Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Friday, Feb 03, 2023

Hong Kong must wrestle with Britain’s colonial legacy, not romanticise it

Hong Kong must wrestle with Britain’s colonial legacy, not romanticise it

Even 25 years after China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong, local culture has not progressed to a point at which condemning colonialism is natural or common.

The University of Bristol, an institution whose inaugural funds depended on the transatlantic slave trade, was one of the first in Britain to officially commit to “decolonisation” efforts, including diversifying its curricula and installing anti-racism mechanisms on campus. Its Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network, of which I was a committee member during my studies, has also introduced a new role: decolonisation officer.

This would have been unconceivable in 2017, when I was a student at a Catholic boarding school in Essex. My writing about Britain’s role in the slave trade was rejected and criticised by the school newspaper for being “too negative”, which was, in my view, precisely why it deserved to be printed.

On the passing of Queen Elizabeth, many acquaintances from my cohort – who are white and British – have taken to social media to remind their followers of the shameful history of British imperialism. They weren’t celebrating the late monarch’s death but were warning against romanticising an institution that is historically responsible for the deaths and oppression of millions.

However, the same could not be said of many young people in Hong Kong. The reality is that a quarter-century after China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong, the culture sadly has not progressed to a point at which condemning colonialism is natural or common. This might be because of the city’s overreliance on the Western capitalist structures built by its former ruler.

After the Chinese government announced plans to draft a national security law for Hong Kong, there was undue media attention on Britain’s response, particularly the views of Hong Kong’s last British governor. There has been hand-wringing over Hong Kong’s East-meets-West characteristics being “eroded”. Yet, how the West came to “meet” the East, by forcing opium into the region, is often omitted. Obsessing over the opinions of former colonial rulers in a postcolonial world is at best absurd and at worst morally deficient – and this has nothing to do with whether one is an admirer of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

As Sinophobia becomes increasingly portrayed as anti-authoritarian activism, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, romanticising 150 years of British colonial rule has also gained in popularity. We have seen some young Hongkongers reminisce about an imagined time they have never experienced.

In a world where people are strong enough not to internalise oppression, why would anyone seek governance advice – or advice of any kind – from their former oppressors? Their explainable ignorance is no justification for imperialist ideology to live on.

Most would not deny that the British rulers developed much of the city’s infrastructure, but an overemphasis on these narratives minimises, and perhaps even erases, the local population’s disobedience of the colonisers. The riots and protests of many people’s grandparents against imperialist occupation is as important a historic episode as the economic advancements that could be credited to the colonial government.

Another piece of lingering evidence of the segregated colonial order is the simple fact that, after 150 years of British occupation, much of the former colony’s population is still either unable to or uncomfortable conducting conversations in English, which was the city’s sole official language until 1974 despite not being spoken by many outside the city’s elite.

The West has had to make little effort to meet the East in Hong Kong, not even to learn the language spoken by 95 per cent of the population, yet Chinese immigrants who are even slightly inarticulate in English face the prospect of being ostracised and discriminated against in their new homes in the West. The colonial hierarchy is not one to be romanticised.

As a society, we are nowhere near a consensus on decolonisation. Western portrayals of an authoritarian China have pushed such a consensus beyond the bounds of possibility, with the aid of the many well-intentioned yet misinformed “progressives”. I would like to remind them that the narrative of refined British missionaries teaching Hongkongers democratic values which would now be taken away by a “Chinese empire” overly simplifies disturbing historic events into Disney-style good-versus-evil tales which help nobody.

Perhaps take a look at the Caribbean nations trying to sever ties with the monarchy, which Prince William said his family would support. Instead of glamorising people’s internalised colonialism, perhaps consider the cultural failure of the local authorities’ “decolonisation” project, if there was one at all.

Newsletter

Related Articles

Hong Kong News
Close
0:00
0:00
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
Chinese search giant Baidu to launch ChatGPT like AI chatbot.
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
China is opening up for foreign investors.
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
China's foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong urges British gov't to stop the biased and double standards Hong Kong report
China relaxes 'red lines' on property sector borrowing in policy pivot
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
Japan prosecutors indict man for ex-PM Shinzo Abe murder
Vietnam removes two deputy PMs amid anti-corruption campaign
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
China’s recovery could add 1% to Australia’s GDP: JPMorgan 
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
China vows to strengthen financial support for enterprises: official
International medical experts speak out against COVID-19 restrictions on China
2 Billion People To Travel In China's "Great Migration" Over Next 40 Days
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
Flight constraints expected to weigh on China travel rebound
Billionaire Jack Ma relinquishes control of Ant Group
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
Teslas now over 40% cheaper in China than US
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
UK chaos: Hong Kong emigrants duped by false prospectus
China seeks course correction in US ties but will fight ‘all forms of hegemony’, top diplomat Wang Yi says
China will boost spending in 2023
African traders welcome end of China’s Covid travel curbs
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
Preparations begin for Spring Festival travel rush
Domestic COVID-19 drug effective in trial
HK to see a full recovery, John Lee says in New Year message
Bargain hunters flock to last day of Hong Kong brands and products expo
Hong Kong aims for January 8 reopening of border with mainland China
×