There we stood. My bride and I of only seven years looking over the beautiful harbor into the picturesque landscape that is the romantic Hong Kong Harbor. We had just lead another large youth team into China where we ministered and delivered Bibles. It was a wonderful trip through four cities and our final stop was now Hong Kong. We would fly home tomorrow, but tonight the night was ours and hand-in-hand we strolled on the harbor that marks the economic favor of Hong Kong. What a city! What a story this little geographical location holds in our world. Full of rich history containing war, treaties, governmental powers, land, and of course love.
To be a little society between the enormous powers of the West and the East is the daily existence of Hong Kong. The transfer from British power back to Chinese control in 1997 promised new fresh starts to Hong Kong, but the large Asian power that is Beijing is committed to keeping Hong Kong political structure in the former and previous colonial era. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) understands that to allow greater democratization in Hong Kong would possibly be infectious to the whole population of China. Having spent many weeks in China being smuggled in and out of Chinese church homes and leadership training rooms, I know first hand the tight grip that the PRC Communist party desires to hold around her people.
Yet Hong Kong was different in so many ways. The way that Hong Kong has been described as “a cultural fault line for centuries” is a true description. If ever there was a locale that was the quintessential transitory land between East and West, Hong Kong is that land. A veritable zone of cultural transitioning. Even in the midst of geopolitical tensions, “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.”
In my current research I am learning about migrants and their assimilation process into the dominant culture. Though migrates prefer to maintain their own traditional culture as they move to new cultural destinations, assimilation into the new culture is inevitable. Assimilation takes place in the natural course of the migrates desire to improve their livelihood by acquiring better education, higher paying jobs, and moving to better neighborhoods for their children to grow up in. However, rather then total assimilation into the dominate culture, there is a third new culture that develops as the two cultures intertwine in the assimilation process. Sociologists Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou, formulated an assimilation model referred to as “segmented” or selective assimilation. In this model a straight forward assimilation into the dominate culture is only one of the possible outcomes for those arriving in into a new host country. These segmented or selective assimilated cultures create “divergent outcomes” making it difficult to determine what the mainstream culture is or is not. I could not help but think of the Hong Kong cultural makeup.
Hong Kong truly was, and is, “a multifaceted, polyphonic culture that resist easy homogenization.” So, where, or what, does the immigrant eventually assimilate into? With the different languages and polymorphic cultures ubiquitously present, Hong Kong is a present day anthropological dream to study. What has and will continue to emerge as the dominate culture of a Hong Kong Individual? Louie does provide some clues that I will be looking for this September that have helped to shape the unique Hong Kong individual.
The very alienation that is confronted by the fast-paced life that makes Hong Kong so unique has been characterized as one of the factors that assist its citizens to be “good survivors in the modern world.” Yet there are clouds of doubt and uncertainty that its citizens must deal with that others do not endure. There is considerable economic, social and political concerns. China mainland’s seemingly unstoppable economic growth heading, to what many predict, as the next leading world superpower threatens the very democratic existence of the tiny territories of Hong Kong. With these looming developments there is concern for possible “erosion of civil rights” and democracy as many have know. Those who have lived long in Hong Kong have enjoyed the taste of what democracy is like. Yet they now belong to a communist nation who has adamantly opposed democracy. Even in this turbulent “in-between” existence Hong Kong has become a major financial center. By the “end of British rule Hong Kong held the world’s seventh largest foreign reserves and the third largest export of clothing. It had the second highest per capita GDP in Asia (after Japan) and had surpasses that of Australia, Britain and Canada.”
So, Hong Kong culture? I will be looking for the following cultural values this September:
- Globally savvy
- Hesitant to trust government
- Politically sharp
- Fiercely independent
- Financially strong and astute
- Openness to strangers
- Culturally Intelligent of both East and West while trusting no one.
What do you think of my list and what can you add to the possible culture we will all experience this September in… Hong Kong?
 Kam Louie, ed., Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), Loc. 563.
 Ibid., Loc. 190.
 Ibid., Loc. 206.
 Ibid., Loc. 192.
 Jehu J Hanciles, Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration, and the Transformation of the West (New York: Orbis Books, 2008), 239.
 Stephen B. Bevans, “What Has Contextual Theology to Offer the Church of the Twenty-First Century?,” in Contextual Theology for the Twenty-First Century:, ed. Katalina Tahaafe-Williams and Stephen B. Bevans, Missional Church, Public Theology, World Christianity 1 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2011), 6.
 Min Zhou, “Segmented Assimilation: Issues, Controversies, and Recent Research on the New Second Generation,” in The Handbook of International Migration: The American Experience, ed. Charles Hirschman, Philip Kasinitz, and Josh DeWind, 1st edition (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1999), 196–211.
 Ibid., 210.
 Kam Louie, ed., Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), Loc. 198.
 Ibid., Loc. 207–208.
 Ibid., Loc. 366.
 Ibid., Loc. 374.