People need to be careful when considering what kind of colonial remains in Hong Kong should be removed, Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang wrote in his newspaper column. Tsang first talked about historic buildings in the article.

When the heads of the China Liaison Office and mainland China judiciary sector attended the inaugural ceremony of the Court of Final Appeal, he said, they listened carefully to the Chief Justice, Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, explaining how the British constructed the court building and upheld the principle of rule of law. And they were interested in how the court building was preserved and returned to its original British design.

“It seems that even those who propose de-colonisation most strongly would not ‘de-colonise’ this building, which reminds people of memories of colonial rule.”

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing. File Photo: Gov HK.

He said that other historical buildings from the colonial era would probably not be targeted, namely Central Market which was originally started in Victorian times for local Chinese, and Government House which represented the highest form of power of the colonial government.

Although the Chinese name of Government House was changed after the handover, he said that “many patriotic Hong Kong people who do not love the colonial days a single bit would unintentionally call it ‘House of the Governor’ [its previous Chinese name].”

The Government House where the  Chief Executive lives. Photo: WIkimedia Commons via WiNG.

Even parts of Queen’s Pier — the first place every governor landed — were preserved for reconstruction elsewhere, he added.

As for streets named after royal family members or top colonial officials, “Expert of de-colonisation Chen Zuo’er has said they do not need to be changed.” Tsang said. “If they had to be changed, it would involve a wide range of streets, it must cause huge chaos.”

Irony of de-colonisation

Tsang wrote that “some said we need to de-colonise according to the law, but we cannot find a lot of regulations for it in the Basic Law. In fact, the spirit of the Basic Law is to ensure that Hong Kong still keeps its [colonial era] capitalist society, the economic system, the lifestyle and the law basically unchanged.

Chen Zuo’er. File

“The most obvious rule for de-colonisation is that the head of the government is no longer sent by the suzerain, the legislature is no longer appointed by the government head, and the Court of Final Appeal is no longer in the suzerain,” Tsang wrote, “The irony is that, in the eyes of some, these changes are the root of the ruling problems that the SAR faces.”

“Therefore, when considering what kind of colonial remains in Hong Kong should be removed, people need to be careful.” he concluded.

In September, Chen Zuo’er, a former Beijing official, said that the failure of Hong Kong’s ‘de-colonisation’ is the cause of the city’s social and economic problems.

On Monday, local media reported that Hongkong Post planned to cover the royal cyphers on 59 street post-boxes from the British era in order to avoid confusion with the other post-boxes. It sparked worries of ‘de-colonisation’.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.