There are a lot ongoing discussions about what makes Hong Kong Hong Kong, perhaps since the handover in 1997. A symptom of decolonisation. Yet at the same time there are a lot of discussions about cultural preservation, about keeping aspects of ‘The Real Hong Kong’ for prosperity, in case things change. Colonisation was a process; so too is decolonisation. Preserving and studying the past is certainly important at this juncture, but indulging in or consuming nostalgia is something else. There are no such things as ‘The Real Hong Kong’ or ‘The Real Hongkonger’. In fact one should be cautious of this way of thinking. Change is inevitable, and whether for better or worse is a matter of perspective. Whether one likes it or not, Hong Kong as a concept is continuously evolving. Waxing nostalgic does not get us anywhere. If I had to name one quality that has been eroding in Hong Kong since 1997, it would be its open-mindedness: its capacity to embrace different ideas, whether global, regional or from the Mainland. That pragmatic, flexible and versatile mindset placed us uniquely on the global stage. A global outlook opens us up to infinite possibilities as well as opportunities. An island mentality is stifling. This means considering Hong Kong in context of the rest of China, Asia and the world. The fact that we were brought up in colonial Hong Kong without a sense of nationality should be used to our advantage. We were once not afraid to not define ourselves. We grew up in a third culture: not exactly Chinese, not exactly British, but somewhere in between. This is manifested in our language, food, temperament, outlook and way of life. Rather than rushing to define ourselves, we could leverage this ambiguity to look into the future. What I have just written does not preclude the political reality of Hong Kong at the moment, and what happened here in 2014 and 2019. However challenging it might be, we need to face forward and step into the future with optimism.
(Woke up in the middle of the night and wrote this in Byword. The events of 2014 and 2019 have made Hongkongers either very heated or deepy lethargic towards conversations of this kind. I’ve probably not considered these ideas too carefully or from every possible angle. I’ll simply park my thoughts here, and let them percolate and evolve.)