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Queen’s death renews interest over UK memorabilia in Hong Kong

Museum owner Bryan Ong looks at old postage stamps from British Hong Kong (AP)
Museum owner Bryan Ong looks at old postage stamps from British Hong Kong (AP)

The death of the Queen has sparked a wave of nostalgia and renewed interest in British memorabilia in Hong Kong.

The former colony lived for 156 years under the British crown until its return to China in 1997.

For many in the Chinese city, emotions still linger toward the British rule of Hong Kong.

Its return to China has upended lives amid political turmoil brought on by waves of pro-democracy protests and Beijing’s subsequent clampdown that critics say has snuffed out Western-style freedoms and threatened its reputation as a global financial business hub.

Bryan Ong, an avid collector and seller of royal memorabilia, said: “It was during the British colonial time when Hong Kong developed to become a metropolitan city where East meets West.

“So I think there’s a sentimental feeling towards the Queen, which was more than her as a ruler. It’s the feeling toward Hong Kong’s colonial past.”

Edward Ng, who was born and raised under British rule, spent nearly 140 dollars (£120) on four silver coins as a keepsake at Mr Ong’s shop, House Of Men, one of several in the city that specialises in British memorabilia.

“The Queen was an important figure for the Hong Kong people. I’ll miss her,” Mr Ng said.

The Queen memorabilia
Postcards and various memorabilia depicting the Queen on display at souvenir shop House Of Men, in Hong Kong (AP)

Collector So Tsz-him says he grew up with post boxes and coins bearing Elizabeth II’s face.

“I used to feel the Queen was a God-like ever-lasting figure,” said Mr So, who purchased a commemorative silver coin that had been issued to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this year.

Mr Ong bids on items from all over the world. Before the pandemic struck, he used to travel to Britain at least four times a year to bring goods back to his store.

His interest in collecting royal memorabilia and items from colonial Hong Kong began in 1997, when he was 17, and the Union flag was lowered over the city for the last time.

He has since amassed an impressive personal collection of more than 10,000 items. They include banknotes, military medals, stamps and royal portraits in The Museum Victoria City, which he also owns.

Over the past two years, demand for memorabilia on the Queen has gone up in Hong Kong, particularly after her 95th birthday last year and the Platinum Jubilee.

“I personally think that it’s the Queen’s own charisma,” Mr Ong said. “She was an idol, an iconic global figure and many people just admire her.

“Moreover, she was part of Hong Kong’s history. Hong Kong’s older generations were under her rule and … she is part of their collective memory.”