De-colonialize THIS…

In a brave attempt to spice up the ‘two meetings’ in Beijing, a Hong Kong delegate to the CPPCC – the retired shoe-shiners’ gathering – proposed scrapping colonial-era street names in his city.

(So I look up this Shie guy in the hope of finding that his company is located on Queen Victoria Street or Gloucester Road or Worcestershire Sauce Avenue. It seems Hong Kong, China’s not good enough – it’s registered in the jolly old Cayman Islands.)

Can it be done?

Roads recalling barbarian Anglo-Celt oppressors like Robinson, Hennessy, MacDonnell and Caine are easy enough to deal with – just call them Tsang, Chan, Wong and Ng, then hurriedly replace the barely used, highly expensive new signage with Zeng, Chen, Huang and Wu when you realize your horrifying error. But what about those really odd names, like the sinister Muscovite-Tartar creepiness Gutzlaff Street, the apparently Mexican D’Aguilar Street, the opium-induced Rednaxela Terrace, and the ever-irritating Des Veux Voex Veoux Voeux Road?

I hear there are two barriers (not counting common sense, of course) to removal of these reminders of China’s humiliation. One is Hong Kong Post, who fear mail-delivery chaos. (That said, they succumbed to pressure and covered the royal ciphers on once-red-now-green post boxes – the sight of which had been turning youths into deranged pro-independence radicals. As an aside, the Monetary Authority’s coin-collection exercise is eliminating coins featuring the Queen’s head, which distress Mainland visitors.) The other opponent to re-naming streets is the taxi industry.

This could be interesting: officials caught between upsetting either the Communist Party or the taxi drivers.

I declare the weekend open with juicy sizzling links…

Xi Jinping’s constitutional coup comes in for more attention from observers sensing a definitive turning point. From here on, China exists to serve the Communist Party, not the other way round. Among possible/likely outcomes are disillusionment among the middle class at home and the country’s student/expat diaspora, and a more aggressive and provocative nationalism leading towards a new Cold War.

Venerable rights lawyer Jerome Cohen doesn’t pull any punches in expressing his own disillusionment. Carl Minzner offers an extract from his prescient book End of an Era; How China’s Authoritarian Revival is Undermining its Rise. And Minxin Pei sees the Communist Party’s mission – ‘to stay in power, not reform itself out of existence’ – as a recipe for stagnation.

More at the ‘light pop’ end of the spectrum, star Francis Fukuyama chips in.

The ‘Chinese Communist infiltration on Western campuses’ story is becoming a genre – here’s the latest one.

For Taiwan enthusiasts, an introduction to the country’s indigenous people, written by one.

Fans of weirdness will know about the politicization of archaeology and ancient history, which has tainted Chinese academia at times. And they will know about maniacs who insist on turning Jewish fairy tales into science, like Christian wackos Truth in Genesis (if you must). Now, insecurity overcomes reason and truth in India’s attempts to establish an all-Hindu 12,000-year heritage out of creation myths.

Lastly – yet another of those humdrum things Hongkongers take for granted but visitors amusingly find strange.


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12 Responses to De-colonialize THIS…

  1. 4 on the Mid Levels escalator: DO NOT WAIL AGAINST THE FLOW.

    Regarding links, I see Tesco stocks the shelves of the growing number of bargain Hong Kong Uselect stores with cans containing eight small pork sausages lovingly enrobed in wholesome British baked beans for HK$ 11.90.

    For flatulence and porkies, only the daily Hemlock column can beat that.

    Plop, plop!

  2. Joe Blow says:

    Does that mean they are also going to re-name that colonial relic ‘The Bund” in ol’ Shanghai ?

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    It won’t be surnames they’d rename the streets…it’d be like any other large mainland city…”Renmin”, “Jiefang”, “Dongfeng”, “Zunyi”, “Wulumuqi”, “Jianguo”, ad nauseam.

    Would be more fun if they named after dishes…”Gongbaojiding”, “Malaniurou”, “Pidanzhou”, etc…

    Everyone knows a Chinese patriot ALWAYS has one foot with the CCP and the other in an emergency escape pod (or nationality)

  4. LRE says:

    Top tip: Just take the Chinese name from Webbsite and cut ‘n’ paste into Google, and voilà —
    Jiande International Holdings
    Room 1910, North Point City Centre, 250 King’s Road, Hong Kong.
    The Chinese is literally “Emperor’s Road” although it could also be seen as “British Emperor’s Road”.

    Oops. That’s off-message!

    Rednaxela Terrace is a fairly understandable cultural crossover cock-up, given that old-school Chinese signs are more often written right to left. I’ll grant you that the fact typo has been gloriously run with is down to the bureaucrat first alerted to the cock-up having either a subversive sense of humour or very unpuritan work ethic, which might have been opium-induced.

  5. AHW says:

    The abandoned car story is wonderful! It’s the sort of thing one is aware of, but has never given it much thought. There was (and still is, probably) an old Rolls-Royce near the entrance to Sha Kok Mei village in Sai Kung, gradually being claimed by the weeds and creepers.

  6. Cassowary says:

    We’ve already got a model for what a repressive middle-income trap regime looks like, and it’s Russia.

    Repressive politics
    Anaemic economy
    Crony capitalism
    Emigres parking vast quantities of money overseas
    Blind nationalism
    Foreign adventurism
    Intimidation of former and perceived satellite states
    Disorienting, conspiracy-mongering propaganda
    A largely docile population

    Russia’s got the whole package deal. In ten years we’ll probably see Chinese defectors turning up poisoned on park benches in Sydney.

  7. Brian Spartacus says:

    In 1997 it was reported that street names and names of buildings would remain unchanged for now but that “officials have said that any names with obvious colonial allusions may change later”. Source:

    I have a vague memory of a story doing the rounds in early 1997 to the effect that someone had calculated that replacing all the street signs and building names to remove references to the British would basically bankrupt the economy or cost one year of GDP or something. It would certainly be an interesting challenge. Have a look at the index of this book (shown in the second half of the document)

  8. max noddle says:

    @ George.
    I see that shop you mention has opened one in your manor in Stanley where Delifrance once ruled the roost, so presume the cheap tin ‘o sausage & beans is now your daily staple, which you may or may not heat in your tiny micro in your tiny gaff there.
    That should find its way your energy for annoying and halting weaving in and out of the ginger poodles in Stanley Main St with your tiny captain’s hat on your tiny child’s bike, which I often hilariously observe from my Smuggs bar stool of a Sunday.
    Parp Parp!

  9. delboy says:

    It was the biggest con job of the 20th century. The communist party boys put on western tailored suits in 1981 and the world said “Oh look, they’re civilised now”; we can do business with these people.

    I’ve been warning friends for years that the mobile buses the administration set up to collect everyones loose change, was a cleverly disguised attempt to rid this town of the old coins featuring Lizzie. They laughed at me and called me paranoid.

    Who’s that knocking on my door so late at night?……..

  10. Donny Almond says:

    It seems that Delifrance is disappearing everywhere. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  11. Red Dragon says:

    Yes, indeed. Delifrance. Ghastly places. The memory of once going into one haunts me still.

    Max Noddle, l must get over to Stanley one weekend and have a pint with you. We could get a bit pissed and hurl abuse at Ginger George as he weaves by on his bike. I’d like that.

  12. Knownot says:

    As AHW says, the abandoned car story is wonderful, “the sort of thing one is aware of, but has never given it much thought.”

    Some quotes: “ran around filming neglected cars from sun up to sun down for two weeks straight . . . this trip absolutely melted my mind . . . leaves Mike and me speechless . . . each car . . . own story . . . fascinating and tragic.” And I was pleased to notice something the writer didn’t mention: one of the abandoned cars had a ‘TP’ registration, so it was only a couple of months old.

    Sadness, failure, in the air,
    Ruined bodies everywhere.
    Metal scraps.
    Once, perhaps,
    Their beauty and their lustre showed
    And they were masters of the road.

    Nearly new cars, growing old,
    Can’t be fixed and can’t be sold.
    Worthless junk
    In ditches sunk.
    Speed and style and beauty pass
    Buried under leaves and grass.

    Now I know decay and loss.
    A Rolls Royce and a VehicCross . . .
    The Lotus Esprit
    Melted me.
    And after filming for a week,
    Desolate, I can hardly speak.

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