Hong Kong

on the World Today

AMERICAN interest in Hong Kong is greater today than at any other time since 1842. Hong Kong is important for our relations with the British on most Asiatic questions, not only because the British recognize Peking and we do not, but also because Hong Kong is sensitive to all the economic winds that blow in Asia. Its economic future is affected by our economic policies in Japan, the Philippines, and Malaya, as well as by our embargo on trade with Communist China.

While the major structure of Anglo-American coöperation is firmly bedded in European and Asiatic treaty organizations, military commitments, and military enterprise, Hong Kong dramatizes major differences between the British and the American approach to both local and general situations.

The British prefer to think of Hong Kong as a sort of larger Rock of Gibraltar with shops on it. They would like to keep it so. While the British bring to the administration of the colony many of the finest things in their tradition — free speech, honest administration, impartial justice, and political sanctuary — they like to look upon the hopes, the ambitions, and the politics of Hong Kong’s population as a purely administrative problem. Hong Kong is a free port with tax-free goods; it is a free market for the exchange of everything except ideas. The British like to think that the world needs Hong Kong and that, in administering and protecting it, they are doing a public-spirited service. They do not wish it to become a Western Berlin, an ideological front line for the free world. They feel that it is in exactly this direction that American policy is pushing them.

The United States is deeply involved in the Hong Kong situation because of our relations with the National Government of China now on Formosa. We are interested, in a way that the British are not, in reducing the friction among the non-Communist Chinese and in assisting the National Government in maintaining a certain dignity and prestige.

We are therefore concerned with the enormous problem of Chinese refugees in Hong Kong and Kowloon. At the minimum they represent a humanitarian problem. At the best they might be valuable assets for the free world. In any case, the problem can be handled only through the coöperation and permission of the British authorities in Hong Kong. Like many other countries, we are also concerned with intelligence about Communist China and find Hong Kong a valuable source. Once again, however, our activities are carried on under the British flag.

Few situations are more complex. The British, who have recognized Peking, have had to give up their assets in Communist China, send contingents to fight in Korea, give protection to Chinese Communist banks and businesses in Hong Kong, face American-backed Japanese economic competition, observe the embargo on trade with China, and at the same time care for more than a million antiCommunist Chinese refugees.

The Hong Kong refugees

Since the Communist conquest of mainland China, the British have admitted nearly one and a half million anti-Communist Chinese without discrimination, an act of generosity for which the British do not always receive sufficient credit. The refugees imposed upon the colony an economic burden which it was ill prepared to bear. It has done as much as could be expected by setting up refugee camps such as Rennie Mills, which takes care of 3000 persons. Although there are few refugees who are actually starving, there are hundreds of thousands living under intolerable conditions, and for these the situation is desperate indeed. Most of them have to crowd into the poorer living quarters or live as squatters in ramshackle huts.

The big influx has already occurred, but day after day there comes across the border, either openly or secretly, a steady trickle of refugees. Some are Catholic and Protestant missionaries, starved and tortured for months or years. The indignities imposed upon them have served the Communist purpose of making a mockery of Christianity and Western influence. Some are Chinese businessmen and scholars who have escaped at great risk to themselves and to the hostages they left behind.

There are in Hong Kong today some of the very best brains among the anti-Communist Chinese. Many of them are American-trained; nearly all of them are over twenty and many over thirty years of age. They stand for that very considerable element in Chinese leadership which could not be bribed or coerced into the Communist regime.

The Hong Kong refugees are of all sorts and come from every walk of life. There are militarists, businessmen, officials, prostitutes, students, politicians, professors, and a few professional exiles. Some have had personal experience with Communism, and some fled before the Communists took over. They are a generation torn and divided, separated from friends, parents, and children. Many are completely hopeless and despairing, although they retain the usual Chinese capacity to keep their dignity in the midst of poverty, disease, and war.

The hardiest among the refugees are planning for the future, gathering information, and writing pamphlets and books. They talk and act like men who know that they are in a backwater but who feel that they might be swept into the main stream of history at any moment.

Propaganda mill

The Hong Kong government permits the dissemination of propaganda and the publication of books, but it frowns upon political organization and prevents political action. It is therefore much easier for t he Chinese to talk than to act, but the talk cannot be ignored. Hong Kong has played an important role in Chinese politics and thought before and may yet do so again.

The influence of Sun Yat-sen is still important. The revolutionary committee of the Kuomintang, after taking refuge in Hong Kong from the National Government, joined the Peking regime when Chiang Kai-shek was driven out, and its leader, Li Chi-sen, is now vice-chairman of the Peking government. Hong Kong is a place, therefore, where political ideas can be developed and political groups can survive.

Both Peking and Formosa are aware of the political potentialities of the Chinese in Hong Kong and react in their different ways. Peking carries on a tremendous amount of propaganda in Hong Kong through newspapers, magazines, and bookstores, where it makes available at low prices an endless flow of books and pamphlets. It is interesting that in spite of the enormous efforts the Communists have made in Hong Kong, the circulation of their newspapers has gone down. Their dull and earnest sheets with their repetitious falsehoods and distortions do not seem to be able to compete with a free press; they are designed for a captive audience.

The Communists also take advantage of the inability of the colony to handle so much destitution by trying to send in “comfort missions.” With very little expenditure, they hope to turn the resentment and discontent of the destitute away from themselves, who are responsible for the situation, and towards the Hong Kong authorities. Their secret agents abound and keep up a reign of terror through selective assassination.

Formosa’s fear off competition

Formosa is jealous of any political thinking and organization outside the control of the National Government and alternates between persuasion and repression. It is particularly worried about the possible emergence in Ilong Kong of a new force. The National Government has good reason for such concern. It does not wish to have two centers of non-Communist Chinese resistance; and, more especially, it does not relish the idea of competing with political groups in Hong Kong for the leadership of the overseas Chinese.

We can afford to take a more impartial view of political trends among the Hong Kong Chinese than can Formosa. We are interested in political revival wherever it may occur among the free Chinese, and would rather take a chance on unity based on diversity than on conformity.

There is certainly no lack of diversity. In fact, there are almost as many different Chinese parties as there are Chinese. Practically every group calls itself a third force. There is a high degree of rivalry between distinguished people, and a great reluctance to accept leadership and organization from any quarter. There are many, in fact, who are enjoying the luxury of political irresponsibility under the protection of the British.

At the same time, among the more responsible Chinese, there is agreement upon t wo major points — slated in the order of priorityy. One is that the Chinese Communists have sold China to the Russians and have therefore betrayed the basic drive of the revolution for national independence. The other is that the Commnnists have dost roved personal freedom, undermined traditional hineso Values, and set up a rigid political system based on one-parly control.

It would be fair to turn these eonelusions around and say that if there is any general agreement on political objectives among the many little groups, it would belo re-establish the political independence of China and to set up a constitutional government with a multiparty system.

Anti-Communits move to Japan

The future obviously lies with younger men, but older leaders such as Ku Meng-yu and Carsun Chang still carry weight. Ku Meng-yu is an old Kuomintang man, once associated with Wang hing-wei, whom he repudiated when Wang became a Japanese puppet. He is more of a scholar than a professional politician.

Carsun Chang, a political scientist, has long been known as a man lighting for constitutional government and the rule of law. He played something of a role in the Marshall negotiations, when he had a reputation as a leader of the middle groups. He is one of 1 he few open critics of the Kuomintang who can go in and out of Formosa, He has been recently in America seeking funds to establish a Chinese universily in Japan to which he would hope to attract overseas Chinese.

Ku Meng-yu and other older Chinese leaders are already established in Japan. They represent some of the finest values in modern China, but it is still an open question as to bow far their leadership will be acceptable, The move to Japan is probably the most significant political decision they have made. The atmosphere in Hong Kong is too restrictive, and other Asiatic countries are not hospitable.

We shall probably ha ye to make important political decisions if anything concrete emerges from this vast political seminar among the free Chinese. In the meantime, however, there is a growing American interest in the refugees as a responsibility of the free world and as a potential political asset.

Resettling the refugees

Neglect of refugees from Communism in Asia stands out in sharp contrast with the measures we have taken in Europe. The hardening of American policy, since Korea, against any further extension of Communist Power brings the non-Communist. Chinese within the political confines of the free world. Some moves in the direction of handling this problem have been taken by the Committee to Aid Refugee Chinese Intellectuals, but to date matters are in the preparatory stage. Agreements have been made with the National Government to open the door in Formosa to refugees, and committees have been set up in Hong Kong and Taipei to handle the problem.

Other plans call for resettlement in other countries of Southeast Asia, schemes for employment in Hong Kong itself, and the sending of teams of outstanding Chinese leaders to lecture among the overseas Chinese. Some twenty thousand or more of the Chinese intelligentsia in Hong Kong have registered with the A.R.C.I. Committee and 50 per cent of this group is willing to go to Formosa — the first evidence we have had as to their feelings on this much-debated subject. With sufficient financial support it would be possible, at the present time, for 5000 or 6000 families to be resettled in Formosa.

Such measures, if carried out, will have a leavening effect on all nonCommunist Chinese. If persuasive antiCommunist Chinese could be circulated among the overseas groups, with the blessing of Formosa, much could be done to block the influence of Peking, which is appealing to the young Chinese in Southeast Asia.

The problem of refugee Chinese in Hong Kong would still remain, for all these plans could not affect very large numbers; but it would not be so dangerous if political leaders emerge who are capable of welding together the many disparate elements among non-Communist Chinese and giving them a program for action.