Hong Kong.- When ships towed the Jumbo floating restaurant away from Hong Kong last week, the owner of the giant ship sent his “best wishes for a brighter future” to the public.
That future now lies at the bottom of the South China Sea.
The three-story, 250-foot restaurant capsized and sank while being towed through deep water over the weekend, its owner, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises, said on Monday. No one was injured, he said.
The loss reverberated in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory where the neon-lit colossus, built in the style of an imperial palace, had sat in the same harbor for nearly half a century. Generations of Hong Kongers celebrated weddings and struck business deals there with Cantonese fare such as crispy pork belly and wok-baked mud crab. For many inhabitants of the former British colony, the restaurant symbolized a more optimistic period of local history than the present.
The restaurant’s demise comes at a time of heightened turmoil in Hong Kong, which began when anti-government protests convulsed the city for months in 2019. That led the Chinese government in 2020 to impose a powerful national security law on the territory that has since then it has eroded what was left of its democratic institutions.
The upheaval continued throughout the pandemic, as border closures and social distancing measures wiped out thousands of mom-and-pop stores and threatened some of the city’s best-known businesses, including the popular Star Ferry.
At a time when the Star Ferry and other visual icons of Hong Kong are under threat, “it seems that its most visible symbols are disappearing one by one,” said Louisa Lim, author of the book “Indelible City: Dispossession and Challenge in Hong Kong.” ”.
“That, combined with the massive political changes brought about by the national security legislation, leaves Hongkongers wondering what will be left of their city,” he added.