Hong Kong’s July 1 controversy

Alright, so my last post was about the dangers of snark, but I think I need to be excused for this post. One of the biggest stories yesterday in the media was the big protest in Hong Kong on Sunday, which was an important day for the city. July 1 marked the 15th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China, after over 150 years as a colony belonging to Britain. From the way that this event was covered, and the mood of the very large crowd, one could be mistaken for thinking that what happened in 1997 was a catastrophe, in which HK was plucked from the nurturing bosom of a loving British master and forcibly returned and reunited with the evil, uncivilized People’s Republic of China. And since then, HK has been suffering and wallowing in misery, under the oppressive clutches of its Chinese overlords, its future looking ever bleaker and hopeless. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit, but only just a bit. Between the biased media coverage in some quarters and the rampant complaints from the marchers, there’s certainly no love lost for China.

CNN led the way with this extremely foolish headline in a story about the march – Thousands protest China-fication – it blared. I take it “China-fication” is a word play referring to the growing integration of HK with China, but it reeks of paranoia and falseness, plus it’s a madeup word that has no place in a story released by such a distinguished (I guess) and famous media outlet. Closer to home, good old Taipei Times had this story in which academics warned of the dangers of Chinese rule by looking at HK.

A certain professor Lin “observed that Hong Kongers’ attitudes toward China and Taiwan have changed drastically since the handover. Hong Kongers used to be proud of their advanced economic and educational development, he said, adding that now Hong Kongers “feel inferior to Beijing and envy the democratic system Taiwanese enjoy.” Correct, Prof. Lin, HKers’ attitudes have changed drastically. 15 years ago, many HKers looked down on people who spoke Mandarin, including people from Taiwan. Now, many HKers have had to face up to reality and instead of reacting with humility, have reacted with paranoia and anger.

Of course, the march itself was just one part of a troika of main events, with a visit by Chinese leader Hu Jintao and the swearing in of new HK Chief Executive CY Leung the other two components. There was indeed a few negative incidents such as Hu actually being heckled by a member of the audience as well as being shouted questions about Tiananmen by a HK journalist, with both protesters being held and taken away. While I think that it would be great if China had more media freedom, I would venture that if these people had tried the same thing with say, Obama, or George W when he was in power, they would have faced exactly the same fate.

I’m not unaware of HK’s problems like sky-high housing prices, growing social inequality and a possible reduction in media freedom. Neither am I unaware of China’s problems recently, such as with the blind lawyer and the forced abortion done on that poor woman in Shanxi. But I really feel that Hong Kong people, especially these protesters, need a big reality check because they seem to be complaining about everything under the sun and blaming China for it.

For instance, I seriously want to know how is China to blame over the growing divide between rich and poor in Hong Kong? Despite what anti-China protesters would have you believe, Hong Kong is still very much in charge of its economic, fiscal, and administrative policies, so the blame for whatever socioeconomic woes needs to be directed at HK’s leaders and its economic elites, including the wealthy families who basically control all of Hong Kong. Also, the calls for full democracy and the right to elect the Chief Exec, while understandable, are ludicrous. HK had none of this under the British, so why should they expect it under China? How many Hong Kongers were able to elect the governor (Hint: rhymes with nero)?  The cries of hordes of mainlanders overwhelming HK social services and buying up all the expensive property is also filled with extreme paranoia. Of the hundreds of thousands of mainlanders who’ve come to live in Hong Kong since 1997, how many are the spouses and children of HKers? I don’t know the exact figure, but I’m very sure it’s the majority.

Many young HKers should also ask their parents about their fears before the handover and compare the current reality with it. My HK family for instance was fearful of PLA tanks and soldiers marching into HK, massacring HKers and pounding HK into rubble. This led to several of them emigrating, long before 1997 I should say, to different parts of the Western world. Now, when they go back to Hong Kong, I’m very sure they feels some pangs of regret.

Hong Kong is where I was born, and I do like it. I’d like to live there someday and get to know it better. But honestly, I feel many of these HKers with strong anti-mainland feelings need to take a deep breath and understand what it means to be part of a country, even if you detest the regime. Otherwise these HKers who cling to their virulent anti-mainland attitudes will risk becoming like those Southern folks in the United States who still hang up Rebel flags from the Civil War in futile pride.

Added July 7: I just have to wonder about the sheer irony, even hypocrisy, of the sympathy and support shown by HKers towards the Tiananmen student protesters and the widespread attitudes of contempt and disgust shown by HKers towards mainland tourists, visitors and homebuyers. Maybe these HKers are different, maybe those who march in remembrance of ’89 aren’t the ones who detest mainlanders. But whether they are or not, this is an interesting contradiction that HKers need to resolve.


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