HONG KONG (Reuters) – For anyone digging into Hong Kong’s history, the official archives might not be the place to look.
The office of the chief executive, Hong Kong’s leader, failed to hand over any official records at all for eight of the 20 years since it came under Chinese rule in 1997, according to the government department that manages the archives. The Security Bureau only did it for 10.
Researchers - Problem - Hong - Kong - Years
Researchers say the problem is that Hong Kong, under roughly 150 years of British colonial rule and the first 20 years of Chinese rule, has never had a law regulating how government records should be kept or destroyed.
As a result, the document retention that researchers see as necessary for keeping a record of the past has been somewhat spotty within Hong Kong.
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Under British rule, the archiving of documents in Hong Kong was also lax. In 1994 and 1995, for example, the Government House gave nothing to the archives.
But thanks to a constant flow of correspondence between the colonial government and London, Britain would have stored a copy of most official records, according to researchers.
Handover - Hong - Kong - China - Mechanism
After the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, that back-up mechanism disappeared, leading to concerns that fragments of Hong Kong’s history might slip away for good.
Unlike Hong Kong, China has a set of archive laws, under which officials failing to file records can face administrative sanctions, or face charges if the case constitutes a crime.
Researchers - Hong - Documents - China - Access
But researchers say that for any Hong Kong-related documents kept by China, access would be difficult.
Simon Chu, the former head of the Government Records Service who has been advocating for an archives law, said that prior to 1997 researchers could count on finding records in Britain,...
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