Monday, September 11, 2006

Communism and the Chinese Mind

Not much time today, must dash off to an appointment, but I came across a minute of Legislative Council sessions in Hong Kong from 1926 that would not wait. During that meeting on 15th October 1926, the Governor Sir Cecil Clementi had cause to comment on the disturbances in Canton at that time, that were also affecting Hong Kong due to a widespread labor strike that had enveloped the territory.

He had this to same about Communist philosophy and the Chinese ethos:
...above all else, the Colony of Hong Kong desires to see in Kuang-tung and Kuang-hsi a strong, stable and enlightened Government. Of such a Government we should gladly be close friends and staunch supporters.

Another matter which is near our hearts is to see the curse of Bolshevism removed from China. The ideas permeating Bolshevism are wholly alien to the Chinese mind: and a moment's thought should suffice to convince the Cantonese authorities that in the development of the Liang Kuang provinces by the peaceful and orderly processes of trade and commerce Great Britain and the British Colony of Hong Kong can give more effective and lasting assistance than the Russian Soviet. We uphold ideals which are dear to the Chinese mind, - peace, good government, commercial enterprise, learning and literature, loyalty to the honoured traditions of the past and an orderly advance towards all that the future promises. But the Bolshevik record is at present a bloodstained page of revolution, terrorism, anarchy and intestine war. The civilized mind recoils with horror from its contemplation; and throughout China, I am thankful to say, there is now a growing abomination of all that Bolshevism means. It is our earnest hope that the Chinese people may pluck out this evil by the roots and cast it from their country.
Well, it was certainly true of the Chinese in Hong Kong at that time, but was perhaps not so accurate of the country as a whole. But it also goes to show that if you wait long enough, anything one predicts will come true (hence the everpresent popularity of Nostradamus). Too bad China had to learn such a bitter lesson for the truth of it to sink in!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How Causeway Bay got its Park

I was highly amused when reading through the minutes of a Hong Kong Legislative Council meeting from July 1898, where one member, a Mr. T. H. Whitehead, was strongly urging the Government to build a recreation ground in Causeway Bay. Here's the funny bit:
...there is now vacant and unappropriated at Causeway Bay a limited area of level ground, open to the sea and easily accessible by road, now temporarily used, under permission from the Government, for purposes of recreation; that this piece of ground although open for sale for building purposes for a number of years has remained unsold, the Chinese being apparently still unwilling to move out into that quarter of the city; that even should this neighbourhood ultimately become, contrary to present appearances, a densely populated neighbourhood inhabited mainly by Chinese, it will be highly desirable that some sufficient area should be maintained in the midst thereof for purposes of light, of ventilation, of recreation, and as a lung, or breathing space for the locality. The ground now referred to, situate nearly between Jardine's Bazaar and North Point, is admirably suited to serve for such a purpose...
So Mr. Whitehead didn't really see how Causeway Bay could become crowded or full of Chinese people. Well, shows how much can change in a hundred-odd years!

But he brings up the point that people cared a great deal about the environment and air pollution even in those days. He cited the creation of the park as not only "materially add[ing] to to the value of the neighbourhood, but it will permanently promote the physical health and happiness of large numbers of the residents."

In fact, Mr. Whitehead had cited the following as other reasons for building a park, ones that are just as relevant today:
...the population of the colony of Hongkong is steadily increasing...within the limits of the city of Victoria all available land is being closely built over; houses are rising in height to three, four and five stories [multiply by 20 for today's equivalent.-Ed.]; the consumption of coal instead of wood is largely increasing as are also manufacturing industries of various kinds, with the result that within the city, even on the uppoer roads, it is difficult to get the pure air, exercise, and recreation that is essential for the preservation of health in this climate.
He then proposed that in the 60th year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, that the 'Queen's Recreation Ground' be built, unde Ordinance, for the benefit of the public of Hong Kong. Also, if the 'harbour of refuge' [typhoon shelter] were ever to be reclaimed, that it be added to the proposed Queen's Recreation Road.

It took awhile, it was much smaller than expected, and the appended typhoon shelter was not added until after the War, but eventually Victoria Park was established, with the Statue of the Queen that once stood in Statue Square coming, by way of Japan (where it was almost melted down for scrap during the War) gracing its southern edge.