Chinese Academic Puts the Bite on Hong Kong

Chinese professor and descendant of Confucius, Kong Qingdong, recently said in an interview that people from Hong Kong are “dogs” and “bastards” in response to a video of a mainland tourist and Hong Konger fighting on the subway. His statements have sparked a heated reaction from Hong Kong residents. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Furious at the remarks, scores of protesters gathered outside the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, Beijing’s main representative office in Hong Kong. Several paraded pet dogs and banners denouncing the Beijing academic. ”We are not dogs,” the protesters shouted.

A survey of public opinion last month found feelings of kinship with the rest of China had declined since Britain pulled out in 1997. The number of respondents who said they viewed themselves as Hong Kongers was more than double the number who saw themselves as Chinese.

Professor Kong made his remarks after footage of a quarrel between mainlanders and Hong Kongers appeared on the internet last week. The video, which attracted widespread attention on the mainland, showed a Hong Kong passenger on the city’s subway system telling a noodle-munching mainlander in Cantonese that eating on the train is forbidden. A shouting match erupted and continued on the platform after someone pressed the emergency button. 

Leading Hong Kong politicians swiftly denounced the Beijing academic, who is well-known in China for his sharp tongue and hard-edged nationalist views.

Professor Kong’s comments coming amid increasing questions about Hong Kong and mainland relations, including fears in Hong Kong over a mainland baby boom on the territory. Time adds:

Hong Kong’s colonial past is one reason why many see such a rigid delineation between “us” and “them.” Large numbers of Hong Kong Chinese retain British or other foreign travel documents and take a balanced view of the colonial era — viewing it as a time of racial or social injustices, certainly, but also as source of many of the city’s defining advantages, including common law, a global outlook and media freedom. These have been contributing factors in a distinctive local culture that has long caused many Hong Kong people to quietly regard themselves as being far from ordinary Chinese. These days, however, the issue of identity is spilling into a more public forum.

A University of Hong Kong public-opinion poll that has been conducted every six months since 1997 measures the number of Hong Kong residents who identify as Hong Kong citizens, Chinese citizens or some combination of the two. In the latest survey, released in December, the number of respondents identifying themselves first and foremost as Hong Kong citizens was the highest in 10 years, while the number who saw themselves primarily as Chinese sunk to a 12-year low. The results hit a nerve: mainland officials called the poll unscientific, and state-run media lashed out at the survey’s main organizer, accusing him of working for the British to “incite Hong Kong people to deny they are Chinese.”

The area of greatest contention lies in the numbers of pregnant women from the mainland entering Hong Kong to give birth, which automatically grants the babies residency, as well as the free schooling and high-quality health care that goes along with it. In 2010, 37% of babies born in Hong Kong were to mainland families where neither parent was a Hong Kong resident. It has become alarmingly difficult for pregnant women, local or otherwise, to reserve hospital beds in the maternity ward, even after the number of mainland women allowed in Hong Kong hospitals was capped at 34,400 for this year.

A week ago, dozens of pregnant women marched in protest in the cold and rain. The women, along with hundreds more husbands and other supporters, were calling for a legislative change to overturn automatic right of abode through local birth. “If [mainland people] come here for the resources and welfare and are not contributing, then it’s a problem. It is out of control now,” said Zumi Fung, an expectant mother who was part of the protest. The Facebook group of 80,000 members that organized the demonstration has become a forum to vent vitriol at the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong, who are called by the derogatory term “locusts” and much worse.

January 24, 2012 4:58 PM
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Categories: Hong Kong, Society