18 April 2019
Hong Kong and Taiwan are feeling nostalgic about their colonial past for very different reasons. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong and Taiwan are feeling nostalgic about their colonial past for very different reasons. Photo: HKEJ

How Hong Kong and Taiwan evolved from colonial history

Hong Kong and Taiwan have recently shown a strong attachment to their colonial history under the British and Japanese, respectively.

However, there are some noticeable differences that likely led to very different paths for the former colonies.

Taiwan people who experienced Japanese rule are now in their seventies and eighties while the young generation is somewhat stuck with a  “romantic” colonial notion.

Therefore, many negative information about the Japanese rule has been left out.

By contrast, the British rule in Hong Kong raised a generation of citizens who came of age in the 1980s and are now showing a strong attachment to the colonial days.

Their elders, however, have a deep grudge against discrimination and corruption during the colonial era.

Consequently, they have very high expectations for the future of Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” regime.

Relations between Japan and China have turned sour in recent years while Taiwan has shown increasing goodwill toward the Japanese.

Nevertheless, the Japanese government has not offered any preferential treatment for Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the British government has made its business relationship with China a top priority.

That is why it had a measured reaction to China’s decision to bar a group of British lawmakers from a planned Hong Kong visit to look into its democratic development.

Moreover, the British are wary of a potential flood of people who might want to leave Hong Kong due to worsening cross-border relations.

The Japanese colonial government launched the so-called “kominka” movement, a  campaign of Japanization of Taiwan during 1937 and 1945.

The movement was aimed at raising a generation of Japanese patriots out of the Taiwanese.

As a result, baseball, Japan’s most popular sport, is widely played in Taiwan and learning Japanese is as important as studying English.

Britain took a different approach to Hong Kong. The British nurtured the elite, preparing them for government work.

As a result, only the elite and highly educated Hong Kong people have been influenced by British culture while the masses continue to resent foreign rulers.

That is why most people believe the recent pro-democracy protests were organized by “external forces”.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 24. 

Translation by Julie Zhu

– Contact us at [email protected]


Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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