/18 Family

Kurt Tong

The Queen, The Chairman and I

My project is a storybook I made for my daughters.

I was born in the city of Hong Kong in 1977, 5 years before China wanted it back. Us Honkies have an identity that’s very different to the ones of China, after all, I sang ‘God Save our Queen’ as my national anthem at school. I always knew I was going to live in England. My father studied here and dislikes the communists; he had always told me that when Hong Kong goes back to China in 1997, we would not be going back.

Go back he did. In fact, he never really left. I on the other hand, got sent here for school and I married a Scottish girl and started a family here. Having grown up between three different cultures, one question is always at the back of my mind. How Chinese am I or indeed, who am I?

My father’s grandfather was a deckhand who came to Hong Kong from Shanghai after the fall of the Empire in 1911, lured by better job prospects in the relatively stable British colony. My mother’s family were big landlords in Southern China. They came to Hong Kong and probably escaped certain death at the hands of Mao’s advancing Communist armies. For 2 years, I traced back the history of my family in a bid to find out how two of the most influential people in history affected my family. Paying equal importance to new photographs, found photographs and writing, the work reconnects me with the Hong Kong of the past through the recollection of my extended family, humanizing the political and social upheaval that brought my family to Hong Kong and eventually to the United Kingdom.