Six months ago tonight, Hong Kong became a special administrative region of China. This is long enough to permit us to ask whether the city has become more Chinese. In some aspects, Hong Kong does appear to have become more sinocised. When the chief talks to the people of Hong Kong, it is no longer a colonial governor who speaks only English, it is Tung Chee-hwa speaking in Cantonese; and when we listen to the legislature's proceedings, with very few exceptions, officials and legislators have already switched to speaking in Cantonese. When the Chief Executive attends official and social functions, the clapping of hands as a welcoming gesture has become a habit. Retired Chinese officials or generals now frequently visit Hong Kong. Equally noticeably, British MPs seem to have vanished from the scene. Inside the Government, 'Chineseness' is even more apparent. When Mr Tung addresses his colleagues in the civil service and the executive assembly, he calls them Yam-kuen and Chun-ying, instead of Donald (Tsang) and C Y (Leung). When he delivers messages to gatherings of civil servants, he invariably speaks in Cantonese, even in the presence of overseas staff. There is also a tendency for official meetings to be conducted in Cantonese instead of English. In dealing with the public, officials seem to be more conscious of the need to make Chinese the predominant medium of communication. Emphasis is put on the need for civil servants to deepen their knowledge and understanding of China and Chinese culture. Significance is attached to schools using mother tongue as the teaching medium. In October, we had an extensive programme to celebrate National Day. This month, there was no Christmas message from the Chief Executive, nor can we expect a New Year message from him. All in all, Hong Kong seems to be a rather different place now: people say that the change of sovereignty has indeed converted the former British colony into a Chinese city. Some even say Hong Kong has acquired a new character. But, before we get too carried away, we should consider more carefully what these changes really mean: has Hong Kong truly been sinocised? Or is the present state of the SAR just a result of Hong Kong's decolonisation? More importantly, people should ask whether rapid sinocisation is really in Hong Kong's best interest. Realistically, with Hong Kong headed by a Chinese instead of a British governor, more frequent official use of Chinese is inevitable. For most people here, the change amounts to no change at all. At the grassroots, people spoke their Chinese tongue all along but they are obviously glad officials are following suit. The greater use of Chinese is noticeable only because, in public, even the elite and upper class, who used to be proud of their fluency in English, are now using more Chinese. Whatever language they speak, the people of Hong Kong remain very Westernised in thought and lifestyle. When they talk to each other in private, many of them - even Chinese - still feel more at home speaking in English than in Cantonese. Their preferred holidays are more likely to be skiing in Canada or going to the opera in Europe than sightseeing on the mainland. Given Hong Kong is such a cosmopolitan city, this may not even be objectionable. If Hong Kong wants to preserve its position as an international business centre, it is not advisable for the SAR to suddenly become sinocised. Hong Kong's Western features are what make the SAR stand out from China's other cities and allow it to serve as a bridge between the mainland and the rest of the world.