Hong Kong: horrible histories

27 05 2017

61039

Facts I learned from Jan Morris’s charmingly dated (it was written in the 1990s by an author most interested in British colonial history) book about Hong Kong:

  • The pre-colonial inhabitants of the area suffered from a “horror called Xhu Mao Bing, the Bristle Disease,whose victims found spiky bristles like pighairs (sometimes apparently fishscales, too} sprouting through their skin.” Curious, I looked this up online but couldn’t find any other reference to it anywhere.
  • In 1857 a Chinese nationalist plot poisoned the city’s bread supply, (presumably few Chinese ate bread in those days so it was a cunning way to target the British administrative elite). The dosage of arsenic was miscalculated however, so that the poisoning lead to mass European vomitting but not death, and the colonial regime survived.
  • The first ever hijacking of an aeroplane occurred in 1940 on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Macau by sea pirates looking to diversify.
  • Smoking opium was legal until 1940.
  • Under the Japanese occupation, Queens Road Central was re-named Naka Meiji-dori and a monumental Shinto temple was planned for construction on the Peak (but blown up when the occupation ended).
  • It was not until 1981 that the census recorded more than 50% of the population had been locally born, rather than migrants from the mainland. So in other words, the influx of people (and money) from the mainland is nothing new. Rather, the brief relative lull during the 1980s and 1990s was the outlier.
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