Some Comments on China’s White Paper on Hong Kong

China both sickens and scares me. But not in the sense that I would suppress my speech to appease it. (All of the following quotes were taken from the People’s Republic of China state mouthpiece People’s Daily.)

The white paper said the policy enjoys growing popularity in Hong Kong, winning the wholehearted support from Hong Kong compatriots as well as people in all other parts of China. It is also thought highly by the international community.

The term “compatriot” eerily rings of communism: compatriot, comrade, communism… The phrase “wholehearted support” would explain the recent June 4th demonstration and the existence of groups like Scholarism, and the whole premise behind the recently-released documentary film, Lessons in Dissent.

The paper called for fully and accurately understanding the meaning of “one country, two systems” policy, saying that “the high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralized power.”

So China apparently has no regard for the concept of natural rights, not that that really is a new tidbit of information. And oh, the vagueness of the phrase “a high degree of autonomy.” It’s so intentionally vague, so delicately phrased so that both China and Britain could interpret it as they willed in order to allow the Sino-British Joint Declaration to smoothly come to pass as it did.

The white paper called for resolutely safeguarding the authority of the country’s Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong, adding the Hong Kong people who govern Hong Kong “should above all be patriotic.”

I guess you could say Hong Kong people are patriotic. But to whom? If the term “patriotic” could be extended to a city, or if Hong Kong could become an independent country, as some hope, Hong Kong people are considerably patriotic.

Hong Kong

(Image of 2012 protests against National Education from Philippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images via the New York Times)

Hong Kong people, please fight for your rights.

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Hong Kong Autonomy Movement

(Image taken from badcanto.wordpress.com)

I’m not sure how I came across this, but often times on the Internet, one website or video provides a link or reference to another, and as I try to learn more about Hong Kong, I came across the Hong Kong Autonomy Movement. The Hong Kong Autonomy Movement, I believe, is known for its members who wave the British Hong Kong colonial flag of old at protests and on a variety of occasions to express resistance to the Chinese Communist Party. They are those who are denounced by Chinese officials for longing to return to “mistreatment” under the British and demonstrating a lack of gratefulness towards the so-called motherland that provides for Hong Kong’s needs.

But upon reading the little English content published on its blog, I realize that its ideas and actions are not as repulsive or threatening as the Chinese Communist Party perceives it to be; it lists its objectives on its blog as:

  • Universal Suffrage

  • A Hong Kong Government which makes policies for the needs and interests of Hong Kong people

  • Long term housing and land policies to ensure the quality of life of Hong Kong people

  • To reinvigorate the local industries and agriculture

  • To reformulate immigration policy; to regain full authority in approving immigrants from Mainland China

  • To review the constitutional framework under the Basic Law

  • To defend the city-state of Hong Kong, and to reject ‘mainlandisation’ policies such as the “Action Plan for the Bay Area of the Pearl River Estuary” and the brainwashing of our children in the name of “Moral and National Education”

  • To establish local language policies and to protect the Hong Kong culture

  • To review Hong Kong’s currency standard and monetary policies to strengthen Hong Kong’s financial autonomy

Its name is quite self-explanatory: HKAM, as it is abbreviated, desires not so much independence, but Hong Kong’s due freedoms and autonomy, and a government that truly seeks Hong Kong’s interests first.
HKAM is largely made up of young, idealistic Hong Kongers, as many local Hong Kong movements advocating universal suffrage or protection of Hong Kong’s unique culture are; I believe it largely organizes on Facebook. Something I find interesting about it is its explanation for its use of the colonial emblem:
A Cultural Reinterpretation of the Dragon-Lion Emblem of Hong Kong

The Emblem of the Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement symbolizes protection through the combination of the dragon and the lion, that is, the distillation and blending of the best parts of the Chinese and British traditions. The Hong Kong flag of the Chinese dragon and the British lion embodies the spirit of merging Chinese and British cultures, honours the history of Hong Kong, and guards the city-state of Hong Kong. This flag inherits the Hong Kong Ensign under British rule. With the newly added Chinese characters, 香港 (Hong Kong), and the white background changed to the free and noble blue, it symbolizes Hong Kong people keeping their foothold in Hong Kong, sustaining themselves, and autonomously ruling themselves.

The dragon rides on the heavens and the lion strides across the earth. The merging of the lion and dragon means the dragon walking on earth and the lion soaring to the sky. In the face of the Communist Chinese wolf, the people of Hong Kong are not lambs but the vigorous offspring of the Chinese dragon and British lion. Just like a lion mounting the clouds and a tiger with wings, we cannot be put on the same par as the wolf and we will not be in the same room with it.

The Coat of Arms of Hong Kong was designed by the British College of Arms, and it represented Hong Kong between 1959 and 1997. Elegant and noble, upright and balanced, this flag has been familiar to the people of Hong Kong, and it contains Hong Kong’s culture and history. According to The Book of Songs, “Although Zhou is an old state, its mission is to reform and to renew.” The Hong Kong Autonomy Movement reinterprets this flag as follows:

The dragon belongs to the Chinese tradition, symbolizing viability and flexibility; Hong Kong is the repository and guardian of Chinese culture. The lion belongs to the British tradition, symbolizing justice and bravery. Hong Kong is the inheritor and promoter of British culture. The people of Hong Kong are the offspring of the dragon and the lion, the hybrid child of Chinese and British cultures. The shield jointly guarded and supported by the dragon and the lion standing on the territory of Hong Kong symbolizes Hong Kong’s state of being civilized and cultured. The tower above the shield symbolizes the city-state of Hong Kong; the crown on top of the tower symbolizes Hong Kong’s inheriting the full cultural traditions and making herself a king. The junks on the sea stand for Hong Kong’s history as a trading port as well as the adventurous sea-faring spirit. The crown worn by the big lion symbolizes the fact that Hong Kong was once ruled by the British monarch; the small lion holding the dragon pearl symbolizes the ruler of the city-state of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Autonomy Movement preserves the crown for two reasons:- Firstly, to inherit noble spirit, secondly, to make Hong Kong a king forming a constitutional, republican and democratic government and ruling with benevolence and righteousness.

Note: As Hong Kong lacked discussions about city-state autonomy before 1997, no spiritual signs or heraldries have been left, and up till now, a common symbol for Hong Kong is not available. Our adoption of the dragon-lion flag aims at impelling and inspiring the people of Hong Kong by means of a familiar sign. Moreover, as the significance of the original flag has seldom been explored by the people of Hong Kong, it is susceptible to a brand new interpretation. Certain left-wing participants in local resistance movements may find it hard to tolerate our borrowing the cultural sign of the British colony, and may insist on decolonizing Hong Kong and bringing Hong Kong citizens back to the chainless primal state before resisting the tyranny of the local government and of the CCP. We think that this is impracticable. First of all, we cannot possibly return to the primal state. This kind of attempt at decolonization is doomed to fail and thus tolerable to the CCP. In addition, in order to deal with tyranny and struggle with the new colonizer, we must have resources, even resources given to us by the former colonizer. Without weapons, especially a familiar one, one is unable to fight.

Using my meager Chinese literacy, I have surmised that HKAM finds much inspiration in professor Chin Wan’s (陳雲) Hong Kong as a City-State (香港城邦論). Below, I’ve listed the English content I found on HKAM’s blog thus far:
http://hkam2011.blogspot.com/2011/09/hkam-outline.html (This was the post I block-quoted from.)
http://hkam2011.blogspot.com/2011/06/flag-that-is-truly-ours-cultural.html (This seems like a modification of the interpretation of the flag I posted above.)
But if you were to ask me which post I linked to read if you only had time to read one, I would tell you to read this one, posted by what I believe to be of an external organization/person:
I feel that this above link does a good job of helping me sort out my thoughts about HKAM and Hong Kongers’ demonstrations of resistance to the Chinese Communist Party in general; at times it seems that there is little insight or analysis on Hong Kong written in English.

What “Xiqu Centre” Really Means

When I searched “Xiqu Centre” on the Internet, I came across an article where the comments largely voiced the opinion that the Chinese opera center to be erected in West Kowloon is rightfully named “Xiqu” because “Xiqu” is Chinese opera in its native language.

But I felt that those comments were missing the point. Because what first came to my mind was that “Xiqu” may be used to denote “Chinese opera,” but “Xiqu” is not the native term of Hong Kong, the place where the center is to be built. The matter of calling the center “Xiqu” is not about whether or not it is appropriate to give a building an English name based on its native pronunciation; in certain instances, this is okay. However, this issue is about whether it is okay to call something in English/romanized characters according to its pronunciation in a language that is neither English nor native to the area.

The proposed center is to highlight Cantonese opera – a musical genre of the Cantonese-speaking regions that is comparable to western opera. This center will be in Hong Kong – a predominantly Cantonese-speaking community. Cantonese opera, in its native language, is pronounced jyut6 kek6 (粵劇), or if using the general term “Chinese opera,” the Cantonese pronunciation is hei3 kuk1. “Xiqu” is not only a name foreign to potential non-ethnic Chinese tourists to Hong Kong, but also to the people who invented the very musical genre itself, and were the first to accept and enjoy it. [My grandma has long enjoyed Cantonese opera, and she surely would not understand the term “Xiqu” even if it were pronounced in perfect Mandarin.] I think that undermining the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin, along with those between Hong Kong and the Mainland, does a great deal of harm to the culture of Cantonese HongKongers. Mandarin is by no means the native language, yet is asserted by mainland Chinese and westerners alike as if it is. Hong Kong is considered subject to the People’s Republic of China or the Chinese Communist Party even as it does not seem rightfully so.

Such instances of imposition of Mandarin or Mainland culture on Hong Kong people perhaps are not too big of a deal if they remain small and isolated, but they are very capable of igniting more anti-PRC/CCP sentiment within Hong Kong and leading HongKongers to believe that they can only protect themselves by waving the Hong Kong colonial flag or by declaring their desires for Hong Kong independence. And Beijing’s (at times, over-exaggerated) responses only further fuel anti-“Chinese” sentiment within Hong Kong, as HongKongers identify such governmental actions as infringements on the Basic Law and on Hong Kong’s autonomy and on civil rights. While obviously not quite extreme, such events remind me of the American Revolution and the British government’s mishandling of the situation as in trying to quell very preliminary signs of revolution, the government turned to aggression that only exacerbated the anti-mainland sentiment.

In the U.S., we talk about embracing diversity and learning “foreign” languages spoken by some of our peers – Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, etc. On the other hand, in China, you are taught to speak Mandarin first (understandably, to communicate with others) at the expense of your native “dialect” (which is actually a topolect): Confine the context in which you speak your native language to your close family and few friends; refrain from speaking it outside; it is improper because it is not attached to a recognized independent state. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the reason why Cantonese and other “dialects” cannot be recognized as “languages” is primarily due to politics. Because Europe is made up of many independent states while China is just one independent state made up of dependent provinces. Politics, in terms of language, means that yours is irrelevant if it is not unique to or recognized by an independent state as a national language.

In situations like this, I cannot help but muse that Hong Kong’s autonomy either needs to be enforced (perhaps by foreign countries, as much as this seems impossible), or Hong Kong needs independence.*

But really, I can’t help but fear: what’s next? Will Hong Kong really become “Xianggang”?

*Again, impossible, but I can dream, right?