The cultural critic, author and academic Chin Wan-kan (also known as Chin Wan) says Britain strategically imposed a sense of “dependency” on Hong Kong before 1997, which harmed people’s sense of autonomy.
“Hong Kong people are not used to solving problems on their own,” says Chin. “That is because most of the standards in various professions, like accountancy and law, were well established by the British before the handover. People who want to be an accountant or a lawyer must sit for examinations officially recognised by Britain”
Chin adds that British experts would be called in to help solve problems whenever Hong Kong encountered any hardships. Its previous over-dependence on Britain has made it hard for Hong Kong to make any advances on its own.
The use of English is another thing that the colonial government imposed on Hong Kongers.
Chin recalls how a classmate regularly misbehaved and only worked hard at English. The classmate told Chin that he could find a good job working in a foreign company or as a sailor, as long as his English was good enough. The syllabuses at that time only focused on the practical approach to English such as grammar and formal letter writing in order to drill students to be civil servants.
The colonial education system was mainly geared to producing functionaries rather than fine minds. Chin says schools seldom emphasised the cultural importance of western culture, such as Greek philosophy and English literature. “The culture of Hong Kong people is shallow,” he says.
It seems the British government did not prepare Hong Kong for long-term development, even in terms of its economy.
According to Chin, the only pillar of Hong Kong’s economy is financial services and people are obsessed with the stock market. However, the colonial government ignored the fact that primary and secondary industries are crucial to people’s livelihoods.
The government remained indifferent when more and more factories moved to the mainland and agriculture and the fishing industry were allowed to decline..
Some may idealise the colonial past and point to it as a golden age in contrast to an unsatisfactory present. Others may want to hold on to cherished memories of what seemed to be simpler times. Whatever the case, the colonial past is part of Hong Kong’s history.
“There is no hope in the future if we forget out past,” says Yeung Sum.