About Hong Kong
Most people, apart from those familiar with modern history, are unaware that as early as the turn of the century (after the Sino-Russian War), Britain entered into alliance with Japan. The special relationship lasted until the outbreak of the Pearl Harbor Incident in 1941. Meanwhile, however, the British people remained firm in siding with China. It was in the year when the July 7 Incident (1) broke out that I first became aware of the said alliance between Britain and Japan. In those days, there were foreign settlements in Shanghai. And The Dagon Bao (2) had its office successively located in the foreign-controlled districts of Tianjin, Shanghai and Hong Kong. In 1936, one year before the July 7 Incident, because I had one of Chen Baichen’s (3) plays published, in which there appeared several times the expression “X foreigner” (the cross X had been added by the editor), I was summoned three times to court by the Shanghai Municipal Council under British and Japanese control. Finally, thanks to the cross put into the manuscript, I was exempted from imprisonment.
From 1938 to 1939, when I was in charge of editing the Art and Literature Supplement of The Dagong Bao, I often got into disputes with British censors (or rather with my masters) over manuscripts. When a British censor put in a red cross at will, all I could do was withdraw the entire manuscript. Sometimes, being hard pressed to find a replacement for it, I had to leave a blank on the page to show that something had been suppressed by censorship. Take a look at The Dagong Bao published in Hong Kong in those days, and you’ll find lots of blanks. Once the British censor even had half a page killed.
Why? Because China and Japan were at war, and Britain and Japan were allies. The Hong Kong colonial authorities prohibited any protest staged in a region under their jurisdiction against the atrocities of the Japanese troops in China. Their word was law. There was no reasoning with them!
In the autumn of 1939, I went to England to teach at the invitation of the College of Oriental Studies of the University of London. I sailed on a French steamer. When the ship arrived at Saigon, it was requisitioned and all passengers were to look for hotels for themselves except the several scores of Chinese who were escorted to concentration camps. Luckily, I was instead put under house arrest after I asked somebody to pass on my visiting card to the local Chinese consul general, who happened to be a former schoolmate of mine at Yenching University, Beijing.
After going through a lot of trouble, I finally arrived at the port of Folkestone, England, in October. But, while going through entry formalities, the entry certificate issued me by the British officials turned out to be one for an “enemy national residing abroad”. When I asked the official in charge for the reason why, the answer he gave was very simple, “China and Japan are at war while Britain and Japan are allies. So, that’s that!”
I remained a scapegoat until 1941 when I became a “great ally” overnight at the outbreak of the Pearl Harbor Incident. The alliance between Britain and Japan then vanished into the air with the flames of war raging over the Pacific.
As to Hong Kong, I of course cherish many beautiful memories. I had my love affair on that island, I played on the fine sands of its beaches, and I many times climbed up its mountains to watch the night scenes. From 1986 to 1987, in particular, I spent a period of unforgettable days as a visiting scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, which had the most picturesque campus in the world. All that accounted for my redoubled joy over the return of Hong Kong to our motherland.