Road names can be a touchy subject. No matter where you are in the world, they usually matter to someone. That’s definitely true in Hong Kong, where history — and yes, nostalgia — imbue many places that remain named after colonial-era figures. If one mainland businessman has his way though, that nostalgia would soon be traded for his version of patriotism.
According to Apple Daily, a member of Beijing’s top advisory body — the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference — yesterday suggested removing symbols left behind from Hong Kong’s colonial-era British government, starting with place and street names.
The proposal was put forward by businessman Shie Tak-chung, who said during the meeting that Hongkongers are Chinese nationals, therefore patriotism is a duty, whether or not it is “one country, two systems” or “one country, one system.”
Shie said the Hong Kong government should change the place names at an appropriate time, and focus more on patriotic education for young children, an issue that has already been met with considerable trepidation here.
If Shie’s proposal is accepted, a number of place names that we have all come to know and love in Hong Kong could potentially be up for re-naming, ostensibly everything from Harcourt Road to Wellington Street to Queen’s Road Central.
Predictably, the suggestion was met with scorn in some corners this weekend, with netizens offering up a series of snarky, Chinese Communist Party-inspired place names. Why not rename Prince Edward Road “Princelings Road,” one suggested, referring to a derogatory term used to refer to descendants of prominent officials within the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Notable princelings include President Xi Jinping, who is expected to stay in office indefinitely following a proposal to remove a clause in the country’s constitution that limits presidents to two terms.
There was also this suggestion from satirical weekly magazine 100 Most as a nod to Xi’s nickname “Xi Dada,” which literally translates to “Uncle Xi.”
One wag called for a Winnie the Pooh Lane, a reference to the fact that pictures and even references to Winnie the Pooh were recently censored in China after a photo of Xi and President Obama enjoying a stroll was compared to a photo of Winnie and Tigger.
While some might understandably be perturbed at the possibility of losing a favorite street name, it wouldn’t be the first time.
According to a Facebook post by the Road Research Society, the official English name for Tiu Keng Leng in the New Territories was Rennie’s Mill — named after a 19th-century Canadian businessman called Alfred Herbert Rennie — until after the handover in 1997, while the Ng Tung River in the New Territories was at one point known as the River Indus
In the post, the group goes on to imagine Queen’s Road renamed Chairman Road, Aberdeen to Heung Kong Tsai, and Stanley as Chek Chue.
According to HKFP, other notable instances of “de-colonization” of Hong Kong’s past include the demolition of the Queen’s Pier in 2007, which conservationists at the time argued was a valuable part of Hong Kong’s heritage. There were also the 2015 protests against plans to cover royal cyphers on 59 street post boxes.
However you feel about the possibility of the government renaming Queen’s Road East, at least we’ll always have the 1991 pop song of the same name to cheer us up.
Apart from the chorus reminding you that Queen’s Road East cuts into Queen’s Road Central and that there isn’t actually a palace or castle fit for a Queen on any of those roads, the song from Taiwanese singer Lo Ta-yu and Hong kong singer-songwriter Albert Leung makes references to the 1997 handover and predicted that even Mongkok might have to change its name.