Most of my recent in-depth reading within the context of world history has been focused on Europe, particularly on former Eastern Europe and it’s communist history. This is my first more in-depth look further east toward the eastern Asia region and at Hong Kong in particular.
What little I do know about Hong Kong and its history is but a blip in the Modern History of Hong Kong.  This is one reason why I am grateful for this DMin program that focuses on leadership from a global perspective. Leadership in our global world need leaders with a global perspective. That said, I am familiar with portions of the History of Hong Kong. It’s development as a financial center, it’s connection to China and the 99-year “lease” to Great Britton as a trading route has enabled Hong Kong to develop a free market system that brought about great prosperity beyond what China and the world could imagine. Hong Kong brought western influence to China and East Asia in a way that no other city could.
Two historical facts that come to mind after reading Tsang are first, the beginnings of Hong Kong has its roots in the First Opium War. Which has an interesting connection to Pullinger’s Chasing the Dragon.  Second, Hong Kong did not have a strong base of national democratic institutions but functioned on a more local level where people had a voice that impacted the national level politically and culturally. This is deeply rooted in China’s familial culture, which, according to Chan also impacts China’s Christian theological development.  This great city that in many ways acted as an independent country, quietly changed the world and was a part of the fabric of the democratic capitalist world until 1997.
When I think of events that surround the history of Hong Kong, the one thing that stands out in my mind most—as it does for many— is Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997. In that year my family and I were living in the Czech Republic. The preceding years had brought about the 1989 fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe and subsequently, the 1993 Velvet Revolution dividing Czechoslovakia into the two countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia—now known as Czechia and Slovakia.
In 1996 and 1997 the matter of Hong Kong’s return to China was a major topic of discussion in the Czech Republic. At that time the Czech Republic has just come out of communism. They were finding their footing in a new world of democratic rule and capitalism. They were facing the excitement of freedom and also the growing and transition pains that came with that freedom, including the free-market society, in which most had little living and working experience. For more many of our Czech colleagues and friends, the return of Hong Kong to China was the world going backward. They had just come from communism, and Hong Kong was returning to communism. It was as if the west and the east were passing by each other in the timeline of history.
I remember talking over a cup of coffee about the sadness the Czech’s felt about Hong Kong’s return to communism. The speed at which 99 years had gone by and wondering what would become of Hong Kong. I remember one friend telling me that one never considers how short a period of time 99 years is. He remarked, a lease for 99 years on a piece of property can be a great deal for the leaser, especially if the property is improved and expanded. After only a couple of generations, when the property is at it’s highest value, it returns to its original owners, value and development in hand. This too was a familiar process in the Czech Republic as land restitution took place where the property was returned to its original owners. Only the property was rarely improved upon. This was not, however, the case with Hong Kong— the jewel of the East.
As in any city of our great world, including those wonderful cities in the eastern parts of Europe, the jury is still out on the future of Hong Kong. The city that once flew the union flag now flies the flag of China. I am looking forward to my first visit and the experience that awaits.
- Steve Tsang, Modern History of Hong Kong, London: I.B.Tauris, 2007.
- Jackie Pullinger, and Andrew Quicke, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens, Ada, MI: Chosen Books, 2007.
- Chan, Simon. Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014,