A deeply personal look at Hong Kong's past, present and future

Lim moved to Hong Kong when he was 5 years old. As the child of a Chinese father from Singapore and a white mother from Britain, she alw...


Lim moved to Hong Kong when he was 5 years old. As the child of a Chinese father from Singapore and a white mother from Britain, she always “flew between two cultures like the hungry ghosts who fly between two worlds”, she writes. The “surprisingly Victorian” curriculum of her schooling did not help matters. China was barely mentioned, and although “everything British was mentioned in an impressed tone”, his teachers were careful not to sound UK. also wonderful, lest it encourage among young Hong Kongers a desire to settle there. “Our upbringing has effectively uprooted us,” she writes, “suspending us in a kind of colonial non-space designed to ensure we don’t identify too closely with place.”

Credit…Laura Du Ve

Part of her book is an attempt to recapture that sense of place, as she writes her way through history, explaining that Britain’s acquisition of Hong Kong was “not so much a coup de imperial master than an accident”. Looking at documents in the British National Archives, Lim notices that in letters exchanged between Chinese and British negotiators during the First Opium War, the British request for Hong Kong had been added to the margins. A colonial official later described the cession of Hong Kong as “a surprise to all concerned”. For Lord Palmerston, the British colonial possession of Hong Kong was doomed. “A barren rock with barely a house on it,” he wrote. “It will never be a market for trade.”

But of course it became a market for trade, and Lim traces Hong Kong’s fortunes under 155 years of British rule. She remembers her childhood colonial governor, Murray MacLehose, a “paternalistic authoritarian” known as “Big Mac”. MacLehose was careful not to antagonize China, promoting administrative efficiency and civic campaigns as a substitute for democracy. Hong Kong’s last governor, Christopher Patten, assumed that China’s economic reforms would necessarily lead to political liberalisation, even though the moderate democratic steps he took in the years before the handover won him the hostility from Beijing.

“Bad. Bad. Bad. Evilsaid the otherwise polite Patten in a candid moment when Lim interviewed him in 2019. She asked him how he felt when he saw his own hopeful words from over two decades ago. before – that it was Hong Kong’s “unshakeable fate”. be run by Hong Kongers — transformed into desperate graffiti.

Lim asks what it might mean for Hong Kong to forge an identity that is neither beholden to Britain nor China. She finds her inspiration in Tsang Tsou-choi, known as King of Kowloon, who has decorated city surfaces with his own calligraphic graffiti for decades. His brushstrokes spoke of a family tale of dispossession, mocking authorities no matter who they were. Until his death in 2007, this “obsessive, mentally and physically handicapped pensioner” had become, for her and for many others, an “unlikely star” – the constancy of his grievances distinguished him from the “marching whirlwind of politics from Hong Kong. ”

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Newsrust - US Top News: A deeply personal look at Hong Kong's past, present and future
A deeply personal look at Hong Kong's past, present and future
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