My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HONG KONG—Dr. Wan and Mrs. Fok came for us at 2 o'clock on Thursday afternoon. They drove us a little way down the main street and then we turned off into the side streets. Every street seems lined with shops, tea shops where people drink tea and, I understand, do much business, as well as every other kind of shop you can imagine, for everyone in Hong Kong—every Chinese at least—is struggling to make a living.

Not too long ago there were only 250 thousand people in Hong Kong. Today there are two and a half million and the foreigners total about twenty thousand. Even though the British have closed Hong Kong to refugees about two hundred manage to come in every week and the housing shortage becomes constantly worse. Dr. Wan showed me where some small cotton mills had been started and some other small factories by the Chinese who were able to bring out some capital and who were trying to employ some of their compatriots. He showed me the area where the poorer Chinese live and where some new houses were being built in an effort to meet the housing shortage. As I drive through these crowded streets, I have a feeling of a teeming population, far more than I had anywhere in Japan.

There are arcades over practically all the sidewalks which is done because of the hot weather. The shops open on these and above the people live. Every balcony has a family wash hanging outside of what looks to be just one room. There are probably rooms back of that but I have a feeling that overcrowding is the rule and not the exception.

All my life I have heard of the people who live on boats tied up in these harbors and today I had my first glimpse of them. These people never leave the boats, they live and die on them and their whole lives center in the life of the harbor.

Here there are rickshaws and the loads that men pull in rickshaws and that are carried on poles by both men and women, slung across their shoulders, is astounding. They have a kind of springy walk—almost like a dance step—which I think must help balance the poles.

We had an hour's reception at the American Club from 4:30 to 5:30 where we met some of the American community and in the evening we dined with the Governor General and Lady Grantham. They used to be in Bermuda and knew Franklin's half brother and his wife very well.

Government house is part way up the hill in Hong Kong and when we came out on the lawn after dinner we had the most beautiful view of the harbor and of Kowloon, with the many colored lights glowing across the water.

We came home by ferry so got the view also of the lights as they gleamed all the way up the hills on Hong Kong. It is always difficult to say that any harbor is the most beautiful in the world but I think it is fair to say that this is one of the most beautiful sights at night that I have seen anywhere in the world.

Friday morning I went off at 9 o'clock with General Airey to drive to the Chinese border and get an idea of the countryside.

E.R.
TMsd 2 July 1953, AERP, FDRL