Hong Kong and Me

The recent hubbub about the Chinese withdrawal of human rights from citizens of Hong Kong reminded me of my happy memories of the city.

Between 1962 and 1975, I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S. To help relieve the stress for troops in Vietnam, the government offered R&R (rest and recuperation) trips lasting several days to locations outside the country. The two most popular destinations, as I recall, were Bangkok and Hong Kong. I made it my business to get to Hong Kong as often as I could. If memory serves. I traveled there three or four times.

I loved the city. It was cosmopolitan and welcoming. The residents were more than happy to entertain us rich Americans and went out of their way to make us feel at home. I spoke Chinese, but the dialect I knew was Mandarin, the national dialect. The locals spoke Cantonese. The dialects of Chinese are mutually unintelligible, so my knowledge would have been useless except that all Chinese speak the national dialect in addition to their own local tongue. Granted, their southern Chinese accent made it difficult for me to understand them, but one way or another we managed. They were so amazed and delighted to meet an American who spoke Chinese.

Hong Kong in those days, while still a British colony, was a beautiful city. Its name (香港) means “perfumed harbor.” Its territory is composed of an island and a small landmass of the Chinese mainland. Views from all points were magnificent.

It saddens me to see the revocation of rights for Hong Kong citizens and the transformation of a great tourist attraction into one more Chinese city devoid of freedom. Like so much else that has happened in 2020, the shutdown reminds me that the world is in a new time filled with unknowns.

2 thoughts on “Hong Kong and Me”

  1. Tom, you and I were in Hong Kong at the same time over Christmas 1962. I have a hazy memory of that time, but I believe we visited a floating restaurant and had Christmas dinner in an English restaurant with Yukio Onaka (a colleague of mine from Saigon). Wish I could remember what we had to eat that evening. I had two trips to Hong Kong and I enjoyed both. It’s very sad to see what’s happening there.

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  2. Wow. Your memory is better than mine, Bob. I do remember that you took a snapshot of me in Saigon in 1962. I still have the photo. Yeah, the loss of Hong Kong is very sad.

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