A domestic and civic chapter

Submitted by Andrew Craig-Bennett on Sat, 05/01/2010 - 21:34

This map pretty much describes who has influence over which bits of China during the last few years of the Qing Dynasty, after the Boxer Rebellion:

Britain leased the former Chinese naval base of Weihaiwei, opposite Port Arthur, "for as long as the Russians were in Port Arthur" - after the Japanese booted the Russians out of Port Arthur in 1905 this was amended to "for as long as the Japanese are in Port Arthur".

As may be seen from the map, Britain's interest in Weihaiwei (on the promontory north of TsingTao / Qingdao) was chiefly to keep a naval eye on whoever else was helping themselves to chunks of China by keeping the sea lane to Tianjin, and hence to Beijing, open. Port Arthur / Dalian is on the southern tip of the opposite promontory.

Britain could never find a good use for Weihaiwei and gave it back to China in 1930. Port Arthur was regained from the Japanese in 1945 and you will know it better as Dalian.

The USA and the UK took most of their reparations in cash (the Boxer Indemnity was almost two years' tax revenue for the Qing Empire – the Customs duty was increased to pay it). The USA applied a lot of it to fund the education of Chinese students; the British used it to found the University of Hong Kong and at the same time they leased, for 99 years, the New Territories, expanding Hong Kong enormously (see map, above) . The reason for the lease was that Britain was worried about a possible German attack on Hong Kong, and wanted to make the harbour and the perimeter more defensible.

The population increased overnight to 263,000 and for the first time this included peasant farmers who did not want to be in Hong Kong and who had not been asked their opinion.

Owing to an oversight, the yamen (administrative centre) of the actual village of Kowloon, which like all Chinese coastal villages was walled, was omitted from British control. This resulted in what later became known as Kowloon Walled City being under no government at all, a tiny tax free enclave of anarchy with a crime rate to match, two hundred yards by one hundred yards, with a population of 35,000, making it the most densely populated spot on the planet:

this lasted until 1993, when, following an agreement between the two Governments that claimed it, it was finally demolished. It features in most cinematic visions of The Future As Dystopia, partly because it was indeed a hellish place and partly because a group of Japanese chaps spent a week filming in it after everyone had left and before the wrecking balls moved in, thereby generating a few miles of stock footage. It is now a park.

Because the New Territories were leased, land law and inheritance remained governed by Chinese law; as indeed they still are in the New Territories which are now the only part of China where girls cannot inherit. (I have a friend, of my age, who finds this particularly annoying, as her brothers have done extremely well out of the family farm...which has been a container park for quite a while now.)

In one jump, Hong Kong had gone from a “barren rock” about seven miles by five long to a territory about a forty miles by fifty, including many smaller islands as well as a good chunk of the mainland.

Because the place was leased, leases in the New Territories were for increasingly short terms of years, until the point was reached, in the late 1970's, where no lease would be commercially viable for a developer.

At that point Britain concluded that the time had come to have a chat with China about the situation, leading directly to the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the return of Hong Kong to China. By this time, Hong Kong had become completely integrated with the New Territories (except where taxis are concerned!) with almost exactly half the population living in the New Territories, and the idea of keeping the freehold areas only was absurd.

One effect of the lease of the New Territories was that the Hong Kong government decided that it was worth building a railway from Kowloon to Canton; mid-Victorian efforts in this direction had been stymied in Legco by the steamship company owners, who did very nicely thank you out of the water route up the Pearl River estuary.

The railway opened in 1910, with a border station (which became very famous in the Cold War) at Lo Wu.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Club had built itself a new building:

(photo taken in the Twenties - note the Cenotaph, but no traffic)

Just to keep the list of Governors up to date, Robinson was suceeded by Sir Henry Blake, who, unusually, got a pier named after him, instead of a road (the pier has been re-located several times, as the harbour has been narrowed by reclamations!) Blake was followed by Matthew Nathan (another road) who was followed by Lugard.

Frederick Lugard, who was much the most distinguished of HK's colonial Governors; he originated indirect rule in West Africa and was altogether a Good Egg, suggested that Britain give back Weihaiwei in exchange for the freehold of the New Territories, but neither Government fancied this, and it did not happen.

Lugard Road, by the way, is on the Peak and should you wish to find it I recommend you take the Peak Tram:

(it's not a tram; its a funicular railway, but well worth while anyway.)

Lugard's other achievement, against the wishes of just about everyone, was to found the University of Hong Kong. It should be noted that he did so using the funds from the Boxer Rebellion Indemnity, and to this day the interest and dividends on the Boxer Indemnity Fund go to the University.

The First World War had no effect whatsoever on Hong Kong, which was governed by Francis May, yet another Irishman, during the period. I've lived in May Road; much the poshest address I've ever had!

May was followed by Stubbs, who managed to rub people up the wrong way at a time of rising Chinese patriotic sentiment, and who finished his career in disgrace when posted to Ceylon because he tried to deport an Australian planter who sympathised with the tea pickers' union.


Submitted by
paul (not verified)
Wed, 05/19/2010 - 18:47

WHW must have been theleast popular posting for a colonial officer, as the biggest thing each year was welcoming the fleet from HK escaping the heat and waving good bye to it later.

The tiny expat population administered the natives who were mainly subsistance farmers, expats tried metal mining, it failed, they built some roads but being at the tip of Shandong Province it was a road to nowhere. Because there was no anything including security of tenure as the lease was so vague, few wanted to invest there

The personel toll was high, from memory 1 shopped his bossesLockhart and Johnson(Peter O'Toole in last emperor) 1 went mad 1 commited suicide

Lockhart and Johnson were the 2 governors here, Lockhart was probably exhiled here for mishandling the acquistion of the NT, which involved probably the most unbalanced line up ever in a war, the British Empire at its peak vs  a bit more than the Yuen Long region.

Lockhart took a strong shine to Johnson , it would be great if the parrallel streets in Wanchai reflected this friendship, but different Johnson Sorry. They were both strong Confucionists.

Johnson loved it here initially though, he'd gone native ate Chinese food dressed in Chinese style, spent his leave time exploring China, to write books, which included a book published anonmously telling missionaries to leave China alone(he'd embraced philosophical Buddhism)

He'd always been a bit different , he came to Asia as he could not abide his family

Dad pillar of theEdinburgh Tory Party, lawyer and Kirk(and a drunk who at the time of his early death was found to have 'borrowed' 29 000 quid (100 yrs pay for young Johnson if he spent nothing)

this was to finance spendthrift mum

he also had dog breeder sister- just because we are related does not mean we have to stay in contact

and  musician brother who fled the debt scandal to USA, after having been sacked from his position as church musician because of it(naughty church he was completly innocent of it

mums sister also rang up debts too

Johnson vowed not to return a debtor

eventually post WW1 Johnson realised his career was in a rut and demanded a transfer ordering the Foreign Office what he wanted.

At this time last Emperor Henry(name from Johnson) Puyi needed a teacher,

and 'Peter O'Toole' got the job, in this position he had wealth and titles poured on him. He wrote his bestselling work 'Twilight in the Forbidden City' in Peking he had his own Summer Palace complete with Temple to Byron

Pu Yi was poached by the Japanese, he lost his pupil so returned to WHW to tidy it up as the Last Governor.

Then it was a position as Prof of Chinese at what is now SOAS, London University, he hated the regulation and lectures quickly went from Ma! MA ma mah to when i was in the Forbidden City, he finally found love with an LSE lecturer, they got engaged, she broke it off he was too busy moving aboutUK, buying a Scottish Island where the boats were painted Imperial Yellow and he flew the flag of Manchuria and returning to China.

He found love all his friends called her a gold digger, he ignored their advice.

He fell sick and died just before WW2, only gf attended the funeral , did not tell anyone the ex from LSE was distraught

She burnt his papers despite a promise to have them published ("£$%^&*) and gave his books < 10 000?to the hated SOAS

Apologies for the poor English i have a cold, David says I can advertise  so this is adapted from my better written Walk the Talk Guide to HK

Submitted by
paul (not verified)
Wed, 05/19/2010 - 19:01

In reply to by paul (not verified)

Mrs Lugard was a great campaigning journalist she invented the name Nigeria

Mr Lugard thought the Chinese are clever they should have a University, lets raise some money

Chinese community, well we know how the Chinese revere education, produced a large sum

Mr Mody(he of the Road fame) was a dying Parsee Opium dealer

The Gwailo Hongs , though (you all know who they are so no name and shame) , had short arms and long pockets, and gave small amounts  thinkingwhat is their future if the Chinese recieve a tertiery education? and become their academic equal

Swires came to the rescue in the worst way a Portugese ticket collector on a Swire ferry kicked to death someone for not having a ticket. Swires were under a boycott from the local community.

PR is not a new profession , an executive at Swires decided to fund the outstanding amount if the boycott was lifted.

So HKU is a Uni founded on murder blood money and Opium

Paul the Walk Talk Guy

Thanks Paul - that's brilliant! 

(It will be apparent which Gweilo Hong I once worked for if anyone reads far enough...I had actually forgotten that gem of company history but the Taipan of Swires still sits on the Boxer Indemnity Fund Committee - indeed it was a former Taipan that told me the story!)

I forgot to add his whole life to escape from stresses he invented stories about a cast of imaginary friends

He did 2 years at Edinburgh Uni to escape his family he started again at Oxord, the Edinburgh credits could not be transferred at Oxford he did the minimal of study, so he could spent time on poetry music and the Quork Elephantines and other imaginary people . This obsession continued his life.

In    Oxford he had 3 friends 1 was Clementi(later gov) who was the one who persuaded him to come to HK, he would entertain them with stories of their exploits.

Later he shared a flat in Kowloon with Clementi, Clementi left as he got fed up of the stories. He painted scroll pictures of them. He named the highest hill in WHW Quorks Peak.

The only part story i know is that 1 died in WW1 taking Tsingdao , she saw a bomb thought it contained alcohol  or chocolatedismantled it with a looted piece of cutlery, it blew up her last words were 'i meant well'