'A haven for tortured souls': Hong Kong in the Vietnam War

Peter E. HAMILTON*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The Vietnam War exerted a profound economic and social effect on Hong Kong. Between 1965 and 1970, the British Crown Colony annually hosted about 200,000 US ground and naval personnel on holiday. This influx annually earned Hong Kong about US$300-400 million (in 2012 dollars) and employed thousands of residents working in the colony's service industries. Using English- and Chinese-language archival materials from Hong Kong, the United States, and the United Kingdom, the article examines how US servicemen and the businesses catering to them became contentious issues in local society. Servicemen excited widespread interest, but their misdeeds and their stomping grounds provoked intense anxiety. Hong Kong residents' ensuing debates exercised the colony's emerging public sphere, from newspaper battles to outspoken unions and neighbourhood associations. In tandem with the more commonly cited Star Ferry Riots of 1966 and the Communist agitations of 1967, US R&R was an essential ingredient in the emergence of a distinctive Hong Kong identity and citizenry during this period. While residents' objections failed to curb the GIs' haunts or holidays, Vietnam tourism and its reverberating effects pressed new sectors of Hong Kong people to grasp and articulate their investment as citizens in the territory's future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-581
Number of pages17
JournalInternational History Review
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Keywords

  • Hong Kong
  • Identity
  • Public sphere
  • R&R
  • Servicemen
  • Vietnam War

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