A former senior Chinese Administrative Officer has at long last lifted another little corner of the veil of half-truths and anodyne official releases which hitherto shrouded many of the decisions and evasions under the long Hong Kong governorship of Sir Murray MacLehose. David T. K. Wong — who started working life as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant at the age of 13 before becoming a journalist, teacher, colonial bureaucrat, international businessman, and then a writer of short stories and novels — has now turned his narrative skills to producing a pungent, sardonic, cerebral and revelatory insider memoir of his experiences in the upper reaches of the colonial administration during the 1970s.
In doing so, he draws attention to the political, cultural and economic cross-currents that have always swirled through the uniquely paradoxical city. As a Chinese, he constantly found himself struggling with a three-horned dilemma: how to serve the people of Hong Kong, who paid his salary; the wider Chinese nation, from which he was culturally and emotionally inseparable; and the demands of the British crown, to which he had publicly sworn his allegiance. Hong Kong Confidential is a valuable contribution to the historical mosaic of a dynamic Chinese community living through turbulent times.
“The name David T.K. Wong will be known to many who are active in Hong Kong’s literary scene. Founder of the eponymous scholarship for creative writing at the University of East Anglia, and the author of many volumes of short stories, Hong Kong Confidential is the third volume of Wong’s memoirs, with (at least) one more to come. The current volume covers the second half of Wong’s time in the civil service, which broadly overlapped Sir (later Lord) Murray MacLehose’s governorship. Sir Murray is held in high esteem and fond regard by many Hongkongers: his decade-long tenure saw Hong Kong burst forth on the world stage, and many of the institutions – public housing, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the US dollar peg – that we now recognise as quintessentially Hong Kong were put in place under his tenure. As a result, Sir Murray has an almost mythical status amongst the public at large. This volume seeks if not to debunk then to at least re-appraise that myth.” — Chris Maden, Hong Kong Review of Books
“Sometimes the arrival of a book dovetails nicely with an issue that’s sparking in the public arena. Such is Hong Kong Confidential: Life as a Subversive by David TK Wong, a Hong Kong-born author living out his sunset years in Kuala Lumpur. Wong served 21 years in the administrative service in Hong Kong, from 1961 to 1981. Hong Kong Confidential is a chronicle of the 89-year-old’s experiences in the civil service of the last British colonial outpost in the East which reverted to mainland China’s suzerainty in 1997. The book holds valuable lessons and insights into what makes a good civil servant and how, perhaps, to foster and sustain a top performing service.” — Terence Netto, Malaysiakini