'The colonial government made us the scapegoats'

Wu Tai-chow and Chak Nuen-fai paid a heavy price for sedition during the 1967 riots but they insist they were victims of selective prosecution by the colonial administration.

Mr Wu admitted that his articles did constitute sedition during Hong Kong's worst political upheaval. 'But our commentaries and reports at that time were no more seditious and radical than those published in [the pro-Beijing newspapers] Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao,' he said.

He said he was prosecuted just because his papers were not run by the Chinese government. 'The colonial government did not dare take action against Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao and we were the scapegoats,' said Mr Wu, consultant to a power generation firm.

The court ordered the Hong Kong Evening News, New Afternoon News and Tin Fung Daily to be suspended for six months. Mr Wu said the Evening News circulation dropped from more than 100,000 copies to below 10,000 after the episode.

Archives at Britain's Public Records Office show the arrests of Mr Wu and Mr Chak were masterminded by then special assistant to the governor, Jack Cater, and approved by Britain's Foreign Affairs Office. The arrests prompted Red Guards to stage an arson attack on the British Embassy in Beijing in August 1967.

'The colonial government considered the articles seditious simply because the riots were targeted at it,' Mr Chak said. 'Whether or not articles are seditious is defined by those who wield the power at the time. Didn't the Chinese Communist Party capture the mainland by subverting the rule of the Kuomintang?'

Mr Chak was a local delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference but he refrained from attending its meetings in Beijing following the Tiananmen Square massacre.