Land of Opportunity

East Meets West

1966 Star Ferry Riots

1967 Leftist Riots

Borrowed Place, Borrowed Time



Star Ferry

In April of 1966, the Star Ferry Company made a fateful decision.  The Company decided to charge an additional five cents for first-class fare on the Star Ferry.  Before the establishment of the Mass Transit Railway in the 1970s, the Star Ferry was the most popular means of transportation for crossing Victoria Harbor.  The cross-harbor ferry ran back and forth from Hong Kong to Kowloon.  Thousands of Hong Kongers rode the Star Ferry everyday. 

The additional fees implemented by the Star Ferry Company led to two days of rioting and the arrests of 905 people.  Many of the rioters were young people, aged 16 to 20 (Tsang, 188). They were mainly lower class citizens who would not even have purchased first-class tickets.  It is important to note that there were only two classes of seats on the Star Ferry: first and second-class.  First-class seats on the Star Ferry were on the upper deck of the boat; second-class seats were on the lower deck of the boat.  The difference between the two classes of seating is marginal.  The extra five cents for first-class fare made little impact on the rioters’ lives.  The historian Steve Tsang cites boredom and frustration as the chief instigators in the riots.

Raising of the Union Jack at the Government House

However, the protests signaled the underlying tensions between the British colonial government and the general population of Hong Kong.  The local population blamed British rule for the poor standard of living in Hong Kong.  In Hong Kong: Borrowed Place—Borrowed Time, Richard Hughes describes the disparity in living conditions between the rich and the poor, and the locals and expatriates.

Life, as in most of Asia, is hard and cruel for many.  There are gross extremes of wealth and poverty reminiscent of Shanghai in the thirties and forties.  The hanging gardens and golden roofs of terraced villas on The Peak overlook the diseased scabs of squatters’ huts corroding distant hillsides, the fleets of junks and sampans that are the floating homes of 100,000 people, and the huddled packed tenements, where another 80,000 subsist illegally on the rooftops, and which succumb so often to typhoon and fire or collapse from old age (Hughes, 9).

Victoria Peak

The locals were dissatisfied with the inequalities in Hong Kong’s capitalist system.  However, the rioters in 1966 did not find Maoism an appealing solution.  Hong Kongers were not willing to completely overthrow British rule.  Locals were torn between the stability and peace the British government offered and their deep-rooted loyalty to China.

My dad and his entire family were staunchly anti-communist.  According to him, the most the most anti-communist people in the household were the maids.  The maids were the only ones who would go back to China on their annual trips back to their villages.  They would come back with horrendous stories about life in China.

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