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Historical documents

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
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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