Friday, December 12, 2014

Historical Context: Touch-Base Policy

Headline: HK government cancels Touch-Base Policy as of midnight (October 26, 1980)

We see it in Hong Kong dramas all the time. A police officer stops someone on the streets and asks to see their identity card. Ever wonder why everyone in Hong Kong must carry their identity cards with them at all times? Well, read on...

Before 1949, people could move freely between Hong Kong (then a British colony) and China. But with the Chinese Civil War, waves of refugees from China rushed to Hong Kong. The population of Hong Kong increased almost three-fold in just five years between 1945 and 1950. The sudden large increase in population posed a huge problem. A heavy strain was put on public utilities, such as housing, education and social services.

Famous people who immigrated to HK during this time: Ha Yu, Kara Hui, Lo Hoi Pang

In 1974, the Hong Kong government introduced the Touch-Base Policy (抵壘政策), which stated that immigrants who reached the city and connected (ie. "touched base") with their relatives, could apply for Hong Kong residency. Those who were caught at the borders were sent back to China immediately.

The rationale behind the policy is that if the immigrants continued to live in Hong Kong with an illegal status, they would enter the black market for labour or participate in criminal activities. Moreover, the immigrants could serve as a source of cheap labour for the thriving industries.

Anyone who made it past Boundary Street was considered to have reached urban territory.

Immigrants had to be south of Boundary Street before they were safely "in the city". When China ceded Hong Kong to Britain, the line was drawn at Boundary Street, with the north belonging to China and south belonging to Britain. Later, the British negotiated a 99-year lease for the "New Territories", making the territory north of Boundary Street part of Hong Kong as well. Although urban development sprawled up on both sides of the street, it was still traditionally seen as the separation between rural and urban.

However, the Touch-Base Policy did nothing to stop the influx of immigrants. If anything, it may have encouraged people to make repeated attempts to get to Hong Kong. In October 1980, the government abolished the Touch-Base Policy. Immigrants who had arrived before October 23 were given a three-day grace period to register for Hong Kong identity. After that, illegal immigrants were subjected to repatriation upon arrest.

Headline: HK government reminds residents over age 15 to carry their identity cards

The implication was that everyone above age 15 in Hong Kong was now required to carry their identity cards with them and present it to a law enforcement officer when requested, so as to detect illegal immigrants.

Originally posted at Casual TVB

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post - very informative. Btw, have you watched these two old tvb programs, "光影流情", and "Since 1967/That was then" (由1967開始), depicting the growth of HK thru the years. I did not watch all the episodes in either show but those I did watch I found them very informative and interesting.