T’so Tsun-on

Before the war Ts’o Tsun-on played a significant role in Hong Kong society. He was the joint Honorary Secretary of the Victoria League, a body which helped Hong Kong students studying in Britain.[1] He served as Honorary Aide de Camp to H. E. Liet-Gen E. F. Norton, relinquishing the post on March 13, 1941, along with many others – I think Norton left the Colony at this point. He was a senior member of the Hong Kong Police Reserve: the Government Gazette of May 23, 1941 records that he was switched from Adjutant to Senior Superintendent and Officer Commanding Chinese Company with effect from April 9.

He might have been related to the Hon. Doc. Ts’o See-wan (1868-1953), an Unofficial Member of the Executive Council with an interest in Police matters,[2] who’d been awarded the CBE in 1935[3] and was possibly the fourth most important Chinese in the Colony in the years leading up to the war,[4] and the representative of the Chinese community at the coronation of George V1 on May 12, 1937.[5]

Mr. T’so was involved in the resistance during the Japanese occupation. A Japanese document captured by the British Army Aid Group[6] summarises his ‘crimes’ thus:

In June 1942 T’SO TSUN ON, the Superintendent of the Police Reserve Force of the former HONGKONG government, in adaptation to consulting with LOOIE FOOK WING (TN[7] Alias David Loie), the assistant Superintendent of the same Force (who committed suicide at the time of his arrest on 31 May 43)[8] was in touch with the British Organisation at SHIU KWAN,[9] had to gather and communicate various intelligence regarding the military situation etc. of the Imperial army in HONGKONG, the conditions being the guarantee of the life of the Reserve Police Chief at WAICHOW. He gained approval for these proposed objects.

The document adds that T’so Tsun-on communicated these objectives to David Loie, who, towards the end of 1942 set up the beginnings of the ‘Hongkong Command Post’, a British espionage group, consisting of ‘a large number’ of ‘police officers’ (presumably reservists). This began to operate about March 1943:

Their operations finally extended to the P.O.W. Camp at HONGKONG and the Internment Camp for enemy aliens.

In April 1942 T’So Tsun-on summoned a meeting of former Reservists – presumably to set up an espionage network – and at some point thereafter he went ‘into the interior’ to consult British officials. His name is not on the document’s list either of those sentenced to death or to 15 years (later reduced to 10). I wonder if he was ever in Japanese hands? The meeting ‘in the interior’ (presumably Kukong) was in April 1942 and his discussions with Loie in June so he might have left Hong Kong later in the year. I think the key to understanding his fate is that mysterious (to me) phrase ‘the conditions being the guarantee of the life of the Reserve Police Chief at WAICHOW’. He was, of course the Reserve Police Chief, and he tell the BAAG at Kukong that he’d work for them from the base at Waichow? In any case, I can find no other source for his activity during the war or any indication of his death or survival. But, according to the Japanese trial summary, he played an important role in the resistance by initiating the movement among the Police Reservists.

[1] Hong Kong Daily Press, January 27, 1937, pages 1 and 7.

[2] See e.g. Hongkong Telegraph, October 12, 1933, page 4; Hongkong Daily Press, July, 10, 1935, page 8.

[3] Hongkong Telegraph, November 6, 1935, page 4.

[4] Henry Lethbridge, in I. C. Jarvie and Joseph Agassi, Hong Kong A Society in Transition, 1969, 82; 85.

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ts’o_Seen_Wan

[6]Part of the Ride Papers, kindly sent to me by Elizabeth Ride. The complete papers are held at the Hong Kong Heritage Project.

[7] TN = Translator’s note.

[8] David Loie jumped to his death from the roof of the former Supreme CourtBuilding, then the headquarters of the Military Police (Kempeitai) in order to avoid the possibility of betraying others under the torture to which he was being led.

[9] Better known as Kukong.


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Filed under British Army Aid Group, Hong Kong WW11

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