A Death in Hong Kong: The MacLennan Case of 1980 and the Suppression of a Scandal, a recounting of the death of John MacLennan, a policeman in late-colonial Hong Kong, won the 2017 Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong History Book Prize. The Chamber is delighted to present Mr Lt Col Nigel Collett, the author of the book, who will talk about this fascinating case and the light it shines on this period of Hong Kong's recent history.
In January 1980, a young police officer named John MacLennan committed suicide in his Ho Man Tin flat. His death came hours before he was due to be arrested for committing homosexual acts -- still, at that point, illegal in Hong Kong. But this was more than the desperate act of a young man, ashamed and afraid. Both his death and the subsequent investigation were a smokescreen for a scandal that went to the heart of the establishment.
MacLennan arrived in Hong Kong from Scotland during a time of social unrest and corruption scandals, and when the triads still held sway. It was also a time when homosexuality and paedophilia were often conflated and both offered easy targets for blackmail.
The governorship of Sir Murray MacLehose was a time of reform and progress, but with that remit came a determination among many to suppress scandals and silence those who stirred up trouble. Both the life and death of John MacLennan seemed to many of those in power to threaten the stability of one of Britain's last colonies.
The book will be available on sale at the event and members will have the opportunity to have their copies autographed.