On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong declared, “the Chinese people have stood up”, and Communist sympathisers in Hong Kong felt that their nation had finally regained its sense of pride and purpose. Though he clearly relished the capitalist lifestyle on offer in colonial Hong Kong, Dr T.P. Wu became a prominent member of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Anti-British, Anti Persecution Struggle Committee. Dr Wu’s political persuasion was fed by his strong sense of Chinese nationalism.
The officers and men of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force served at the cutting edge of turmoil. Pirates and criminals faced execution on the mainland, so the British system of justice held little terror for them. In the summer of 1967 the force won wide community support as it battled missile-throwing mobs, defused bombs and stood firm against the jeering ‘running dog’ taunts of communist demonstrators. On 17 April 1969, the government announced that the Hong Kong Police and the Auxiliary Police had been honoured by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and accorded the title Royal in recognition of ‘valour and steadfastness’, in 1967.
When warships from the US Seventh Fleet eased into Hong Kong’s crowded harbour during the Vietnam War, or chartered Pan Am flights from Vietnam touched down at Kai Tak, news of their arrival had preceded them through the neon-bright network of bars and drinking holes that laced Wanchai. Large sums of money were spent on the silken companionship that R&R and the girls of Wanchai offered. The soldiers and sailors paid for everything in hard cash because they knew that when the money ran out, so too did the good-natured geniality of the mama-san.
The first Star Ferry made its maiden crossing of Hong Kong’s peerless harbour in 1897, and the popularity of the small boats that churn back and forth across the busy waterway remains undiminished more than a century later. Victor Pop Tye – a familiar figure to locals with his handlebar moustache, starched white summer uniform and homespun philosophy, was on hand every morning to personally greet commuters on their ferry rides across to Kowloon and back.