Hong Kong Unraveled: Historicizing Current Crisis and Imagining Possible Futures
1: The Politics of Hong Kong History
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 313A
John M. Carroll
University of Hong Kong, United States
This paper examines the politics of Hong Kong history before and since the resumption of Chinese sovereignty in 1997. It begins by discussing the changes to school curricula and textbooks in recent years, following the Occupy Central/Umbrella Movement of 2014 but especially since the enactment of the National Security Law in 2020 after the Anti-Extradition protests of 2019. It then traces how Hong Kong history has been construed by various interests and powerholders since the early colonial years, and how several major narratives of Hong Kong history have persisted through both colonial and postcolonial eras: the meeting of “East” and “West”; the role of Hong Kong in modern Chinese history; the triumph over adverse conditions; and the almost natural nature of the transfer of sovereignty in 1997. The paper also considers non-academic (yet often equally political) history projects, including public and private museums, corporate histories, and bottom-up history museums such as those in secondary schools, showing how they support yet sometimes challenge official accounts. It ends by looking at the latest attempts to create a new master “fact-based” narrative of Hong Kong history that disregards competing narratives; omits or glosses over key aspects of the colonial period; emphasizes the nation rather than the special administrative region; and focuses on national security.