80s plan to build new Hong Kong in North


Gavin Cordon

Even at the time it must have seemed like a bizarre idea. In the midst of the Northern Ireland Troubles, it was suggested that the population of Hong Kong should be uprooted and relocated in a new city built between Coleraine and Derry.

Newly-released files at the UK National Archives show that the plan was the brainchild of a lecturer at Reading University, Christy Davies, who warned that when Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997, there would be no future for its 5.5 million inhabitants.

The alternative, he suggested, was to resettle them in a new "city state" to be built between Coleraine and Derry - a move, he said, which could revitalise the Northern Ireland economy.

When, in 1983, details of his scheme appeared in a newspaper they caught the eye of an official in the Northern Ireland Office.

He wrote to a colleague in the Ireland department of the UK Foreign Office, writing: "At this stage we see real advantages in taking the proposal seriously.

"If the plantation were undertaken it would have evident advantages in reassuring Unionist opinion of the open-ended nature of the Union. There would be corresponding disadvantages in relation to the minority community (and Dublin)," he said.

It is not clear whether his tongue was in his cheek at the time.