Reading Kam Louise’s editorial book, Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, raised my expectations about the upcoming advance in Hong Kong. Admittedly, as unfamiliar as I am with the Hong Kong’s history before and after 1997, the essays offer very informative and fascinating analytical insights illustrating the social and cultural life of Hong Kong. As I read through the pages of this book what struck me the most was the complexity and uniqueness of Hong Kong’s identity. What is fascinating about Hong Kong is the “confluence of various cultures from around the world.” (p.7). In fact, as Louise describes, “Hong Kong has been a cultural fault-line for centuries—first, as a colonial space wrested from the Qing empire by the British and second, as a prize won back by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).” This, as an outsider, gives me an impression that this highly regarded global city is dealing with an identity crisis. However, Louise convincingly tell us that “Hong Kong found its firm cultural ground and became a translation space where Chinese-ness was interpreted for “Westerners” and Western-ness was translated for Chinese”(p.2). I wonder what it would be like to live in a “translation space” meant for everyday people. Again Louise asserts, “Hong Kong residents may even feel a sense of alienation and rootlessness as they are confronted daily by the fast-paced and never-ceasing transformations in their surroundings. Successfully managing this sense of the unstable is precisely what makes Hong Kong such a modern city, and its citizens such good survivors in the modern world” (p.3).
While I appreciate Louise’s perspective as an insider, I am interested to know how the habitants in this global city are managing to make sense of life in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. We are told in this volume that Hong Kong’s, though decolonized from British rule decades ago, return to Chinese rule “did not bring outpourings of patriotic sentiment or self-governance either” (p.3). This hints of fragility in their political power structure. I wonder where this divided political movement and power structure would lead these nations? As it is now, there seems to be a disconnect between Mainlanders and Hong Kongers culturally, where the former is more authoritarian and the later is open and diverse and treasures different views.
It is fascinating that the contributors of these essays view Hong Kong’s cultural dynamics specifically through films and literature. Doubtless, artists—musicians, poets, filmmakers, will play a role in conserving cultural identity. In Hong Kong, “Artists have embraced causes such as heritage conservation and humanistic concerns: promoting the values of human qualities in economic spaces amidst the rampant commercial development of the territory ”(p.3). We also know that artists and poets can be biased and overshadow the reality of everyday people. That may not be the case here but it is the undeniable reality in most politically divided and unstable countries, such as my own country. This is why I am very much looking forward to learning from churches and Christian leaders who are doing kingdom work in this rampantly changing ministry context. I am eager to hear their challenges and possibilities’ in this “liminal space” to use Leonard Hjalmarson words. Hopefully their stories and the experience of being in this strange city will take me out of my ministry context to have a better understanding of my ministry setting. I am also very excited to reunite with my LGP4 cohort, Professors and other cohort members. Peace to you all and see you soon.