Neil Esmond HUNTER [????-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Neil Esmond HUNTER [????-????]

Neil Esmond

Neil Esmond Hunter was a journalist who was imprisoned by the Japanese during the wartime occupation.

He had his roots in Ceylon's (Sri Lanka's) Eurasian community, but according to one source he was part English, part-Singaporean. However, it can be said with confidence that his father died in Colombo in 1937 when Mr Hunter was working on the Malaya Tribune.

By 1941 he was in Hong Kong and enrolled, perhaps as a volunteer, in the Essential Services group of the Defence Reserve. One source claims that he worked for the South China Morning Post, while he himself states he edited the Hongkong Daily Press.

During the occupation he tried to make a living as a journalist but eventually found himself forced to rely on the generosity of the Ruttonjee family. 

He was arrested in 1944 and interrogated. In the months after the liberation he gave an account to the writer Russell S. Clark in which he claimed that he was not a British spy. However, he told John Gwyther, one of the liberating fleet, that he was caught on his third trip to Macau to pass on details of Japanese troop movements and other matters.

He was tried in a group of about 40 people on August 29, 1944 on a charge of spreading anti-Japanese propaganda. He was released on December 8, 1944 in an amnesty to celebrate the start of the Pacfic War.

My own hunch is that Mr Hunter did indeed work for the British. Because he courageously refused to confess, the Japanese did not execute him and granted him a speedy release (although he had already been in prison for about 9 months by the time of his trial). Russell Clark was interviewing him in the first days of the liberation, and I think Mr Hunter was understandably reluctant to admit to spying for the British to a journalist at this uncertain time. He met John Gywther in a private situation in mid-December, and by then he was willing to tell the truth.

Mr. Hunter's wife, Molly, also lived through the occupation.


Russell C. Clark, An End to Tears (1946)

John Gywther, Diary Extracts, SCMP, 28 April  (p.11) and 5 May (p. 9),1974