Youngsters urging independence for Hong Kong needs a reality check

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 5:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 10:22pm

Perhaps it is time for the publication of a new edition of the book Borrowed Place Borrowed Time, by Richard Hughes.

It was first published in 1968, and the telling point of his work is right there in the introduction, where he makes a statement that underpins the title to his book, “Hong Kong persists – on borrowed soil and borrowed time – because it is China, and because it affects no suicidal pretences of ‘democracy’ and independence”.

I suppose democracy can emerge in different ways over time, but I think his comment on independence is as true today as it was when Hughes wrote those words almost 50 years ago. Hughes’ book appeared the year after the riots of 1967 in Hong Kong. The book answered many questions concerning the colony that newcomers did not understand.

I think that today’s youngsters filled with ideas of an independent Hong Kong, and older heads who should know better, or those who suggest that there should be a return to colonial rule under the UK, need to take a reality check.

That is why I suggest a reprint of Hughes’ book, as today we still live in a borrowed place, under the de facto colonial power of the People’s Republic of China, and our time is now limited to 2047.

The book is quite slim, and contains three sections, “Hong Kong Today”, “Hong Kong Yesterday”, and “Hong Kong Tomorrow”. The last section was updated by Hughes in a revised edition in 1976. It’s a pity that he died in 1984, as I’m sure he would have made more revisions following Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) famous edict of “one country, two systems”, and the start of the Sino-British talks on Hong Kong.

In fact, a fourth section, “Hong Kong after reunification”, would be a useful addition.

Perhaps a local writer and historian could update the book, which could then be printed in English and Chinese, and made essential reading in our schools and universities.

Those who advocate radical change in Hong Kong’s relationship with Beijing should think again.

Internal action in mainland China against “separatism” and China’s actions in relation to ownership of the South China Sea, show that Beijing is not afraid to stand up against international condemnation of its actions.

Push too hard, and Hong Kong’s borrowed time could quickly expire.

Gordon Andreassend, Tai Kok Tsui