Historian and journalist Vaudine England asks: Is Hong Kong still Hong Kong?

In a sign of how Hong Kong has changed, everyone’s name in this story will be obscured. Bank managers or journalists, hotel managers, professors or elected legislators — all would have been happy to be quoted until a couple of years ago. No more.

Depending on where one stands, this is a mark of just how far this once feisty Asian port city has fallen since the Chinese government took more control following the huge anti-government protests of 2019.

Or it is a satisfying touchstone of success. The Chinese Communist Party leadership said they wanted to change the way Hong Kong behaved, and indeed they have done so.

(Incidentally – a review of her recent book, Fortune’s Bazaar.)

HKFP reports on a recruitment consultancy survey showing that over half of Hong Kong professionals are thinking of leaving the city. This comes after the departure of over 200,000 people in recent years. In both cases, the urge to move is largely in the 20s-40s age group (who of course take their kids with them).

Meanwhile, the government (non-NatSec part) goes back to what it knows best: tightening the supply of housing in order to prop up its own revenues. The Standard pitches the cut in land sales as a way to help the poor developers clear their inventories. But to officials, the big picture is a looming deficit, for which higher land valuations is the only imaginable remedy. Who needs housing when you can have easy revenues and tons of cash to fritter away on overpaid bureaucrats and pointless infrastructure projects?

The land sales obsession dates back to a longstanding British principle that colonies be self-supporting and, in particular, pay for their own defence – after alternative forms of colonial taxation had proved unpopular in North America in 1776. Two centuries later, China copied the idea from Hong Kong for its own local-government finances. How much better off would Hong Kong be today if the government did not – in effect – compete ruthlessly with the population and economy for physical space?

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7 Responses to Nope

  1. Paul Lewis says:

    The official arrival card filled in by all passengers in Australia asks the question,
    In which country did you board this flight or ship?
    I have always wondered what people from Hong Kong write in that space?
    I’m sure the vast majority will write Hong Kong.
    Perhaps we are all guilty under some provision of the National Security Law?

  2. Knownot says:

    Some years ago Agnes Chow made a statement in English which was (perhaps still is) on YouTube. Her concluding words seemed more poignant because she got the English idiom slightly wrong:

    “It is not Hong Kong. It is only named Hong Kong.”

  3. Sam Clemens says:


    What is the correct English idiom?

  4. Knownot says:

    Sam Clemens –
    I think it should be:
    “It is Hong Kong in name only.”

  5. somebody says:

    Either are acceptable but for me the euphony of Agnes Chow’s version is preferable.

  6. Sam Clemens says:

    @Knownot & somebody

    Thank you.

  7. Sam Clemens says:


    Euphony is a nice word that lives up to its meaning. Thanks for sharing.

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