Problems with Nationalism

I never believe in nationalism. Ethnically, I can be defined as Chinese. My maternal and paternal grandparents came from Guangdong (it was called Canton at that time) (廣東) to Hong Kong in 1930s. My parents were born in Hong Kong and so was I. Except for a few remote relatives I met when I was a child, I don’t have any relatives in China. So, naturally, how can people like me feel strongly that China is my motherland?

One of the moments that I felt about being a “Chinese” was during the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. It was really a vivid memory for me when I watched the news on TV and joined other Hong Kong people to march on the streets when I was 12 years old. I must say that a 12-year-old can understand quite a lot of what’s happening although we were not as vocal as young people nowadays when we were that young, thanks to the apolitical environment in education during the colonial era.

Another moment that I really felt about being a “Chinese” was taking lessons in Chinese history in Form 1 to Form 3. I scored quite well in that subject and world history although pretty bad in other other subjects. Also, I was crazy playing the computer game of “The Three Kingdoms” with some classmates and could remember most of the names of the characters.

Other than those moments, I have to admit that I only feel myself being a Hong Konger, speaking Cantonese most of the time and speaking English with Hong Kong accent and writing English with all the typical grammatical mistakes like other Hong Kongers.

For those who were born in 1980s or later, I don’t see why they need to be told to feel that they are “Chinese” while they can’t emphasize their identity as Hong Kongers?

Although I have been working on China’s human rights issues for the past decade, I still very much feel that I’m a Hong Konger instead of a Chinese.

However, I never agree with some of the radical localists’ positions and comments to demonize all the mainland Chinese people. It should be the authoritarian regime in China which we should target at, but not the people. The people in mainland China have been heavily controlled by the regime for so long. It’s no longer the China we know from learning ancient Chinese history. The China we see today is Communist China.

All in all, nationalism always makes people crazy about fighting one another by labelling one another as “traitors” or “insulting a nation”. It’s 21st century. We live in a world connected with internet and it’s much easier for us to travel to other places. Can we get rid of this kind of stupid nationalism? If all the conflicts about nationalism and localism are just about personal interests, it’s just a big shame.



  1. Fandrie · June 22, 2017

    Hi Heunggongyan, greetings from a Singaporean. 😊. I greatly admire the tenacity of the Hongkongers in pushing for more respect for human rights and autonomy from china. I can very well understand your feelings of being a Hongkonger rather than chinese. I can’t really relate to how Hongkongers can feel more chinese than hongkonger. I would like to ask you a couple of questions:

    1) Was there a gradual but noticeable Cultural change (be it in quality of education or changes in service quality) in Hongkong after the hand over of HongKong? I know there are many more tourists from mainland to Hongkong , but this is a global phenomenon.

    2) Do you think they will be more emigration of Hongkongers after this year? This year being 2017. Thanks.


    • heunggongyan · June 23, 2017

      Hello! Thanks for your comments and questions. I try to answer your questions. I don’t want to overgeneralize but we can see more traces of mainland Chinese influence in our popular culture and daily life, such as advertisements and TV commercials and TV programmes. There are of course many mainland Chinese tourists as you have pointed out that it’s a global phenomenon. As Hong Kong is so close to mainland China, just cross the border, the number of mainland Chinese tourists is much more than other places. Again, I don’t want to overgenerlize. Some of them have pretty strange behaviours but not all.
      On the second question, there’s a quota for mainland Chinese to apply for HK residency. I haven’t checked the government’s data and thid year’s data is not available yet as it’s only June. However, we can see that there’s an increase of immigration of mainland Chinese in recent years.


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