Big Fleeing to Hong Kong
In the 1950s and 1970s, at the beginning of the Chinese
Communist Party』s (CCP) reign,
millions of people fled to Hong Kong from Shenzhen.
Their fleeing was the first and the largest public
rights-defending activity since CCP founded its regime.
The author of book 「Big Fleeing」 (temporary translation),
Chen Bing』an, was a reporter for Shenzhen Special Zone Daily.
He revealed this tragic period of history in Hong Kong in July.
There was a famous ballad in Bao』an, Shenzhen,
a city close to Hong Kong:
「There are three treasures in Bao』an:
flies, mosquitoes, and manhole oysters;
90% of the households fled to Hong Kong,
leaving only the old and young behind.」
Since 1955, there had been four large scale flights.
Escapees were from 12 provinces and 62 cities in total.
On Hong Kong』s book fair on July 23, Chen Bing』an,
the author of 「Big Fleeing」 gave a speech on
「Collective Memories of Hong Kongers — illegal immigration
and stories of fleeing to Hong Kong in the 1950s~1970s.」
He said among the refugees, there were farmers, students,
urban residents, workers and even soldiers and CCP』s cadres.
The CCP government treated the escapees harshly.
If caught, they were considered traitors.
Before the 1960s, soldiers stationed at the borders were
allowed to shoot escapees disobeying their orders.
Many escapees were killed on the beach and in the mountain.
At the beginning of 1980s, more than 400 bodies were found,
when Shekou industry area was developed.
「At that time, there were armed policemen by the river to
stop people from feeing; it was hard to pass.
There were three ways to escape:
one is swimming across Dapeng Bay from the east.
You can see how broad the bay is. And there are sharks in it.
Many people were killed by sharks.
Once I asked a friend about the people died crossing the bay.
Were they drowned as they were too tired to swim?
He said that (some were) frozen to death.」
Why did people risk their lives to flee to Hong Kong?
「At that time, the main reason was economic problems.
It was hard to live.
There were also other reasons, including political ones.
Large political changes in 1957, 1962 and 1979, combined
with economic hardships led to people mass fleeing to HK.
They didn』t have political motives as the media said.
They just wanted to feed themselves and have a better life. 」
Tens of millions of people died during the three years of
the great Chinese famine from 1959 to 1961.
In April and May 1962, large groups of starving people
fled to Hong Kong as waves.
Bao』an』s main road of 50km was crowded with escapees.
People fled in groups with their old and young.
It was said that a lot of people risked their lives
just for being able to have food in Hong Kong,
as the HK government promised to provide food for refugees
In January 1967, musician and ex-president of
Central Conservatory of Music, Ma Sichong,
who had been abused and humiliated by the CCP,
fled to Hong Kong in a boat with his family.
Many Hong Kong media reported on this event.
Soon, a decade-long flight to Hong Kong started,
with educated youth from Guangdong as its main participants.
In 1976, just after the Culture Revolution, Chinese people
were relaxed a little from the extremely high political pressure.
A large-scale flight to Hong Kong started again.
In Shawan production team in Panyu County, Guangzhou,
the team leader, CCP secretary and security officer all fled.
In Huiyang County, out of the 566 members of a fishing team,
112 people successfully escaped within a few months.
On May 6, 1979, 70,000 people from over 80 counties
flocked to Shenzhen, from where to go to Hong Kong.
Bao』an county government issued four consecutive orders
to 「fully prohibit illegal immigration.」
To stop escapees, it deployed thousands of police and militia
to patrol the coast day and night.
It also set barriers on the road between Shenzhen and
Guangzhou. However, all the methods failed.
Chen said, the CCP tried all means to stop people.
Chen, 「In the second period, (they found those) not work.
People still ran away. (They) began to persuade politically
and psychologically, sing communist songs,
study Mao』s remarks, play communist performances,
recall 「bad old days」, in order to reassure people.
Some of them really used all kinds of methods.
(2 years later), actors and their CCP secretary all fled.」
Challenged by waves of people fleeing,
the CCP government found them impossible to stop.
To maintain its own rule and interests,
it had to turn 「stopping」 to 「opening」.
It implemented reforms in Shenzhen first.
Some say that the 「big fleeing」 was the first and the largest
public rights-defending activity since CCP came to power.
NTD reporters Xu Min and Ge Lei