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Reviewed by:
  • Colonial Hong Kong and Modern China: Interaction and Reintegration
  • Alvin Y. So (bio)
Lee Pui-tak , editor. Colonial Hong Kong and Modern China: Interaction and Reintegration. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005. xii, 295 pp. Hardcover $49.50, ISBN 962-209-720-0.

In 1997, the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty marked a new phase in Hong Kong's history. Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and a quasi-constitution Basic Law was set up to guarantee that Hong Kong would be ruled under the principle of "One Country Two Systems." In light of these profound social transformations in the late 1990s, Colonial Hong Kong and Modern China asks an interesting question: How have these political changes affected the analytical perspectives of historians in Hong Kong studies?

To students of modern Chinese history, Hong Kong in the late 1990s was at a crossroads of colonialism and nationalism, not knowing which direction to take. The book under review emphasizes that the histories of Hong Kong and modern China have been interwoven since Britain colonized Hong Kong. Therefore, the colonial history of Hong Kong can be viewed as important to the nationalistic history of China, and the nationalistic history of China can be viewed as important to the colonial history of Hong Kong.

The book is divided into two main sections: the history of Hong Kong, and the history of Hong Kong with modern China. Each section consists of six substantial chapters.

The first two chapters deal with Hong Kong's social and religious history. David Faure describes formative influences that created a pattern of living for working emigrants from China during the period of 1880-1930. Faure provides valuable historical data on housing, sanitation, employment, and wages on the common people of Hong Kong. Faure points out that congested housing and poor sanitation conditions were common, but so were higher wages and upper mobility that Hong Kong working emigrants experienced before and after the Second World War. Bernard Luk presents a very interesting historical overview of the intricate relationship between religion and Hong Kong society, focusing on Christianity, Buddhism, and Daoism during three key periods: the beginning of the city, the mid-twentieth century, and the 1970s. Luk highlights major religious activities in Hong Kong society, including liturgical worship, spiritual guidance, community service, and social action.

Drawing upon the cultural differences, political viewpoints, and different economic interests between the British and Chinese in the nineteenth century, Louis Ha and Fung Chi Ming provide full and interesting accounts of the debate of Sunday rest and double allegiance of Chinese elites. Ha's chapter shows that the colonial government needed to balance Christian objections against local realties [End Page 454] and the principal requirements of the growing port city to secure its steady development. It is noteworthy that Hong Kong had awareness in the 1870s of potential competition with Shanghai in the shipping and harbour business. Fung's chapter reveals the conflicting allegiances of the Chinese elites in the process of Sino-British diplomatic negotiations. He highlights moments of crisis between 1911 and 1914 and describes how the two Hong Kong governors of those years, Lugard and May, had different views over the issue.

This book has two chapters on the New Territories. Chan Kwok-shing's chapter demonstrates how the formation of the Luen Wo Market was closely related to the changes in agricultural land use in Hong Kong and to the government's agricultural policy (that was developed in response to the potential unrest in China in the late 1940s). This chapter also portrays the dynamic process of creating and maintaining elite power on the local level in rural Hong Kong. Elizabeth Johnson's chapter provides a thoughtful survey of the historical, anthropological, cultural, and religious studies of the New Territories' inhabitants, society, and institutions that have been conducted since the Second World War. Johnson insightfully observes that social science research in Hong Kong was very much influenced by the political and economic development of the colony, and her chapter complements Chan Kwok-shing's chapter on Luen Wo market.

Based upon archival and other relevant material, Gillian Bickley provides a detailed...


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