The Hong Kong people should feel proud and lucky in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong Island and New Territory to mother land - China. The seven million people in Hong Kong are largely Cantonese, people with ancestry from the province of Canton speaking the dialect - Cantonese. Cantonese people are adventurous and industrious as seen from the majority of overseas Chinese in the 19th and 20th century spreading all over the world. The overseas Chinese have demonstrated their success in numerous countries through their hard working spirit. The Hong Kong people like the overseas Chinese should be proud of the fact that they have this marvelous trait.
The Chinese including the Hong Kong people went overseas because they wanted to seek opportunities for making a better living. The modern Chinese history of recent two centuries (early 19th till late 20th century) is a very sad one, numerous wars by foreign invaders. The Qing dynasty was so ignorant and corrupt that she was caught totally flat-footed when the Western powers descended in China. The first Sino-British War (the first Opium War, 3-18-1839 to 8-29-1842) brought total disgrace to China. It was this war and its treaty (Nanking Treaty, the first major inequality treaty) that had resulted in China's ceding Hong Kong to the British Empire as wells as paying 21 million silver dollars in three years as war reparations. The Hong Kong people were powerless to resist the British occupation but they had never given up their culture and their language. To this day, Hong Kong maintained the richest Chinese culture, not the least including their Chinese cuisines and way of life.
The Hong Kong people really should feel proud of themselves; under the British colonial rule over one hundred fifty years, Hong Kong remained to be Chinese as Chinese could be culture wise. During WW II, Japanese attacked Hong Kong (December 8th, 1941) with overwhelming forces. Within 17 days, the British Governor of Hong Kong, Mark Aitchison Young surrendered (December 25, known as black CHRISTMAS). It was unfortunate that Hong Kong became a British colony, but because of that Hong Kong did not suffer as long a war against the Japanese invasion like the Mainland China did. Witnessing and envious of the Western powers' encroachment in Asia, Japan set its eye on conquering China, first through the Korean Peninsula aiming at the resource rich NorthEast of China. First Sino-Japanese war took place in 1894 resulted in China ceding Taiwan and Penghu islands to Japan (1985 MaGuan ‘inequality’ Treaty). Japan's ambition was not satisfied; Japan continued her encroachment and intervention in China while China was trying to establish a republic government by removing the Qing court. In 1937, Japan launched a premeditated war against China with the intention to conquer the entire China. In the end, the Imperial Japan was defeated and Japan surrendered in 1945 (announced 8/15 and formally signed on 9/2). While China suffered nearly a decade of Japanese brutal assaults and massacres, Hong Kong was only occupied by the Japanese for three years and eight months (12-25-1941 to 8-15-1945). Though the Japanese atrocious criminal deeds were applied to Hong Kong as in other Japanese occupied regions (internment, beheading, comfort women, etc), Hong Kong was lucky that the Japanese occupation was short.
In comparison, Taiwan was not as fortunate as Hong Kong. Taiwan was ruled by Japanese for fifty years (1895-1945). Japan was able to completely destroy the Taiwanese anti-Japanese organizations; whereas during the short Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, Hong Kong's anti-Japan forces were effective in killing traitors and protecting Hong Kong small businesses. Japan applied a systematic program to ‘Japanize’ the Taiwan people, forcing the residents to change names, to learn Japanese and adopt Japanese customs. Taiwan people were forcefully drafted and trained to fight for the Japanese Imperial War (Japanese called it “Holy War”) during WW II. This ‘Japanization’ process had resulted in today's political problem in Taiwan; a minority group deeply influenced by the Japanization program is still advocating a return to Japan movement and seeking independence from China. The Japanese colonialism program was never effective in Hong Kong during the brief Japanese rule, hence luckily for Hong Kong there is not much trace of Japanese colonialism which was more brutal and genocidal than other Western countries’ colonial program as evidenced by Taiwan.
At the end of WW II, due to China's internal war and weak representation at the war settlement negotiations, Hong Kong was returned to Britain allowing her to rule Hong Kong according to the Nanking Treaty for another 52 years. Hong Kong was officially returned to China in 1997 after 151 years and 3 months (subtracting 3 years and 8 months of Japanese occupation) British colonial rule. After Hong Kong's return to China, the Western countries were wishing a demise of Hong Kong's economy and seeking a proof of Chinese government unable to manage Hong Kong under the "One Country Two Systems" doctrine. However, Hong Kong and China proved the ill thinkers wrong. Hong Kong not only did not collapse after her return but was able to show the world that Hong Kong can grow together with China along with China’s first tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Canton.
Hong Kong came back to China at a time China was developing at a fast pace, another lucky fact for Hong Kong. The past twenty years have proven that Hong Kong was able to latch onto China's well planned growth and maintain her own economic growth even through the Asian financial crisis and global economic setback. At this juncture of celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return, the Hong Kong people should really feel lucky and proud that Hong Kong has survived and destined to a brighter future. Hong Kong was returned when Asia suffered a serious financial crisis (1997-1998), then followed a global slowdown (2001), then the breakout of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS in 2003) and the 2008-9 financial crisis originated in the U.S., so the Hong Kong economy experienced a period of low growth rate then returned to 6.1% in 2006 and was affected again by the global financial crisis (2008-2009). But Hong Kong is recovered with a GDP growth of 2.4% which is comparable to the US and double of that of Japan.
China continues to invest in Hong Kong with confidence, notably with high speed rail system linking Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong (XRL) and the cross ocean Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and tunnels 31 miles long connecting the three power economic zones. Hong Kong people are notoriously industrious; through hard work they had achieved the status of four little dragons in the past. (The uneasiness of Singapore today is understandable) We expect to see an even brighter future for Hong Kong for years to come. Hong Kong is a ‘lighthouse’ example for Taiwan to contemplate a quick reunification with Mainland China. Together, they can jointly lead a prosperous and peaceful economic development beneficial to the world as envisioned by China’s proposal: the One Belt and One Route (OBOR) program.
Ifay Chang, PhD, Trustee, Somers Central School District and President, TLC Information Services.