Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hong Kong Disconnected with China

I came across this article in the Washington Post today about Hong Kong. According to Robert Chung of Hong Kong University's Public Opinion Program, "Hong Kongers" (I didn't know that's how they referred to themselves) identify very little with China.

This doesn't surprise me at all. I went to Hong Kong with my dad in July of 1990 and spent a week there. First of all, that city was a blast. I never had so much fun at a place like that.

When we went, it was still a British territory/colony. Dad explained that Hong Kong was under a century-long lease to the United Kingdom from China and that the city would return to Chinese control in 1997.

We never got deep into politics, as most 10-year-olds have very little concern with such things, but from time-to-time the subject would pop up. Dozens of times I might have seen a shop selling t-shirts that showed a painter painting a Chinese flag over the Union Jack and it read "Hong Kong: 1897 - 1997." Looking back, I can see it was likely intended to stir fears about China's impeding takeover.

One late afternoon, we were walking the city and came across a display by some anti-Chinese activists. The Tiananmen Square massacre happened only a year earlier, so the fears of an autocratic regime imposing its will on Hong Kong seemed very plausible. I saw pictures of some of the most violent and grotesque things people do to each other. One picture showed the body of a protester after it had been run over by a tank. If it were a Hollywood production, nobody would have bought it.

As of today, nothing of that sort has happened to Hong Kong since its transition. Today, China and Hong Kong recognize the "One Country, Two Systems" policy. It is a capitalist utopia existing inside a Maoist empire. But today's article in the WaPo got me thinking about how much sense Dr. Chung's survey made.

Because Hong Kong had been under British control for virtually all of today's Hong Konger's lives, why would anyone there identify with the mainland Chinese? Sure, they look alike, have the same names, and even speak the same language, but so do people in the American North and South.

Chinese officials and pro-communist party media has denounced the survey, calling it "unscientific" and an attempt to divide the people of Hong Kong from their compatriots. While the survey itself does make sense that people who were under British rule their whole lives feel little connection to their mainland counterparts, I'm more worried about any sort of crackdown on the city itself.

Hong Kong is like a paradise. The freedoms Hong Kongers enjoy is nothing like what you see on mainland China. I would hate to see it turn into another Beirut.

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