Hong Kong and Its Moving Identity

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Rouge, Infernal Affairs
And the Moving Identity of Hong Kong
In the book “Hong Kong Cinema: Coloniser, motherland and self”, the author Yingchi Chu describes Hong Kong as “[a] ‘nation’ without sovereignty” (98). It is because of the unique and complicating historical experience that Hong Kong people have been going through since its early beginning. From the early time until before 1842, Hong Kong was considered to be a territory of China. In 1842, China officially ceded Hong Kong to the British after the First Opium War due to the rise of British’s power; and from that moment to 1997, Hong Kong had been remaining as a British’s colony and experiencing the very distinct cultural development and social changes. The year 1997 marked the most crucial moment for Hong Kong people with the advent of Hong Kong’s handover to its “motherland” – China (Hong Kong Profile – www.bbc.co.uk). That triangular relationship between British, China and Hong Kong produces some unique characteristics of Hong Kong’s society such as the sense of historical “dislocations and discontinuities” (Ackbar 81), the sense of ambiguous and uncertain identity. Thus, those characteristics are dominant features in Hong Kong cinema, especially in pre and post-1997 period. Among those films, Rouge directed by Stanley Kwan in 1988 and Infernal Affairs directed by Wai-keung Lau and Alan Mark in 2002 well represent for historical experience and identity issues of Hong Kong people. The analysis of two films shows that through the personal stories of main characters, those two films depict vividly the historical experience of Hong Kong people before and after the turning point in their lives – the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, and show how the historical experience changes the way Hong Kong people express their identity, from British to Chinese. To begin with, Rouge depicts the historical experience of Hong Kong people before the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. In contrast to the sluggish economic development and unstable political condition of mainland China, Hong Kong under British colonial rule went through “the turning point of Hong Kong’s historical development” (Foshek, Desser 254), transforming from “a fishing village into metropolis” (254), and becoming “an international center for finance and commerce” (254). Therefore, in 1980s when Hong Kong formed its own international identity as one of the “Four Asian Tigers”; and was enjoying a high living standard and a robust economic development, the 1984 Joint Declaration which states that British will hand back Hong Kong to China in 1997 created extreme anxieties among Hong Kong people. The anxiety over the unpredicted and uncertain future, and the fear of being handed back to the poor Communist-led China lead to the feeling of hopelessness, despair and disorientation. Also, the sense of historical dislocation and discontinues, as well as the fear of being disappeared haunt Hong Kong society, ultimately leading to their desperate yearning to their fantastic past as a mean to get rid of reality and to reaffirm their identity. Firstly, those negative feeling is expressed through the love story of Fleur who died in 1930s and decided to go back to find her lover in 1980s. The love story of Fleur and Twelfth Master was described as a perfect love story in which the two seem to be inseparable; they even promised to committed suicide if they cannot be together. However, after Fleur committed suicide and hopelessly waited for her lover for 50 years, he has not appeared yet. The passionate love which is deemed to remain unchanged permanently turns out to be just a normal and changeable thing. Her hopelessness and depression over the changes of love when Fleur goes back to search for her lover after 50 years imply the anxiety and hopelessness of Hong Kong people with the future of Hong Kong despite the fact that Chinese authorities assured that Hong Kong will remain unchanged in 50 years after the handover....
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