Here are two reasons Hong Kong can’t be easily decolonized

October 28, 2015 14:15
Think what will happen if patriots start demanding that old colonial names (above) be replaced with Chinese names. That would be a blow to Hong Kong's reputation as a world city. Photos: Internet

Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, criticized the Hong Kong government at a forum last month for not moving fast enough on decolonization.

He also lashed out at people who seek to “desinofy” Hong Kong.

There has been enough discussion about this so-called “desinofication”.

We have seen that, at least on the surface, the number of Hongkongers who deny their Chinese identity has been rising steadily, according to public opinion polls.

Given this, Chen’s harsh warning is no empty talk.

But he is wrong to blame Hongkongers, Leung Chun-ying, the liaison office and even boorish mainland tourists.

Chen needs to consider two facts to understand why decolonization has not happened in earnest almost two decades after the handover.

Firstly, virtually all of Hong Kong political elites, including Leung and his cabinet members, are English-educated and were groomed in the colonial era.

Inherently, they tend to retain their colonial temperament in words and deeds.

Secondly, they will never give up their royal honors, decorations or medals and certainly not their British passports.

Nor will Hongkongers give up their BNO (British National Overseas) passports or anything that offers a way out in the event of political uncertainty.

For instance, no one knows how Beijing will resolve “one country, two systems”.

Decolonization can only happen superficially, like removing the crown and the British royal cypher from old postboxes.

I wonder what will happen when patriots start demanding that colonial names such as Sir Cecil's Ride, Queen’s Road, Victoria Park, Prince Edward, Queen Mary Hospital, King's College, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, etc., be replaced with Chinese names.

If that happens, Hong Kong’s status as a world city will take a hit.

If we are really serious about decolonization, we should make it illegal for Hongkongers to have foreign passports.

We should also ask ourselves if pledging allegiance to another country in order to obtain its passport disqualifies a Hong Kong person from voting in elections or running for public office.

I don’t think anyone from the pro-establishment camp, or Chen himself, would like the idea.

Most of them (or their family members) are likely to have foreign passports.

Why Xi's visit to Britain won't change anything in Hong Kong 

Queen Elizabeth II had a leading role throughout President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Britain.

The royal family, which is supported by taxpayers, showed the best use for their money.

It was interesting to watch a nominal monarch and head of state receive a de facto emperor with supreme powers.

The two countries agreed to cooperate, but apparently, London stands to benefit more than Beijing from the deals signed during Xi’s visit.

The fact is that Britain has the world’s second largest current account deficit after the US. It needs China to quench its thirst for capital.

With headlines like “Britain shows how to kowtow”, some media outlets ridiculed London's attempts to curry favor with China.

The truth is the deals and investments Britain came away with will help reignite its flagging economy.

Britain accepts that it is no longer a military power and that it is under Washington’s umbrella, counting on the longstanding bond between the two countries.

London's position is similar to those of many Asian countries -- they look to China for trade and investment but stand behind the US to thwart Beijing’s growing ambitions in the region.

Beijing’s massive cash pile, notwithstanding, it was not the only item on the agenda.

British Prime Minister David Cameron brought up Hong Kong’s democratic development with Xi, who appeared to show it was the last thing on his mind.

That won’t change anything and we can’t pin our hopes on Britain.

Beijing won’t change its mind about pre-screening candidates for Hong Kong chief executive and Britain is not going to object.

This appeared as separate articles in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 22 and 27

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版 1, 2]

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A famous Hong Kong writer; founder of the Hong Kong Economic Journal