April 23, 2024

Dragon Esdelsur

Home Sweet Home

In China’s Shenzhen, Nostalgia Persists For The Old Days Of Hong Kong Culture

A vacation to glamorous Hong Kong was a distant dream for most Chinese mainlanders in the mid-1990s, but for schoolgirl Tracey Chen in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, it was just a lunchtime stroll.

As Hong Kong loses autonomy following 25 many years of Chinese rule, Chen is between many of individuals in its Mandarin-speaking neighbour who yearn for the days when the former British colony’s uniquely exuberant Cantonese lifestyle permeated throughout the border.

Ahead of Shenzhen started to be remodeled in the 1980s, Hong Kong’s freewheeling economy represented a client haven for numerous from the mainland.

Chen’s faculty however stands on Sino-British Avenue, a 250-metre (273-yard) street sliced down the middle by the boundary among the territories, and the sole stretch where they are not divided by water.

As border guards held a close eye on site visitors browsing immediate noodles, beauty merchandise and other mainland rarities, Chen would pocket her communist student’s crimson scarf and slip throughout to acquire ice cream and magazines about Hong Kong popstars.

“There were being some that came out the moment a 7 days,” she reminisced. “My classmates and I would choose turns to go and get them.”

TIDE Modify

Shenzhen was a sleepy investing town surrounded by hundreds of villages ahead of the chief at the time, Deng Xiaoping, authorised one particular of China’s first exclusive economic zones (SEZ) there in 1980, in section to cease an exodus of those people risking their life to flee.

Liang Ailin, born in the village of Caopu in 1969, nevertheless remembers desperate villagers clambering on to cargo trains leaving for Hong Kong.

“Nearly anyone in the villages has loved ones members who fled,” she stated, speaking over a dim sum meal of Cantonese delicacies with mates, a stones’ throw from the gleaming headquarters of software giant Tencent.

Villagers instructed tales of escapees such as Li Ka-Shing, a native of Guangdong province who fled to Hong Kong and grew to become just one of its top tycoons, mentioned Liao Wenjian.

“We all imagined Hong Kong was heaven in the 1970s,” said Liao, an additional Shenzhen resident born in 1969. “As extensive as you work difficult, you will never starve and you can expect to make a whole lot of cash.”

But soon after 1980, firms in Hong Kong, well into its own export-led processing boom, poured across the border with more than 90% of Shenzhen’s expense to pioneer business there, as its officials learnt from their neighbour’s sector economy.

The flood of escapees ebbed shortly later on.


A lot of of Shenzhen’s primary citizens spoke the Hakka language and from 1984 its faculties taught in Mandarin, but the electric power of Hong Kong business and the attractiveness of its music and films gave Cantonese the edge in status, said Liang and Liao.

In the 1980s Guangdong authorities periodically tore down antennas that may possibly pick up Hong Kong tv programmes, with their corruptingly vibrant, intimate dramas and martial arts movies.

But selecting up the Hong Kong indicators was easy in adjacent Shenzhen, which had 80 television sets for each 100 households by 1985, a yr right after Shenzhen launched its personal rival station with information anchors in Western apparel.

“My spouse, a northerner, learnt Cantonese from the Television,” Liao stated.

Along with her popstar glossies, Chen would buy manner titles for her aunt, who would scrutinise them for the latest trends and make garments for folks on the mainland, she claimed.

Nevertheless the admiration was not mutual, due to the fact quite a few Hong Kong people considered their mainland cousins as state bumpkins, explained Fang Yan, who came to Shenzhen in the 1980s.

Some border places grew to become notorious as “mistress villages” for the number of wealthy Hong Kong males who experienced next wives living there.

“We’d connect with them softshell turtles (prosperous simple targets) and the very women would say, ‘Here occur the rich Hong Kong guys!’,” reported Fang Yan. “The quite women ended up waiting for them.”

Outside of 1997

As visits to Hong Kong grew to become less difficult in the many years following its handover to China in 1997 and Shenzhen’s economic system continued to increase, some of the sheen arrived off the previous British territory, however, Liao additional.

“I realised the glamour of Hong Kong is just for the people today at the prime of the social pyramid – the wealth gap is too large,” claimed Liao.

“We’re no fewer very well off living in Shenzhen now.”

Right now, Shenzhen is China’s third richest city, with hundreds of countless numbers of migrants between its inhabitants of 17.6 million, number of of whom have backlinks to the Cantonese language and society.

The old coach tracks upcoming to Liang’s village are now a tourist attraction, sandwiched concerning a substantial-speed rail line and a Bentley garage.

Younger Chinese appear dressed up to consider pictures of them selves upcoming to a classic prepare dwelling to a cafe, ‘Happy Station’, which serves bubble tea.

A lot of pals of Liang, Liao and Fang lament the very poor Cantonese competencies of their grandchildren, but see this improvement as becoming inevitable.

“It’s a migrant city and a melting pot,” reported Liao. “We really don’t have hundreds of a long time of Cantonese tradition.”