Pro-communist leftists in Hong Kong, inspired by the Cultural Revolution folly in China, in early May 1967, turned a San Po Kong artificial flower factory labour dispute a spark igniting a conflagration now known as the 1967 Riots.
The dispute at San Po Kong was contained but these disturbances spread to north Kowloon and then to other areas. Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution was in full sway along the China border and pressure on Hong Kong’s borders.
There were rumours circulating in the colony that China was planning to take over the Hong Kong colonial government. On 8 July 1967 there was a serious border incursion incident when China militia and civilian mob threatened Sha Tau Kok, New Territories fishing village where the border was only marked by a line of boundary stones. The demarcation line divided the main street of the village of Sha Tau Kok into Chinese and British sectors. Three hundred or more communist demonstrators chanting Mao slogans and waving the ‘little red book’ of his sayings and began pelting the local police station with stones and dynamite ‘fish bombs’. A senior police officer said that three or four snipers forced the police to keep their heads down and received short bursts from “some form of machine gun,”
The Hong Kong police fired tear gas and wooden batons to disperse the unruly gang. The Rural Committee Office and the police post then came under heavy sniping and machine gun fire from Chinese armed militia. The besieged policemen sent out appeals for help. The Gurkhas were immediately dispatched, arriving in armoured vehicles to contain the situation. Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald McAlister, commander of the 1st Battalion 10th Gurkha
Rifles, had been ordered to secure Sha Tau Kok, using minimum force. McAllister took two companies from his battalion, about 240 Gurkhas backed by a troop of armoured cars provided by the Life Guards. He was to fire only if fired directly upon. There was a burst of gunfire from Chinese militia across the border, providing cover as their communist comrades withdrew hastily.The Gurkhas did not return fire as the aggressors retreated. By the time a detachment from the 1/10 Gurkha Rifles had arrived to relieve the Police companies, five police officers had been killed and eleven wounded. The policemen were released and the dead and wounded evacuated.(FCO Confidential report, ‘Border Incidents’, NA FCO 21/193)
HK Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung made changes this month October to the “Modern Era 1945-67” section of the force’s history particularly the HK 1967 Riots. With respect, he feebly and clumsily said readers might find the force's history too long and lose interest and was not political. Others, particularly Hong Kong police
officers who faced the 1967 onslaught found Lo’s changes were a ghastly understatement, unsupportable and the police website no longer untrustworthy. Descriptions of mobs’ political links during the riots were played down in the latest Chinese-language version. One line which previously read: “Huge mobs waving Mao’s quotations and chanting slogans at Government House” was changed to “Huge mobs finally ‘rallied’ at Government House”.
Lo’s update might have been acceptable as follows: “ The left wing aggressive rabble attempted to intimidate unflinching Governor Trench but failed.” An 180-character description of the mobs making bombs in the hot May that year in the older version was cut short and summarised into a 34-character sentence. The term “leftist schools” – where mobs made bombs to be planted “indiscriminately on the streets” – “was removed”. Lo’s change might have been acceptable as follows: ” Leftist school made bombs were distributed indiscriminately in the streets 588 being ‘genuine’ bombs leaving six people dead including children and law enforcement officers and168 injured”.
In another line, the words used to identify gunmen who shot and killed five police officers were changed from “Communist Party militia” in the old version to “mainland gunners” Lo’s update might have been acceptable as follows: “The Rural Committee Office and police post came under heavy sniping and machine gun fire from Chinese militia leaving five police officers killed and eleven wounded”.
The HK South China Morning Post wrote : “the police should rethink the force clumsy whitewashing of 1967 riots. Playing down mainland China’s communist inspiration for the deadly unrest is notably unprofessional, morally wrong and laughable. The force should do its homework before rewriting its own history keeping in mind there is no restriction to length for online content”. Questions from the Post went unanswered.
The Shanghai textbook revisions do not address many domestic and foreign concerns about the biased way Chinese schools teach recent history. Like the old textbooks, for example, the new ones play down historic errors or atrocities like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the army crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989.
“Tell the truth, or someone will tell it for you.”
Stephanie Klein, Straight Up and Dirty: A Memoir.