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Tai O Village and Tai O Police Station History - RGS HK (members only) Guided Tour Experience

Historial Tour - 19 January 2024

With RGS-HK, Les hosted a Guided Tour of Tai O Village and The Former Tai O Police Station.


Les, who was in charge and resided at the Tai O Police Station from 1978-1979, he shared his wealth of knowledge with the journey. The Tai O Police Station, originally built in 1902 as an anti-pirate station, was restored in 2009 as Tai O Heritage Hotel, earning a Grade II historic building designation by the Antiquities Advisory Board. In 2013, it was conferred the prestigious UNESCO Award of Merit for Cultural Heritage Conservation. With a deep understanding of Tai O village's history, Les guided the captivating exploration with a brief boat excursion up Tai O Creek, offering stunning views of the stilt houses that define the village. Les also shared stories about the old rope ferry and the Sun Kei Bridge, of which he officiated the opening in 1979.

HK Society's Inaugural Book Festival (London)

Panel Event - 24 June 2023

Invited to speak at the first ‘In Conversation with the Authors’ panel event to talk about the Along the Southern Boundary book for the London-based HK Society members.

Les tells the stories of the boatpeople - the young children, the father who just bought a boat to embark on a 1,000-mile journey, and the disillusioned North Vietnamese battle-hardened veterans - all searching for a new life.

Presentation - 8 April 2023

The Wende Museum (California, U.S.A.)

Les shares his stories about his patrol as a Hong Kong Marine Commander during 1976 and 1989 in the South China Sea.  When the war in Vietnam in 1975 took place, millions of people fled the country. Many did so by the only means open to them, by sea.  While over 210,000 were successful, many others failed and were lost at sea. 

During this time Les carried a camera in his kitbag, and when circumstances permitted he would take photographs of his work and the people and vessels that he intercepted at sea. Later, he took photographs inside the refugee camps in Hong Kong. A selection of his photographs is on display in the Wende’s exhibition "Vietnam in Transition, 1976 – Present". 

Les Bird shows a selection of his photographs and explains the riveting stories behind them in a presentation followed by a Q&A. 

Royal Geographical Society (Hong Kong)

Lecture - 1 5 Feb 2023

Describes the harrowing sea journey to Hong Kong made by tens of thousands of refugees in the years that followed the end of the Vietnam War.  Initially, Les and his colleagues were directed to put all new arrivals on the remote island of Tai Ah Chau which, at the outset, was devoid of facilities.  Within a week, they had more than 3,000 people to look after.  As he patrolled the southern maritime boundary of Hong Kong, he photographed their makeshift boats and later the people-smuggling vessels coming in – including the Sen On, a freighter ship that was abandoned by its crew and ran aground on Lantau Island.  

Maritime Week 2022 (Hong Kong)
Lecture - 20 to 26 November 2022


Royal Asiatic Society (London)
Lecture - 3 September 2022

Vietnamese Heritage Musuem (Santa Ana, U.S.A.)

Author Event: Les Bird at Santa Ana Library - 14 May 2022

Conversation with Les to discuss his internationally acclaimed book – Along the Southern Boundary: A Marine Police Officer’s Frontline Account of the Vietnamese Boatpeople and their Arrival in Hong Kong – which chronicles the history of the Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong. In addition, tells the harrowing stories of thousands of refugees in the years that followed the end of the Vietnam War. Along with the amazing stories of courage and survival. The hosts and the majority of the audience that attended this talk were former Vietnamese refugees.


2020 - 2021

In conversation with RTHK's Annemarie Evans.  Les Bird joined the Hong Kong Marine Police in 1976 during a period of rapid change in one of the British Empire’s few remaining colonies. He led his men in combat against the growing organised crime in the years leading up to the handover in 1997 and was one of the senior officers instrumental in dealing with highly sensitive issues.


Lecture - 18 December 2020

Along the Southern Boundary focuses on two specific years:  1979, when more than 68,700 people arrived at Hong Kong's sea border, and 1989, a time when all 13 Vietnamese boat people camps in Hong Kong were declared full.  Les and his colleagues were directed to put all new arrivals on the remote island of Tai Ah Chau, which, at the outset, was devoid of facilities.  Within a week they had more than 3,000 people to look after. As told in his new book 'Along the Southern Boundary: A Marine Police Officer's Frontline Account of the Vietnamese Boatpeople and their Arrival in Hong Kong, published by Blacksmith Books.'  



In the late 1970s Les Bird was the officer-in-charge of the western half of Lantau Island. He lived on the top floor of the remote Tai O Police Station. There was no road between Tai O and the remainder of the island, and the station’s one telephone line didn’t work if it was raining. Other than an Italian priest, Les was Tai O’s only foreign resident. In this lecture he talks about his work and his life in those times.

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