HK Magazine Vintage Covers

Say No to National Identity

By Chip Tsao | Jan 06, 2011

Share this article

Since the 1997 handover, Hong Kong people have been regularly harassed by survey polls about their consciousness of “national identity.” Do you feel more like a “Hongkonger” or more “Chinese”?

My answers to the inquisitor vary from time to time depending on mood. I tend to say “Chinese,” but add a personal statement explaining why. I am proud of being Chinese for the time being, and I promise I’ll be three times prouder if General Secretary Hu Jintao declares war on India tomorrow and wins it, because I had a hot and heavy Indian meal at a Tandoori restaurant in Wan Chai last weekend, and I was given a hostile look by the Indian waiter upon receiving the bill when I queried why he had charged me for the ice-cream I hadn’t ordered.

Sometimes I choose “Hongkonger” just for the hell of it, like after a hot-springs vacation trip to Hokkaido. The reason: the Japanese immigration officer let me enter the country without hindrance after peeping briefly at my SAR passport with a respectful smile, but the Chinese man in the neighboring queue was stopped and given a hard time. The man made a scene, blustering in inscrutable and broken English, mentioning words like “the Rape of Nanjing” or “Diaoyu island,” or something.

Surveys like this are more or less a waste of time, because fence-sitting answers that depend on circumstances are not always reliable. Don’t tell me someone like Sir Donald Tsang is not proud of being British when he reveals his proper title on a name-tag on his chest at a Chatham House cocktail party in London. But when he’s the leader of the flock gathering in Golden Bauhinia Square on October 1, when he’s seen fighting back his tears while quivering his lips to the tune of China’s national anthem as the red flag rises—well, when you’re thinking of which side your bread is buttered on at that moment, it is only human to feel proud of being Chinese.

Surveys of this kind are more complicated than a Quebecois being asked whether he feels more Canadian or French. As dim sum eaters, most Hongkongers always consider themselves Cantonese first. If one has migrated to the Chinatown in Vancouver for ten years, he considers himself Canadian. A Hong Kong Canadian Cantonese friend of mine once told me he felt like being a Tibetan when he talked to the Dalai Lama in a state of meditation as a Buddhist. Ethnographically, I am Mongolian and I occasionally identify myself with Genghis Khan, and Ulan Bator as my capital rather than Beijing, or even “Victoria”—as they printed in 1940s British geography textbooks. To borrow a quote from Woody Allen: “I can’t understand why more people aren’t bisexual. It would double your chances for a date on Saturday night.”

Related Articles

Since the 1997 handover, Hong Kong people have been regularly harassed by survey polls about their consciousness of “national identity.” Do you feel more like a “Hongkonger” or more “Chinese”? My answers to the inquisitor vary from time to time depending…
Calling the few rocks between Okinawa and Taiwan the “Senkaku Islands” instead of “Diaoyutai” does not automatically make you guilty of treason; you are simply following the translation globally propagated by the suspenders-wearing editor of Reuters from his smoky newsroom. Nor…
Hong Kong people felt the same pain as 10,000 people or more were engulfed by the tsunami off the shore of Sendai last week. As Japan is bogged down in a morass unseen since World War II, it has received…
Question of Identity: The New Faces of Hong Kong
A Question of Identity Experts say that defining Hongkongers is difficult, to say the least. Before the handover, Hong Kong residents were engulfed in fear about the future. Would the values of their city, the ones distinct from those of mainland China,…
Identity Crisis
Born and bred in Hong Kong, Gill Mohindepaul Singh—who is better known by his Chinese stage name Kiu Bobo—Is a TVB actor of Indian descent. Though he is extremely popular in Hong Kong households, in part due to his comedic…
HK Magazine Sign Up Form
 


Sign up for HK News, Hot Deals, and Party Invites!


 
* Email


 
 
Prefer to read HK on your computer? Get your free PDF download by signing up to this. Delivered weekly

Exclusive deals and discounts from our partners. Delivered no more than twice a week

Plan your next 48 hours off with our curated list of happenings over the weekend. Delivered weekly

 
   


 
HK Magazine Vintage Covers
Barfly App by HK Magazine