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August 1997 



Occasional Paper No. 65 




Hongkongese or Chinese 

The Problem of Identity on the Eve of 
Resumption of Chinese Sovereignty 
over Hong Kong 



Lau Siu-kai 




Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies 

The Chinese University of Hong Kong 
Shatin, New Territories 
Hong Kong 



Canada-Hong Kong Resource Centre 

1 Spadina &escent, Rm !11 • Toronto, Canada • M5S 1A1 

Gift from 

HK Institute of Asian-Pacific Studio 
Chinese University of HK 



Hongkongese or Chinese 

The Problem of Identity on the Eve of Resumption 
of Chinese Sovereignty over Hong Kong 



Lau Siu-kai 



Canada-Hong Kong Resource Centre 

1 Spadina Crescent, Rm. Ill • Toronto, Canada • M5S 1A1 



Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies 

The Chinese University of Hong Kong 

Shatin, New Territories 

Hong Kong 



About the author 

Lau Siu-kai is Professor and Chairman, Department of Sociology, 
at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, as well as Associate 
Director of its Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. 



Acknowledgements 

I am grateful to the Research Grants Council of the Universities 
Grants Committee, the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies 
of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Center for 
Pacific Rim Studies of the University of California, Los Angeles, for 
funding the questionnaire surveys which provide the data for this 
study. I also like to thank Ms Wan Po-san, Mr Shum Kwok-cheung, 
Mr Cheung Yin-bun and Miss Cheung Shuk-man for their assis- 
tance in administering the surveys and in data analysis. 



Opinions expressed in the publications of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific 
Studies are the author's. They do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute. 



© Lau Siu-kai 1997 
ISBN 962-441-065-8 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without 
written permission from the author. 



Hongkongese or Chinese 

The Problem of Identity on the Eve of Resumption 
of Chinese Sovereignty over Hong Kong 



The recovery of Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong, the set- 
ting up of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region 
(HKSAR), and the implementation of the formulae of "one coun- 
try, two systems," "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong," "the 
preservation of the capitalist system and lifestyle of Hong Kong," 
and "a high level of autonomy for Hong Kong" in 1997 means that 
within the vast socialist system of China, there is a capitalist 
enclave with a high degree of autonomy. The incorporation of a 
territory which was under British colonial rule for about one and 
a half centuries and which differs from the mainland vastly in 
institutions and culture is inevitably fraught with difficulties. 

One of the difficulties concerned has to do with the identity of 
the Hong Kong Chinese, which has serious implications for main- 
land-Hong Kong relationship after the establishment of the 
HKSAR, when the shelter previously provided by the British dis- 
appears. As a concept, "identity" is nebulous and multi-dimen- 
sional. As the chief purpose of this study is to explore the future 
relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland on the one 
hand, and the internal politics of Hong Kong on the other, the 
term "identity" here refers primarily to the way the Hong Kong 
Chinese define their relationship to Hong Kong and to China. 
Since a long time ago, the terms "Hongkongese" (Xianggangren) 
and "Chinese" {Zhongguoren) have been used in common parlance 
by the Hong Kong Chinese to refer to themselves, it can be taken 
with confidence that "Hongkongese" and "Chinese" are the two 
major identities which the Hong Kong Chinese themselves con- 
sider meaningful. Accordingly, the study adopts as its starting 
point these two identities of the Hong Kong Chinese and seeks to 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



answer a number of questions: (1) Was there a "crisis of identity" 
among the Hong Kong Chinese in the run-up to 1997? (2) What 
were the attitudinal and behavioural correlates of the two identi- 
ties? (3) How would the identity problem affect mainland-Hong 
Kong relationship after 1997? How would it affect the im- 
plementation of the "one country, two systems" policy? (4) How 
would the identity problem affect Hong Kong's society and poli- 
tics after 1997? Would the differentiation between Hongkongese 
and Chinese constitute a cleavage with political overtones? (5) 
Would there be a blurring or merging of the two identities in the 
future as to make them politically meaningless? 

Since 1985, in a series of questionnaire surveys conducted by 
myself and others, the Hong Kong Chinese have been asked about 
their identities. 1 The presentation below is based on the statistical 
analysis of the data collected in these surveys. Throughout the 
paper, the chi-square analysis is used to measure the relationship 
between variables, with the level of statistical significance set at 
.05. 



Hongkongese vs. Chinese 

Hong Kong is a Chinese society in the sense that the overwhelm- 
ing majority of the populace of the place is ethnic Chinese. How- 
ever, though Hong Kong was a British colony for one and a half 
centuries, for the better part of its history it did not have a settled 
Chinese population. Instead, there were frequent inflows and out- 
flows of Chinese people, depending on the situations in China 
and overseas. 2 It has only been since the 1960s, when the im- 
migrants from China have largely decided not to return to the 
socialist motherland and their progeny has had no home other 
than Hong Kong, that the place has begun to have a settled Chi- 
nese community. Apparently, the Hongkongese identity has 
gradually crystallized since the 1960s. 3 In the last decade, the 
proportion of respondents who have claimed to be Hong Kong 
belongers has stood at a decent level. The percentages of respon- 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



dents who say that they have a strong or very strong sense of 
belonging to Hong Kong in 1985, 4 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992a, 1994, 
and 1995 have been 79.5, 67.1, 63.3, 55.1, 66.0, 77.0, and 60.6, 
respectively. 

Several factors have been particularly germane to the forma- 
tion of the Hongkongese identity before the territory's hand-over 
to China. First and foremost has been the fact that, since 1949, the 
socialist regime in China has set up a barrier which has forbidden 
the movement of people between the mainland and Hong Kong. 
As a result, Hong Kong Chinese have become secluded from the 
social and cultural changes in China. Secondly, the path of devel- 
opment of Hong Kong has been different from China throughout 
the territory's history. The gargantuan divergence in developmen- 
tal experiences between the two societies since 1949 — with Hong 
Kong pursuing laissez-faire capitalism and China experimenting 
with Maoist socialism — has been critical to the rise of the 
Hongkongese identity. Thirdly, while China became an inward- 
looking and closed society after 1949, Hong Kong rapidly trans- 
formed itself into an active member of the international economy, 
and became quite Westernized. Fourthly, the form of limited gov- 
ernment practised by the colonial regime, and its cautious obser- 
vation of the rule of law and human rights, were historically 
unknown in China. In traditional China, on the contrary, society 
was dominated by the state, and the individual was subjugated by 
the group. Fifthly, a substantial portion of Hong Kong Chinese 
came to Hong Kong either to flee political persecution and turmoil 
or to seek economic opportunities. This meant that there was in 
Hong Kong a strong sentiment against the socialist regime in 
China, which naturally became a core element of the Hongkong- 
ese identity. Sixthly, the wide disparity in the levels of develop- 
ment and standards of living between Hong Kong and the 
mainland generated a sense of superiority among the Hong Kong 
Chinese, many of whom manifestly held the mainland Chinese in 
contempt. Lastly, the dominance of vernacular Cantonese among 
the Hong Kong Chinese and the gradual emergence of a distinc- 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



tive popular culture based on that dialect played a significant role 
in moulding the Hongkongese identity. 

Despite the political separation of Hong Kong from China for 
such a long time, the sheer fact that the Hong Kong people were 
ethnic Chinese and had families, relatives, friends, or business in 
China meant that Hong Kong Chinese could not be completely 
immunized from developments in China. Even though they did 
not share political fate with the mainland Chinese before 1997, 
Hong Kong Chinese still had tremendous empathy with their 
fellow compatriots. To many Hong Kong Chinese, colonial rule, 
though basically benign and tolerable, was still demeaning and 
occasionally outrageous. Racial discrimination, though increas- 
ingly taking a subtle form, was still an intrinsic feature of colonial 
rule which constantly reminded the colonized of their common 
Chineseness. Undoubtedly, communism was repulsive to the 
Hong Kong Chinese, but the fact that the Chinese Communists 
had performed the feats of shaking China off from foreign control 
and building China into a major power in the world had left a 
strong, albeit paradoxical, impression on them. Still, as Hong 
Kong was a sanctuary to many people there, Chinese nationalism 
and anti-colonialism had never been potent forces in shaping the 
identity of the Hong Kong Chinese. Though a small portion of the 
Hong Kong Chinese supported either the communist regime in 
the mainland or the nationalist regime in Taiwan, most were 
however politically detached. Public revulsion against politics in 
China played a significant role in the formation of the identities of 
the Hong Kong Chinese. 

In a series of questionnaire surveys conducted since 1985, we 
asked the respondents whether they identified themselves as 
"Hongkongese," "Chinese," "both," or "neither." The findings are 
shown in Table 1. 

The dominance and meaningfulness of the two identities of 
Hongkongese and Chinese in Hong Kong were vividly evident. 
The vast majority of the respondents had no difficulty choosing 
either Hongkongese or Chinese as their primary identity. Un- 
doubtedly, the Hongkongese identity was adopted by more re- 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



Table 1 Identities of the Hong Kong Chinese* (%) 





Hongkongese 


Chinese 


Both 


Neither 


Don't know/ 
No answer 


1985 + 


59.5 


36.2 


- 


- 


4.3 


1988 


63.6 


28.8 


- 


2.0 


5.6 


1990 


57.2 


26.4 


12.1 


1.0 


3.4 


1991 


56.6 


25.4 


14.2 


1.2 


2.4 


1992 


49.3 


27.0 


21.1 


0.7 


1.9 


1993 


53.3 


32.7 


10.1 


1.6 


2.4 


1994 


56.5 


24.2 


16.0 


0.5 


2.8 


1995 


50.2 


30.9 


15.4 


1.2 


2.2 



Notes: * Figures in the table show the proportions of respondents who 
chose Hongkongese or Chinese as their primary identity. 
The answers "both" and "neither" were not made available to the 
respondents in the interview. 



spondents than the Chinese identity. As far as the relative import- 
ance of the two identities is concerned, it can be said that in the last 
decade the relative proportions of Hongkongese and Chinese 
were not stable, testifying to the fact that they were susceptible to 
what occurred in Hong Kong and China. Furthermore, there was 
no clear-cut trend in the last decade as to which identity would 
surge ahead after 1997. Another notable finding is that there 
seemed to be a long-term though slow trend for the proportion of 
people claiming both identities to increase. It might even be rea- 
sonable to expect that this trend will become stronger after Hong 
Kong becomes part of China. 

Survey findings showed that the socio-demographic differ- 
ences between the Hongkongese and the Chinese were obvious. 
In the first place, females were more likely to identify themselves 
as Hongkongese than males, the proportions of females and males 
who chose Hongkongese as their primary identity were 67.3 per 
cent and 58.8 per cent in 1985, 73.5 per cent and 61.4 per cent in 
1988, 55.9 per cent and 43.8 per cent in 1992, 53.9 per cent and 46.1 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



per cent in 1993, 58.8 per cent and 44.4 per cent in 1995. The major 
reasons why females identified more with Hong Kong apparently 
were that they were troubled less by colonial rule, had more 
negative feelings about China, and less enamoured with China's 
achievements. 

The more educated people were also more inclined to call 
themselves Hongkongese. This phenomenon was consistently 
found in the 1985, 1990 and 1992 surveys. As education was 
closely correlated with income, it is not surprising that respon- 
dents with higher income in 1985, 1990 and 1995 were more likely 
to claim to be Hongkongese. 

Similarly, respondents who were born in Hong Kong were 
more likely to see themselves as Hongkongese, as could be found 
in the 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 surveys. As the older 
people were more likely to be born outside of Hong Kong and to 
have received Chinese-type education or socialization, it was nat- 
ural that they identified more with China than the younger peo- 
ple. This could be seen in the 1985, 1988, 1990 and 1991 surveys. 

Judging from the socio-demographic differences between the 
Hongkongese and the Chinese, it might be conjectured that, if 
Hong Kong were to remain under British rule beyond 1997, the 
proportion of Hongkongese among the Hong Kong Chinese 
should have gradually increased in the last decade with the ex- 
pansion of education and the rise in the number of locally born. 
Yet, as shown before, this had not taken place, apparently because 
of the imminent return of Hong Kong to China and the skyrocket- 
ing range of contacts between the two places. 

The distinctive characteristic of the Hongkongese as com- 
pared with the Chinese should by inference be their stronger 
identification with Hong Kong. They should ipso facto have a 
stronger sense of belonging to their society, as compared with 
people who identify themselves as Chinese. However, the avail- 
able data do not seem to conclusively support such expectation. 

The Hongkongese not only did not have a stronger sense of 
belonging to Hong Kong than the Chinese, but they were also 
more prepared to leave their community. In 1985, it was found 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



that those who claimed the Hong Kong identity were more ready 
to emigrate (52 per cent) as compared to their Chinese counter- 
parts (40.9 per cent). Therefore, possessing a Hong Kong identity 
was not only not tantamount to having a strong sense of belong- 
ing to Hong Kong, but it also was not a powerful factor dampen- 
ing the desire for emigration. Similar intriguing findings were 
obtained in subsequent surveys. In 1988, 1990 and 1995, 23.3 per 
cent, 25.1 per cent and 10.9 per cent of Hongkongese, respectively, 
reported that they already had plans to emigrate, the correspond- 
ing figures for the Chinese were 14.5 per cent, 13.3 per cent and 6.6 
per cent, which were lower across the board. By the same token, in 
1992, when asked about their emigration plans, 38.5 per cent of the 
Hongkongese said they would definitely stay in Hong Kong, 14 
per cent would stay as far as possible, 14.6 per cent would leave if 
possible, 1.7 per cent would definitely leave the place, and 10.6 per 
cent were undecided; the corresponding figures for the Chinese 
were 48.1 per cent, 11.1 per cent, 8.6 per cent, per cent, and 3.7 
per cent. 

Likewise, a larger proportion of Hongkongese (11.8 per cent 
in 1988, 14.8 per cent in 1990, 3.7 per cent in 1992 and 3 per cent in 
1995) were likely to emigrate before 1997 as compared with the 
Chinese (9.4 per cent, 9.2 per cent, 1.8 per cent and 1 per cent, 
respectively). Besides, in 1992, it was found that a larger propor- 
tion of Hongkongese (20.7 per cent) were confident about their 
ability to emigrate than the Chinese (16.6 per cent). Among those 
respondents who said they had the ability to emigrate, a higher 
proportion of Hongkongese (21.7 per cent), as compared with the 
Chinese (19.2 per cent), had already obtained foreign passports or 
right of abode elsewhere. And, among those who did not think 
that they had the ability to emigrate, still a higher proportion of 
Hongkongese (9.5 per cent) than Chinese (2.6 per cent) planned to 
get foreign passports or right of abode overseas. 

In fact, as compared with the Chinese, Hongkongese were 
more likely to have secured foreign passports or right of abode in 
another country. The percentages of Hongkongese who reported 
that they already had them were 3.2 per cent in 1988, 4.1 per cent 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



in 1990, 3.6 per cent in 1991, and 19.7 per cent in 1993, as compared 
with 2.7 per cent, 2 per cent, 1 per cent, and 11.3 per cent of the 
Chinese. The sudden rise in the figures in 1993 can be explained 
by the large-scale return of Hong Kong emigrants in the last 
several years who, after "buying their political insurance," came 
back to Hong Kong to seek their fortunes. 

Why was it that people who identified themselves as 
Hongkongese did not have a stronger sense of community identi- 
fication than the Chinese? The explanation is complex. It was true 
that the Hongkongese trusted the Hong Kong people more than 
the Chinese. In the 1991 survey, 69.4 per cent of Hongkongese said 
they trusted or very much trusted the Hong Kong people, as 
against 64.2 per cent of the Chinese. At the same time, more 
Hongkongese (72.8 per cent) than Chinese (62.2 per cent) were 
convinced that the Hong Kong people increasingly resorted to 
illicit means to advance their self-interests. Thus, the 
Hongkongese's trust of the Hong Kong people was to a certain 
extent diluted by suspicion of their morality. According to previ- 
ous studies, what was startlingly absent in the Hong Kong iden- 
tity was strong affective attachment to the Hong Kong society. 
Hong Kong Chinese were found to regard their society instru- 
mentally as a place to make a living or prosper. 5 In other words, 
the "feeling of a sense of belonging to Hong Kong is not an 
expression of community solidarity and collective allegiance to a 
locality. The attachment of the Hong Kong Chinese is probably to 
something which is mobile and intangible: a way of life or an 
ethos that transcends geographical boundaries." 6 As a result of 
this, the finding in 1994 that as many as 72.7 per cent of 
Hongkongese (as against 69.1 per cent of Chinese) said that they 
felt some responsibility to do something for Hong Kong should 
not be taken seriously, for by and large this feeling had failed to 
translate into behaviour. 

Furthermore, as compared with the Chinese, the Hongkong- 
ese were more worried about Hong Kong. In 1993, it was found 
that a higher proportion of Hongkongese (17.7 per cent) than 
Chinese (11.7 per cent) was worried about the 1997 problem. In 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



1988 and 1991, higher proportions of Hongkongese (58.2 per cent 
and 47.2 per cent, respectively) than Chinese (35.8 per cent and 
29.4 per cent, respectively) were worried about political turmoil in 
Hong Kong before 1997. In 1994, 50.5 per cent of Hongkongese 
were worried about political instability in Hong Kong in the "next 
several years," as compared with 40 per cent of the Chinese. In 
1991, Hongkongese (68.9 per cent) were more inclined than Chi- 
nese (48.1 per cent) to worry about social instability in Hong Kong 
before 1997. 

While both Hongkongese and the Chinese anticipated some 
deterioration of the quality of life in Hong Kong, the former were 
less prepared to accept the change than the latter. Thus, as found 
in 1991, while 58 per cent of Hongkongese claimed they would be 
capable of tolerating a little bit of reduction of personal freedom 
after 1997, 76.9 per cent of the Chinese did so. While as few as 17.9 
per cent of Hongkongese were capable of tolerating substantial 
reduction of personal freedom after 1997, still a higher proportion 
of Chinese (34.5 per cent) were capable of doing so. Similarly, 
while 15.2 per cent of Hongkongese could live with much reduc- 
tion in personal income after 1997, a much larger proportion of 
Chinese (29.5 per cent) were able to do so. 

These worries of the Hongkongese and their weaker tolerance 
for possible changes in post-1997 Hong Kong, in addition to their 
greater resources to emigrate, caused a stronger propensity of 
Hongkongese to relocate themselves elsewhere. 

Identities and Chineseness 

Notwithstanding their different identities, both the Hongkongese 
and the Chinese are ethnically and culturally Chinese. Conse- 
quently, many common elements of "Chineseness" could be 
found in both Hongkongese and the Chinese. In the ethno-cul- 
tural sense, there was a strong sense of identification with the 
Chinese nation by the Hong Kong Chinese. 7 Even many of those 
who claimed a Hong Kong identity were also imbued with ethnic 



1 Hongkongese or Chinese 



and cultural pride. Thus, in the 1985 survey, 60.8 per cent of 
respondents agreed or strongly agreed that Chinese culture was 
the finest on earth, and 78.6 per cent felt proud to be Chinese. 8 

In fact, both Hongkongese and the Chinese shared many val- 
ues which were typically Chinese. In 1994, for instance, an over- 
whelming majority of Hongkongese (92.9 per cent) and Chinese 
(94.1 per cent) were found to agree that everyone should respect 
traditional Chinese moral values. By the same token, a vast major- 
ity of Hongkongese (96.3 per cent) and Chinese (95 per cent) said 
they respected people who performed filial duties to their parents. 
Similarly, like many traditional Chinese, a plurality of Hongkong- 
ese (38.2 per cent) and Chinese (37.7 per cent) had little respect for 
the wealthy. However, 86.1 per cent of Hongkongese and 89.5 per 
cent of Chinese had tremendous respect for the hardworking peo- 
ple, whereas people who succeeded primarily because of luck 
were only respected by 13.2 per cent of Hongkongese and 18.9 per 
cent of Chinese. Also, in line with traditional cultural contempt for 
entertainers, only 11.8 per cent of Hongkongese and 19 per cent of 
Chinese were respectful of singers and movie stars. 

In traditional China, the country or the group was accorded a 
status and importance much superior to the individual. The find- 
ings in the 1993 survey showed that the long period of Western- 
ization and limited governance in Hong Kong had failed to 
drastically transform the Hong Kong Chinese' conception of the 
proper relationship between the individual and the country in the 
abstract, as evidenced in the figures in Table 2. 

With respect to half of the statements in the table, there was no 
statistically significant difference between Hongkongese and the 
Chinese. Both of them concurred in placing the individual be- 
neath the country and in castigating localism, though here they 
were far from consistent in the sense that they at the same time 
saw the individual as the base of the country. With respect to the 
three statements where statistically significant differences be- 
tween Hongkongese and the Chinese were found, the conclusion 
is still that both of them were ardent supporters of traditional 
values, which extolled loyalty to the country and de-emphasized 



Hongkongese or Chinese 1 1 

Table 2 Attitudes toward the Country by Identity, 1993* (%) 

Hongkongese Chinese Level of 
significance 

"The individual comes before the 72.8 66.4 N.S. 

country, the individual is the base of 
the country." 

"Don't ask what the country has done 68.6 79.5 .02 

for me, ask what I have done for the 

country." 

'The country is formed for the sake of 33.8 37.7 N.S. 

individual well-being. If not for the 
individual, there is no need for the 
country." 

"If a local government insists on 51.7 56.3 N.S. 

autonomy and self-government in 
everything, the country's affairs 
cannot be well managed." 

"It is every Chinese's sacred duty to 68.0 82.2 .00 

recover the country's lost land in 

history." 

"Society is a big family, even 76.8 82.3 .02 

minority nationalities cannot ask for 

secession." 

Notes: * Figures in the table represent the proportions of respondents 
agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statements. 



N.S. = Not statistically significant at .05 level. 



the role of the individual or minority. In fact, incipient nationalist 
feelings were embedded in both the Hongkongese and the Chi- 
nese identities. 

Accordingly, "Chineseness" in the ethnic sense and in the 
historical-cultural sense was an integral component in both the 
Hongkongese and the Chinese identities and was the basis for all 
of them to see themselves as Chinese. 10 The existence of these 
components went a long way to narrow the gap between the two 
identities. As a matter of fact, instead of two totally separate or 
mutually exclusive identities, the identities of Hongkongese and 



1 2 Hongkongese or Chinese 



Chinese overlapped considerably. The interpenetrating of the two 
identities was also reflected in survey findings. In 1992, while 
there was statistically significant association between identity and 
whether people took pride in being Hongkongese or Chinese, the 
important fact however was that both Hongkongese and the Chi- 
nese were proud to be Hongkongese and Chinese at the same 
time. Among Hongkongese, 83.2 per cent and 63.8 per cent, re- 
spectively, were proud to be Hongkongese and Chinese. Simi- 
larly, 66 per cent and 79.7 per cent, respectively, of the Chinese did 
so. 

Furthermore, despite their different identities, both the 
Hongkongese and the Chinese were proud of the same set of 
things about Hong Kong and China — mostly about economic 
development and things related to it, as can be seen from Table 3. 

With respect to the political achievement of socialist China, 
however, it is noteworthy that, unlike other areas, both 
Hongkongese and the Chinese were less overwhelming in their 
pride. This implies that as far as the People's Republic of China 
and the socialist Chinese government were concerned, the Hong 
Kong Chinese's feelings were at best mixed, and at worst nega- 
tive. 



Attitudes toward China and the 
Chinese Government 



Despite their limited differences in the ethnic and cultural sense, 
the differences between the Hongkongese and the Chinese were 
more salient as far as their attitudes toward the real China (the 
People's Republic of China), the mainland Chinese, and the Chi- 
nese government were concerned. Be that as it might, both the 
Hongkongese and the Chinese were still largely similar in 
attitudes. The differences between them were thus a matter of 
degree rather than of kind. 



Hongkongese or Chinese 1 3 



Table 3 Pride in Things About Hong Kong and China by Identity, 

1992a* (%) 

Hongkongese Chinese Level of 
significance 

Hong Kong: 

"Hong Kong people are smart, quick 90.7 81.3 N.S. 

to react, and acceptable." 

"Hong Kong offers good food of 87.1 84.5 N.S. 

every kind, a lot of things to enjoy 
and all sorts of conveniences." 

"Hong Kong is the freest Chinese 91.5 88.5 N.S. 

society on earth." 

"Hong Kong as one of the Four Little 93.6 89.3 N.S. 

Dragons of Asia has miraculous 

economic development." 

China: 

"Chinese people are hardworking, 88.3 84.3 .00 

persevering and able." 

"China has gorgeous scenaries, 85.3 87.3 N.S. 

historical sites and relics." 

"Today's China is a superpower. The 55.3 59.8 N.S. 

Chinese people can be proud of that." 

"China's economic growth is very 72.8 82.7 N.S. 

fast. The Pearl River Delta area will 
very likely become the fifth little 
dragon in Asia." 

Notes: * Figures in the table represent the proportions of respondents 
agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statements. 
N.S. = Not statistically significant at .05 level. 



In the 1992a survey, the respondents were asked a total of 12 
questions probing their feelings toward China and Hong Kong. 
The findings are contained in Table 4. 

As far as feelings toward Hong Kong were concerned, it was 
significant to find that the differences between the Hongkongese 
and the Chinese were minimal. Both the Hongkongese and the 



14 Hongkongese or Chinese 



Table 4 Attitudes toward China and Hong Kong by Identity, 

1992a* (%) 

Hongkongese Chinese Level of 
significance 

China: 

"Individual interest is much less 48.0 65.7 N.S. 

important than the interest of a nation 

in quest for wealth and power." 

"China's interest comes first; Hong 18.8 33.1 .00 

Kong's interest comes second." 

"China's national anthem should be 15.1 27.6 .00 

sung in local schools." 

"Putonghua should be made the major 33.5 52.4 .00 

official language in Hong Kong." 

"Hong Kong should use its budget 38.4 56.5 .00 

surplus to help China's development." 

"Hong Kong should even give up 16.3 23.8 .01 

Special Administrative Region status if 

this was in the country's interest." 

"Hong Kong should make every 6.2 20.8 .00 

possible sacrifice to help China in need." 



.02 



Hong Kong: 

"Hong Kong sports spectators should 75.7 62.0 

side with the local team in its match 

with a Chinese team." 

"It is unreasonable for China to oppose 79.8 68.7 N.S. 

the showing of films which depict the 

darker sides of things in China." 

"China should give support to Hong 79.2 73.9 N.S. 

Kong to help Hong Kong finance 

expensive infrastructural projects." 

"Even Shenzhen could be made part of 29.4 30.2 N.S. 

Hong Kong if this could give Hong 

Kong more land for further 

development." 

"The entire mainland should model 56.0 44.9 N.S. 

after Hong Kong and learn from its 

successful experience." 

Notes: * Figures in the table represent the proportions of respondents 
agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statements. 
N.S. = Not statistically significant at .05 level. 



Hongkongese or Chinese 1 5 



Chinese could be described as siding with Hong Kong whenever 
conflicts between Hong Kong and China were concerned. Both of 
them were proud of Hong Kong's achievements. There was a 
superiority complex vis-a-vis China. Localistic sentiments were 
prevalent. Self-interests dominated whenever Hong Kong-main- 
land relationship was the issue. 

Differences between Hongkongese and the Chinese were 
more evident in regard to attitudes toward China, though both of 
them were basically not favourably disposed toward the People's Repub- 
lic. An unfavourable image of China was formed a long time ago. 
In 1985, it was found that despite Hong Kong Chinese's identifica- 
tion with China in the ethno-cultural sense, when attention was 
shifted to identification with the People's Republic and the main- 
land Chinese, however, the level of identification dropped. Less 
than half of respondents (42.5 per cent) were proud of the achieve- 
ments of the People's Republic of China in the past several de- 
cades. Only slightly more than half (52.5 per cent) of them felt 
close to the Chinese on the mainland. 11 

As shown by the figures in Table 4, Hongkongese tended to 
place more emphasis on the interests of Hong Kong than the 
Chinese, even though the latter still were localistic in orientation 
when Hong Kong's vital interests were involved. Nevertheless, 
there was a moderate tendency for the Chinese to help China if 
Hong Kong had extra money. The Chinese were also more willing 
to replace Cantonese by pntonghua as the official language of 
Hong Kong. In addition, despite the lack of fondness for the 
People's Republic, both the Hongkongese and particularly the 
Chinese still were moderately in agreement with the statement 
that when a nation was "in quest for wealth and power," its 
interests should come before the interests of the individual, 
though the behavioural consequences of this were not clear; it has 
remained so up to the present. 

With regard to trust for the Chinese government, the differ- 
ence between the Hongkongese and the Chinese was statistically 
significant, but both of them were mostly mistrustful. The propor- 
tions of Hongkongese who trusted or very much trusted the Chi- 



1 6 Hongkongese or Chinese 

nese government in 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 12 1994 and 1995 
were 17.8 per cent, 5.6 per cent, 7.4 per cent, 11.1 per cent, 20.8 per 
cent, 8.8 per cent and 10.2 per cent, respectively; the correspond- 
ing figures for the Chinese were 36.1 per cent, 18.7 per cent, 28.7 
per cent, 40.9 per cent, 50.2 per cent, 21.9 per cent and 20.6 per 
cent. As such, the issue of trust /mistrust of the Chinese govern- 
ment was not a politically significant cleavage between the two 
identity groups. 

In line with the greater tendency of the Hongkongese to mis- 
trust the Chinese government, they were also less confident about 
Hong Kong's future. In 1988, a lower proportion (63.4 per cent) of 
Hongkongese were confident about Hong Kong's future, as com- 
pared with the Chinese (85.1 per cent). In 1994, the proportion 
(37.1 per cent) of Hongkongese who were confident decreased, so 
was that of the Chinese (56 per cent); yet, the Chinese were still 
more optimistic than the Hongkongese. 

Hongkongese were more prone to believe that there was con- 
flict of interest between China and Hong Kong. In 1988, as many 
as 71.7 per cent of Hongkongese saw such conflict of interest, 
whereas a smaller percentage (56.6) of Chinese did so. Conse- 
quently, a smaller proportion (13.4 per cent) of Hongkongese in 
1991 thought that China had taken care of the interests of the 
Hong Kong people than the Chinese (35.4 per cent). 

As expected, the more negative sentiments of the Hongkong- 
ese toward the Chinese government was projected to their percep- 
tion of the future of Hong Kong and China. In 1994, a smaller 
proportion of Hongkongese (38.2 per cent) than Chinese (52.7 per 
cent) were optimistic about the future of China. A majority (58.9 
per cent) of Hongkongese did not have confidence in the post- 
1997 legal system of Hong Kong, whereas less than half (45.1 per 
cent) of the Chinese were of the same view. Hongkongese were 
less confident (34.3 per cent) than the Chinese in the Basic Law — 
the mini-constitution of Hong Kong after 1997 — than the Chinese 
(48.7 per cent), 13 and they were less likely (39.1 per cent) than the 
Chinese (53.1 per cent) to think that the Chinese government was 
capable of running Hong Kong well. In 1995, it was also found 



Hongkongese or Chinese 1 7 



that a smaller proportion of Hongkongese (22.4 per cent) than 
Chinese (39.2 per cent) believed in China's promise of "Hong 
Kong people ruling Hong Kong." Hongkongese (65.8 per cent) 
were more inclined than the Chinese (59.6 per cent) to think that 
the HKSAR government would primarily take care of the interests 
of China. Likewise, Hongkongese (16 per cent) were less likely 
than the Chinese (41 per cent) to expect the HKSAR government 
to do a better job than the colonial government. And, Hongkong- 
ese (9.4 per cent) were less likely to express trust in the leaders of 
the HKSAR than the Chinese (18.3 per cent). But, still the differ- 
ences between the Hongkongese and the Chinese on all these 
matters were largely a matter of degree. They shared basically 
similar attitudes. 

By the same token, given their greater mistrust of China, 
Hongkongese were more ready than the Chinese to confront 
China as a way to protect their interests and to vent their grudges 
(8.9 per cent as against 7 per cent), though in view of the gargan- 
tuan imbalance of power between Hong Kong and China, the 
Hong Kong Chinese were frightened of confrontation. In the same 
vein, in 1995 more than half (58 per cent) of Hongkongese de- 
clared they would still support political leaders disliked by the 
Chinese government, whereas less than one-third (30.9 per cent) 
of the Chinese would do so. More illustrative of Hongkongese's 
abhorrence of the Chinese government was the finding in 1988 
that slightly more than half (53.3 per cent) of Hongkongese sup- 
ported political independence for Hong Kong, as opposed to only 
30 per cent of the Chinese, in spite of the fact that, as previously 
mentioned, Hongkongese were willing to place the country before 
the localities. 

The greater mistrust of China on the part of the Hongkongese 
went hand in hand with their greater support for Britain. In fact, 
Hongkongese had a more favourable image of colonial rule than 
the Chinese. A higher proportion (55.1 per cent) of Hongkongese 
were found in 1994 to support the retention of Hong Kong as a 
British colony after 1997, as against only 28.8 per cent of the 
Chinese. Meanwhile, just under half of Hongkongese (43.4 per 



Hongkongese or Chinese 



cent) were of the opinion that the Chinese people in Hong Kong 
had equal status with the British, while only 33.6 per cent of the 
Chinese saw racial equality. While both the Hongkongese (57.4 
per cent) and the Chinese (68.2 per cent) accused Britain of serving 
primarily her own interests when she handled Hong Kong's af- 
fairs, it was the Chinese who were more cynical. 

Because the Hongkongese had greater trust in the British and 
Hong Kong governments, 14 small wonder they were more in- 
clined to demand that Britain take a strong approach to China. 
Since the Hongkongese were more concerned about China's inter- 
ference in local affairs before the hand-over, they were more wary 
about the autonomy of the Hong Kong government in the last 
days of British rule. Thus, while recognizing the importance of 
Sino-British cooperation in the transitional period, in 1991 still a 
smaller proportion of Hongkongese (54.8 per cent) than Chinese 
(64.8 per cent) agreed with the view that, in the second half of the 
transitional period, Britain should obtain the approval of the Chi- 
nese government before making important decisions. Likewise, a 
higher proportion of Hongkongese (75.2 per cent) than Chinese 
(59 per cent) in 1992 agreed with the statement that the Hong 
Kong government should stick to policies which were in Hong 
Kong's interests, regardless of China's opposition. 

In sum, the most important difference between the 
Hongkongese and the Chinese apparently lay in their attitudes 
toward socialist China and the Chinese government. Neverthe- 
less, since their attitudes were basically similar, even this differ- 
ence was not serious enough to bring about overt conflict between 
Hong Kong Chinese with different identities. 

The June 4 Incident and Identities 

The June 4 Incident, which involved the Chinese government's 
crackdown on the student protesters in Beijing by military force in 
the spring of 1989, had caused volcanic political and emotional 
upheaval amongst the Hong Kong Chinese. Along many forms of 



Hongkongese or Chinese 1 9 



expression of support for the demonstrating students and revul- 
sion against the Chinese regime, about a million Hong Kong Chi- 
nese took to the street spontaneously. Such large-scale political 
activism by the Hong Kong Chinese, though transient, was never- 
theless unprecedented in Hong Kong history. It was also the most 
defiant popular action against the Chinese government by the 
Chinese people outside of China. The forceful reaction of the 
Hong Kong Chinese undoubtedly was connected to the imminent 
return of Hong Kong to China, and the anxieties, anguish and 
frustrations thus produced. This reaction reflects vividly the 
strong identification with the Chinese nation on the part of the 
Hong Kong Chinese. The June 4 Incident also provided the golden 
opportunity for the concentrated and articulate expression of the 
Hongkongese identity. In turn, the Hongkongese identity could 
be said to have been reinforced by the common experience which 
the Hong Kong Chinese shared in this heart-rending event. 

Hongkongese played a more prominent role in the popular 
actions instigated by the June 4 Incident than the Chinese. In both 
the 1992a and 1993 surveys, respondents were asked whether they 
had participated in the parades or assemblies related to the June 4 
Incident in 1989. In 1992a, a higher proportion of Hongkongese 
(25.9 per cent) than Chinese (18.8 per cent) reported that they had 
participated in those activities. The corresponding figures in 1993 
were 26.6 per cent and 18.2 per cent, respectively, which were 
quite similar. Furthermore, it was also found in the 1992a survey 
that in 1989 consistently higher proportions of Hongkongese than 
Chinese paid close attention to newspapers about the develop- 
ment of the June 4 Incident (63 per cent vs. 59.5 per cent), paid 
close attention to television and radio about the development of 
the Incident (68.6 per cent vs. 68.3 per cent), and discussed often 
with friends and relatives about the Incident (32.8 per cent vs. 29.3 
per cent). However, since 1989, the enthusiasm of the Hongkong- 
ese tapered off much more rapidly than the Chinese. In the 1992a 
survey, only 5.6 per cent, 3 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively, of 
Hongkongese reported that they had participated in the parades 
or assemblies related to the first, second and third anniversaries of 



20 Hongkongese or Chinese 



the Incident, as compared with 7.3 per cent, 3.6 per cent and 2.4 
per cent of the Chinese. This showed that, after the enormous 
furore created by the Incident was over, it was the higher level of 
affective attachment of the Chinese to the Chinese nation which 
played the more important role in sustaining participation. 

Though both Hongkongese and the Chinese interpreted the 
June 4 Incident in a way that was prejudiced against the socialist 
regime, still the Chinese were less sympathetic to the Beijing stu- 
dents than the Hongkongese. In the 1992a survey, 10.3 per cent of 
Hongkongese understood the Incident as a turmoil produced by 
Beijing's residents and students, 13.1 per cent of the Chinese did 
so. While 21.6 per cent of Hongkongese saw the Incident as the 
result of the work of a small bunch of trouble-makers, 30.5 per 
cent of the Chinese did so. While 16.7 per cent of Hongkongese 
thought that the Incident was merely an accident, implying that 
nobody was to be blamed, 19.3 per cent of the Chinese did so. As 
many as 86.1 per cent of Hongkongese considered the Incident as 
an event mishandled by the Chinese government, a smaller pro- 
portion (73.1 per cent) of Chinese did so. Similarly, an overwhelm- 
ing majority (91.7 per cent) of Hongkongese defined the Incident 
as a bloody massacre, a smaller majority (76.6 per cent) of Chinese 
did so. 

After the intense emotions caused by the June 4 Incident had 
subsided, however, it is interesting to note that it was the Chinese 
who were able to take a more pragmatic stance toward the Inci- 
dent, apparently bearing in mind Hong Kong's interests, particu- 
larly its relationship with China. For example, in the 1992a survey, 
a smaller proportion (28.9 per cent) of Hongkongese than Chinese 
(35 per cent) agreed that "for the sake of Hong Kong's stability 
and prosperity, we should forget the Incident." A smaller propor- 
tion (29 per cent) of Hongkongese than Chinese (35.2 per cent) 
were of the view that "for the sake of good China-Hong Kong 
relationship, we should forget the Incident." In the same vein, a 
higher proportion of Hongkongese (56.1 per cent) than Chinese 
(45.4 per cent) insisted that "we should continue to commemorate 
the June 4 Incident until all the democratic activists are released 



Hongkongese or Chinese 21 

from prison." Their attitudes toward the Hong Kong Alliance in 
Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement of China, a politi- 
cal group formed during the Incident, showed a similar differ- 
ence. While 21.7 per cent of Hongkongese said that it should be 
dissolved, 28.9 per cent of the Chinese did so. 

Hong Kong Chinese, particularly those with the Hongkong- 
ese identity, were jolted by the June 4 Incident in such a way that 
they were fully aware of their common political fate, which was 
perceived to be uncertain and miserable. They were disillusioned 
with the Chinese government and its promises to Hong Kong by 
the sudden twists and turns of events on the mainland. The sud- 
den outpouring of emotions and political activism among the 
Hong Kong Chinese, especially the Hongkongese, can be interpre- 
ted as a vivid expression of the Hong Kong identity, which in this 
case was also shared to a substantial degree by those who identi- 
fied themselves as Chinese. The year 1989 can thus be considered 
as a milestone in the formation of the local identity among the 
Hong Kong Chinese. 

Attitudes toward Democratic Reform and Identities 

If the differences between the Hongkongese and the Chinese in 
their attitudes toward the Chinese nation, the People's Republic of 
China and the Chinese government were basically differences in 
degree rather than in kind, the same can be said of their different 
attitudes toward democratic reform in Hong Kong. In other 
words, the political differences between the Hongkongese and the 
Chinese were such that no serious cleavage existed to divide the 
Hong Kong Chinese because of identity difference. 

Both Hongkongese and Chinese had mild democratic aspira- 
tions permeated with mixed feelings. Their conception of democ- 
racy represented an instrumental and partial view. It was 
instrumental in the sense that they expected democracy to achieve 
some concrete political ends. It was also partial because the Hong 
Kong Chinese tended to understand democracy in negative terms: 



22 Hongkongese or Chinese 



the purpose of democracy was to protect their rights and interests 
against encroachment by China and the political authorities in 
Hong Kong. The positive sense of democracy as the right to partic- 
ipate in politics was de-emphasized. 15 There was also a visible 
authoritarian strand in the Hong Kong Chinese view of democ- 
racy. They set great store on political stability and strong govern- 
ment. In the 1992 survey, a large majority of Hongkongese (83.9 
per cent) and Chinese (81.4 per cent) agreed that Hong Kong 
needed a strong government to maintain political stability. Like- 
wise, 82.5 per cent of Hongkongese and 77.7 per cent of Chinese 
thought that Hong Kong needed a strong government to maintain 
economic prosperity. By the same token, in the 1993 survey, most 
of Hongkongese (65.6 per cent) and Chinese (62.6 per cent) con- 
curred with the view that restraining the powers of the govern- 
ment was not good, for that would detract from governmental 
efficiency. Nevertheless, this emphasis on a strong government 
was tempered to a certain extent by an awareness that such gov- 
ernment should be restrained and checked to avoid the abuse of 
power. This consideration could be seen in several findings in 
1992. Less than half of Hongkongese (37.9 per cent) and Chinese 
(41.6 per cent) agreed with the following statement: "To handle 
the problems now facing Hong Kong, it is most important that 
Hong Kong has a strong government. Whether it is democratic or 
not is of secondary importance." Even smaller proportions of 
Hongkongese (28.1 per cent) and Chinese (36.7 per cent) agreed 
with the following statement: "To handle the problems now fac- 
ing Hong Kong, it is most important that Hong Kong has a gov- 
ernment that makes efficient decisions. Whether or not it consults 
the public on these decisions is not important." In 1993, only 
minorities of Hongkongese (26.5 per cent) and Chinese (36.5 per 
cent) shared the view that "we can leave all public affairs to 
leaders with moral integrity and there is no need for us to express 
our views." Nevertheless, a finding in 1993 showed that the differ- 
ence between Hongkongese and the Chinese grew wider, when at 
issue was a government which was authoritarian but at the same 
time more competent than a democratic government. Less than 



Hongkongese or Chinese 23 



half (37.1 per cent) of Hongkongese were willing to accept such a 
government, but more than half (57.1 per cent) of the Chinese 
preferred it. 

Despite their similarities, subtle differences between the 
Hongkongese and the Chinese could be detected. Generally 
speaking, while Hongkongese had stronger democratic aspira- 
tions than the Chinese, the Chinese had on the contrary a more 
"romantic" or idealistic view of democracy. Behind the Chinese's 
lower emphasis on democratization was the fact that they were 
more satisfied with the performance of the existing system and the 
Hong Kong government, resulting in a slightly greater sense of 
political complacency. In 1988, for example, while 75 per cent of 
Hongkongese rated the existing non-democratic political system 
as the best available under objective circumstances, 78.1 per cent 
of the Chinese did so. In addition, a higher proportion of Chinese 
(52.3 per cent) described the performance of the Hong Kong gov- 
ernment as good, in contrast with 40 per cent of Hongkongese. 

Because Hongkongese were most mistrustful of the Chinese 
government, there was a somewhat stronger tendency for them to 
see democratization as a means to bolster Hong Kong's autonomy 
against Chinese interference after 1997. In 1988, for example, a 
slightly higher proportion of Hongkongese (35.2 per cent) than 
Chinese (33.3 per cent) were confident that the introduction of 
direct elections in Hong Kong would prevent China from interfer- 
ing in local affairs. 

Besides instrumental considerations, Hongkongese's greater 
aspirations for democracy were also based on their more modern 
political outlook. This point can be illustrated with several pieces 
of evidence. In 1992a, it was found that when asked to rank the 
relative importance of political stability and democratic govern- 
ment, a higher proportion of Hongkongese (16 per cent) than 
Chinese (8 per cent) picked the latter as more important. Similarly, 
when asked to choose between economic prosperity and demo- 
cratic government, still a higher proportion of Hongkongese (17.8 
per cent) than Chinese (9.6 per cent) gave priority to democratic 
government. 



24 Hongkongese or Chinese 



In 1993, Hongkongese were found to be more supportive of 
the principle of political equality. Thus, 55.8 per cent of 
Hongkongese, as compared with 48.3 per cent of Chinese, dis- 
agreed with the view that the more educated people should have 
more political influence than the less educated. A higher propor- 
tion of Hongkongese (76.3 per cent) than Chinese (68.8 per cent) 
disagreed with the statement that the head of government was 
equivalent to the head of a large family, all the big and small 
public affairs had to be decided by him. Hongkongese (16.7 per 
cent) were more likely than the Chinese (14.2 per cent) to describe 
the pace of democratization in Hong Kong as too slow. A larger 
proportion of Hongkongese (74 per cent) than Chinese (59.3 per 
cent) disagreed that further democratization would threaten 
Hong Kong's stability. By the same token, the political reforms 
introduced by Christopher Patten, the Governor of Hong Kong, 
received more support from the Hongkongese than the Chinese. 
In the 1995 survey, a higher proportion of Hongkongese (45.1 per 
cent) than Chinese (27.5 per cent) thought that Patten's reforms 
were beneficial to Hong Kong. 

Again, the differences between Hongkongese and the Chinese 
with regard to attitudes toward democratization were not sub- 
stantial. Both groups were by and large moderate in political 
mentality. The issue of democratization should not be a wedge 
between them. 



Discussion 

After detailed presentation of findings, we are in a better position 
to answer the questions raised at the beginning of the paper. 
Undoubtedly, there are differences in ethos between the 
Hongkongese and the Chinese, but they were minimal as com- 
pared with the vast contrast between the Hong Kong Chinese and 
the mainland Chinese. Accordingly, identity differences in Hong 
Kong are not likely to be a major cleavage in Hong Kong with 
serious political or social implications. As a matter of fact, the 



Hongkongese or Chinese 25 



limited attitudinal differences between the Hongkongese and the 
Chinese testify to the short history of identity formation and mo- 
bilization in Hong Kong, as well as the low emotional intensity 
wherewith the Hong Kong identity is held. 

Both the Hong Kong identity and the Chinese identity of the 
Hong Kong Chinese are constructed on the ethno-cultural base. 
They tend to be transcendental in the geographical sense, as both 
do not involve intense allegiance to Hong Kong or China as a 
geographical area. They do not involve political allegiance to con- 
crete political regimes. Moreover, both also do not encompass 
intense parochial or primordial feelings, such as localism or sub- 
nationalism. Therefore, the kind of parochialism or primordialism 
which inhibits nation-building in many developing societies does 
not exist in Hong Kong. 16 

China is fully aware of the difficulty of culturally and politi- 
cally integrating the Hong Kong Chinese into the motherland. 
Despite China's reiterations about the unity of the Chinese nation, 
the "one country, two systems" formula to deal with Hong Kong's 
post-colonial future serves to provide ample time for integration 
to take place. The Preamble of the Basic Law spells out the policy 
of China: "Upholding national unity and territorial integrity, 
maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and tak- 
ing account of its history and realities, the People's Republic of 
China has decided that upon China's resumption of the exercise of 
sovereignty over Hong Kong, a Hong Kong Special Administra- 
tive Region will be established in accordance with the provisions 
of Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, 
and that under the principle of 'one country, two systems', the 
socialist system and policies will not be practised in Hong Kong." 
Article 5 specially stipulates that "[T]he socialist system and poli- 
cies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administra- 
tive Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life 
shall remain unchanged for 50 years." 

In fact, China must be thinking in terms of decades, rather 
than years, insofar as ultimate integration is concerned. The "one 
country, two systems" model has substantially alleviated the seri- 



26 Hongkongese or Chinese 



ousness of any possible "identity crisis" in Hong Kong. It de- 
mands minimal changes in the attitudes and behaviour of the 
Hong Kong Chinese, though many of them are still worried about 
the possibility that China would impose changes on them. In any 
case, up to now there has been no sign that the Hong Kong 
Chinese are psychologically troubled by an "identity crisis." And 
there have been almost no (except perhaps for the activities in the 
spring of 1989) collective political actions that were caused by 
identity issues. On the other hand, by installing a barrier between 
Hong Kong and the mainland, the "one country, two systems" 
format in practice works to reinforce and prolong the separate 
identity of the Hong Kong people. 

The preservation of the capitalist system of Hong Kong in 
socialist China, notwithstanding the "one country, two systems" 
format, is bound to cause conflicts between Hong Kong and the 
mainland, particularly when the purpose is not to segregate the 
two systems, but instead to accelerate contacts between them so 
that Hong Kong can contribute significantly to China's modern- 
ization. The mistrust and fear of the socialist regime by the Hong 
Kong Chinese are bound to continue to adversely affect the rela- 
tionship between the central government and the HKSAR, partic- 
ularly when China cannot resist the temptation to tamper with 
Hong Kong's affairs. Nevertheless, despite political alienation 
from the Chinese state, the Hongkongese identity still encom- 
passes strong identification with the Chinese nation, which ex- 
plains inter alia the Hongkongese's intense empathy with the Bei- 
jing students in 1989 and their tremendous pride in the achieve- 
ments of the Chinese athletes in international events. 17 Therefore, 
the Hong Kong identity does not entail separatism. In fact, identi- 
fications with Hong Kong and with the Chinese nation represent 
multiple and complementary identities. Throughout Hong 
Kong's history, there has been no demand for political indepen- 
dence in Hong Kong. Moreover, notwithstanding their anxieties 
about the territory's return to China, China's claim of sovereignty 
over Hong Kong has never been questioned by the Hong Kong 
Chinese. 



Hongkongese or Chinese 27 



After 1997, several factors might work to strengthen identifi- 
cation with the Chinese nation, and possibly even with the Chi- 
nese state, among the Hong Kong Chinese: the inexorable fact that 
Hong Kong is politically part of China, the growing military 
power and international status of China, increasing economic 
interdependency between Hong Kong and the mainland, the 
modernization of China, the increasing impact of China's devel- 
opment on Hong Kong, the propagation of nationalist values in 
Hong Kong, and the strengthening of social and cultural ties 
between the people in both places. 

It is difficult to predict precisely the development of identity 
formation in Hong Kong. However, in view of what happened in 
the past, it is very likely that there will be a merging of the current 
Hongkongese and Chinese identities to form a new identity of the 
Hong Kong Chinese. This new identity will be different from the 
identity of the Chinese people on the mainland. On top of this 
local identity, the Hong Kong Chinese will gradually adopt a 
larger Chinese identity, with the People's Republic of China as the 
object of identification. It is also likely that, despite all sorts of 
conflicts, the Hong Kong identity and the larger Chinese identity 
will become increasingly complementary inasmuch as claiming 
the Hong Kong identity not only does not involve denying one's 
Chinese identity, but also acts to reinforce it. 



Notes 



In all the surveys referred to in this article, only persons over 
18 years old were interviewed. The sampling frame was com- 
posed of households. The respondents selected for interview 
were derived from the sample of households through a ran- 
dom selection process. Except for the 1985 survey, all the 
other surveys were Hong Kong-wide surveys using a com- 
mon sampling method. The following is a brief description of 
these surveys. 

(1) The 1985 survey was conducted in the summer and au- 
tumn of 1985 in Kwun Tong, an industrial-cum-residen- 



28 Hongkongese or Chinese 



tial community in Hong Kong. The sampling frame used 
was based on a 2 per cent sample of the complete house- 
hold list prepared by the Census and Statistics Depart- 
ment for the 1981 Census. The size of the systematic 
sample was 1,687. In all, 792 interviews were successfully 
completed, yielding a response rate of 46.9 per cent. 

(2) The 1988 survey was undertaken in the summer of 1988. 
The sample used in the survey was prepared by means of 
a multi-stage design, starting with a sample of 649 resi- 
dential addresses from the computerized Sub-Frame of 
Living Quarters maintained by the Census and Statistics 
Department. In total, 396 successful interviews were ob- 
tained, yielding a response rate of 61 per cent. 

(3) The 1990 survey was conducted in the summer, autumn 
and winter of 1990. The size of the sample was 613. From 
it, 390 interviews were successfully completed, resulting 
in a response rate of 63.6 per cent. 

(4) The 1991 survey was carried out in the summer of 1991. 
The sample size was 718. In total, 401 successful inter- 
views were obtained, yielding a response rate of 55.8 per 
cent. 

(5) The sample size of the 1992 survey was 1,568. Interviews 
were conducted mostly from May to November 1992. A 
total of 868 interviews were completed, and the response 
rate was 55.4 per cent. 

(6) The sample size of the 1992a survey was 1,125. Inter- 
views were done mostly from December 1992 to Febru- 
ary 1993. In total, 615 interviews were successfully 
completed, with a response rate of 54.7 per cent. The 
questionnaire of the survey was chiefly designed by Pro- 
fessors Lee Ming-kwan and Leung Sai-wing. Some of 
their findings were reported in their Democracy, Capital- 
ism, and National Identity in Public Attitudes (Hong Kong: 
Department of Applied Social Studies, The Hong Kong 
Polytechnic University, June 1995). 



Hongkongese or Chinese 29 



(7) The 1993 survey was conducted in the summer of 1993. 
The sample size was 1,633. At the end of the survey, a 
total of 892 successful interviews were completed, yield- 
ing a response rate of 54.6 per cent. 

(8) The 1994 survey was conducted in the summer of 1994. 
The sample size was 1,748. Of which, 997 interviews 
were completed, yielding a response rate of 57 per cent. 

(9) The 1995 survey was carried out in the summer of 1995. 
The sample size was 663, 408 interviews were completed, 
with a response rate of 61.5 per cent. 

2. See Elizabeth Sinn, "Emigration from Hong Kong before 
1941: General Trends," in Ronald Skeldon (ed.), Emigration 
from Hong Kong: Tendencies and Impacts (Hong Kong: The Chi- 
nese University Press, 1995), pp. 11-34; and Ronald Skeldon, 
"Emigration from Hong Kong, 1945-1994: The Demographic 
Lead-up to 1997," ibid., pp. 51-77. 

3. For an overall description of the cultural content of the Hong 
Kong identity, particularly that of the educated and Western- 
ized middle-class, see Helen F. Siu, "Remade in Hong Kong: 
Weaving into the Chinese Cultural Tapestry," in Tao Tao Liu 
and David Faure (eds), Unity and Diversity: Local Cultures and 
Identities in China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 
1996), pp. 176-96. 

4. A four-point scale (very weak, weak, strong, very strong) 
question was used in the 1985 survey, whereas in all the other 
surveys the five-point scale (very weak, weak, average, 
strong, very strong) question was used. Thus, the figure for 
1985 would have been smaller had a five-point scale question 
been used. 

5. See Lau Siu-kai and Kuan Hsin-chi, The Ethos of the Hong Kong 
Chinese (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1988), pp. 
178-79. 

6. Wong Siu-lun, "Political Attitudes and Identity," in Ronald 
Skeldon (ed.), Emigration from Hong Kong, p. 170. 

7. The importance of culture and ethnicity in the definition of a 
Chinese person is widely recognized. See for example Myron 



30 Hongkongese or Chinese 



L. Cohen, "Being Chinese: The Peripheralization of Tradi- 
tional Identity/' in Tu Wei-ming (ed.), The Living Tree: The 
Changing Meaning of Being Chinese Today (Stanford: Stanford 
University Press, 1991), pp. 88-108; and David Yen-ho Wu, 
"The Construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese Identities," 
ibid., pp. 148-66. 

8. Lau and Kuan, The Ethos of the Hong Kong Chinese, p. 179. 

9. Lucian W. Pye has argued that, despite common ethnicity and 
cultural habits among the Chinese, the historical pattern of 
China's modernization has left China with a relatively incho- 
ate and incoherent form of nationalism. A major feature of 
this relatively "contentless" form of nationalism is the weak 
identification with the state. The "stateless" version of na- 
scent nationalism of the Hong Kong Chinese can be described 
as an even more exaggerated version of Pye's contentless 
nationalism. See Pye's "The Challenge of Modernization to 
the Chinese National Identity," a lecture delivered at The 
Chinese University of Hong Kong on 9 January 1991 (Chinese 
University Bulletin, Supplement 22, pp. 12-29). 

10. The supreme importance of ethnicity and culture as the basis 
of Chineseness and Chinese nationalism has been under- 
scored by many scholars. See for example Zhang Yufa, 
"Diguo zhuyi, minzu zhuyi yu guoji zhuyi zai jindai 
Zhongguo lishi shang de jiaose" [The Role of Imperialism, 
Nationalism and Internationalism in Modern Chinese His- 
tory] in Liu Qingfeng (ed.), Minzu zhuyi yu Zhongguo 
xiandaihua [Nationalism and Chinese Modernization] (Hong 
Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1994), pp. 99-125; Jiang 
Yihua, "Lun ershi shiji Zhongguo de minzu zhuyi" [On 
Twentieth-Century Chinese Nationalism], ibid., pp. 143-57; 
Wang Rongzu, "Zhongguo jindai minzu zhuyi de huigu yu 
zhanwang" [Modern Chinese Nationalism: Past and Future], 
ibid., pp. 187-200; and Lowell Dittmer and Samuel S. Kim, "In 
Search of a Theory of National Identity," in Lowell Dittmer 
and Samuel S. Kim (eds), China's Quest for National Identity 
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 1-31. 



Hongkongese or Chinese 3 1 



11. Lau and Kuan, The Ethos of the Hong Kong Chinese, p. 179. 

12. A four-point scale (strongly mistrust, mistrust, trust, strongly 
trust) question was used in the 1993 survey, whereas in all the 
other surveys the five-point scale question was used (strongly 
mistrust, mistrust, average, trust, strongly trust). The figure 
for 1993 would have been smaller had the five-point scale 
question been used. 

13. It was also found in 1990 that a lower proportion of 
Hongkongese (37.5 per cent) than Chinese (55 per cent) were 
satisfied with the Basic Law. 

14. In all the surveys mentioned in this study, the Hongkongese 
were consistently more trustful of the British and Hong Kong 
governments than the Chinese. 

15. See Kuan Hsin-chi and Lau Siu-kai, "The Partial Vision of 
Democracy in Hong Kong: A Survey of Popular Opinion," 
The China Journal, 34 (July 1995), pp. 239-64. 

16. See Clifford Geertz, "Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics 
in the New States," in Clifford Geertz (ed.), Old Societies and 
New States (New York: Free Press, 1963), pp. 105-57. 

17. See also Wong Ka-ying, Timothy, Xianggangren de znqun 
rentongyu minzu rentong: Yige ziyon zhuyi dejieshi [Hong Kong 
People's Ethnic Identity and National Identity: A Liberalist 
Interpretation] (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Asia- 
Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, April 
1996). 



Danada-Hong Kong Resource Centre 

1 Spadina Crescent, Rm. Ill* Toronto, Canada • M5S 1A1 



Hongkongese or Chinese 

The Problem of Identity on the Eve of Resumption of 

Chinese Sovereignty over Hong Kong 



Abstract 

"Hongkongese" and "Chinese" are the two major identities which 
the Hong Kong Chinese themselves consider to be meaningful. 
Drawing upon survey data collected in the last decade, the study 
shows that there are significant differences between Hongkongese 
and Chinese in their socio-demographic characteristics, in their 
attitude toward the People's Republic of China and the Chinese 
government, in their understanding of the June 4 Incident, and in 
their conception of democracy and political reform in Hong Kong. 
Nevertheless, Hongkongese and Chinese are similar in their sup- 
port for traditional Chinese values and identification with China 
in the ethnic and historical sense. Irrespective of their identities, 
Hong Kong Chinese are still quite different attitudinally from the 
Chinese in mainland China. Particularly noteworthy is the nega- 
tive feelings toward the Chinese government held in common by 
both the Hongkongese and the Chinese. 

Notwithstanding the pervasive anxieties engendered by the 
1997 problem, the Hong Kong Chinese are apparently not suffer- 
ing from a salient sense of "identity crisis," at least as far as the 
common people are concerned. However, in view of the vast 
differences in values between the mainland and Hong Kong, mu- 
tual adjustment will be difficult and inevitable in the future. In the 
process of intensified interaction between Hong Kong and the 
mainland, there is the likelihood that a new identity of the Hong 
Kong Chinese will appear. This new identity however will still be 
different from that of the Chinese people on the mainland. 






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Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies 

The Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies was established in 
September 1990 to promote multidisciplinary social science research on 
social, political and economic development. Research emphasis is placed 
on the role of Hong Kong in the Asia-Pacific region and the reciprocal 
effects of the development of Hong Kong and the Asia-Pacific region. 

Director: Yeung Yue-man, PhD(C/n'c), Professor of Geography 
Associate Director: Lau Siu-kai, PhD(A/mn.); Professor of Sociology 



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