University of Bristol 'To Make a British Crown Colony White': The League of British Whites and the British community in 1930s Hong Kong
15 Dec 2016
On 5 August 1933, the South China Morning Post reported the formation of an association called 'The League of British Whites' in Hong Kong. Aiming for the 'protection and advancement of British whites', the League urged constitutional reform to make Hong Kong an autonomous 'white' colony. Officials there – the League's representative claimed – were too inclined to think from the Chinese point of view, and only through 'self-government' could the 'British Whites' protect their 'own kith and kin'. It aimed to enact laws that would compel companies to employ 'British whites', 'do away' with unemployed Britons, forbid the abuse of aliens – especially Chinese – trading under British names, and even abolish Chinese Justices of Peace. The formation of the League prompted frantic discussion amongst the British community there, as evidenced in the editorial and correspondence column in local newspapers. Some condemned the League for being fascist. Others welcomed the idea of making Hong Kong more British, while worried that it would create political instability, harm the economy, and generate a class of poor whites.
Through examining the formation of the League and the British community's debate that followed, this talk seeks to discuss how the community defined a British identity. Their response towards the League reflected not only how they perceived Hong Kong, but also their desire to maintain a perception that the British 'race' was not only white but also non-poor. A minor chapter of the community indeed, the League nevertheless sheds light on understanding overseas Britons' notions of Britishness.
Vivian Kong is a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol under the Hong Kong History Project. By situating the colony as a site of interaction between the British, Chinese, Portuguese, Indians and Eurasians, her doctoral research explores notions of Britishness in interwar Hong Kong.
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