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Lecture and Lunch - How South Asians helped to make Hong Kong - Mr. Mark O'Neill

  • Royal Asiatic Society 14 Stephenson Way London, England, NW1 2HD United Kingdom (map)

“How the South Asians Helped to Make Hong Kong” tells the remarkable story of the great contribution of Indians, Pakistanis and others from the sub-continent to the building of Hong Kong, from the first day it became a British colony to the present. They worked as soldiers, policemen, prison guards, jewellery merchants and international traders. Prominent among them were Parsees, who set up the Star Ferry, Hong Kong University and the Ruttonjee Sanatorium, the main hospital that fought tuberculosis in the post-war period. They built temples, mosques and community centres. Gurkhas from Nepal patrolled the border with Guangdong and prevented tens of thousands of illegal entrants, especially during the Cultural Revolution. Today there are 80,000 South Asians in Hong Kong. Of them, 45,000 are Indians, double the number at the handover. Most of the new arrivals are engineers and professionals in finance and IT. Fortunately, Hong Kong has been spared the religious conflict and violence that have scarred many countries. Jews, Muslims and Christians can walk the streets carrying symbols of their faith; they do not fear abuse or attack.

The Speaker

Mark O’Neill was educated at Marlborough and New College, Oxford and worked in Washington DC, Manchester and Belfast before moving to Hong Kong in 1978. He has lived in Asia ever since, in mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, India and Hong Kong. He worked more than 30 years as a journalist, for BBC, Reuters and The South China Morning Post. Since 2006, he has written 10 books on Chinese, Hong Kong and Macao history; nine have editions in Chinese, traditional and simplified. He has presented several of them to the Royal Asiatic Society in Hong Kong and London and always finds the members a wonderful audience. One is about his Grandfather Frederick, an Irish Presbyterian missionary in Manchuria from 1897- 1942, with editions in both forms of Chinese. This book has taken on a life of its own, with inclusion in two mainland Chinese television documentaries and the main anti-Japan war museum in Shenyang. Mark’s grandfather has also been selected for an exhibition on Irish abroad at the Museum of Emigration in Dublin. Mark will give a talk on the book there on August 22. At the moment, he is helping the Irish Consul-General on a book on the Irish contribution to Hong Kong – the most outstanding are those, like Grandfather, Jesuit and De La Salle priests and Columbian Sisters. They helped to cure the city of tuberculosis, the biggest killer of the post-war period, and educated thousands of people.

Admission to lecture: £8 per member or £12 guest, to include refreshments

Lunch: a self-paying lunch will be arranged at 12:45 p.m. at Chutneys, 124 Drummond Street, London NW1 2PA (corner of North Gower Street). Tel: 020 7388 0604. Please note on the booking form if you wish to join the lunch, or advise by email when booking.

Booking: Please email Florence Cantle Please transfer £8/£12 per person to the Friends’ bank account at least a week before the event, if you can. Thank you. If not, mail the form at the end of this newsletter and bring cash on the day.