Civil disobedience in Hong Kong

By Wang Yunqiao

As planned, I stayed in Hong Kong from January 6 to January 10. During these five days, I spent about half of the time at the Hong Kong Government Records Service for my senior thesis. This archive offered many materials related to the 1967 riots in Hong Kong, including posters, slogans from both the supporters of the riot and those supporting the police force. I also spent some time at Chinese University of Hong Kong, not far from the Government Records Service. CUHK’s University Service Centre for China Studies holds some unique documents found nowhere else in the world (maybe besides China, but documents of this nature are hardly accessible there), such as the Internal Reference volumes from 1949 to 1964. These were reports circulated among high-ranking Chinese Communist leaders. Internal Reference was not only helpful towards my senior thesis, but also contained materials related to Prof. Soon’s research on medicine during various Chinese Communist modernization campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s.

From January 13 to January 18, I went to Taipei, Taiwan to research the connection between the pro-US Kuomintang (KMT) regime and the right-wing cultural elites of Hong Kong during the 1960s, such as the filmmaker Run Run Shaw. I mostly looked into the archive at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica. I also tried to access the KMT party’s archive located in their headquarter. However, due to various protests and important party representative meetings, the archive was temporarily closed for security reasons during my stay.

In fact, these protests were perhaps as important a part of my research trip as the research itself. My stay in Taipei was right after KMT lost the presidential election to the ruling party Democratic Progressive Party in landslide fashion. I was unlucky (or perhaps lucky) to witness a group of KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu’s (who is a rather outspoken, sexist, and overall indecent person) supporters almost closing off the KMT headquarter. Apparently, they called for the party chairman to step down because he should take responsibility, not the presidential candidate.

In Hong Kong, I also saw the damage left behind by the clashes between students and police at CUHK. The rather remote campus was the center of violence in November, when the students refused to leave campus and the police, despite CUHK president asking for mercy on students, brutally forced their way into the campus after a few days of fighting. When I was there, the CUHK library building was a construction site. Because of its proximity to the entrance, the exterior walls were damaged. Even inside, for example, USC where I researched, was also undergoing refurbishing. The floor was covered in planks and canvas. I could always hear the sound of drilling and hammering. Luckily, all the materials at the library were untouched. The USC staff and CUHK faculty and student using the archive also talked about the “Battle for CUHK” all the time. It was hard to not take note. The experience was genuinely interesting, considering that my research topic was about another wave of civil disobedience a few decades earlier. I’d like to thank the Fellowship Committee for giving me the opportunity to not only conduct archival research but also to understand how important history is to the present.