Are Hong Kongers Chinese?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 12, 2012
Summary: The Pan Democrats did not do as well as expected. Has Hong Kong's democracy "hit a wall?" Speculation is superfluous. After all, clashes in beliefs, and divisions and reconciliations are to be expected under democracy. They are a necessary learning experience for political parties within a democracy. One thing is worth watching. The student movement has inspired the current generation of students. The younger generation is likely to become the prime mover in the Hong Kong community. The Beijing authorities, the Hong Kong government, and the democrats need to be prepared. Only then will they be ready for the next wave of democratic challenges.
Full Text below:
Hong Kongers' "Oppose National Education" campaign succeeded. But it did not lead to Democratic Party victories at the Legislative Council polls. This paradox is worth pondering. Actually, it is not that difficult to explain. One. This particular student campaign was directed more at the Hong Kong government than at Beijing. Two. Radical elements within the Pan Democrat forces split off and scored victories. This was definitely a result of the student movement. This led to in a shift in the political spectrum. Three. The Legislative Council is not a product of universal suffrage. Four. The Pan Democrats failed to allocate their votes. They won votes but lost seats.
By chance, the "Oppose National Education" campaign coincided with the Legislative Council elections. It revealed Hong Kong's complex social psychology and political dynamics. Following Hong Kong's retrocession in 1997, Hong Kongers wanted assurances their interests would be preserved and that "one country, two systems" would be honored. These motivated demonstrations opposing Article 23 of the Basic Law and supporting the direct election of the Chief Executive. This time the government imposed "moral and national education." Emotionally this was an even more severe assault on Hong Kongers's feelings.
Put simply, the motive for "Moral and National Education" was the sense that Hong Kongers did not identify closely enough wtih Mainland China. Put simply, if one refuses to undergo national education, is one still Chinese? A poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong earlier this year suggests that only 17% of all Hong Kongers consider themselves "Chinese." The survey is controversial. But the Beijing authorities are unhappy with the figure. The anxiety felt by Mainland officials In Hong Kong can be imagined.
The notion that as citizens, one ought to accept National Education is superficially plausible. But Hong Kong primary and secondary schools have long included civics and social studies classes. When it comes to social order and social ethics, can anyone really argue that Hong Kongers take a back seat to Mainlanders? Hong Kong was returned to China fifteen years ago. Does anyone still doubt Hong Kongers' Chinese identity? Is it really necessary to impose outdated notions of patriotism and nationalism on the next generation? Is this progress or retrogression?
The best way to increase Hong Kongers' identification with the Chinese nation, is to enhance the prosperity of Mainland China. Democracy and progress are like the fable "The North Wind and the Sun." Hong Kongers are willing to be Chinese, identify with China, and take pride in being Chinese. But the government has adopted a "North Wind" strategy. It has called for unified teaching guidelines, standard textbooks, and school sanctions against teachers who refuse to cooperate. Such administrative high-handedness is bound to provoke a backlash.
One thing in particular angers Hong Kongers. The Hong Kong Department of Education written lesson guidelines includes numerous teaching examples. One example addresses the national flag. It reads, "When the national flag is raised, I feel truly excited. At such a moment, I feel proud to be Chinese ... My eyes tear up. What an exciting moment!" One young father who participated in the protest said, "Suppose my children read this lesson, then saw me fail to weep during the raising of the five-star flag? Would they report me to the authorities for lack of patriotism?"
Does linking "patriotism" to such details really contribute to a stronger sense of national identity or righteous patriotism? It is highly doubtful. By contrast, when Hong Kongers are asked whether they are "Hong Kongers" or "Chinese," they instinctively answer "Hong Kongers." Does this mean they do not identify with China? Hong Kong culture is different from Mainland culture. Hong Kong was colonized by Great Britain for half a century. Hong Kong is heterogeneous. These facts must be respected. This does not mean Hong Kongers should be perceived as "aliens." This does not mean they should be transformed and remoulded. Why are Hong Kongers not Chinese? Who can say that Hong Kongers are not sufficiently "Chinese?"
Only 17% of Hong Kongers consider themselves "Chinese." Following the "Oppose National Education" demonstrations, can the pro-Bejing establishment retain the upper hand in Legislative Council elections? Beijng probably ought to take a closer look. In recent years, Hong Kongers' "Hong Konger consciousness" has increased. This reflects concerns about the loss of Hong Kong's unique characteristics and autonomy. In response, Beijing ought to make concessions. It ought to give Hong Kongers more space. It should not speculate about their lack of patriotism or attempt to impose improper constraints.
The Pan Democrats did not do as well as expected. Has Hong Kong's democracy "hit a wall?" Speculation is superfluous. After all, clashes in beliefs, and divisions and reconciliations are to be expected under democracy. They are a necessary learning experience for political parties within a democracy. One thing is worth watching. The student movement has inspired the current generation of students. The younger generation is likely to become the prime mover in the Hong Kong community. The Beijing authorities, the Hong Kong government, and the democrats need to be prepared. Only then will they be ready for the next wave of democratic challenges.