In Hong Kong, tributes to Elizabeth seen as veiled jab at China

Outdoors the British Consulate in Hong Kong this week, bouquets and handwritten tributes piled up as a protracted line of individuals waited in sweltering warmth to pay their closing respects to Queen Elizabeth II.

In the onetime British colony, the dying of a monarch who served as a residing hyperlink to Britain’s globe-spanning empire marked a sophisticated historic second.

The colonial period that ended a quarter-century in the past in Hong Kong was characterised by racism, injustice and corruption. However for a lot of, Elizabeth’s dying final week at 96 was additionally a reminder of the heavy Beijing hand that has supplanted British rule.

As the standard Chinese language mid-autumn Moon Pageant was celebrated in Hong Kong and elsewhere, John Chang, 56, stood in line on the British Consulate for 3 hours. He penned a message of because of the queen, and introduced inexperienced and white flowers, colours that he remembered the late monarch typically carrying.

John Chang, proper, holds the flag of the UK with activist Alexandra Wong Fung-yiu in entrance of the British Consulate on Monday in Hong Kong.

(John Chang)

“We miss the queen so much, especially when we experienced China’s governance,” he stated.

Chang, who’s making ready to immigrate to Britain, stated the tribute underscored his growing dissatisfaction with Beijing’s rule. Regardless of colonial abuses, he remembers the years bracketing the handover as a time of freedom and prosperity.

It wasn’t till the waning years of British rule that better democratic freedoms had been granted to Hong Kongers. In the various a long time prior, the colonial authorities had little tolerance for political dissent and invoked anti-sedition legal guidelines that resemble people who Beijing wields within the southern Chinese language metropolis immediately.

China assumed management of Hong Kong in 1997, below a “one country, two systems” association meant to grant town 50 years of financial and political autonomy. However prior to now few years, the Chinese language Communist Get together has consolidated management and aggressively stamped out dissent, jailing lots of of protesters, activists and journalists below a draconian nationwide safety regulation.

In July, Chinese language President Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong for the twenty fifth anniversary of the territory’s handover, in a declaration of victory towards the anti-Beijing protests that rocked town in 2019.

As China’s Communist Get together has clamped down on political dissent, any reward of Hong Kong’s colonial previous has grow to be doubtlessly subversive. Earlier this yr, Hong Kong authorities revised faculty textbooks to disclaim that the territory was ever a British colony, as an alternative describing it as having been briefly occupied by overseas forces.

In an indication of the topic’s sensitivity, Hong Kong actor and singer Regulation Kar-ying posted a video Thursday on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, apologizing after he praised the queen, in a now-deleted Instagram put up, for making Hong Kong a “blessed land.”

One Beijing-backed newspaper accused anti-Chinese language forces of fabricating fond recollections of colonial rule. Ta Kung Pao, one other pro-Beijing publication, stated in a Tuesday commentary that paying condolences to the queen signaled a deep-rooted “colonial-loving mentality” and proved the necessity for “decolonization.”

People wait in line while a car drives by.

Individuals wait in line to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II exterior the British Consulate on Friday in Hong Kong.

(Anthony Kwan / Related Press)

However in style sentiment seems to defy such admonitions. In a Hong Kong store specializing in British memorabilia, clients have elevated round fivefold for the reason that queen’s dying, in comparison with the same old 100 or so a day, stated proprietor Bryan Ong.

Whereas he’s accustomed to aficionados of the British monarchy, Ong stated he was greatly surprised by the depth of grief being publicly expressed.

“This is the first time I met a lot of emotional, crying, tears-in-eyes people in my store,” the 42-year-old collector stated. He stated he’s been opening an hour earlier and shutting an hour later to accommodate the surge of arrivals, most of whom are usually not searching for something specifically.

“They just find some place to release their emotions,” Ong stated. “Lucky or unlucky, my store is one of the places they chose.”

Many in Hong Kong noticed the emotional response to the queen’s passing not simply as homage to a cultural icon, but in addition a delicate rebuke of China’s crackdown on civil liberties.

Flowers and a photograph are placed for the queen.

Flowers and {a photograph} are positioned for Queen Elizabeth II exterior the British Consulate on Friday in Hong Kong.

(Anthony Kwan / Related Press)

“Nostalgia is always about romanticizing the past, but I think nostalgia is always about critiquing the present as well,” stated John Carroll, a professor of historical past on the College of Hong Kong.

He stated the magnitude of the response to Elizabeth’s dying was sudden, given Hong Kong’s vexed relationship with British colonialism and the queen’s restricted function in native politics.

On the self-governed island of Taiwan, the response has been extra muted. One of many mourners who waited in line on the British Workplace, the U.Ok.’s consultant entity, was a 50-year-old material designer from Hong Kong.

“The passing of the queen was like the end of an era to me,” she stated, giving solely her final title, Lui, due to worry that she may very well be focused by China supporters. “The golden age of colonial Hong Kong is totally over.”

As youngsters in Hong Kong, she and her siblings took to the streets to attempt to catch a glimpse of a visiting Elizabeth, however had been unable to push by way of the welcoming crowds. Almost 36 years later in Taipei, she paid her respects on a wet afternoon to the queen she by no means bought to see.

Lui, who left Hong Kong final yr amid Beijing’s tightening authoritarian grip, first thought-about leaving after the Tiananmen Sq. bloodbath in 1989, however held out hope that China would grow to be extra open and democratic over time.

Throughout the pro-democracy Umbrella Motion in 2014, she thought of emigration once more. However it was the violent responses to protesters in 2019 that cemented her choice.

When the queen made her first journey to Hong Kong in 1975, Lui was simply 3. She was used to seeing the queen’s visage on cash, and recalled vaguely questioning how her likeness had come to life.

The queen talks to an officer while walking past a line of soldiers.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II talks to the officer in command of the Guard of Honor of Gurkhas after she had arrived in Hong Kong on Oct. 21, 1986, for a two-day go to.

(Related Press)

Elizabeth’s second go to, in 1986, got here two years after the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which laid the muse for Hong Kong to finally return to Chinese language management. Lui nonetheless remembers the cheery ambiance and the sound of the British navy band taking part in Scottish bagpipes.

On Tuesday, she penned her farewell in a e-book of condolences.

“Thank you for giving us a civilized colonial period,” she wrote. “It became our good old days.”

Lui acknowledged that Hong Kong below colonialism wasn’t excellent. However she couldn’t assist however evaluate town’s previous with its current.

“Imagine you and your ex-girlfriend broke up for family reasons, but your new girlfriend blocks you and bullies you, making you lose your freedom and financial ability, and even your smile,” she stated. “Won’t you miss your ex-girlfriend so much?”

Yang is a workers author and Shen a particular correspondent.