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Historical Memory and Relocation around the New Hong Kong International Airport

Hoping AU
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The completion of the new Hong Kong International Airport in 1998 caused the relocation of several villages in Chek Lap Kok and Tung Chung and the building of the Tung Chung New Town nearby for new settlers from urban areas. This thesis examines how the construction of historical memory by the native villagers, the new settlers, government heritage institutions and commissioned researchers affected the building of new lives after relocation.

In correspondence with the official distinction between “indigenous” and “non-indigenous” residents in the relocation project, those villagers who were articulate in narrating the past in terms of communal settlement history became local leaders in the relocated villages. The publicity in mass media about the restoration of a local temple for heritage preservation reinforced the communal identity of a relocated village and affected its reintegration with the old Tung Chung community. By repackaging the heritage of old Tung Chung villages in exhibition and local newspaper, local elites in the New Town attempted to construct communal identity and social networks. Through limiting the new settlers' participation in the festival of the patron god of Tung Chung, native villagers managed to demarcate their communal boundary excluding the New Town by narrating their heritage.

The previous studies on relocation in Hong Kong often focus on the community's history and the situation after relocation separately. This thesis argues that the link between the past and the present in terms of how people construct and manipulate their historical memory in relation to the present and future is important for our understanding of how people build their new lives after relocation. Unlike many studies about the local community's resistance against official or public narratives about local history, the cases in this thesis show how local communities appropriate official or public narratives for constructing their own historical memory.

Journal of History and Anthropology