Among driving rain, rough winds and other remnants of yesterday’s tropical storm, the streets of Hong Kong are teeming today with the usual bustle of high-powered businessmen and equally serious shoppers. But there’s something new on the streets of the island metropolis: Chinese patriotism. According to a recent survey by the Public Opinion Program at the University of Hong Kong, a 58% of Hong Kongers of Chinese descent now identify themselves as Chinese or Chinese Hong Kong citizens. The number may still be only a bare majority, but it shows significant growth of PRC patriotism — when the annual survey was first conducted in 1997, the year HK reverted to Chinese rule, only 18.6% identified as Chinese nationals.
As HK moves ever closer to the mainland, some worry the island will lose its climate of free speech. The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association recently published a report alleging a growing pro-Beijing media bias, which it fears will “lead to a dominant view that excludes opinions that are at variance with those propagated in Beijing.”
POP directors cite several factors as causes for the change, most notably the energy and emotion brought on by the Sichuan earthquake and the Beijing Olympics. Before the events of what has been a tumultuous year for China, Hong Kongers tended to be ambivalent about the mainland, but POP reports a seismic shift in local sentiment:
But then came the riots in Tibet and the Olympic torch disruptions. People in Hong Kong had not the slightest doubt that it was instigated by groups in the West, chief among them the National Endowment for Democracy-funded Reporters Without Borders. The resulting impact on the Chinese diaspora worldwide has been fantastic and the effect on Hong Kong was palpable. Overnight, Hong Kong people were no longer Hong Kong people – they were just Chinese.
If the West had ever grossly misunderstood Chinese nationalism, this was the time.
Eleven years of adjustment, economic benefits and a government initiative to play the Chinese national anthem at every possible moment also may have helped.
Photo from Steve Webel