HC Deb 24 October 1956 vol 558 cc623-4
37. Air Commodore Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to make a statement on the recent riots at Kowloon.

36. Sir D. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to make a statement on the recent disturbances in Hong Kong.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

There was serious rioting in Kowloon on 10th and 11th October and minor incidents on 12th October. Troops had to be called in to assist the police in restoring order. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a fuller account of the course of the disorders. I shall not, however, be in a position to make an authoritative statement on their origins and significance until the rigorous investigations now being undertaken by the Government of Hong Kong are complete.

Air Commodore Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend say when he expects the report from the Governor of Hong Kong will be received? Is he aware, in the meantime, of the disquiet at the slowness with which the authorities acted in suppressing the riots?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In answer to the last part of my hon. and gallant Friend's supplementary question, I think he would share with me the view that it is easy from the security of the United Kingdom to say that troops should in fact be invoked at an earlier stage in any local disturbances outside. I do not believe that that charge is justified in this case in Hong Kong. I am awaiting the full report, and, knowing the speed with which the Governor of Hong Kong operates, I am sure that it will not be long delayed.

Mr. Bevan

In the inquiries which are being made and the report which is expected, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the identification of the population of Hong Kong more democratically with the Administration?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I have a Question to answer on that matter later today.

Following is the statement :

On the morning of 10th October, a non-Communist Chinese national festival, a dispute developed on a Government resettlement estate in Kowloon. The settlement supervisor tried to stop tenants sticking Nationalist paper flags on the walls. Flags may be flown in Hong Kong, but may not be stuck on the walls of Government buildings. A crowd assembled, the resettlement staff were assaulted and their offices wrecked. The police successfully dispersed the crowd.

The same evening, however, fresh crowds assembled and began assaulting both Asians and Europeans and attacking property, apparently incited by criminal elements. By early morning next day order appeared to have been fully restored and bus services were resumed. But later in the morning fresh disturbances were begun at a number of points in Kowloon by mobs who started fires and attacked vehicles, buildings and police patrols. The mobs rapidly dispersed in face of police attacks but quickly reassembled elsewhere to renew the rioting.

Troops were therefore called in to cordon off the affected areas and isolate the mobs. They deployed during the afternoon of the 11th and in the evening a curfew was imposed on Kowloon and both public transport and the ferries between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island were stopped. There were also serious clashes between opposing Chinese factions in a textile factory area, to which police and troops had to be despatched. The major disorders were all suppressed by midnight on 11th October. There were minor incidents the next day—chiefly cases of looting—and on 13th October administrative services were resumed in the affected area. On 16th October the curfew was entirely lifted and all troops were withdrawn.

In the course of these disturbances 60 lives were lost and about 400 people were given hospital treatment. Damaged buildings included police posts, resettlement offices, factories, stores and schools. Over 5,000 arrests were made and nearly a quarter of those arrested were found to have previous criminal records.

The Government of Hong Kong have begun a rigorous investigation into the origins and course of the riots.

I should like, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to say how deeply we regret these disturbances and to extend our sympathy to all who suffered in them.

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