Britain' plan for Hong Kong in NI
Foreign Office officials made spoof plans to relocate Hong Kong's population to Northern IrelandBobby Yip/Reuters

Britain considered relocating the entire population of Hong Kong to Northern Ireland before handing over the then British colony to China, newly released documents reveal.

At least that is what the lighter exchanges between the UK Foreign Office officials seem to suggest.

In what seems to be a proposal sewn up by the officials in jest, at the heights of bloodshed and bitter political stand-off, the classified files show them discussing plans to resettle about 5.5 million Hong Kong residents in Northern Ireland.

The classified files, dated 1983, also show the UK government authorities were actively mulling over the plan.

The government file called Replantation of Northern Ireland from Hong Kong was released as part of a collection of documents released to the National Archives in Kew, London.

The bizarre proposal was the brainchild of an academic, Christie Davies, which was later seized by an official at the Northern Ireland office, George Fergusson.

"At the time, the piece was well received in Hong Kong, but it was recognized as humorous. The Irish do not understand satire and have no sense of humour so I guess some of them took it seriously," Davis, who studies humour, told the NYT via email.

David Snoxell, an official with the Republic of Ireland Department of the Foreign Office who was also part of the humorous exchanges, has clarified after the documents were declassified that the idea "was a spoof between colleagues who had a sense of humour".

According to the BBC, Snoxell said: "Sadly, it's impossible to make jokes like this anymore, the Diplomatic Service has lost its sense of humour."

"I think that's a shame because it's through humour that you build relationships, with other departments, with other diplomats at home and abroad."

In the spoof plan, a junior Foreign Office official Fergusson wrote: "At this stage we see real advantages in taking the proposal seriously," while taking up the initial suggestion made by Davis.

For that, Snoxell responded striking in a cautious tone bordering parody: "My initial reaction... is that the proposal could be useful to the extent that the arrival of 5.5 million Chinese in Northern Ireland may induce the indigenous peoples to forsake their homeland for a future elsewhere.

"We should not underestimate the danger of this taking the form of a mass exodus of boat refugees in the direction of South East Asia."

Another Foreign Office official scribbled in the margins of the document: "My mind will be boggling for the rest of the day."