I was born in China at the end of World War 2. Soon after I was born, the Civil War started between two political parties – the Communist and the Nationalist party. Our family escaped to Hong Kong in 1949 right before the Communist took over China.
We were the only family to have escaped to Hong Kong from both sides of my parent’s families. I was only about 4 to 5 years old at the time and do not remember the journey to Hong Kong. My early childhood memories about our family were from my mother.
Hong Kong was occupied by the British. People who were afraid of the Communist fled to Hong Kong, but not everybody wanted to go or could go. In that time, Hong Kong was an undeveloped place and Shanghai was well developed and prospering as many other provinces in China. A lot of people did not believe the Communist Party would take over China and some of them were hoping a different Government would bring people better lives. However, for most of the rich people, as long as they did not get involved with the politics, lived their lives without much change. Also people who had money did not want to leave China and leave their wealth behind. That was some of the situations during that period of time, according to my mother.
My mother’s side of the family fell into the category of people that did not want to leave. My uncles were bankers and importers and married to prominent families. My Aunts were married to medical doctors. They stayed behind and did not want to leave. Later on they were tortured and sent far away to revolution labor camps. They suffered a lot and their children did not have a fair chance for education. My brother, sister and I had a chance to visit them in 1989 right before the Tiananmen square incident. One of our uncles, who was an importer, was still alive then. He used English to carry a conversation with us. Amazingly, after all these years, he did not forget the language. We got a chance to meet our uncle and some of our cousins and their children whom we never met. It was a happy time for all of us.
As I’ve discussed previously, the reason we got the opportunity to escape to Hong Kong was because my father was a high ranking officer in the Republic of China. We previously had the choice to retreat with the Government. My parents could choose to go to Taiwan or stay in Hong Kong. They chose to stay in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s official language is Cantonese. Although the dialect is a form of Chinese, for someone from other provinces the language is totally foreign to them. Fortunately written Chinese is the same so at least they can communicate in writing in the beginning. Like a first generation immigrant struggling to perfect English, they eventually learned Cantonese, but it was never perfect. Just like me.
When we got to Hong Kong, my parents did not have money, did not speak the local dialect (Cantonese), did not have a place to stay and did not have a job. I was too young to know all of this but as I grew older, I knew we were poor. But the poorness did not bother me at all because my mother came from a well set family. She taught us the value of life and that money is not the whole matter of our lives. Your character is much more important. We did not have many material things while we were growing up but now, my 8 brothers and sisters and I are doing well with our lives.