Ap Chau [????- ] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Ap Chau [????- ]

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On facebook, Taranaki Expat asks if we have any photos of Ap Chau, saying:

"hubby swam from China and landed on this island - in the days when there was a great escape from China. Many people drowned on their way to HK."

Photos that show this place



I remember Ap Chau well from days in the HK Marine Police. Its people were very friendly, and had many links with the UK, particularly Edinburgh. The Village Representative conducted services, which seemed to be rather "Quaker"  in nature, at the little church, which had been founded by American missionaries. 

Ap Chau was indeed a magnet for illegal immigrant swimmers, one reason being that the well lit public lavatory block was something of a beacon at night.

The island had a substantial population, but by the 1980s many younger people were leaving for UK, and numbers were in sharp decline in spite of a successful fish farming business. I note Wikipedia now puts the population at eight.   

Hi Lim-peng, once the swimmer reached Ap Chau safely, what happened next?

I see there's still quite a stretch of water between there and the New Territories, so would they have a rest and then start swimming again, or negotiate a boat ride from a villager, or ...?

Regards, David

We patrolled the surrounding sea area intensely, so many were arrested before they reached Ap Chau. In moderately calm weather our radar could  pick up a swimmer's head in the water at a mile or more. Of those who reached Ap Chau, most did not realise where they were  at first and gave themselves up when they worked out they were on an island. Some were caught trying to get to the much larger adjacent island of  Kat O by the small "kaito" ferry, I expect some made it, and probably a few, particularly those using buoyancy aids, did indeed swim on.

Generally speaking local people were reluctant to help them, as the penalties for aiding and abetting illegal immigrants were severe.

Thanks for the extra detail. It sounds as though the chances of making it to HK without getting caught were very slim - I wonder if the people taking this route knew that before they set out?

Regards, David

I don't think they really knew exactly where they were headed for, they simply made for the lights on the hong kong side. We are talking about loners without the cash to pay for a "snakehead"- led trip, by land or sea, which would have a far higher chance of success. 

I recall those illegal immigrants that were caught within the Frontier Closed Areas were sent back. In later years, a "Touch Base" policy was implemented to widen the net. Illegal immigrants that had successfully made it to the urban areas and having had made contact with their relatives were allowed to register for a HK ID Card and remain in Hong Kong. The "Touch Base" policy was abolished in 1980 and since then residents of Hong Kong have been required to carry their ID Cards in public.

I have heard from an ex marine police colleague, who regularly visited the island with me, that he has come across a  branch of the True  Jesus church, set up by Ap Chau islanders, at the end of the road where he is staying in Edinburgh. The world gets smaller by the day.