Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Want to Know About China, Study Hong Kong

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This is an anniversary of sorts.

It marks the tenth anniversary of the day when the English turned over control of Hong Kong back to China.

Thirty-seven years before that date, I was spending time in Hong Kong.

It was a free-wheeling place then that stayed open all night and was viewed as more capitalistic than even the States….

It was also a place where you could think or talk about whatever you liked. There was no prohibition about being forth-right or disagreeing with what the government was doing.

In many of those conversations, the savvy Chinese population was already thinking thirty seven years down the road to when China came back into the picture and demanded its pound of flesh.

At the time, the Chinese were hedging their bets . They were sending their progeny to open businesses on the west coast or in western Canada.

Money was being squirreled away in foreign banks where the Chinese could not get a hold of it.

I thought it was perhaps a bit neurotic perhaps to worry about something so far dInown the road; but the Chinese took it right in stride.

They understood what motivated China better than I.

And I was warned not to believe the Chinese government who seemed to suggest that Hong Kong would stay the same as it did under British rule.

It could never happen. And the Chinese understood it.

In looking at today’s papers, I realized how right my friends were.

China had reverted back to its old self.

Slowly but surely, the Mainland had ingratiated itself into every aspect of Hong Kong.

And there is now the sense that there is always somebody looking over your shoulder.

For someone who has experienced it before, it’s a depressing view of what was a dynamic and progressive enclave that has since lost its heart and soul.

This is all too often the case when a government interferes too much in the affairs of its people robbing them of their initiative.

The old Chinese who had left at the time of Mao realized that despite its obsession with modernity, China will always be China.

And one is better off being forewarned then becoming a hapless victim later.

I think about these things as I think about a Modern China that could build a city of skyscrapers in ten years where I had walked among the rice paddies and I wonder, if again, the tendency was not to take this country too much for granted.

Les Aaron


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