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Colonial Hong Kong in the Eyes of Elsie Tu

Elsie Tu

Publication Year: 2003

This is a book with strong messages for today. Mrs Tu's deep concerns about the current international scene have the most immediate and obvious topical relevance. But there is an equally strong lesson in her description of the corruption that used to be so pervasive in Hong Kong and her battles against it.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

... approaching demise of colonialism and reunification of Hong Kong with China at midnight on 30 June 1997 brought a hectic inrush of foreign correspondents, especially from Europe and the United States, all expecting a great scoop on unrest and maybe even rioting, for their propaganda machines. One of them actually told me that he had been instructed to report only demonstrations and opposition, not welcoming ...

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Autobiographical Note

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pp. 1-6

... one year old when the First World War broke out and my father was sent to fight in Europe. There he was gassed in the trenches and suffered as a result for the rest of his life. My sister was almost three years older than I, and that was a great advantage to me because she was quite smart at school. I learned a great deal from her, so much so that when I ...

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PART 1. The Quest for Justice in Hong Kong

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pp. 7-8

... this first section, Elsie Tu looks back on her experiences during her early days in Hong Kong shortly after the Second World War. In the aftermath of that war, the vast migration of refugees by land and sea from Mao Zedong's China across the border into Hong Kong led to poverty and corruption of extreme proportions. It took more than two decades of struggle, and an enlightened Hong ...

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1. A First Taste of Hong Kong in the 1950s

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pp. 9-12

... was in February 1951 that our last group of missionaries made their way to Hong Kong from Nanchang, the capital city of Jiangxi Province. Some of the older missionaries had already left in early 1949 as the civil-war fighting in China drew nearer to that province. None of us, however, had been forced to leave by the new Communist government, ...

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2. Hong Kong After the Second World War — First Impressions of the Early Days

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pp. 13-18

... it took from three to six months for a newcomer to Hong Kong to become either one of us' or one of 'them'. 'Us' meant the colonials, the social climbers, the omniscient and omnipotent ones. Them' meant all the rest, numbering several million people, the ordinary folk. A lot depended on where a person lived, on what propaganda he was exposed to as well as his natural prejudices and opinions. It was possible, of ...

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3. The Municipal Councils of Hong Kong

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pp. 19-34

... personal connections with the Urban Council date back to 1963 when I was elected on the Reform Club ticket because the Club wanted a woman candidate, preferably in the education field. The Urban Council was a municipal council set up in 1933 to deal with matters of public health, recreation, culture, food hygiene, hawkers and markets. Its predecessor was the Sanitary Board, set up by the ...

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4. Hawkers as Prey to Corruption

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pp. 35-42

... it is true that the British are a nation of shopkeepers, it is equally true that until recently, Hong Kong was a city of hawkers. According to Hong Kong records in the early days after British colonial occupation, the new colonial masters encouraged Chinese workers to come from the mainland to Hong Kong to work on construction projects. Small businesses ...

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5. The Chronic Housing Problem

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pp. 43-48

... the Second World War ended in 1945, strife continued in China. The civil war between the Nationalist and Communist armies lasted a further four years. Many people who had fled from the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, and many others who had gone to China to support their compatriots in the war against Japanese aggression there, ...

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6. The Housing-Policy Stimulus to Corruption

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pp. 49-56

... the last chapter I mentioned three policies that became sources of corruption: the policy of providing public housing; the government's encouragement of the redevelopment of pre-war private housing, and the 1954 policy of demolishing newly-built squatter huts on sight. Public housing in those days was very cheap; it offered safety from fire, ...

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7. The Trials and Tribulations of Registering a School

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pp. 57-66

... a school in those pre-ICAC days was an exercise in frustration, and at times a huge joke. The pranks played by corrupt officials were truly incredible. Of course I never attempted to register the school we set up in a tent, but it was my intention as soon as possible to find some way of obtaining premises that could be registered. As a professional teacher and a law-abiding person, I always tried to follow regulations, for ...

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8. Of Officials, Contractors and Triads

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pp. 67-72

... could not have existed in the Housing Department without the connivance of some officials in the Public Works Department (PWD). It was to that department that applications for new buildings of any kind had to be made and plans submitted. It was that department that had to check every building after completion to make sure ...

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9. Hong Kong -1960s Criminal Paradise

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pp. 73-84

... year in the 1960s, a man appeared on the streets of Hong Kong carrying a banner that told how he helped to catch some robbers, but later, the robbers robbed him. The robbers were accused in court of assault, and the robbery was not mentioned, so their sentence was light. The aggrieved man then picketed all the police stations with his banner, ...

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10. Even the Legal System . . .

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pp. 85-94

... we are repeatedly told, depends upon the rule of law and a directly elected government by universal franchise. I contend that that is not necessarily true, as we have seen in many so-called democracies. Theory is not always practice. Until the Hong Kong Basic Law was formulated in 1990, Hong Kong had no directly elected members on the legislative body. The Hong Kong ...

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11. Corruption Reaches out to Transport

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pp. 95-102

... of the surest ways to generate corruption is to create a shortage of the necessities of life for the vast majority of people. Those who have money to pay for what they need, with a little graft added, can enjoy life and its luxuries, while those with little money are deprived of the most basic necessities. And for low paid workers, transport is usually a basic ...

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12. Two Summers of Discontent: 1966 and 1967

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pp. 103-112

... those who lived through these two summers, the memories will remain forever. But that happened 35 years ago, and a new generation has grown up that probably knows little about the reasons for the discontent, and even the press frequently confuses the two dates. Though the immediate causes were totally different, they had one thing in common: ...

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13. Peter Godber Gives the Game Away

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pp. 113-118

... my struggle against corruption I was always on the look-out for policemen who were honest enough to do something about it, but honest police in those days were hard to find, and those who attempted to fight corruption were in danger of losing their contracts. Some time about 1970, I cannot remember the exact year, a new man took up the post of head of the Anti-Corruption Branch of the police. I ...

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14. Is the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Succeeding in Its Mission?

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pp. 119-126

... is a question frequently asked by researchers into the Hong Kong corruption phenomenon. I believe that everyone in Hong Kong (including myself) who was familiar with the situation before the ICAC ecome a different world, in which even young children are taught the ...

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15. Democracy in Hong Kong

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pp. 127-132

... political situation in Hong Kong was a shocker to me on my arrival in 1951. It is only fair to say that the huge influx of people from China after the Second World War put the colonial government under heavy pressure. Thousands of people were sleeping in the streets, in cardboard lean-tos against walls, or in squatter huts on the hillsides. Tens of thousands ...

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16. Step-by-Step Democracy

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pp. 133-144

... debatable whether democracy should be achieved by evolution or by revolution. I believe the answer depends upon the circumstances and that the same system does not suit every country or community. When the lot of the people of any country is so dismal that they can see no hope for their government ever taking steps to curb injustice or ...

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17. The Transitional Years in Hong Kong, 1992-97

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pp. 145-152

.... in a previous chapter that when universal suffrage was given to all adults who registered their wish to vote, the system applied only to Municipal Councils and District Board elections, in spite of Britain's reputation as the 'mother of democracy', the colonial power continued to reject all proposals for election to the legislative body, the Legislative ...

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18. Hong Kong's Future After 2007

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pp. 153-156

Too little regard has been paid to the condition 'if there is a need' in this clause, which has been widely interpreted to mean that, after the year 2007, the Legislative Council will probably be fully elected by direct election. I see no such promise. It may be wishful thinking on the part of those who are anxious to become the ruling party after 2007. ...

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9. Colonial Ignorance

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pp. 157-162

... suppose I belong to that generation of British people who were known to speak up for the underdog. I believe there are people of all nations who do so, but I also suspect that when social conditions improve and the middle class becomes larger, fewer care enough to do so and more become self-seeking. To me, the underdog is not necessarily a poor person in need of financial ...

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PART 2. What Happened to Democracy?

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pp. 176-177

... a short synopsis of the development of what the world calls 'Democracy and Human Rights', and how it has become a fundamentalist religion used for colonial and neo-colonial purposes. Democracy has, she believes, become a synonym in the United States for laissez-faire capitalism, and an excuse for intervention in the affairs of any country on all five continents ...

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20. Why Write About Democracy?

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pp. 165-168

Castro had been called a cruel dictator by the United States press, but he had no means of responding to the accusation through the same press. During his conversation, he explained to the priest the difficulty in putting the truth before the American public and that he had come to the conclusion that, 'When you speak of freedom of the press you are really talking about ...

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21. What Is Democracy?

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pp. 169-170

... heard a politician calling out ecstatically, 'Democracy, I love you!' That left me with the impression that, to him, democracy was some kind of goddess to be worshipped. That politician had obviously fallen in love late in life, because he was already about fifty and had until then never shown the least interest in democracy. In fact, democracy is not a god ...

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22. The Development of Democracy

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pp. 171-174

... word 'democracy' is of Greek origin. Demos means people, and '-cracy' comes from the word kratein, meaning 'rule' or 'strength'. The Chinese translation catches the meaning well: minzhu means 'people's power or rule'. In spite of its name, democracy in ancient Greece referred only to 'freemen'. Women, who made up approximately half the population, as well ...

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23. A Machiavellian Era

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pp. 175-182

... hundred years ago, the Dutch scholar, Desiderius Erasmus (1469 - 1536) said, 'There is nothing more wicked, more loathsome than war. Whosoever heard of a hundred thousand animals running together to butcher one another as men do everywhere?' Indeed, in war, men are more cruel than animals, which kill only for food. ...

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24. The Imperialist Mind

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pp. 183-186

... by boat on my second journey from Britain to Hong Kong in 1956. Air travel at that time was rare and expensive. On that occasion I shared a cabin with two ladies, one American, the other British. There was little space in the cabin because the American lady had insisted that all her heavy luggage must be placed in the cabin, and her ...

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25. How Democratic Is a Stolen Country?

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pp. 187-194

... charity begins at home then democracy should begin with one's own nation. Time after time in television interviews we hear US presidents and chief spokesmen mouthing hypocrisy about 'democracy and human rights' — especially as regards other countries, usually countries of which they disapprove for political reasons. The cliche is nauseating, so ...

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26. Economic Colonialism

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pp. 195-198

... Chapter 23 I mentioned the political philosophy of Machiavelli, that 'any political means, no matter how unscrupulous, is justified if it is intended to strengthen the power of any state.' This philosophy is not dead. It has been the aim of successive American presidents during most of the twentieth century and especially in the fifty years since the Second ...

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27. Fascism After the Second World War

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pp. 199-204

... the Second World War was fought to contain fascism in Europe, and the European fascist leaders Mussolini and Hitler disappeared from the scene, 1945 actually saw the beginning of a new era of fascism, disguised as democracy. Hitler had attempted to pinpoint the Soviet Union as the real enemy, but his aggression against European nations ...

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28. The Legacy of the Monroe Doctrine

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pp. 205-212

... Monroe Doctrine was a unilateral proclamation by US president James Monroe in 1823. It warned European states to make no further attempts at extending colonialism in the New World, as the Americas were then called. South America is composed of a number of independent countries which had no part in the Monroe Declaration. Nevertheless, the United States ...

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29. Democracy Misinterpreted

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pp. 213-222

... all traditional philosophies, religions and systems throughout history, the concept of democracy has changed with the times. It no longer gives power to the people except in theory. Maybe its real name should be 'capitalism in democratic clothing' or maybe 'laissez-faire for superpowers'. No one, myself included, would oppose true democracy, provided a new ...

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30. A New Concept of Democracy

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pp. 223-232

... ago, democracy seemed to give hope of a more egalitarian political system, as the Greek word (people) suggests. Now that meaning of the word scarcely applies, and the words 'party-ocracy' or 'capitalist-ocracy' appear to be more appropriate to the system that operates today. The struggle for party power, and the use of capitalism and militarism, ...

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31. Voting Systems

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pp. 233-238

... earlier chapter I mentioned that Mrs Thatcher's Conservative Party ruled Britain for nearly twenty years with the support of only about 40 per cent of the voters. That 40 per cent does not take into consideration the many potential voters who did not vote at all, so the actual support for her party could have been less than 30 per cent. By no ...

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32. Quotations on Democracy and Pseudo-Democracy

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pp. 239-244

... a century ago or more, I believed that democracy meant what it says, that is, 'people's power'. During that half-century, my dreams of democracy and world peace have been shattered. Democracy too has been shattered, at least, democracy as we in the Western world have always been taught. It no longer means what it says. From my reading of books on history and politics, mainly but not entirely ...


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pp. 245-250

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pp. 251-252

record could be entered in the Guinness Book of Records for prolificacy in letter writing, Elsie Tu would be a major candidate. In her efforts to draw the attention of both the British government and the Hong Kong colonial government to what she considered needed attention, she has written tens of thousands of letters, pinpointing general ...

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Appendix A

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pp. 253-260

This was the year in which the anger of the people at losing their small savings in bank-runs, when monopolies indicated their intention of raising fares and tariffs, and corruption in the Hong Kong government reached a climax. The people demonstrated peacefully. It was corrupt policemen who escalated the demonstrations into riots with the help of their triad friends, ...

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Appendix B

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pp. 261-270

It is almost with fear and trembling that I have come to speak to you, as you will probably find me steeped in the old traditions in which most people of my generation were brought up, and I may betray my ignorance of the movement and principles you represent here. I am sure that we need a campaign to root out all the old entrenched ideas that women belong to ...

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Appendix C

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pp. 271-276

I have been asked to speak to people newly arrived in Hong Kong. It is my pleasure to do so. I have myself been here for more than a quarter of a century, and I never cease to marvel at the un-British things I find here. Going back to Britain for short holidays is like going to a different kind of British people ...

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Appendix D

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pp. 277-302

The next few months will be crucial to Hong Kong, and I presume every Member of Parliament will show some concern as to how the United Kingdom Government deals with its most prosperous colony. News reaching the British is propagated mainly by Governor Patten and two Legislative Councillors, who claim to be democrats and who, in ...

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Appendix E

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pp. 303-316

This article is written out of respect for my late husband, Andrew TU, who for the past twenty years has dedicated his life to seeking peace through genuine repentance on the part of the Japanese imperial family and its right-wing advisers, for their aggression and brutality in China and Asia during the period 1931 to 1945. Now in poor health, my husband still hopes to ...

Reference Books

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pp. 317

E-ISBN-13: 9789882200791
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622096066

Page Count: 332
Publication Year: 2003

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Subject Headings

  • Democracy.
  • Elliot, Elsie.
  • Hong Kong (China) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Hong Kong (China) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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