‘Good or bad, that’s Hong Kong history,’ says British Colonial Museum founder

HONG KONG, June 21 (Reuters) – Bryan Ong has made it his mission to preserve artefacts that tell the story of Hong Kong’s British colonial past even as Beijing increasingly shapes life in the city that is firmly back in the fold of the continent.

Ong, 42, has collected colonial memorabilia since childhood and last year opened the Museum Victoria City to display his treasures, detached from the growing acrimony between China and Britain fueled in part by the legacy colonial.

“Whether it’s good or bad, it’s part of Hong Kong’s history,” Ong said.

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Its two-story museum features military medals, badges, royal portraits, stamps, banknotes, newspaper clippings and colonial government tracts. It doubles as a gift shop.

Ong’s grandmother gave him a medal from a British Gurkha soldier based in Hong Kong when he was a child, inspiring his fascination with the city’s history.

A partially burned British flag recovered from a World War II battle in Hong Kong, when Japanese forces captured the city, is among the museum’s most treasured items.

Hong Kong’s colonial era came to an end on July 1, 1997, after 156 years, marking for China the return of an integral part of its territory separated from the motherland for too long by the designs of the colonialists.

After pro-democracy protests in 2019, China moved to crack down on dissent and assert its authority over the city in a way Britain said breached its transfer deal which runs until 2047. , prompting angry rebukes from Beijing.

China imposed a national security law on the city in 2020, followed by reforms aimed at stripping anyone deemed disloyal from public office. Education, media and other sectors have come under increasing pressure to show patriotism and support for Chinese leadership.

Ong said he was not worried about the rapidly changing political environment.

“I’m a Hong Kong guy. Not British,” Ong said, adding that he didn’t think his museum would irritate the authorities.

“We will do our best to preserve the good old memories of Hong Kong,” Ong said. “Keep Calm and carry on.”

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Reporting by Jessie Pang and Joyce Zhou; Editing by Marius Zaharia and Robert Birsel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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