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Volume 4 Number 4
PORTUGUESE IN HONGKONG
When the British Fleet dropped
anchor and raised the flag at Possession Point on a January morning in
1841, the first people ashore were clerical staff from the British Trading
Companies in Macau. Ever since, the Portuguese have woven a rich and
splendid thread through the history of Hong Kong.
Twenty years ago, there were still many thousands of them living in
Hong Kong. Restaurants serving the distinctive food of Lisbon were
studded around Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui and there were residential
enclaves in Happy Valley, Caine Road, Kowloon Tong and in the early 30’s
the historical district of Mata Moro, cradle of ‘Nossa Gente’.
Today, apart from the Club
Lusitano in Duddell Street and Clube
de Recreio, there is little left. Today, in San Francisco, Sydney
and Vancouver, the former Hong Kong Portuguese sit in coffee shops and
talk of home.
Many have died over the years. The obituary pages have listed the
departure of such men as Luigi Ribeiro, the spry old fighter, and gentle
Christopher d’Almada, and many more. Many have left Hong Kong looking for
better opportunities for their children. In the 1950’s there were about
10,000 ethnic Portuguese in Hong Kong. Today, not more than 1000
A. de O. (Sonny) Sales, fervent patriot and champion of the
Portuguese Cause was born in Shameen, China, of Portuguese parents; grew
up in Macau and attended St. Joseph College, Hong Kong. Began life as a
clerk, later served as Chairman of the Urban Council, Hong Kong, and one
of the world’s leading sports administrators. He is a successful
business entrepreneur and currently President of Club
Lusitano and Clube
de Recreio. He was in the forefront of a campaign to help
Portuguese living in Hong Kong to obtain Portuguese Passports. ‘Sonny’
looks back at the halcyon days before the wars, the era many regard as the
high tide of community life when the three focuses of life were the
church, sports and social functions where the young people, the girls
carefully chaperoned, danced the night away.
It was a close interlocking
community and one which, when they were not playing hockey or waltzing at
Clube de Recreio, often pondered just who was a Portuguese. Everyone knew
what a Portuguese was, but after centuries in Africa, India, the Malay
Islands of the Indies, Goa, Japan and China, it was sometimes difficult to
explain. Intermarriage over the generations had blurred the lines.
“Above all, religion was the bond’ says ‘Sonny’. There were
no Portuguese who were not Catholics. In addition to the church, there
were bonds of affinity to the homeland which many Macanese and Hong Kong
Portuguese had never seen. “It was not just ethnicity” Sonny explains.
Many leading members of the community were the result of mixed marriages
and race never meant a great deal in the community. More important were
culture, customs, traditions and cuisine handed down over the generations.
Portugal’s Consul-General then in Hong Kong, Felipe Albuquerque, stressed that he represented all passport holders. He estimates the ethnic “Portuguese” at about 1000, an aging community with comparatively few people. What is a Portuguese? This is a question the Goan-born Diplomat of mixed ancestry answers with a smile. He explains that an ethnic Portuguese will speak at least some of the language and “hold high the torch of Portuguese culture”. Sir Roger Lobo, one of the Portuguese community’s most respected members, admits he does not know how many ethnic Portuguese remain. His large family is typical; his 11 children are scattered all over the globe, mostly in professions in the United States. Most left Hong Kong to give their children broader horizons, to present them with education and work opportunities.
Once settled, they did not
come back. Inter-marriage in Hong Kong and abroad diffused the
community feeling. Today, like other members of the community, one big
concern is providing social services to the aging Portuguese left
behind by families who have departed.
Many of the remaining Hong Kong community trace their roots via Portugal and Brazil. After 1949, there was an influx from Shanghai and Shameen and other former treaty ports. Historians have also dated many of the families in Hong Kong and Macau back to 15th century settlements. Some names down through the centuries include, Noronha, Cruz, Sousa, Rodrigues, Gomes, Lobo, Botelho, D’Almada, Soares, Montalto de Jesus, Neves, etc. etc... “The number of families were very small” said Sonny. “It was really close knit”.
In 1840, Macau was a city in
economic decline, largely because of the war being fought between Britain
and China over the opium trade. Consequently, many of the young men
sought jobs in newly established Hong Kong. Unlike the British, they
could speak Cantonese. They provided the vital link between the
British merchants and their Chinese counterparts. This clerical role
was to remain a community enclave for more than a century - any young high
school graduate was virtually assured of a position with the Hong Kong
Bank. Others became lawyers, dentists, journalists, and led the
professions, like Sir Albert Rodrigues who for decades was one of Hong
Kong’s most respected doctors. “We were not all disadvantaged”
Sonny says of his youth, and the Second World War suddenly brought
that era to a rude end.
Social life was the order of the day. It was marvelous. Some
dances at the Club Lusitano, like New Year’s Eve and Portugal’s
National Day, were very formal and one had to dress up. Proper behaviour
was strictly observed. Other events like dances and night fetes at
the old Anglo-Portuguese Victoria Recreation Club (VRC) were much more
relaxed and more fun.
Sonny spent the war years in
Macau, but many other Portuguese - slightly older, joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) and if they were not slain in the fighting
during World War 2, began long and dreary imprisonment in prisoner of war
camps. After the war, Hong Kong's Portuguese tried to pick up the
pieces and put together again the comfortable secure life they had enjoyed
for almost a century.
Lusitano, founded in 1866, began redevelopment of its old Central
office which had made it one of the least expensive and most desirable
City institutions. And soon the hockey sticks were again whacking balls
over the grounds at Recreio. But
things had changed, and the Portuguese community was changing with the
times. In the 1950’s there were about 10,000 Portuguese in Hong Kong -
far more than any other non-Chinese group.
It was a confusing community.
Many Chinese held passports issued by Lisbon’s consulates but did
not consider themselves to be Portuguese. On the other hand, many of the
stalwart members of the community held British documents and appeared in a
statistical count of Portuguese citizens. Basically, if you considered
yourself Portuguese, you were one. Migration started with war-time
prisoners many of whom were sent to Britain and Australia to recuperate
from 44 months of malnutrition and mistreatment in the POW camps.
Older people retired, and uncertain of the future of China which
was still emerging from the turbulence of civil war, decided to settle
elsewhere. Their children followed. They chose places where they
could live quietly, where there were jobs, above all where their children
could get a good education. California was number one on the list.
Then came Australia, Brazil (for
those who could speak Portuguese), Canada, New Zealand, and the ancestral
homeland that so many had never seen. Gradually, the charming
family-run little Portuguese restaurants that studded Causeway Bay began
to disappear. Some of the schools closed down.
estimates there are no more than 1500 “Portuguese” in Hong Kong, and
that includes the many Hong Kongers who could be fifth or sixth generation
of residents with British passports and more blood of Guandong than
Lusitania in their veins.
“The affinity continues.”
The Portuguese are ever proud of their heritage, and in their hearts and
minds there will always be a part that is forever Portugal.
note:Although Cyril wrote this a few years back, it is still a fine
testament and account of who we are and where we came from. Our best
wishes go out to him as he is convalescing from his ailments at Richmond
into Autumn Dinner/Dance
trees showed off their red, orange, and gold leaves, and the Casa joined
in welcoming Autumn with a Dinner Dance attended by a hundred members and
friends. Alvaro and Therese Alonco from Australia, were here for a
visit, and joined us as well. It is always a happy occasion to
meet members of our Casa Family, especially after so many years of
It was a double celebration as a
birthday cake, with 102 candles were lit up, for Humberto Pires, the
youngest member of our Casa. Humberto still takes his daily walks and
a peck or two with his dinner which he attributes to his healthy
As usual, the food-laden buffet table was a “feast”, and in
anticipation of Christmas, a flaming Plum Pudding sat amidst
desserts of bebinga de leite, caramel pudding, batatada, jellies,
Music then filled the hall and dancers converged on to the dance
floor. The ever popular ‘line dancers’ never tired and even
those not familiar with the dance joined in and were quick to fall in with
their fellow line dancers. Thanks to our hardworking Social
Committee, Volunteers and Donors, the party could not fail and
was a resounding success.
next ’Big Event’ will be to welcome 2003 to be held at the
Richmond Inn Hotel. We’ll be seeing you once again for more fun and
Mabel and Rene (Sonny) Ozorio celebrated their 50th Wedding
Anniversary on 15th October 2002, with Mass at 5 pm, at St. Joseph The
Worker Church, followed by a Reception at Quilchena Golf and Country Club,
Present for this Special Occasion were their children - Rene Jr.
from Thailand, Suzanne Ozorio Corides from San Diego, Joanne from Hongkong,
and Antonio and family in Vancouver. Also present were Rene’s
sisters, Lydia and Abet Ozorio from Toronto, Zina Ozorio Sales from Los
Angeles, Dr.Joe and Mae d’Almeida from Regina, Mildred Ozorio Castro
from Toronto, Pat Ozorio Marques from Los Angeles and Joia Ozorio Smart
from Los Angeles, Mabel’s mother and many friends from out-of-town as
well as those in Vancouver.
After dinner there was a delightful video of family pictures, their
‘courting’ days, Wedding Day , and the years that followed with
their delightful children. The children took turns in expressing
words of gratitude to their parents and toasted them to many more happy
years to follow.
Mabel was lovely in a gold-coloured gown and Rene lead her to start the evening’s dance to the tune of Hawaiian Wedding Song, sung by Andy Williams. It was indeed a happy and memorable day.
Reservations for the Meeting Room for 2003
Saturday, 8th February
12th April - ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Saturday, 10th May
Saturday, 12th July
Saturday, 13th September
Saturday, 8th November
also made for São João Picnic at Queen's Park, Shelter 1 for Saturday,
14th June, 2003
pm No Host Bar
send Cheque to
and their dependant children ( 7 to 18 yrs.) $40.00per person.
- $80.00 per person.
All persons who have not renewed membership by Oct.2002 will be noted as guest.
Francisco Xavier M.B.E. - (Sonny) _ Passed away in his beloved wife
Eva’s arms with his loving children, Frank and Ana by his side on
Friday, the 20th September 2002.
CAMPOS, Alvaro (Avito) passed away on July 27th, 2002, at the age of 82. Survived by his loving wife Teresa (Chuchi) of 53 years, and his daughter Catherine (Robert) Guterres and son Peter; grandsons Stephen(Dana) Guterres and David Guterres.
was entirely on the initiative of the Red Cross that there was any kind of
relief for dependents of prisoners of war, or people outside the official
British internment camps. At every stage, the British Government had to be
badgered. Within the Colonial Office, officials noted that they were
‘dismayed to see how much per head would be spent on dependents and
could therefore not be spent on internees proper’. Their primary
concern was Stanley and POW camps, and they only grudgingly accepted that
non-white dependents would need help too. Had the prisoners of war
discovered, on their eventual release, that their families had not
survived, there would have been political fallout.
This attitude is further demonstrated in the way in which the families of volunteers drafted in China to help the British were treated. These men, some of them very skilled, offered to help the British war effort and were sent to India. When news did get through, they learned that the families they had left in China were not getting any support and were destitute. They pleaded with the British to give some form of assistance to their families, but nothing was done. In many cases, these men completely lost touch with their families, the consequence of military discipline in India. So unlike British troops elsewhere, their families were in a war zone.
can appreciate the British alarm at the cost of Rosary Hill, which were
higher per capita than for Stanley and the military prison camps.
However the reasons for this were simple. The Japanese used premises
rent-free and paid the salaries of their own staff! The actual cost of
Stanley and the military camps was partly defrayed by the Japanese,
whereas the IRC (International Red Cross), was entirely responsible for Rosary Hill. Moreover,
conditions in Rosary Hill were not meant to be punitive. This does not
justify the harsh conditions in prisoner of war camps, but the women and
children at Rosary Hill were non-combatants and only there because they
had nowhere else to go.
I do not feel it is fair to raise the question of mismanagement of funds
at this late stage it does appear that, as with most situations like
these, human incompetence and greed will impact how funds are used.
Doctors were quite specific in this point, citing many examples of poor
management and misuse of funds. They mentioned that contracts were
made at high prices to purchase goods that might not have been needed.
The camp bought food through an agent when it could have bought things on
the open market more cheaply.
said that there was a lack of control over the camps material assets -
stores lay unused while new items were purchased. As medical
officers, they were particularly alarmed that people without medical
training should control medical supplies and make decisions over
treatment. In Stanley and the prison camps, misuse of funds and
stealing of care parcels could be blamed on the Japanese, in Rosary Hill
the blame is less easy to pin down. That there was some form of poor
management is probable. Rosary Hill was top heavy with managers and
appointed officials, who had salaries, and may have, though not in all
cases, seen a chance to get more out of the Red Cross in other ways.
If there was mismanagement it was probably at a low level.
Post war, there was criticism of Mr. Zindel, head of the IRC in Hong Kong for failing to do enough for internees and prisoners of war. But he
was a young man placed in an unenviable position. He was
constantly under surveillance and he had little room to maneuver.
The IRC achieves its aims by being impartial and non-partisan. Zindel
could not have confronted the Japanese to any major extent. Reading
his correspondence, it is clear that he tried his best to ameliorate
conditions and that the sufferings of the people he tried to help were of
genuine concern to him. He had to be persistent and assertive to get
concessions from the British at all. That he was in no position to
exercise stricter control on all the people responsible for running Rosary
Hill was unfortunate, but it was only one of his many responsibilities.
we should also be cautious about the intent behind some of the negative
reports about the IRC. During the occupation, the British Government
relied on information supplied via the British Army Assistance Group.
This was frequently compiled from anecdotal reports from refugees leaving
Hong Kong. Its agents in the underground were more active in finding
out about military conditions and conditions in Stanley and the prison
camps, because BAAG policy was oriented towards British interests.
Furthermore, the head of the
BAAG Col Lindsay Ride believed that it was the duty of British to escape
Hong Kong. He could not understand why most of the prisoners of war
did not see escape as a legitimate means of furthering the war effort.
He was completely unable to understand people like Selwyn Clarke who chose
to remain and work loosely in conjunction with the Japanese for the
purpose of looking after those who had to remain in Hong Kong. There
was no love lost between these two men, who both saw their choice as
correct. Since it was so difficult to get accurate information out
of Hong Kong, the news of Selwyn Clarkes activities with the Japanese,
could have easily have been misconstrued. There are many
inaccuracies on the official record. Anyone associated with him in
any way, came under suspicion.
Please email any comments or contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or fax them to (604) 737-2266 for my attention. Thank you.
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