21 October 2018
Hong Kong people are proud of their way of life, and want to protect it. Photo: Bloomberg
Hong Kong people are proud of their way of life, and want to protect it. Photo: Bloomberg

HK people just don’t like to call themselves Chinese

There is no single reason why Hong Kong people don’t like to call themselves “Chinese” and prefer to be identified as “Hongkongers”.

It’s not just the rude behavior of some Chinese tourists, the parallel trade of powdered milk across the border, or Beijing’s intervention in the city’s administration. The matter is obviously much more complicated.

According to the latest survey by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Program, the strength of the rating for “Hongkongers” has significantly increased, while that for “Chinese” and “citizens of the People’s Republic of China” have dropped to record lows.

In the survey, 67 percent of the respondents identified themselves as Hongkongers or Hongkongers in China, while 31 percent identified themselves as Chinese or Chinese in Hong Kong.

Since the 1997 handover, Beijing has issued a wide range of policies to benefit Hong Kong’s economic growth, including the individual tourist scheme and the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. But Hong Kong people seem unable to appreciate what Beijing has done over the years.

For many in the city, the pressure that Beijing has been putting on Hong Kong is a painful experience. The central government doesn’t seem to heed public opinion, especially in the aspect of autonomy and administration.

The results of the latest public opinion poll indicate that Hong Kong people do not accept the way Beijing is dealing with the former British colony, lecturing its leaders on the concept of patriotism, insisting on a screening mechanism for candidates for the 2017 chief executive election, while reminding the city of the source of its water, pork and tourists.

Hong Kong people were under the British rule for more than 150 years, and as such, they cannot be expected to warmly embrace the Chinese way of living in exchange for economic benefits.

Hong Kong wants to keep its core values — the level playing field, fair market competition, independent judiciary, media diversity and freedom of expression.

In fact, by keeping these core values, Hong Kong is in the best position to help China in its global ambitions. Chinese companies can benefit from the city’s well-established legal system and sophisticated financial and commercial knowhow to expand overseas.

But the Chinese no longer consider Hong Kong as an avenue to the world. Many Chinese officials and businessmen just treat Hong Kong as a leisure hub, a place where they can do things that they can’t do back home.

Beijing appreciated Hong Kong’s system in the past decade, but the honeymoon is over. It wants to integrate the city into its own way of life, its sovereign rule.

But Hong Kong people are proud of their way of life, and want to protect it. Beijing should uphold the city’s core values, rather than seek to undermine them. 

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EJ Insight writer

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