This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
A newspaper backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has criticized thousands of Hong Kong mourners who gave condolences or left floral tributes for Queen Elizabeth II, saying further efforts are needed to erase a “colonial mentality” from people’s minds.
Overseas media reports have featured photos of people kneeling to show respect in front of floral offerings on the city’s streets, with some bringing traditional food offerings in the manner of a funeral.
“The anti-China media have made a big deal of this, saying it reflects nostalgia for British colonial rule among Hong Kong people,” the Ta Kung Wen Hui website said in a Sept. 13 editorial. “It shows there are still some people in Hong Kong who have deep-rooted beliefs.”
“The colonial mentality that still exists in very few people is worthy of attention,” the paper said, linking it to the 2019 protest movement, which began as a mass protest against extradition to mainland China, and broadened to include calls for fully democratic elections and greater official accountability.
“Some people have woken up, but some are still indulging in this fantasy that they are subjects of the British Empire,” the paper said. “The colonial government may be gone, but decolonization has yet to begin.”
It said a start had been made with the abolition of the Liberal Studies critical thinking program in Hong Kong’s schools, and its replacement with a nationalistic program of Moral, Civic and National Education, with primary and secondary schools now also required to promote a draconian national security law to staff and students.
Opera singer apologizes
The criticism appears to have hit home to some in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong opera singer Kar-ying Law apologized on Chinese social media after laying flowers for the late Queen Elizabeth II at the British consulate, vowing in Mandarin rather than Hong Kong’s lingua franca, Cantonese: “I will always love my motherland.”
“As a public figure, I am very sorry that I posted thoughtless words of condolence,” Law said. “My original intention is to express my nostalgia for the old lady.”
“I have had a Chinese passport for a long time now, which should tell you everything. I am Chinese, and will always love the motherland,” Law said, bowing and clasping his hands to his heart.
As well as laying flowers, Law had commented that Hong Kong had been “blessed under the protection of the Queen,” drawing the ire of pro-CCP supporters known as Little Pinks.
Hong Kong historian Hans Yeung, who now lives in the U.K., said Hong Kongers’ nostalgia for colonial times was a complex emotion.
“The reason we are seeing these mourning activities is that the current way of governing is different from the way it was in Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, and the emotions that result from that difference between the old and the new,” Yeung told RFA.
“It’s not necessarily the idea that we miss colonial times because things were so good back then, but because the current government is so poor,” he said.
Yeung said some mourners were too young to remember an era in which the Queen’s portrait was in every classroom, and TV stations shut down every night with “God Save the Queen.”
He said younger people likely have read about Hong Kong before the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, and drawn their own conclusions.
“National education [nowadays] forces students to use positive thinking to understand the current political situation and the issues China faces, but it doesn’t engage them emotionally,” Yeung said. “It just teaches them that things are so bad politically in Hong Kong right now that they had better repeat the slogans properly.”
“The more experience they have of national education, the sooner students may wake up … to how serious the problem is,” he said.
Former pro-democracy lawmaker Nathan Law said on his Facebook page that the mourning is a form of permitted dissent under an ongoing, citywide crackdown on peaceful dissent and political opposition under the national security law that has seen more than 10,000 arrests and some 2,800 prosecutions.