an d som e wer e not , a s wit h al l councillor s howeve r electe d o r selected. In 1992 there were twenty-one functional constituenc y members, and nin e mor e wer e du e t o b e adde d b y 1995 . The concep t wa s s o wel l known i n Hong Kong that those drafting th e Basic Law did not bother t o include a definitio n o f a functiona l constituenc y i n th e law . I n fac t Si r Edward Youde had made their definition clea r in addressing the Legislative Council whe n the y wer e introduce d i n 1984 : 'b y thi s w e mea n organisations representing commerce, industry, the law and other aspect s of our socia l and economi c life. ' The key word here was 'organisations' . The remainde r o f member s appointe d b y th e Governo r wa s t o b e abolished, an d M r Patte n no w propose d t o fil l thes e nin e additiona l supposedly functiona l seat s b y replacin g th e appointe d member s wit h members whos e aggregat e franchis e woul d includ e th e entir e workin g population. Thi s wa s a revolutionar y departur e fro m th e syste m representing organisation s which had been defined by Sir Edward Youde, and a cleve r manipulatio n o f th e opportunit y provide d b y a lac k o f definition i n the Basic Law in effect t o give two votes to about two million people. China assume d tha t i n Anne x I I o f th e agreemen t betwee n th e tw o sides, which deal t wit h th e settin g u p o f th e Joint Liaiso n Group , ther e was a safeguard t o deal with any oversights and omissions. The two sides had agreed that to achieve a smooth transition , there would be a need fo r close cooperation durin g the second half of the period between 198 5 and 1997.1992 was well into the second half and the smooth transition of the Legislative Counci l hel d ou t i n th e Basi c La w wa s a matte r fo r suc h cooperation. Th e Governo r preferred t o speak first , t o pull th e public t o his side and agre e to cooperat e late r o n what h e had said . Reactions t o his addres s were drawn alon g familiar lines . The Times was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying that he had made a brilliant an d eloquen t debut , a fir m commitmen t t o democrac y a s a 222

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philosophical idea l an d a s a n essentia l par t o f economi c progress , an d that this had been done with political audacity and tactics which suggested a lawyer' s cunning . Th e New York Times describe d hi s ope n styl e a s a refreshing chang e fro m th e remot e Foreig n Offic e functionarie s wh o preceded him. These contemptuous word s displayed a total ignorance of the far from remote , shirt-sleeved, down-to-eart h style of MacLehose an d his man y achievements , no r di d the y accoun t fo r Youde' s endurin g popularity an d Wilson's strenuous effort s a t a most difficul t time . China had shor t notice of what he intended t o say, and in a report i n the South China Morning Post th e Governo r i s quote d a s sayin g tha t a message tha t he should no t mak e hi s speech a t all had com e t o him i n a number of ways from China , one of them directly. These requests he firml y rebuffed an d th e exten t o f hi s determinatio n t o introduc e th e change s was spelt out in a reference h e made to the transfer o f sovereignty: 'I don't think an y on e woul d wan t a throug h trai n t o ru n carryin g discredite d goods.' This was new terminology for the system which his distinguishe d predecessors ha d fough t fo r an d ha d been working o n fo r man y years. Shortly before h e went t o Chin a o n 1 9 October fo r hi s firs t an d las t meeting with L u Ping , the directo r o f the Hong Kon g and Maca o Affair s Office, th e Governor cam e to our house for supper with a small group of academics and professionals. Th e party included Leung Chun-ying , wh o subsequently became Senior Member of Executive Council, and Professo r Lau Siu-ka i an d Professo r Josep h Chen g Yu-shek , wit h who m I ha d regularly discusse d th e politica l challenge s facin g Hon g Kon g an d wh o had joined in discussions with governors since 1974. Speaking from year s of experience and study of politics in Hong Kong and th e mainland, the y advised, a t thi s firs t meeting , a cautiou s approac h whic h gav e fac e t o China. Bu t 'face ' wa s no t a concep t whic h ha d an y par t t o pla y i n th e vigorous expressio n o f the Governor' s strongly held views. Officials i n Chin a an d al l Chines e pu t themselve s t o considerabl e trouble an d inconvenienc e wit h greeting s an d farewells . Thi s wa s M r Patten's first visit to China as Governor, but he was not met at the airpor t by th e directo r o f th e Hon g Kon g and Maca o Affairs Office , an d bearin g

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Feeling the Stones

in mind th e warnings before th e address was delivered and the ferocity of the Chines e respons e t o it , i t was no t surprisin g tha t th e atmospher e a t the meetings which followed was formal and firm. In a more normal course of events the meeting would have continued th e dialogue, the unfinishe d business whic h previou s governor s ha d bee n conductin g wit h Beijing , and hopefully i t would have brought fresh thinkin g to bear on outstandin g issues. Instead , th e meetin g wa s take n u p wit h th e Governor' s constitutional proposals , an d toward s th e en d o f th e discussion , a s M r Patten relates, letters which had been exchanged between the two foreig n ministers were introduced acros s th e tabl e by Director L u Ping . When th e letter s becam e publi c knowledge , th e Governo r sai d tha t he had not previously seen them. This carried the implication tha t befor e he too k u p hi s Governorship , neithe r Foreig n Secretar y Dougla s Hurd , nor Prim e Ministe r Joh n Major , no r hi s officials i n Hon g Kong , ha d mentioned th e letter s an d thei r relevanc e t o Hong Kong' s constitutiona l development. Such an omission would have been extraordinary. How could it be explained that they didn't come up in conversation when the Governor visited London later that summer when, presumably, he briefed th e Foreign Secretary o n his proposals — surely it must hav e rung a bell? I t was sai d by th e Britis h sid e tha t th e letter s wer e no t legall y binding . Bu t wha t about a n Englishman' s word ? O r i f i t ha d bee n decide d t o g o bac k o n them, why no t writ e t o th e Chines e Foreig n Ministe r an d sa y tha t time s had changed and that Sir Douglas Hurd had had second thoughts? Thi s is all history now , but i t was, to sa y th e least , a n unsavour y an d negligen t episode an d was a bad star t t o th e next fiv e years. There wa s a n immediat e clamou r fo r th e letters , which wer e no t i n the public domain , t o be made known. Both sides released them, and th e chorus aros e fro m al l directions , 'It' s in th e Basic Law', 'O h no , it' s not' , 'It's contrary t o th e Joint Declaration' , 'O h no, it's not', 'Th e letters mea n this', 'No, they don't', 'Yes, they do'. The subject was serious but the dialogue held stron g echoe s o f Gilbert and Sullivan . Letters between foreig n minister s ar e used t o bring som e finalit y t o difficult point s a t issu e whic h canno t b e solve d b y officials . Th e ver y 224

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introduction o f a Legislative Counci l constituted by elections had earlie r been deal t with i n thi s way. The bitter disagreemen t whic h no w divide d the tw o side s an d spli t opinio n i n Hon g Kon g mainl y concerne d th e composition o f th e committe e forme d t o elec t te n member s t o th e Legislative Council. The Governor in his address had proposed tha t the y be electe d by an electora l colleg e consistin g o f the combine d strengt h o f the district boards and municipal councils . This was quite different fro m the syste m mentione d fo r late r detaile d discussio n i n th e exchang e o f letters betwee n th e foreig n ministers , whic h ha d spoke n o f a n electora l college chosen fro m fou r sector s of the community. The Chinese Foreig n Minister had replied in 199 0 that the draft Basi c Law already contained a provision fo r suc h a n electora l committe e representin g fou r sector s an d that thi s shoul d b e followed . Th e Foreig n Secretary , Si r Dougla s Hurd , had responded clearly and unequivocally that he agreed 'in principle with the arrangement s whic h yo u propos e fo r a n Electora l Committe e whic h could b e establishe d i n 1995 . The precis e detail s o f ho w thi s shoul d b e done ca n be discussed later'. While the legal experts who were consulte d were t o sa y that thi s was not a n agreement , i t canno t b e denie d tha t th e words contai n a n unmistakabl e commitmen t t o th e principle , whil e allowing fo r late r discussio n abou t th e detail . I t i s no t difficul t t o understand wh y th e Chines e government , an d Directo r L u Pin g i n particular, whos e reputation was at stake, felt bewildered an d betrayed . I had been involved in local political development almost since arrival thirty years before an d had ha d first-han d experienc e o f discussion wit h Chinese officials. I t was not possible now, when the future o f Hong Kong's political developmen t an d th e prospec t o f a smoot h transitio n wer e endangered, to abandon my views and knowledge of what had gone before. In th e five years which followe d th e signing o f the agreement I had bee n involved in th e follow-up, firs t i n government an d the n afte r retirement , as one o f the advisers t o the Business and Professiona l Federatio n (BPF ) which had been formed ou t of the members of the Basic Law drafting an d consultative committees . Amon g th e othe r BP F adviser s wer e forme r executive councillors Sir Chung Sze-yuen and Sir Lee Quo-wei, who ha d

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Feeling the Stones

been on the council during the drafting o f the agreement with Chin a an d had first-han d knowledg e o f what coul d be achieve d an d what not . Against thi s background o f experience an d involvemen t goin g bac k many years , th e BP F mad e it s positio n clea r i n a statemen t an d a pres s conference o n 9 Novembe r 199 2 shortl y afte r th e Governor' s visi t t o Beijing. W e had debate d lon g and har d before makin g ou r view s public . David Gledhill , forme r chairma n o f Swire, a leading Britis h compan y i n Hong Kong, Michael Somerville, community leader, Sir Chung Sze-yuen , and I sat alongside th e chairman, Vincent Lo, a member o f the Basic Law drafting committee , t o mak e ou r view s known . Loca l an d internationa l press and televisio n were present in force. Th e BPF said tha t with regar d to th e electio n committee , discussio n shoul d resum e o n th e basis of th e principle agreed in the letters between th e foreign ministers , namely, tha t the nin e ne w functiona l constituenc y seat s shoul d follo w th e principle s established fo r th e previous twenty-on e seat s and th e 198 4 White Pape r and b e based o n recognise d organisations , association s an d institutions . These suggestion s wer e se t ou t i n a letter t o th e government' s Secretar y for Constitutiona l Affair s i n February o f the following year . Some weeks later, the BPF was invited to meet the Governor, but ou r discussion wit h hi m bor e n o frui t beyon d th e familia r response , 'It' s no t in th e Basi c Law : sho w m e wher e i t is. ' This wa s technicall y correct : i t was no t ther e i n s o man y word s becaus e everyon e i n Hon g Kon g kne w very wel l wha t wa s mean t b y a functiona l constituency , an d hadn' t Governor Youd e spelled i t out? I suggested tha t th e best way t o find ou t what was intended by the Basic Law was to ask the people who had had a big hand in drafting it . They were, after all , leading members of the Hong Kong community , no t official s wh o ha d bee n sen t fro m Beijing . Th e suggestion wa s not take n up . I also proposed thi s in a paper (whic h wa s later published ) fo r a planne d symposiu m o n th e wa y ahea d fo r Hon g Kong, whic h wa s t o hav e bee n preside d ove r b y Ji Pengfei , th e Chines e minister responsible for Hong Kong, at the end of October 1992 . His visit to Hon g Kon g an d th e symposiu m fel l victi m t o China' s reactio n t o th e Governor's proposals . Th e proposal s wer e ingeniou s and , a s th e Times 226

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said, politically audacious, but doomed from th e outset. The BPF made it clear that in its judgement, which was based not only on long experienc e but o n persona l acquaintanc e wit h th e official s involved , Chin a woul d not chang e it s position, an d tha t th e result would b e that th e Legislativ e Council woul d no t surviv e th e transfe r i n 199 7 an d tha t fres h election s would b e needed. Th e 'through train ' would crash ; and s o it did .

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30

The Years Between, 1992-199 7

m h e disagreemen t ove r th e change s t o th e electora l syste m ha d • unhapp y consequences . Chin a too k th e disput e s o seriously tha t m threat s wer e mad e no t onl y t o derai l th e 'throug h train ' bu t tha t • contract s an d agreement s entere d int o b y th e governmen t befor e • th e transfer woul d have to be re-examined after . O n reflection i t was realised tha t thi s would damag e bot h Hon g Kong' s and China' s interest s and the threat was allowed quietly to evaporate, but not before it sent th e stock marke t int o pessimisti c decline . The Jardine Group, however, was singled out for its rumoured suppor t for Mr Patten and for earlier shifting its domicile out of Hong Kong. China objected t o th e participation o f the group in th e consortium t o build th e next containe r terminal . A s a result, thi s hug e undertakin g wa s hel d u p for many years until a rearrangement o f consortium member s took plac e and a compensatory arrangement fo r Jardines had been agreed. Even now as I write in 2002 , the sea is still being filled i n for th e terminal ! This heightened political atmosphere spilled over into our own lives. Five year s previousl y I ha d bee n appointe d chairma n o f th e Housin g Authority by Governor David Wilson on the recommendation o f his Chief Secretary, David Ford , an d s o I was a left-over fro m th e pre-Patten era . I had thought for some while that the time had come for a Chinese chairman to tak e over th e appointment t o an organisatio n responsibl e fo r housin g half th e people o f Hong Kong. The government ha d replace d expatriate s with Chines e fo r mos t importan t appointe d chairmanships .

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Feeling the Stones

I wa s linke d t o th e colonia l period . Th e problem s w e wer e dealin g with migh t no t b e any easie r for a Chines e chairma n t o solve — makin g those who coul d affor d i t pay double rent , findin g flat s fo r singl e peopl e and th e elderly , rehousing squatter s an d dealin g with a long waiting lis t — but the hard solution to these questions might be more acceptable an d believable comin g fro m on e o f thei r ow n people . Ther e als o ha d bee n hints, in order to silence me, that as chairman of the Housing Authority 1 should no t spea k ou t o n politica l developmen t a s I had bee n doing . I n any cas e my view s were no t welcom e t o th e governmen t an d I now ha d little or no contac t with th e Governo r o r th e Chie f Secretary . My departur e wa s precipitate d on e da y whe n w e returne d fro m a visit t o Beijing . A journalist calle d t o infor m m e tha t tw o Democrati c Party councillors, Yeung Sum and Szeto Wah, had called for my resignation from th e Housin g Authorit y an d tha t i f I di d no t resig n the y woul d introduce a motio n i n th e Legislativ e Counci l t o forc e m e t o go . Th e journalist reporte d Yeung Sum as saying, 'Th e sooner we see the back o f him the better!' I turned t o Jane and said, 'All right, I will resign,' and sen t a lette r nex t da y informin g th e Governor . H e accepte d m y resignation , briefly thankin g m e fo r m y work . Our nex t challeng e wa s mor e serious . Sinc e m y firs t postin g t o th e New Territories in 1978, 1 had been involved with Hon g Kong' s politica l development an d relation s wit h post-Ma o China . I had negotiate d wit h China's officials th e building of the first permanent bridge across the river which divided us from th e mainland, then the return of illegal immigrants across th e complete d bridge . I had visite d th e embry o cit y o f Shenzhe n with Si r Murray MacLehos e an d ha d joined i n th e discussion , followin g our visit , with th e hea d o f th e New Chin a New s Agency. I had bee n par t of Executiv e Counci l durin g th e year s leadin g u p t o th e substantiv e discussions on our future an d during the negotiations themselves. When they were over, during the five years of drafting th e Basic Law, both befor e and afte r retirement , I ha d bee n i n clos e an d regula r touc h wit h thos e involved in its formulation. W e had been companion s o n a long journey struggling t o reac h a n understandin g o f what wa s possibl e a s we edge d

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The Years Between, 1992-1997

our wa y toward s th e realisatio n o f th e concep t o f 'Hon g Kon g peopl e ruling Hon g Kong' . I ha d worke d closel y wit h thre e Governors , MacLehose, Youd e an d Wilson . Jane an d I had enjoye d man y evening s together wit h the m fro m th e seventie s unti l 1992 , exchanging thought s with young people who were prominent opinio n makers. We were going to sta y i n Hon g Kong . I could no t tur n m y back o n s o man y friends , s o many shared conclusions and so much experience ; and if we remained, I could no t kee p silent . Now I wa s t o b e pu t t o th e test . I t wa s rumoure d tha t I was t o b e among a second batch o f Hong Kong Affairs Adviser s to be appointed b y China. I could eithe r refus e an d op t ou t o f political life , o r stan d b y m y convictions and faith i n the future, an d join my friends knowin g that thi s would expos e m e t o criticis m fro m th e 'stan d u p t o China ' hardliner s who wer e spoiling fo r a fight . Some say, I believe, that civil servants should not meddle in politics; others say that when expatriate civil servants retire they should hotfoot i t out o f their territor y an d neve r retur n — n o 'stayin g on' ; and other s say, 'My country right or wrong.' In becoming a Hong Kong Affairs Adviser t o China, I seemed to be breaking all three canons. When I was first appointe d to wor k i n th e Ne w Territories , Si r Ronal d Holmes , th e Distric t Commissioner, said that first and foremost District Officers were political officers. Certainl y we were involved in grass-roots politics from th e word go. Late r I ha d bee n deepl y involve d i n settin g u p a mor e politicall y representative syste m in th e New Territories, then later at the Legislativ e Council level , an d finall y a s a membe r o f th e Executiv e Counci l i n th e negotiations wit h China . Subsequentl y I ha d bee n privilege d t o hav e discussions with friends wh o were drafting th e Basic Law. Jane and I had stayed o n becaus e afte r s o man y years away , with ou r parent s n o longe r alive, and being heavily involved i n th e local community an d numerou s local organizations, Hong Kong and not England had become ou r home . I had been keenly interested in political development for many years, and this interest ha d been sharpene d b y my tim e at the University o f Kent. I was o n friendl y term s wit h th e member s o f th e Hon g Kon g an d Maca o 231

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Feeling the Stones

Affairs Office , havin g met and discussed Hon g Kong affairs wit h the m i n the past . Mor e s o tha n most , w e ha d travelle d widel y i n Chin a an d ha d seen at first hand the changes that were taking place. We had seen enoug h to mak e u s confiden t tha t Chin a mean t wha t sh e said . I t wa s th e mos t natural thin g t o lend a hand an d join m y friends a s one o f the advisers . When i t was pu t t o m e I said tha t i f I were invited , I would accept . The die was cast. I was on the list with fort y member s o f the community , including academics , prominent businessmen , politica l leaders , th e tw o Vice Chancellors and th e two bishops, all of them friends . Bu t naively i n joining my friends I had not bargained for the malevolent and unreasonin g attacks fro m th e Britis h press . I was a 'Pekin g lapdog' , a 'traitor' , I ha d 'jumped ship' , and so on. But I was not the only one. Sir Sze-yuen Chung , who ha d served o n th e Legislative and Executiv e Council s and had bee n the Senior Member for many years, was similarly insulted and denounced . Among friends, things were seen differently. Th e world was not divided into tw o warrin g camps , the m an d u s — S t Georg e an d th e Chines e Dragon. In Hong Kong there was more at stake: to make sure that whatever the outcome o f the bitter war of words between Britain and China , Hon g Kong i n 199 7 woul d kee p it s freedoms , it s elections , it s law s an d it s lifestyle. Looked at objectively, the assembly of Hong Kong Affairs Advisers with its bishops and Vice Chancellors was something o f a guarantee tha t this woul d b e so , no t fo r th e advic e the y wer e t o giv e bu t a s a defenc e against any departure by China from what had been agreed. However, th e Western worl d an d it s medi a wer e stil l obsesse d wit h th e ide a o f Re d China, Communis t China . N o matte r wher e on e travelled , th e questio n was always couched in the same terms: 'What will you d o when th e Red s take over? ' Few believe d tha t ther e woul d b e a life fo r Hon g Kon g afte r 1997 an d tha t th e 'Reds ' were no t goin g t o 'tak e over' . Th e tim e woul d come when the y would se e how wrong the y were. My becoming an Adviser was no doubt seen as something of a public relations cou p fo r China . Bu t looke d a t anothe r way , i n securin g ou r agreement t o becomin g Adviser s an d i n formall y appointin g us , Chin a had, i n fact , create d a brak e o n an y attemp t t o chang e he r previou s 232

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The Years Between, 1992-1997

undertakings. Sh e coul d hardl y reneg e whe n face d wit h th e combine d strength o f the Advisers. We formed a bulwark agains t rule from Beijing . Some o f my retired forme r colleague s in Englan d di d no t se e it thi s way. They were distant in years and space from the scene, ignorant of the details, and ha d th e memor y o f Tiananme n lingerin g i n thei r minds ; the y wer e also possibly unaware of the careful diplomacy and persuasion, particularly of the previous Governor, Sir David Wilson, which had secured agreemen t that the last legislature to hold office would have its life extended fo r tw o years afte r th e reversio n o f sovereignty, an d o f Sir Edward Youde , unde r whose governorship the basic composition of the Legislative Council ha d been decided. Nevertheless, these erstwhile colleagues hatched a plot and circulated a letter demandin g th e withdrawal o f my pension ! The Adviser s travelle d t o Beijin g o n 1 April 1993 . The check-i n a t the airpor t wa s blocke d b y yellin g student s wh o ha d com e t o barrac k their Vice Chancellors. I was hemmed in between thi s shouting, pushin g mob an d th e check-i n counter , an d photograph s o f these struggles wer e flashed round the world. Subsequently, on his return, one Vice Chancellor gave a defenc e o f hi s decisio n t o join th e tea m o f Adviser s i n a n ope n forum befor e th e students . I n Beijin g w e receive d ou r certificate s o f appointment fro m L u Ping and Zhou Na n in one of the halls of the Grea t Hall o f th e People , i n th e ful l glar e o f publicity . Late r tha t evening , th e BBC presse d fo r a n interview , whic h began : 'Now , Si r David , yo u hav e been calle d a defecto r That evenin g w e wer e divide d int o group s an d aske d fo r ou r view s on th e Hon g Kon g situation b y Lu Pin g and Zho u Nan . Nearl y al l of u s spoke abou t th e nee d t o ge t on wit h project s suc h a s the airport , whos e delay was affecting th e economy. I went on to say that the rather extrem e language o f criticis m o f Christophe r Patte n was counter-productive an d should b e moderated . Subsequently , step s were take n b y Chin a t o mak e progress on land issues, cable TV, the Joint Liaison Group and the airport . Whether th e soundbite s agains t th e Governo r diminishe d i n volume , I cannot recall . I believe the y did . The appointmen t o f s o man y eminen t publi c figure s i n Hon g Kon g

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Feeling the Stones

as Advisers was clearly intended to demonstrate that outside the Legislative Council an d th e wa r o f word s betwee n Britai n an d China , ther e wa s a substantive body of people who wanted an end to the dispute, who kne w China better than the British government, and who were prepared to trus t China's promise s tha t afte r 199 7 Hong Kon g would enjo y th e promise d high degree of autonomy and that the way of life they now enjoyed woul d continue. At abou t thi s tim e a mor e colourfu l an d homel y expressio n gaine d currency. The director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Offic e referre d to th e 'second stove' , using a Chinese metapho r indicatin g a split family , as a picturesque wa y o f warning tha t measure s woul d b e put i n han d t o meet with any eventuality if there were no agreement with Britain. It was another way of saying 'You go your way and we'll go ours'. The Basic Law prescribed th e settin g u p o f a Preparator y Committe e i n 199 6 t o tak e responsibility for preparing the establishment of the Special Administrative Region an d — ominou s word s — t o 'prescrib e th e specifi c metho d fo r forming the first government and the first Legislative Council' of the Hong Kong SAR. In July 1993 Lu Ping announced the formation o f a Preliminary Working Committe e t o se t abou t organisin g thi s forma l Preparator y Committee, but also to be ready, if an agreement could not be reached, t o arrange for th e appointment o f a Provisional Legislature t o tak e office i n place o f the on e which woul d no t surviv e without suc h a n agreement . Even a t thi s lat e stage , th e realitie s o f 199 7 ha d no t sun k in . Ther e were thos e who , havin g gon e ou t o n a limb , stil l di d no t believ e tha t China meant what she said. They were living in a world of make-believe. What happene d nex t was a more direct challeng e t o my integrity .

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31

s

Defamation an d the 'Second Stove'

unday was a quiet day at Dragon View; our domestic helpers usually went t o earl y churc h an d the n o n t o mee t thei r friends . Mos t unusually, on Sunday , 30 January 1994 , instead o f the clang of the ship's bell at the gate at the bottom of the steep flight of steps leading to the house, the front doo r gong chimed. We opened th e door an d immediatel y a camera starte d fast-ratchettin g an d tw o roughl y dressed European men confronted us . I exclaimed angrily and asked the m what the y wanted , an d attempte d t o wrestl e th e camer a awa y fro m th e shorter o f the two. My wife intervened. I asked agai n and th e reply cam e back sinisterly , 'Don' t yo u know ? You'l l know soo n enough. ' Ther e wa s no mor e explanation . The y took themselve s off . Two day s later , o n 1 February, th e firs t editio n o f a much-heralde d new English-language daily, the Eastern Express, appeared with the banner headline, 'Ho w Akers-Jone s Obtaine d a Bargain Home' . Ther e followe d the photograp h take n a t th e fron t doo r an d a n articl e o n th e fron t page , with mor e photo s an d 'story ' o n th e insid e pages , ful l o f innuend o an d damaging and smearing inaccuracies. The house had doubled in size and a late r articl e bumpe d u p th e numbe r o f bedroom s fro m thre e t o six ! Various chartere d surveyors , withou t knowin g th e property , ha d give n their weighty opinions as to its value. At the same time the previous owner, whom we had not known when we bought th e house, reiterated tha t th e price had no t been a 'friendship price' . Among al l to p storie s whic h wer e the n worryin g Hon g Kong , th e

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Feeling the Stones

question o f 'Ho w Akers-Jone s Obtaine d a Bargain Home ' was a strang e piece o f new s wit h whic h t o launc h a newspaper . Wa s ther e mor e t o i t than that ? I t was stranger stil l because th e owner o f this new daily , C. K. Ma, had invite d me, the previous year, to become a member o f the boar d of his charitable trust . Moreover, I had received a Lunar New Year card of good wishe s fro m hi m onl y a fe w day s previously ! Thi s extraordinar y attack had com e out o f the blue, and ther e had been no attempt t o chec k the fact s with u s before publication . Someon e ha d decide d tha t thi s wa s to be the lead story of the first edition of the new paper. No other newspaper followed u p th e story and th e feedback fro m al l I met was one of disgust . The paper began its brief caree r at a time when th e leading English daily, the South China Morning Post, had changed hands and there was rumoured concern i n governmen t circle s tha t it s editoria l polic y woul d chang e t o become mor e pro-Chin a an d anti-government . A counter-balanc e wa s thought to be needed. The Eastern Express started with a great fanfare an d carried a larg e pictur e o f th e proprieto r wit h th e Governor , bu t befor e long, the edito r lef t an d i t ceased publication . From the end of 1994 there was no further seriou s attempt at bridging the gap between the two governments. The Patten electoral reform package had been put to the Legislative Council and an attempt to amend it defeated by one vote. Its passage was secured by one unexpected abstentio n at th e last hou r b y a previous supporte r o f th e refor m package . Moreover , th e voting was not left t o the elected and non-official members , as there were still thre e governmen t official s sittin g i n th e legislatur e — th e Chie f Secretary, the Attorney General and the Financial Secretary. Without thei r guaranteed 'Yes ' vote, th e motio n t o introduc e th e change s woul d hav e failed, even taking into account the last-minute abstention. It was a hollow victory which, to use two contemporary metaphors, wrecked the throug h train and li t the fire s unde r th e 'second stove' . Jonathan Dimbleb y describe s i n The Last Governor th e tens e atmosphere i n Governmen t Hous e a s th e Governo r an d hi s assistants , Edward Llewellyn and Martin Dinham, received up-to-the-minute report s on thes e shifting loyaltie s fro m th e Legislative Counci l chamber , an d h e 236

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Defamation and the 'Second Stove'

goes on to describe the jubilation and champagne which greeted the result of the vote. Reading his description, which cam e out after 1997 , it seem s almost unrea l tha t the y coul d hav e bee n s o overjoye d an d coul d hav e attached so much importance to the outcome of a vote for a change to the constitution when, as China had made it plain, it was doomed to fail. Th e legislators t o be elected under th e new rules in 199 5 would surviv e onl y until 1997, when they would cease to hold office and a caretaker legislature would b e sworn in . Perhaps ther e were thos e in London wh o though t tha t Chin a woul d not dare to do this, or they may even have thought that fate would intervene and bring about a change in the Chines e leadership. The people of Hon g Kong knew better. China would not change its position; people had com e to accep t thi s an d wer e indifferen t t o th e complicate d manoeuvring s between Britai n an d Chin a an d i n th e Legislativ e Council . Ther e wer e more importan t thing s t o thin k about ; 199 7 was just roun d th e corner , and being used t o the unpredictable, the y knew that somehow their live s would g o on . Accounts of the five years between the arrival of Governor Christophe r Patten and 199 7 concentrate on the jousting between the two governments and ten d t o ignor e th e fac t tha t i n Hon g Kong , outsid e th e hothous e o f politics, lif e wen t o n a s usual . W e wer e constantl y bein g aske d fro m overseas either whether we were all right or whether it was going to be all right whe n Chin a 'too k over' . W e wer e an d i t was . Just a s durin g th e period leading to the agreement between th e two governments ther e ha d been both a dialogue takin g place between official s o f the government i n Beijing and individual visitors and delegations from Hon g Kong, so, too, in these five years there was more or less open house in Beijing and acces s to th e leader s fo r anyon e wh o ha d somethin g usefu l t o say. In Apri l th e Business an d Professiona l Federation , t o whic h I wa s a n adviser , pai d such a visit. We met Zh u Rongji , who was then Ministe r o f Finance an d the Economy, th e Foreign Minister, Qia n Qichen , an d th e director o f th e Hong Kon g and Maca o Affairs Office , L u Ping . The leaders spoke of the progress of the reforms in China, the state of

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Feeling the Stones

the economy and so forth. We in our turn briefed the leaders about curren t concerns, particularl y abou t th e nee d t o ge t o n wit h infrastructur e development such as the port and the airport, without which the econom y would suffer , bu t als o about passports an d th e concern s being shown b y the civi l servic e abou t thei r pension s an d thei r jo b securit y afte r th e transfer. With over a billion people to govern, it is remarkable how China' s leaders always had time to fit in these meetings and for Hong Kong visitors to be well received . The y returne d t o Hon g Kon g with greate r trus t an d confidence i n th e eventua l outcom e o f th e lon g journe y bac k t o th e Motherland. People in Hong Kong had mixed feelings about the future. They were naturally prou d tha t Chin a wa s regainin g wha t sh e ha d los t durin g th e nineteenth century , tha t a colony in Chin a would com e to an en d and b e reunited wit h th e mainland, tha t dignity and honou r woul d b e restored , but these were nebulous things to do with national pride. Their immediat e concerns wer e abou t wher e th e nex t mea l wa s comin g fro m an d ther e was, naturally, nervousnes s abou t what would happe n whe n th e British , who had given them, law, language, administration, prosperous lives and an ope n society , hauled dow n th e flag . Meanwhile progress was being made on the airport and on the bridges, road, and railways leading to it. From where we lived we had a grandstand view. We could watch th e world's assembled dredger fleet surging past t o dump, far out to sea, loads of liquid mud from th e future airpor t platform , while other s hastened i n the opposit e directio n lade n with loads o f san d from th e sea bed to reclaim the airport from th e sea. We watched the piers for great bridges rise above the islands and their stranded cables reaching down t o grappl e o n an d hois t alof t th e gian t stee l boxes assemble d an d welded in China, setting differences aside , to form th e bridge to carry th e road and railway. This was the real Hong Kong, where the crash and ban g of jackhammers an d th e rise of new buildings never ends .

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Elections and the Second Stove Lights Up

C

k espite th e outrag e o f Chin a an d th e warning s fro m thos e i n 1 Hon g Kon g who kne w better , Legislativ e Counci l election s / wer e held in 199 5 under th e revised legislation of the Patten plan. This created new large constituencies and gave two votes to a large segment of the electorate, as well as creating an electoral college whic h wa s substantiall y differen t fro m th e on e describe d i n th e Qian-Hurd letters . Th e Democrat s walke d awa y wit h a majorit y o f th e seats and remained th e largest single party in the legislature until the en d of the century . The y positioned themselve s a s critics o f the government , and where the purse of the man in the street was affected, too k a populist and some might say profligate lin e along with other councillors. Rents of public housing and fees and charges for government services were frozen , while constructiv e suggestion s t o hel p th e governmen t overcom e th e problems o f fallin g revenue s wer e lacking . Thes e policie s wer e partl y responsible fo r th e huge budget defici t Hon g Kon g was to experienc e i n later years. While sharin g th e sam e enthusias m a s Christophe r Patte n fo r accelerating the pace of democracy, the Democrats and their allies fell ou t with th e Governo r ove r th e Cour t o f Final Appeal. This, and no t a cour t in Beijing , wa s t o replac e th e Britis h Priv y Counci l a s th e fina l judge i n litigation i n Hon g Kong . I t was anothe r an d importan t pilla r o f th e on e country, two systems formula, and was another earnest of China's intention to uphol d th e autonom y o f th e Specia l Administrativ e Regio n wit h it s

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Feeling the Stones

legal system based upon the common law. But the agreement went further : not onl y woul d th e powe r o f fina l judgement b e veste d i n th e Cour t o f Final Appeal in Hong Kong, but the court could, as required, invite judges from othe r commo n la w jurisdictions t o si t o n th e court . A n argumen t then too k place in Hong Kon g as to whether thi s meant tha t ther e coul d be more than one foreign judge at any one time, with the chairman of th e Democratic Party , Marti n Lee , himsel f a barrister , playin g a lea d role . Representations wer e mad e throug h th e Join t Liaiso n Group , bu t eventually it was settled that there would be only one. It in any case could be see n a s a majo r concessio n t o th e Democrat s t o allo w th e cour t t o invite a judge, say, from Australia , t o sit on a court i n a region o f China ! Nevertheless, this agreement to limit the number of judges from othe r common la w jurisdictions t o on e a t an y on e tim e wa s dubbe d a n ac t o f betrayal by the Democrats, and they introduced a motion of no confidenc e in the Governor in the Legislative Council. The motion was defeated an d the legislatio n wa s passed . 'Gestur e politics ' wa s ho w th e Governo r described it, but nevertheless it signalled a significant fallin g out with th e Governor, wh o stil l ha d tw o year s o f hi s ter m t o pas s befor e 1997 , an d was symptomatic o f th e general political malaise at that time . Meanwhile th e 'secon d stove ' wa s li t an d th e Preliminar y Workin g Committee wa s establishe d b y th e Chines e governmen t t o mak e arrangements fo r th e Preparator y Committee . I n Augus t 1996 , th e nomination rule s wer e decide d fo r th e formatio n o f th e committe e o f four hundre d t o elec t th e firs t Chie f Executiv e an d th e Provisiona l Legislature which would take over the reins after th e handover. Later tha t year applications to become a member of the Preparatory Committee were invited, and I applied. Each of us had to be nominated by five people. My nominees wer e Leun g Chun-ying , wh o subsequentl y becam e senio r member o f the Executive Counci l and who was also deputy chairma n o f the Preparator y Committee ; Allen Lee Peng-fei, chairma n o f th e Libera l Party and an elected Legislative Councillor who had known me for twent y years; Vincent Lo, chairman of the Business and Professionals Federation ; Howard Young, whom I had known since he joined th e first cours e at th e

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Elections and the Second Stove Lights Up

Outward Boun d Schoo l i n 197 1 an d wh o wa s a rising sta r i n th e Swir e Company; an d Tsu i Tsin-tong , th e chairma n o f a busines s compan y o f which I was a non-executive director , and whom I had first met when h e was chairma n o f th e Tun g Wa h grou p o f hospitals . I was electe d fro m among a total of over five thousand nominees, and thus became a member of the four hundre d who were to elect Hong Kong's first Chie f Executive . The candidates for the post of Chief Executive, who themselves were nominated, wer e well-know n publi c figures : a retire d Judge, Simo n L i Fook-sean; th e retire d Chie f Justice, Si r Ti-liang Yang; Peter Woo Kong ching, chairma n o f a leadin g compan y an d son-in-la w o f Si r Y . K. Pao ; and Tung Chee Hwa, chairman of Orient Overseas Lines. Thus there were two judges an d tw o leadin g businessmen . Votin g b y th e four-hundred member selectio n committe e too k plac e i n tw o stages . We assembled i n the Hon g Kon g Conventio n Centr e a t a meetin g preside d ove r b y th e Chinese Foreig n Minister , Qia n Qichen , an d Directo r L u Ping , hea d o f the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. We were each given an impressive red envelop e whic h containe d a votin g pape r o n whic h t o plac e a tic k against the preferred candidate . We were seated in order of the number of strokes i n th e Chines e writin g o f ou r firs t names . M y Chines e nam e contains eighteen brush strokes and consequently I was one of the last to be called . At this first roun d o f voting Judge Simo n L i was eliminated . Outside th e hal l ther e was a small group o f noisy protestors, arme d with echoin g bullhorns , wh o burn t a blac k pape r coffi n t o signif y th e death o f democracy . On e man , on e vot e democrac y woul d tak e man y more years t o arrive , but Hon g Kong , at least, was replacing th e Queen' s appointed Governo r wit h someon e abou t who m ther e ha d bee n widespread publi c debate , someon e wh o ha d explaine d himsel f t o th e people, and someone in whose final selection four hundred representative s of commerce and industry, religions, the professions, socia l interests an d politics wer e t o participate . Althoug h ther e wer e thos e wh o wante d a precipitate rus h t o wha t the y woul d advocat e a s onl y trul y democratic , that is , a popularl y electe d Chie f Executive , ye t see n objectively , Hon g Kong was making a start, a break fro m colonialism . 241

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Feeling the Stones

In th e week s tha t followe d befor e th e secon d an d fina l stag e o f elections, th e candidate s explaine d thei r policie s t o th e public an d wer e cross-examined b y th e electio n committe e i n ope n forum . Votin g too k place o n 1 1 December , usin g th e sam e procedure . Durin g th e previou s two week s publi c suppor t ha d swun g behin d Tun g Che e Hwa , an d h e romped home with over three-quarters of the votes, thus becoming Hon g Kong's Chie f Executiv e in waiting . For hi m i t was no t a n eas y time . H e me t th e Governor , the y too k a photo cal l o n th e step s o f Governmen t House , the n wit h hunche d shoulders the Governor retreated into Government House and closed th e doors while Tun g Chee Hwa left t o prepare fo r 1 July 1997 . The next job was t o elect the Provisional Legislature. The passing of the legislatio n t o pu t i n plac e th e 'Patte n method ' fo r replacin g th e remaining smal l colonia l legac y o f appointe d seat s i n th e Legislativ e Council had thrown th e process of transition t o Chinese sovereignty int o disarray. Instea d o f thos e electe d t o seat s i n th e Legislativ e Counci l continuing wit h thei r wor k unti l 1999 , the y wer e t o ste p down , ignominiously i n 1997 , to be replaced b y caretakers unti l new election s could b e held . Th e mos t tha t coul d b e sai d was tha t politica l wranglin g had mad e th e people of Hong Kong slightly more alive to and intereste d in th e processe s o f government . T o som e i t ha d th e opposit e effect : ' A plague o n both you r houses, ' they might have said as they turned away . Just before Christmas, on Friday, 20 December 1996, the four hundre d members o f th e electio n committe e assemble d a t th e Kowloo n railwa y station t o board a string o f motor coache s t o tak e us into Chin a t o elec t the Provisional Legislature. A few eggs were thrown as we glided off wit h police outriders and a green wave of traffic light s for the half-hour rid e to the border, crossin g by th e pre-stressed bridg e whose constructio n I ha d negotiated twent y years before . The followin g morning , th e fou r hundre d elector s assemble d i n th e Shenzhen Town Hall in front of a huge red curtain and the five-star emble m of China. One hundred and thirty candidates had been nominated for th e sixty seats and, what was most surprising, thirty-four o f these were already

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Elections and the Second Stove Lights Up

members o f th e existin g Legislativ e Council ! W e wer e hande d a ballo t paper i n Chinese , listin g th e candidate s i n th e orde r o f th e numbe r o f strokes in writing of their family name. It was easy to make mistakes, an d I had prepare d a checklist o f names o f thos e fo r who m I was t o cas t m y vote. We filed t o th e platform an d poste d ou r ballot papers into a box i n front o f television cameras . There ha d bee n muc h tal k o f votin g alignment s amon g th e fou r hundred. I n th e en d th e result s wer e no t quit e a s predicted. Ou t o f th e sixty elected, thirty-three were existing Legislative Councillors, includin g the Presiden t o f th e Council ; thi s therefor e mad e u p a substantia l proportion o f the transitional Legislative Council . Five were members of a politica l part y o f independen t views , th e Associatio n fo r Democrac y and People' s Livelihood , an d eleve n wer e holder s o f foreig n passports . The medi a divide d Hon g Kon g superficiall y int o pro-Beijin g an d democrats, bu t i n th e even t th e electe d member s o f thi s Provisiona l Legislature coul d i n n o wa y b e describe d a s lickspittl e shoe-shiner s o f China. Man y o f thos e wh o ha d vote d fo r th e origina l Patte n proposal s now change d thei r affiliation . The y switche d train s t o cros s th e borde r into th e future . Back in Hong Kong, the Governor referre d t o these proceedings a s a 'bizarre farce', and in Westminster, th e British Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, challenge d th e government o f China t o submit its legality to th e scrutiny o f th e Internationa l Cour t o f Justice i n Th e Hague . Thi s futil e suggestion ignore d th e fac t tha t th e Provisiona l Legislatur e ha d bee n elected as a result of a decision by the National People's Congress of China, and tha t it s functio n wa s onl y t o prepar e law s whic h woul d b e passe d after th e return o f sovereignty t o China . With just s o much huffin g an d puffing, Hon g Kon g moved anothe r ste p close r t o transition .

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33

Countdown

• ollowin g the election of the Provisional Legislature to take ove r m• th e rein s o n 1 July, afte r th e handove r an d unti l th e full y m constitutionall y electe d Legislativ e Counci l coul d tak e office , m th e six months leading to 30 June 199 7 were a curious interregnum . J i I t seemed strange and lacking in concern tha t we should be carryin g on just a s normal, as though th e great change of rulers were not about t o take place . I t wa s a s thoug h w e ough t t o fee l differentl y o n 1 July, a s though w e shoul d no w b e walkin g o n tiptoe , and , i f th e internationa l media wer e t o b e believed , fearfull y approachin g th e fatefu l da y when , overnight, we would change from British colony to Chinese territory. Hong Kong i n fac t carrie d o n a s thoug h nothin g wa s goin g t o happen . Wha t else could we do? The streets of Hong Kong were as crowded as ever, th e Stock Exchange showed no signs of nervousness, and in a fever of buying, property prices climbed t o absurd heights. A square foot o f floor spac e in central Hong Kong was almost worth its weight in gold and quite modes t apartments wer e selling for a million pounds an d more . The stand-of f betwee n th e Governo r an d th e Chie f Executiv e designate, Tung Che e Hwa, continue d i n its absurdity. Th e office s o f th e future Chie f Executive , insensitivel y selecte d b y th e governmen t i n th e crowded hear t o f th e busines s district , wer e insecure , demeanin g an d wholly unsuitable, and othe r accommodatio n ha d t o be found. Th e civi l service wer e a t pain s no t t o rende r an y assistanc e t o th e incomin g government. Meanwhil e I regularly received faxes an d e-mail s o f article s

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Feeling the Stones

in th e New York Times an d Washington Post, al l depressing , derogator y and offensiv e t o China , Hon g Kon g and Tun g Che e Hwa . About tha t time , Lor d Howe , th e forme r Britis h Cabine t Minister , and Bo b Hawke , forme r Prim e Ministe r o f Australia, wer e guest s o f th e Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Geoffrey How e warned Hong Kon g no t t o expor t revolutio n t o Chin a an d advise d th e medi a t o act wit h restraint . Thi s was soun d advice , but th e medi a ha d littl e tim e for pas t heroe s an d treate d i t with derisio n an d disdain . No t onl y Hon g Kong but th e world was changing, and ther e could be no better evidenc e of this changed world than seeing Russia play Yugoslavia before a packed stadium in Hong Kong at the Chinese New Year football match, somethin g that would hav e been unhear d o f only a few years previously . March, i n Hon g Kong , arrive s a s thoug h winte r ha d neve r been . Autumn leave s at last fal l t o the ground, pushe d of f thei r perche s by th e eagerness of new spring growth. The paths in the woods behind our house were covered with these newly fallen leaves, and across the water dividing us from th e islands we could see through cool, grey, mists the great bridges leading to the new airport nearing completion. The sea in front o f us was busier tha n ever . Brightl y coloure d barge s loade d wit h container s wer e towed slowl y past , motorise d barge s steere d fro m th e bo w surge d i n competition wit h on e another, giant catamaran s built i n Australia thrus t with foaming jets on their journeys to and from Pear l River ports, heavily laden carrier s o f coa l moved thei r long , uncluttere d deck s t o th e powe r station. I t was economi c growt h a s usual, an d befor e th e handove r thi s was reflected i n a budget surplu s o f HK$20 billion . At thi s elevent h hour , ther e wa s publi c an d medi a debat e abou t a proposal to replace laws for the maintenance o f public order by new laws to regulat e th e unfettere d freedo m t o demonstrat e an d t o preven t infiltration b y foreign politica l organisations . Unti l the n th e laws in thi s area ha d bee n fairl y brie f an d simple , bu t no w w e wer e dealin g wit h a different situatio n an d laws were needed t o replace and improve colonia l legislation originall y intende d t o deal with secretiv e Triad societies. Th e laws were being debated at a particularly sensitive time and it was easy to 246

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create fea r i n th e populatio n tha t thi s wa s th e beginnin g o f th e heav y hand o f Chin a reachin g dow n t o snuf f ou t Hon g Kong' s freedoms . Th e outcome o f th e publi c debat e wa s tha t compromise s wer e reache d an d reassurances give n an d th e legislation passed . No t until thre e years afte r the handover, and a thousand demonstrations later, with new organisations popping u p almos t ever y day, were ther e call s for furthe r relaxation . In 1988 , shortly after retiring , I had been invited t o be th e chairma n of th e Nationa l Mutua l Insuranc e Company . Th e Australia n paren t company wishe d t o expan d furthe r b y obtaining on e o f the fe w licence s being grante d t o foreig n insuranc e companie s t o sel l life insuranc e i n a very limited way within China , and I had mad e frequent visit s t o Beijin g on behal f o f th e company . I go t t o kno w man y official s i n th e People' s Bank of China and the People's Insurance Company . On these visits I had time to see how Beijing was changing and t o hear directly from minister s and vic e minister s ho w th e Chines e econom y wa s performing . Th e chairmen o f the People's Bank and the People's Insurance Compan y wer e both world-class table tennis players and I spent exciting hours watchin g them compete , and late r presented the m with thei r prizes . I was fortunate becaus e ther e were fe w expatriate s with m y mixtur e of interests and background who were able to obtain first-hand impression s of China's leaders, not o n on e but o n many occasions. I was able to lear n at firs t han d ho w Chin a wa s absorbin g th e experienc e o f othe r nation s faced wit h simila r problem s o f unemploymen t an d th e developmen t o f social security , an d t o hea r it s leader s tal k frankl y abou t th e problem s they faced . Th e visit s ha d anothe r effect . The y mad e m e increasingl y confident tha t nothin g untoward wa s going t o happen t o Hon g Kon g i n 1997, tha t Chin a wa s to o preoccupie d wit h he r ow n problem s an d tha t we woul d b e lef t t o solv e ou r own , an d tha t 'on e country , tw o systems ' was not simpl y a polite and reassuring cliche . Our lives , too , wer e threatene d wit h change . Afte r te n year s overlooking th e se a and island s we learned tha t th e roa d i n fron t o f ou r house was to be widened an d tha t everything, house, garden, swimmin g pool, and giant trees would be demolished and destroyed. We were shocked

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Feeling the Stones

and saddened, but eventually resigned to the fate which so many familie s had ha d t o fac e whe n confronte d b y th e juggernaut o f development . I t was ironical that forty years previously it had been my job to resume land and prepar e t o move a village for th e widening o f another sectio n o f th e same road whic h was t o run throug h a n up-and-coming ne w town ! When th e new s wa s out , w e were visited b y journalists an d camer a teams. It was a story that kept them occupied in their less exciting moments many time s ove r durin g th e followin g year s until , afte r man y delays , i n 2001 we eventuall y ha d t o move. The press, at th e beginning, portraye d this a s Patten' s Revenge , an d ther e wa s a witt y cartoo n o f Christophe r Patten drivin g a mechanical grab flying th e Union Jack advancing on th e house, wit h m y wif e i n he r Gir l Guid e unifor m an d mysel f cowerin g fearfully i n th e corner ! On 1 7 February 199 7 Den g Xiaopin g died . Thi s was th e ma n wh o had met MacLehos e in 1979 , who had firs t explaine d th e solution t o th e problem o f Hon g Kong , who ha d expounde d th e famou s formula s 'on e country, tw o systems ' and 'Hon g Kong people ruling Hon g Kong ' whic h were t o be th e beacons guidin g Hong Kong , and who ha d spoke n firml y and emphaticall y t o th e iro n lady , th e Britis h Prim e Ministe r Margare t Thatcher. It was Deng who, significantly, a t the end of the power struggl e following th e death s o f Ma o an d Zhou , ha d firs t appeare d i n publi c i n shirt sleeves, to the roars of the crowd, at a football tournamen t betwee n Hong Kon g an d Beijing . An d behin d Den g a t thi s sam e match , i n ful l view o f th e Hon g Kon g televisio n cameras , wa s sittin g th e presiden t o f the Hon g Kon g Footbal l Association , Henr y Fo k Ying-tung , wh o late r became a Deputy t o th e National People' s Congres s in Beijing . In Hong Kong, queues of people formed t o pay their respects, to sign a condolence book and to make three solemn bows before a flower-frame d photograph. Th e passing of a leader who had risen from th e beginning of the Chines e Communis t Part y an d th e er a o f th e Lon g Marc h marke d another transitio n fo r China . I t ha d bee n hi s well-know n wis h tha t h e would see Hong Kong returned t o China, and it was sad that he who ha d done so much to bring this to an acceptable conclusion without bloodshed or recrimination di d not liv e to see the day. 248

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With onl y fou r week s t o g o t o handover , Jun e bega n wit h a brie f burst o f sunshine, and the n th e weather turne d fo r th e worse fo r th e res t of the month with heavy rain and thunderstorms. There were dense black clouds, warning s o f landslide s an d floode d streets , an d thi s drenchin g rain reached its climax on the day when, after 15 6 years, the colony cam e to an end . This wa s t o b e a ver y differen t occasio n fro m th e endin g o f othe r colonies wher e a t a joint ceremony , wit h varyin g degree s o f pom p an d celebration, sovereig n powe r wa s hande d ove r t o a n independen t government. I n Hon g Kong , th e fla g a t Governmen t Hous e wa s pulle d down quietly for th e last time, folded an d presented t o the Governor in a brief, emotional ceremon y attende d onl y by his family an d staff . On th e da y o f th e handover , 3 0 June, w e lef t hom e fo r tw o nights ' stay in a hotel in central Hong Kong, for with such heavy rain and floods , there coul d b e no guarante e tha t we would reac h th e crowde d event s o f the nex t tw o day s i n tim e fro m th e Ne w Territories . Tha t mornin g w e enjoyed a breakfas t part y t o celebrat e th e birthda y o f a friend , Shelle y Lee, who wa s no w a senior membe r o f th e publi c servic e an d wh o ha d been persona l assistan t t o Lor d MacLehos e whe n h e wa s Governor . A t the breakfast were Lord MacLehose and Lady Youde, who had come fro m England, an d Si r Le e Quo-wei , forme r Executiv e Councillo r wh o ha d just bee n awarde d th e Gran d Bauhini a Meda l (on e o f th e firs t twelv e honours o f th e Specia l Administrative Regio n an d a sign tha t th e Hon g Kong government' s wa y o f honourin g an d thankin g peopl e wa s t o continue). It was a great gathering of old friends, wit h much chatte r an d excitement. In the late afternoon w e and four thousan d othe r invited guests were screened fo r securit y an d take n t o a farewel l performanc e a t a parad e ground formed by reclamation of H.M.S. Tamar, the Royal Navy dockyard basin. Th e ne w headquarter s fo r th e Chines e Nav y ha d bee n relocate d from th e centra l busines s distric t t o Stonecutter s Island , i n th e wes t o f the harbour. The Provisional Legislative Council, since it was a body with no lega l standing, had n o part i n thes e proceedings, although, curiously ,

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Feeling the Stones

some individual s wer e invite d becaus e the y wer e member s o f bot h th e outgoing and the incoming councils! The Chief Executive was also absent because he had to meet President Jiang Zemin and members of the Chinese government who were arriving from Beijing and were due to land by special arrangement a t the new airport. H e would b e sworn i n after midnight . The Tamar performance an d ceremony was little different fro m thos e we ha d witnesse d fo r th e departur e o f othe r Governors , an d indeed , compared with some, it was on a modest scale. There was no great pageant of a hundred and fifty years of change and achievement. His Royal Highness Prince Charle s th e Prince of Wales, the Governor, members of Executiv e Council an d othe r notable s sa t beneat h a canopy ; th e res t o f u s wer e seated on raised benches in the drenching rain. Green and yellow umbrellas were provided, an d by skilfully lockin g the m with th e row in fron t mos t of th e rai n coul d b e mad e t o cascad e fro m on e pal e gree n concav e t o another, but after an hour or so, shoes were filled with water and everyon e was soaked. There was no cover for the massed bands, the soldiers, sailors and airmen marching and counter-marching, th e pipers and the kilts, the lion and drago n dances , the colourfully costume d dancin g children , an d the singers of sentimental songs; indeed, in a special effort th e downpou r increased to a torrent for the lone piper's mournful lamen t and the floodli t lowering o f th e flag . Musi c an d speeche s wer e drowne d b y th e rattl e o f rain o n fou r thousan d umbrellas . Princ e Charle s the n bravel y stood , dripping an d drenched , t o tak e th e salute a t th e fina l marc h past . Insid e the Conventio n Centre , ladie s emptie d th e wate r fro m thei r shoe s int o rubbish bins, gradually we dried off, an d dinner was served. This was th e culmination: th e tw o government s ha d a t las t com e together , an d th e British and Chinese diplomats, the officials an d political leaders who ha d contributed t o th e writing o f the Agreement, al l dined together . From th e dinne r table s we moved t o th e Gran d Hal l for th e transfe r of power and authority to the Chinese people's government. Chines e an d British delegate s wer e seate d i n a curve d dais . Fanfare s wer e playe d b y Chinese and British trumpeters, the British in red, gold-buttoned uniform s and bearskins , th e Chines e i n smart , white , well-tailore d uniforms .

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President Jiang Zemi n an d Princ e Charle s spoke , with fir m promise s o f autonomy fro m China , goo d wishe s an d prais e fro m Princ e Charles . A t midnight th e British an d Hon g Kon g flag s wer e lowered an d folde d an d the Chinese and Bauhinia flag of the Special Administrative Region slowly raised. With grea t precision, th e fla g partie s marche d of f i n ste p i n thei r separate directions ; the 'captains an d th e kings' departed, th e Prince an d the Governo r goin g immediatel y t o th e Roya l Yach t Britannia, whic h inched soundlessly and slowly away from the quay and, escorted by H.M.S. Chatham, move d of f int o th e rain-drenche d night , pas t th e ol d gu n emplacements at the narrow entrance to the harbour and into the darkness of the South Chin a Sea . For a brie f interva l w e wer e i n th e hand s o f th e Chines e centra l government. Withi n a n hou r o r s o ou r ow n Specia l Administratio n Government wa s swor n i n b y Presiden t Jiang , includin g th e Chie f Executive and his principal officials, many former colleagues among them, the Executive Council, and the Provisional Legislative Council. Then came the judiciary, includin g th e Chie f Justice Andrew Li , whose mothe r ha d been godmothe r t o ou r son , i n a dignifie d sobe r blac k gown , an d th e judges, man y expatriate s amon g them , i n thei r scarle t robe s an d shor t bob wigs, to the bewilderment o f President Jiang. However, since Britain did not recognise th e Provisional Legislature, the British Prime Minister , Tony Blair , presumabl y t o sho w disapproval , di d no t atten d thes e proceedings. Here was a sad end to a chapter of British history and a sorry comparison wit h th e en d o f other colonies . Our evening was not finished. I t was 2.30 in the morning and rainin g still. We wandered about trying to locate the BBC who wanted a valedictory message fro m Anthon y Lawrence, a veteran BBC correspondent, an d m e before closin g down . At daybreak the People's Liberation Army in troop carriers and truck s entered Hong Kong across the border, driving through border towns lined with flag-wavin g villager s t o thei r downtow n barracks . Then , strangely , they disappeared an d hav e scarcely been see n since. Their headquarters , a tall building on the waterfront which had formerly been the headquarters

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Feeling the Stones

of th e Britis h forces , stil l faintl y bor e th e nam e 'Th e Princ e o f Wale s Building' for severa l more months . The next day there followed a celebration o f the establishment o f th e Special Administrativ e Region . Agains t a painte d backgroun d o f scene s copied fro m th e wal l painting s o f Xian , ther e wer e reassurin g speeche s repeating th e obligator y time-honoure d message s an d performance s b y crowds o f costumed children . The n we listened t o a concerto written fo r the occasio n b y Chines e compose r Ta n Tu n whic h incorporate d bot h ancient bronze chimes and the cello playing of Yo Yo Ma. In the afternoo n we troope d u p th e slop e o f Hong Kon g Islan d t o a modern buildin g fo r the crowde d openin g o f th e representativ e offic e o f th e Foreig n Affair s Ministry, headed by Commissioner Ma Yuzhen, the popular former Chines e Ambassador i n London . I n th e evenin g Jane an d I were joined b y Bett y Churcher, Directo r of the Australian National Gallery , of whose council I was a n internationa l member , an d w e watche d a rathe r uninspirin g procession o f illuminated barge s circling the harbour. Thi s was not quit e the end; on the morning of 2 July the Hong Kong Affairs Advisers, whom I had joined t o crie s o f 'traitor', bu t whos e ter m o f offic e an d usefulnes s had no w ended , wer e formall y thanke d fo r thei r hel p b y th e Foreig n Minister Qia n Qiche n an d stoo d down .

252

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34

Settling Down

C

i espit e al l th e gloom y predictions , an d th e fea r expresse d b y J th e foreign medi a and political commentators tha t the 'Reds' / woul d tak e over, the PLA would marc h in, communist rul e would follow , an d everythin g buil t u p ove r a centur y an d a half of being a colony would collaps e or be removed, the street s of Hong Kong did not look any different i n those days after th e handove r than the y looked before . Ther e were n o horsebac k victor y parades suc h as had accompanied th e Japanese arriva l after defeatin g th e British force s in 1941 : there was not a soldier i n sight. Ther e was no gloatin g ove r th e extinction o f the Crown Colony . In fact it was a British 'business as usual' atmosphere that prevailed. Everyone went about their daily lives as though nothing had happened. Now, as I write at the beginning of the new century, I can sa y that th e pledg e t o Hong Kon g by Deng Xiaoping o f 'no chang e for fift y years ' looks mor e believable tha n when h e firs t uttere d it . Hon g Kong's capitalis t syste m i s stil l alive . Bu t it s econom y i s suffering , no t only fro m th e problem s face d b y th e res t o f th e world' s economies , bu t from it s own special problems, such as the hollowing out of industry an d its migration t o the mainland, th e link with th e US dollar, an d s o forth . Of course Deng's statement was hyperbole eve n then; no society ca n remain frozen . Chang e was on the way. Early in 199 7 there were warnin g signs that all was not well with Asian economies, and in th e months an d years whic h followe d Hon g Kon g coul d no t ring-fenc e itsel f fro m th e economy o f it s neighbours . Th e ro t bega n i n Thailand . Bank s ha d

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Feeling the Stones

overborrowed an d overlen t an d ther e wa s n o possibilit y tha t th e Tha i currency could remain pegged to the dollar. The baht was allowed to floa t and wen t int o free-fall . Th e Malaysian , Indonesian , Taiwa n an d Korea n economies wer e al l affecte d i n varyin g degree s an d responde d i n thei r different ways . Th e Japanese economy , whic h ha d bee n th e pi t pro p t o the economie s o f th e region, had been stagnating already for som e year s and coul d no t b e looked t o for help . Since the crisi s of confidence abou t th e future i n 1983 , Hong Kong' s currency had been linked to the US dollar. The link had provided stabilit y throughout th e followin g year s o f political strain , an d no w wa s no t th e moment t o le t g o thi s sheet-anchor . Moreover , Hon g Kon g ha d bee n enjoying a perio d o f growt h an d propert y price s ha d soare d t o level s bordering o n th e absurd . With a stock marke t heavil y influenced b y th e property sector, the market index, too, had reached an unsustainable level. Prices cam e tumblin g down , bu t th e lin k wit h th e dolla r ha d t o b e defended. T o remov e i t a t tim e o f crisi s woul d hav e le d t o a fligh t o f capital an d woul d hav e destroye d oversea s investo r confidenc e whic h had taken long to build and which was the very thing Hong Kong needed to se e i t throug h th e year s o f transitio n an d adjustmen t t o th e large r economy o f China . Hong Kon g ha d formidabl e reserve s an d deploye d thes e t o figh t of f attacks o n th e link . I t was painful, an d becaus e o f th e dolla r link , Hon g Kong, among the nations of Asia, became a very expensive place. Tourism dropped away , hote l room s wer e vacant , retai l shop s wer e boarde d u p and restaurant s ha d empt y tables . Bu t th e governmen t hel d out , usin g determination an d skil l to defend th e Hong Kong dollar an d a t one tim e acquiring share s i n th e marke t i n orde r t o war d of f a n attac k throug h manipulation o f th e futures market . It was no t lon g before mor e troubl e cam e fro m a n unusua l quarter . We have our supermarkets and shops, greengrocers and butchers, but th e majority o f housewives an d thei r domesti c helpers stil l go to th e marke t to buy fresh vegetables, meat, live fish and live poultry. There are markets built to serve each district, and in the streets surrounding th e markets are 254

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hawkers, wh o clai m a patc h o f pavemen t o r roadsid e gutte r t o sel l vegetables and frui t t o undercut th e licensed stallholders in th e markets , and agains t who m a hawke r contro l organisatio n wage s a lon g an d unsuccessful war. Live chickens and fish are sold in the market, and froze n foods ar e scorne d an d spurne d b y gourme t household s wh o ca n tel l a t once whether the y are eating froze n o r fres h food . Meat , too , principall y pork, reache s th e marke t stall s withi n hour s o f bein g killed . No t lon g after th e changeover, chicken s started t o die and 'bird flu' was diagnosed . Worse was to come. The belief that the virus would not affect human s proved false , an d th e viru s crosse d ove r t o th e huma n populatio n an d caused a numbe r o f deaths . The n followe d th e wholesal e slaughte r o f chickens, ducks, geese, and quails, indeed anything that had wings. Well over a million an d a half domesti c bird s wer e killed , mainl y b y stuffin g them int o larg e black plastic bags and gassing them . I t was a ghastly bu t necessary measur e t o put a stop t o the spread o f a virus which showe d a capacity t o mutate, which ha d killed people and which coul d hav e give n rise to a pandemic. Markets, cages and farm s were disinfected an d give n a thoroug h clean-up , bu t i t wa s week s befor e ther e wa s a retur n t o normality. I t was an unexpected shoc k an d challeng e t o the governmen t coming on to p o f the Asian financial crisi s and was dealt with decisively . (The experience gaine d fro m thi s epidemic among poultry subsequentl y stood th e governmen t i n goo d stea d whe n a differen t strai n o f th e fl u virus struc k i n 2001 . Similarly , thi s le d t o th e slaughte r o f th e entir e population o f poultry, a halt t o imports an d th e closure o f markets. ) The rainshadow of the handover continued. There was a futile attemp t to g o t o th e court s t o declar e th e Specia l Administrativ e Region , th e Provisional Counci l an d al l it s work s illegal . Bu t th e SA R an d th e Provisional Counci l ha d bee n create d an d confirme d b y th e sovereig n power, China . Th e Cour t o f Appeal was quick t o dismiss thi s absurdity . For a few day s in August, Jonathan Dimbleby' s book an d televisio n series The Last Governor wer e th e tal k o f th e town . Dimbleb y ha d bee n able t o intervie w an d televis e th e Governo r eve n befor e hi s arriva l i n Hong Kong, and thereafte r ha d virtually unrestricted an d unprecedente d 255

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Feeling the Stones

access t o Governmen t Hous e an d th e Governo r durin g th e res t o f th e Patten governorship . Th e boo k i s a fran k revelatio n o f opinion s an d emotions an d conduc t o f affairs . Som e o f th e Governor' s ope n view s o f personalities during that period as recorded by Dimbleby must have come as a surprise t o them. I am mentioned i n the book thre e times, each wit h some irritatin g inaccuracy . Th e televisio n documentar y take s on e int o the Governor' s stud y durin g th e crucia l debat e o n th e electora l refor m package, into hi s limousine afte r meetin g President Clinto n an d into th e Ambassador's residenc e i n Beijin g whil e th e Governo r wa s telephonin g London. Dimbleby interviewed me once in 199 2 and said he would kee p up th e practice , bu t I saw hi m n o more . Afte r 199 7 Christophe r Patte n retreated to France to write his book East and West and Hong Kong got on with tackling the problems caused by the collapse of the Asian economies. 'It will all be over by Christmas,' a phrase used at the beginning of the 1914-18 war , wa s use d o f th e Asia n financia l collapse , bu t it s effect s dragged on , lik e tha t war , fo r year s an d no t months , an d on e economi c problem drifted int o another. In former economi c downturns Hong Kong could rely on improvements i n the world econom y t o lift export s and se t the wheel s o f industr y turnin g faster , bu t Hon g Kong' s industr y ha d migrated t o China . No w th e export s fro m Hon g Kon g factorie s wer e exports fro m China , an d althoug h th e containe r por t benefited , thi s di d not provide much employment for former factor y workers. The people of Hong Kon g were reminded frequentl y tha t the y had overcom e problem s in th e pas t an d woul d d o s o again , bu t thi s tim e i t just di d no t see m t o happen. Hong Kong, too, was caught up in the fever which gripped the world over the new technology. New IT companies were launched with nothin g but a persuasive idea and no assets behind them and suffered a predictable fate. Telecommunicatio n companie s wen t throug h a dizzyin g serie s o f swaps, mergers and takeovers; talk now was in terms of tens of billions of dollars and huge sums of money were borrowed an d lent. But those very technologies which had been hailed as bringing in a new age of prosperity were castle s i n th e air . Profit , earnings , asse t value , thes e old-fashione d 256

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words wer e foun d t o b e no t s o old-fashione d afte r all . Th e inevitabl e happened, an d thousand s o f investor s wh o foun d thei r saving s ha d vanished grumbled , but di d no t tak e t o th e streets t o demonstrate . The eruptio n i n propert y price s an d th e relate d boo m i n th e stoc k market before 199 7 led to a rush t o cash in on the huge profit t o be mad e by investin g i n property . Almos t a s suddenly , investor s foun d tha t thei r property ha d droppe d lik e a ston e i n value , leavin g them , i n th e blan d and comfortles s phrase , wit h 'negativ e equity ' o n thei r hand s an d a mortgage t o fund o n a property which was not worth th e mone y Finding land for housing and the coordination of supply with demand, not onl y for th e public housing programme but als o for privat e propert y developers, ha d neve r bee n neve r easy , an d th e limi t o n lan d disposa l between 198 5 an d 199 7 imposed b y agreemen t wit h Chin a too k awa y a valuable elemen t o f flexibility fro m th e planners. This was a long perio d to b e hamstrung . Moreover , privat e developer s wer e reluctan t t o mak e huge investment decisions until they could be absolutely sure of the future . As a result , overal l housin g productio n dropped . Mor e important , th e supply o f flat s fo r th e publi c housin g programm e als o decrease d dramatically in the mid-nineties. Then, as a result of pressure and seriou s warnings fro m th e Housing Authority, th e planners an d engineer s ha d a rush o f blood t o the head and produced land in such quantities in 1995 6 that, after th e three years that it takes to build, public housing productio n in 199 9 and 2000 reached about 60,000 units a year, or housing for abou t 200,000 people . At th e sam e time , privat e propert y developer s als o recovere d thei r confidence an d bega n t o build . Thi s resulte d i n a gros s oversuppl y o f apartments fo r sal e jus t whe n price s ha d plummeted . Potentia l hom e buyers preferred t o hang on t o their money rather tha n invest in such a n uncertain market . Th e Chie f Executive , Tun g Che e Hwa , i n hi s maide n speech t o th e Legislativ e Counci l i n 199 7 ha d declare d a polic y ai m o f producing 85,00 0 flat s a year , bu t actua l productio n fa r exceede d thi s figure. Housin g deman d an d suppl y an d consume r confidenc e wer e i n disarray, and property developers were left with uneconomic development s on thei r hands .

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Feeling the Stones

Whenever somethin g lik e thi s happen s ther e i s cal l fo r a revie w o f policy an d administration . Sinc e then , housin g polic y ha s graduall y changed, returnin g a majo r responsibilit y fo r propert y developmen t t o private busines s an d substantiall y reducin g th e futur e commitmen t o f the government, which , with ove r three million people in its care, is on e of the world's biggest landlords. But projects, once started, proceed t o a n inexorable conclusion, an d in this case the result was a huge overhang of housing i n th e market . Propert y developmen t an d housin g wer e thu s another vexatious problem haunting the handover years. Could anythin g more go wrong? I t did . On 2 July 1998 , Presiden t Jiang Zemi n ha d flow n fro m Beijin g t o open th e replacement airpor t a t Chek Lap Kok. The old airport, Ka i Tak, was i n th e east , an d Che k La p Ko k i n th e west . Th e road s an d bridge s were al l complet e an d th e airpor t expres s railwa y lin e fro m downtow n Hong Kong through a newly completed Western Harbour Tunne l was u p and running. I t had been decided t o move everything overnight from th e old airpor t t o th e ne w i n a fleet o f trucks , an d fo r th e waitin g plane s t o take off fro m Ka i Tak at intervals o f a few minutes throughou t th e nigh t to be ready at the new airport for business the next day, immediately afte r the openin g ceremony . The mov e wen t lik e clockwor k an d th e ceremon y too k plac e wit h the usual fanfare (althoug h neither Lord Wilson nor Sir David Ford, wh o had ha d suc h a hand i n th e decisio n t o build th e airport , wer e present) . President Jiang flew back to Beijing in good order. But then things starte d to malfunction : passenger s wer e directe d t o th e wron g gate s fo r thei r planes, escalators , baggage handling , lavatories , an d signboard s wer e i n disarray, an d eve n th e trie d an d teste d electroni c equipmen t o f th e ai r cargo termina l woul d no t functio n properly . I t wa s al l pu t righ t ver y efficiently an d quickly and compared favourably with the opening of other international airports , but i t was a further blo w to Hong Kong's pride. The sale of land b y auction an d th e award o f contracts t o the lowes t tender rathe r tha n by picking winners o r cronies for th e job ar e sensibl e axioms of Hong Kong administration. But the system has its weaknesses, 258

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which no w cam e t o th e fore . Th e fall-ou t fro m th e Asian financia l crisi s reached as far as the contractors for major housing developments. In order to build huge apartment blocks on soft ground, the piled foundation need s to reac h dow n a hundred meter s o r mor e unti l th e pile s touc h bedrock . Here wa s a n opportunit y t o cu t cost s o n contracts , whic h wer e no w uneconomic, by reducing th e length o f the piles which were out o f sigh t and underground . Thi s crimina l venalit y wa s reveale d whe n th e towe r blocks bega n t o lea n slightly , an d corruptio n wa s uncovered: somebod y had t o have been paid off. Th e 'short pile' scandal was nipped in the bud , but i t gav e watchdo g legislator s a n opportunit y t o deman d tha t head s should rol l an d expose d a weakness i n th e politica l structure . Who wa s accountable? Wh o wa s t o blame ? The politica l structur e describe d i n th e Basi c Law doe s no t provid e for ministerial appointments; it speaks of the executive being accountabl e to th e legislature , bu t thi s i s a generalise d responsibility . I t doe s no t pinpoint politicall y appointe d individual s o r members o f a cabinet wit h specific responsibilitie s for a portfolio, who can be called to account and , if nee d be , aske d t o resign . A livel y debat e ensue d abou t wh o wa s accountable in the political structure, which then petered out because n o one ha d th e answer . Becaus e o f th e autonom y grante d t o Hon g Kon g under th e rubri c 'Hon g Kon g peopl e rulin g Hon g Kong' , i t coul d b e resolved onl y b y removin g th e remainin g legacie s o f colonia l administration, by bringing about a rearrangement of the political structure and removing , lik e a bit o f cabbage stuck between th e teeth , a vestige of the colonia l system . The drafter s o f th e Basic Law concentrated o n th e compositio n an d election of Legislative Council, and had not dealt with the role and functio n of Executive Council , nor explicitl y with th e role and relationship o f th e civil service, who were caught in the middle between an elected legislature and an elected Chie f Executive, and an Executive Counci l which gave its advice privately and confidentially t o the Chief Executive. The poor civi l servants were calle d upon mor e an d mor e t o perform a political rol e fo r which the y wer e no t equipped , an d withou t a direct lin k wit h o r muc h 259

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Feeling the Stones

support fro m th e Chie f Executiv e or members o f his Executive Council . In a matter o f a few years, Legislative Counci l had become a fully electe d body. No members were now appointed by a Governor, and the remaining handful o f civi l servant s wh o ha d bee n a stabilisin g elemen t i n th e ol d council wer e n o longe r there . Th e presidin g office r wa s chose n b y th e members an d n o Governor , wit h colonia l authority , an y longe r calle d members t o 'Order' . Moreover, ther e wa s no w anothe r weakness . I n th e pas t ther e ha d been a friendly working relationship between the executive and legislative bodies, who share d a commo n office . Th e shuffl e o f appointments afte r the arriva l o f Christophe r Patte n i n 199 2 mean t ther e wer e n o longe r councillors who sat on both councils. Political parties, who saw themselves quite rightly as guardians of the public interest, became increasingly critical of th e government, an d a s they went u p i n public perception, Executiv e Council went down , figurin g les s prominently i n public affairs almos t t o the point of invisibility. The media, too, was changing and was less inclined to take th e government side . There was a clear and discernible empty space in the political structure. At a tim e whe n th e system s i n Hon g Kon g wer e unde r grea t strai n an d when th e unexpecte d seeme d t o b e th e orde r o f th e day , ther e wa s n o defined intermediat e authorit y t o be accountabl e an d responsibl e whe n things went wrong. Th e cal l for head s t o roll fell o n empt y air . Apart from these negative things, who was to speak and be responsible for promotin g an d explaining , o n a da y t o da y basis , th e policie s an d programmes o f the government? Hon g Kong soldiered on for many years without grapplin g wit h thi s problem . Th e governmen t cam e unde r increasing pressur e an d criticis m fro m th e publi c an d th e media , whil e lacking nominated spokesme n o r 'ministers' to speak out and defend th e government's position . I mad e a numbe r o f speeche s outlinin g wha t I thought shoul d b e done , an d chaire d a committe e i n th e Busines s an d Professional Federatio n (BPF ) which prepared a detailed proposal whic h it submitted t o th e government . In the annual address to the Legislative Council in 2001, when ther e 260

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were increasin g call s fo r change , th e Chie f Executiv e indicate d tha t h e was going to change the system. This blank space in the Basic Law would be fille d in , muc h alon g th e line s o f th e recommendatio n o f th e BP F t o appoint 'ministers' in all but name, to be supported by civil servants wh o would b e Permanen t Secretaries . The Chie f Executiv e wa s a s goo d a s hi s word . A t th e en d o f Jun e 2002, jus t befor e th e fift h anniversar y o f th e SAR , h e announce d th e appointment o f a new 'ministerial' system. Members of Executive Counci l were given portfolios t o oversee , some civi l servants were promoted an d appointed to Executive Council, and some members were brought in fro m the private sector. All are now served by Permanent Secretarie s fro m th e civil service. This change filled th e lacuna in the Basic Law, and hopefull y when th e ne w syste m settle s dow n i t will introduce a new dynami c int o the corridors of power in which each has a clearer idea of his responsibility and a more decisiv e governmen t wil l emerge . There wa s anothe r sensibl e chang e i n th e constitutiona l framewor k made during thi s period which was possible without offendin g th e Basic Law, and whic h mus t b e mentione d fo r th e sak e o f completeness. Hon g Kong now ha d to o many layers o f government. Ther e were tw o regiona l municipal council s an d ninetee n Distric t Boards . Th e tw o electe d municipal councils seemed superfluous, and were in a sense in competitio n with th e Legislative Council . (I t is an interesting compariso n tha t one of the change s tha t too k plac e i n th e governmen t o f Singapor e afte r independence wa s th e abolitio n o f th e municipa l council. ) Afte r publi c consultation, th e middl e tie r o f representation , th e municipa l councils , was abandoned. I t sank without trac e and no on e now eve r talk s o f it. I , who previousl y ha d worke d s o hard t o balance a n unbalanced structur e and t o se t u p th e Regiona l Counci l i n th e Ne w Territorie s a s a stopga p measure, now, with a full-fledged Legislativ e Council, was able to support this rationalisation an d it s removal.

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35

Weather Repor t

m^ residen t Jiang Zemi n addresse d th e 1 5 th Part y Congres s o f mJ th e People' s Republi c o f Chin a o n 1 2 Septembe r 199 7 a s •J follows : 'Chin a i s i n th e primar y stag e o f socialism . Mmm^ Correctin g th e erroneou s concept s o f th e pas t i s a ne w J i endeavour . We have done what was never mentioned b y Marx , never undertaken by our predecessors and never attempted in any socialist country. W e ca n onl y lear n fro m practice , feelin g ou r wa y a s w e go. ' Chairman Den g put it more colourfully whe n he said it was like crossin g a river feelin g th e stones with your feet . Since these words were spoken, the speed of change has been nothin g short o f phenomenal . China , wit h ove r a billio n peopl e t o govern , ha s changed gear, introducing fundamental change s to its economic structure, introducing fou r modernisation s - i n industry , scienc e an d technology , agriculture, and th e military - an d opening its doors to the world, calml y and quickly . Now that the changes introduced by Deng in 1978 have been operating in Chin a continuousl y fo r twenty-fou r years , foreig n investment , particularly fro m Hon g Kon g o r funnelle d throug h it , ha s poure d i n t o harness China's labour force in order to make the goods demanded by th e markets o f th e Wes t an d t o joi n i n th e buildin g o f citie s an d towns , highways and power stations. The financial markets have opened and th e stock exchange s o f Shenzhe n an d Shangha i ar e quote d i n Hon g Kong . China i s always i n th e new s an d almos t ever y da y ther e ha s bee n som e new developmen t an d excitement .

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Feeling the Stones

Flights to mainland cities have become a commonplace and there are tens of flights fro m Hon g Kong to Shanghai; fast ferries an d an electrifie d railway lin e mak e 25 0 millio n trip s b y peopl e ever y yea r ou t o f Hon g Kong t o ever y part o f China , an d mor e and mor e visitors com e from th e mainland t o Hon g Kong . Othe r Chines e trave l furthe r afield . Student s from Chin a floc k i n thei r thousand s t o th e universities o f th e West, an d those who do not follow on with a career in the West are bringing back t o China new experiences and knowledge, as well as fluency i n English an d other languages . I n on e mont h alone , hal f a millio n visitor s fro m th e mainland visite d Hon g Kong . The agreemen t a s to how Hon g Kon g was t o fi t int o Chin a afte r th e return o f sovereignt y allowe d i t t o continu e t o develo p physically , economically and socially and set the parameters of political developmen t for a t least te n years afte r 1997 . Hong Kon g people would gover n Hon g Kong wit h a high degre e o f autonomy , an d i t woul d retai n it s capitalis t system. But in th e years it took t o reach a n agreement with Chin a abou t the future o f Hong Kong, no one predicted the remarkable pace of change in Chin a itself . Mentionin g i t woul d hav e bee n me t wit h disbelief , an d even accusations of going soft on China. Hong Kong failed to comprehen d the full effec t tha t thi s was going t o have o n Hong Kong . In 199 7 Hon g Kon g embarke d o n it s j o u r n e y a s a Specia l Administrative Regio n within Chin a with many factors i n its favour. Th e economy wa s health y an d resilien t and , unlik e surroundin g territories , because o f its huge foreig n exchang e reserves, it was able t o resist bein g detached fro m it s anchor i n the US dollar. The economy had its armour y of specia l characteristics : th e utilities , busines s an d industr y wer e no t subsidised; the rate of taxation was low and limited in its range; there was regulation of business without interference; and the government's finance s were managed with puritanical rigour. The judiciary was independent; we shared a common la w system with many other jurisdictions; and we ha d our ow n Cour t o f Final Appeal. Hong Kong made no contribution t o th e coffers o f the central government of China, nor any contribution toward s defence, a s i t ha d t o Britai n i n colonia l days . A n effectiv e commissio n

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against corruption wa s independent an d had far-reachin g powers . Ther e was free and open daily discussion of affairs, and protests against perceived injustice wer e a regula r safet y valve . An d w e retaine d ou r independen t membership o f world financial , economi c an d trad e organisations . These characteristic s ar e al l embedde d i n th e Basi c Law . Wha t previously wen t withou t sayin g is now provided fo r b y law: Hong Kon g has by law to provide an appropriate environment to maintain Hong Kong as a n internationa l financia l centre ; th e la w require s i t t o avoi d budge t deficits an d kee p budget s i n pac e with th e growt h rat e o f th e economy ; Hong Kon g keep s th e mone y i t earns ; i t mus t retai n it s statu s a s a fre e port an d safeguar d th e free flo w o f capital. There is much mor e o n thes e lines t o demonstrate th e special nature o f the Administrative Region . When the negotiations were concluded in 1984 to preserve this strange hybrid, it seemed that there was plenty of time: thirteen years to go before the return to China. This was an illusion. The years passed all too quickl y in makin g th e arrangement s an d puttin g int o plac e th e law s t o solidif y the politica l structure . Attentio n wa s focuse d o n thes e issues , mor e particularly durin g th e fina l fiv e years . Ther e wa s no t th e motiv e o f th e driving excitement an d imperative o f looming independence, a s in othe r colonies, for local politicians to take a hard and questioning look at aspects of th e socia l order , s o a s t o mak e a start , eve n befor e th e handover , o n putting righ t thing s which badly needed attention . The colonia l governmen t possibl y overdi d th e polic y o f non intervention, o f leaving Hong Kon g t o develop o n it s ow n line s withou t interference an d withou t tryin g t o adjus t t o th e world aroun d us . It wa s left to o lon g an d to o lat e befor e i t wa s realise d tha t afte r mor e tha n a century and a half of British rule a knowledge of English was restricted t o a comparatively small elite, and that we lacked sufficient me n and wome n familiar with the new technologies which our developing economy needed. It wa s u p t o th e incomin g governmen t an d Hon g Kong' s ne w Chie f Executive t o begi n t o overhau l th e education , healt h an d socia l servic e systems, to introduce crash courses in English on a widespread scal e an d bring native-speaking English teachers into some of our schools. And th e

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Feeling the Stones

new governmen t finall y ha d t o gri t it s teet h and , despit e uninforme d opposition, introduce measures to deal with worsening air pollution, which at time s was so bad tha t Kowloo n was barely visible fro m Hon g Kong . Hong Kong, with its population of nearly seven million and growing, is challenged now perhaps more than it has ever been by its lack of natural resources, by the migration of its industry to China and by the changes in the global economy I n the past twenty or so years its economy has become intertwined with , an d dependen t on , th e mainland . Hon g Kon g i s th e largest investor in Chin a and Chin a is the largest investor in Hong Kong . Hong Kon g ha s factories , hotels , shoppin g malls , an d residentia l an d commercial property in China. It trades the stocks of Chinese companies, and re d chip s mingle with blue chips . Nevertheless, Hon g Kon g ha s advantage s whic h wil l b e difficul t t o replicate in mainland China , for it will take many years for China to adopt and implemen t a syste m o f la w whic h ca n synergis e an d marc h easil y with th e lega l system s o f th e Wes t . Concentratio n i n Chin a no w i s o n growth an d o n graduall y reducin g th e rol e o f th e stat e i n th e economy . This is not easy and will be a fairly prolonged process as the huge number s of unemployed an d displace d person s ar e accommodated. Chin a ha s a n ageing and a continually growing population. So China, too, has problems of her ow n t o cope with. Hong Kong has its laws and legal system whic h have international understandin g an d backing; it has its freedom an d al l the safeguards provide d b y the Basic Law, and th e central government o f China has been entirely scrupulous in the manner in which it has observed its internationa l obligation s unde r th e agreemen t wit h th e Unite d Kingdom. There were those who predicted a doomsday scenario for Hong Kong because of 1997 . In an astonishing turnabout, in 2001 the Fortune Globa l Forum me t in Hong Kong! It will, however, require the patience o f a fe w years before th e results of decisions which have been taken and are being taken every day to begin t o show. Science parks are near completio n an d the firs t tenant s ar e moving in . Smal l and mediu m enterprise s ar e bein g helped t o improve ; innovatio n i s bein g encouraged . Ne w reclamation s

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will transform th e Hong Kong waterfront. Ne w railways are already being built, and the first will open in 2003. In Kowloon a new centre for theatre s and gallerie s wil l tak e shape . Touris m wil l ge t a substantia l lif t whe n Disneyland i s complet e i n 2005 . Mos t o f thes e improvement s wil l tak e time to implement an d thei r contributio n t o increasing employment an d opportunities wil l be gradual, but certain . Hong Kong's vision is to become the world city of Asia. As the month s of th e ne w centur y pass , it s integratio n wit h th e growin g econom y o f southern China will strengthen. The twin city of Shenzhen which stretches along our northern boundary already has a population approaching seve n million, and all the towns of the Pearl River delta are developing, including the urba n renewa l an d expansio n o f Guangzhou , an d ar e bein g linke d together b y motorways an d railways . The tw o economie s o f Hong Kon g and Shenzhe n ar e moving toward s a level when th e controls at the entr y points will be ope n da y and night an d ther e will be a free flo w o f peopl e for employment between them. People, increasingly, will live in the suburbs north o f the boundary and commute t o Hong Kong, as do the workers i n other grea t citie s of the world . Will Shanghai be a threat? This is the wrong question. There is room and a nee d fo r bot h Hon g Kon g an d Shanghai : Hon g Kon g servin g th e huge, populou s regio n o f southern China , an d Shangha i servin g a grea t region o f growth stretchin g inlan d t o Chongqing . I hav e writte n elsewher e i n thes e page s o f Hon g Kong' s continuin g tendency t o look outwar d t o the rest of the world an d t o pay insufficien t official hee d t o development s o n it s doorste p i n China . Bu t Hong Kon g has alway s been dependen t t o a greater o r lesser degre e o n th e econom y and th e politic s o f China . I n 194 9 wit h th e succes s o f th e People' s Liberation Arm y ove r th e force s o f th e Guomindang , i t wa s a politica l decision whic h halte d th e PL A at th e border , fo r the y coul d ver y easil y have swep t i n an d ove r Hon g Kong . Durin g th e year s whic h followed , Hong Kon g relie d ver y heavil y o n chea p an d regula r supplie s o f foo d from China . Since the beginning of economic reform in 1978, Hong Kong's industry would not have survived if it had not been able to move to China .

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Feeling the Stones

Hong Kon g ha s bee n sustaine d i n thes e year s b y China' s indirec t contribution t o it s economy . Thi s ha s bee n take n fo r grante d an d ha s tended to leave intact an outward-looking attitude which is slow to change. Hong Kon g toda y i s facin g question s whic h i t ha s neve r previousl y had t o face . Durin g th e colonia l perio d i t neve r ha d t o as k 'Wha t i s m y identity, wh o a m I? ' Ou r interpretatio n o f th e phras e 'on e country , tw o systems' concentrate d o n th e superiorit y o f ou r syste m an d it s prou d possession o f th e rul e o f law , o n ou r freedom , ou r administration , ou r simple ta x structur e an d ou r economi c well-being , s o muc h s o tha t w e failed t o evaluat e th e significanc e o f wha t wa s happenin g nort h o f th e boundary i n Shenzhe n an d o f th e change s takin g plac e i n th e res t o f Guangdong an d throughou t China . W e hav e bee n absorbe d b y th e challenges face d b y ou r on e syste m an d hav e neglecte d th e fac t that , although we are a Special Administrative Region , we are one of the citie s of on e country . A s I write, th e Chines e econom y continue s t o gro w a t 7 per cen t overal l an d Hon g Kong' s econom y grow s a t 1. 5 pe r cent . Compared wit h th e day s whe n unemploymen t i n Hon g Kon g wa s negligible, it is now over 7 per cent. This is a serious and hitherto unknow n problem. As part o f th e means t o meet thes e challenges , we cannot b e passiv e onlookers t o th e transformatio n i n Chin a a s thoug h th e effec t i t woul d have o n Hon g Kon g wer e no t somethin g t o concer n us . Onl y recentl y have we begun t o ente r int o seriou s discussio n abou t findin g a solutio n to the shared problem of air and water pollution. We have to find a means so tha t th e undoubte d benefit s o f ou r syste m o f la w an d financia l management and our service economy can become more useful an d mor e used by business enterprises in China. And we have to be more proactive, more aggressiv e i n pursuin g way s t o lin k ou r transpor t infrastructur e with that of China so that it facilitates not only the transport of goods bu t the movement o f people, and enable s furthe r investmen t b y Hong Kon g in thos e area s o f th e neighbourin g provinc e tha t ar e relativel y les s developed. We must develo p transpor t link s which stretc h ou t lik e a fa n with Hon g Kon g as a hub, an d we must build th e bridges t o Zhuha i an d

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the west . Lik e othe r worl d citie s we nee d ou r commute r expres s trains , and we need t o entice Chines e enterprises t o set up thei r office s i n Hon g Kong, with its access to and knowledge of overseas markets, to use Hon g Kong as a base for thei r overseas investments, and t o see Hong Kong as a useful avenu e t o th e world . To say tha t Chin a need s Hon g Kon g an d canno t liv e without Hon g Kong is overstating th e case . However, Hon g Kon g has t o fac e u p t o th e situation tha t those attributes and aspects of our society which we regard as uniqu e protector s o f ou r wa y o f lif e an d prosperit y ar e als o movin g into China . Lawyers , accountant s an d professional s o f al l kind s ar e gradually shiftin g th e emphasi s o f their work int o China . Despite graduall y losin g it s pre-eminence i n man y areas , it i s Hon g Kong's opportunit y an d destin y t o becom e th e foca l poin t o f a hug e metropolitan are a stretching fro m Guangdong , eight y miles t o th e nort h of Hon g Kong , t o encompas s th e whol e o f th e Pear l Rive r delta . I t wil l need far-reaching an d speedy decisions if Hong Kong is to succeed in thi s and no t b e left b y th e wayside . Finally, if Hong Kong is to become truly international it must shed its fear of immigration of people from around the world to work and student s to study . Onl y the n wil l w e becom e th e worl d cit y o f Asi a an d on e o f China's great citie s with ou r ow n specia l characteristics . This is the vision. Will Hong Kong rise, as it has in the past, to thos e great challenges ? I believe it will.

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Envoi

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1793 , in the midst of the French Revolution , Lord Macartney led

• a great and grand fleet of ships from Britain on an embassy to China . • Hi s objective , whic h h e faile d t o achieve , wa s t o pu t a n en d t o th e m privation s an d indignitie s suffere d b y Britis h merchant s tradin g i n m Canto n and Macao and t o establish a permanent diplomati c presenc e accredited t o th e Imperia l Cour t i n Peking . Th e flee t saile d firs t south eastwards, crossin g th e Equato r t o Ri o d e Janeiro, an d the n o n a lon g haul acros s th e souther n Atlanti c an d roun d th e Cap e o f Goo d Hope . I t sailed across the southern Indian Ocean, through the Sunda Straits, northeastwards following th e coast of Indo-China, called at Macao, and finall y went u p rive r t o Tientsin . M y wif e Jane an d I were curiou s t o se e th e place wher e thi s firs t seriou s effor t b y th e Britis h t o establis h relation s with Chin a had com e t o such a n ignominious conclusion . Travelling fro m Beijing , i t ha d take n seve n day s fo r Macartne y an d his entourag e t o cover th e distanc e t o Jehol (moder n Chengde) , beyon d the Great Wall, where th e Emperor was relaxing for th e summer. I t too k us al l o f fiv e hour s i n a touris t coach . Macartne y travelle d i n a horse drawn carriage , lurching, bumping an d grindin g ove r th e narrow , rock y and dust y summer trac k an d windin g throug h th e low mountains nort h of the wall until h e reached th e yurts, the conical tents , of the Manchus , the summer residenc e o f the Emperor an d hi s court . Chengde is a place of Buddhist temples and a fine lamasery (a Tibetan or Mongolia n monaster y fo r lamas) . W e toile d u p th e slope , passin g

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Feeling the Stones

through numerou s worshippin g hall s t o reac h th e crimso n wall s o f th e temple a t th e summi t whic h towere d u p lik e a smalle r versio n o f th e Potala in Lhasa. There, out o f breath an d with aching knees, we climbe d the many steps of the staircase across the wall to the quadrangle of shrines set in th e top , each with carmin e pillars, blue bracketed roo f an d yello w tiles, until we reached Buddha glinting gold in the gloom. There from th e roof we could look across Chengde to the forests and mountains beyond . This wa s th e plac e t o whic h Macartne y ha d travelle d acros s th e ocean s and al l th e wear y wa y fro m Beijing . H e brough t wit h hi m gift s demonstrating the latest achievements of the West, including an elaborat e planetarium, and , a s a n afterthought , a persona l gif t fro m himself , a resplendent decorate d sprun g coac h which , spurned , wa s lef t o n th e quayside, drenched wit h rai n an d gathering dust . The summe r residenc e o f th e Empero r (t o cal l it a palace convey s a wrong impression) lie s in a wooded, walled park, large enough t o hunt i n without goin g outsid e th e wall . Th e residenc e itsel f i s a serie s o f grey roofed an d grey-walle d pavilion s an d chamber s connecte d b y roofe d corridors, reaching down to a willow-fringed lak e around which are spaced elegant pavilions . It was i n on e o f thes e chamber s tha t w e cam e acros s th e followin g inscription on a brass plaque: 'Not forgetting th e national humiliation th e Emperor signe d th e Beijing Treat y here o n Octobe r 2 8 186 0 (Septembe r 15 by th e Luna r Calendar) . I t was i n th e West Warm Chambe r tha t th e Emperor Xia n Fen g wa s force d t o sig n th e Beijin g Treat y wit h Britain , France an d Russi a whic h cede d Kowloo n t o Britain.' I t goes o n t o recal l that at the same time 100,00 0 square kilometres t o the north were cede d to Russia . Macartney, having come so far, could not find it in himself to perfor m the requisite prostration o f the kowtow before th e Emperor, kneeling an d knocking his head upon the ground. This kowtow is given as the superficia l reason for his unseemly departure. Eventually, after man y exchanges, th e Chinese courtier s accepte d tha t Macartne y woul d g o down o n on e kne e when the Emperor passed, or when documents representing the Empero r

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were presented . Thi s wa s a reasonable compromise . Th e rea l reaso n fo r Macartney bein g hurrie d awa y wa s th e Manch u court' s obsessio n wit h self-sufficiency, it s feeling of insecurity and fear of foreign cultural invasion, and fea r o f losing contro l o f its empir e i n China . I t was paranoid abou t the consequences o f opening up t o the world, and said in so many word s that Chin a ha d n o nee d o f anyone . Th e embass y wa s tol d t o g o home , taking its gifts wit h it . China became a member o f the United Nations in 197 1 and now, as I write, has become a member of the World Trade Organisation. Hong Kong and Maca o hav e bee n reunite d wit h thei r motherland . This , an d th e opening t o th e world, mark s th e end o f a long and eventfu l journey an d many 'nationa l humiliations' , an d a t th e threshol d o f th e ne w century , a fresh star t fo r Hon g Kong, the beginning o f a new journey. k

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This ha s bee n a persona l accoun t o f year s o f excitement , interes t an d enjoyment, o f struggle and challenge in an extraordinary place where we have been fortunate t o have lived and worked. What better way to sum i t up tha n i n thes e word s fro m Shakespeare' s As You Like It - recallin g a curious medieva l belief . Sweet are the uses o f adversity , Which lik e th e toad , ugl y and venomous , Wears yet a precious jewel in his head .

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The End

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Index

Amethyst, frigat e 18 1 Aberdovey Outwar d Boun d 4 8 Afghanistan 8 8 Airport 3 3 Ancestral hall 2 1 Arrow, lorch a 10 6 Atkins, Humphrey, Lord Privy Seal 11 0 Asian Footbal l Confederatio n 8 8 Baker, Kenneth , Britishe r Ministe r fo r Education 19 0 Barrow, John 2 7 Basic Law 162 , 166 , 17 6 Bedford, Trevo r 6 3 Blake, Sir Henry 16 , 17, 29 Boat People 20 8 Bocca Tigri s 20 3 Bolivia, 8 9 e t seq . Bonham, Governo r 5 2 Bowring, Governor 5 3 Boycott 2 9 Bray, Denis 7 2 Bremridge, Sir John, Financia l Secretary 14 4 Brigade 48 40 , 42, 6 5 Brigade Headquarters 4 0

Brosnan, Pierc e 19 0 Castle Peak 4 7 Cater, Sir Jack, Chie f Secretar y 11 5 Chaozhou 10,4 1 Chek La p Kok 25 8 Cheng, Yu-shek 22 3 Chengde 27 1 Cheung Cha u 2 8 et seq . Chief Secretary, appointment o f 15 4 China, visit t o 75 , 10 9 Chiu Lu t Sau 4 2 Chung, Sir Sze-yuen 225 , 226, 23 2 Churcher, Bett y 25 2 City District Offices 6 6 Clara Maersk 20 8 Clark, Trevo r 4 7 Clementi, Sir Cecil 24 , 25, 32, 13 6 Container por t 22 , 69 Cowperthwaite, Si r John 4 3 Cradock, Sir Percy 109 , 111, 144,148 Cultural Revolutio n 5 8 et seq . Daya Bay 17 5 Deng, Xiaopin g 52 , 110 , 142 , 152 , 248, 253 , 263

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Dickinson, repor t 57 , 6 6 Dimbleby, Jonathan 25 5 Dinham, Marti n 23 6 Discovery Bay 7 0 Dollar Lin k 25 4 Dragon View 19 8 Dunn, Dam e Lydia 179,22 0 Dunrose 4 0 Election Committe e 24 0 e t seq . Elections, village 2 7 Elliot, Captai n 10 5 Emigration 16 9 Evans, Sir Richard 146,152 , 159,17 9 Exchange rat e 14 4 Executive Council , appointment t o 136 Executive-Council, accountabilit y system 25 9 Fabians, Young 12 3 'Feeling th e Stones' 26 3 FIFA 76etseq . FIFA Congress 8 7 et seq. 8 8 Fok, Ying-tung Henry 7 5 Fok, Chun-tin g Timoth y 9 0 Football Association 7 6 Ford, Si r David, Chie f Secretar y 22 9 Fraser, Norma n 35 , 36, 4 3 Fujian 12 8 et seq . Fuzhou 12 8 Gladstone 5 2 Gledhill, Davi d 22 6 Goodlad, Alastair, Minister responsible for Hon g Kon g 21 8 Gorbachev, Mikhai l 20 7 Grantham, Si r Alexander 5 6

Great Leap Forward 3 6 Green Pape r (1980 ) 4 , 11 4 Green Pape r (1984 ) 11 6 Green Pape r (1988 ) 192 , 20 5 Guomindang 56 , 103 , 267 Gurkha battalio n Sirmoo r Rifle s 12 4 Haddon-Cave, Si r Philip 122 , 14 7 Hahn, D r Kurt 5 , 4 8 Handover 49 , 134 , 22 3 Havelange, Raou l 8 8 Hawke, Bob, Prime Minister 24 6 Hayes, Dr James 2 4 Heath, Si r Edward 11 0 Heath, Si r Mark 18 0 Heung Yee Kuk 2 8 et seq., 62 , 11 8 Hogan, Si r Michael 5 8 Holt, Shipping Compan y 4 7 Housing Authority, Chairma n 20 2 Housing, te n year plan 7 2 Howe, Sir Geoffrey 147 , 14 9 Huey Fung 20 8 Humen, mout h o f the Pearl river 20 3 Hurd, Douglas, Foreign Secretary 209, 224 et seq. Immigration 16 9 Immigration, illega l 3 6 et seq. Island House 9 2 Jackall 3 0 Jardine Grou p 22 9 Ji, Pengfe i 168,22 6 Jiang, Zemi n 250 , 26 3 Jockey Clu b 4 8 Kadoorie, Lord Lawrence 17 3 Kai Tak 3 3

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Keith-Lucas, Professor Brya n 5 1 King, Ambrose 5 9 Kinghorn, Kennet h 6 2 Kissinger Henr y 5 9 Knight, Frank , Inspecto r 6 4 Kola, M.V 15 5 Lau, Siu-kai 22 3 Lau, Emily Wai-hing 17 9 Leases, renewal 6 8 Lee, Sir Quo-wei 225 , 249 Lee, Peng-fei Alle n 175 , 240 Lee, Shelley 24 9 Lee, Martin 24 0 Leung, Chun-yin g 223 , 240 Li, Andrew 14 2 Li, Fook-sean 24 1 Llewellyn, Edwar d 23 6 Lo, Vincent 226 , 24 0 Lockhart, Stewar t 9 8 Loh, Christin e 14 1 Lu, Ping 168 , 183, 233, 237, 24 1 Ma, Yuzhen 25 2 Macartney, Lor d 27 1 et seq . Machu Picch u 9 0 MacLehose, Si r Murra y (Late r Lord ) 70 et seq . Major, John, Prim e Minister 21 3 Man Ka m To 6 5 , 9 7 , 9 8 , 9 9 Mantola 2 Marriner, Si r Neville 9 5 Martin, Pete r d e C , Brigadier 6 5 McKinsey & C o 71 , 137 Miller, Sir Hal 1 9 Municipal Council , abolition o f 26 1 Mutual Aid Committe e 6 6

Nanjing 8 2 Nanking Road , incident 2 9 Nanking, Treaty o f 9 9 National Mutual Insuranc e Compan y 247 New Chin a New s Agency 32 , 10 3 Ng Choy 5 3 Ng, Margaret 14 2 Nixon, Presiden t 5 9 Observers, Hong Kon g 11 1 Observers, th e 13 9 Outward Boun d 47 , 4 8 PAGENT 6 5 Parkes, Harry, British Consu l 10 5 Passports 17 1 Patten, Christophe r 115,217,24 8 etseq., 256,26 0 Po Lin monastery 3 1 Political reform 11 4 Pope-Hennessy, Governo r 5 3 Prince Charle s 25 0 Qian, Qichen , Foreig n Ministe r 237 , 241 Ramsar Conventio n 9 8 Regional Council, New Territories 11 9 Renton, Timothy, Minister responsibl e for Hon g Kon g 168 , 18 1 Representative governmen t 5 5 et seq. Rifkind, Malcolm , Foreig n Secretar y 243 Riots, 196 6 5 8 Robinson, Governo r 5 3 Rous, Sir Stanley 80,8 8 Royal Warwickshire Regimen t 3 2

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The Mulbera wa s th e twi n siste r o f th e Mantola whic h I joined i n Hul l in January 1945 . She wa s ' a soli d straigh t u p an d dow n 9,00 0 tons. ' (Se e p . 2 )

District Office , Alo r Gajah , 1966 . There wer e padd y field s a t th e en d o f th e lawn. ' (Se e p . 7 )

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Going th e rounds , Distric t Office r Yue n Lon g 1962 . (Se e p . 35 )

Yuen Lon g in th e sixties . (Se e p . 37 )

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I The Elder s o f Yuen Lon g prepar e t o pra y fo r rain . (Se e p . 40 )

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Daoist p r i e s t s a t a D a Chiu, ten-year propitiatio n ceremony. (Se e p . 45 )

As Chie f S e c r e t a r y participating i n a D a Chiu. (Se e p . 45 )

The kick-of f o f th e inaugural matc h betwee n Hong Kong and Guangzho u in the earl y seventies . (Se e p. 127 )

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Island House , ' a narrow drivewa y linke d th e hous e t o Tai P o an d th e outsid e world. ' (Se e p. 92 )

Man Ka m T o 197 6 'th e rust y bridg e wa s to o weak t o carr y trucks. ' (Hong Kon g at th e bottom , Shenzhe n acros s th e Bridge ) (Se e p . 99 )

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'Sir Edwar d Youd e arrive d o n a fine wind y da y i n 1982. ' (See p . 134 )

Sir Edward Youd e i n Ka t O, with Chairma n La u Yam Man o f th e Rura l Committee, 'enterin g th e world o f unchanged China. ' (Se e p. 136 )

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Her Majest y th e Quee n visit s Tsue n Wa n ne w town , 1975 .

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Victoria House , Barke r Road , hom e o f the Chie f Secretary . (Se e p . 160 )

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Visiting th e Outwar d Boun d Alumn i Clu b 1985 .

The Executiv e Counci l with Directo r L u Ping at the 35th anniversar y of the founding o f the People's Republic. From left : Si r Chung Sze-yuen , Sir Roger Lobo, Sir Michael Sandberg , an d Si r Philip Haddon-Cave. (Se e p. 153 )

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The Unite d Kingdo m Embass y i n Beijing , vie w fro m th e garden . (Se e p . 159 )

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The Busines s and Professiona l Federatio n o n an early visit t o Beijing. (Se e p. 163 )

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I am swor n i n a s Acting Governo r b y Si r Allen Huggin s Chie f Justice on th e deat h o f Si r Edwar d Youde . (See p. 179 )

A delegation o f Gir l Guide s meet s Vic e Ministe r Ji Pengfei .

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The nuclea r powe r station at Daya Bay. (Seep. 176 )

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Greeting th e childre n o f the Governmen t Hous e staff, Ne w Yea r 1987 . (See p. 182 )

'Sir Davi d W i l s o n arrived wit h helmet , s w o r d an d feather s flying.' (Se e p. 192 )

Dragon View, our house , had a n u n i n t e r r u p t e d view o f mountain s an d sea. (Se e p . 201 )

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At Drago n Vie w wit h D r Raymond W u an d L i Chu wen, former Deput y Directo r of th e Ne w Chin a New s Agency. (Se e p. 201 )

The Chancello r o f Oxfor d University, Roy Jenkins, and Vice-Chancellor, Pete r North visi t th e Forbidde n City. (Se e p . 201 )

I becam e C h a i r m a n o f Operation Smile , Chin a Medical Mission. (See p. 201)

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With th e professors : (fro m left t o right) Won g Siu-lun , Joseph Chen g Yu-sek , La u Siu-kai and Lee Ming-kwan. (See p . 201 )

My wife , Jane , i n Beijin g meets Vice-Premie r Che n Muhua, Premie r o f th e All China Women's Federation . (Seep. 201 )

With tw o ol d Executiv e Council friends , Si r Chun g Sze-yuen (middle ) an d Si r Lee Quo-wei. (Se e p. 225 )

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I alway s enjoye d talkin g wit h Director L u Pin g o f th e Hon g Kong an d Maca o Affair s Office . (See p . 237 )

From Drago n Vie w w e watche d the bridg e pushin g acros s th e channel linkin g Lanta u t o Hon g Kong. (Se e p . 238 )

A witt y carto n o f Christophe r Patten drivin g a mechanical gra b at Drago n View . (Se e p . 248 )

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