How Britain's impact is still felt in the ex-colony of Hong Kong

August 15, 2019

Photo credit: Financial Times 


After over a century as a crown colony, Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997 - confining grand notions of Empire to the history books in perpetuity. 


Though 22 years have since passed, here are 5 ways the British still have an influence on Hong Kong. 


1: Flying Kukris, Stanley Fort and HKFC (and most other rugby clubs)

Photo credit: Hong Kong Rugby Union 


Hong Kong is regarded as the first rugby-playing Asian nation, with the first game on record between the British military and civilians taking place in 1886!


Some local clubs are still reminders of the city's colonial days, with the Flying Kukris once part of the British Gurkha Regiment and Stanley Fort (now Valley Fort) named after former army barracks that are now under the People's Liberation Army (PLA). 


1886 was also the year that the Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) was founded as a rugby and football-playing organisation.


The HKFC continues to play a huge role in Hong Kong's sporting history - they used to host the world-famous Hong Kong Sevens from 1976 to 1982! 


Other mentions include the USRC Tigers (whose name was derived from the British Armed Force's Tigers Rugby Club) and Valley RFC (founded by ex-members of the Royal Hong Kong Police Rugby Club). 


2. The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club 

Photo credit: Hong Kong Tatler 


The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC) came into being in 1894 servicing only private members, who were predominantly military personnel to start with.  


It began accepting non-Europeans from the 1950s and their first female member in 1977. 


One of the few entities to retain its "Royal" designation after the handover, it is now open to both recreational and competitive sailors and features sailing, rowing and dragonboating teams.


In addition, the RHKYC often hosts and organises a range of high-level international regattas and other race events - providing a boost to Hong Kong's sporting reputation overseas. 


Aiming to give back to society, the RHKYC is also involved in plenty of charity work and runs classes that help develop seafaring skills for disadvantaged youths and non-members, among other initiatives. 


Photo credit: Discover Hong Kong  


RHKYC's location on the Causeway Bay waterfront is near the noon-day gun - yet another relic of colonial Hong Kong. 


The gun is fired at noon each day in a tradition originally meant as a way to punish Jardine employees for using the one-gun salute for the head of their company, originally reserved for military commanders only. 


3. Government Flying Service 

Photo credit:  


If you get injured on a hike up Ma On Shan in search of British World War Two bunkers and need emergency assistance, who you gonna call? 


Chances are that instead of the Ghostbusters, the Government Flying Service (GFS) will be swooping in and carrying you to safety on board a Search and Rescue helicopter. 


Aside from your valiant rescuer, you have the British to thank; the GFS is in fact the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force (est. 1949), rebranded with a fresh coat of paint. 


Before the Force's disbandment in 1993, they helped to train local pilots and prepare them for their departure, by making sure that more Hong Kong locals occupied key positions towards the end of its tenure. 


This put them in good stead to serve and protect the Hong Kong public to this very day. 



4. GB Dragonboat Team 

Photo credit: Telegraph and Argus 


Did you know that Team Great Britain has its own representative squad for dragon boating?


Making their maiden voyage in the first World Championships of its kind in 1995, its ties to Hong Kong run deep - almost half of the squad call the Special Administrative Region their home and are in fact member of local dragon boating clubs. 


Nonetheless, Britain and Hong Kong are certainly doing their bit to raise the profile of dragon boating, keeping the ancient Chinese tradition very much alive. 


5. Air Cadets 

Photo credit: Hong Kong Cadet Corps/Sputnik International 


The Hong Kong Cadet Corps was created as part of the Royal Air Force Hong Kong cadets in 1971 as a voluntary uniformed group that provides its members with an education in aviation, developing leadership skills and raising their social awareness through community service. 


When 1997 finally arrived, the Air Force link was removed but the organisation was allowed to keep going - just check out the similarities in their uniforms! 


Rather than adopting dress code associated with the Chinese army, they have retained uniforms that much resemble modern-day Royal Air Force uniforms.


However, the increasing popularity of PLA summer camps and other cadet equivalents may mean that these legacies of a bygone time may soon be phased out. 


Being part of the Empire has yielded more than just architecture and quaint trams – you just have to look in the right places.