Anticipation. No I am not referring to the commercial playing that song in the background whilst a cup of coffee is poured. Although, thankfully, as I write I do have a cup of coffee beside me! By anticipation I am simply referring to our upcoming Advance. The anticipation for our time together is building. Truthfully most of that is centered in our time together. I am looking forward to being with all of you and to savor what this time and space will provide. But I confess going to Hong Kong has not been on my bucket list. Yet here I am, the roundrtip tickets are purchased; I am preparing to go. Do I have anticipation for our days in Hong Kong? Am I anticipating Hong Kong itself?
Reading Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image this week I acknowledge that I knew little about Hong Kong or its culture. I remember back that when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was on the news in the early 1980’s. Indignantly I could not fathom why Hong Kong should not continue to be under British rule. But my interest amounted to not much more than a passing interest. More recently my Hong Kong awareness has been limited within the sphere of a few movies that had Hong Kong as locations.Yet after reading I have a sense that I am not alone. The essays comprising this book offer a consistent reminder, “Present day Hong Kong culture is fascinating because it is a confluence of various cultures around the world.” There is much more to Hong Kong.
In fact, largely due to our reading and our journey together these past two years I am much more aware of my bias and indifference and how these two intentions reside within me. Therefore as I reflect upon this book I am drawn in two directions. The first involves Hong Kong itself. What do I see now about Hong Kong culture that I did not before and what am I preparing myself for in anticipation of our journey in September? The other locates within a recurring framework, what does Hong Kong reflect back to me that might inform how I see my own culture?
Hong Kong is not unique in its search for an identity. But Hong Kong’s location may contribute in unique ways to how it embraces and seeks to find who they are as a fusion of old and new, where do you find identity when another culture imposes its own systematic identity upon you? What are the ramifications of the observation, “Hong Kong was not decolonized; rather, it was re-colonized, with control simply shifting from London to Beijing?”
Conversely, what can we learn from the ensuing mass emigration resulting from the anticipation of the 1997 transfer and its aftermath? Kam Louie points to emigration’s effect upon social structures. But it was not just leaving that produced the void. Doubt and fear seemed a result of Tiananmen Square. The actions of the Chinese government had a reciprocal impact upon the Hong Kong people. If doubt and fear are present will distrust not follow? Within my context what do I need to pay attention to that has relevancy not only for my dissertation work concerning resilient faith among church leavers, but what are the contributing factors? What event is a defining moment within my ministry context? It is within this confluence that I am grateful for this program. Our earlier study with visual ethnography is enriched because of what I am seeing reflected back to me in this reading about Hong Kong culture.
David Clarke uses the word haunting in reference to Hong Kong by expanding the term’s meaning beyond the norm of “a disruptive invasion of the present by a trace of the past.” He broadens the term to include “a spatial rather than a temporal dimension.” Clarke notes that Hong Kong’s harbour is among the first things that visitors are attracted toward upon arriving. What is it about a “harbour” that holds such fascination? I recall how I was drawn to Cape Town’s harbor; I recall looking out on the Thames River. Do such places transmit more meaning than just safe port or commerce? Clarke suggests they do. Actually I began to wonder about bricolage when I read:
“This fact of physical geography which was responsible for its annexation by the British and its subsequent development as a port city has however been somewhat neglected by government city planners, who even today are more inclined to treat the harbour as a possible site for lucrative land reclamation than as a potential aesthetic or cultural resource for the city itself.”
What I wonder and where might I have done the same on a much smaller scale? How have we done or are we doing something similar in our present Church culture?
As a place that has for so long had to share its identity and have an identity imposed upon it, is it any wonder that in the global enterprise of stature and influence that post 1997 Hong Kong seems to be adapting and choosing without cohesive direction? Is it probable that economies that reinforce the status quo maintain the strength of the prevailing culture’s identity rather than create it? Does the search for a true identity arise from displacement or when your position is threatened, just as Hong Kong has felt the stature of Shanghai rise? Conversely how is the Church’s response to those leaving the church manifest an economic shaking that we might not want to acknowledge?
And what of protest? And subtle yet intentional messages conveyed in movies and art? These are things I have seen mostly through my American eyes. I have not considered or recognized the roots of several prominent American films with their Hong Kong origins. Here I have been reminded of the subversive nature of Jesus’ parables, the truth telling that spoke with intention to convey the narrow way of how to live in accord with God’s design. How might I become more vested in that type of communication?
I am not only anticipating being with all of you. I am traveling to Hong Kong with eyes and ears that want to see and hear what Hong Kong is saying.
 Ibid., 13.
 David Clarke, “The Haunted City: Hong Kong and Its Urban Others” in Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011), 42.
 Ibid. 43.