Moving To Hong Kong
Under British colonial rule Hong Kong was a crowbar for levering open the markets of the far east to free-trade, opium and the manufactures of Manchester while extracting the tea and silk required to sate the growing appetites of Britain’s domestic market.
When Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 though the reintegration into the economy of the new mother country was far from comprehensive. Sensing the strategically important role this enclave could now play for Chinese interests rather than British, the People’s Republic left the new special administrative region with a high degree of autonomy. It retained its capitalist economic structure and its legal system which is based on English Common Law. With its large financial institutions - among them HSBC and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange - the flow of money and goods through the city-state is larger than it has ever been. Now though, it is China using Hong Kong as a crow bar, exploiting its highly connected position in the network of global capitalism for access to Western markets.
The historically intermediary nature of Hong Kong - made up of the Kowloon peninsula and several islands in the South China Sea - has left a curiously patchwork collection of cultures. Both Cantonese and English are official languages. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Anglicanism and Islam, among others, are freely practised and protected by law. Architects of the 1,000+ skyscrapers in Hong Kong frequently bow to local superstition by omitting floors containing the number 4 (similar to the Cantonese word for death) while Bruce Lee has been elevated to God-like status in a society which venerates martial arts.
A densely packed urban cityscape gives way to hilly slopes covered in foliage, hemming Hong Kong’s concrete jungle within a border of natural beauty, restricting the space available for urban sprawl and making public transport almost obligatory.