10 cents too much: a look back at Hong Kong’s Star Ferry and the one-man hunger strike it inspired

The fare increase was seen as a harbinger of future fee rises

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 12:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 12:09am

Before the Cross-Harbour Tunnel was completed in 1972, the ferry service was a vital link between Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui. On October 1, 1965, the Star Ferry Company lodged an application to the government to increase the fare by 10 cents.

That was a substantial amount when a newspaper back then cost 10 cents and many workers only earned a few dollars a day. The Star Ferry’s application was widely seen as a harbinger of further surges in fees and charges that would affect people’s livelihoods.

At more than 100 years old, Hong Kong’s iconic Star Ferry is still going strong

Most editorials in local newspapers opposed the fare increase.

Urban councillor and social activist Elsie Tu launched a petition against the proposed fare rise and called on the public to speak up, warning that it would be “too late if you do not hurry”.

In March 1966, the Transport Advisory Committee recommended to the government that the fare be increased by five cents.

So Sau-chung staged a one-man hunger strike outside the Star Ferry pier’s concourse in Central on April 4, 1966. His actions drew sympathy from some members of the public and 11 young people joined the hunger strike.

On April 26, three weeks after the disturbances, the government approved the Star Ferry’s application for the fare increase.