UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Government Central School and the elite network in early colonial Hong Kong Iu, Ryan Ka Chun


This thesis examines how the Government Central School (1862–1889) was a conducive site for building networks and fostering a conflicting Westernized Chineseness mentality among its Chinese and Eurasian graduates. As the early colony demanded personnel who could communicate in both Chinese and English, the Central School provided bilingual and Western education to train its students. However, the school also cultivated a global worldview in its students due to its multi-ethnicity. Centering on the fifteen elite who attended the 1938 alumni gathering as a case study, this work demonstrates that the poly-cultural Central School not only provided a social and intellectual ladder for its students to rise to elite status within the colony but also created an environment to nurture a shared social and cultural mentality. With the assistance of the network modelling tools, this thesis also studies the creation of concrete relationships among the elite alumni and the functions of their networks. Over time, these alumni formed intricate networks through intermarriage, business connections, political collaborations, and charitable partnerships. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the network extended to colonial officials and foreign merchants in the colony. Under the malleable nature of colonialism in Hong Kong, the local elites possessed the notion of Westernized Chineseness. This thesis will show that the elites manifested loyalty to the British Empire based on circumstantial opportunism while also recognising the Chinese regime for patriotic and nationalistic reasons. I contend that such a conflicting mentality was inherited from the education they received from the Central School and the mutual interests among their networks. To contextualize such a mentality, this research examines their contribution to the development of Hong Kong society and their role as pioneers of international experiences in the city. Through the Central School and the local elites, this thesis aims to present the social experience of colonization in early Hong Kong.

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