On November 2020, I visited the Kadoorie farm which was great and I recommend everyone to go there. Near the end of the visit I visited the museum that shows the history of the farm since the 1950’s and was in a way a shrine to the Kadoorie family in their efforts to establish the farm and surroundings. On a side-note I always find it fascinating that a lot of the extremely wealthy are described as philanthropists as their obscene wealth naturally comes from exploitation, whether seen or unseen. It is easy to be an philanthropist when you have too much money to spend in the first place. Anyway, the museum features as we see in the photos a history of the farm which was mostly about people fleeing mainland China after the civil war and other terrible things that happened in mainland China from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. Thousands of refugees entered Hong Kong who made a new life there and whose subsequent generations would perhaps call themselves Hong Kongers. The people who fled war and terror were described on these plaques as immigrants. It is obvious from the photos, and from the original document which they missed or did not want to alter that the proper word was refugee. Refugees that fled from horrible circumstances which are also described in the pictures and stories that remain on the wall. As we can see in the picture the word immigrant or 移民 has been printed on a sticker and pasted over the original word refugee 難民. Not only in the museum descriptions, which they have every right to alter but also in one of the letters that was send to them meaning they have changed someone else’s wording which is unforgivable. If we look at the picture of Kadoorie there is a strange censored part too in both Chinese and English.
Now why do I care so much about one word in a museum that most people wont even visit, even if they go to the Kadoorie farm, because it shows something about the environment Hong Kong finds itself in. A changing environment where words and slogans have become weapons. Propaganda and Ideology only works if it total in character, not just big ideology in the speeches and grand gestures but it has to be there in the everyday, the things we don’t think about, the assumptions that are made for us which we accept without thinking. It is the small propaganda, the small ideology which seeps inside us without our noticing while we laugh at military parades and banners and think, “who can ever fall for such a thing”. Hong Kong is currently experiencing two realities, as the truths of the government and the people have become misaligned.
We see this in the interpretation of the Yuen Long attack or in Carrie Lam saying during her November policy address that the police is highly trusted by the police. It is no longer necessary to back up facts as they can be fabricated by the government which will back them through institutions and people in power. The fact that after the policy address, anything from the fire department to the immigration departments of Hong Kong expressed their support shows how legitimacy in Hong Kong has shifted from the people to the government itself. Of course to an extent this was always the case in Hong Kong but it seems that since 2019 we have entered a new level of disregard for the public. The government it seems, would rather make up its own public.
While I cannot prove that this change of wording was done by the government, or when it was done or why, perhaps it has been there for many years already. But this is not the point. The fact that it was done and that it appears there in front of us in a museum says enough already. It is a glaring lie staring us right in the face but we are unable to correct it. The interpretation of reality is now a task of the government. This is why there can never be an independent inquiry in Hong Kong nor China, for the government is always right. When you decide what the facts are, you cannot be wrong. And when you are, you can always change the facts later once again.
Or, to consider the opposite end of the spectrum: “Hong Kong is not China.” The difference one word can make.