Collective Memory

Topics: Hong Kong, Mainland China, Cantonese people Pages: 3 (632 words) Published: October 28, 2012
Cue the HK collective memory
By Hong Liang (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-27 07:00

Not too long ago, pulling down an old landmark to make way for a new highway or other structure usually caused nary a whimper from the public. Such apparent insensitivity to the destruction of part of the city's heritage was widely attributed to a lack of a sense of belonging, or, more bluntly, a refugee mentality.

Not anymore. The much publicized protests over the demolition of an old ferry pier seem to have awakened the public sentiment described by sociologists as "collective memory".

It is a term new to many in the city. All the years I have lived in Hong Kong, I have never heard it mentioned.

This new concern must be a good thing because caring about our past is seen as reflecting our heightened sense of belonging. Our love for this city which we call home is embedded in our memories, which can be brought back in a flash by a familiar building, road, teahouse or song.

The about-to-be demolished ferry pier with a clock tower, built in the 1960s has little to distinguish itself either in design or scale. But it was, for many years, the favorite rendezvous for young men and women. In time, that rather plain and utilitarian structure assumed an aura of romance enshrined in the hearts of countless Hong Kong couples.

To be sure, we still have the leisurely ferries, the clattering trolleys and the cable peak trams to arouse our collective memory. But we are beginning to miss those symbols of our past that we have lost and gain a new passion for holding onto the ones that are fast slipping from our grasp.

This passion is about preserving a slice of life that is shared and cherished by the people of Hong Kong. It must be distinguished from commercial projects dolling up old buildings as new entertainment centers or tourist attractions.

Hong Kong people paid little attention to the demolition of the quaint red brick railway terminal in Tsimshatsui many years...
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