Cold War in the New Territories: Garrison and Internal Security, 1949-1984

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    During the Cold War (1947-1991), the New Territories of Hong Kong was turned into a garrisoned space to secure and sustain British colonial rule. In the context of global strategic contraction and cuts in military spending, the British invested considerably in the defence of the New Territories until the 1980s. The situation in Hong Kong, to a large extent, however, was decided by the larger contexts of the Sino-Russo-Anglo-American relationship and the People’s Republic of China’s policy towards Hong Kong. Given the unlikelihood of a PRC attempt to take over Hong Kong by force and the garrison was never expected to defend the colony in such an eventuality after the Korean War, this study asks if it was justified to invest a significant amount of money and resources in maintaining a military presence in the New Territories. It also explores such a presence’s techniques, effectiveness, and impact.
    To tackle these questions, this proposed study adopts the approaches of archival study and Spatial History to discuss the security and policing dimensions of the New Territories during the Cold War, especially from the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 to the conclusion of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984. Using archival and other sources from different sides, it assesses the role and effectiveness of the British military investment in stabilising the situation and the responses from different sides. It looks at the complex international context, the discussions over Hong Kong’s defence policy, and the changing situation in the New Territories during the post-war decades, during which parts of the area witnessed rapid transformation and modernisation, as well as turmoil such as during the 1967 Riots.
    The Spatial History approach supplements archival-based research by creating historical data layers about the British garrison’s experience in the New Territories that can be collated and analysed. It maps the British military and other operations in the New Territories as well as the related infrastructures, discuss how natural and human geography factors shaped the garrison’s physical presence and its operations, and ascertain the impact of security considerations and the garrison’s presence on the social-economic landscapes of the New Territories. Using the Spatial History method highlights the importance of local variations and spatial contexts in understanding the complexity of colonial military history and the history of policing during the Cold War.
    StatusNot started
    Effective start/end date1/01/2531/12/27


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