21 Mar 2018
Goodbye old Hong Kong.
I first went to Hong Kong on a business trip back in 1974. It was in August-typhoon season-and I was marooned for a few days in my hotel whilst a typhoon swept through. I remember Hong Kong from that time as a very exciting place. It was literally where east met west. It was exotic. The amazing flight path approach to the airport set the scene. The streets seethed with activity - handpulled carts and British cars and vans and traders everywhere. Rickshaws waited at the Star Ferry terminal to take workers to their offices. It was very British. I was taken lunch at the Hong Kong Club where it was dark suits and white shirts and hushed voices.
Since that visit I have been back to Hong Kong many times and I have seen it change over the years but when I visited two weeks ago I was surprised how much it had changed in four years since my previous visit. Sadly Hong Kong is rapidly becoming just another big Chinese city. The mainland Chinese sinification of Hong Kong is proceeding very rapidly. Forget the Chinese pledge at the time of the British handover to maintain two systems. Now they are even talking about changing British place names such as Victoria Park to local names and taking down colonial era statues.
Other changes are inevitable. Many of the tiny shops such as the ones above are disappearing fast to be replaced by modern shops. Supermarkets are replacing street stalls. The wonderful Star Ferries which once were the sole means of crossing from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon have long been replaced by three road tunnel crossings and the MTR- one of the most efficient mass transit systems in the world-although the ferries still linger on just as a tourist attraction.
Landfill has reduced the width of the harbour significantly and the high rises just keep on going up. The British expats who once ran the administration have all gone and so have most of the expat bankers and financiers and the expat directors of the old trading houses and shipping lines. The old airport was replaced by the new airport in 1999 and it is now the busiest airport in the world. Soon to be completed will be the world's longest road bridge connecting Hong Kong to Macau and then the Macau ferries will be gone too.
Somethings never change. The bustle I observed back in 1974 is still there - even more so-but now stand on the street in central Hong Kong and play spot the westerner. It is the Asian century
Photo below by me-the Star Ferries in their heyday.