“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). In this shaky geopolitical terrain, 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.” 
When I first visited Hong Kong about six years ago, I did not know what to expect. Being a firmly Asian city-state with British influence, I was intrigued to see how Hong Kong differed to Mainland China. My first impression after leaving the airport was that I wasn’t sure whether I had even left the UK. We were driving on the left with the same green road signs as back home. From the English language, British electric sockets, to their red double decker buses and Madame Tussaudes Wax Museum, I could clearly identify the marks of British culture. It felt like Britain, yet it wasn’t. Neither was it China. It was an amalgamation of two very different and distinct cultures just as Louie’s statement claims.
This question of Hong Kong’s unique identity and culture is the basis of discussion in the essays that make up Hong Kong Culture by Louie. Approaching the dialogue through the lens of word and image, each of the authors seeks to contribute a voice for the city through their various expressions of Culture. Through this book, I was intrigued to learn:
- About the weak political structure that exists in Hong Kong (in part the result of British colonialism).
- How their desire for universal suffrage is still unmet.
- The struggle of a SAR city in relating to communist rule.
- The concerns of the PRC government in managing a city with so many freedoms, and their desire to prevent excessive influence into the mainland.
- The frustration that Hong Kong Chinese feel about the decision to encourage Mandarin within schools in a city that is used to the mediums of English and Cantonese.
- The push of film producers to produce movies in the medium of Mandarin and no longer in Cantonese.
- The fight to become a truly democratic city, with the co-existing fear that the one-nation two systems may lose one of its systems over time.
These are just some of the profound questions that linger in the hearts and minds of Hong Kong citizens since 1997. However one understands Hong Kong, it is different to Beijing. In my visit to that city, we could not find one person who spoke English (making travel and eating very difficult). We saw two Chinese men fighting each other quite seriously in front of the Forbidden City, and we were encouraged to douse our eating utensils in hot water when eating in restaurants. When taking a train somewhere in the country (I had no idea where we were going), some of the women on the train were fascinated by my friend’s blonde hair and kept touching it, while offering us chicken feet to eat in a friendly gesture. We were definitely in China!
Hong Kong Culture has provided me an awareness of some of the contemporary issues that live in the hearts and minds of Hong Kong Chinese. Personally, I hope Hong Kong doesn’t lose the western aspects of its identity, while somehow enjoying its Chinese heritage. Hong Kong is certainly an important city-state, a peaceful stepping-stone into mainland China, very unlike the DMZ between North and South Korea and therefore to be appreciated and valued. Can’t wait to visit there with everyone in September and enjoy some of the Cantonese cuisine (but no chicken feet please!).
 Kam Louie, Ed., Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Aberdeen, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 2