Hong Kong identity, Hong Kong nation?

This blog entry uses material from an abandoned blog I had once.

South China Morning Post:

As part of the project, a poll conducted in February found that of 93 mainly post-secondary students, two-thirds chose “Hong Kong Chinese” as their preferred identity. This was followed by 20 per cent opting for “Hong Kong persons”, and 10 per cent selecting “Chinese Hongkonger”. None wanted to be known as simply “Chinese”.

This complements HKUPOP’s poll for the general population, which has seen “Hong Kong Citizen” rank anywhere from a low of 18.1% in June 2008, before the Beijing Olympics, to a high of 45.6% In June 2012.  But what does it even mean to be a HongKonger/Hong Kong citizen/etc.?

Legally, all Hong Kong residents of Chinese descent are Chinese citizens unless they declare otherwise and are not entitled to consular protection within China and Hong Kong despite any foreign passports that they hold.  Ethnically, the vast majority of Hong Kongers are ethnic Han, just as in China.  Most Hong Kongers either came here from China or are the descendants of those who did.  Hong Kongers speak a distinct language from Mandarin, but Cantonese is by no means endemic to Hong Kong, being spoken in Guangdong and even some areas of Guangxi.

But consider this:

  • The vast majority of people in the Americas are descendants of Europeans.  It doesn’t matter where a nation’s citizens come from.
  • French is the only official language of Monaco, yet Monaco is not part of France despite sharing a border with it.  On the other hand, the Republic of South Africa has eleven official languages.
  • The island of Ireland is split in two, with Northern Ireland forming part of the United Kingdom.  On the other hand, the Kaliningrad Oblast is part of Russia despite being seperated from Moscow by several other European countries.


    (Source: Google Maps)

  • Nations are by no means static.  The Soviet union collapsed in 1991, East Timor separated from Indonesia in 2002, and Sudan split in two in 2011.

In 1882, French philosopher Ernst Renan wrote: “L’homme n’est esclave ni de sa race, ni de sa langue, ni de sa religion, ni du cours des fleuves, ni de la direction des chaînes de montagnes.” (Man is slave to not race, language, religion, the course of rivers, or the direction of mountain chains.)  Renan asserts that choice is the only factor in deciding what forms a nation, calling the existence of a nation a “daily plebiscite”.  Thus if the people of Hong Kong were to decide together that they were a separate nation, so it shall be.

This choice would have been ours.  In 1960, the United Nations declared that:

Immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.

A Non-Self-Governing Territory can be said to have reached a full measure of self-government by:

  1. Emergence as a sovereign independent State;
  2. Free association with an independent State;
  3. Integration with an independent State.

Integration should have come about in the following circumstances:

  1. The integrating territory should have attained an advanced stage of self-government with free political institutions, so that its people would have the capacity to make a responsible choice through informed and democratic processes;
  2. The integration should be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the territory’s peoples acting with full knowledge of the change in their status, their wishes having been expressed though informed and democratic processes, impartially conducted and based on universal adult suffrage. The United Nations could, when it deems necessary, supervise these processes.

(General Assembly Resolutions 1514 & 1541)

However, despite Hong Kong not having attained any of the conditions laid out in Resolution 1541, it has still been struck from the list of Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories kept by the UN.  Why is this?  In 1972, China sent a letter to the United Nations:

In connection with the questions of Hong Kong and Macau, I have the honour to state the following: As is known to all, the questions of Hong Kong and Macau belong to the category of questions resulting from the series of unequal treaties left over by history, treaties which the imperialists imposed on China. Hong Kong and Macau are part of Chinese territory occupied by the British and Portuguese authorities. The settlement of the questions of Hong Kong and Macau is entirely within China’s sovereign right and does not at all fall under the ordinary category of “Colonial Territories”. Consequently, they should not be included in the list of Colonial Territories covered by the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. With regard to the questions of Hong Kong and Macau, the Chinese Government has consistently held that they should be settled in an appropriate way when conditions are ripe. The United Nations has no right to discuss these questions. For the above reasons, the Chinese delegation is opposed to including Hong Kong and Macau in the list of Colonial Territories covered by the Declaration and requests that the erroneous wording that Hong Kong and Macau fall under the category of so-called “Colonial Territories” be immediately removed from the documents of the Special Committee and all other United Nations documents.

China’s argument above rests on the fact that the “unequal treaties” were invalid, meaning that China still had sovereign right over Hong Kong despite British administration. However, the term “non-self-governing” in Resolution 1514 concerns itself only with administration of a territory and does not invoke the concept of sovereignty. This is also seen in Article 73 of the UN Charter, which uses the term “administration” and does not mention sovereignty. Therefore, Hong Kong must be seen as a non-self-governing territory for which Resolution 1514 applies.

Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and…

It is also possible for a territory to be reinstated on the list of non-self-governing territories, as with the case of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

While all this talk about international law is fine, where does this distinct Hong Kong identity come from? While protectionism against an authoritarian regime up north is a major factor, it is by no means the only one.  Indeed part of it stems simply from having been separated from China for 99 or 137 or 155 years (depending on the part of Hong Kong).  It is only natural that Hong Kong has grown apart from China during that time.

There is also the fact that Hong Kong is treated as a separate entity even by China.  Hong Kongers need a special pass to “return” to the “mainland”, and the PRC reserves the right not to issue these passes to certain people, for example most (all?) of the pan-democrats in the Legislative Council.  Hong Kong is seen by many mainlanders of undeserving of the “aid” that it “gets” from China, for example it’s water from the Dongjiang which it actually pays an arm and a leg for.  The disruption of the local economy by mainland shoppers is instead viewed as “financial aid”.


(via Badcanto)

“Hong Kong sons of b***ches, without us, China, what glory would you have?  Oppose us?  See all 7 million of you in hell!”

The PLA has even conducted exercises apparently designed for the sole purpose of scaring Hong Kong into submitting to its rule:

In this sense, Hong Kongers are like Tibetians to the Chinese: not Chinese, but an inferior class of people needing “liberation”.

(via the Shanghaiist)

This superiority complex carried by the Chinese is despite them coming to Hong Kong in droves for milk powder, primary school places, and whatnot.

It should come as no surprise that this animosity is reciprocal.  As such, there is a small but significant group of Hong Kongers who wish for more complete home rule.  Will the home rule movement become a full-fledged independence movement, as it did in India?  Perhaps China can answer this question, through the way it continues to treat us.


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2 thoughts on “Hong Kong identity, Hong Kong nation?

  1. Bai Yueh June 5, 2013 at 7:51 am Reply

    Incorrect, Han is a cultural entity group; most of 58 minorities influenced its culture to its current state. Most Southern Chinese (in this case point, Pearl River Delta region) are descendants of southern minorities such as the Zhuang, Dai, Yao, Miao, etc. Eventhough its true, that there were Northern migrants during ancient times our culture is still Bai Yueh influenced. My family have facial features typical of Yao and Zhuang people. Cantonese language is a mixed language of both Tang dynasty words and native Daic derived words. Even more, the Tang dynasty is argued to be greatly influenced by the Xi rong tribe (Western Barbarians). Chinese Han is not a race, but Mongoloid is a race.

  2. Bai Yueh June 5, 2013 at 8:01 am Reply

    Hong Kongese must rediscover their ancient roots and that our ancestors were not “Malay monkies”. This degrading name calling method is used to deny us of our history. The minorities were not backwards ppl, and Huaxia ppl borrow a lot from the other tribes. A Baak Lo person once told me that originally ppl in Guangdong, Fujian, etc. did not know how to farm until Huaxia migrants came, I call out the bullshit! Rice terminology and word involved with rice agriculture were linguistically derived from Miao people (Hmong), this suggests that Southerners were rice agriculturalists for ages.

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