Sinologist, Traveller, Governor, Spy: The Lives and Legacies of Sir Cecil Clementi, 17th Governor of Hong Kong

Sir Cecil Clementi (金文泰) (1875-1947) arguably was the most scholarly and gifted of all Hong Kong’s 28 colonial governors. As a young official he quickly mastered Chinese and in 1904 published a scholarly translation of Zhang Ziyong’s (招子庸)(1786-1847)Cantonese Love Songs (粵謳), the laments of south China’s ‘flowerboat’ girls. He was also a tireless traveller and spy, undertaking an epic journey across China from Kashgar to Kowloon. In his official capacity, he played an important role in land settlement in the New Territories, the creation of Hong Kong University and the smooth operation of the Kowloon-Canton Railway. In this talk Graham Hutchings will share some of the findings from his work on the biography of Sir Cecil Clementi he is writing for Hong Kong University Press. Among them is Clementi’s response as Governor of Hong Kong (1925-1930) to China’s national revolution, which he sought to counter by making the colony ‘more Chinese’ and protect it from the intellectual currents sweeping through China.

Graham Hutchings is an Associate at the University of Oxford China Centre and an Honorary Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at Nottingham University. He was a foreign correspondent in the 1980s and 1990s, based first in Beijing and then Hong Kong, and was then Director of Analysis at Oxford Analytica. His most recent book is China 1949: Year of Revolution (Bloomsbury 2021).