288 Massey to McIntyre

Letter SINGAPORE, 5 July 1949


At a meeting of the British Defence Co-ordination Committee on 21st June, 1949, the Commissioner-General made a statement on the United Kingdom Government's most recent policy regarding Hong Kong. Mr. MacDonald said that at meetings which he had attended of the United Kingdom Chiefs-of-Staff, it was decided that:-

(a) Hong Kong can be defended against any scale of attack which is likely to be mounted by the Chinese Communists alone, provided United Kingdom reinforcements already detailed for its garrison arrived in time.

(b) To avoid any unfavourable interpretation of British action in defending the Colony, steps must be taken to publicise this to the world as legitimate protection of an integral part of British territory, and not 'a barren defence of colonialism.' 2. Mr. MacDonald went on to say that these decisions had been favourably commented on both by Commonwealth governments and the United States Secretary for State.

3. Difficulties would arise, if, instead of attacking Hong Kong by military means, the Chinese Communist authorities asked formally for its rendition, and started a diplomatic and propaganda campaign in its support. This problem had not been fully considered by the United Kingdom Cabinet before Mr. MacDonald returned to Singapore, so even greater mischief, of course, would spring from the likely campaign of internal unrest and sabotage which would precede or accompany such a campaign.

4. There is still considerable difference of opinion here between the authorities whether an attack is likely, and if it is, when it would be made. It is considered that some likelihood exists of small bodies of picked men from the P.L.A. [1] making sporadic attacks on the frontier within the next few weeks, but no general concentration of the sort required to mount a major attack is likely before September.

5. The decision by the Chiefs-of-Staff to make available what amounts to practically the whole of the British Army's mobile reserve, for the immediate defence of this Colony, clearly implies that at least until the beginning of a general war, Hong Kong's future as a British possession is now a principle of accepted policy. On the other hand it seems generally realised that, in the event of war, Hong Kong's defence would be impossible and represent in any case a commitment quite out of proportion to its usefulness. The JIC(FE) [2] has significantly proceeded with a study of the political consequences which might be likely to ensue if the current policy were to be abandoned on the outbreak of war, and I enclose this for your Top Secret and personal information.


[AA:A6768/2, EATS 70]

1 People's Liberation Army.

2 Joint Intelligence Committee (Far East).

3 Not located.

[3] I suggest that it might usefully be burned after it has been