Hello, Liberation Avenue East! Goodbye, Queen Road’s East! The decolonization process could be picking up speed after Hong Kong marked the 20th anniversary of returning to Chinese sovereignty, with a proposal to change the names of some of the city’s streets and districts.
The proposal was made by Shie Tak-chung, a Hong Kong delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, in a committee meeting over the weekend, to increase Chinese patriotism in Hong Kong, where “one country, two systems” rules.
Changing the names would also be a way for the Hong Kong government to put more focus on patriotic education for young children and nurture their love of country, Shie said.
Should this proposal be adopted, Hong Kong could see its Victoria Harbour becoming “Deng Xiaoping Harbour.” Meanwhile most streets in Central that are named after former British governors would be renamed for leaders past and present of the Communist Party of China, such as “Chairman Mao’s Road” instead of Des Voeux Road, which was named after the city’s 10th governor, Sir William Des Vœux.
The decolonizing process arguably began when Government House and its affiliated organizations replaced the royal ciphers with Bauhinia signage after the handover from British to Chinese sovereignty took place on July 1, 1997.
But Shie’s proposal has not sat well with netizens, many of whom do not like China’s increased domination in Hong Kong.
In a University of Hong Kong survey last December, the percentage of young people identifying as Chinese dropped to a new 20-year low. Among respondents aged between 18 and 29, 69.7% identified themselves as Hongkongers, while only 0.3% called themselves Chinese.
The decolonization of Hong Kong is not only inevitable but was also predictable. In a popular song called “Queen Road’s East” in 1990, Taiwanese singer and songwriter Lo Ta-yu sang that the face of the British queen on Hong Kong coins would be changed to the faces of martyrs of the Chinese Revolution.
In the controversial 2015 movie Ten Years, the director won a lot of empathy for his vision of the semi-autonomous territory in the year 2025, with human rights and freedoms gradually diminishing as Beijing exerted more influence in the city. In the movie, a grocery-store owner is not able to name his eggs “local,” which implies localism, while taxi drivers who don’t speak Mandarin are reported to the authorities.
Just last week, the National People’s Congress curiously omitted the usual line of maintaining the “one country, two systems” principle, which was interpreted as Beijing tightening its grip over Hong Kong under President Xi Jinping’s administration.
But renaming the streets in Hong Kong is a gradual move toward full Chinese rule in 2047. Residents are already feeling the intensity as mainland developers took some 40% of the land tenders in Hong Kong in the past two years.
How long will it take for the first street name change to be seen in Hong Kong?