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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 4:14am
CommentLetters

Hong Kong's colonial era records remain intact

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 4:58am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 4:58am

I should like to reassure your readers, lest they be speculating on the fate of Hong Kong government records prior to 1997, that there was no mass destruction or secret burning of records in Hong Kong in the run-up to the end of British administration of the colony ("Burning embarrassments of empire", November 30).

It was the policy of both the British and Hong Kong governments that the records of the Hong Kong colonial government and its archives should be passed in their entirety to the future HKSAR government on July 1, 1997, which was carried out under the general oversight of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group.

A small number of records were selected for copying and the microfilm copies were sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London. This was done to provide the FCO with an information resource in support of the UK's continuing obligation to monitor the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the question of Hong Kong. The original records remained in Hong Kong.

I can attest to this, as I was appointed to the post of Government Records Co-ordinator in the then Deputy Chief Secretary's Branch of the Government Secretariat in June 1987 with responsibility for management of the microfilming of these records.

That the Public Records Act in the UK did nothing to prevent the destruction of records in British colonies prior to their gaining independence in no way diminishes the value of archives or records legislation.

Indeed, it is the very existence of an archives law that condemns the acts of destruction that occurred.

And before we hasten to condemn the actions of British colonial officials acting under orders from London during the last years of empire, let us remember the recent mass destruction of Hong Kong government records under the administration of the last chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, prior to the move of the central government offices and the Office of the Chief Secretary to Tamar.

If readers wish to express their outrage at the destruction of records reported in the above-mentioned article and recently in Hong Kong, I urge them to do so in a constructive way: support the campaign to demand that the government enact archives legislation in Hong Kong (yes, that's right; we don't have an archives law) to ensure that further losses of records do not occur here again.

Don Brech, former Government Records Service Director,Causeway Bay

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This article is now closed to comments

johnyuan
Only street people have no urge in keeping record. Neither have they had the means nor use. But for government officials especially coincidently of British and Chinese, the tradition of diligent record keeping for posterity can be said unequivocally admirable. The burning of official records as reported in SCMP by the Tsang’s Administration during the government office relocation was most daring and anti-respect of history and unequivocally despicable. He and his administration by default not enacting an archive law is clear of the crime but they will never be clear of their own conscience or forgiveness from the people.
dynamco
Not True
all the Special Branch files were shipped to UK before the handover
that of course was before Bowtie started covering his tracks or maybe he shipped them to the Vatican

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