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The Dragon and the Crown
Book Launch Panel

Speech by Senator Vivienne Poy

RC Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library
Univerity of Toronto
Dec 11, 2008

When I was asked to be on the panel for this book launch, I asked for a copy of the book, and was told it wasn't ready, but a galley was sent to me before my recent flight to Hong Kong.

Reading it on the plane, the words brought me back to being a Hong Konger more than 50 years ago, and by the time we were about to land in Hong Kong, it dawned on me why this book is titled The Dragon and the Crown. It is not just a family's history, or Stanley's memoir of life in Hong Kong and China, it is more than that.

Throughout the book, there is the continuous theme of Stanley's question of where his loyalty lies. Ethnic Chinese who were Hong Kong citizens (British subjects) before July, 1997 have always had this dilemma. Should loyalty be given to the Chinese government or to Britain? If one chose the Chinese government, then whose side would one choose - People's Republic of China or the Republic of China?

I knew the feeling because I lived it. One could not be loyal to Britain because Britain didn't want us. Those who returned to China suffered tremendous disappointments as well as physical and mental harm. The experiences of the Kwan family members and their friends were described in excruciating details.

Stanley wrote about his return to China with his cousin Lin Chee after Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese, because it had become too financially difficult for all members of the Kwan family to survive in Hong Kong. His experiences in Free China were very similar to that of my family's during the war years, especially the description of how those charcoal burning vehicles managed the decrepit highways in China. Many of the towns and cities mentioned were also the ones my family went through as refugees.

In China, Stanley's patriotism, based on his wish for a strong and independent China, turned to disillusionment after what he saw and experienced. However, during that period, his work as an interpreter for the Americans opened new horizons for him in the latter part of his life.

At this time, I must mention Aunt Rose, who, over the years and throughout the book, was always there for her nephews - whether it was giving the children special treats, or helping them with jobs during and after the war years. She played an important role in the life of the Kwan family. I would like to add that every family needs an Aunt Rose!

At the end of the war, Stanley chose the Crown over the Dragon, and returned to Hong Kong. He was the only member of his family who remained in Hong Kong, where he got married, built his career and brought up his family.

I am very impressed by the thorough research done on this book, and have learnt a great deal from it. As a historian, I believe in learning history from people's life experiences during the times in which they lived. For that reason, biographies and memoirs are my favourite reading.

Non-Chinese are always fascinated by how many of us can trace our families back thousands of years, with the help of our ancestral records. Stanley traced his back to the 13th century. His ancestor Kwan Chiu Kong moved from Jiangxi province, with the tide of refugees going south, eventually ended up in Guangdong. And, like my own family, the Kwan family moved to Hong Kong at the turn of the 20th century.

One of Stanley's important contributions to the world is the establishment of the Hang Seng Index, of which we hear every day on the business news. I have always wondered how it was established.

At age 15, Stanley did not have a good impression of working in a bank, when his father brought him to see Tang Shiu Kin, his uncle on his mother's side. His experience as an apprentice in a bank for 1 month was enough to put him off banking for many years. But he did try it again in 1961, when he took a 2-hour lunch break from his job at the American Consulate for an interview with Lee Quo Wei, the manager of Hang Seng Bank. That interview changed the rest of his working life.

In this part of the book, the names often mentioned - Chairman Ho Sin Hang and General Manager Ho Tim, good friends of my parents, were frequent guests at my home. Lee Quo Wei is my father's cousin whom I called 3rd uncle. Reading this part of the book brought me back to my teenage years seeing these three people and their spouses at my home.

It is of great interest to me to read about the stages of development of the Hang Seng Bank, and how the Hang Seng Index came about. It was in 1969 that Chairman Ho and Lee Quo Wei, who by then was the general manager, decided that an index should be created to measure the performance of the stock market, which would be the "Dow Jones Industrial Average of Hong Kong". Recently, I finally had the pleasure of meeting Stanley who did the work to get the Hang Seng Index established.

The last part of the book brings us back to what I said at the beginning about loyalty to one's country. Stanley called the chapter "Home and Country." It is about immigration to Canada at the end of 1983, when he retired from Hang Seng Bank at the age of 59. After all the years he spent in Hong Kong, he didn't feel that he belonged. The fact that his daughters were already in Canada made the immigration choice very easy.

In 1987, Stanley and his family became Canadian citizens, and for the first time, he was able to vote to elect officials to all levels of government. And in his own words, he said "it reminded me clearly why I wanted to immigrate."

Like many of us who grew up in Hong Kong during British colonial rule, it is very important to us, that we, in Canada, have the right to vote, and have a say in electing our government officials.

I agree with Stanley that, when we travel abroad, we too are always happy to return home to Canada. And, in the Chinese traditional saying, "Fallen seeds take root where they land." Stanley has finally found where he belongs. He didn't choose the dragon or the crown, he chose Canada!

Vivienne Poy
Senator of Canada - Dec 11, 2008

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