Every June 4th, the British press tries to indoctrinate the view that Hong Kong was a grand and benevolent design in “freedom and democracy” under threat from Mainland China. There was never such a design. As perspectivehere points out for us in the book, “Collaborative Colonial Power: The Making of the Hong Kong Chinese,” by Law Wing Sang, who teaches at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, the Victorian British Empire saw this territory very much as a ‘notch’ in a great oak. Below, he explains.
Here’s a fascinating and revealing passage from the book (page 9):
“A Victorian saying went like this: by acquiring Hong Kong, Great Britain had cut a notch in the body of China as a woodsman cuts a notch in a great oak he is presently going to fell. As a “notch,” Hong Kong, seized by the British navy in the First Opium War (1840–1842), has possessed a value that can never be measured in terms of territorial conquest.”
Not being familiar with woodcutting and felling trees, it took me a little while to appreciate the evil genius of this analogy. Cutting a notch is a standard tree felling technique, as these links describe:
The notch is the means by which a tiny woodsman – with an ax wielded by hand – can bring down a mighty oak tree many times his size. Trees are not literally cut down by the woodsman; rather, the woodsman cuts a notch into the base of the tree trunk, and lets the height and weight of the tree bring itself down.
It seems that the Victorian British view of the strategic value of Hong Kong was not merely its usefulness as a commercial and naval base, but also as a notch by which Britain would eventually topple the “great oak” represented by China.