By Chun Chun Ting
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 25, no.2 (Spring 2013), pp. 80-129
This essay analyzes a social movement seeking to preserve two piers at the financial district of Hong Kong in 2006 and 2007. I ask whether the crowd gathering at the piers and the subsequent social movement signify a moment when the floating identity of Hong Kong has finally acquired an anchor in its urban environment to claim a more rooted definition. I examine the discourses and the artistic expressions of the movement to explore how it radicalizes the issue of heritage conservation to articulate a critique of capitalism and to revitalize the decolonization project. This paper also pays special attention to an art performance piece by artist/activist Leung Po-shan, focusing on its imagination of a political community of equals and actualization of heritage meanings by highlighting a deep sense of connection to local history and identity. Arguing against Ackbar Abbas’s reading of Hong Kong culture as a space of disappearance, I maintain that the rise of heritage conservation as an important issue of social contestation indicates a meaningful change in the ways the Hong Kong identity is experienced today. It represents, in my view, a gradual shift from the deconstructionist questioning of identity to the desire for a more assertive self-definition. The movement at the piers heralds such change by negotiating, especially through its use of art, a condition of becoming that enables a different imagination of the city and the emergence of the Hong Kong people as a political subject.