Adjusting to a new era

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 May, 1995, 12:00am

FOR the many who look back on Hong Kong's colonial past with nostalgia - not all of them elderly Britons - the news that the three 'Royal' clubs are to drop their regal prefix is an occasion for sadness. The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, Yacht Club and Golf Club were once proud to associate themselves with the monarchy. Now they are almost shamefaced about shedding their Royal appellation. The fact that they are to do it together is as much testimony to their embarrassment as to their pragmatism. They are as anxious to avoid being seen to be the first to lower the Union Jack as they are to be seen nailing their colours to the new mast.

But while the move, when it comes, will clearly be another nail in the coffin of empire, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. This is not because, for the majority of Hong Kong people, such remote connections with the British Royal Family are a matter of shoulder-shrugging irrelevance. The clubs will, after all, continue to cater for a pampered and select elite for whom the concerns of the man on the Shau Kei Wan omnibus are as immaterial as they were under the British. Nor is it because many Hong Kong people actually despised the British Empire as the enemy and oppressor of China. It is quite simply because times have changed.

And because they have changed it would be wrong for the clubs to wait until the handover of sovereignty on June 30, 1997 to stop describing themselves as royal. It is natural for Hong Kong to adjust itself with pride to a new era of Chinese self-confidence and self-assertion. Whether Hong Kong is ruled by Hong Kong people or under the more direct influence of Beijing, its Chineseness will not be at issue. In the entire decolonisation process there will be few changes as natural or as painless as the severing of the royal connection. Associating themselves with a foreign establishment of which they are no longer part would cause pain where none was necessary.