“Reds Starving Hong Kong”: Geopolitics of Vegetable Supply in British Hong Kong (1940s – 1960s)

Michael Ng

1The University of Hong Kong, , Hong Kong

Drawing upon hitherto unexplored archival materials, this paper examines how the colonial Hong Kong government strategically imagined and prepared for a famine in Hong Kong that would be caused by possible cut-off of food supply by Communist China. The loss of China to communism in 1949, outbreak of the Korean War in the 1950s, global cold-war geopolitics, and ongoing ideological warfare between the Nationalist and Communist parties in Hong Kong during the entire period from the 1950s to the 1960s made Hong Kong Government step up in defending against any shortage of vegetable supply that had been relying on mainland China.  Despite severe opposition and objection from Hong Kong farmers, the rural communities and local media, Hong Kong government established the Vegetable Marketing Organization to monopolize distribution and fix the price of vegetables produced in rural Hong Kong and imported from mainland China to ensure its supply for the need of urban population in Hong Kong. Conventionally regarded as one of the freest cities for doing business with much-vaunted minimal government intervention, Hong Kong has in fact witnessed severe government interference or even monopolization in businesses that are geopolitically important to the British Empire’s interest in the Far East.


Michael Ng is a legal historian focusing on the legal history of China and Hong Kong in the 19th and 20th centuries. He authored three books and published works in Law and History Review, International Journal of Asian Studies, Business History among others.




The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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