Hong Kong's Mistresses of Western Elites



Posted by Ed 2 mths ago
Hong Kong’s ‘protected women’: the forgotten females of city’s patriarchal 19th-century society

Supported financially by wealthy Western men in exchange for long-term sexual relationships, the mostly Tanka women played a role in the city’s evolution

Ng Akew was the most prominent among them, and what’s left of her former home in Central is threatened by development

Every day, thousands of tourists, Hong Kong commuters and other locals travelling up and down the Mid-Levels outdoor escalator, in the city’s Central business district, pass a historic site without realising it.

The crumbling walls of blue-grey brick and rough stone steps partially concealed behind construction-site fencing near the junction of Cochrane and Wellington streets do not seem like much, but they’re all that’s left of the life of a remarkable woman.

Ng Akew (sometimes Ong Akew, Ong Mo Kew or Hung Mo Kew) was the de facto leader of Hong Kong’s “protected women”.

Almost exclusively of Tanka descent (the Tanka are an ethnic minority in southern China), these young women were financially supported by male members of the Western elite and in turn provided a long-term sexual relation­ship to men who were thousands of miles from their homelands in Europe or America.

The women were not regarded as prostitutes or courtesans. Instead, protected by eminent merchants, they achieved an elevated, yet unofficial, social status, economic independence and local influence within a patriarchal and racist society.


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