There’s a blog written from Hong Kong that’s written in Japanese, and netizens have started to notice. It showcases underground, best-selling products, such as tough, Hong Kong-made “Lee Kung Man” T-Shirts, long favored by Hong Kong wharf and factory workers.
It has begun to gain a Japanese following by promoting the fact that the people of Hong Kong also value quality and workmanship very highly. Hong Kong is more than just tourism or finance.
The “Hong Kong Soul” blog is the work of Hong Kong native Alan, 44, who spent 5 years in Japan. It has a readership of around 7,000; of these, 60% are Japanese and 40% are Hong Kong residents who understand Japanese.
While it also covers guidebook standards—such as history, food, tourist spots, and city lights—the author’s devotion to thoroughly detailing the real Hong Kong comes through in his entries on topics such as Made-in Hong Kong products, the mafia, and off-the-beaten-track towns.
In 1997, the United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the handover on July 1st, I spoke with Alan as we walked around downtown Mongkok.
Why blog about Hong Kong in Japanese? “I realized anew that there is much in Hong Kong which resonates with the Japanese way of thinking, and I came to hope that the Japanese would be able to gain a deep understanding of Hong Kong people,” Alan said.
Upon his return from exchange in Japan, Alan attempted to understand his native Hong Kong afresh. He felt that the sensibilities of Hong Kong people and the Japanese were similar in terms of the balance struck between layering western rationalism and advances upon a base of Confucian thought, order, humility, and kindness.
In contrast, under communist party rule, mainland China has “plunged society into chaos, destroying culture and tradition during the ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution.’”
Already, a number of people feel that, in terms of both tradition and culture, the people of Hong Kong have become “something different.” Perhaps, therein lies the reason that the people of Hong Kong are more congenial toward the Japanese than the mainland Chinese.
The vastly expanding presence of China within Hong Kong has formed a backdrop to Alan’s growing awareness over the past few years. Born in Hong Kong in 1973, during the British rule, Alan feels his identity is “still that of a British-rule Hong Kong native.”
“The people of Hong Kong have been abandoned by Mother England. Afterwards, our real mother came, but she was just a great hulking figure. Overseas, it makes me uncomfortable when I am asked, ‘Are you Chinese?’”
The economy took a large hit after the ’97 handover. Following the 2003 SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, which originated in Guangdong Province, the number of foreign tourists plummeted. Seeking to save the Hong Kong economy, the Chinese government relaxed travel restrictions on mainland Chinese traveling to Hong Kong. “Large numbers of culturally distinct Chinese have entered Hong Kong, resulting in the destruction of order,” he said.
Mainland China has seen more than 40 million people entering Hong Kong annually from bordering provinces, such as Guangdong. The presence and influence of tens of thousands of mainlander “migrants” is huge, with visitors not restricted to being short-term tourists and merchants. Pregnant women enter to give birth there, university students from mainland China are pushing out Hong Kong students in the name of “exchange,” and so forth. Majority feel a sense of fear and aversion toward the idea that Hong Kong’s distinctive hue will continue to be diluted.
“Before the ’97 handover, in Hong Kong there was a future for anyone who put in the effort, effort was rewarded. That is no longer so. Unless you are involved with China, there are no jobs,” he sighed.
Twenty years ago, the GDP of Hong Kong, with a population of 6 million, was 20% higher than that of mainland China, with its population of 1.3 billion. Economically, Hong Kong was superior. Now, it is not even 3% of the mainland. The power of money has been completely overwhelmed in 20 years.
Perhaps it is the influence of this “role reversal” of economic power, or perhaps the thought of an enormous military might behind them, that “the mainland Chinese who visit Hong Kong are too intimidating.”
“Of course the uncivilized behavior, such as public urination and spitting in the street, is unforgivable. Even more than that, it is the way they look down on Hong Kong people without cause. The people of Hong Kong have become unable to say ‘No.’ Antipathy is all that remains,” Alan says, exasperated.
Alan’s daughter was born two years ago. “By the time my daughter is grown up, the culture and tradition of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong way of thinking, will be quashed by China and destroyed completely. In some way or another, I thought that I needed preserve the ‘Soul’ of Hong Kong. That is what the blog, ‘Hong Kong Soul,’ is.”
He said, in a hopeful tone: “I do not know whether my daughter will study Japanese in the future, but wherever she goes in the world, she will thrive, not forgetting the Hong Kong Soul, and one day she will understand her father’s writings.”
If one day his daughter will be forced to leave Hong Kong, he assumes that she will come to live in Japan.
Allan is not being melodramatic. For the people of Hong Kong, it is serious a matter. Twenty years after the handover, Hong Kong’s democratic society, as well as freedom of speech and association, will be protected for 30 more years under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. That is, until June 30th, 2047. When Alan’s daughter is 32 years old, Hong Kong will cease to be any more than “just another regional city” under the strict governance of the Chinese Communist Party.
Democracy protests and government criticism will, of course, become unlawful. Freedom of speech will be denied, and elections will probably be prohibited. The concern is that the legacy of 150 years of British rule, the east-meets-west culture and traditions of Hong Kong, the mother tongue of Cantonese, and even the pride in themselves as people of Hong Kong, will be crushed.
The people of Hong Kong are suffering as their hometown slowly disappears, Alan says, his eyes tearful behind his glasses: “From a genetic point of view, we are undoubtedly Chinese, but we will never become Chinese nationals under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. The ‘soul’ of the Hong Kong people must never be extinguished.”
The Handover Timeline
December 19, 1984 – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang sign the Sino-British Joint Declaration in Beijing regarding the return of Hong Kong to China. The declaration outlines that the capitalist economic system and democratic system, with freedom of speech and so forth, will be maintained for a period of 50 years.
July 1, 1997 – Hong Kong is handed over to China and designated a “Special Administrative Region of China.” The Hong Kong Basic Law, which serves as a constitution, ensures a “high degree of autonomy,” under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, which allows for the coexistence of communism and capitalism. China sets up a Government Branch Office in Hong Kong, and People’s Liberation Army troops are also stationed there.
Masumi Kawasaki is the Sankei Shimbun Shanghai Bureau chief. He is contributing this article from Hong Kong.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)