Built in the 1950s, this complex of low-storey buildings in Pok Fu Lam was reportedly a recreational club for the Royal Engineers Regiment when it first opened. But it was only a few years before the Special Branch of the Royal Police renovated the complex in order to hold Taiwanese spies caught smuggling explosives to the Mainland across the Taiwan Strait, during the height of tensions in the mid-1950s.
During the 1967 riots in Hong Kong, there were public uprisings driven by the Cultural Revolution over the border. The compound subsequently became a site where political prisoners were incarcerated and interrogated – many high-profile people with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, including film industry personalities, were detained here. During interrogation, special agents often used hardcore measures to get the detainees to spill the beans, including drugs, hypnosis, and psychological torture.
After the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4 in 1989, it is also rumoured that democratic political refugees fleeing the Mainland were secretly smuggled and given political debriefings here. Special Branch was terminated as the handover of 1997 drew near, and the site became a popular movie location (parts of Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution as well as Wong Kar-wai’s 2046 were shot here). In 2018, The University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Campus was built on the site, though a vast majority of the original architecture remains.