Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 8 News List

HK democracy calls must ontinue

By Hsu Tung-ming 許東明

Since the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, there has remained a suspicion that the residents of Hong Kong are not truly Chinese.

Their status is still in question, but the people of that territory are pushing for a clearer definition of who they are. Last July, demonstrators in Hong Kong largely protested against Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華), but this year, on the July 1 demonstration to mark the seventh anniversary of the handover, demonstrators were calling for greater democratic freedoms. This change in their demands expressed a desire for clarification of exactly where the territory stands in relation to China.

This year's large pro-democracy demonstration has probably bewildered Beijing authorities. Last year's demonstration was basically believed by Beijing to be the consequence of an economic downturn and the incompetence of Tung. Since then, from an economic perspective, Beijing has implemented closer economic partnership arrangements and has simplified Chinese tourists' applications to travel in Hong Kong as a way to revive Hong Kong's tourist industry. These measures have created a positive effect in Hong Kong's economy.

In China's furious assault on Hong Kong's media, on the other hand, the Democratic Party's (DP) quest for democracy was criticized as "pro-independence" and "unpatriotic." Even the People's Daily adopted the "patriotic" line on Beijing's clampdown of media personalities. Driven by the trend of critical judgements by the Chinese media on DP members, a few of Hong Kong's famous talk show hosts have been forced to leave their posts.

Beijing has been focusing on Hong Kong issues, and the primary reason is that Beijing regards Hong Kong as a display piece for "one country, two systems." If efficacious, the example could be applied to Taiwan and used to influence international opinion. Nonetheless, the Communist regime's handling of Hong Kong issues has in fact revealed some characteristics of existing Chinese nationalism. First, since China began to reform, it has been clinging to the core notion of "development above all else." China's perceptions of Hong Kong and Taiwan issues are seen from the same perspective, and are based on the belief that as long as China's economy continues to prosper, the Hong Kong and Taiwan issues will spontaneously be solved.

This kind of economy-first beliefs, in Chinese society, have precluded discussions of social equality, ethics and other issues related to what it means to have a good society. As to Hong Kong and Taiwan, despite intimate economic relationships, Beijing's ideology has ignored the complexity of the issue of national identity.

Another trait of today's Chinese nationalism is the stance of self-centered supremacy, prominently seen in the China-Hong Kong relationship. Many Chinese people believe that Hong Kong is merely a rich society with no history or culture -- only shallow popular arts. It is obvious that Hong Kong does not possess the advantage of 5,000 years of cultural heritage, of which Mainlanders are so proud, but during the colonial period, Hong Kongers, through their film industry, which is the world's third-largest, constructed their own national identity. The film industry expressed Hong Kongers' sense of identity even during the period of collective anxiety that preceded the handover in 1997.

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