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Hong Kong Metamorphosis

Denis Bray

Publication Year: 2001

The story is told as an autobiography, from growing up in China to the occasional brief occupation of the Governor's seat. In the early days, 'administration' was rather a grand word to describe the daily grappling with novel problems never before encountered.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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pp. v-vi

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Claimer [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. vii-xxiv

A claimer is the opposite of a disclaimer. This is not a work of fiction. All the characters are, or were, real people. All the events took place. On the other hand, my memory is not infallible. I once had a long argument with a newspaper columnist, Kevin Sinclair, about the year in which the communists arrested three yachts....

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1.Growing up in China

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pp. 1-16

A few years ago, I was asked to speak to the Royal Asiatic Society in Hong Kong about growing up in Hong Kong. I said I did not grow up in Hong Kong but in China. The change of title did not seem to bother them. To compose a talk on the first thirteen years of your life, when there are practically no books to consult...

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2.Sojourn in Britain

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pp. 17-29

We landed in England in the middle of August 1939 and went straight to a thatched cottage near my father's sister, who lived in the small village of Eastnor in Herefordshire. The house was out in the country, up a drive not fit for cars. There was no electricity...

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3.Arrival in Hong Kong

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pp. 31-41

Thursday, 28 August 1950, was an overcast, hot, rainy, typical summer's day in Hong Kong as the P&O ship, Canton, anchored for immigration and customs procedures in Kowloon Bay. The atmosphere filled me with excitement. I had looked forward to this day for three years and was coming home to the place where...

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4.In at the Deep End

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pp. 43-56

Today, the Social Welfare Department in Hong Kong provides a massive array of social services of a quality second to none in Asia. It is staffed by hundreds of professionally trained social workers and extends its work to all corners of society. On reaching the age of seventy, it even pays my wife and me a non-means-tested pension...

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5.District Office Tai Po

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pp. 57-70

I had longed to be a District Officer but was a little disappointed to be sent there only a matter of months before I was due for my first long leave. This was to be for seven months after a four-year tour. I readily agreed to an extension of this tour for another four months. Who knew where I should be sent...

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6.Towns in the Country

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pp. 71-77

In the early 1950s, town building in the rural New Territories was fraught with difficulties. The government took the view that it would only allow limited development in certain towns and do the minimum to provide infrastructure. Even in towns like...

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7.The Big City

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pp. 79-92

My time in Tai Po was drawing to a close at the end of 1954 for we had four-year tours followed by a long leave in England. I was asked to stay a little longer so that the man I had relieved in the office could complete his leave and take over from me. I did not mind a bit. The District Officer lived in a fine little bungalow...

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8. The Heung Yee Kuk and Reservoirs

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pp. 93-107

I was now well into my second tour and was resigned to spending the rest of it in the Urban services Department. It was not to be. A crisis in the New Territories had led the Governor to post Ronald Holmes, my boss in Urban Services, to be District Commissioner. In the New Territories, an election of the...

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9.People Moving

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pp. 109-121

With the cancellation of the Hebe Haven Reservoir, I realized that there was very little left of the Sai Kung District Officer job, so it was not an entire surprise to be transferred back to the Secretariat. It sounded like an ordinary Assistant...

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10.Cultural Revolution

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pp. 123-131

In May 1967 I was on leave in England when I began to read about strikes and demonstrations in Hong Kong. Just as I was just about to go on a sponsored visit to America in June, I got a message to return direct to Hong Kong. Thank goodness I did...

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11.City District Officers

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pp. 133-142

During the 1967 troubles, we did a good deal of thinking about communications between the government and the people. 1966 had been a bad year. We had experienced considerable hostility to the raising of water charges. We had had the Star...

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12.Typhoons, Sailing andLong Leaves

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pp. 143-159

Before returning to the New Territories for the last time, this seems to be a good place to write about typhoons, and a bit about what we did when we were not at work. Typhoons seem to be caused essentially by high sea temperatures out in the Pacific to the east...

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13.New Territories Commissioner

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pp. 161-175

After my short spell as Acting Secretary for Home Affairs, I was posted to the New Territories as District Commissioner. For years, I had looked forward to the distant day when I might become senior enough to be considered for this post where I confidently expected to serve out my time. It was quite senior enough...

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14.Life Near the Top

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pp. 177-195

My move back to town was a minor consequence of a major new initiative that the Governor, Sir Murray MacLehose, had decided on. This was to mount a serious attack on corruption in the government, particularly in the police force. The Secretary for Home Affairs, who was now Jack Cater, was to head a new Independent...

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15.Overseas Posting

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pp. 197-206

After that glorious summer's sailing in 1977 I took up a new post, not in Hong Kong but in London. I was very surprised when Sir Murray MacLehose sent for me and asked how I should like to represent the Hong Kong government in London. The job of Hong...

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16.Relations with China

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pp. 207-211

As the last five years of my service were dominated by our relations with China, I could perhaps give some account of the impact that China had on us during the thirty-five years of my service. In one sense China dominated our lives, but in another sense we were practically unconscious of China's existence....

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17.The Last Five Years

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pp. 213-230

On arriving back in Hong Kong from London, I found the office of the Secretary for Home Affairs had been moved from the tenth floor to the thirtieth floor of a waterfront building and that my office commanded the most magnificent view of the harbour. I learnt that the windows were normally curtained with...

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pp. 231-241

In retirement, I soon found that I could not keep up with the minutiae of government activity. Once outside the government, you are outside the system of briefings and off the circulation of policy papers. I became much more an armchair critic, more interested in broader issues as seen in the media, or discussed in...


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pp. 243-248

E-ISBN-13: 9789882201620
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622095502

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2001