Friction in Hong Kong
With much interest, I have been following the riots and protests currently ravaging Hong Kong. Ever since the transition from British oversite to Communist Chinese control in 1997, one could sense the on- going tension between Hong Kong, long a bastion of capitalism and the free market, and Communist China, a hulking hybrid mix of capitalism, tethered to a lumbering communist autocracy.
The most recent strife has been kindled by a new law Beijing passed, enabling Communist China to extradite Hong Kong residents involved in criminal matters. This infuriated the island residents; however, this is just the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak. This latest source of contention could have just as easily been a new sur-tax or jay walking law for that matter. The fiery residents of the small, dynamic island have been getting primed up for many years.
A history of conflict
The bustling island of Hong Kong became part of the British Empire in 1842, after Great Britain subdued China in one of its trumped-up Opium Wars. In World War II, the Japanese threw the Brits out, however the Brits, along with additional troops from mainland China, in turn threw the Japanese out in 1945; returning the Brits to power. Hong Kong remained under British rule during the fiery reign of communist China’s Mao Tse Tung, who took great umbrage with the island colony, barely twenty miles from his southern shore. A free market powerhouse, Hong Kong was a source of irritation, and yet a ripe and tempting plum for the always cash-strapped communists.
Mao went to his grave without fulfilling his dream of expelling the plucky British and bringing Hong Kong into the communist fold. He did, however, make life as miserable as possible for them, with constant harassment and underhanded activities.
Mao’s attempt to ruin my R & R
And as it turns out, I have direct experience with the vengeful nature of Chairman Mao. During my year in Vietnam, I took my R & R (Rest and Recuperation period) after my 9th month in-country. The R & R locations of choice for American GI’s were Thailand, Japan, Australia, Taipei, Hawaii (the choice of married men) … and Hong Kong. After much discussion and deliberation, myself and a friend, who was also planning his R & R, decided to spend our eight-day holiday in heaven in Hong Kong. And it was not a decision that either one of us regretted, as we enjoyed ourselves immensely from the time our small aircraft landed at the Hong Kong airport, until lift off on that long dismal flight back to Vietnam. The aura of my R & R carried me for weeks during my final months in Vietnam, almost lasting until my departure from that war-torn nation, which I more than had my fill of.
Chairman Mao’s Surprise
About mid-week through my R & R in Hong Kong, I awoke in my Hotel room to a powerful, pungent unpleasant odor. The smoke borne odor permeated everything, the streets, the buildings, shops, clothing, people; everything. A Hong Kong acquaintance, explained very casually, that as part of his harassment policy against the island, the vengeful Mao had mountains of garbage heaped upon the mainland Chinese shore directly across from Hong Kong. Then, when the wind was blowing towards Hong Kong, the monstrous pile of festering waste was ignited, carrying the foulest smelling smoke you can imagine to that, otherwise pleasant little island. Many Hong Kong residents wore protective face masks to ward off the toxic odor, while others seemed resigned to just deal with it as part of life in the big city. After a day or so when the wind direction changed, the odiferous attack would be over, and life returned to normal.
An evil legacy
Through the whacky programs he instilled, Chairman Mao was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of his countrymen, (amongst others) so my grievance of having to breath burning garbage for a day or two may seem petty. I do harbor it, however, and have been a rabid anti-commie ever since! And best of luck to the residents of Hong Kong!
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Hong Kong, the crowds, the views, the people. Love it! The Chinese have engaged their government many times over the years. My friend, Moxie Zhang, now Director of Ersi, China, faced bullets and tanks in Tiananmen Square. He fled to America immediately thereafter but has returned to make his mark as one of their great software engineers. Over here he developed the hardware and software platform for JPL and communications linkage for NASA and for Apple. Ersi, the world wide mapping technology is his baby. The guy fought hard for everything and Hong Kong’s residents will fight hard for their freedoms. China is now an interesting mix of Capitalism and Communism that has become closer and closer to a democracy as time moves on. The new generation were educated in America and value freedom above all else. Someday, perhaps in our lifetime, we may see the seeds of freedom burst forth as they are born thru the fires of resistance.
Thanks for sharing Art, I hope we see it in our lifetime as well. The Chinese, and the Vietnamese are wonderful people.