The 1967 riots: A legitimacy crisis?

Lawrence Cheuk Yin Wong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The 1967 riots represented a landmark in the history of Hong Kong. The riots were initially triggered by an industrial dispute that escalated into violent clashes between the workers and the police. Subsequently the local leftists used the opportunity to challenge the Hong Kong government. There are two major arguments on the riots. On the one hand, local leftists saw the internal social contradictions and discontent among the Hong Kong people as the roots of the confrontations. On the other hand, the British Hong Kong government regarded the riots as an offshoot of the Cultural Revolution on the Mainland, and believed that the leftists had very little local support. This chapter intends to fill the gap of these two arguments by studying the logic, trajectory and the internal dynamics of the riots. Specifically, the chapter tries to address the following questions: (1) How did the Cultural Revolution in China affect the Hong Kong government in its dealing with the riots? (2) How did the Hong Kong government perceive and respond to the actions of the leftists? By focusing on these questions this chapter hopes to contribute to a renewed understanding of the riots, which relatively still lack in-depth analysis. This chapter characterizes the riots into three phases.l Phase One (May-June 1967) witnessed political demonstrations and strikes by local leftists. Phase Two (July-August 1967) was fuelled with bomb terrorism instigated by the leftists and the discussion in this section will outline how the three groups of actors reacted to it. Phase Three (from September 1967 onwards) was marked by the decline in political power of the radicals in China and the section here will show how this impacted the political actors in Hong Kong. The last section of the chapter will critically revisit the arguments by Ian Scott, who argued that the 1967 riots represented a crisis of legitimacy for the Hong Kong government. Indeed, this essay contends that the concept of legitimacy crisis does not seem appropriate for explaining the 1967 riots.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMay Days in Hong Kong
Subtitle of host publicationRiot and Emergency in 1967
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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