History of Hong Kong
HIS 385 H1
The 1967 Riots & MacLehose Reforms
The uniqueness of Hong Kong in terms of geographical, social and political structure is fascinating to study. Ceded to the greatest imperial power of the 19th century, Britain, the transition of a mostly uninhabited barren island to a financial powerhouse with over 7 million inhabitants provides interesting insight into a city built on entrepot trade, laissez-fair capitalism and modern economic social programs that keep society functioning at a high level. This was not always the case, for much of its colonial history; Hong Kong was a haven for smuggling, economic piracy and exploitation for the impoverished Chinese immigrants who settled there.…show more content… These disturbances provided a sounding board for a disenfranchised populace to demand drastic reform.
The storied struggle between factory owners increasing profits and worker’s wage stagnation had been present in Hong Kong for decades before the 1967 disturbances. One of the earliest examples of this was the Seamen’s strike in 1922. Seamen from Guangzhou province and Hong Kong went on strike because the poor wages Chinese Seamen received compared to Europeans in addition to the rising cost of living. The strike stopped food from coming into Hong Kong and was declared illegal by the government. Negotiations took place and their wages were raised in the same year. For the most part however, many of Hong Kong’s residents in the coming decades would be Chinese immigrants seeking economic opportunity or safety from the political upheaval occurring especially after WWII. Many of these people would occupy the low-income factory jobs that were available during Hong Kong’s massive export-led industrialization effort in the 50’s and 60’s. Often working over 80 hour work weeks in sweatshops, there was little job security, government regulation, housing or social support. In addition, the outright corruption within the police force and lower branches of government made enforcement of the few statutes enacted impossible. These factors led to a growing social