Chinese escaping to mainland China in 1942 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Chinese escaping to mainland China in 1942

My mother, 6 month old sister and grandmother moved to Mongkok in 1939 from Toishan. They fled back to their village in Jan 1942 shortly after the British surrender of the Battle of Hong Kong. Does anyone have any knowledge of what it would have been like, first hand or otherwise, to undertake this escape?


Your family were probably among many others making similar journeys. In an entry in Harry Ching's diary, undated but from early February 1942, he writes:

Officially estimated that by 1st February 450,000 Chinese had left. In first week of February a ship took to Macau first contingent of Hongkong residents. These mostly local Portuguese numbered 947, and a second contingent of about 400 followed next day. The ship made a trip later to former French port, Kwong Chow Wan. All French nationals advised go there. Those remaining in Hongkong estimated 70, including priests and nuns. One by one friends slipping out, mostly for Kweilin via Macau and Kwong Chow Wan. Each departure leaves us lonelier. 

Thank you David.

My grandfather has mentioned this part of history. He was borned in a village around Guangzhou, came to HK before the Japanese occupation. He worked in a bakery and settled in Sham Shui Po. The deportation was organised by the Japanese government, due to the over population in HK, and insufficient food supply. Chinese migrants were foced to move back to their hometown. My grandfather started his journey from Sham Shui Po through Tai Po Road to Shenzhen on foot. There were food supply and shelter along the way. And he spent another 2 days from Shenzhen to Humen 虎門. Then he took a boat from Humen to Guangzhou. 

During the war 1942-44 my father was the British Consular Agent responsible for Hong Kong refugee affairs at Kukong, Kuangtung. Unfortunately he did not leave a diary or any record I have access to. The pandemic has unfortunately interrupted my chances of doing any research in the records of his service in the Foreign Office archives in London.

Marcong and Ken Adams

Thank you both very much. From marcong's post it appears his description may be the path my mother took.

Frances Wong has written several books on her experiences of leaving Hong Kong for China during WWIi and again after 1949 when she went to China to aid the revolution. 'China Bound and Unbound' from HKUP is the easiest to access. Frances is in her 90s but still alert and answers email. If you wish I could ask her if she would mind my giving you her email.


Colin Day

I hope you don't mind me jumping in on this topic.

My interest is a little different. My eurasian uncle was in the Volunteers even though Tony Banham has not been able to track him for me. I have been trying to trace his movements after being called up on 7 Dec 1941. He must have escaped to India via China - how? He was called up in Calcutta in Sep 1942 to join the Indian Army Corps of Clerks. Then I remember seeing him in his RASC  army uniform alongside a British vehicle with HK Govt roundel on the door immediately (just days) after the war.

At the risk of antgonishing some readers I ask if anyone could further this discussion by enlightening me on his possible route to India and how and when British Army units were waiting to reoccupy HK so quickly. Again I presume they were waiting just across the border in China.

I have been fruitlessly searching the internet for a long time, and now hope the opening of this topic may help me in my search.

Many thanks in advance.



My father, Charlie Leung Chung Yee, MBE, escaped to Kukong with his family before the invasion as he worked for the British Army architect office. He joined the BAAG as agent 18 and active all through the war. 

If you search about British forces escape to Kukong on this website, you would most likely find the details about the escape route including evacuation to India and then regrouping under the British command. 

Thank you AH. I presume my uncle went through Kukong, and that the BAAG helped him on his way to India. But I am not clear as to how quickly the BAAG became engaged in this operation. Do you know how your father got to Kukong?

That might help theprofessor too.



Not 100% but the most likely and popular route was sea journey to Macau, then land journey to Kukong via many towns for operational reasons  Kukong was the wartime capital of Kwangtung Province and headquarters of the Chinese VIIth war zone  My father left very early before the fall of Hong Kong. 

BAAG operatives in Hong Kong would have provided assistance to foreigners escaping from Hong Kong after the Japanese occupation, of course covertly, to go behind enemy line in China and eventually repatriated to India.

According to the book written by Edwin Ride, son of Sir Lindsay Ride CBE, founder of BAAG, the order for Sir Ride to operate as a representative of M.I. 9 was dated 16 May 1942. BAAG was formally named as operational on 21 May 1942. My father commenced working as a volunteer for BAAG on 20 May 1942. If you can get hold of this rare book, you should find all the details about their operations including repatriation of foreign POWs escaped from Hong Kong. Oxford University Press ISBN 0 19 581325 1. I bought mine from Times Booksellers of Victoria, Australia. Website 

In my forthcoming book from HKUP, War and Revolution in South China, I describe three escape routes from Hong Kong to Kukong (Qujiang) in Free China. One, the circuitous Guangzhouwan route, was by ship from Macao to Kwang Chow Wan, then overland to Liuzhou, then northward by rail on the Hunan-Guangxi railroad to Hengyang, and finally by rail southward on the Guangzhou-Hankou railroad to Qujiang. The second route was via Canton (Guangzhou). And the third, the East River route, was overland from Hong Kong to Waichow (Huizhou), then by boat up the East River to Lo Lung, and finally by truck or bus to Qujiang. All three routes were widely used.


Hi There,

According to HKU Press the book is on pre-order and should be available earliest in Asia at around November 2021.  It is also on pre-order on Amazon and scheduled to be available by the end of January 2022.


Hi there,

The book is not available in local book stores yet, but is already available from HKUP.  Ordered a copy at HKUP online for my old man on Mondayand received it yesterday afternoon.


hi, Thomas:

I hope your father is pleased with the book. Thanks for getting him a copy. I've tried to figure out how to do this from halfway around the world. 

Belatedly, I wish you a very happy Mid-Autumn Festival.

-- ed