The 1967 riots changed the relationship between the colonial government and Hong Kong people, who showed discipline and political maturity during the disturbances, according to the former head of a government think-tank. Leo Goodstadt, the pre-handover head of the Central Policy Unit, said the change prompted the government to heed society's call for reform since the late 1960s. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Mr Goodstadt said a group of government officials thought the riots offered an opportunity to warn the government that they could not ignore the views of Hongkongers. 'On the other hand, there were some Hong Kong government officials who believed that no matter how good or bad, the Chinese population [in Hong Kong] would always support the motherland,' he said. 'At that time, there was also a feeling among the business community that Hong Kong workers should not have shorter working hours.' Mr Goodstadt, who was deputy editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review during the 1967 riots, said that after the failure of the general strikes in June 1967, the government had to accept that the city belonged to the people of Hong Kong, and that they alone would decide the fate of the city. He said: 'Now the government had to admit that the community had rights. The business community could see that the morale of the workforce was high, law and order was extremely good. People were very diligent and walked for one or two hours to go to work during the general strikes. 'As soon as this happened, it became possible to overcome the opposition of the business community to improve conditions of the workforce. 'In this spirit, governor David Trench announced the programmes for improving labour conditions.' Mr Goodstadt said most of the ideas in the reform programme had already been proposed, but were held up before the riots by opposition from the business community. He said the government put forward an ambitious reform programme in an official report in early 1967, which made a strong case for a mandatory provident fund. But it was subsequently shelved because of opposition from the business community. Mr Goodstadt said the disturbances changed the relationship between the government and the community. 'You [the Hong Kong government] just can't say we don't trust the Chinese. You can't say we can't have an open dialogue. You have to treat them like citizens,' he said. 'It was obvious to the government during the riots that Hong Kong people had social discipline and political maturity. 'The government recognised that with this kind of community, if they asked for something good, you had to just say 'yes' because you had no excuse for saying 'no'. 'It was a turning point [that] showed the quality of the community. We couldn't deny that the people of Hong Kong had the right to speak, and we had to listen to them.' Mr Goodstadt agreed that the colonial administration did not do well in many areas in the mid-1960s, but said the situation was not 'a revolution waiting to start' in 1967. 'When you walked around the streets [in 1967], there were complaints but no outrage.' There were very few activities by workers to express sympathy with the dispute in San Po Kong. George Walden, assistant political adviser to the governor during the 1967 riots, agreed that the social background to the disturbances could not be ignored 'But to suggest that the ultimate cause of the riots and the bloodshed were social conditions in Hong Kong would be grossly misleading,' he said. 'If that had been the case, the riots would have succeeded. 'The local communists were reckless and ham-handed. They exploited industrial and social disputes to stage a political confrontation,' he said.