LETTER: The making of Hong Kong

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From Mr James Nation

Sir: Jonathan Fenby's analysis ("Hong Kong hears the drumbeat quicken", 14 August) quotes an unnamed Hong Kong-born Chinese as saying:

Whatever you think of the regime in Beijing the fact is that, as Chinese, we are going home in 1997. We may not like what we find, but then, who asked us if we liked what the British brought?

This is a well-known and widely held view, but it omits two important facts.

The first is that, historically, Hong Kong was almost unpopulated when the British annexed it in the early 19th century; there was a small village of fishing people, although many passing sailors and fishers called to replenish water supplies. There was little more in Kowloon and the New Territories - a few farming and fishing villages. The second is that most of the Chinese who left China to work and live in Hong Kong chose to do so - some to escape the Chinese communists, others to seek a better life or to make money. The man whose view was quoted could easily have been the son of one of these, in any category.

It is worth considering that when the British, for whatever dubious or even despicable reasons, occupied the territory, there was next to nothing. The British and the Chinese together turned this unpromising pig's ear into a silk purse and stuffed it with gold. The Chinese Communists should be grateful.

Yours faithfully,

James Nation

Winchester, Hampshire