20th November 2013
The Rise of Indigenousness in Hong Kong
Debates over the topics of localist, nativism, “Hong Kongers first”, new immigrants, “New Hong Kongers” have been intense these days. Some raise a few fundamental questions: What is indigenousness? How do you define a localist? Is the idea of “Hong Kongers first” the same as “discriminating against new immigrants”?
From the civil rights perspective, the definition of “local” and “Hong Konger” is simple: those who live in Hong Kong, including migrants who have lived in Hong Kong for over seven years as the rights every Hong Kong permanent resident enjoys are equal. For those who have not resided in Hong Kong for seven years (before becoming permanent residents) their rights are limited which is an international accepted norm. For example, they can not apply for social welfare, public housing, or apply for civil servant jobs.
Society for Community Organization recently claimed that the government discriminates against new immigrants by imposing these policies. One can only conclude that organisations or individuals who share this kind of view do not understand what “discrimination” is. If new immigrants in Hong Kong, regardless of their origins, enjoy exactly the same rights as permanent residents of Hong Kong , it is unfair to Hong Kong permanent residents who have been paying tax (including direct and indirect taxes) for years.
The definition of Hong Konger is similar to that any other countries in the world define its citizens. Hong Kongers include different race and colour. The raise of indigenousness is not about the definition of locals or natives, but the indigenous awareness. Localists, including both individuals and groups, are referring to those who have indigenous awareness. Besides treating Hong Kong as the permanent home, indigenous awareness also includes the persistence in supporting the reasonable notion that Hong Kongers’ rights are the priorities, but not sacrifising Hong Kongers’ interests in order to support people outside of Hong Kong, nor allowing other foreign power to bully Hong Kong. Indigenous awareness also include safeguarding rule of law, freedoms, fair competition and other core values that took Hong Kong over a hundred of years to build, as well as Hong Kong’s culture and traditions – which evolved mainly from Chinese culture and traditions. Non ethnic Chinese Hong Kongers have their tradition as well, which are protected by law and are not being eroded.
Indigenous awareness did not exist in Hong Kong during the British rule and the early years after the handover. Hong Kongers do not only enjoy the fair and free competition and stable living which are protected by law, we also lived a life that comprised of ancient Chinese culture, traditions and Southern language and lifestyle. In general, Hong Kongers were not politically aware in the past. Those who are more politically aware concern only on the changes of Greater China (the relationship between Taiwan and China), they supported reforms, anti-Japanese invasion, the establishment of “New China” but extremely rarely look into local interests in Hong Kong. Myself and some of those who fought for China and Hong Kong’s democracy transformed from a Greater China focused to local interests. The Chinese migrated to Hong Kong in the past few decades that are politically aware would focus on Greater China, but they try to integrate into Hong Kong and identify themselves with Hong Kong’s rule of law, freedoms and lifestyle, and also learn Cantonese and English (the two official languages in Hong Kong).
However, in the recent decade, China experienced substantial changes but rule of law has yet to be established. Authoritarian government and post-economic reform crony capitalism have changed the society as well as the people. Han Han, a Chinese young author, wrote an article after his brief visit in Taiwan last year. He said, “I am disappointed by the environment I live in: the first few decades (the government) taught people to be cruel and struggle, and the last few decades it nurtures people’s greed and selfishness. Therefore, deep down in many of us (Chinese) the seeds of these traits been sowed. I am disappointed by the fact that our elders destroyed our culture, our traditional virtues, the trust between human beings, believes and consensus, but failed to build a better world. The younger generation, including myself, do not know if we could repair all the damages done and do not know if we should continue to destroy what’s left. I am disappointed because we do not know if our offspring can live in a place that is based on mutual understanding instead of harming each others. I am disappointed… we seem to care about nothing besides self-interests and rivalry between people.” Han Han also wrote about Hong Kong in his piece, “I want to thank Hong Kong and Taiwan. They have preserved the traditional Chinese culture, and safeguarded the good traditions and behaviours of the Chinese race, so that core values are saved from destruction… Everything we (Chinese) have lost, they (Hong Kongers and Taiwanese) have preserved. What we lack are the very things that would have made us proud.”
By reading Han Han’s article, one can understand why is there a raise of indigenous awareness in Hong Kong and why more and more Hong Kongers want to protect Hong Kong. Although the seeds of “cruel, brutal, greed and selfishness” traits are not planted within all new immigrants from China, their common mentality of benefiting from those in power have drive them to side with the political parties that offer monetary or material benefits and become the a major source of votes for the pro-China camp. With the strong financial background and absolute political power, pan-democrats in Hong Kong stand no chance of educating them about democracy and freedoms.
The core of indigenousness in Hong Kong is to protect Hong Kong. Not just the core values, but the precious ancient Chinese culture, traditions and virtues. Whether or not we can help stop China from “being destroyed further” is not up to Hong Kong localists. “Reducing population increase at source” and take back One-Way Permit approval right are the strongholds localists should focus on in order to prevent Hong Kong from falling.
A comment I received recently, “I have been observing at the Family Court Office. There is always a long queue of people apply for a divorce, the majority of these women are Mandarin speakers, and these ‘couples’ do not seem like couples who are about to get divorce. Why do the Hong Kong SAR Government and some of the Legco members still believe those immigrants from China are moving to Hong Kong to reunite with their families?”
It is fine that there are disagreements between localists, the most important thing is that we all support the indigenous awareness which is about protecting Hong Kong. Even though you are a Greater China reunification supporter, you can understand why Han Han said that only Hong Kong and Taiwan “have preserved the traditional Chinese culture, and safeguarded the good traditions and behaviours of the Chinese race”. We have no other choice but to safeguard Hong Kong and the “Hong Kongers first” principle, and resist the Chief Executive’s policies that are designed to please China.
Lee Yee – Public Affairs Commentator