Hundreds of people lined up outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong on Monday morning to offer flowers and sign a book of condolences in memory of Queen Elizabeth II.
Hong Kong was a British colony for 156 years until 1997 when it reverted to Chinese rule, but Beijing now appears to have rejected that status, calling the period a ‘forced occupation’ which should not be considered as legitimate.
The Queen, who has visited Hong Kong twice during her 70-year reign, is remembered by many in the city as “Boss Lady” or “lady in charge” in Cantonese.
Among those outside the consulate office on Monday was pensioner Sylvia Lee, who said she was saddened to learn of the Queen’s death on Friday, adding that she believed the Queen was a symbol of stability across the world.
“No one lives forever and we knew this day would come someday. He was a respected figure and the colonial period government made many contributions to the development of Hong Kong, especially in the 70s and 80s,” said Lee told CNN, referring to a time when the city’s appointed governors built its public housing and transportation infrastructure.
Chapman Wu, 40, also brought his young daughter, to pay respects and offer flowers to the Queen.
Wu said that without the British Empire, religious freedom in the city might not have been possible under Chinese rule. Christianity was introduced to Hong Kong as early as 1841 when the city came under British rule after the First Opium War.
“I won’t comment politically, but without being a former British colony, Hong Kong may not have religious freedom,” he told CNN.
“Otherwise, who knows if we would be able to practice any religion, especially with the religious suppression of Christians in China.”
Beijing loyalists and Hong Kong politicians protested against British control during the colonial period, but in recent years a more favorable view of colonial government has emerged among pro-democracy groups, with many adopting the colonial flag as a sign resistance to China’s one-party rule during the 2019 anti-government protests.