Vol. 1 // Dec 2019
I D EN TITY
Table of Contents
03 Editorâ€™s Note 04 Introducing HKPASS 05 HKMP 2018-2019 Reflection 06 PA Column - Rethinking Identity 08 SS Column - Identity and Mental Well-being 11 An Identity of Fear and Belonging: A brief
account of the national identity of Hong Kong people
18 The relationship between Hongkongerâ€™s
identity and the role of Hong Kong in the struggle for democracy in Greater China
27 LGBT Rights in Hong Kong 34 Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong 39 It Will Not Be Enough: Why Hong Kong needs a Left
45 HKPASS Committee and Editorial Team
Editor’s Note I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to all the publications officers in the previous years for creating and growing PASS-On, and special thanks to Lorraine for revamping PASS-On. It is my great pleasure to receive their legacy and take on the position of the editor-inchief of PASS-On this year.
affect how we perceive ourselves, and how we perceive the variety of identities that flourish in their own ways. ‘Identity’ touches upon countless topics, from national identity, to minorities in Hong Kong society, to one’s stance on a broad political spectrum. These are all intriguing topics that deserve us to give them a read and spare them a thought. I, therefore, would like to show my great appreciation for the authors, designers and the publication team for their hard work to help bring this discussion to life.
To me, there is an additional meaning to this year’s PASS-On. Due to the political turmoil in Hong Kong, the whole world has their eyes on Hong Kong now – news notifications about Hong Kong pop up on our phone day in day out, protests for Hong Kong is held in London every now and then, and our friends bring up what is happening in Hong Kong in day-today conversations. I see this as a good opportunity for everyone, Hongkongers or non-Hongkongers, to know, and more importantly, to understand Hong Kong. As a publication of a Hong Kong studentled society, PASS-On aspires to serve this function – by focusing this academic journal on Hong Kong issues, it allows both the authors and the readers to engage in a well-researched discussion of Hong Kong issues. It also provides a fascinating window into Hong Kong for those who are unfamiliar with it but would like to learn more about it now.
“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.” I believe identity is always a good topic to embark – not only for a more profound understanding of current affairs in Hong Kong, but also for our own reflection. After all, we, human beings, live a life of soul-searching and perhaps, self-fulfilment. So, why not, in an early stage of this perpetual pilgrimage, ponder the question of identity? Hope the following articles give you some insightful inspirations for this journey!
Identity is just like a flower. You may find that a garden blooming with the same species of flowers looks gorgeous, but sometimes you may see a garden with a plethora of unique blossoms and it looks equally, if not more, amazing. We all enjoy it when we are surrounded by people who share a common identity, but we should also embrace diversity in identity. When we provide different nutrients to plants of the same species, their flowers may flourish differently despite coming from the same seeds. This also applies to our identities as our unique experiences and values subtly
Bella Mak Publications Officer, LSESU HKPASS 2019-2020
Introducing HKPASS Who are we? The London School of Economics and Political Science Studentsâ€™ Union Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society (LSESU HKPASS) was founded 20 years ago, the first student-led society of its kind and has remained to be one of the leading HKPASS organisations in the UK ever since. What are our visions? Our core objectives are to raise awareness on public issues and to encourage social involvement amongst Hong Kong students at LSE in contributing back to society. The Four Asian Tigers Conference, in collaboration with LSESU Korea Future Forum, Taiwanese Society and Singapore Society held last year attracted a great turnout and widened our participation in the London community. In addition, many of our flagship events, including Hong Kong Mentorship Programme and LSE Forum have been scaled to accommodate even more participants and enjoyed another year of great success.
Meanwhile, we are creating an English-based entrepreneurship competition for Hong Kong high school students. The programme consists of a step-by-step 12-week programme, guided by professional mentors in assisting students to create an umbrella social entrepreneurship initiative, either to raise more for the charity or directly help the beneficiaries of the charity. In previous years, we have been awarded numerous LSE Studentsâ€™ Union Awards since 2002, including the Gold Star Award as one of the top 3 amongst over 150 student societies at the LSE. At this unprecedented juncture of Hong Kong, LSESU HKPASS shall continue to provide an unbiased platform to promote discussions that are in such dire need for improvement in Hong Kong today. Jonathan Law President, LSESU HKPASS 2019-2020
On the social service aspect, we raise funds for and cooperate with different charity organisations every year. This year, we are delighted to have partnered with Mind HK.
HKMP 2018-2019 Reflection Being part of the Hong Kong Mentorship Programme has given me the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the most renowned figures in Hong Kong. It has provided me with a platform to connect with alumnae from the school, as well as to learn from figures from different fields and industries. Having the privilege to meet Mr Cliff Chow provided me with the chance to gain a greater insight to my potential career path as a lawyer.
extremely friendly to all the mentees and gladly shared his experience with us and was more than happy to provide answers to any queries we may had, whether that be regarding his time at LSE or his profession. Apart from being Mr Chowâ€™s mentor, I also had the privilege to join one of Mr Jasper Tsangâ€™s meetings. Mr Tsang was very different from what I envisioned him to be. He was a friendly mentor and was more than happy to share his thoughts on some of the more controversial political issues occurring in Hong Kong right now. He also shared with us his experience as the Chairman in the Legislative Council as well as some interesting life stories prior to taking on that role.
When I first learned about the Hong Kong Mentorship Programme, I was surprised by the group of esteemed mentors from a wide range of backgrounds the society was able to recruit and that further fuelled my interest to participate in the programme. Joining the programme definitely allowed to me learn from different people as well as provided a great chance to hear a wide range of opinions. The diverse background the mentors came from also allowed me to hear about different issues from a differentiated points of views. I believe the programme provides mentees with a platform to share different opinions and encourages discussion on social issues from different points of view.
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience in the Hong Kong Mentorship Programme. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to learn from a wide range of mentors from a diverse background. The programme provided me with a great platform to see different social issues from different viewpoints. The opportunity to learn from the views of different mentors and mentees made the experience extremely rewarding and worthwhile. I would definitely encourage everyone in the society to participate in the programme given the chance to. I look forward to joining the programme again this year!
As Mr Cliff Chowâ€™s mentor, I had the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the daily works of a commercial solicitor. Mr Chow kindly shared with us his path from an LSE Law student to becoming a counsel at one of the most renowned firms. The discussion allowed to me learn more about the daily life of a commercial solicitor as well as the necessary steps I need to take to achieve the goal. Before meeting Mr Chow, I was very nervous about the meeting as I thought it may be extremely formal, however, the meeting proved otherwise. Mr Chow was
Charmaine Ma Internal Vice President, LSESU HKPASS 2019-2020
Rethinking Identity Most of us will consider ourselves as having various identities. We are the sons/daughters of our mothers, nationals of a certain country and individuals of a particular gender. However, Kwame Anthony Appiah raises an interesting question: Do we have the power to decide our own identities? Identities come with certain qualifying traits. If a man were to identify himself as heterosexual, then he would surely have to be attracted to a woman. On a similar note, if one were to identify him/herself as a Hongkonger, he/she would surely have a right to a Hong Kong passport. Identities may not only contain objective standards but also subjective requirements. As an illustration, if one were to be classified as a woman, one would have to dress a certain way. A failure to adhere to these gender norms would put her at risk of being called a ‘tomboy.’ It is thus evident that, in today’s society, we do not possess the ultimate power to put a label on ourselves. The society we live in has a say as well. It demands certain attributes before we can associate ourselves with an identity. In light of the reasoning above, some suggest that we abolish the social construct surrounding identities. For example, there are suggestions that there should not be a typical ‘woman’. However, I do not support such a proposition as I believe generalisation is useful for us to better understand one another and perceive the world. It also assists us in cultivating a sense of belonging to relate to others. It is only when we recognise ‘identity’ that people of similar backgrounds can share their common stories — both their proud moments and their struggles. Through sharing and subsequent discussion, we can develop a better understanding of other people’s circumstances. With such knowledge, we can start solving social conflict and implementing strategies to better support each other as a whole community. 6
As such, the Public Affairs Division of the LSEHKPASS strives to provide a politically neutral platform for members to interact with different people through various talks. This term, we held “An Evening with Alan Leong SC on the Hong Kong protests” in collaboration with 3 other London universities. The talk allowed our respective members to hear from Mr. Leong about the views of those who are against the Hong Kong Extradition Bill. As of now, we are in the process of organising an LGBTQ+ Rights talk in conjunction with the US and Taiwanese Society, as well as our Flagship LSE Forum (a Cantonese debating competition for the inquisitive minds across all UK Universities to debate against each other). These events seek to educate our members on the needs of others and encourage them to assess arguments that differ from theirs. As a result, we hope that our members would become more informed individuals. While it is convenient for us to categorise people to better understand them, we must be mindful that not all people who bear the same identity would ‘fit their bearers like a glove’. One cannot adhere to all the identified attributes of the identity due to our different lives, thus, we should be aware of people’s differences. After all, everyone is unique. This means all those who identify themselves as feminists may have different visions on how to achieve gender equality. We must not place too much emphasis on people’s identity that we displace their distinctive narratives.
Instead, we should celebrate individuality. In addition, identities may be redefined over time. For example, the role of women has changed in the past 50 years from being a housewife who is only responsible for completing household chores to a well-educated individual who can develop their career. So long as we are aware of the limits and development of identity, I believe it is fine for us to learn about others through their identities. During Hong Kong’s AntiExtradition Bill Movement, 2 opposing identities have emerged, namely the ‘yellow ribbons’ and the ‘blue ribbons’. The former supports the antigovernment protestors and the latter supports the police. The lack of meaningful communication between the 2 parties as well as the government has fostered misunderstanding between the parties (e.g. the stigmatisation of youth as ‘losers’) and caused excessive violence in the city. I sincerely hope the deadlock between the 2 (or 3) parties will soon be resolved through discussion and forgiveness. After all, no matter which camp we belong to in the movement, we are all ‘Hongkongers’ who only want the best for Hong Kong. Ellen Liu Public Affairs Officer, LSESU HKPASS 2019-2020
Identity and Mental Well-being The phrase ‘identity crisis’ probably sounds familiar to you - it describes a person who is struggling with their identity, which can leave one feeling confused and isolated, hence developing mental health problems. An identity is supposed to let us have a sense of belonging; however, given that each person embodies multiple identities at once and together with the ever-changing world, the feeling of having to belong can be stressful. In particular, what does the identity of being a ‘Hong Kong citizen’ bring to a person? Survey shows that some Hongkongers identify themselves as ‘Hong Kong people’, some ‘Hong Kong Chinese people’, some ‘Chinese Hong Kong people’ and some ‘Chinese people’. Reasons behind are closely related to the history of Hong Kong being previously ruled by the British colonial government, as well as the current ‘One Country, Two Systems’ governance. With the current worsening political tensions in Hong Kong surrounding the extradition bill, the cultural identity of Hong Kong citizens is becoming more fluid. Hong Kong youth have been at the forefront of the recent protests, facing police firing tear gas and rubber bullets in chaotic situations. The anger, frustration and exhaustion in many of these youngsters are pushing them to desperation. As political unrest continues to roil Hong Kong, more people are displaying signs of mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, there were numerous suicides being linked to the wave of unrest. Many youngsters also face conflicts between family members with different political standpoints, which increase tension and further fractures society.
The current political unrest certainly sets alarm bells ringing for the worsening mental health in Hong Kong. However, mental health problems are nothing new in this city. At least one in seven people in Hong Kong have experienced a mental health problem; however, most of them choose to stay silent and do not seek professional help. Reasons behind include the huge stigma in discussion of mental health and the feeling of lack of accessible support. Mental health has a lot of dimensions in itself, it does not only impact an individual, but also one’s family, friends and colleagues. In a broader sense, mental health is a societal issue that affects all. Looking at the root causes of an increase in mental health issues in Hong Kong, our city as one of the most densely populated cities and with long working hours, it is not surprising to see part of our working population being associated with common mental disorders. Furthermore, Hong Kong is also having an increasing number of adolescents diagnosed with mental health problems. As a result, it is essential to spread mental health awareness to the wider community, especially to children. With a rise in demand for mental health services, there remains a shortage of professionals. A government survey found that the number of public sector psychiatrists per 100,000 people is 4.6 for Hong Kong, versus 8.59 for high income countries. While the Hong Kong government has acknowledged the significance of raising public awareness and importance of preventive care, each and every one of us can contribute to creating a more supportive community for mental health as well. We first need to let society open up to mental health discussion. We should all care about mental health just as our physical health, and do not feel ashamed to talk about it. The word of mouth can also be a powerful tool in letting people know the existing mental health support in Hong Kong, just to name a few, the Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness under the Social Welfare Department, The Samaritans Befrienders Hong Kong, Mind HK, etc. On the other hand, it is important for people to recognise how mental health problems are not simply about anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and eating disorders - they come in many different forms. 8
Do you know if stress is a mental health problem? Everyone has definitely experienced the feeling of being over-pressured, it can either be a source of motivation in taking actions, or consuming you as you become overwhelmed by it. Stress is indeed not a psychiatric diagnosis, but it is closely linked to oneâ€™s mental health since stress can be both the cause and effect of mental health problems. For the former, stress can cause mental problems if one fails to manage the feelings of stress and hence developing mental health problems. As for the latter, mental health problems can cause stress since dealing with symptoms, doctor appointments and medication are sources of stress too. Since stress can affect a person both physically and emotionally, it is important to manage stress well. To end, here are a few guidelines and tips to help you quickly self-assess whether you have a good mental wellbeing. Firstly, see if you are feeling relatively confident in yourself, whether you can accept and judge yourself with reasonable standards. Secondly, can you feel and express a range of emotions? Thirdly, can you build and maintain positive relationships with people around you, and do you feel engaged with the community you are living in? Lastly, are you productive in your daily life despite times of uncertainty? If you are achieving all of the above, then congratulations! However, if you are struggling in any of these, remember our mental wellbeing can change from day to day. It is normal to have days when you are in a poorer mental state, just remember to not lose hope and seek help when necessary. Have a good day! Icy Ma Social Service Officer, LSESU HKPASS 2019-2020
SS Column 9
An Identity of Fear and Belonging: A brief account of the national identity of Hong Kong people Kelvin Cheung 20 years ago, following a night of tear and turmoil, 1.5 million people stepped into the Victoria Park in protest of Beijing’s ruthless crackdown on the student movement in Tian An Men Square. It was a time when “blood is thicker than water”. It was a moment when the destiny of Hong Kong people intersected with those of the Chinese counterpart. It was a point when Hong Kong people saw themselves as Chinese and resolutely opposed the brutality that was placed upon their siblings. 20 years later, in the month of fear and suspicion, 2 million people once again stepped into the Victoria Park. This time, they were in protest of a legislation to put Hong Kong judicially closer to the mainland China. It was a time when the bonding of blood was no longer tenable. It was a moment when the fate of the people of Hong Kong departed from the Chinese. It was a point when Hong Kong people feared of becoming Chinese and desperately wanted to maintain a distance from the mainland system.
of far the best and most comprehensive Englishlanguage text on nationalism, stated, “Thus I am driven to the conclusion that no “scientific definition” of the nation can be devised; yet the phenomenon has existed and exists.” (Anderson, 1983) That said, in the 20th century, there were multiple attempts in defining the concept of identity. As early in 1906, there was already the emergence of basic underlying concepts of identity. William G. Sumner, writing in 1906, captured the primary dynamics in this excerpt from his widely circulated work Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals: “Loyalty to the group, sacrifice for it, hatred and contempt for outsiders, brotherhood within, warlikeness without,—all grow together, common products of the same situation. ... Men of an others-group are outsiders with whose ancestors the ancestors of the we-group waged war. ... Each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exalts its own divinities, and looks with contempt on outsiders. Each group thinks its own folkways the only right ones, and if it observes that other groups have other folkways, these excite its scorn.” (Sumner, 1906)
The pertinent and sometimes puzzling, questions are: Why and to what extent do Hong Kong people no longer see themselves as a Chinese? What happened in the past two decades that alienated Hong Kong from China? How could this phenomenon be explained academically? As an attempt to answer these questions, this essay will first provide a brief recap of theory of identities. It will then move on to provide an overview of the trend of national identity of the Hong Kong population, and aims to argue that the strength of national identity of Hong Kong people has been, and will continue to be swayed by socio-political condition in Hong Kong and China. Yet, due to the demographic change, Hong Kong people are increasingly detached from their Chinese origin.
From the extract, it is observed that sociologists identified the sense of pride, sense of belonging, and sense of uniqueness as parameters by which an individual adopt to identify himself and distinguish himself from others. In a nutshell, the “self and others” mentality is a product of how individual cognitively see itself as culturally and socially different from others. In its extreme form, it is also implied that a group of people always see itself as more superior relative to other groups. Built on this conclusion, the relationship between identity and nationalism was further elaborated, in which sociologists such as Henri Tajfel intelligently introduced the concept of nationalism:
Identity theory Identity, as an abstract academic construct is often too complicated to be comprehended. Recognising this, Hugh Seton-Watson, author
While it is evidently known that nationalism does stir up and contain a large set of emotions, national identity does not tangibly exist. Benedict Anderson put forward this view in Imagined Community:
“It (A nation) is an imagined political community. Imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellowmembers, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.” (Anderson, 1983)
“We can say that the psychological basis of nationalism is an individual’s identification with a large group of people whom he conceives to be his nation. Nationalism can scale the heights of emotion for which a parallel can hardly be found; it also encompasses a tremendously rich range of feelings: love and hatred, joy and anger, pride and humiliation, admiration and contempt…” (Tajfel, 1960)
From these attempt of understanding the abstract notion of identity and nationalism, a short conclusion can be drawn: • Identity is a very abstract concept that can hardly be tangibly visualised and comprehended. Very difficult to gauge the exact strength of any kind of identity due to its fluidity. • The strength of any group identity (e.g. national identity) is determined by the sense of belonging, sense of pride and sense of uniqueness. The stronger these senses are, the stronger the identity is. In other words, it is a social construct based on the result of people interacting with individuals culturally similar and different to them. • An individual shares different identities. In other words, an individual can see themselves as a part of a university. At the same time, they can also regard themselves as a student in London or as a Hong Kong citizen, or even a Chinese. • As an individual concurrently holds different identities, there is a need for him to prioritise one identity over another. For example, an ordinary citizen living in Shanghai will typically see himself as a Chinese more than an Asian. • Nationalism is another way of expressing a group identity among people who reside in the same nation. Note that a nation does not necessarily equal to nation states (e.g. Taiwan is a nation, but whether it can enjoy the status of nation state is a highly controversial issue in world politics) • Nationalism does not tangibly exist. It is, however, cognitively imprinted in people’s mind. These observations serve as an important foundation for us to understand why Hong Kong people share both the Hong Kong and Chinese identity and have sometimes prioritised one over another. They also effectively provide a theoretical basis to comprehend what would potentially contribute an acceptance or a rejection of their Chinese identity, an outcome mostly determined by the three senses of belonging, pride and uniqueness.
Understanding the trend of national identity figure in post-handover Hong Kong (97-08/0819) In this section, this essay hopes to trace and explain the trend of national identity figure in Hong Kong. (HKU public opinion programme, 2019) What are the characteristics of Hong Kong people’s Chinese identity? How has the figure fluctuated since 1997? Would a particular demographic group’s Chinese identity be stronger?
The first observation is that the older population’s national identity is consistently stronger than the younger population. From 1997 to 2019, the national identity of the people aged 30 or above has always be higher than that of the population in the 18-29 age group. (Red dot is always above the Green dot). One message clearly shown in the chart is that the differences in terms of the strength national identity between different age groups have also polarised recently. For instance, in the year 1999 and 2000, there is only a slight difference of 2-3% in terms of the national identity figure between the young and old population. But by 2010s, there was an increasingly huge discrepancy of figure. In 2017, while 40% of the 30 years old+ population still regarded themselves as Chinese in broad sense, only around 4% of young people thought in the same way. This reflected that the older population was still culturally and cognitively regarded themselves as Chinese, but the young population has completely departed from the Chinese origin as time moves on. The most convincing and direct explanation attributed to the difference in the personal background of the two age groups. The essence of the older generation of Hong Kong lay not only in the fact that they experienced the British colonial rule, but also in the fact that they were migrants. As suggested by sociologists like Tai-lok Lui, “Most people came to Hong Kong seeking to leave behind the political turmoil on the mainland. In the eyes of many of these migrants, Hong Kong was a place where the nation was bracketed and suspended, giving them a degree of freedom and autonomy in their pursuit of personal and familial interests. But this bracketing was always tentative. Being Chinese in a British colony, with the Chinese constituting some 98 percent of the local population during much of Hong Kong’s history, was a situation that continued to haunt many generations of Chinese in Hong Kong. In their quest for identity… Hong Kong people have always politically identified China as their motherland.” (Tai-lok Lui, 2013) Having family connections in mainland China, or even having lived in China during their childhood naturally tied the older population to China. On the contrary, the younger population spent the entirety of their life in Hong Kong with little exposure to China. One could imagine how belonged an individual would feel to a nation if there was not even any single bit of connection. In nature, the older population remained more loyal to China in comparison to younger population, especially when other factors, e.g. Chinese economic performance, political tension between the two regions came into influencing the shaping of national identity. 13
The second observation is that the Chinese identity is in surge when there is major achievement in China. Alternatively, when Hong Kong is benefited by Chinese policies, it also contributed to a rise in Chinese identity. From 2000 to 2008, there was a gradual increase in Chinese identity. In September, 2000, only around 32% of the overall population identifying themselves as “Chinese” in broad sense. Such figure gradually climbed over 40%, and remained stable at around 45-50% from 2003 to 2006. While there was periodical decline in the figure, during this period of time, the figure always bounced back, as in 2003 and 2007. In 2008, the figure reached its historic high at around 52%. In this period, a series of important events took place in China and Hong Kong. As a rising economic power, China attained multiple success in this period. In 2001, China became a permanent member of the World Trade Organisation, symbolising its involvement in global trade and the acceptance it received from the international community. As China continued to enjoy the profit from rapid industrialisation, it attained a remarkable GDP growth rate of 10% on average from 2000 to 2008. In 2008, it even claimed that it was poised to become the world’s second largest economy. Economic success was followed by significant national achievement. In 2007, Chang’e 1, China’s first Lunar Exploration Programme was launched. In 2008, Beijing hosted China’s first Olympics game, attracting millions of tourists and visitors. As part of China, Hong Kong people inevitably shared the joy and excitement of its country progressing rapidly. This had to do with the sense of pride.
The soar in Chinese identity was almost in parallel to the implementation of policies that aimed to benefit Hong Kong. Beijing enthusiastically introduced the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), which promoted bilateral trade relationship by reducing tariff in the hope of rescuing the devastated Hong Kong’s economy amid the SARs in 2003. In the same month, it put forward the Individual Visit Scheme, allowing Mainland citizens from 49 major cities to visit Hong Kong on individual basis. All these policies greatly stimulated investment and export of good and services of Hong Kong. As Hong Kong citizens received direct economic interest from China, there was a strong sense of belonging to China, believing that they will be better off economically as Chinese. A strong sense of pride and belonging therefore prevails. However, it should be noted that when political and social conflicts were heightened in Hong Kong, the national identity of Hong Kong people would come into sharp decline. Hong Kong’s sense of belonging to China reached its peak in 2008. This was followed by a starkling fall in the consecutive ten years. By 2009, the overall percentage of people seeing themselves as “Chinese” in broad sense dropped below 40%. While the figure flucutated in various times, the downward trend was in place. By June 2012, the figure lowered by another 10%. This year, there was another plummet in the figure-this time to a historic low of around 24%. 14
In this period, as Hong Kong and China became proximate economically, there was an influx in mainland population in the country, which led to the dillusion and misallocation of social resources . Doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women, for example, were accused of manipulating the loopholes of Hong Kong system, where they deliberately came to Hong Kong to give birth in the hope of getting a Hong Kong passport for their children. A sense of unfairness was of course cultivated. In a similar vein, mainland tourists buying daily necessities in Hong Kong resulted in the shortage of goods, such as milk powder. The economic tie, which initially positively stimulated the growth in national identity, resulted in side effects that ultimately harmed the interest of local residents. Localists, even named the Chinese visitors as locust, creatures that are exploitative and extractive. The fear of being exploited and extracted reversely undermined the sense of security of the Hong Kong people, who vowed to preserve their unique way of living net of Chinese influence. Consequently, the Hong Kong people began to depart from China. The fatal blow to Hong Kong’s Chinese identity, or indeed, the last straw that strikes the camel’s back is the political tension between the regions. As leadership changed in both Beijing and Hong Kong, there was a sudden U-turn in China’s Hong Kong policy. Different from his predecessor’s approach, Xi apparently wanted to attain absolute control of Hong Kong to maximise the national security. Coupled with the successful election of the hawkish Chief Executive-CY Leung, Hong Kong underwent a series of political disputes. In 2012, there was the Moral and National
Education Controversy, in which Beijing was accused of trying to brainwash the next generation of Hong Kong. 2 years later, Beijing put forward a stringently hard and pseudo-democratic electoral reform, as known as the 831 framework, which stipulated that CE candidates have to be nominated by a heavily pro-Beijing nomination committee. The scandal undoubtedly deepened the suspicion and distrust of the Hong Kong people towards Beijing, worrying that an increasingly autocratic Beijing authority would undermine the “core values” and the prospect of democratisation of the city. This sparked off the Hong Kong people’s emphasis of their own sense of uniqueness and weakened their sense of belonging to China. By 2019, the Chinese identity of Hong Kong people was completely wrecked-havoc by the Anti-extradition bill crisis, where the Hong Kong people felt the city has already passed the point of no return amid Chinese infringement upon the judicial integrity of Hong Kong. Consequently, they rebuked and rejected the Chinese identity. This time, the figure dropped to a historic low, showing the correlation between political conflicts and the weakening of Hong Kong’s Chinese identity.
Conclusion In 1997, the people of Hong Kong proudly singed the song, “Pearl of the Orient”, which succinctly concluded the reasons why Hong Kong had once developed a strong sense of belonging to the motherland:
Pearl of Orient doesn’t sleep all night, Keep the promise of vicissitudes of life. Have let the sea wind blow for five thousand years. Each tear as if it all says about your dignity. Let sea tides accompany me to bless you. Please don’t forget my forever never changing yellow face. Pearl of the Orient - Luo Dayou
The Chinese identity has always been deeply embedded in the heart and blood of the Hong Kong people. The cultural and biological tie ensures that the Chinese identity is always a part of the Hong Kong. The fact that China can “bless” Hong Kong with economic interest and uphold Chinese “dignity” through national achievement further reinforces the Chinese identity.
Songs do contain nationalistic elements, but they may also carry anti-Chinese elements, as reflected in the very vocal song, “May Glory Be to Hong Kong”
For the tears that we shed on this soil For the anguish we had in this turmoil We keep our heads up, our voices strong May freedom root in Hong Kong For the fear that looms overhead For the hope that moves us ahead We march in blood, our martyrs along May freedom glow in Hong Kong May Glory Be to Hong Kong - Hong Kong protesters While Hong Kong regards itself as Chinese, identity politics require the people to take sides. When the interest of Hong Kong comes to a collision with that of China, when the Chinese regime brought about uncertainty, or at worst, fear to Hong Kong, the sense of belonging to the nation would inevitably reduce. This gives a clear message to those in power: To keep Hong Kong as a part of China, we need policies that actually benefit the population economically and emphasise the historic tie with the people instead of a dogmatically oppressive approach. However, does the regime still have the capacity to do so? Or indeed, does it have the will or realisation to do so? If it does not, we can only foresee the Chinese identity to be an identity of fear more than an identity of belonging in long run. In any event, this will be a calamity, not just to Beijing’s rule in Hong Kong, but also a tragedy to a group of people who are ruled by a nation which they are not even cognitively belonged to. Reference 1. Public Opinion Programme, the University of Hong Kong, 30/6/2019 2. Benedict Anderson, Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Verso; Revised edition (September 13, 2016) 3. Tajfel, H. Nationalism in the modern world: The nation and the individual. The Listener, 63, No. 1624, 846-847. 4. Statistical Communqiue of the People’s Republic of China on the 2017 National Economic Social Development 5. Tai-lok Lui, Hong Kong, China: Learning to belong to a nation. Routledge; 1 edition (August 29, 2007) 17
Introduction Hong Kong has been one of the freest places in Greater China, allowing her to play an important political, economic and cultural role within the region. Her comparatively free status under British colonial rule has allowed Hong Kong to participate in most pro-democracy movements within Greater China. This includes the city’s own struggle for democracy, and also the support for Mainland China’s prodemocracy movements. The unique status of Hong Kong has also generated a continuously evolving identity of its people, which has impacted Hongkongers’ relationship with the Mainland Chinese, the PRC government, and Hong Kong’s role in the struggle of democracy within Greater China.
What forms an identity? Social identities that groups identify with are based on many attributes of life, including collective values and experience and other attributes that create a sense of belonging and collectiveness. Such identities are sometimes based on ethnicities, cultures, experience and core values etc. (Brewer, 1999)
Relationship between identity and mutual support for pro-democracy movements As we study the history of Hong Kong, we can observe that the more two groups share a common identity implies the closer the ideologies and values of the two groups, and the more mutual support there will be for pro-democracy movements. The shared values and bonding between the identity of Hongkongers with Mainland China in the 1980s is revealed through the active support Hongkongers show for Mainland China’s prodemocracy movement. Whereas in the 2010s, as Hongkongers’ value and experience diverge with those of Mainland Chinese, Hongkongers’ pro-democracy movements gain less support from Mainland Chinese but increasing support from the Taiwanese.
Hongkonger’s identity and struggle for democracy Historical Background of Hong Kong; Politics, Identity and Demographics In the early stages of Hong Kong’s development (the 1940s-1970s), most of Hong Kong’s population are first-generation immigrants from Mainland China during several waves of immigration after the second world war; and currently, most Hongkongers are still either first, second, or third-generation immigrants from Mainland China, predominantly of Han Chinese ethnicity. After the establishment of the PRC in the Mainland in 1949, the politically stable and free status of the British-controlled colony attracted many ethnic Chinese businessmen and elites (mainly from Mainland China), along with many refugees of the civil war (1946-1949), famine (1958-1961), economic migrants and Mainlanders escaping from political persecution. 18
Some historians described that Shanghai, once the economic powerhouse and trading centre of Greater China, lost its status to Hong Kong, with Hong Kong gaining an increasing political, economic and cultural importance within the region. During 1950-60s, most Hongkongers only viewed Hong Kong as a place of temporary residence, hoping that they can return to their homeland/ place of origin in Mainland China. Under this context, Hong Kong became a stage of political rivalry, as China had been split into two political entities after 1949, PRC and ROC. Supporters of both political groups in Hong Kong tries to expand their influence and gain support from more, creating an extremely polarized society; there was no unique ‘Hongkonger’ identity that bonded the people in Hong Kong, but rather a single ‘Chinese’ identity but divided by political ideologies. During this period, Hong Kong
experienced some of the greatest instabilites throughout the history as a colony, even though relatively stable when compared to Mainland China and Taiwan. In 1956, ROC-backed rightists launched the Double Ten Riots (“Double Ten”: National Day of ROC); and in 1967, PRC-backed leftists started one of the longest riots in Hong Kong, the 1967 leftist riots. Being a deeply polarized society, Hong Kong filled with refugees, as people were divided by ideologies on Chinese politics and had a greater sense of belonging to Mainland China, despite having communist or nationalistic views. 1967 leftist riots lasting for 10 months in Hong Kong
Left: Nationalists hanging large posters to celebrate the national day of ROC in 1967 (Most massive demonstrations in Hong Kong were based on confrontations of Chinese political ideologies; a local ‘Hongkonger’ identity have not yet emerged)
the role of Hong Kong in the within Greater China Jonathan Maw
However, in the 1970s, after a period of political, social and economic instability, a form of local identity starts to emerge, while more young people in Hong Kong are born locally. The prosperous economy of the 1970s and the emerging of local popular culture and entertainment has created and revealed a life experience unique to Hongkongers. The identity of a ‘Hongkonger’ becomes clearer and accepted by more poeple. Above: Kwun Tong in 1978; the economic prosperity of Hong Kong created a life experience unique to Hongkongers of which Hongkongers are proud of
Historic support between Hongkongers and Mainlanders and widespread democratic movement in China In the 1980s, after the Cultural Revolution ended and the Chinese economic reform started, the young population in Mainland China were open to more liberal ideologies. Many young students hoped to fight for a more democratic China, with more guarantee to different rights (e.g. freedom of press, freedom of association) and less corruption. Towards the late 1980s, more prodemocracy movement sparked in Mainland China, the largest and most widespread ones being the 1986 student demonstrations (八六學潮) and the 1989 democracy movement (八九民運). During these pro-democracy movements in Mainland China, Hongkongers organised countless rounds of massive protests in Hong Kong to show their support for those fighting fighting for democracy in Mainland China. The sympathy and support Hongkongers showed to fellow Mainlanders can be explained by the status of Hong Kong and the identity of Hongkongers. Below: The people of Beijing rallied and demonstrated in Tiananmen Square for over a month in 1989, people of different occupations and social classes joined the demonstration in hope for democracy
Above: Hongkongers organised rounds of protests to support those fighting for democracy in Mainland China in May 1989; three rounds of protests had more than a million protestors
Status of Hong Kong and the idea of a ‘collective fate’ with Mainlanders In 1984, the United Kingdom signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration with Beijing, which meant that by mid-1980s, Hongkongers already know that Hong Kong will be handed over to PRC by 1997. During this period, Hongkongers have a mixed feeling about the future. On one hand, most Hongkongers do identify themselves as ‘Chinese’ with strong sense of belonging and cultural and ethnic ties with Mainland China; however, on the other hand, Hongkongers were extremely anxious and did not trust the PRC government, especially after the cultural revolution, where Hongkongers heard of many horrible incidents that happened in Mainland China under the communist regime. From 1984 to 1989 (before the pro-democracy movement in Mainland China), mass emigration was already happening in Hong Kong in fear of the communist regime. Thus, in the late 1980s when large scale pro-democracy movements sparked in Mainland China, Hongkongers felt that there is hope within the PRC, and felt that they are within a same “community of common destiny” (命運共 同體) with other fellow mainlanders, which was why Hongkongers wanted to actively show support and solidarity to Mainland China’s pro-democracy movement. Hongkongers’ dual identity and cultural, ethnic, ancestral and emotional ties with Mainland China Hongkongers’ support for Mainland China’s democratic movement is also due to the identity of ‘Hongkongers’. Despite the emergence of a local identity of a ‘Hongkonger’ from the 1970s, 20
Hongkongers have not abandoned their ‘Chinese’ identity, but instead, most Hongkongers adopted a dual identity, with ‘Hongkonger’ being a more regional and life experience-oriented identity, while ‘Chinese’ being an ethnic and cultural identity for most Hongkongers. Despite an increasingly large second-generation Mainland Chinese immigrant population, Hongkongers still feel that they haveancestral roots in Mainland China, and feel that they belong to an ethnic Chinese background same with other Mainland Chinese; hence, Hongkongers feel the obligation and duty, both logically and emotionally, to support those who are fighting for democracy in Mainland China, and to achieve a freer democratic China, while aiding those who are oppressed and persecuted by the CCP (e.g. ‘Operation Yellowbird’). The unique free status of Hong Kong as a British colony also acted as a refuge for those suffering in Mainland China, which meant that many who have come to Hong Kong have experienced the downside of the PRC government and the communist regime, which suggests that the struggle for democracy in Mainland China in the 1980s were extremely relevant to the experience and roots of many Hongkongers (especially first-generation). Crackdown on pro-democracy movements in Mainland China; Mainland China enters the age of economic prosperity; shared values differ between Mainland Chinese and Hongkongers, diverging identities evolve If the people of Hong Kong have had a dual identity since the 1970s while the two identities ‘Hongkonger’ and ‘Chinese’ are not incompatible, why are more and more Hong Kong’s young people disagree that they are ‘Chinese’? *‘Chinese’ mentioned here is translated as ‘中國人’ (Cantonese romanisation: zung1 gwok3 jan4) instead of ‘華人’ (Cantonese romanisation: waa4 jan4)
After the suppression of democratic movements in Mainland China by the CCP in 1989, the government focused on the economic growth of the country. The economic growth of PRC in the past thirty years has been staggering, especially after it joined the WTO in 2000, providing huge manufacturing opportunities for the country. Meanwhile, Hong Kong was handed over to PRC from the United Kingdom in 1997, apart from the economic downfall from 1998-2003, Hong Kong has experienced major economic growth. The peak when Hongkongers identified themselves as ‘Chinese’ was 2008, then the acceptance of the ‘Chinese’ identity decreased. As the acceptance of ‘Chinese’ identity was dropping in Hong Kong, more confrontations and arguments have also appeared between Mainland Chinese and Hongkongers; such confrontations started from resource competition, later to confrontations of political ideologies and values. 21
Soon after 2003, Hong Kong’s economy revived, and PRC implemented several policies which increased the flow between Mainland China and Hong Kong. These policies included opening tourism of Hong Kong for dozens of Mainland Chinese cities, and the allowance of newborn babies of Mainland Chinese parents to receive Hong Kong citizenship. These policies made some Hongkongers feel that their resources were facing increasing competition, thus generating discontent towards Mainlanders. Some may argue that since Mainlanders are mainly comprised of people who identify themselves as ‘Chinese’, the tension with Mainlanders due to resource competition contributes to the deteriorating acceptance of the ‘Chinese’ identity of Hongkongers.
Above: Protestors protesting the implementation of National Education curriculum in 2012, holding the banner saying ‘withdraw brainwashing curriculum’
However, a more important reason for the deteriorating acceptance of the ‘Chinese’ identity is the political interference from the CCP. Starting from 2012, after CY Leung became Chief Executive of Hong Kong, many felt that the policies that the local SAR government attempted to implement made Hongkongers feel insecure and that the policies were signs that CCP was increasing its interference into the politics of Hong Kong. One of these policies that sparked Hongkongers’ mistrust of the government was the attempt to implement national education in Hong Kong’s school curriculum in 2012. The government policy triggered massive movements and demonstrations that lasted for at least four months. The movement revealed the complex identity Hongkongers have developed after forty years since the unique ‘Hongkonger’ identity emerged. The main reason why Hongkongers rejected the addition of the national education to the school curriculum is not rejecting the traditional Chinese culture and ethnic Chinese identity but because of the distrust of Hongkongers towards the CCP and the fear that the CCP would attempt to ‘brainwash’ the younger generation (as protestors claim). Hongkongers fear that through the curriculum, the CCP will advocate their version and definition of being ‘Chinese’.
Above: The construction of Kwan Kung Temple inside the occupied Pro-Democracy Demonstration Area in Mong Kok in 2014 (showing the respect Hongkongers have for traditional Chinese religious figures)
‘Chinese’ redefined (Change of values amongst Mainland Chinese) Jeff Wasserstrom, an American historian who studies Modern China, once mentioned, “Hongkongers are not rejecting the ‘Chinese-ness’ in terms of traditional Chinese culture and ethnicity, but instead, they are rejecting a form of ‘Chinese-ness’ constantly promoted and advocated by the communist party”. Indeed, up until 2019, many Hongkongers still adore elements of traditional Chinese culture, for example, that Hongkongers are proud that they insist on using the traditional Chinese characters instead of the simplified version. However, it cannot be concluded that the interference on personal freedoms by the CCP is the sole major reason that Hongkongers have abandoned the ‘Chinese’ identity. Suppression of personal freedoms by the Chinese communist party is not something new; it happened during the past 22
Above: A Hong Kong version of the Goddess of Democracy Statue lifted up to the peak of the Lion Rock mountain in October 2019, the idea of the construction of the statue is influenced by the original Goddess of Democracy Statue, constructed by the people of Beijing in 1989 (showing the strong relevance of pro-democracy movements between Hong Kong and Mainland China)
decades in the Mainland when pro-democracy movements in the 1980s have been suppressed and freedom of speech, assembly and press have been tightly controlled. A determining factor that led to a newer generation of Hongkongers to abandon the identity of ‘Chinese’ is that the identity of ‘Chinese’ has been redefined. Even though the suppression of freedom by the CCP has existed since 1949, the values and beliefs of Mainland Chinese people have changed since the 1990s, which fundamentally redefined the identity. In the 1980s, both Hongkongers and Mainlanders were standing at a united front to fight against the oppression of freedoms and have supported each other to fight for democracy, both Hongkongers and Mainlanders have a strong hope and passion to fight for a greater democratic China (a vision that bonded those who proudly called themselves ‘Chinese’); hence, despite recognising the autocratical character of PRC, Hongkongers considered themselves as ‘Chinese’ or ‘Hong Kong Chinese’, given that both Hongkongers and Mainlanders share a common belief, hope and vision for the country. However, since the 1990s, and especially in 2010s, most/ some Mainlanders have willingly accepted that the country’s democratic progress would come to a halt in return for the economic prosperity that they believe the party has offered by maintaining stability. Unlike the 1980s, Hongkongers and Mainlanders no longer share a common belief and value, and the identities of the two groups start to diverge from each other as personal opinions, values and beliefs start to differ. Albeit many/ some Hongkongers still believes it is ideal to fight for a democratic China, many have lost hope since they have observed that what Mainlanders value have changed during these thirty years; this has led to an increasingly localised form of pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong towards the 2010s, e.g. the Umbrella Revolution, Anti-Extradition Amendment Bill Movement, where these movements show concern for the democratic process of Hong Kong but not the whole of China, unlike 1980s.
The reason the term ‘Chinese’ has been redefined is the change in values of, not necessarily that of Hongkongers, but Mainlanders. Unlike in the past, where both Hongkongers and Mainlanders share a common ideal, most Mainlanders now find China being a greater nation-state in terms of economy more important; and since the Mainland Chinese people hold the dominant narrative of what is being defined as ‘Chinese’ (as they are the majority), the identity of ‘Chinese’ has been redefined to a version closer to the form of ‘Chinese-ness’ advocated by the CCP. This version of ‘Chinese-ness’ similarly includes the hope and vision for a greater China, but instead of achieving so through fighting for democracy, a greater China is built by the party that maintains stability, suppresses opposition and achieves economic prosperity. Since this version of the ‘Chinese’ identity values less of democracy and freedom which Hongkongers find important, many Hongkongers redefine themselves primarily as Hongkongers rather than Chinese, even though they understand that they might still identify to other forms of ‘Chinese-ness’ i.e. traditional Chinese culture and ethics. The ‘Hongkonger’ identity (increasingly based on core values rather than purely ethnicity and background) In the recent 2019 Anti-Extradition Amendment Bill movement, the identity of what means to be a ‘Hongkonger’ is clearer. Other than a ‘Hongkonger’ identity that was based on a mixture of traditional Chinese culture and Hong Kong local popular culture and life experience which have evolved in the 1970s, what means to be a ‘Hongkonger’ has an increasing emphasis on the belief of certain common values, such as, determination to fight for democracy, the respect for personal freedoms and human rights, or the so-called, core values of Hong Kong.
The identity of ‘Hongkonger’ is no longer purely based on ethnic and cultural assumptions of a person. During this movement, there is increasing realisation on the viewpoint that ‘no longer where you were born or what ethnicity you are, as long as you embrace Hong Kong’s core values, you are a Hongkonger’. In October, after the police’s water cannon truck sprayed at and polluted the Kowloon Mosque, many Hongkongers voluntarily cleaned up the mosque and protested in the 27th October, urging the Hong Kong government and police force to respect different religions and religious freedoms. Those who protested also claimed that as long as ethnic South Asians “support Hong Kong” (support Hong Kong’s fight for democracy and other freedoms), they are also truly Hongkongers. The importance of core values in the newly emerging identity of Hongkongers (unlike that of the 1970s) other than purely local culture also explained why Hongkongers respected the Mainland Chinese lawyer Chen Qiushi. Chen came to Hong Kong during August and filmed videos about the Hong Kong protests, trying to understand the protests himself rather than understanding it through the narrative of Chinese state media. Chen’s action proved his willingness to understand a fuller picture of the protest and also his bravery to neglect threats during his work. This shows that although Hongkongers’ relationship with some Mainlanders (based on the main, official narrative of the state and some of its people) have worsened, Hongkongers respect those who embrace similar core values, even Mainlanders. This suggests that the identity of being a ‘Hongkonger’ has evolved into one not purely based on ethnicity and culture but core values.
Above: After a group of ethnic South Asians showed their support for the Hong Kong protests on October 20, 2019, Netizens on LIHKG organised an event on October 25, 2019, encouraging thousands to dine at Chungking Mansions where many South Asians open restaurants, believing that as long as ethnic South Asians embrace the core values of Hong Kong, they are a part of our bigger community
Below: Protestors in Hong Kong holds a banner to support those suffering human rights abuse in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2019 (Some misunderstand and think that Hongkongers are fighting for ethnic separatism, and fails to understand that the reason Hongkongers are supporting these regions is because the Tibetans and Uyghurs are suffering human rights abuse, which is a violation to the core values of Hongkongers)
Meanwhile, some may misunderstand the newly-evolved ‘Hongkonger’ identity (that often confronts the ‘Chinese’ identity, based on the dominant narrative of the state of what means to be ‘Chinese’) as an identity that is based on the division of ethnicity and culture. The misinterpretation on the ‘Hongkonger’ identity has misled them to think that the newlyevolved ‘Hongkonger’ identity is based on ethnic separatism and dividing the ethnic Chinese race, leading to increasing confrontations between Mainlanders and Hongkongers. Pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong are now increasingly targeted at the CCP government, as protestors consider the government to be a totalitarian and authoritarian one. This confronts what Mainland Chinese believe to be the core values of being ‘Chinese’, based on the assumption that all ‘Chinese’ wants a greater China, and most Mainland Chinese believe that the CCP is achieving a greater China by bringing economic prosperity. This creates an identity crisis which Hongkongers struggle whether they should consider themselves ‘Chinese’ since the most dominant narrative of what it means to be Chinese belongs to the Mainland Chinese. The two groups confront more as their identity and values diverge, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement will likely be supported less by Mainland Chinese, namely the Anti-Extradition Amendment Bill movement, which was criticised by those who have misunderstood the aim of Hong Kong’s movement. Hong Kong’s movement will thus become more localised and based on local interests, i.e. fighting against HKSAR government’s policies and defending the human rights and freedom of Hongkongers. 24
Similarities between identities of Hongkongers and Taiwanese based on culture and shared beliefs and experience – a new ‘community of common destiny’ While Hongkongers and Mainland Chinese share increasingly different values, the experience of Hongkongers and Taiwanese people have become more similar. Both Hong Kong and Taiwan have a large population that wants to resist the influence of CCP, and since June 2019, the situation of Hong Kong has become a major concern for many Taiwanese, as they fear similar things would happen to Taiwan once Taiwan falls under greater influence of the communist party. The slogan ‘today’s Hong Kong, tomorrow’s Taiwan’ chanted by many Hong Kong protestors in 2019 shows how Hongkongers and Taiwanese are increasingly portrayed as two groups belonging to a same ‘community of common destiny’, where the infiltration of CCP’s influence has increased in both regions. Left: Taiwanese activists holding signs saying ‘Today’s Hong Kong, Tomorrow’s Taiwan’ in protests, revealing the fear that Taiwan will face ‘similar infiltration’ from the CCP if action is not taken
Right: Hundreds of thousands attended the ‘Fight Against Red Media’ protest held in Taipei on June 23, 2019, in fear that the infiltration of ‘red media’ with a pro-CCP narrative will slowly ‘influence’ the Taiwanese people and erode the democratic system of Taiwan
Above: Taiwanese activists and Hongkongers in Taiwan organises the “Taiwan support Hong Kong” protest on September 29, 2019, with an estimated of 100,000 people joining
In recent years, Taiwan (or ROC) has faced some of the severest challenges to whether it can continue to remain its current state. Many Taiwanese have claimed that it is evident that recently, ‘red media’ (media funded or influenced by the CCP) has become increasingly powerful in Taiwan and have directly led to the successful election of pro-CCP mayors, including Han Kuo-yu who was elected Kaohsiung’s mayor in 2018. Such ‘red media’, including CTI Television Inc. and CTV, are owned by pro-CCP businessmen, with many accusing them of reporting extremely biased news favouring CCP and other pro-CCP mayors and presidential candidates. In November 2019, there was also the ‘CCP spy defect’ scandal (王立強共諜案), in which a person claimed to be a former spy working for the CCP said that he was actively involved in infiltrating Taiwan’s elections, religious institutions, educational institutions and businesses. The current anxiety of the Taiwanese people fearing that Taiwan would become like Hong Kong is similar to the fear Hongkongers have once had in the 1980s: the fear that Hong Kong will become like Beijing. The people of Taiwan and Hong Kong now share a more similar experience and major concern about their future, which creates the feeling between the Taiwanese and Hongkongers that they belong to the same ‘community of common destiny’; this leads to both groups having a closer and more similar identity and a more active involvement in supporting pro-democracy movements between the two groups. 25
Conclusion The unique status of Hong Kong has allowed its people to develop an identity different from people from Mainland China. As the “collective beliefs about shared attributes, values, and experiences” of Hongkongers and Mainlanders differs and confronts more, the identity of Hongkongers’ have took a more localised form (based on both culture and important core values), but also an identity that does not necessarily reject all various aspects of “Chinese-ness” but a form of “Chinese-ness” defined by the communist party. The confused and complex identity of Hongkongers has also made it easier for CCP to ‘describe’ Hong Kong’s recent pro-democracy movements as forms of ‘separatism’, thus encouraging Mainland Chinese citizens to refrain from supporting, or even sympathizing movements from Hong Kong. The evolving identity of Hongkongers and misunderstanding of Mainland Chinese people on Hongkonger’s identity have led to diverging paths of pro-democracy movements in Mainland China and Hong Kong, and remaining support from Mainland Chinese towards Hong Kong’s movements have also become increasingly hidden. Meanwhile, Hongkongers can gain increasing sympathy and support from the Taiwanese people as Taiwanese and Hongkongers shares increasing collective beliefs on shared values and experiences as both groups form a “community of common destiny” (命運共同體).
Future Prospect Soon, it is more likely that Hongkongers will share a more similar identity with Taiwanese than with Mainland Chinese. This is, firstly, because Taiwan and Hong Kong will likely share a more similar fate and experience, creating similar values and opinions towards the CCP, different from the dominant narrative of Mainlanders; and secondly, as the CCP suppresses those who share similar values with Hongkongers in Mainland China, and while the party will continue to advocate its important role in and sole importance of economic development, a majority of those from Mainland would likely be persuaded by the party’s narrative. The identity of ‘Chinese’ among Hongkongers and Taiwanese will remain complicated, as this identity is often defined differently by different groups of people, but as long as the dominant definition of what means to be ‘Chinese’ is similar to the narrative of the comparatively autocratic CCP, the acceptance of the identity ‘Chinese’ will likely be low in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Reference 1. Brewer, M. B. (1999). Multiple identities and identity transition: implications for hong kong. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 23(2), 187–197. doi: 10.1016/s0147-1767(98)000340 2. Wasserstrom, J. (2019, November). Soas China Institute. SOAS China Institute. London.
LGBT Rights in Hong Kong Iris Owyong and Sharon Chan
Asia’s socially conservative culture can often pose the misconception that queerness can threaten traditional values. Yet, in Hong Kong, LGBT people are able to enjoy some rights and their diversity is celebrated in anti-discrimination campaigns. This article will explore the Hong Kong government’s current stance on LGBT rights in comparison to other Asian countries, the unofficial campaigns made in favour of LGBT rights, the possibility of the legalisation of gay marriage in Hong Kong, as well as what can be done in support of LGBT rights.
the Domestic Violence Ordinance. In May 2019, the Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Ricky Chu Mankin pushed for the implementation of anti-discrimination initiatives, and urged the community to “change tack” in favour of a pragmatic step-bystep approach to break the “eternal stalemate” in the city’s fight for LGBT rights. Furthermore, recent case law in Hong Kong has ruled in favour of LGBT rights. After nearly twenty years of activism to remedy homophobic laws, in which the government had refused or simply delayed the request, the Secretary of Justice agreed that laws targeting homosexuality are fundamentally incompatible with the Basic Law. In the Yeung Chu Wing v Secretary for Justice case, the High Court abolished four further provisions under the Crimes Ordinance imposing higher penalties for offences committed by homosexual men. The High Court
In the recent two decades, Hong Kong has made considerable strides in its public policy to curb homophobia. In 1991 the Legislative Council agreed to decriminalise private, adult, non-commercial, and consensual homosexual relations. The Hong Kong Government has also extended limited recognition and protection to cohabitating same-sex couples under
decriminalised “procuring others to commit homosexual buggery”, “gross indecency with or by a man under 16”, “gross indecency by a man with a man otherwise than in private” and “procuring gross indecency by a man with a man”. Three further provisions were remedially interpreted such that they would no longer discriminate against homosexuals. The three offences that now apply to both genders are “homosexual buggery with or by a man under 16”, “gross indecency by a man with a male mentally incapacitated person”, and “permitting a young person to resort to or be on a premises or vessel for intercourse, prostitution, buggery or homosexual acts”. However, it is significant to note that the equalisation of the age of consent does not apply to lesbian women. In 2013, Hong Kong’s High Court ruled that a transgender woman can marry her boyfriend and told the government that they had one year to draft a law that allows for postoperation transsexual or transgender individuals to marry.
Causeway Bay to Southern Playground in Wan Chai. In 2014, the MTR offered discount in-station advertising to Pride organisers in support of LGBT rights. Despite being criticised by anti-gay groups, the chairman of the Equalities Commission, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, held this for a second year. Most recently, in 2018, Hong Kong is confirmed to be the host of the 11th Gay Games in 2022, making it the first Asian city to do so. The Games are open to all participants, without regard to sexual orientation, and there are no qualifying standards. This shift in government stance and growth in unofficial LGBT campaigns also reflects the decreasing public stigma around LGBT people. A study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong polled 1,013 Chinese-speaking people aged 18 and above, and showed that 54 per cent of the public support the right of same-sex couples in a long-term stable relationship to ask doctors about their partner’s medical conditions, while less than 20 per cent were opposed. About 64 per cent also agreed that they should be able to claim their deceased partner’s ashes, and less than 10 percent disagreed. Moreover, the HKU’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law polled 410 Hong Kong residents aged 18 or above in 2013, and another 1,437 people last year to look at their views on gay rights. They found that overall support for LGBT rights has increased
There has also been a number of unofficial events hosted to celebrate the diversity of LGBT people. In 1989, the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film festival was held for the first time. To date, it is the longest-running LGBT film festival in Asia. 2008 marked the first Pride parade in Hong Kong, with close to 1,000 participants walking from Great George Street in
over a four-year period (2013-2017), with support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage jumping 12 per cent. Research from the University of Hong Kong released on Tuesday found 50 percent of respondents backed allowing same-sex marriage, as opposed to 38 percent in 2013. The number of people supporting the introduction of laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation grew from 58 per cent to 69 per cent in four years, while 78 per cent believed same-sex partners should be able to visit each other in hospital during hours set aside for family visits. Hong Kongers also believe samesex partners should be able to inherit property from each other, up to 61 per cent, from 55 per cent previously. optimist
many activists, particularly given that several countries that have often been criticised for their gay rights record, such as Russia and Azerbaijan, had given their consent to the practice. To examine why Hong Kong law remains largely silent on samesex marriage, we must analyse the historical roots of marriage as well as the reasons which fuel public opposition. Firstly, older generations tend to harbour conservative and traditional views about what a family union should consist of. Secondly, the introduction of anti-LGBT laws as per British colonisation has created a legacy of discrimination and violence that persists even today. As part of the colonial legislation of the United Kingdom had imposed, homophobic and transphobic laws were swept across the British empire. Although Hong Kong has since repealed such laws, as illustrated in earlier sections of the article, many of the laws which were put in place under the colonisers have long since been amended or even strengthened by local governments. Some argue that the conservative attitudes found in former colonies are illustrative of the long term effects of British prohibitions on local opinions. According to Han, an author of books on LGBT rights, once a law is in place, it’s difficult to dislodge, both from a legal and physiological perspective. “[Illegality changes] the social normative views of gay sex,” said Han.
That is not to say that Hong Kong law is strictly tolerant of LGBT people. While anti-discrimination laws have been applied to government employees, many private corporations have independently adopted their own codes on this issue. One could even argue that LGBT rights have taken a few steps backward in recent years, such as when the government appealed against a High Court decision in April granting welfare benefits to the spouse of a gay civil servant. Moreover, the government’s decision to not allow same-sex couples to wed at the British consulate after the country legalised same-sex marriage in 2014 upset
There is clearly more to be done to establish LGBT rights. Compared to other Asian countries, the LGBT community in Hong Kong enjoys a mediocre level of support and rights from the government and population. We have chosen to use Taiwan and Singapore as points of comparison due to the political and economic similarities that they share. Singapore rivals Hong Kong’s status as Asia’s freest hub for global finance whilst emerging as an Asian superpower. Taiwan shares much of the same political desires for a democratic society free from Chinese control. It is only fair to use Asian countries as a means of comparison due to the cultural and ideological similarities that they share which The purpose of this section is to provide the context needed when justifying the current situation and the prospects for proLGBT legislation and rights in Hong Kong.
criminalising discriminatory behaviour based on sexual orientation, gender identity and characteristics in education, employment and Constitution. Namely, the Gender Equity Education Act had gone to the extent to integrate gender identity education into its educational curriculum and textbooks in attempt to root out discrimination and promote gender equality. Moreover, regular amendments have been made to tighten the terms of legislation and to ensure the inclusivity and scope of rights guaranteed by the various legislative acts. All in all, the country has made considerable strides in breaking the conservative Asian mould in regards of LGBT issues and rights since 2003. As evidenced by the enactment of the of same-sex marriage and becoming Asia’s first jurisdiction to do so, Taiwan is in no doubt the pioneer of LGBT rights and stands at the forefront of this Asian movement. Taiwan’s holistically liberal and accepting approach towards the LGBT community should be praised and be a source of inspiration and motivation to other Asian countries to ensure equal rights and a discrimination-free society for all.
Firstly, Taiwan is generally recognised as Asia’s most progressive country in this respect and on the contrary, Singapore is widely known for being heavily opposed to and even banning the liberation of same-sex rights. Taiwan - the well-known champion of LGBT rights - had identified the need for legal recognition of samesex marriage as early as 2003. Despite initial opposition, the government made consistent efforts in ensuring equal rights and an equal society by
On the contrary, Singapore claims a comparatively stricter stance on LGBT rights. With a relatively similar constitutional and historical background to Hong Kong, Singapore has inherited and been influenced
by elements of colonial-era law as a former British Colony. Despite being home to a highly wealthy, intellectual and pragmatic population, Singapore’s fundamentally conservative society and culture contributes to the lack of recognition and inclusivity towards the LGBT community. Aside from its relatively conventional thinking and occasional government crackdowns on LGBT rights and freedoms, the general trend and public attitude towards the LGBT community is gradually shifting to become more accepting and tolerant. This could be supported by several surveys conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies which reflected a 12% rise in the acceptance of same-sex marriage and a 10% rise in acceptance towards sexual relations between adults of the same-sex. Notably, the growing crowds in its annual gay pride rally and the recent initiation of Pink Dot SG - an annual event that campaigns for LGBT rights in Singapore - marks the growing minority supportive of the LGBT community. The demographic of the crowds suggests that this growing tolerance and support is significantly more prominent amongst the younger generation. Regardless, the LGBT community is still prone to discriminatory behaviour due to the lack of legal protection and laws to ensure equality in rights. Laws to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality and adoption of children by same-sex couples are also in place. Alongside previous governmental funding to
organisations affiliated with conversion therapy and the illegality of sexual relations between men of the same sex, it is safe to say that Singapore is still situated at a primitive stage in reaching a relatively acceptable consensus towards the LGBT community. Moreover, the borderline discriminatory treatment based on one’s sexual identity and preference is also worth investigating. Most notably, the prohibition of access to public housing towards same-sex couples is obviously a punishment to those who deviate from the ‘traditional’ societal norm. Moreover, the restrictions placed onto LGBT civilians serving in the National army also highlights the fundamentally discriminatory and rejecting nature of the Singaporean society. Whilst the Singaporean government has gradually come to realise that “people’s lifestyles and sexual attitudes” should not be carelessly labelled as criminal and has promised not to proactively enforce its anti-LGBT laws, Singapore still has a long way to go before its society is ready to debate on this controversial issue. And hence, it could be argued that minor governmental and legislative progress has been made to alter the rudimentary thinking common among the Singaporean society. The above comparison was made to put our current situation into perspective. Although Hong Kong has yet to legalise same-sex marriage or to include gender equal content into its
schooling curriculum, the population’s underrated ability to act freely based on their natural sexual orientation and identity should be cherished and positively acknowledged, especially when culturally similar countries such as Singapore adopt relatively exposing and risky policies towards LGBT rights. The progressiveness of Taiwan and its policies towards gender identity should inspire Hong Kong’s government to bring about greater rights for LGBT individuals as well as to act as a point of reference when considering the possible legalisation of same-sex marriage in Hong Kong.
be Asia’s World City. Hence, Hong Kong should do so by taking small steps towards liberal change. Given the minimal existence and slow progression towards universalising rights for the LGBT community, our society and lawmakers should take further consideration into plausible policies and actions aimed at improving inclusivity and equality. Taking note from Taiwan, Hong Kong should contemplate drafting legally binding acts to ensure a discriminatory-free schooling and working environment. Further improvement could be made through integrating gender identity into Hong Kong’s primary and secondary educational curriculum and to make anti-discriminatory employment laws. Government funding for educational and media content could further educate the population in the importance of equal rights and treatment towards the LGBT community which would also soften public opinion. It is imperative for the government to carefully take small steps before opening up its society to the legalisation of same-sex marriage as Hong Kong has yet to receive sufficient public support towards this matter.
To become a truly International and globally recognised city, Hong Kong should consider the further promotion of LGBT rights and the possible legalisation of same-sex marriage. Although this might cause controversy and debate, Hong Kong should prioritise the preservation of equal rights and a safe environment for all individuals. As the city is responsible for hosting major financial and cultural transactions across Asia and the rest of the world, it is only proper for its government to ride on the global momentum and take on the duty of bringing Hong Kong more in line with global norms through judicial change. Whether it be strengthened antidiscrimination laws or the eventual legalisation of same-sex marriage, lawmakers should initiate conversation for Hong Kong to live up to its claim to
In conclusion, it is difficult to argue that Hong Kong is supportive of LGBT rights. However, the city’s progress, from being outwardly homophobic
to increasingly tolerant, in the recent decades should not be overlooked. The increasingly progressive public opinion should hopefully translate into legislative action in a bid to bring equal rights to all individuals regardless of their sexual identity and orientation.
Sharon Chan and Iris Owyong
Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong
The integration of ethnic minorities into society remains one of the most prominent social issues in Hong Kong. According to the 2016 government report, 92% of the Hong Kong population is ethnic Chinese. 8% are other non-Chinese ethnic groups, including a large number of Filipinos and Indonesians, making up approximately 4% of the population. Though there is evidently some ethnic diversity within Hong Kong, ethnic minorities are still regarded as outsiders in local communities. This article will investigate the challenges faced by ethnic minorities, the effectiveness of existing government policies in promoting social cohesion and potential solutions to these problems.
position due to the flawed education system. With the language barrier acting as a roadblock that prohibits academic and career pursuits for minority groups, our economy and society may never realise the potential and possible contributions from this community. Moreover, the differential in incomes places a huge wedge on the self-confidence and economic integration of minority groups. This means that ethnic minority workers do not just suffer from lesser opportunities, but also from lesser hope for upward social mobility. This financial handicap and systemic failure restrict future generations from the access to equal employment and higher education and the potential to flourish.
The lack of social integration manifests itself both economically and socially. A government report showed that nearly one out of five among them live below the poverty line. The poverty rate among the city’s ethnic minorities surged from 15.4 percent in 2011 to 19.4 percent in 2016. Of those with work, some 38 percent had only lower secondary level education, while 36 per cent had taken some courses or had up to upper secondary level education. The report highlighted that people with children were more likely to be in poverty, and that impoverished families had problems accessing public services they needed due to language issues. It is therefore fair to argue that the lack of employment and subsequent poverty is largely due to an education gap and inability to overcome the language barrier. In fact, a study conducted in 2016 showed that only 64.3 percent of ethnic minorities aged 5-14 were able to read Chinese, and that the level of their reading skills is still lower than that of their ethnic Chinese peers. This lack of language ability can not only inhibit people of ethnic minorities from getting jobs, but also create a pay gap between employees who are ethnic minorities and employees of Chinese descent. It is saddening to see this culturally diverse pool of talent being inherently placed at a disadvantaged
Socially, the lack of social integration demonstrates itself in workplace, public education and everyday discrimination. In terms of employment and treatment in the The Equal Opportunities Commission found that ethnic minorities, especially those of non-white descent, faced the most discrimination from financial and housing service providers. Ferrick Chu Chungman, director of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said ethnic minorities interviewed had been “refused service or asked to provide extra documents” when they requested services from the bank. In addition, Moreover, derogatory slang is embedded in local language and used to describe ethnic minorities, thereby worsening any existing discrimination. For example, domestic helpers are often referred as bun mui, African migrants as hak gwai, and there are slurs against Indian or Pakistani people such as ah cha or ah sing. This is amplified when media outlets employ negative stereotypes or when Hongkongers adopt the mentality that people who are not Hong Kong Chinese are ‘outsiders’. This makes it even more difficult for ethnic minorities to form a sense of belonging within their local communities. This leads us to question whether the
existing government policy is effective in solving the problems faced by ethnic minorities. The Hong Kong government has attempted to remedy the lack of social cohesion by implementing different socioeconomic policies and unofficial campaigns, though this has not achieved all the goals intended. The Ethnic Minority Steering Committee operates with a budget of HK$500 million to boost support for the local ethnic minority community. In 2013, the government set up a “Chinese as a second language learning framework” to help local, non-Chinese-speaking students learn the language and gain a professional qualification at the end of the curriculum. This governmental initiative aimed at reducing the language barrier and handicap to employment should be acknowledged, but has also been criticised for its unclear structure, lack of provision of educational resources and teaching guidance and inconsistent progress. Hong Kong Unison, a local non-governmental organisation, reviewed more than 130 books, academic articles, thematic reports and teachers’ handbooks published between 2006 and 2016 on the issue and compiled a report. It found that the current learning structure lacked clear and specific teaching and learning goals, as well as systematic teaching materials and teacher training. Unison Executive Director, Phyllis Cheung, argued that current education policies for ethnic minorities are ‘useless’ since there are ‘no learning goals’, therefore making it hard for teachers to establish teaching and assessment guidelines. Furthermore, Mr Kwong, a Chinese teacher with experience teaching ethnic minorities at a secondary school, said many teachers did not have experience teaching ethnic minorities. Clearly, there is much room for improvement in education policies for children of ethnic minorities. In order to make housing more affordable for ethnic minorities, the government has also introduced the Starter Homes scheme for young, middle-class families, and regularised a scheme to sell subsidised
housing to public housing residents. A quota of people to buy second-hand governmentbuilt homes each year. However, the quota was only limited to 2,500 people, and most of the people who bought homes under the housing scheme were of Chinese descent. Similar problems arose in the HK$500 million technology talent scheme, and old age living allowances for the elderly poor were mainly distributed amongst those who had Chinese backgrounds. In order to combat discrimination at the workplace, the Race Discrimination Ordinance was implemented to protect people from being discriminated on the grounds of their race in the employment field. A Code of Practice was published by the Equal Opportunities Commission as a guidance to employers and employee to eliminate racial discrimination at workplace and promote good practices. However, this tends to lack efficacy as firms may merely ignore the guidance and choose to hire based on their own prejudices. A study by the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong showed more than 67 percent of South Asian respondents in the city found jobseeking to be “difficult” or “very difficult”. A survey commissioned by the EOC found that 23 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “South Asians are not suitable to do office work because they have only attained low educational level.” Ho says such statistics reflect prejudice and stereotyping that result in South Asians being “most at risk when it comes to discriminatory or exclusionary behaviour and policies”. Overall, experts have blamed the government’s racial insensitivity in policy-making and public education as the core reason for the slow progress and minimal effectiveness of imposed policies. According to Poverty Situation Report on Ethnic Minorities published in 2016, ethnic poverty rates have generally increased even after policy intervention. Despite the financial assistance provided through the Low-Income Family Assistance policy, a comparison of 2011 and 2016 figures reveals a 3.6 per cent increase in poverty rates. Whilst greater social welfare has been
provided to help alleviate ethnic poverty, the notable growth in the overall ethnic minority population has exacerbated the poverty problem. Moreover, the report also noted the lower employment earnings due to lower educational attainment and skill levels of ethnic minority workers as key causes to working poverty. These statistics demands greater efforts and reforms on breaking the language barrier and correcting the education gap in order to put minority workers on a level playing field on the job market.
Although, in theory, this promotes greater social integration, in practise, it has its flaws. For example, it backfires in that courts and other institutions translate this absolute neutrality and equality into rules which prohibit any forms of religious affiliation in the public sphere. It is under this approach that the wearing of religious symbols, like the controversial burqa ban which has drawn international condemnation, has been prohibited. However, this is not to say that government policy has been wholly unsuccessful.The government also sponsors a number of programmes for ethnic minorities including radio programmes, language courses, community support teams, and service guidebooks. One of the support service centres also provides free telephone interpretation services. These soft policies are considered to be a relative success as they are gradually breaking down the language barrier in both professional and social terms. Most importantly, these initiatives show the government’s and society’s dedication to build a greater bond with the ethnic minority community.
Some have also criticised the Hong Kong government’s policy towards ethnic minorities for overlooking the importance of preserving cultural identities. By pushing minority students into monolingual Chinese-language schools, in the name of Cantonese learning and social integration, the government is subtly promoting an assimilationist agenda. This may have an adverse impact on these students’ cultural identification and overall educational development. This is in stark contrast with the drive for social integration in Europe, where cultural and linguistic diversity is preserved by allowing minority children to be educated in their own language as well as the dominant one. Many European governments allow minority children to be educated in their own language, on top of learning the dominant one. For example, Turkish minorities in Germany are allowed to run Turkish-language schools in the areas where they live in large numbers. Another example is France, whose aim to achieve the integration of “nationals”, like Bretons and Corsicans, was fulfilled successfully. Most of these groups now feel “French”, and their cultural heritage and languages are recognised as part of French identity. However, European policy on ethnic minorities are not perfect either. The French state’s policy rejects any references to national, racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities. This model is based on the idea that the state should interact with the individual only, not communities or groups, in order to give equal treatment to everyone.
Aside from governmental policies and campaigns aimed at the integration of ethnic minorities, various unofficial campaigns launched by NGOs and charities dedicate admirable efforts to correcting this social issue. Namely, a recent initiative aimed at keeping minority students on track to university has been launched to reduce the inherent disadvantages of ethnic minority students. With hopes to bring improvement to the logical and financial helplessness faced by the ethnic minority community, the Zubin Foundation, a non-profit think tank, organised a university fair to provide essential information and assistance to families looking to attend university. Through this initiative, we can see the education gap and the vicious cycle that fosters due to the foregone opportunity to grow and flourish to their full potentials which traps them into poverty.
Why should we improve ethnic minority integration? Not only do these individuals form a vibrant community that adds colour and diversity to our society, they form a formidable and inspiring pool of talent that may help mitigate Hong Kong’s ageing working population and shrinking labour force. Resolving challenges such as poverty and language barriers from a bottom-up approach might lift the younger generation of ethnic minority communities out of the cycle of poverty. Through the provision of language programs, academies coaching employable and technical skills and increased financial assistance for higher education, our government should equip these individuals with the skills to contribute to Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness, stability and growth. On the other hand, it is also important to nurture a close and reciprocal relationship with the minority community to ensure a strong emotional connection between the people of Hong Kong. The mutual feeling of unity and loyalty is vital to fostering a strong bond and harmony within a society. Hence, the government should work towards fundamentally correcting the inherent disadvantages of ethnic minority groups and bring greater hopes of upward social mobility for this community. A notable proportion of ethnic minorities work as domestic helpers and cleaners. Making up 10% of Hong Kong’s working population, the 385,000 migrant domestic workers play an essential role in the daily life and functioning of many middle and upper class families in Hong Kong. Their daily caregiving and household duties reduces the workload and stress of many working parents and families which partially translates to increased productivity and happiness. 38
GIven their importance to working families and the economy, domestic workers should enjoy greater rights and better treatment. The poor working conditions and overly intensive workload of helpers have emerged to be a growing concern. With human-rights groups and NGOs criticising the ‘modern slavery’ that domestic helpers have to endure, more attention should be given to ensure basic and satisfactory conditions. Evidently, there is still room for improvement in terms of promoting the integration of ethnic minorities. Hong Kong should focus on developing and appreciate one of its greatest resources - its people. To further enhance the city’s international development and achieve social and economic prosperity, the government should nurture and tend to its people and ensure inclusivity and fairness to all.
It Will Not Be Enough: Why Hong Kong needs a Left If the last four months in Hong Kong have proven anything, it is that Hong Kongers have virtually no limit to their courage in fighting for justice and freedom in their homeland. Omnipresent police intimidation, disgusting acts of brutality, the most recent being near murder of a teenager with a live round, and the imprisonment of over a thousand allies have not cowed them, and it is to expect that even if these threats multiplied a thousand fold they would still soldier on in their struggle. Indeed, especially when marching with the millions united in protest in person, joining in with each chant of ”Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times“, as a Hong Konger immense feelings of pride and awe are unavoidable. Yet, lively as the movement may be on the surface, we should have reason to fear that, in its current state, stagnation is inevitable. This stagnation with the movement, at least in the present, does not manifest
itself in any loss of passion among Hong Kongers, for it has been clearly demonstrated time and time again that their well of energy runs deep and healthy. Rather, the problem lies with the effectiveness of the movement; at the level of its structure – the movement’s very formulation of its goals, and its subsequent political logic, are hampering its further progress. Put bluntly, the time has come to realise that mere passion, as long as it operates under the Five Demands, will not be enough to attain freedom in Hong Kong. This criticism of the Five Demands should not be misunderstood as a condemnation: the demands obviously deserve praise for having galvanised people into political action. But it now should also be recognised that they have simultaneously limited the forms that such action can take. Because all the Five Demands require the appropriation of state power in order to be realised – whether it 39
be pressuring or forcibly seizing State power – the only effective instrument of struggle that can be wielded is one that directly attacks or criticises the State. Thus, public demonstrations – mass rallies and distribution of propaganda, as well as to a lesser extent attack on the police and representatives of the State – arise out of necessity from fidelity to the Five Demands. Unfortunately, this funnelling of the movement’s strategies have come to its detriment – a commitment to the Five Demands has dragged the movement down a dead end. It is true that mass public demonstrations have led to significant achievements throughout history – the Civil Rights Movement and the movement for Indian Independence, in particular, come to mind – however, the same success will not be replicated in Hong Kong. Mass demonstrations are only an appeal to the ‘democratic conscience’ of the State; they are precisely a ‘demonstration’ of public opinion, as well as the people’s electoral power. Yet, the State that the Hong Kong people are confronted with possesses no such ‘democratic conscience’ with which to appeal: not only is the State not subject to electoral pressure, for both the election of the Chief Executive and almost half of the seats in LegCo involve no popular participation, but it is also cannot be convinced by public opinion, for the highest loyalty of its officials is to the Chinese Communist Party, whose legitimacy is severely threatened by even the symbol of a genuinely autonomous Hong Kong. As such, at the present moment, there is virtually no possibility that mass
demonstration, no matter how frequent or relentless, can convince the State in any significant manner, a fact that is confirmed by the continued intransigence of the Hong Kong and Chinese government in spite of swelling numbers with each march and rally. Even adopting the most extreme methods to achieve the State power in fulfilling the Five Demands, that of revolutionary violence to directly place the State in the hands of the people, will similarly prove fruitless. It is not pessimistic to be realistic: there is no world in which the protesters can triumph in a direct confrontation over an armed and organised police force; or, as Saul Alinsky put bluntly, “It’s just idiocy… to talk about all power growing from the barrel of a gun when the other side has all the guns.” Even if a revolutionary government were established against all odds, it would still have no material foundation: it would collapse immediately under the weight of a lack of legitimacy and the overwhelming dependence of the Hong Kong economy to that of China.
Indeed, it is through this lens that we should interpret the growing violence from protesters (which still must be emphasised is incomparable to the brutality from the police) and the blossoming of a culture celebrating the protests (Lennon Walls, Glory to Hong Kong etc.): they are not a sign of strength, but a symptom of the inevitable stagnation of the movement under the weight of its current axioms – without any alternative effective outlets to our passions, we can only release them in substance-less
Thus, while the Five Demands are the only ends that enter our sights, the movement will be faced with a self-imposed limit on its effectiveness – an expiration date. The best situation that can emerge under their logic is that of endless protest, whereby the movement exists as a mere symbol of rebellion, completely impotent in effecting positive fundamental change; and that is only if it doesn’t dissolve over time out of disillusionment and simple exhaustion. 40
representations of resistance (resist for resistance sake). Understanding this, should the demonstrations in Hong Kong have never occurred? Of course not – even if it was possible to have prevented them, paternalistically changing the course of the people by mere words (and English words at that!), the demonstrations have done a great service to the advancement of freedom in Hong Kong. Specifically, they have established enormous potential for action: they have raised
political consciousness within the city to an unprecedented extent, forcing all citizens to take a side, with the overwhelming majority on the side of democracy, while also bringing to the surface the State’s oppressive forces – our enemies – where they can be identified and criticised. But this potential is precisely that – potential: it is impotent as long as it goes unrealised, like a bowstring that
This is because a political vision would provide a positive political project for movement to strive towards, and subsequently open up the space for performing politics outside of direct conflict with the State, which is to say the creation of separate institutions accountable to the Hong Kong people that could directly alter
able to garner sufficient strength, the Hong Kong people could establish the reality of democracy right under the feet of a tyrannical government. After all, formal democracy is merely a means to an end; it does not have to be established for authentic democracy to be exercised – what is ‘democracy’, if not when society reflects the will
is drawn back but never released, and it will go unrealised as long as the logic of the Five Demands straitjackets the strategies available.
of the people, no matter the instrument used? As such, by acting through grassroots institutions, the movement, instead of floundering on the rocks of an unresponsive State, could instead sail around it, rendering it superfluous by directly imposing the changes to society that motivate its demand for formal democracy in the first place, whether it be defending local culture, resisting Chinese encroachments, or raising living s t a n d a r d s . However, it must be stressed that such
What is required, therefore, is not a rejection but an evolution of the Five Demands, which will allow us to build upon the foundations established by mass demonstration and solidify passions into an effective weapon. That evolution can, fortunately, be described: it is the adoption of a political vision by the movement; and not only that, but a political vision for a Leftist future for Hong Kong. The movement must clearly support the interests of not only the working people in Hong Kong, but also the working class across the region.
society, exploiting the Hong Kong government’s de jure commitment to civil liberties. These institutions could be anything from trade unions, to cooperative local businesses, to student groups – any alternative base of power composed by the people themself would suffice.
Adopting a Leftist political vision – indeed any political vision – would open up an entirely new arena of action for the movement: it would allow an intellectual liberation before a material one. If
a new strategy necessarily could only arise from the adoption of a political vision, and thus a transcendence of the Five Demands, by the movement, for institutions can only engage in direct social change when they have an idea of a society to aspire to in the first place. The
bottom-up participatory democracy through local institutions – a quasi-State as it were – may sound utopian. However, we can point to signs in the present that places such a strategy above mere speculation: the seeds of future modes of resistance have already been planted in the activities of present demonstrations. Anyone who has participated in the protests has borne witness to the most amazing acts of camaraderie – from the discipline of the frontliners in countering the police, to the sharing of protesting resources, to the organisation of workplaces in events like the 5th August general strike. Thus, the intense cooperation and mutual aid required as the foundation of a blossoming of grassroots institutions have already arrived; they simply need to be redirected to paths that can be weaponised. And that is not to mention the opportunity organisations would provide for tapping into the abilities and time of peaceful protesters: if we have millions of Hong Kongers with skills from all walks of life, why not put them to better use than simple marches? Additionally, even if the path is fraught with difficulties, it must be pursued regardless. For, unlike public demonstrations alone, grass-root institutions at least contain the potential for securing the liberty of Hong Kong. The Gordian knot that Hong Kongers in resisting Chinese
domination is faced with cutting is that they are the victims of a colonial power that is not dependent on their labour and yet also has a massive stake in maintaining control. Therefore, as long as China remains economically ascendant, which is to say as long as the Mainland Chinese are misdirected from shaking their own oppression from the Communist Party, there is virtually no possibility of liberation. As such, the only fruitful program available to the movement is that of ‘playing the long game’: resisting any further oppressions from Beijing into Hong Kong society, all the while empowering the Hong Kong people, until such a time that the claws of the Communist Party within China loosen. In light of a hostile State, the widespread flowering of institutions, and by extension a clear political vision, is the only means of accomplishing this. But why should such a political vision, and thus these institutions of the movement, have explicitly Leftist goals? First, a Leftist future, as advanced by grassroots institutions, for Hong Kong would be the truest expression of the movement’s guiding ideals of freedom and autonomy – a fact which should be emphasised in the face of fear that an explicitly political bent would ‘split the movement’. Though we should oppose the Communist Party’s attempts to subjugate Hong Kong, we must not lose sight of the fact there are other sources of oppression that have long
resided within the city. As much as any extradition bill would, the disgusting housing prices which only speculators have benefitted from, as well as the class divides that have left one-in-five Hong Kongers in poverty with poor working conditions and long hours while tycoons rest as some of the richest men in Asia, have stripped the Hong Kong working class of their ability to express themselves and freely control their own lives – the Hong Kong people shall never gain genuine self-determination until these too are vanquished. And so only a Leftist future would fully liberate Hong Kong; only institutions with a Leftist commitment to the working class would tackle these oppressions, whether it be through trade union organisation to demand higher wages, or students organised boycotts of exploitative businesses, along with a host of other oppressions concerning migrant workers rights and the environment. Indeed, even if achieved, universal suffrage in and of itself would not lead to liberation – formal democracy is merely a neutral container of political ideas, it can only result in a reality of freedom if it is filled with emancipatory (Leftist) content, otherwise it will simply reproduce old oppressions. Furthermore, as a result of explicitly representing the working class of Hong Kong, the movement would reap the additional benefit of completely undermining the reactionary portrayal of pro-democracy advocates as ‘destroying Hong Kong’ for abstract ideals versus a ‘responsible’ and economically
focused Beijing. Instead, the movement would find material footing by standing as the true champions of the economic interests of the Hong Kong people, as opposed to a government that merely represents business and tycoons. Second, Leftist goals and values would allow the movement to develop and leverage international connections. The current efforts of the movement to appeal to European and American governments, as seen in the dispersed American flags at demonstrations and the symbolism of the ‘Hong Kong Way’ demonstrations, in the absence of a Leftist agenda is not the path forward: they will not foster any genuine solidarity from which Hong Kong can benefit. As the Jacobin writer, Valentina Pegolo, points out, “European governments are unlikely to risk jeopardizing their investments in the Belt and Road initiative or a potential strategic partnership with China. And while the United States may be currently locked in a trade war with Beijing, Trump is unlikely to prioritize Hong Kong democracy over relations with Xi Jinping.” Moreover, we should be especially wary of the government of the United States, for with no material interest in the self-determination of Hong Kong and a history of imperialism, dependence on it may simply be a case of swapping one master for another.
of the Communist Party. Particular emphasis should be placed on relations with Taiwan, which in many ways shares the same threats, and thus interests, of Hong Kong. To refer back to Pegolo’s analysis, “The threat that Hong Kong and Taiwan pose to China is not a material one, but an ideological one.” With friends that truly share solidarity with Hong Kong, the embers of a liberated China, of what it could be – freed from both political and economic subjugation – can be kept alive until the day the chickens come home to roost for the Party. And make no mistake, they are coming: their cries can already be heard in the strengthening of the Mainland labour movement, given its most visible form in the wave of strikes in 2010; from the Party’s abandonment of peasant and rural migrant workers; and from the estimated 500 protests, riots or strikes that take place every day in the Mainland. Moreover, it is precisely by becoming such a beacon of hope that Hong Kong can accelerate the Party’s weakness, for a real-world alternative would invigorate emancipatory forces within the Mainland, while also combatting the possibility of a new exploitative government being formed on the ashes of the old.
Rather, Hong Kong should aim to the Leftist ideal as the standard-bearer of all those oppressed in the region, representing in concrete terms that a world, as achieved through grassroots institutions, with justice and without poverty is possible outside of tentacles
To be clear: the creation of a world of Leftist grassroots institutions in Hong Kong would not be an abandonment of the terrain of State power. Of course, we should not cease voting for pro-democracy and Leftist candidates, or organising 43
politically, simply because we can also work through our own institutions – the State is too powerful to completely ignore. Furthermore, neither would they come at the expense of public demonstrations, for demonstrations would still be a useful instrument of social disruption and resistance to the inevitable attempts to undermine the work of building a Leftist society from the ground up. On the contrary, institutions would be to the benefit of any public demonstration or direct conflict with State power, not only by, if sufficiently established, amassing significant resources behind them, but also by opening up organised, impactful avenues for protest to take place – strikes, boycotts, dissemination of foreign governments, the list goes on. While demonstrations on their own will be insufficient, protest and institutions go hand in hand. Undoubtedly there are still many questions arising from this proposed solution to the movement’s problems, particularly around the specifics of organising, including cooperation between organisations and the opportunities for Leftist activates. However, these can be ironed out through a process of experimentation; indeed, there is a benefit to keeping principles vague, so as to allow for freedom in formulating tactics in light of historical contingency and political intrigue. The fundamental task ahead is to at least begin to embark upon this program: it is ultimately the only road that will deliver genuine progress in complete
liberation. We must not let this present movement go the way of Occupy Central in 2014; to collapse in disillusionment or, even worse, become simply a nostalgic dream by the Hong Kong people in 2047 of what could have been. The time has come for real political work, no matter how difficult or arduous, to translate our passions into a lasting, effective form – to turn ‘demonstration’ into real power – which can only start with a political vision. Moreover, it is only with a Leftist future that not only Hong Kong, but also the Mainland will be truly liberated: we have the potential to enact the true realisation of the 1911 and 1949 Chinese Revolutions in their promise of a China without tyranny and poverty. With an opponent so overwhelming, at times the situation will seem hopeless, but we can take solace in the fact, ironically identified by Mao Zedong himself, that “Bigness is nothing to be afraid of. The big will be overthrown by the small. The small will become big.” Given time, Chinese imperialism will prove to be a paper tiger.  A political vision would be clear principles on how society in all its facets, from economics to social life, should be structured. In other words, what society would we ‘vote in’ if we had genuine universal suffrage.  Though it should be noted that plenty of Hong Kongers oppose such displays.  https://jacobinmag.com/2019/10/ hong-kong-protests-chinesecommunist-party-taiwan  Ibid.  https://www.marxists.org/ reference/archive/mao/selectedworks/volume-5/mswv5_52.htm (This author would like to remain anonymous.)
HKPASS 2019-2020 Committee President Internal Vice President
External Vice President
Public Affairs Officer Social Service Officer Publications Officer Events Officer
Editorial Team Editor-in-chief Authors
Bella Mak Jonathan Maw Iris Owyong Kelvin Cheung Sharon Chan
Janice Luk Joanne Tse
N.B. LSESU HKPASS is a politically neutral society. Any views expressed belong entirely to the authors themselves.
Ellen Liu Icy Ma Bella Mak Michelle Lam
“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’...
Published on Dec 11, 2019
“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’...