Historic Hong Kong seen in newly released British video archives

Newsreel maker Pathé's archive offers rare glimpse into city's past

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 7:46am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 February, 2015, 10:36am

The legendary newsreel maker British Pathé has released its entire collection of historic films on YouTube, consisting of some 85,000 reports. 

The South China Morning Post has sifted through the vast collection to find historic reports on Hong Kong. The archive includes footage from the earliest days of film news coverage up until 1970.

Video - British troops prepare for the possibility of a Chinese attack in 1949

“Hong Kong expands upwards, the only direction where there is room," said a news anchor in one 1963 newsreel.

“As a free port, Hong Kong is a paradise to far eastern drug traffickers,” reports another in a clip on a drug incineration plant built in 1967.

The newsreels also provide a glimpse of the patriotic bent of British news coverage in the early days of film. "Only here, under the protection of the Union Jack, does Miss China feel completely free," says one broadcaster in a reel from 1939.

The footage show Hong Kong's transformation from an important hub for Allied supplies to reach China in the second world war, to a safe haven for Chinese refugees and ultimately a market for British goods.

They also show the massive construction projects undertaken to get rid of squatter villages and connect the more remote areas of the New Territories with Kowloon. 

Click your way through Pathé's earliest report from 1925 on an unidentified tycoon’s funeral to first colour footage from a helicopter flying over Victoria Harbour.

Other clips include the surrender of Japanese troops after the second world war, the onslaught of refugees from China in the early years of the People's Republic of China, several royal visits from Britain and reports on the city’s rising skyline.

View a full-screen version of the timeline