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Family's ties to Hong Kong remain strong

June 30, 1997

By SAMANTHA KRULEWITZ

Staff Writer

With only hours left before China takes control of Hong Kong, Robert Brock and his wife Debbie are still at odds over what the change will bring, but agreed that there is nothing like living there.

"The pace of life in Hong Kong was faster than any pace I have ever seen," Robert said. "Nothing can compare - the city never sleeps."

Robert, 41, of Hedgesville, W.Va., and his family lived in Hong Kong as Seventh-day Adventist Church missionaries from 1987 to 1992. Robert was vice president for financial affairs at Hong Kong Adventist Hospital. In his capacity, he said he had a lot of interaction with politicians and others high in Hong Kong's government.

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"Hong Kong society at the time, and still is, very unregulated and has a lack of government controls on business. That's why it thrives," he said. "Hong Kong, at one time, was the biggest port of volume in the world. It is free enterprise at its best."

Brock, along with Debbie, 40, and their children Melissa, 12, Christopher, 15, and Gregory, 7, visited Hong Kong in April. Their other son Tony 17, is in a private high school in Tennessee, so he did not go.

This was an important visit for Gregory because he was born in Hong Kong, in the Adventist hospital. He was only 2 when they left, so he didn't remember living there, but Melissa and Christopher did.

Debbie said, "There was no grass, no open space. When we got back, Christopher got out of the car and rolled in the grass and Melissa did cartwheels in the grass."

Robert and Debbie asked their friends that still lived in Hong Kong if they knew what would happen after the change in governments.

"We asked our friends, which included Chinese people and others who lived there a long time. There was speculation and apprehension, but they just didn't know," Debbie said.

Debbie said Robert's secretary, Margaret Kwong, has no plans to leave Hong Kong.

"Margaret said one reason she is not leaving is because she has seen so many of her friends leave. Once they leave and go to Australia, Canada or the United States, they can't find decent jobs," Robert said. "Their quality of life is vastly less going overseas."

China is taking over Hong Kong because of a lease agreement that was made between the two countries in 1898, Brock said. The lease came after Great Britain won, by conquest, Kowloon (part of the southern tip of China) and Hong Kong Island in the Opium Wars.

"Britain leased new portions of land around their conquest for 99 years," Brock said. "However, they didn't have to give back the part they had won. They could have given Hong Kong its independence."

Brock said Great Britain thought its vast financial interests would be better protected by the stability of giving the land over to China. However, he said, part of the agreement was that nothing could be changed by China.

Robert said Hong Kong has always had an appointed governor, but the legislative council was largely elected. He said Great Britain started changing the government, to more democratic, when negotiating with China about the hand over.

He said that most people are very optimistic about China taking over.

"On July 1, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2020, I don't think we'll see any difference." Robert said. "Business will go on."

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