In Hong Kong, public mourning for queen is also dissidence

In Hong Kong, public mourning for queen is also dissidence

HONG KONG (AP) — Hundreds of Hong Kong residents queue for hours every day in front of the British Consulate General to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II, leaving piles of flowers and handwritten notes.

The collective outpouring of grief after her death last week is perhaps the most fiery among the former British colonies, where mourning has generally been contained. It is seen by some experts as a form of resistance to increasingly intrusive controls by communist-ruled Beijing, which took over the territory in 1997.

Some Hong Kongers are nostalgic for what they consider to be a past ‘golden age’ under Britain’s not-quite-democratic colonial rule, when the city of about 7 million people came to be regarded as the world’s financial center and tourist destination.

The Queen’s death has sparked a flurry of interest in British memorabilia, among other things.

The Queen is nicknamed “si tau por” in Hong Kong. Pronounced “see-tao-POHR” In the local Cantonese dialect, which translates to “boss lady”.

“When we were under her rule, we called her ‘si tau por’. It’s just a way to show her respect. There was a sense of kindness from her, she’s not the kind of boss who is above you,” said CK Li, a resident who queued for more than two hours to pay his respects.

Another resident, 80-year-old Eddie Wong, said she was there “out of true feelings” from her heart.

“People in Hong Kong love her,” Wong said. “Because when we were under her rule, we enjoyed democracy and freedom and we were very grateful. I want to say goodbye to ‘si tau por’ who is in heaven.”

With the takeover on July 1, 1997, China pledged to keep Western civil liberties and institutions in Hong Kong intact for at least 50 years. Many who grew up in the former area grew up hoping for even greater freedoms.

But after months of anti-government protests in 2019, Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the city in an effort to stamp out public dissent.

News outlets deemed too critical of Beijing have been forced to shut their doors and dozens of activists have been arrested. The mass protests ended. Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents have chosen to immigrate to the UK and other places like Taiwan.

So far, the authorities have allowed the orderly, somber displays of respect to continue.

“I can imagine some people going there not so much for nostalgia reasons, but as a kind of protest, as that dissent is being suppressed,” said John Burns, an honorary professor of politics and public administration at the University of Hong Kong.

“For example, some people who agree with the kind of universal values ​​that the UK stands for and which were incorporated into our Bill of Rights at the end of colonialism may participate as a form of protest,” Burns said.

Emotions are running high in Hong Kong, former Democratic Party chairman and ex-legislator Emily Lau said, given the city’s political situation and its struggles to fight COVID-19.

“Some are genuinely nostalgic and have sentimental feelings for the Queen, but there are also those who have grievances about the current situation in Hong Kong,” Lau said.

“We cannot rule out that some have taken this opportunity to express that,” she said.

At the same time, public figures in Hong Kong are under scrutiny for their reaction to the Queen’s death, and criticized for being seen as having too much admiration for her government or British rule in general.

Commenters on mainland Chinese social media sites have berated veteran actor Lau Kar-ying for posting a selfie outside the British Consulate on Instagram with a caption that read, “Hong Kong was a blessed country under her rule.”

Lau was harshly criticized for attributing Hong Kong’s prosperity to British rule, but deleted the post and apologized on video on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo. He called on people not to read too much into what he said.

“I am Chinese and I will love my motherland forever. I’m sorry,” Lau said.

Not all Hong Kongers are sentimental about British rule. Some resent London’s decision not to grant them full British citizenship, instead giving them British National Overseas passports before transfer, which do not guarantee a right to live in the UK

“The British have taken away the rights of those born in Hong Kong before 1997. They have not protected those rights,” said Leslie Chan, who said he had no intention of showing his respects to the Queen. “When the British government discussed the future of Hong Kong with China, Hong Kongers were cut off from the discussion,” he said.

Some in Hong Kong focus only on the last decades of British rule before handover to China, as the city grew increasingly prosperous and the colonial government polished its legacy with new parks, train lines, and other modern amenities.

British rule in Hong Kong has benefited the area in some ways, but colonialism is ultimately damaging to its hegemony and racism, Burns said.

“When you talk about the benefits of colonialism, you can’t just take the last 10 or 20 years in Hong Kong,” he said. “You have to look at the whole.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.