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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Sunday, October 31, 2021
In this video we see the flow of refugees from Communist China. I was born in 1954, and in the Cold War world I grew up in, we always heard how hard it was for people to leave the communist world. The Berlin Wall went up in 1961, and the purpose of that wall (and other walls separating Eastern and Western Europe) was to keep people in, not to keep people out. But in the earliest days of Communist rule both in Eastern Europe and in Asia, the restrictions to people leaving were not so severe. Remember, the communists assumed that the common people would absolutely love them. It took them awhile to realize that their people were less than enthralled with the system they were creating. Of course, Marxism as an economic system was a colossal failure. Between the end of World War II, and 1961 when the wall went up, something like 3 million people migrated from Eastern Europe to Western Europe. Do the math—it comes to about 500 people a day for fifteen years.
So in China, the same type of thing was happening. Not to the same degree, I’m sure, because Hong Kong had been devastated by the war, and did not present the economic contrast that was much more noticeable in Europe. Also, I was talking with another expat here in Kunming the other day who was in Hong Kong in 1960 or 61, and he said there were plenty of people going the other way, too. I think it eventually turned out to be a net gain (of refugees) for Hong Kong, but not as drastically as Eastern Europe.
Nevertheless, Hong Kong became the place of “safety” from “Communist” control. As 1997 drew near, there was concern that Hong was going to be just another city in China after the handover. [That concern was very evident to me, because I was a graduate student in Canada during those pre-1997 years. I used to go to the Chinese Alliance Church in Regina, where there were lots of people who had “escaped” from Hong Kong in anticipation of the handover.] Thus the intense negotiations between Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping. They each had an ace in the hole, so to speak. Deng Xiaoping’s ace in the hole was that the “New Territories,” that part of Hong Kong that was leased for 99 years by Great Britain in 1898 was due to be returned according to the terms of the lease. There was no way Britain could get out of it.
Margaret Thatcher’s ace in the hole was that the original Hong Kong, which comprised Hong Kong Island, was not leased. It had been ceded to Great Britain by treaty many years earlier. They did not have to return it. It would have made a mess of things if they had held on to it, and it would not have been worth much, because Hong Kong had grown to a size the dwarfed the original colony on the Island. So Margaret Thatcher did not actually want to keep it. But she was using that option to get the best deal possible. Basically, Deng Xiaoping made her an offer she could not refuse. He told her that China would allow Hong Kong to govern itself under the “one country, two systems” rubric for fifty more years. That was half the duration of the original lease.
So how has it been going? Depends on who you ask, of course, but there have been naysayers from the beginning. China executing the national security law and imposing it on Hong Kong was just the latest. But it seemed to sound the death nell for the one country, two systems arrangement in the minds of many observers.
Friday, October 01, 2021
The Brightest Colors
It is good for me that I have been afflicted. - Psalm 119:71
It is a remarkable circumstance that the most brilliant colors of plants are to be seen on the highest mountains, in spots that are most exposed to the wildest weather. The brightest lichens and mosses, the loveliest gems of wild flowers, abound far up on the bleak, storm-scalped peak.
One of the richest displays of organic coloring I ever beheld was near the summit of Mount Chenebettaz, a hill about 10,000 feet high, immediately above the great St. Bernard Hospice. The whole face of an extensive rock was covered with a most vivid yellow lichen which shone in the sunshine like the golden battlement of an enchanted castle.
There, in that lofty region, amid the most frowning desolation, exposed to the fiercest tempest of the sky, this lichen exhibited a glory of color such as it never showed in the sheltered valley. I have two specimens of the same lichen before me while I write these lines, one from the great St. Bernard, and the other from the wall of a Scottish castle, deeply embossed among sycamore trees; and the difference in point of form and coloring between them is most striking.
The specimen nurtured amid the wild storms of the mountain peak is of a lovely primrose hue, and is smooth in texture and complete in outline, while the specimen nurtured amid the soft airs and the delicate showers of the lowland valley is of a dim rusty hue, and is scurfy in texture, and broken in outline.
And is it not so with the Christian who is afflicted, tempest-tossed, and not comforted? Till the storms and vicissitudes of God's providence beat upon him again and again, his character appears marred and clouded; but trials clear away the obscurity, perfect the outlines of his disposition, and give brightness and blessing to his life.
Amidst my list of blessings infinite
Stands this the foremost, that my heart has bled;
For all I bless Thee, most for the severe. —Hugh Macmillan