Identity Crisis

16 01 2012

Delving into the earliest editorials and opinion pieces of 2012, first up for review is the recent bickering over Hong Kong people’s sense of identity. This was sparked by the public opinion survey results released in December by Dr. Robert Chung Ting-yiu, who runs Hong Kong University’s Public Opinion Programme (POP). The soundbite to emerge from December’s results was that locals’ sense of being ‘Hong Kong people’ was at a ten year high, while their sense of being ‘Chinese people’ hit a twelve year low.

The story probably would have fizzled out after a day or two, had it not been for one Hao Tiechuan of Beijing’s Central Liaison Office (CLO) fanning the flames. Mr. Hao lambasted Dr. Chung’s survey as being both unscientific and illogical. Cue pro- and anti-Beijing commentators to take up rhetorical arms for an entrenched war of words:

Next Magazine 壹周刊 dives straight in with an indignant counter-attack entitled CLO violates Basic Law (link is subscription only):

“…it states unequivocally in Article 22 of the Basic Law that: ‘No department of the Central People’s Government … may interfere in those affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) administers on its own according to the Basic Law.’ This includes the CLO, so why do we have Director Hao pointing fingers at a survey conducted by a university and talking nonsense?

And unfortunately, attacking a university survey as unscientific was not the first instance of the CLO contravening the Basic Law. In August of last year a deputy-director of this office, Li Guikang, even more brazenly interfered in the legislative process, openly calling on those in business circles to support the passing of the competition law ‘in the name of the big picture and unity, as well as its content’. Then during November’s District Council Elections, the CLO went on to join hands with the CCP’s United Front Work Department to ‘do work on’ Hong Kong’s representatives to the provincial and municipal Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conferences (CPPCCs), organising pools of voters for each district, in fact ‘cultivating votes’…

… The CLO and the United Front Work Department are not the only Central Government organisations that have interfered in Hong Kong’s affairs. Last year, head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Wang Guangya, when he had only been in office for a short time, decreed that the SAR Government should resolve the inflation and housing problems, causing an overseas Donald Tsang to hurriedly change his stance and announce that more houses would be built.

What is hard to stand is that this slavishness reflects and proves Wang Guangya’s [power over] Hong Kong officials…”

Moving swiftly on from mouth-frothing disgust at the establishment to mouth-frothing disgust at, apparently, Dr. Robert Chung’s weak grasp of the Ancient Greeks’ laws of logic, we have the solidly pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po 文匯報. CPPCC delegate Long Ziming, whose surname translates as dragon, gives us the rather self-importantly titled The dragon’s voice rises up: Making a distinction between Hong Kong people and Chinese people is illogical.

“Mr. Robert Chung’s categorisation of Hong Kong people in his opinion survey is completely illogical. From the perspective of the law of identity as used in logic, when applying a concept, the concept’s intension and extension are fixed, and cannot change at will. If you violate this requirement, then you commit the fallacy of ‘confusing concepts’ or ‘surreptitiously substituting concepts’. ‘Hong Kong people’, ‘Chinese Hong Kong people’, ‘Hong Kong Chinese people’ all fall under the category of ‘Chinese people’. By not putting these all at the same level, Mr. Robert Chung’s categorisations divide a group of people who all fall into the same category into different categories, so changing at will the concept’s intension and extension, and violating logic’s law of identity. In setting Hong Kong people and Chinese people in juxtaposition and opposition, the survey also shows contempt for the feelings shared by Hong Kong and mainland people of commonality and blood ties.”

[Translator’s note: If you’re as lost as I was, you can read more on the law of identity, as well as the definitions of intension and extension here.] The above points are then expanded on for some time, until at last theoretical discussion of logic gives way to a more emotive argument:

“Looking back at the last 14 years, Hong Kong people have been identifying themselves more and more as Chinese people and part of the Chinese nation. When the Shenzhou spacecraft was launched, when the ‘Chang E’ flew to the moon, when Shenzhou-8 completed a space-docking mission with Tiangong-1, and when China successfully hosted the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo, Hong Kong was cheering for the motherland, and these things made Hong Kong people’s identity as Chinese people more prominent. When the Mainland was devastated by floods, shaken by earthquakes, and great numbers of people were suffering, because blood is thicker than water, Hong Kong people were moved to tears and held out a sympathetic hand, working to alleviate the disasters – this is because their identity as Chinese people made Hong Kong people feel honour-bound to help.”

And as with all good pro-establishment commentaries on Hong Kong, the article is neatly rounded off with some sticks and carrots:

“As China’s economy has taken off, cooperation between Hong Kong and the Mainland has become increasingly close in all kinds of ways, and it is only by integrating into China that Hong Kong will have yet more potential for development. If it does not recognise the nation, how can Hong Kong develop?”

I’m handing the last word to an editorial from the Asia Weekly 亚洲周刊, because it actually addresses the issue of Hong Kong people’s feelings towards China. Like Mr. Long, the author cites instances of Hong Kong people showing their support for events in the motherland… but is just a little less politically correct in his selection. Hong Kong people’s Chinese sentiment goes beyond the ruling Party:

“From the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 to the Guangdong-Hong Kong strike of 1925-6, from the War of Resistance against the Japanese (1937-45) to the demonstrations in defence of the Diaoyu Islands of 1971, and to the Tiananmen incident of 4th June 1989, Hong Kong people have always vigorously participated [in Chinese affairs]. Who could dare to say that Hong Kong people do not identify themselves as Chinese? …

During Hong Kong’s gradual evolution in modern Chinese history, the pulse of Hong Kong society has never separated from that of China, and Hong Kong people’s identification with China goes beyond partisan affiliations. Perhaps in recent years an increasing number of human rights problems have left people unhappy with ‘China’, while there have also been setbacks to Hong Kong’s democratic development. As a result, in a historical context where the ruling party has monopolised the ‘China’ brand, all this has caused severe national identity issues for Hong Kong’s younger generation.

As Mainlanders often say: ‘The Party’s policies are like the moon, different at the start and the end of the fortnight.’ The governing party’s power may be usurped, and policies are even more fluid, but the country and the culture are eternal. If some Hong Kong people feel conflicted, then it is just because they have to face the hegemony of a party that wants to merge the party and the country, and monopolise the ‘China’ name. Do you really have to identify with the CCP in order to identify with China? According to that logic, could you claim that Chiang Kai-shek, who saw the CCP as his life-long enemy, was not Chinese?”

Gong hei faat choi.

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22 01 2012
Racism without races « The Hong Kong Media Review

[…] theoretical wrangling over Hong Kongers’ sense of identity (see last post); […]

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