Event Detail


In the Line of Fire - Policing Hong Kong in the Early 20th Century

Patricia O'Sullivan
Monday, 30 Jan 2023
Hill Dickinson, 33B, United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty
It was when darkness had fallen on Cheung Chau, one night in August 1912, that a large gang of pirates stole ashore and made for the police station, where the Government rents were kept. This was no sturdy, well protected building, but a near-to-collapse former customs house, that was so decrepit that none of the five policemen stationed there could live in it. Nevertheless, they did their best to defend it.

Patricia tells the story of that unequal battle and its aftermath. She shows how that marked the beginning of a new phase for Hong Kong’s Police when they came to terms with a changing and increasingly violent world.  

The next decade would see more vicious attacks on the Hong Kong police, but countered now by new attitudes and techniques that far better protected both the people of Hong Kong and the police themselves. This talk will focus on some of those events, including the famous shoot-out at Gresson Street, Wanchai in 1918 and the running battle against a gang in crowded Canton Road in 1923. Patricia tells of these events and the changes that followed Hong Kong’s policing, which made such a difference for the decades to come.  

Patricia O’Sullivan has been writing about Hong Kong’s vibrant history since 2010, initially uncovering long-forgotten family stories. The result, Policing Hong Kong - an Irish History, was published in April 2017. Many avenues of exploration were opened up by this, often involving the less-chartered waters of Hong Kong’s social history. She published Women, Crime and the Courts: Hong Kong 1841-1941 in 2020. Patricia is presently writing a book on the First World War in Hong Kong, focussing on the Police who volunteered for military service.  

Patricia has resided in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, where she worked for Hertfordshire Music Service, and is still actively involved in music and music education. She is currently enjoying rekindling her love of Hong Kong after the enforced hiatus.  

Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$200 for RGS Members and HK$250 for guests and others.  

The opinions expressed in this talk are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of the Royal Geographical Society - Hong Kong.

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