Hey there! I’ve noticed a lot of new followers lately, so welcome! I’m glad you’re here. I started blogging in 2012, to document my journey of living abroad. Despite occasional attempts to focus on specific subject matters over the years, I always come back to the personal blog format: I write about myself and the stuff I think is worth sharing. I thought it would be fun to reflect on this crazy journey by re-posting some of my favorite posts over the years. Check back every Thursday for #tbt (throw back thursdays) posts! I hope you enjoy.
Originally Posted: July 19, 2012
“The story of this great city is about the years before this night and the years of success that will surely follow it.” Mr. Patten, June 30, 1997.
Just a few weeks ago, China celebrated its 15 year anniversary of the Hong Kong Handover. Great Britain led Hong Kong for nearly 155 years (1842-1997), apart from a brief period during World War II when Japan had control. On the evening of June 30, 1997, a huge fireworks display lit up Victoria Harbour at 8pm. At approximately 9pm, Prince Charles, Tony Blair, and Chris Patten (the governor of Hong Kong for the last 5 years of British leadership), sat down along with 4,000 other guest for a banquet in the Hong Kong Convention Center on the harbor front, while over 500 Chinese troops crossed the land border into Hong Kong. Minutes before midnight, the British flag was lowered and presented to Mr. Patten. Shortly after midnight, Prince Charles and Chris Patten boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia and waved a final farewell to Hong Kong residents, as Tung Chee-hwa was sworn in as Hong Kong’s first Chief Executive.
I have to admit, as the world watched the British Empire hand over 5 million people to a communist country in 1997, I was completely unaware of the matter. In trying to learn as much as possible about my new home, I find Hong Kong’s history fascinating. Although Margaret Thatcher worked hard to keep Hong Kong under British leadership, China’s threats proved otherwise. Great Britain really had no option but to give Hong Kong to China.
Handing over one of the world’s most capitalist cities to a communist country, naturally caused fear for most Hong Kong residents. In the early 1990’s, many residents fled to Canada, America and Australia. To help reduce fear, Britain negotiated with China the Basic Law, the premise of which assured Hong Kong’s capitalist ways of life would remain unchanged for at least 50 years.
In preparing for the handover, the people of Hong Kong desired more control over their own affairs. The British authorities listened and in response formed a semi-parliament and the post of a Chief Executive. However, Hong Kong is not a true example of democracy. Today only some people can vote, but no control over who wins. Only half of the council is elected directly. The remaining half are elected by 20,000 strong functional constituency which are a carefully selected group of doctors, lawyers and other elite professions. The Chief Executive answers directly to Beijing. The Chief Executive is voted by only 1,200 members pulled from the 20,000 functional constituencies. The majority of those 1,200 voters are instructed by Beijing who they will vote for. Which means Beijing always knows the outcome long before the results. However, China benefits financially by Hong Kong’s capitalist economy, and therefore is somewhat reluctant to get too involved with Hong Kong’s affairs.
Today the city has a different look. Mainlanders are everywhere. The post boxes have been painted green, the skyline has expanded, and the harbor continues to get smaller. There’s a new safer airport and we can’t forget about Disneyland. No one knows what the future holds for Hong Kong, but it appears for the most part China sees the benefit of keeping Hong Kong a capitalist city. Let’s hope China keeps this view.