Notes on Hong Kong Rejoining China
by Leon Sun
San Francisco, U.S.A.
This essay is a follow-up to a two-part photo essay and commentary by Leon Sun - Two Days and A Lifetime in Shanghai.
Along with probably millions of Chinese all over the world, I watched the Hong Kong "hand-over" ceremonies on live T.V. today. Lately, as the day approached, I had become more introspective over certain truths I was discovering about myself. I never expected to feel sad on seeing the British leave Hong Kong. But I guess I wasn't mourning the passing of British rule so much as a part of my own past. I lived and partly grew up in Hong Kong - a place where the British were an inseparable part of the reality. I never knew a Hong Kong without them. Sure, like all colonials, I have suffered my share of personal slights and humiliation, but looking back on the overall picture, they were minor compared to my experience of American racism. Indeed, it wasn't until I became politicized in America - much later - did I look at the British, in retrospect, as evil colonizers and oppressors.
When my family arrived in the colony in the late Fifties, Hong Kong, to us, was literally paradise. We were refugees from the Mainland. Our mindset was to get as far away from communist China as possible - physically and psychologically. Hong Kong was freedom, economic well-being, and access to the West, the locus of progress and modernity. It was a stepping stone to America.
At that time, too, people had genuine reason to fear the prospect of a Chinese "takeover." China was still locked in its self-imposed Stalinist mould, and, as we now know, was going to go through even more bizarre and violent phases before it reached its present benign state. Foreign colonizers or not, the people of Hong Kong had much preferred the British over their own Chinese. There was no question of that then as there is now.
Besides, the British were good administrators. They provided the proper milieu for the conduct of business, and the social stability that had eluded Chinese in their own country for so long. Everyone respected them for that. I myself received a first rate British education. Even as my view of Hong Kong soured during my late teens, when I became totally disaffected by the crass materialism of Hong Kong, I always felt that money worship was far more rampant among the local Chinese.
Still, none of this is to say I'm a lover of the British, or that I prefer continuation of Britain's rule over China's. I felt no sympathy at all for the departing governor Chris Patten, who really deserved to be booted out, and that sad sack, historical relic Prince Charles. My heart swelled with pride when I saw the Chinese flag being raised to the Chinese national anthem. I'm excited over what the next phase in Hong Kong will bring. Hong Kong people have always triumphed over their fate.
Yet, as I watched the royal yacht Britannia pull slowly out of Hong Kong harbor, I couldn't help but feel that it was leaving behind a way of life that I knew. The harbor lights in the background filled me with both nostalgia and apprehension for what those same lights will represent from now on. I felt that the old world I had known was moving on and leaving me behind, stranded here in America, just as I had felt when I went back to visit China in '94.
I should know, by now, that ever since that day in March 1957, when my mother brought me and my sisters out of Shanghai, I will always feel like a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. May be now I can convince myself that America is my home.
|Published in In Motion Magazine July 3, 1997.
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