The answer to that million-dollar question is not black and white. As the saying goes, “It’s complicated.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in a deep well, you would have been made aware of the Hong Kong protests in national and local media.
Where, when and how will these protests end? Will they hasten Hong Kong’s demise? Or will the million-strong protesters stave off Beijing’s power grab?
Whether we side with the pro-democracy protesters or the pro-Beijing camp, we have to admit there are differences in the way things were run in the past and now, and how things will be.
So, is Hong Kong China?
Hong Kong was ceded to the British by the Chinese as a result of being defeated in the two Opium Wars in the 1800s (1839-1842 and, again, 1856-1860). It was handed back to the Chinese in 1997 under the agreement the former British colony would enjoy another 50 years of autonomy and to be known as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). This is where China’s “One country, two systems” come into play. Hong Kong will retain its own currency, legal system (completely distinct from Beijing’s and is based on British common law) and parliamentary system until 2047. The official languages are English and Cantonese, as opposed to mainland’s Mandarin.
Culturally, too, there are differences. Hong Kong may maintain Chinese traditions and observe the many cultural festivities, its exposure to international media and influences make its citizens take on a much more metropolitan view and ideology than the Chinese in the mainland, who have known nothing but Communist rule.
In 2015, a Hong Kong designer posted a series of “Hong Kong is not China” illustrations on Facebook depicting the differences between Hong Kong and China in terms of cultural habits, socio- political, censorship, judicial structures, etc. with the purpose of telling the world how Hong Kongers differ from the Chinese mainlanders and to “Mourn the fact that Hong Kong has been ‘colonized’ by mainland China.” Albeit some may be tongue-in-cheek, differences, real or perceived, are there. Following are some illustrations from the series.
Hong Kongers are fighting for their identity and for Hong Kong’s rule of law. To quote a Washington Post (June 13, 2019) piece, Hong Kong is “a place that forged its own path in the shadows of colonial history and China’s imperial ambitions.” Its people possess a “’Chinglishness’ shaped by history, a pride that speaks to a certain lack of fear and a sense that being a Hong Konger unifies all else.”
The proposed extradition bill that caused one in seven Hong Kong residents to march in protest was only a catalyst that ignited the unfinished business from the 2014 Umbrella Movement. The more Beijing tightens the noose around Hong Kong, the more Hong Kongers will fight to preserve their unique identity and distance from China. To them, freedom is more than just another word.