DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Where is Hong Kong??

Written by: on June 17, 2015


I need to be completely honest. Despite the fact that I spend most my time traveling the world, I have never been to the South Pacific or Asia…unless you count Yekaterinburg, Russia, where I typically spend an afternoon taking friends to stand on the Europe-Asia border! When we first mentioned Hong Kong, I had to look up it up on a map. Where exactly was it? China? Japan? Near Thailand and Cambodia? Where are those places in relation to Australia? Is Hong Kong a country? Is it a city or a region? I am completely clueless when it comes to the Eastern Hemisphere. In fact, upon racking my brain, the only recollection I had of anything Hong Kong was in University when the Business Department offered a summer abroad to study in Hong Kong. (My summer in England was much more appealing!)

When I opened Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, I was still left with many questions. Hong Kong was once under British Rule? What does “SAR” stand for? It was time to visit…Wikipedia. I needed a crash course in Hong Kong history. May I share the intro with you?

Hong Kong (香港; “Fragrant Harbour”), officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is a city located on the southern coast of China at the Pearl River Estuary and the South China SeaAfter China’s defeat in the First Opium War (1839–42) against the British Empire, Hong Kong became a British colony with the perpetual cession of Hong Kong Island, followed by Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. After it was occupied by Japan during the Second World War (1941–45), the British resumed control until 30 June 1997. As a result of the negotiations between China and Britain, Hong Kong was transferred to the People’s Republic of China under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The city became China’s first “special administrative region” with a high degree of autonomy on 1 July 1997 under the principle of “one country, two systems”.[1]

Aha! Hong Kong is a CITY! So are they Chinese? Or are they British? What will their accent be? What will the people be like? What should I expect upon arrival in Hong Kong? I still have so many questions, even after reading this week’s book, Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image. The work contains thirteen essays on post-1997 Hong Kong culture by some of the world’s best-known authorities on these topics today. The majority of the essays are on literature and film. However, I found the text on protest art quite interesting, as well!

As I said, I am left with so many questions about Hong Kong. For instance, I still don’t know what to call those from or living in Hong Kong! Hong Kongians? Would that be right? Or Hong Kongese? Maybe that’s better? Ah, Hong Kongers! All joking aside, I was able to come up with three insights based on the reading…

1) Hong Kong appears to be the poster-child of an East meets West culture. The skylines are filled with tall buildings and bright lights of what I know as the West. Disneyland and amusement parks are family attractions. Movies are a central part of their entertainment. Who knew that so many of the Hong Kong movies were adapted to Hollywood movies and vice versa?! There are so intermingled and based upon each other, the average viewer would never know where the idea for the screenplay originated![2]

2) As a huge fan of movies, I was shocked to find out The Departed was based on a movie from Hong Kong – Infernal Affairs. Yes, maybe I live under a rock and don’t read the entertainment news, but this revelation leads me to believe that our cultures are at least somewhat comparable. For instance, the police force deals with the same type of bad guys in the East as they do in the West. The more I travel, the more I realize how much alike we, human beings, are. We care about our families. We want to see our children succeed, though success may look different in the East than in the West. (The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua taught me that!)  We want to be known.  We love and want to be loved.

3) Chapter 11, “Global Dreams and Nightmares: The Underside of Hong Kong as a Global City in Fruit Chan’s Hollywood, Hong Kong” by Pheng Cheah, theorized global cities often possess a plastic facade, projecting only the good and hiding the bad. Fruit Chan makes movies to expose controversial acts, such as trilogies on sex workers from the mainland of China. His movies, “map out the disjunctive coexistence of Hong Kong’s global dreams and nightmares by offering images of Hong Kong that are disturbingly different from its official imaginary.” (Loc. 4125)

This makes me think of Facebook and other social media. On Facebook, we tend to project the image, which we want others to see and believe. We post happy photos, upbeat statuses, popular event check-ins, and the occasional “woe is me” to draw attention. Is this what Global Cities, like Hong Kong, do? They project an image to draw in commercialism, big business firms, and the next wave of investors? There is another side, of course, a hidden side, if you will. Does that make us plastic? Does that make our society and culture plastic? Overly optimistic? Trampling the poor and ugly to promote the rich and beautiful? Is that what we do on social media, too?

What does all this mean? What do I draw from all of these observations? It feels as though Hong Kong may feel familiar – like Cape Town or London – with its beautiful scenery, buildings, and people. It may also feel familiar with its wounds, its broken history, and its social divide. I look forward to knowing more, experiencing the life, and searching for the truth of Hong Kong.


[1] “Hong Kong,”

[2] Kam Louie, Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), Loc. 3164.


About the Author


Ashley Goad

Ashley is the Global Missions Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. She's a UNC fanatic, Haiti Enthusiast, Clean Water Activist, Solar Power Supporter...

10 responses to “Where is Hong Kong??”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Ashley, a wonderful post about an intriguing city. I am totally with you on this whole Far East travel situation. I have ventured just a little further East than you have (I went from Orenburg Russia to Tashkent, Uzbekistan). This one trip to Central Asia is the totality of my East travels (though I’ve been to over 35 countries in the world!). I find I normally learn geography as I go. I have now 500 times the knowledge of where we are going than I did two months ago. I think that is why I enjoyed this book…it is for me a window into the reality behind the beautiful cityscape (which is my total knowledge of Hong Kong). I am glad to have some insights into the complications and complexity of the is small part of the world, as it will go a long way to understanding what it is that we are going to see and experience. (In fact, I picked up “Asian Caldron” by Kaplan — it even has maps and covers all of the South China Sea countries! My geography of this region is so much better now! So much to learn!) I hope and pray I walk away with a similar appreciation for this part of the world as I did for Africa. Great post, my fellow traveler!

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      John! I’ve been pulling out the maps, too! Even having a visual idea of where we will be is helping me adjust to the thought of what Hong Kong may be like! Two rookie, southeast Asia travelers like us… Watch out Thailand and Hong Kong! 🙂

      Side note: While in Russia, I went to an Uzbekistanian restaurant. It may have been the best food I’ve ever had overseas. Unbelievable salad with eggplant, tomato and cucumber, and these salmon kabobs, which will live on in my taste buds forever. Wow. I wonder what we’ll eat in Hong Kong? And in Thailand? For some reason, I don’t think sweet and sour chicken will be on the menu! 🙂

  2. Ashley, your post is so funny that it had me literally laughing out loud. I love that you are at first admittedly so ignorant and yet you produce a blog that has such an intellectual knowledge of a place you’ve never been to. Such a great intertwine with the book and the subject of how the arts have captured much of the culture that is Hong Kong. Great work that you have done here especially in regards to personalizing our Facebook presentation as perhaps been plastic where we trample the poor and ugly only to promote the rich and beautiful. Wow! So true. It is always best to hide our dark sides and only show to the world our best side. Great blog! Great work you have done here. Congratulations on completing all of the books and post for this program. I look forward to reading your dissertation and walking the stage with our Cohart mates.

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Ha! Mitch, I do try to be the epitome of a contradiction! 🙂 I actually wrote several paragraphs more on the Facebook – hiding the dark and sharing the light – but then deleted it to fit in the required word count. The more I read through the news feed on Facebook, the more I realize how inauthentic we are. We project a side of ourselves we only want others to see, when there are many other layers to explore. Ahhh… I should’ve written my dissertation on that!! TOO LATE!

      I’m so thankful we were on this journey together, Mitch! Amen!

  3. mm Deve Persad says:

    Ashley, interesting thoughts as always. I’ve never been to this part of the world either and so look forward to learning and experiencing it. Your impressions on the book and questions about what reality will actually reveal are very similar to my own – so I like it. You said: “There is another side, of course, a hidden side, if you will.” Your parallel to the veneer of social media is accurate. It’s a problem of personal, social and evidently global proportion.

    Thanks for your enthusiasm and encouragement over the course of these two years. It’s been a joy to work through some of these bigger questions of life and ministry with you. I look forward to seeing you again in Hong Kong.

  4. Ashley,

    Your post made me laugh out loud! Hong Kongers? I loved that! You honesty was so refreshing. Thank you for sharing.

    Like you, I have not been to Asia — at least not to the “far East.” So I have some trepidations of being in this strange place. But after reading Liz’s post I felt a little better and less fearful. I think it is going to be OK. We will all enjoy Hong Kong. My prayer is that we would all be sensitive to the culture and not act like “Ugly Americans” while we are there. Thus, I am going to study up on the culture a bit more so I don’t stand out any more that I already do as a non-Chinese person.

    I look forward to hanging out with you while we stroll the streets of this city. I also look forward to experiencing each other’s research presentations. I certainly hope that I will be ready by then. God willing, we will all be ready. See you soon, Ashley! And…don’t forget to send out the reminders for our monthly chats. I think that will be good to keep going. Take care!

  5. Liz Linssen says:

    Hello my dear
    A very enjoyable read 🙂
    Another book you might enjoy is Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger. She’s a British missionary who moved to Hong Kong many years ago and ended up working with the underside of the city, helping those kick drugs etc. Many lives were transformed by her amazing ministry, and I’m so glad we’ll be visiting there this September.
    Have a great week!

  6. Richard Volzke says:

    HK has a unique history, where Eastern and Western culture have come together to create a new society. Hopefully the best of both cultures have been incorporated. Like you, I have never been to HK and look forward to exploring this city and all it has to offer.

  7. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Ashley! Great post! I love your observations and the great questions you ask. Like you, I look forward to learning more about HK and listen to the stories of the local people who are doing God’s work in the midst of rampant change. Glad that we will be together soon in Asia! Blessings!

  8. Ashley!
    Well my friend you have an amazing way of bringing our books to life, telling us key learnings and then zap, zing and zowers you take us to a different level where we are thinking about what we didn’t immediately thing of or need to see in a different light. Your post on Hong Kong is no exception. I too was surprised to read of the movie influence. Geesh is that all we do in America copy other countries movies and shows? (I digress).

    One of the things I appreciated about our reading was that the authors helped to show us where to look when we are there. Your post did that as well! 🙂

    So grateful for these past two years…

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