A file relating to the death of former Hong Kong governor Edward Youde in 1986 has been “closed and retained” by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It was among some 250 files set to be released by UK’s National Archives on Thursday.

The file, entitled Death of Sir Edward Youde, Governor of Hong Kong, 5 December 1986 is visible on the website of the National Archives, but it was closed and retained by the Foreign Office under Section 3.4 of the UK’s Public Records Act 1958.

Edward Youde
The late Sir Edward Youde. Photo: Wikicommons.

Normally, a file would be made publicly available after 30 years. But – according to the Archives – a department may request a retention, usually because the record is still required for administrative use, or due to the presence of sensitive material.

Youde was the governor of Hong Kong from 1982. He suffered a fatal heart attack whilst asleep at the British Embassy in Beijing in the early hours of 5 December 1986. He was 62 years old and the only governor to die in office.

The Thursday release is a regular one that occurs several times in a year. The last batch of Foreign Office documents for the year 1986 were opened on August 24 last year.

National Archives
Photo: National Archives screenshot.

Among the files that are set to be declassified and released on Thursday, another file that was retained and closed by the Foreign Office entitled Visit by HM The Queen to China and Hong Kong, October 1986.

Some files were not permanently closed and retained, but would only be declassified after a longer period. For instance, the file Constitutional development in Hong Kong was closed for 40 years along with several related to the Sino-British Joint Declaration. They will only be made available on 1 January 2027.


Another example was the file Executive Council of Hong Kong: memoranda and minutes of meetings from the year 1986, which will also only be opened in 2027.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.