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The Impacts of the Hong Kong Section


The official guidebook of the British Empire Exhibition (1925) | 1925 | G.C. Lawrence (editor); Fleetway Press Ltd. (London) | travel guidebook | paper | 13.8 x 21.3cm

英京賽會的大會指南(1925年) | 1925年 | G.C. Lawrence (編者);艦隊出版社公司(倫敦) | 旅遊指南 | 紙張 | 13.8 x 21.3釐米

Sir Chow Shouson and Sir Robert Hotung – two key figures of the local Chinese elite – were appointed Honorary Associate Commissioners of the Hong Kong Section. It was rare for indigenous people of dominions and colonies to be appointed to such key positions, however honorary, at the exhibition.




By the 1920s, Hong Kong had been colonised by Britain for 80 years and had experienced many changes. The City of Victoria, the political and economic centre, was fairly developed and of a decent size. The colony continued to be an important trading post between Asia and Europe. Hong Kong had also modernised and industrialised by the 1920s and played an important role in the economy of southern China. The city attracted investors and visitors, as well as dissidents and other rebels.

In the exhibition halls Hong Kong was described as a modern industrial city and trade centre, with a strong contribution from British merchants. Hong Kong was presented as the Empire’s largest ship-building colony. Contrasting Hong Kong’s pre-colonial history and the changes after the introduction of British business culture, Hong Kong’s “progress” was presented as an achievement of British colonisation. This representation of “progress” is similar to other colonial sections.

The Exhibition strengthened the identity of Hong Kong’s British community but it had minimal impact on the city’s Chinese population (including some Eurasians). The Chinese exhibitors did not regard it as a showcase of British colonialism. They were much more concerned about threats to their interests amid the rise of communism in Hong Kong. As for potential friction arising from the Exhibition, the involvements of Chinese elites helped avoided discontent among the local Chinese community. Two of its notable leaders, Sir Chow Shouson and Sir Robert Hotung, were appointed Honorary Associate Commissioners of the Hong Kong Section. At Wembley Park itself, the Chinese exhibitors were more concerned with how business at their shops was faring.

The design of the Hong Kong Pavilion highlighted the colony’s links to Chinese history and culture. While it cut a striking figure at Wembley Park, the pavilion looked little different to Chinese pavilions at other early exhibitions. It did not convey Hong Kong’s particular status, i.e. a city between Britain and China in which a distinctive culture and identity had developed. The Chinese Street, sometimes also referred as the Hong Kong Street, reproduced the colony’s busy commercial ambiance. It was this that probably represented the Hong Kong of the day most accurately.





[1] South China Morning Post, February 24, 1928.

[2] The Chinese Street.

[3] Dun’s Gazette for New South Wales, September 19, 1927.

[4] Daily Commercial News and Shipping List, January 20, 1933.

[5] Dun’s Gazette for New South Wales, July 17, 1933.

[6] The China Weekly Review, April 11, 1931.

[7] Wordie, J. (2019). “How American missionaries gave southern China its Swatow lace industry”, South China Morning Post, January 5, 2019.


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