Wednesday, 4 July 2012

"Contrast with mainland is stark"

South China Morning Post, our local Hong Kong "paper of record", published my letter today.  Together with another taking the other side of the argument (should the Queen apologise for past "imperial crimes and exploitation").  Deletions from original noted in italics:
[Earlier letters here]
Contrast with mainland is stark
Yet another emotional and incoherent letter from Cynthia Sze 
I refer to the letter from Cynthia Sze ("Dark history of imperial exploitation", June 25).
Hong Kong is indeed in a good position since the handover, though "better" is arguable.
The reason for that good position is the system that was handed over peacefully in July 1997 - the rule of law; freedom of speech and assembly; a competent and uncorrupt government. All these are in stark contrast with the mainland.
I studied Chinese and worked in China in the early 1970s and have personal experience of the stark differences between the mainland and Hong Kong. [Mind you, I still had a fun and unforgettable time!]
Many of these still exist, corruption and abuse of power the chief among them. 
Ms Sze says Hong Kong people "keep annual vigil for June 4". Yes indeed, but try doing that in Beijing, Ms Sze, and see how long it is before you're tossed in jail by "China's able government".
The history of British imperialism is not blemish free, a fact fully recognised by the British themselves, who carry out constant self-criticism of their imperial past. But it is nonsense to note only the "atrocities" of "imperial exploitation", without also noting that, in the case of Hong Kong, our good position is based on principles of government and civil society instituted by Britain.
Queen Elizabeth has nothing to apologise for, Ms SzeWhy not concentrate your energies on getting the “able” Chinese government to apologise for June 4?
(disclosure: I am not British but Australian — another horrid ex colony! -  who now considers Hong Kong home).
Yours, etc,
Peter F

The other letter:

Imperial past had many dark periods

I refer to Ray Peacock's letter ("Many died to defend free speech", June 29).
While I salute the bravery of those who "fought and died" in Hong Kong, Britain was attempting to defend its colonial interests.
Mr Peacock seems to miss the point of Cynthia Sze's letter in which she discussed the irrelevance of Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong 15 years after the handover and the need for an apology for imperial crimes ("Dark history of imperial exploitation", June 25).
There are many dark periods in British imperial history; opium distribution in China, Irish famine and the Bengal famine, to name a few.
Mr Peacock would do well to research these topics to allow a greater understanding of the basis for opinions against imperialism, past or present.
Phillip J. Walker, Wan Chai
Cynthia Sze again, 9th July:

British soldiers died for empire
Referring to my letter ("Dark history of imperial exploitation", June 25), Ray Peacock ("Many died to defend free speech", June 29) groundlessly accused me of despising China's war allies, and speciously labelled my objective argument as ventilation of "bile and venom".
His hyperbolised fable of Britain's role in the second world war is outmoded. British soldiers died defending imperial interests and not freedoms for the colonies.
At the outbreak of the war, Britain's military enterprise in Asia collapsed. Britain itself was at the mercy of Luftwaffe air raids. Mr Peacock would have to learn to operate in Japanese or German if there weren't Chinese, Russian and American efforts in the war.
He also misconceived colonial education as a prerequisite for English articulation and free speech. From Lin Yutang to Ha Jin, many generations of Chinese literati without a colonial education have written freely in English.
Like them, nowadays a growing number of mainland Chinese think more freely and master English more effectively than Hong Kong people, without the latter's baggage of a colonial education.
Cynthia Sze, Quarry Bay