Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Class and the Hong Kong Canuck – Affected by British Colonialism?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 9, 2008

Many Hong Kong Canadians don’t really think about race unless something happens within their own communities, like the SARS issue in 2003. Perhaps it has to do with their comfy, middle class lifestyle. So today’s Racialicious post on Class and Race had me wondering. Would Chinese Canadians from Hong Kong feel the same had the British never arrived? Would they be as successful? So in other words, are they living off the “benefits” of colonialsim? Without the Opium Wars in the 1840s and eventual takeover of Hong Kong proper, Kowloon and the “new territories”, would Hong Kong just be another hick town (as it was back in the day)? I mean, one of the reasons why Hong Kong eventually became so successful was because of communism in China. It was the port between China and the west. In order to get to China, you had to go through Hong Kong. Until recently, if you wanted to get things done cheaply, you had it made in Hong Kong. Had Hong Kong not been a British colony, it would have been absorbed in by the communist government. This means that there’d be no middle man. Hong Kong also received lots of refugees from Shanghai after WWII and many of them were businesspeople. In addition, people in Hong Kong would probably not be all that educated as the educated would likely be from Beijing and Shanghai.

Then there’s immigration. Without the British, Hong Kongers (in general, anyway) who come to Canada, if they can afford to at all, would not be moving into a cushy suburban house so soon after landing. Markham, Ontario and Richmond, British Columbia would probably be very white. This means no Pacific Mall. No yummy Chinese food. Double :-(. Upper middle class Hong Kong Canadians sending their kids to old line prep schools like Upper Canada College or Havergal? Highly unlikely that many would. They wouldn’t be able to afford it, and these schools’ traditions, which are linked to the great old schools of Britain would be completely foreign to them. Most minorities at these schools, at least when I went, were from colonies or former colonies. This is probably why most Hong Kong Canadians are perfectly open to joining and/or participating in organizations and events that would have excluded them years ago. Hong Kong Canadians are, for some reason, more likely to forgive and forget (which is why I’ve had some issues with my boyfriend, who is Jewish).  Hong Kong Canadians also seem to prefer “higher class” things that are seen as “white” by other non-white communities, such as western classical music.  Most Hong Kongers and Hong Kong Canadians take piano and/or violin.  And tennis (so they can play at that country club).  Even guys.  Doing this doesn’t make you white-washed.  Playing electric guitar in a garage band and playing hockey, however, does.  To many HK Canadians, in order to be successful, one must be “accomplished” in that Jane Austeneque (albiet slightly updated) kind of way.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and you never know. What’s done is done, and who knows what could have happened without the Opium Wars? Maybe China would be like Japan rather than a communist country and Hong Kong would still be successful as a “snowbird” destination for seniors in Beijing and Shanghai…flying there to escape the colder winters.


One Response to “Class and the Hong Kong Canuck – Affected by British Colonialism?”

  1. overseas chinese said

    I think Hong Kong people should pay more attention to race issues. A lot of my Hong Kong friends don’t know what their Canadian/American born children have to deal with growing up in the West.

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