Meandering through Monopoly, The Peak, Governor Young, and Crisis Capitalism
This board game provided me with some interesting things to reflect upon. I like how they have adapted the classic game for the Hong Kong setting and I find it very interesting to see how the different areas of Hong Kong are priced and profiled as either cheap or elite and expensive.
Of course Victoria Peak is still the most expensive spot on the board. Buying a deed for The Peak costs $3000 in comparison with the paltry $600 needed to get a spot at Chek Lap Kok.
However, what many people may not realise is that racial segregation in Hong Kong in the early 1900s resulted in the prohibition of Chinese from living on the Peak. Often this prized location is imagined as unobtainable beacause of its expense. But since the early days of the colony, Hong Kong has always had very wealthy Chinese and Eurasian families. For these people, The Peak was denied. The Peak ordinances of 1904 and 1918 legally enforced this.
During the same era in 1919 part of Cheung Chau island was also reserved for British missionaries. This is alarming as a deliberate anti-inclusive move by an evangelical group.
Such racial segregation and legislation was deeply unpopular in Hong Kong and was widely regarded as a humiliation.
The Peak ordinances were finally repealed in 1946. After the end of WW2 and the return of British rule to Hong Kong after the Japanese occupation, the Governor Mark Young instigated broad changes.
The ‘1946 spirit’ as John Carroll (2007:132) terms it, was a turning point in Hong Kong history. This was the moment that Hong Kong came closest to self-determination, and full independence. Governor Young felt strongly that Hong Kong could make the transition to a full city-state and perform an intermediary role between the East and the West. It was however never to be. Britain felt that Young was too influenced by the liberation of Hong Kong and softened by his sympathy to the hardships the colony’s people had faced under Japanese rule. Many of the local Chinese elite also felt that the reforms were a step too far. His reforms were only ever partially put into practice, but he did put an end to The Peak Ordinances.
I considered Young’s changes in the light of Naomi Klein’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ argument. In which governments and capitalists take advantage of crisis in order to privatise public amenities. Mark Young’s ‘1946 spirit’ was less to do with ‘crisis capatalism’ and much more to do with an earnest capitulation to independence. Crisis is not simply an opportunity for change, crisis is change. The Japanese Tsunami of 2011 has been a catalyst for the closure of nuclear power programmes in both Japan and Germany.
So whilst Klein rightly notes that Hurricane Katrina destroyed not only New Orleans, but also the public schools programme, this is not always the case. Crisis and fortune work in more complex ways.