The stone statues in this picture lie at the entrance of the village of Ho Sheung Heung, on the Sheung Yue River, near Hong Kong’s border with China.
They convey the lifestyle of the village’s former residents, who were once sustained by a large plot of mangroves and several fish ponds. Over the last 30 years, as the land has gradually filled with residential and commercial property, that way of life has entirely disappeared, although relics from the village’s past still remain.
Jimmi Ho started taking pictures along the border in 2019, as anti-government protests in Hong Kong ignited in the city and anxieties over the Covid pandemic first took hold. The photographer, who is Half Hong Konger, half Chinese and now resident in London, has created the series So Close and So Far Away, supported by the 2021 RPS Postgraduate Bursary 2021 in association with MPB.
The images are divided into various individual ‘chapters’, each of which examines aspects of the tensions that have arisen in the area following the Sino-British declaration of 1984. The declaration set out the conditions under which Hong Kong would be returned to Chinese control in 1997 after more than a century of colonial rule.
Ho’s photographs survey the border between the two territories, and the ‘identity crisis’ many Hong Kongers now face as their homeland slips under Beijing’s shadow and their democratic freedoms are slowly eroded.
“The bursary gave me an excellent opportunity to speak up for the community of Hong Kong people,” says Ho. “How has the United Kingdom shaped Hong Kong’s identity? How have urban sprawl and the subsequent multi-identity establishment affected how these communities see themselves? Working with texts and socially engaged photography allowed me to fulfill this project to its full potential, and address immigration issues related to political change and the social environment in Hong Kong.”
Ho adds: “China has always wanted to build an international metropolis. It uses the city of Hong Kong to drive the development of the entire Pearl River Delta … They want to show the strength of the country.”