Racism without races

22 01 2012

What links:

1. Donald Tsang’s promise to limit mainlanders’ contribution to Hong Kong’s high anticipated birth rates in the Dragon Year;

2. theoretical wrangling over Hong Kongers’ sense of identity (see last post); and

3. thousands of protestors encircling Dolce and Gabbana’s Tsimshatsui store to defend Hong Kong’s public spaces?

According to Denny from the independent media outlet InMedia, they all boil down to Hong Kongers’ peculiar mix of superiority, insecurity and above all animosity towards mainlanders. In his editorial, Local war of words and the locust concept, he questions the motives behind the D&G protests, asking why crowds didn’t gather to protest previous infringements of public space, such as a ban on painting in public parks? To him, the discourse says it all:

“… Some voices online complain that ‘there are no Cantonese people on Canton Road, and only Beijingers on Beijing Road.’ … If hoardes of white people used Canton Road, we’d probably be vaunting it as an area with a trendy mix of Chinese and Westerners, enjoying a sense of Hong Kong’s superiority as a world city. No matter where you stand with regard to the current cacophony of controversies, none of us can deny that the issue is closely related to Hong Kong people’s anxiety over their identity.

With public sentiment raging, the whole of Hong Kong is talking about the so-called plague of locusts… [emphasis added]”

The concept of a plague of locusts is the idea that mainlanders are flooding Hong Kong in the post-handover period, over-stretching housing, medical and other resources that have been built up by hardworking, tax-paying Hong Kong citizens. The author quite rightly argues that the use of what he describes as “racist” stereotyping prevents sensible discussion of the issues behind these controversies. For example, people could instead be debating Mainland China’s one child policy or why a city as wealthy as Hong Kong has insufficient medical resources.

He suggests that the situation in Hong Kong reflects what French philosopher Balibar described twenty years ago as a new “racism without races”, which plays down biological differences to emphasise the idea of incompatible cultures.

Another interesting concept Denny mentions is the “Hong Kong City State Theory”, as advocated in a recent book of the same name by Chan Wan (陳雲). To the consternation of pro-Beijing commentators, this proposes that Hong Kong should view itself as an ancient Greek-style city state, defending its own values, culture and political system, and not waiting around for the rest of China to democratise.

Whether it expresses itself as defence of a democratic way of life, unwillingness to share stretched resources, or “racism without races”, this insecurity felt by many Hong Kongers as it integrates further into Guangdong province has probably not yet peaked.

As Hong Kong’s media workers are off enjoying illegal explosives and other festivities this week, the next update to this site will involve developing some language pages.






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