Saturday, 30 June 2007

Ten years ago today

T-shirts like this one started to appear in mainland China early in 1992. By 1995, you could find them pretty much everywhere. They were outnumbered only by the 'Beijing 2000' T-shirts and merchandise.

Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese by the then governor, Chris Patten, at midnight on the night of 30 June/1 July 1997. So, did much change?

I have only ever spent a week in Hong Kong, in 1993, and prefer to listen to people I trust on the ground rather than to biased media and those with an agenda. As I've said before, there's a whole industry of people making a living out of presenting as bad an image as possible of China to the outside world. I would be more willing to trust someone who isn't being paid to promote a particular agenda.

I have a relative who had quite a high-powered job in Hong Kong at the time of the handover. Before the handover, he made preparations to return to the UK if necessary. He is still there now, and his job description and lifestyle have not changed.

I'm not an apologist for the Chinese government, and people I know personally in China have suffered abuses because of their religious or political convictions. Their stories are not mine to tell you.

But I live in a country where the government recently passed a law allowing an individual to be arrested and convicted for standing at the Cenotaph and reading out the names of soldiers who were killed in Iraq, where 50 police were sent in to disrupt one man's peaceful protest outside Parliament in the middle of the night, and where an 82-year-old party member can be forcibly ejected from the Labour party's annual conference for daring to disagree with the prime minister. So don't try to tell me the West is whiter than white - particularly after some of the disgraceful erosion of our civil liberties which has taken place under the current government.

If anyone who actually knows first hand can tell me what effect 10 years of Chinese rule have had in Hong Kong, particularly for the ordinary people in the street, I'd love to hear it.


diana said...

I am terribly interested in this subject (probably from watching so many Jackie Chan movies).

I don't know anyone who is in Hong Kong but my husband has worked with Chinese who were basically working in the US with the desire to save money and return to China.

China is a country with such an interesting history...and a country to keep praying for along with our own countries!

newhousenewjob said...

We're seeing more and more Mainland Chinese coming to the UK to study, to work, or just for holidays (unheard of only about 10 years ago). My impression from Chinese people I speak to is that the mainland is gradually becoming more liberal, rather than Hong Kong becoming less so as many people feared at the time.

Yesterday I bought a second-hand copy of Chris Patten's book 'East and West', which describes his experiences as last governor of Hong Kong - I'm looking forward to a fascinating read.

diana said...

That's what I heard...that more people are getting plastic surgery (that's what the article was about, it was not a general article about China)and worrying about cosmetics when earlier,under the Communist rule, people thought that those things were frivolous. I am not saying vanity is a good thing but it's a sign of people who have other things on their mind than their oppression! (to say the least).

newhousenewjob said...

Exactly. I wrote an article about 15 years ago which was published in a UK journal with quite wide circulation. The thrust of my article was that things were still not perfect in China, but there were gradual signs of improvement - little shoots of hope that showed things might be beginning to move in the right direction. I didn't put it any more strongly than that.

A bunch of human rights activists had a go at me for being naive and basically being an apologist for the evil Chinese government, and I saw this more as a sign of them following their own agenda at the expense of the truth than anything else. I'm afraid that's why I require corroboration of any reports that come from certain sources in Hong Kong and China - I've seen first hand how they try to suppress the truth if it doesn't support the message they're trying to convey (and earning a comfortable living by promoting).