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1960s -1970s: Revolution

A booming economy, a restless people

1960s -1970s: Revolution


By the start of the 1960s, Hong Kong had developed into a major manufacturing center with a booming economy.

The rapid development was punctuated by the sound of construction, as the colony built housing, reservoirs, tunnels and highways at a breathtaking pace.

Hong Kong's predominantly Chinese population found itself at a unique geographical and cultural crossroads. Western rock music found a large audience in the territory's under-25 crowd, which made up about half of Hong Kong's population.

By mid-decade, the growing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War made Hong Kong a major stop for American troops seeking "rest and recreation." It was also the West's observation post into China, which was turning its back on much of the world.

But along with Hong Kong's "go-go" pace came the problems many cities face: crime, a greater disparity between rich and poor, and official corruption. The colony's manufacturing industries were, for the most part, unregulated, and much of the colony's labor force had to work long hours under poor conditions.

Meanwhile, across the border, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was taking place. Idealistic Chinese youths, spurred on by Chairman Mao, tried to restore revolutionary fervor to the Communist Party -- with disastrous results.

The political upheaval in China seeped into the colony. In 1967, a labor dispute at an artificial flower factory in Hong Kong quickly escalated into widespread street violence.

For several months, protesters -- many of them waving the Little Red Book of Mao's thoughts and chanting revolutionary slogans -- battled police, overturned cars and buses, stoned hotels, and in general disrupted life in the colony. Several bombs were also set off.

At one point, shots were fired across the border, from China into Hong Kong.

British officials responded with an anti-communist crackdown, imprisoning hundreds and closing down pro-Beijing newspapers. Official reports say about 50 people were killed during the riots and the restoration of order, with hundreds more wounded.

The disturbances were followed by several major social reforms in Hong Kong -- including the cleanup of the colony's scandal-ridden police force. At the same time, China was making it clear that it still considered Hong Kong a part of Chinese territory -- a part it would eventually reclaim.

More Hong Kong history

  • 1840-1860: Opium Wars
  • 1860s-1940: In the crown
  • 1941-1945: Occupation
  • 1945-1960s: Postwar
  • 1960s-1970s: Revolution
  • 1970s -1984: The deal


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