Pearl of the orient; 15 years after the Handover
By Bobby Yip
Hong Kong celebrates its 15th anniversary since the handover to Chinese sovereignty from British rule on July 1, 2012. In the cityâ€™s King George V Memorial Park, a plaque from the colonial era is hidden behind the roots of a banyan tree. I found this to be a good symbol of the fading former colonial links to the territory’s past.
Bearing the romanticized phrase â€śPearl of the Orientâ€ť, Hong Kong attracts visitors from around the world. Due to a fast growing economy, a flood of mainland Chinese visitors in recent years (including many big spenders) have boosted the cityâ€™s retail sales. In 2011, nearly 42 million visitors came to Hong Kong, about 64 percent of them from the mainland.
The â€śForever Blooming Bauhiniaâ€ť sculpture outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, a gift from the Chinese government in 1997, is one of the most popular tourist spots for mainlanders. To me, they enjoy a freedom of expression here without fear of political correctness. Under an immigration scheme, a few of might eventually settle in Hong Kong. With a good judicial system, low crime rate and a wide range of personal freedom, just to mention a few, becoming a Hong Kong citizen is a dream for many on the other side of the border.
The late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, architect of â€śone-country, two-systemsâ€ť, said Hong Kong â€świll remain unchanged for 50 yearsâ€ť. In reality, various educational and cultural programs are conducted to try to strengthen the locals national identity and to make them become more patriotic. Flag-raising at schools and national studies are increasingly popular.
Yet, a lot of people still consider themselves as â€śHong Kongersâ€ť rather than â€śChinese peopleâ€ť, recent local polls showed.
Nearly one-third of the 50 years has passed. The capitalist city inside a fast growing communist China remains one of the most competitive in the world, with a hope that the pearl continues to shine.