Anti-mainland feelings in Hong Kong has been growing in the past few years, leading some to try to arouse a more Hong Kong-centered identity. The Atlantic has a very detailel article about this “crisis.” It’s no secret that many Hong Kongers have a range of grievances against mainland Chinese, including tourists, pregnant women, wealthy home purchasers, and even university students. As a result, several movements and campaigns have formed or have gotten involved, which the article proves very useful information about. One such group is the one that runs the annual Tiananmen commemoration march. This latter group has a pro-country/pro-Chinese, anti-Communist party stance, but other Hong Kong groups have a more localized vision where they seemingly reject any association with China. It’s also interesting to learn that a large number of young people have an anti-mainland attitude, and it’s not a good sign. One big issue is that harboring strong anti-China views, besides ignoring reality in that Hong Kong is a part of China, allows people to conveniently blame many problems on China and its government, whilst foresaking personal responsibility on Hong Kong’s part. At the end though, the writer mentions the idea of loyalty to one’s nation not just because of ethnicity but to constitutional values- “constitutional patriotism,” as defined by Jurgen Hagermas. This is relevant and China’s leaders have recognized this issue and are trying to deal with this by promoting the “Chinese dream,” (as represented in part by those posters I mentioned in my previous post) which however is more centered on tradition and culture. I don’t fully believe that patriotism needs to rely on constitutional values, but at the same time, a nation should not rely on blind loyalty from its people.
I don’t make it a secret that I don’t share this anti-mainland sentiment, even though both of my home “places” HK and Taiwan are rife with such negative feelings. For Hong Kong, I’ve written about my stance before, so I’ll just point to the last part of the preceding paragraph. The idea of “constitutional patriotism” entails being patriotic because of a belief in your nation’s constitution. For anti-mainland HKers, tradition and democracy, or rather the lack of, have been cited as main factors why they can’t fully accept being part of China. Now, tradition seems to go against constitutional patriotism because traditional customs, which some HKers feel have been maintained in Hong Kong, doesn’t quite cut it because it’s closely tied to ethnicity. The question is since when was democracy a part of Hong Kong’s traditional values? When did Hong Kongers become so concerned with democracy and wanting to elect their own leader? Certainly not during the British colonial era up till 1997, when every single governor was a British person appointed by the UK and there was no elected legislation until the mid-80s, coincidentally when the British agreed to return HK to China.
Fear, distrust, and dislike of the mainland has been around for a long time in Hong Kong, from my parents’ and possibly grandparents’ generations. The 80s and early 90s saw a wave of Hong Kongers fleeing overseas, including my own family, after the UK’s Margaret Thatcher agreed to return Hong Kong to China. “Deng Xiaoping said he’d kill us [Hong Kongers] all! China was going to send soldiers and tanks to Hong Kong!” said one of my uncles once when talking about why he left. Of course, nothing like that ever happened to Hong Kong and most of my older relatives including said uncle have readily admitted that things have been much better than what they had feared. The younger generation doesn’t think like this, and most of them probably have little real recollection of life before 1997 because like me, they were probably in their early teens or even younger. This has led to some idealistic rose-tinted thoughts of life under the British and which some of these youngsters would probably love a return to. Don’t get me wrong, I think the British were actually efficient and disciplined rulers who did a lot of good for Hong Kong. But I can’t overlook the fact that Hong Kong under the British, whether 1990 or 1900, had no local Chinese governor, much less one who was voted on by the people. Now it’s not a crime to demand more political freedoms and participation, but what I’ve mostly seen and heard from HK political movements appears to be mostly vehement anti-China, anti-mainlander prejudice cloaked in calls for democracy that have generated sympathy and benign support from foreign parties and media. I wonder how much these anti-mainland pro-democracy activists really ponder issues such as poverty, income inequality, affordable housing and diversification of industries.
What is even more questionable about the harping about Hong Kong “values” is that anti-mainland protesters are becoming increasingly with self-xenophobic ( most HKers and mainlanders are the same ethnicity) language. Substitute “mainlander” for blacks, whites, Indians etc in the insults that some HKers have used against mainland Chinese, and you can easily see how unacceptable and repulsive it is. Is it proper to openly call blacks or Latinos or whites “locusts” or any other derogatory term openly without any shame whatsoever? And on the Net, it’s probably a lot nastier.
All these rights that have been mentioned about being specific to HK in comparison to China – freedom of speech and expression, right to protest, elections – were introduced by the British and should be maintained and protected. But some people need to understand that these rights have a loftier goal and purpose than just “get those mainlanders out of our city!”