Leung Chun-ying

Peter Tsang Yu-hung seeks to clear name over 1967 riots

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 2:37am

It has been 45 years since what he terms his unlawful imprisonment during the 1967 riots, but retiree Peter Tsang Yu-hung is asking Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to help clear his name and that of his family.

Tsang says that apart from blighting his own career as a teacher, the conviction that led to a year behind bars has also blunted the ambition of his son to be a policeman.

Tsang, now 62, was a form-five pupil at the pro-Beijing Heung To Middle School in Kowloon Tong in 1967, when leftist riots against British colonial rule broke out.

He was arrested by police when he was going home on a November afternoon.

"It was around 5pm, and I was together with 51 schoolmates and a teacher, within walking distance [from the school] in Somerset Road," he recalls. "We were stopped by a team of Hong Kong police."

Although the police found no weapons or inflammatory materials in their schoolbags, the students were arrested and placed under detention in Victoria Prison for attending an illegal assembly in a public place under the emergency law in force at the time.

"It was very upsetting and painful and I felt helpless at that time, because I believed that we were innocent," Tsang says. "We were arrested just because we were Heung To students … a month later, we were taken to the court without lawyers representing us and without being given the chance to defend for ourselves. I remember the judge asked me if I would plead guilty. I said 'no', and I was sentenced to about a year in prison along with about 20 other schoolmates."

Tsang said the conviction in the trial, held on December 3, 1967, had caused "tremendous difficulty" in his life.

He could not get a job as a schoolteacher after graduating from Baptist College, now Baptist University. He later found work as a nursing teacher and worked in nursing until his retirement two years ago.

Tsang knew his record would also make it impossible for his son to get through family background checks and become a police officer.

"But I was reluctant to tell him about my past history at that time," Tsang said, "so seven years ago, when my son told me he wanted to become a police officer, he was very disappointed when I strongly advised him to consider some other profession."

After retiring as a manager at the North District Hospital two years ago, and learning that it was impossible to seek a judicial review of a 45-year-old ruling, Tsang has appealed to Leung to overturn his conviction.

"I am not young any more, I desperately need my past encounter to be reviewed and corrected," Tsang wrote to the chief executive. "I am certain that [a review] will not only restore my reputation but will also give pride to all students and teachers of Heung To Middle School."

Tsang lodged his petition yesterday morning at government headquarters, and among a dozen friends who turned up to support him was film director Yim Ho, also a former Heung To student. Yim said he was planning to make two movies from next year featuring stories from the riots, including Tsang's.

Legislator Chim Pui-chung unsuccessfully appealed to then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa in 2005 to have the criminal records of all people convicted during the riots cleared.