26 April 2019
Despite calls to embrace the Chinese national identity, most people in Hong Kong see themselves as Hongkongers, first and foremost. Photo: Bloomberg
Despite calls to embrace the Chinese national identity, most people in Hong Kong see themselves as Hongkongers, first and foremost. Photo: Bloomberg

Why HK people won’t embrace Beijing so easily

Politically speaking, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, and is under the rule of Beijing in accordance with the “one country, two systems” mechanism.

However, many Hong Kong people, especially the youth, don’t see themselves as Chinese citizens, preferring to maintain their distinct identity as Hongkongers and keep China at arm’s length.

This is prompting Beijing and its loyalists here to make renewed calls on the need for people to develop a sense of national identity and gain proper understanding on the concept of “country”. 

On Monday, Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s former chief executive who currently holds a senior post at a top Chinese political advisory body, laid out Beijing’s concerns on the issue of national identity and urged the youth to reflect on what it means to belong to a country.

Hong Kong’s development and future prospects will depend on how well it handles the relationship with Beijing, Leung said at a public forum.

While some youth don’t have proper understanding on the matter of national identity, most Hong Kong people are, in fact, patriotic, according to Leung.

As a supportive argument, he pointed out that the names of many locals contain the Chinese characters for “nation” and “Chinese”.

“That proves that we Hong Kong people have expectations on the nation’s development and national rejuvenation.”

Well, what can one say, except that Leung was trying a little too hard, in keeping with the efforts of pro-Beijing loyalists to make Hong Kong people fall in love with the Beijing authorities. 

The former chief executive’s comments are understandable, given that he now serves as a deputy chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Leung feels it’s his duty to convince Hong Kong people that they should embrace Beijing rule for their own good. Unfortunately, he lacks the soft skills and the right PR strategy to go about it in the right way.

During the seminar, Leung said people should understand the concept of country or nation in terms of a big collective human group.

Some acts are illegal when committed by individuals, but when they are taken up in the cause of the country, they can take on a new meaning, he said, noting that there’ve been different concepts for crimes and punishments from time to time.

For instance, killing people was treated as illegal all the time, but there is an exception when one does it in the name of the country, as during wars or some other special circumstances, he said.

He concluded that Hong Kong people must understand the relationship with the sovereign state and see things in the proper perspective.

Well, it seems Leung wants Hong Kong people to forget about what Beijing had done during the dark chapters under the Communist rule, events such as the Cultural Revolution that killed millions of Chinese over a ten-year period from 1966, and the Tiananmen Massacre in June 1989 that saw hundreds of democracy activists killed in Beijing.

It is the same reason why authorities are trying their best to erase such historical events from school textbooks in Hong Kong.

Establishment loyalists argue that Hong Kong should forget about contentious political issues and focus on economic development.

They contend that China has been outpacing Hong Kong in many aspects in recent years, including technology development and adoption.

In this, a topic that has particularly come up in debates is adoption of mobile payment technology.

Since last month, many prominent people have been pointing out that Hong Kong is lagging behind China in mobile payments, paving way mainland entities such as Alibaba Group’s Alipay and Tencent Holdings’ WeChat to seize an opportunity here.

There is lack of innovation in Hong Kong, a situation that can be set right through greater economic cooperation with China and its tech firms, pro-Beijing groups say. 

It’s true that Hong Kong needs to step up its game and boost innovation, but the argument that it has fallen hopelessly behind China is stretching it a bit.

According to a recent report from Roubini ThoughtLab on global digital payments development, Hong Kong was ranked “digitally advanced”, outpacing Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo in terms of the advancement of digital payments.

So the criticism that Hong Kong is lagging China in the mobile payment field is not really fair.

Anyway, it’s not just tech firms and mobile payments when it comes to measuring up Hong Kong in relation to China. 

Despite all its problems, Hong Kong still has its uniqueness, with its institutions holding up their independence and preserving the city’s core values that took root during the British colonial years.

Among the treasures that were passed on by the city’s former rulers was an independent judiciary.

On Tuesday, the Court of Final Appeal gave the green light for Occupy student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow to lodge appeals against their jail sentences for a protest in 2014. 

The decision shows that the courts, despite facing various pressures, can be counted upon to make their rulings based on legal facts and evidence, rather than on political considerations.

It is institutions such as these, as also the city’s vibrant and free press, that make Hongkongers still feel proud of their city and want the territory to resist the embrace of mainland China.

Leung and other establishment stooges will keep trying to get local people to love the Communist rulers across the border, but they are unlikely to succeed anytime soon.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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