Chinese Communists and Hong Kong Capitalists: 1937-1997

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Chinese Communists and Hong Kong Capitalists: 1937-1997
by Cindy Chu Yik-yi
Palgrave Macmillan HK$858

It's an open secret that Beijing has favoured Hong Kong's business sector since the Sino-British talks over the city's future in the early 1980s. The business elite constituted the majority of the Basic Law Drafting Committee which penned our mini-constitution and their call for a slower pace of democracy is often heeded by Beijing.

Cindy Chu's new book, which studies the activities of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong from 1937 to 1997, argues that Beijing's bias towards Hong Kong's capitalists has its roots in the 1930s. The communists set up the Office of the Eighth Route Army in Hong Kong in 1938 to promote its anti-Japanese cause and receive aid for its war campaign.

Liao Chengzhi, the senior party official who headed the office, cultivated ties with Hong Kong's businessmen and secured financial support for his communist newspaper from friends in the banking sector. Liao, who became the founding director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in 1978, was the father of Liao Hui, who retired from the post last year.

The book details the mainland's 'united front' approach to Hong Kong's business elite after the second world war, particularly in the 1980s when business leaders emerged as the primary target of Beijing's work in the city.

Chu, a professor of history at Baptist University, argues that the communists were involved with Hong Kong's capitalists throughout the period during the 60 years before the handover. She points out that the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong capitalists have worked together since 1937, much earlier than most journalists have previously mentioned.

For academics specialising in the activities of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, it's no secret that the mainland spared no effort in allying with Hong Kong's capitalists, despite the party's ideological principles.

While the book provides a detailed account of the interaction between the communists and the business sector in Hong Kong, it largely depends on secondary sources, such as the memoir of Xu Jiatun, former director of Xinhua's Hong Kong branch.

The book could have been more vivid if the author had included first-hand interviews with local business leaders who were close to Beijing, such as Wong Po-yan and David Li Kwok-po, and mainland officials who were responsible for united front work in Hong Kong, such as Ho Ming-sze, former head of the united front work department of Xinhua's Hong Kong branch.