“Disclaimer: The following article contains sensitive language and political subject matter. Any opinions voiced by the author do not reflect those of Trinity Times or those of its masthead.”

By Sichun Xia, staff writer

Photo: From perceptual dialectology to perceptual multilingualism: a Hong Kong case study – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Map-of-Hong-Kongs-main-areas-C-China-Discovery_fig1_349726063 [accessed 11 Nov, 2022]

The ache of a family broken apart runs deep; the action or lack of that sets it off lingers in memory as you play it over and over again, reminiscing about what once was. This ache seems to be the same for countries as well, with colonialism being the action that robbed them of their family’s joy. My motherland China was once a colonized country, and Hong Kong and Macau, like a couple of kids that were lured away, were occupied by Britain and Portugal for more than a century. 

July 1, 1997 marks the Hong Kong Handover Day. After 156 years as a colony, Hong Kong finally returned to China. The bond between China and Hong Kong is comparable to that of an abducted child who has been restored to its mother. The child has lived abroad with a wealthy family, who used to look down on the poor, for a long time and has adapted different thinking and behaviour. The child now perceives the mother as out-of-date and out-of-touch because she only underwent reform and an opening up 40 years ago. 

In actuality, the child did not pay the mother much attention although she has been frail and poor for more than a century. Maybe if the child had sat alongside his mother to listen to her stories of her younger years when she had been a beautiful princess (the Song Dynasty) known far and wide across the Western Ocean, renowned for her elegant manners and technological innovations, he could come to understand her more! And if maybe the mother could see that her son, no longer a small, helpless child, has grown up to be, at times, different from her, she could understand him more! But time has created a vast gulf between mother and son that words cannot so easily and quickly fix: Cantonese, at times, is lost on her ears; Mandarin, at times, feels foreign on his tongue. 

And the mother feels guilty for losing her child and wanting to make amends and improve the unity in the family. She summons its two brothers, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, that have grown in size and competitive attitude since the child has left. A sibling rivalry between them could escalate into a fight, reopening the pain already fossilized in their bones. But it passes: the brothers have too much in common –  “we both speak Cantonese, we both like making soup, and we both like drinking tea and eating dim sum” – and it is with their similarities does this bond, once strained, begin to flourish again.  

As a student born and raised in Guangzhou, I grew up hearing, in both Mandarin and Cantonese, about Hong Kong from my teachers and elders. They describe Hong Kong as a child who has gone through so many hardships that have made him grow up too fast; one part of him is shaken, and the other part of him still loves his mother. And one day, no matter how slow, he will be able to say so – and in response, have it be heard in a sister Chinese dialect to Cantonese – in Mandarin.  

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