My daughter A alerted me to the movie “Vanished Archives” and I was instantly hooked. It has been 50 years since the 1967 Riot but the memory is till fresh. It is, of course, an extremely important event in the history of Hong Kong. It is instrumental in understanding the nature of the Chinese Communists. Even now, 50 years later, the making of the movie can still tell us a lot. It is also a very vivid moment in my life.
I was 11 in the summer of 1967, at the height of the Riot. I was home for the summer vacation, just about to be promoted from Primary 5 up to Primary 6 - for the second time in my life. I could be the only person in history to have done that. I was playing with a bunch of friends on the grounds of the government quarters on Ka Wai Man Road (加惠民道) in Kennedy Town (堅尼地城). We found a package, about 6 inches long and wrapped in a newspaper, in one of the flower beds. It looked very much like one of the numerous bombs all over Hong Kong planted by the Leftists at the time. For some reason, I came to believe that it was a fake bomb, not a real one. I took it out of the flower bed and gave it a kick, proving that it was a fake (詐彈). My friends were suitably impressed.
My parents, on the other hand, were shocked. What would have happened had it not been a fake? Would I have died like the young brother-sister pair who were killed in North Point? I was taken home and given a beating with a cane (雞毛掃), and made to kneel before the ancestral tablet (神主牌) - to help me remember not to be so stupid again. I had no resentment against the punishment because I knew I deserve it. It also helps me understand how reckless I can be.
The general population was truly scared by the bombing campaign. We were resentful towards the killing of Lam Bun (林彬) and the many other atrocities committed by the Leftists (左派). It was also true that the Royal (British) Hong Kong Police was high-handed and could be brutal towards the rioters. After the Riot, the Colonial government then took a number of actions to address the discontent in the society: building of public housing, reducing corruption, social welfare, economic development, …
The makers of the movie found that the Hong Kong government had erased many of the records of the Riots, particularly those that reflect badly on the Communists. Hence the name of the movie. They also find it difficult to find places to screen the movie.
What exactly happened? Why did the Leftists in Hong Kong started the Riot? Did they really expect to drive out the British and take over Hong Kong? Were they directed by the Central Communist government in Beijing, or just one of the factions in power during the Cultural Revolution? Why did they stop, or were stopped, so suddenly towards the end of the year? What does that tell us about the policies and principles of the Chinese Communists?
There are many reasons why we should watch the movie and find out more about the 1967 Riots. I am glad some of my students were in the audience. I spoke with some of them after watching the movie. They were born a long time after it happened. I am surprised but happy to note that some young people are interested in history, in knowing the truth, in understanding and caring about society.