2012 has been a remarkable year in terms of the Hong Kong identity. There have been so many issues but none so prevalent as those that have manifested in prejudice.
The hot topic of anti-Mainlander sentiment in Hong Kong has seldom been out of the news in the first half of this year. Whether it be growing animosity regarding the numbers of Mainlanders without residence in Hong Kong going to (in some cases extreme Lengths) to give birth, or the introduction of a scheme to allow Mainland tourists to drive across the boarder when they come on holiday. Even in today’s South China Morning Post the Hong Kong identity was dealt another blow when research by academics suggested that Putonghua had the potential to erase the Cantonese language from the territory in the next 50 years.
There are some real issues behind all of these stories and they have been well represented in the news in one form or another. I am not concerned here with the major strengths and weaknesses of the different arguments. I am more deeply interested in how all this is coming to bear on the Hong Kong identity.
This was pulled into sharp relief for me when an incident at an inter-school football match spawned a slew of racism and anti-Western sentiment. Focussed for the most part on an 11 year old boy. Again the vilification of certain parties was wildly generalised, but it revealed the deep barriers of difference within Hong Kong society. It showed to me in the most distinct way that the Hong Kong identity, for all its cosmopolitan associations, despite being a city of immigrants and potential migrants elsewhere, it does have a culture of deeply local ties.
But the catalyst for this post was really an article on the underlying tensions with new arrival Mainland migrants in Singapore, their wealth, and a recent and devastating car crash. Here is the article presented via the BadCanto blog. It talks about how many of the issues that Hong Kongers face, are also concerns for the citizens of Singapore.
Big changes seldom change the important things. It is the changes that occur afterwards, the everyday nuances that end up being the most significant. Everyone recognised that 1997 would alter Hong Kong. But everyone was surprised at how long it took for the social issues to manifest in real resentment. The Dolce and Gabana clash earlier this year showed just how much has changed. Mainland Chinese now have a considerable amount of wealth, power, property, and commercial punch. The key trait of Hong Kongers, as high profile consumers, has been encroached upon by the new rich of China.
The next 6 months promise to be as volatile as the ones we have just seen. But one thing to ponder is that whilst the Hong Kong identity hangs in the balance, our Singapore story reminds us that Mainland Chinese and the new global role of China has made huge impacts across internationally.
Changes have come and the adaptations are clearly visible in places like USA, Europe, and throughout Africa (Stevie says it best). So whilst Hong Kong battles to adapt to these new circumstances, it can rest assured that it is not going through change alone.