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Diaspora 2:2 1992 Between Colonizers: Hong Kong's Postcolonial Self-Writing in the 1 990s Rey Chow University of California, Irvine 1. Hong Kong: An Anomaly in Postcoloniality? Most debates on postcolonial politics center on issues that are by now familiar to those working in cultural studies. There are, first, the disputes and conflicts concerning the ownership of particular geographical areas, an ownership whose ramifications go beyond geography to include political representation as well as sovereignty over ethnic and cultural history. Though these "postcolonial" disputes and conflicts date back to the days of territorial colonialism, they remain the reality of daily life in places like South Africa, Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan. Second, there are the debates around reclaiming native cultural traditions that were systematically distorted by the colonial powers in the process of exploitation. In the case of India, for instance, historians argue for the need to wrest India's past from colonialist historiography—that is, from the ways in which India was ideologically as well as economically and territorially dominated by the British.1 In other words, even though India has been territorially independent since 1947, the Indian people 's "postcolonial" struggle against British colonialism remains an urgent cultural task. Third, there is the question of neocolonialism in countries that were once European colonies and that, after national independence, have been targeted for aggression and exploitation by the United States during its period of global power. We think here especially of its "client states" in Central and Latin America, and the Middle East. Although it shares similar problems of postcoloniality, East Asia does not fit neatly into any ofthe above categories, which is probably why many ofour foremost critics ofcolonialism have remained silent on this topic. East Asia—China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan—is difficult to generalize about for several reasons. With the exception of Taiwan, which was occupied by the Dutch and the Japanese, and which is currently under Nationalist Chinese rule, none of the East Asian countries was territorially occupied by the old European colonial powers for a long time. (In this respect, they are different from their neighbors in Southeast Asia—Vietnam, Cambodia [Kampu- Diaspora 2:2 1992 chea], Laos, Thailand, Burma [Myanmar], Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore , Brunei, and the Philippines—which were under French, British, Dutch, Spanish, or United States domination at one time.) Even when they were occupied, most East Asian countries retained primary use of their own languages, which continue to serve purposes of writing and historiography and thus of preserving their cultural traditions in forms that are not easily supplanted by the West. The rapid economic development in some ofthese countries— notably South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore—over the past two decades makes it impossible to assign to them the Third World status of disadvantaged African countries. Moreover, the record of official communism in China and Korea, as well as in Vietnam, has been quite embarrassing to those who mobilize the traditional arguments of Marxism, which has been the ideological perspective from which most criticisms of colonialism and neocolonialism are made in the liberal West. To complicate things further, there is the imperialism practiced by East Asian cultures themselves: the territorial and economic aggression of Japan before and after the Second World War, and the imperialist policies practiced on Mongolia, Taiwan, and Tibet by China, itself once the leader of the Third World, render the typical "East versus West," "colonized versus colonizer" dichotomy facile and useless. Then there are Hong Kong and Macau, the British and Portuguese colonies that are the last remaining outposts from Europe's heyday of territorial imperialism. These two areas, of course, are too small to merit attention and are usually entirely omitted in most debates on postcoloniality.2 Theoretically, it is around the prefixpost in the word postcolonial that most interpretative confusion occurs. Post is usually interpreted in two ways, both of which, far from being mutually exclusive , have to do with temporality. These two ways are "having gone through" and "after." From them a host of questions arise: If a culture is postcolonial in the sense of having gone through colonialism , does that mean colonialism is no longer a part of its life? If...


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