Grounded at Kai Tak

Chinese Aircraft Impounded in Hong Kong, 1949–1952


Malcolm Merry

ISBN : 978-988-8754-15-1

History Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies Series (皇家亞洲學會香港研究叢書)

April 2022

296 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$420.00

Set against the backdrop of regional and international post–Second World War tensions, Grounded at Kai Tak is the most comprehensive account of the complex legal struggle for ownership of 71 airplanes belonging to the two main Chinese airlines, which were stranded at Kai Tak airfield in Hong Kong at the end of the Chinese civil war. The resulting contest for possession of them took place in the courts and among politicians and diplomats on three continents. In the process, the struggle became entangled with the anti-communist policies of the United States in the emerging ‘Cold War’, British hopes for restoration of her pre-war commercial position in China, disagreements between nations about recognition of the new government in Peking, and the delicate balance that the colonial government of Hong Kong had to keep to preserve that colony’s interests.

Merry tells the tale of this legal saga by weaving together archival documents and news reports of the day, revealing the international alignments that emerged from the aftermath of the wars and the colourful cast of actors that influenced the outcome of the dispute. This struggle would go on to become one of the leading public international law cases on the recognition of governments at the time.

Malcolm Merry is a barrister and adjunct professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong.

‘This is the first book-length monograph on the legal and diplomatic battles for the ownership of the seventy-one aircraft grounded in Hong Kong. Set within the wider context of the Chinese civil war and the Cold War and packed with passionate characters, the book reads like a historical novel. A major contribution to Hong Kong history, legal history, and international history.’ —Chi-kwan Mark, Senior Lecturer in International History, Royal Holloway, University of London

‘This is a fascinating story, eloquently told by one of the true experts of Hong Kong’s modern legal history. By analysing the struggle for possession of seventy-one planes from many different angles, the author offers brilliant insights into law, society, and politics in post–World War II East Asia.’ —Lutz-Christian Wolff, Dean and Wei Lun Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong