Queen Elizabeth’s death rekindles nostalgia in Hong Kong for ‘golden era’

Queen Elizabeth II’s death has sparked a wave of nostalgia among some in Hong Kong for the territory’s pre-1997 “golden age” at a time when Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms. city.

More than 2,500 people defied the muggy temperatures on Monday and lined up for up to three hours outside the British consulate in the territory to lay flowers and pay their respects. Queen, who was affectionately referred to by older generations as “the master’s lady”. On Tuesday morning, people could be seen lining up again outside the consulate.

While Chinese President Xi Jinping offered his condolences to the UK’s new monarch, King Charles III, and praised the Queen for having won “widespread acclaim”, many pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong and corporations based in the Chinese territory have been silent in showing their respect.

John Lee, the city’s new chief executive officer anointed by Beijing this year, issued a brief statement expressing “sadness” after Mr. Xi offered his condolences. Pro-Beijing lawmaker and government adviser Regina Ip and HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn also offered their condolences.

But British colonial traders Swire and Jardine Matheson remained silent in the following days Queen’s death, as well as many other businesses and politicians in the territory. Her funeral is scheduled for Monday.

Beijing and the Hong Kong government increasingly deny Britain’s role in the financial center’s development, and have sought to bring down its colonial past in recent years. New high school textbooks available try to rewrite the history of the city by describing it as an “occupied territory” that was never a colony.

This momentum follows anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, prompting Beijing to introduce national security legislation and quell the once vibrant media and civil society groups of China. this territory.

The Beijing-backed Ta Kung Pao newspaper on Tuesday published a commentary criticizing “political propaganda” that promotes nostalgia for the Queen’s death, saying it reflects only a “very small minority”. ” among the people.

British sailors carry a portrait of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II past HMS Tamar, the headquarters of British Forces in Hong Kong, for the last time before the end of British rule in Hong Kong in 1997.

British sailors carry a portrait of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II past HMS Tamar, the headquarters of British Forces in Hong Kong, for the last time before the 1997 handover ceremony © Stephen Shaver / AFP / Getty Images

However, the buildings, streets and post boxes with the Queen’s royal code and the Hong Kong dollar in her image still in circulation are just a few traces of a strong presence. in the city, which was ruled by the British for more than 150 years until it was handed over. to China in 1997.

The Queen was the head of state in Hong Kong for 45 years, presiding over a period of rapid development that some consider the city’s golden age despite it being under foreign rule.

“I love and respect the Queen very much,” said Tung Lau, 74, who lined up outside the British consulate. “Back in the colonial days, we always believed we would have a better future.”

Lau said his daughter participated in a Migration wave in response to Beijing’s efforts to increase control and has turned to Canada.

Many pro-democracy activists in exile, including former student leader Nathan Law, paid tribute to the Queen.

Even some of Hong Kong’s younger generations, born in the post-colonial era, have a sense of nostalgia for what they see as a time when the city’s circumstances were “better”.

This is despite the fact that British governors never allowed full universal suffrage for Hong Kongers, the colonial police were criticized for their repressive response to the anti-government protests. government and an embargo law left over from this period. now used to prosecute those who criticize Beijing.

“I was in tears when I first heard that the Queen had passed away,” said Jack Chan, a 23-year-old graduate student. “Those were better days before 1997. Things have quickly eased, especially over the past few years.”

Many former pro-democracy protesters, some of whom beckoned Union Jack and begged for British support during the 2019 protests, have been jailed or have fled.

Banker Monie Fong believes that the Queen’s death reminds many of Hong Kong’s “golden era” between the 1950s and handover, while also highlighting the disappearance of the values ​​and freedoms it once enjoyed. holding.

The 57-year-old said: “It was the end of an era.

The Queen visited Hong Kong twice, in 1975 and 1986. Many elderly people living in the Kowloon public housing estate where she stayed still have vivid memories of the king.

An 86-year-old man surnamed Chan recalled seeing the Queen with his own eyes as she passed his vegetable stand in the public housing market, describing her as “really charming”. The Queen has also visited the city’s racetracks, among other locations.

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