Asia, as Recorded in British Colonial Office Files

SPO Colonial header image

│By Julia de Mowbray, Publisher at Gale│

Gale’s first online archive of British Colonial Office files, State Papers Online Colonial, has just been released. The first four parts1 will publish the Colonial Office (CO) files relating to the administration of Britain’s colonies in Asia, namely, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei, British North Borneo, Ceylon, and the naval base at Wei-Hai-Wei (Burma and India were administered by the India Office).  

Part 1: Far East, Hong Kong, and Wei-Hai-Wei includes files from the Colonial Office’s general departments on Asia as well as the those from the administration of Hong Kong and Wei-Hai-Wei (Weihai). The Colonial Office general departments were the “Eastern” (1927-1951), “Hong Kong and Pacific” (1946-1955), “Far Eastern Reconstruction” (1942-1945), “Far Eastern” (1941-1967) and “South East Asia” (1950-1956) departments, spanning different periods, plus the early East Indies papers (1570-1856). These are joined by the Asia files from Confidential Original Correspondence, Confidential Print, Maps, Photographs series. In all it is around 385,000 pages. This part, therefore, is not limited to Britain’s colonies, but includes documents on China, Indonesia, Japan, and Korea. Each file is tagged with its subject country or countries to help researchers refine their search.

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The History of Extradition in Hong Kong

Victoria City, Hong Kong, circa 1920.

|By Winnie Fok, Assistant Editor, Gale Asia|

In February 2019, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government proposed a bill regarding extradition, to establish a mechanism for the transfer of fugitives to Mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau, which are currently excluded in the existing laws. The bill sparked fears over a potential loss of freedom and deterioration of the business climate in Hong Kong. As a result, protests erupted over the next few months, and lasted till early 2020. Extradition has a long and complex history in Hong Kong, owing in no small part to its colonial background. China and the Modern World: Hong Kong, Britain and China 1841–1951, a collection of rare historical materials from the British Colonial Office records, sheds light on this fascinating subject.

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Tears, Cheers, The Archers, and Soy Sauce: The Hong Kong Handover of 1997

“History is not just a matter of dates. What makes history is what comes before and what comes after the dates that we all remember.” Chris Patten.

It will have been exactly twenty years, this coming weekend, since Chris Patten, the 28th and last British Governor of Hong Kong, gave his memorable speech at the ceremony marking the handover of the former British colony to China. Perhaps there was a tacit acknowledgment in Patten’s words that, actually, the Hong Kong handover was all about dates. Were it not for the clock ticking on the 99-year lease deadline for the New Territories, it is doubtful that the handover would have been negotiated as speedily and peacefully as it was.

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