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215 x 140 mm, 62 pp
English, 1998/01
ISBN: 978-962-441-076-1
Price:US$4.50


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Velvet Colonialism's Legacy to Hong Kong
1967 and 1997
Robert E. Mitchell
HKIAPS, Occasional Paper Series
Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, CUHK

Velvet Colonialism's Legacy to Hong Kong: 1967 and 1997 What can the leaders of the Special Administrative Region and of China itself learn from a better understanding of Hong Kong's history? History is more than the story of government actions and individual leaders. It also includes broad social, cultural and economic conditions, as well as heavy, long-term trends in them. Trends provide a time-dimension suggesting possible future directions. But time perspectives are not sufficient, for it also helps to have benchmarks that compare Hong Kong Chinese with other Chinese and non-Chinese in the region. This comparative perspective helps avoid narrow cultural parochialism and associated myths about traditional Chinese ways and Asian values. Large-scale sample surveys conducted in Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan in 1967 provide both time and comparative benchmarks. The Hong Kong Urban Family Life Survey was initiated in response to the perceived decline of the traditional Chinese family and the implications this decline had for social policy. Colonial leaders and others in 1966-67 shared with Hong Kong's current government leaders some of the same views about these families and Chinese culture more generally. Their shared myths can lead to inappropriately sized programs and budget priorities. This paper suggests some of the ways that present-day Hong Kong is a product of earlier family and population trends, the way certain physical environments affected people, the basis for organized social life, and what might be considered more ephemeral attitudes toward civic and political issues. Representative findings were that non-traditional families were stronger than traditional ones; congestion, not density, adversely affected families and individuals; Chinese throughout the region did well in managing their poverty; making money was a central value in one's work, even though income levels were low and few felt they had much opportunity for career success; and Hong Kong's future elite at the time held Western orientations while feeling intellectually equal to or superior to Westerners, and many thought that Western influence had been bad for the colony. These and other findings are the basis for a series of eleven implications drawn from this research as relevant to Hong Kong today. While there are some similarities among Chinese throughout the region, Hong Kong is different in ways that suggest that, instead of one country, two systems, there are two countries and two systems.

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