How Hong Kong Played A Role In WW2

Honk Kong developed in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The colony began attracting Chinese trade from abroad and immigrants. Prior to WWII Honk Kong remained in the shadow of Shanghai. This was because Shanghai was the premier financial and trade center for Asia. During the early 1900’s civil war, rebellion, economic chaos and political upheaval were tearing China apart. The population of Hong Kong grew due to the immigrants fleeing from the famine and conflict in China. A nationalist revolt was led in 1911 by Sun Yat-sen. This eventually brought down the Qing government and led to the 1912 Republic of China.

The Japanese invaded China in 1937. Japanese forces occupied most of China by 1938. Refugees running from the areas occupied by the Japanese pushed the population of Hong Kong in 1939 to one and a half million. After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941 Great Britain went to war with Japan. In spite of the efforts of the Australian and British forces the forces from Britain surrendered during Christmas Day after battling for eighteen days.

Honk Kong remained under the rule of the Japanese for nearly four years. Two thirds of the Chinese population in Hong Kong ran to China. Honk Kong currency plummeted and trade halted. Materials from factories and buildings were stripped and sent to Japan. Shortages of food became normal. In 1945 the Japanese surrendered. British rule was reestablished for the remaining population of 600,000. Civil war soon erupted between the KMT or Nationalists and the CCO or Mao Zedong’s Communists. Between 1945 and 1950 there were 1.5 million Chinese fleeing to Hong Kong.

The CCP’s won the war in 1949. The KMT began running to Taiwan. The refugees were not halted until the border between the New Territories and China was sealed by the CCP. At this point the population of Honk Kong was 2 million. A trade embargo was imposed on China by the UN leading to serious consequences for the economies of Hong Kong and China. Famine and chaos caused more immigrants to flee to Honk Kong. By 1953 squatter camps were occupied by Chinese refugees. 53,000 people were left homeless by the Shek Kip Mei fire.

Some of the immigrants from Ningbo and Shanghai were property tycoons, financiers, entrepreneurs, bankers and businessmen. Their capital was mostly intact and those who lost their capital did rebuild. These entrepreneurs led the development of Hong Kong in electronics, shipping and textiles. Hong Kong became internationally strong in industry and finances. The economic growth during the 1950’s and 1960’s was roughly ten percent a year. Manufacturing became important and masses of refugees provided labor. Over half of the exports from the colony by the 1960’s came from the garment and textile industries.

In 1967 Mao’s Cultural Revolution caused pro-Commie leftist riots. This led to demonstrations against the British, massive strikes and violent clashes with the Honk Kong police. Fake and real bombs were planted throughout the city and members of the press were murdered.

The standard of living in Hong Kong rose in the 1960’s and 1970’s. U.S. Navy ships entered the picture during the Vietnam war. This led to the red light districts in Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai. Sanctions were lifted by the United States in 1971. This placed Hong Kong on the road to prosperity and economic growth. The economy grew very quickly during the 1970’s and 1980’s. By 1972 the population of Hong Kong had reached 4 million. The ICAC or the Independent Commission Against Corruption was established in 1974 to eliminate corruption and crime.


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