I don’t believe that the end justifies the means. To look at Hong Kong today, we see a thriving society and a highly developed economy. The British empire at the end of the 19th century was at its peak and spreading all across the world. Its influence was strong and the East India Trading company was the arm that made many in the British government a fortune. Motivations for the expansion of the Empire into the Asian market was not out of benefiting the Chinese living in this territory, the global market, nor thoughts of the future that could be built here. Hong Kong and its history is really a story of arrogance and insensitivity for gain in fortune of a few.
When looking at this thriving city in which I am currently sitting, it is easy to see history from either the perspective of the British or the perspective of the Chinese. It is just as easy to take sides as if looking backward into history gives us the right to judge all that went on. In reading Tsang, Modern History of the Hong Kong, I learned a great deal on what the motivations were for many encounters these two very distinct groups had. The greed through the sale of the opium was a huge motivator for keeping and controlling this little corner of Asia. Story after story was written about the manipulation of officials in order to keep that authority and their products moving so that money could be made.
What I found interesting as I read through this text was the lack of cultural sensitivity that took place on both sides. Each approached the other’s envoys believing they were superior and had the upper hand in the negotiation. They missed social and cultural cues (or simply ignored them) that led to an increase of hostilities. There was one instance where a British representative in Guangzhou stated that they would no longer “kow tow” to an empire not as great as Britain. Another time a Chinese leaderrefused to negotiate with the British and simply seized and destroyed opium belonging to East India Trading company. This lead to escalation in fighting, blockades and ultimately an embarrassment for the Chinese people. I do believe in both of these instances proper cultural training could have resulted in a very different outcome.
Post World War 2 was another of many examples where self center actions resulted in the loss of “face” where an alternative or compromise could have been reached. The British not wanting to lose Hong Kong or the investment that they had in this area, defied western allies as well as Chinese leaders and laid claim once again to Hong Kong. While the Ships were moving toward Hong Kong to accept the surrender from local Japanese occupational forces, Chinese leaders received word of the British intent to retake the city in the name of the Crown. The recognized leader of the democratic party (Chiang Kai-Shek) asked the British if the Chinese could publicly accept the Japanese surrender for the whole country and then they could receive the surrender of the Japanese located in Hong Kong. Shek was trying to find a compromise and save face. Losing Hong Kong would be a public slap in the face and he was finding a middle ground. The British refused and accepted the surrender for Hong Kong and the Chinese Country. Once again
showing that British concerns superseded those of China.
The results of this fusion of British and Chinese lifestyle has been good overall for this city-state. “British rule also left its mark on Hong Kong in a more important and sustainable way. it led to the rise of a people that remain quintessentially Chinese and yet share a way of life, core values and an outlook that resemble at least as much, if not more, that of an average New Yorker or Londoner, rather than that of their compatriots in China.”1. You can feel and see the difference between mainland China and Hong Kong as you walk the streets, see the people and interact with the culture.
I don’t believe the end justifies the means. I do not want to give the selfishness in the hearts of men and woman that wangled control of this area the satisfaction of knowing that I really enjoy this city. I don’t believe that anyone could have known that annexing Hong Kong and the New Territories would save it from the chaos that arrived during mainland cultural revolutions and other atrocities that occurred post world war 2. Hong Kong has developed a culture that has allowed to thrive socially and financially. Rather than give
certain governments the glory I will give it to God. He is able to take the messes we have selfishly produced and turn it into something that saves us from ourselves. Now that Hong Kong is in the hands of the mainland government, it has continued to be a financial powerhouse for many companies-with all the good and bad that it brings. As China continues to grow and stretches it influence around the world, we once again see an empire setting to benefit from the countries around the world with sometimes little regard from what is happening to the individuals in that particular country. The lessons of the past are either forgotten or being ignored. Hong Kong and its history is a continuing story of arrogance and control, the players may be different but the motivation of control and financial gain remain the same. Yet God has been in the center of it all and thrives in the hearts of many within this city. I do look forward for you all to see and experience this unique part of God’s earthly kingdom.
- Tsang, Steve. A Modern History of Hong Kong.(I.B. Taurus. 2007) 147