Diaspora diaries

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am

As a teenager, Anthony Wong Chi-sing lived in a comfortable house on Mount Butler, Hong Kong Island. That was until rioting broke out in 1967.

'My father was then engineer-in-charge at Mount Butler station for Cable and Wireless and he was very concerned about the situation after anti-British riots broke out. He sent my mom, me and my two younger sisters to Vancouver,' says Wong, a dentist in the Canadian city.

'Chinese in Vancouver then were a minority, [they lived] mainly in the Chinatown area, and Taishan, not Cantonese, was the main dialect,' Wong recalls. 'There wasn't even a Chinese radio station until some of my Hong Kong colleagues at the University of British Columbia put together a few hours of airtime each day.'

Having graduated in dentistry in 1976, Wong opened his first clinic in Richmond, south of Vancouver.

'All my patients were Westerners as there were hardly any Chinese around. The only Chinese restaurant there was a wonton noodle shop run by a former player from the South China Football Club. He fed me several years of good wontons.'

Wong says Chinese professionals in the medical field were sought after in Canada for their good 'craftsmanship'. He is now one of some 300 'diplomates' in the world certified by the American Board of Oral Implantology. Aside from practising in his Chinatown and South Surrey clinics, he coaches young professionals on dental implant surgery.

'In general, teeth of Westerners have longer roots and are better maintained than those of the Chinese, and they are more compliant, too, for scheduled check-ups,' Wong says.

'Hong Kong immigrants of the 1990s are very different from us of the 60s. As kids we braved the bus route or even hitch-hiked in the cold, they got around in their Mercedes.'

However, the new immigrants have, Wong admits, put him back in touch with many things Chinese, such as Canto-pop songs on karaoke and a variety of food, served now at the plethora of Chinese restaurants in Vancouver. But there is one thing he still misses.

'Oh, the deep-fried smelly tofu. I used to just follow the smell in the middle of Causeway Bay that led me to the vendor. It's no longer there.

'Hong Kong is very different from before. Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower is one of the few things I can recognise now.'

Approaching his retirement, Wong is considering returning to Hong Kong.

'Maybe in five years time I will gradually wrap up my duties here and make my way back to my birth place,' Wong says, adding 'My Hong Kong identity has never left me.'