In 1982, when then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Hong Kong, Law Wing-sang was with a dozen students who had gone to the airport to protest her advocacy of continued colonial rule in Hong Kong.
“We were thinking about how the unequal colonial treaty could be voided,” Law says.
“Democratic reunification with the mainland appeared to be the best solution.”
A year later, a Sino-British panel began talks on the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty.
Law has been around long enough to witness important events in Hong Kong’s history, not all of them gratifying.
Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, he saw first-hand the 1967 communist-inspired riots. In 1989, he went to Beijing to support a growing pro-democracy student movement.
Law considers the 2003 SARS epidemic as a wake-up call for Hong Kong after it exposed the vulnerability of its economy.
The years that followed were a turning point in Hong Kong’s search for a new identity, he says.
Yet, even after the peaceful change of sovereignty, Hong Kong still has not reconciled with its present-day status.
There’s lingering colonialism (some people wave the colonial flag) and resistance to the establishment.
After Beijing began tightening its grip on Hong Kong by reinterpreting “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong people felt their way of life was under threat.
Last year’s democracy protests showed they feared for their future, Law says.
Law majored in sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where he was chairman of the student union and chief editor of the school paper.
In 2002, he completed his doctorate in Hong Kong colonial history in Sydney, Australia.
His research on collaborative colonial power was translated into traditional Chinese and published this year.
The paper examines Britain’s colonial strategy and how it co-opted the upper class and intellectuals to maintain domestic political stability while benefiting from peaceful relations with China.
But Hong Kong people themselves have a split identity, which he attributes to “binary thinking”.
“Binary thinking doesn’t allow diversity. It results in the rules of the game being skewed,” he says.
“Naturally it provokes vigorous opposition.”
Law watches Hong Kong’s post-colonial development from a unique perspective as an associate professor of cultural studies in Lingnan University.
He hopes Hong Kong people will overcome their binary mindset and be able to build a more harmonious society even as they continue to have a more nuanced understanding of their colonial history.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 29.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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