In 1990 we spent a week in Hong Kong, en route to New Zealand to introduce our 8 month old first-born to The Rellies.  Hong Kong’s DNA as a city on the crossroads HK0113–geographical, historical, economic and cultural – was in evidence for all to see; with the political appointment it had for 1997 adding to the energetic tension of the place. We loved it. Perhaps we were reading the wrong Chinese tea-leaves but our overall impression was that Hong Kong’s unique self expression would not be submerged by the China Syndrome; a view backed up an analysis that this is not what China would want for Hong Kong in any case. Wrong! The Hong Kong we encountered this time round was still a most impressive modern city – nobody can take away Hong Kong’s unique geographical setting – but its unique spirit and past have been submerged under China’s ambition to grab the 21st century by the throat. One has to work very hard HK0039to find any vestiges that do still survive and what remains is hardly worth the effort. My overall feelings as we wandered, and wondered, round was that Hong Kong is that it is now the closest city on Earth to the Los Angeles of 2019 that was depicted in Blade Runner.  I am not saying that it’s not worth a visit – it most surely is – just that the unique juxtaposition and balance of influences, that made Hong Kong what it was, is no longer there. Hong Kong is now a Chinese mega-city – a virile expression of its economic might, serviced at street level by an economic under-class for whom day-to-day survival is the totality of their horizon. Could it have been any other way? I’m now quite clear that it could not, given the circumstances. The more critical question for me, though, has to be: should it have been any other way?

Images:  © Eric Wilton

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