Tue, Nov 26, 2019 - Page 8 News List

The decolonization of Hong Kong

By Wir fur Hongkong

Hong Kong is a story narrated by different epic poets. They rarely come to agreement, yet each claims to be the sole author of this story.

Despite the end of British rule in 1997, it is curious that people with the most divided prospects of the territory — Chinese officials and leftists, as well as localists — coincidentally claim that Hong Kong is not yet decolonized.

Nevertheless, we should not be misguided by the words, for the different parties base their judgements on mutually opposing ideologies. Once we look into their respective interpretations of the statement “Hong Kong is not yet decolonized,” we discover no common ground, only profound ruptures, which fuel the political unrest in the former British colony.

The narratives diverge at how different authors interpret the handover of Hong Kong to China.

Chinese officials, naming this event unanimously as Hong Kong’s “return to the motherland,” regard the reunification with the ceded territory the end of the colonial era, the “shameful history” of modern China.

However, the constant resistance to the will of Beijing and the strengthening of a local identity teach the central government a lesson — “the hearts of Hong Kongers” have not yet returned to the motherland together with the territory.

“Desinicization is at work, but there is no decolonization,” said Chen Zuoer (陳佐洱), a top Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs.

Blaming the colonial legacy, especially the so-called “colony complex” of the citizens, for unpopular Chinese authority has long been a consensus in government offices. As a result, the speeding up of “decolonization,” for example through the introduction of patriotic education, is prioritized on the political agenda in Hong Kong, which ironically leads to more trenchant opposition from activists across the political spectrum.

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy activists, especially the leftists, whose motives are more equipped with post-colonial theory, have their own version of why Hong Kong is still, in a sense, under colonial rule.

In contrast to the official ideology which goes hand in hand with the centralization of power in Beijing, for the leftists, decolonization means rectifying the autonomy of the people who were once structurally oppressed. However, hindrances are large for institutional and ideological reasons.

On the one hand, Chinese leaders deliberately preserve an executive-dominance system, together with limited checks and balances of the police force, as well as certain privileged groups, which are all policies and measures inherited from British colonial days.

In addition, as the sociologist Lui Tai-lok (呂大樂) describes metaphorically, there is widespread wishful thinking — among policymakers as well as investors and residents — to “freeze” Hong Kong, namely to keep the old laissez faire economy intact to secure the stability and prosperity enjoyed before the handover.

Law Wing-sang (羅永生), a renowned post-colonial Hong Kong theorist, has said that these hindrances are the immediate results of the “passive return” in 1997, as Hong Kong residents played no role to determine their own future, hence the failure to establish the “subjectivity” of Hong Kongers and an infinite deferral of the decolonization project.

Social activists who are motivated by a leftist agenda consciously resume such a suspended task.

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