For many years while I was working abroad, I made it my business to get to Hong Kong every chance I got. I loved the city. As a British colony in the far east—until it reverted to Chinese control in 1997—it was a beacon of freedom in a world of dictatorship, a shining star of capitalism and commercial success in a sea of poverty. The city was my refuge during my years in Southeast Asia between 1962 and 1975 when I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S. Many of the objects that now decorate my home came from Hong Kong, including a round dining room table, some five feet in diameter, made of a single piece of white marble resting on a metal pedestal. It’s so heavy that I can’t move it.
Cantonese is the Chinese dialect spoken by most natives of Hong Kong, but the anglicized name, “Hong Kong,” is actually a phonetic rendering of the city’s Cantonese name 香港 (heung gong), which literally means “Fragrant Harbor.” The Mandarin (or 國語—gwo yu, that is “national language”) dialect pronounces it Xiang Gảng, and in Vietnamese it is Hương Cảng.
China, since it took control of Hong Kong from the UK in 1997, has been tightening its control of the population and systematically withdrawing all freedoms from the population until nowadays the citizens of Hong Kong are no freer than the citizens of mainland Communist China. The most recent stroke was the unopposed “election” on May 8, 2022, of John Lee, Beijing’s selection to head the city. Ironically, Lee’s background is neither civil service nor business but police. He has made a career of limiting people’s freedom.
So the Hong Kong I knew is gone. I assume it is also no longer a commercial hub and one of the leading business centers of the world. It is now just one more despotic population center under the iron control of Xi Jinping.
I mourn the loss of a place that brought me happiness but is no more.