In December 1966, riots sponsored by pro-Communist leftists erupted in the Portuguese colony of Macau, to the west of Hong Kong. After a general strike in January 1967, the Portuguese government agreed to meet many of the leftist demands, placing the colony under the de facto control of the People's Republic of China (PRC).
The tension in Hong Kong was heightened by the ongoing Cultural Revolution to the north. In May 1967 a labour dispute broke out in a factory producing artificial flowers in San Po Kong 新蒲岡gave the leftists in the colony an excuse to start their protests that would eventually turn into riots.
That riot was the driving force and motivation for my parents to leave Hong Kong with us and emigrate to Canada. We all experienced that riot of many bombs and deaths, disruptions of daily lives and loss of loved ones. Statistics showed that the British forces defused as many as 8000 home-made bombs, of which 1100 were found to be real. These were simply known as "pineapples" at that time. In total, 51 people had been killed, of whom 15 died in bomb attacks, with 832 people sustaining injuries. This makes this year's so called “riots” in Hong Kong look like a walk in the park!
August 20 this year marks the 52nd anniversary of the death of a boy and his sister killed by one of the home-made bombs This event became one the “turning points” of that riot as the support for the communists started to wane and without that sympathy from the citizens, the uprising died a slow death.
I was actually an immediate eye witness to the aftermath of the bombing death of these two children. I might have narrowly escaped a possible death myself by chance. Returning home after an afternoon's practice of ping pong in a community centre within a church, I egressed from the front of the building to get a pop from the machines. My routine would have been to exit at the back door to save a bit of travelling distance – a path that would let me walk by parked cars next to which the bomb was placed. The boy and his sister were playing next to that bomb when it exploded!
As I entered the apartment, a huge noisy explosion erupted with smoke and smell of gun power filling the entry street. From the balcony, I witnessed the arrival of the ambulance and the extraction of this young boy's body on a stretcher. Facing up and with blood running out of his nose and mouth, the body was covered in nails placed like a grid pattern. This horrible sight is still etched in my mind today. I was traumatized at the time but luckily I recovered fast without any lasting effects.
Throughout the riots, bombs were placed indiscriminately within the city. Electric Tram tracks and bus stops were favourite targets for traffic disruptions. The four Chinese words “Compatriot stay away” （同胞勿近）were almost always used as an identifier on the bombs to alert people to call the police. In many instances, these were “timed” or “motion-sensing” devices that would detonate with or without human intervention. Traffic and pedestrians had to be diverted from these real and fake bombs.
There were unannounced demonstration and protests organized by labour unions controlled by the leftists as well, causing major disruptions to an orderly society. It was under these circumstances that my parents thought of leaving the place where our ancestors established four generations ago as one of the few very prominent and influential families within the colony.
In 1967, very few people have the means and ways to leave Hong Kong but we took the first bold steps. The emigration waves and exodus came much later during the negotiations for the return of Hong Kong to China in the 1980's and then again at the actual turn-over in 1997.
Next week, I will tell more about my memories of the 1967 riots in Hong Kong and my subsequent journey to Canada.
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