In Hong Kong, Mourning Queen Doubles as Dissent

People have been lining up for hours to pay their respects to 'boss lady'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 18, 2022 12:30 PM CDT
In Hong Kong, Mourning Queen Doubles as Dissent
People wait in line to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Anthony Kwan)

Hundreds of Hong Kong residents are lining up in front of the British Consulate General for hours each day to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II, leaving piles of flowers and handwritten notes. The collective outpouring of grief after her death on Sept. 8 is perhaps the most ardent among the former British colonies, where mourning has been generally subdued, the AP reports. It's seen by some experts as a form of dissent against increasingly intrusive controls by communist-ruled Beijing, which took over the territory in 1997. Some Hong Kongers are nostalgic for what they view as a past "golden age" under colonial rule, when the city gained stature as a world financial center and tourism destination.

The Queen is nicknamed "si tau por" in Cantonese, which translated to "boss lady." "It’s simply a way of showing respect to her. There was a feeling of kindness from her, she’s not the kind of boss who is up above you,” said CK Li, a resident who queued for over two hours to pay his respects. Another resident, 80-year-old Eddie Wong, said she was there “out of true feelings” from her heart. "People in Hong Kong love her," said Wong. "Because when we were under her rule, we enjoyed democracy and freedom and we were very grateful. Some Hong Kongers, however, noted that British rule wasn't entirely democratic—and Hong Kongers weren't included in British negotiations with China over the city's future.

In 1997, China promised to leave Hong Kong's Western-style civil liberties and institutions intact for at least 50 years. Many raised in the former territory grew up hoping for still greater freedoms. But following months of anti-government protests in 2019, Beijing imposed a tough national security law on the city, seeking to stamp out public dissent. News outlets deemed overly critical of Beijing have been forced to shut down, and dozens of activists have been arrested. So far, the authorities have allowed the orderly, somber shows of respect at the consulate to continue. "It has been a long time since I have taken part in an event in a public place with people who, I think, share some of my ideals," a woman who asked to be called Mrs. Chan told the Hong Kong Free Press.

"I would imagine that some people are going there not so much for nostalgia reasons, but as a kind of protest, now that dissent is suppressed," says John Burns, an honorary professor of politics and public administration at the University of Hong Kong. Public figures in Hong Kong are being scrutinized over their response to the queen's passing, and drawing criticism if they are viewed as too admiring of her reign or British rule in general. Commenters on mainland Chinese social media sites have blasted veteran actor Law Kar-ying for posting a selfie outside the British Consulate on Instagram with a caption including the line, "Hong Kong was a blessed land under her reign." Law later deleted the post and issued a video apology on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo. (Read more Hong Kong stories.)

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