PREAMBLE of the RECOBRIGO

the RECOBRIGO

In one of his many lasting quotes, Dr. Sun Yat-sen remarked that "The tides of the world are sweeping and vast; one prospers should he follow them; one withers should he resist them."

If it can be said that the post-war decolonisation movement was one of these which prospered by following the tides, then the British colonial government in Hong Kong, which ruled the city effectively for half a century after the war, was nothing less than a "swansong" of the old times.

Understanding "revolutions" was, undoubtedly, an area of inquiry which stood at the forefront of the intellectual arena in the 20th century. From "The Psychology of Revolution" by Gustave Le Bon, and "Why Men Rebel" by Ted Gurr, to "States and Social Revolutions" by Theda Skocpol - these works witnessed the transformation of the historical discipline in the 20th century. They described the processes of revolution; on these, were induced universally-applicable theories, which were in turn utilised in the comparative analysis of state revolutions in the various theatres of history. It is literally an "Atlas" that they have produced for this realm of historical research - and it is an atlas that continues to provide much needed direction to the recent generation of historians who have made it their mission to succeed that of the atlas-makers.

However there is nothing but absolute emptiness on the atlas when we approach the field of research on British Hong Kong. "Revolution" was of course a key motivation behind historical development, but at a time when decolonisation movements rose one after another, with legitimacy for British rule found wanting, whilst it was surrounded by an overall hostile international environment, quite how this predominantly Chinese city was effectively governed under such uncompromising conditions is certainly a question that deserves our attention.

Today, fifteen years after the end of the colonial era, we have founded this journal - as a group of young academics born in the 1980s and 90s, we feel that it is necessary to understand the reasons behind this "Last Glory" that was British Hong Kong - and that is because we are attempting to answer the following question - "How did the colonial British Government effectively govern Hong Kong?"

The underlying motives beneath each and every article in this journal, though they have never been stated in entirety, can be summarised as a hope - the hope that through historical research, we will be able to respond better to the present reality. We believe that our endeavours will provide a valuable reference in the improvement of the governance of the SAR, and perhaps even towards the future development of Chinese society.

Having grown up in the era of the internet, we certainly understand how quickly the contemporary world changes. At a time of the "explosion of information", some have argued that factors of "discontinuity" and "non-inheritance" are on the rise - and that "History is not to be trusted in future". It seems to provide the theoretical evidence for this increasingly restless, volatile society - for if the past is entirely devoid of referencial value, and if the future lies entirely in the form of discontinuities and non-inheritabilities, such restlessness and volatility will grow into reality.

What needs to be pointed out, however, is that superstition in the recurrence of history is just one "infantile disorder", for blind faith in history provides no valuable references for the present. Nor is it going to tell us much about historical fact itself. Through reading history we are surprised to find that the problems of "contemporary society" - such as the Shanghai-Hong Kong Rivalry, the marginalisation of the latter, and reflections on modernity and the "core values" of the city - these have already been forecast by many in the past, who have made revealing and far-sighted predictions on these issues.

Praises aside, we are more intrigued by the logic and thinking approaches that lie underneath this all. We may never know if history is to be trusted in future, but the prerequisite of that would still be understanding what exactly happened in the past. It is our deep belief that the oversimplication of history and its rendering into conspiracy theories is of no assistance to explaining the real world. Only when historical development can be seriously understood, is it possible to answer the question of whether history does in fact produce an effect on the present; and it is only through the excavation of historical truth, that we can answer the question of to what extent history affects the present reality.

The development of most branches of academia has passed through qualitative and quantitative stages. When a simple discourse is insufficient to explain the problem, it may be a more appropriate research approach to explore the actual means of governance, and to attempt at deciphering a universal pattern from the colony of British Hong Kong. And it is only through research on the means of governance, deducing an underlying logic in British Hong Kong, that it will be possible for us to propose a most persuasive explanation of the past.

We humbly request your approval, for us to embark on an attempt as such.

Jeremy Lee, Chief Convenor of the RECOBRIGO

The RECOBRIGO Quarterly, Vol.1 Issue 1, 1st March 2012

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