A man’s playground
in Hong Kong and British culture, 1945–97
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Post-war Hong Kong was not merely an arena for developing capitalism, modernisation, and good governance; it was also a site for leisure. Above all, Hong Kong was described as a venue for male leisure. This included recreating institutions familiar from home, such as sport and clubs, and allowing a wider range of sexual opportunity than the UK did, even in an era of “permissiveness”. Commentators, including for example Ian Fleming, described Hong Kong as a place in which European and American men could enjoy easy access to Asian women’s bodies, thanks to the conjunction of poverty and a traditional desire of Asian women to please men. The archetype of such a woman was Richard Mason’s character Suzie Wong. Whereas the enjoyment of heterosexual opportunity required a moderate amount of discretion, homosexual liaisons—criminal offenses for most of the Colonial period—required virtual secrecy. The latter point is illustrated by the death of police inspector John MacLennan.

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