Vox Borders has recently laid its sight on Hong Kong, producing a gripping series that details our city’s 156 British Rule, China’s plans to erase its border with HK, the impact of Feng Shui on our skyline and how our iconic neon lights are being replaced by LEDs. With plenty to sink your teeth into, not only does it highlight Hong Kong’s identity crises, but has sparked plenty of conversations on the accurate representation of the city and its people. So what are people saying?
The series kicks off with a statement of fact – “I’m in China”, which whilst geographically true, is a triggering statement for most of Hong Kong’s natives. It may not be offensive to someone on the outside, but because of Hong Kong’s identity, general way of life and government systems, Hong Kong differs greatly from the ‘motherland’. Ask anyone on the street and you’ll likely find them making the distinction between the two.
A study in 2017 showed that natives do not feel they are a part of China and whilst ethnically Chinese, identify as Hong Konger’s – respondents were asked to rate separate identities between 0 and 100 points – the higher the index, the stronger the positive feeling. The score for “Hongkongers” was the strongest at 73.8 marks, followed by “Asians” 70.7, then “global citizens” at 66.4. “Members of the Chinese race” was rated 64.4, “Chinese” as 62.5, and “citizens of the PRC” as 54.8.
One netizen sounding off on the Vox Facebook comment section to say “Please stop calling it China. It’s Hong Kong, not China. It’s like calling Scotland – England. Locals do not even identify Hong Kong as China, it’s a part of China. Look on a world map and you will see it’s called Hong Kong, not China, so why would you call it China? If you are going to make a film about a country, the least you can do is call it by its correct name”
This sentiment is powerful and one that was repeated by many viewers, and its nothing new, in fact, a few years previous one design studio in Hong Kong creating a handy yet provocative series of illustrations to showcase the difference between the between the two.
Another commenter vehemently stated that your national identity should be determined by your ethnicity, stating “Hong Kong has been part of China since time immemorial. The Hong Kong people are a part of the Cantonese race, which was, is, and will be an integral part of the Chinese ethnicity. The Hong Kong people who think they’re British and that Britain abandoned them are delusional. They have been slaves to the imperialists for so long they forgot their real identity. National identity is determined by your ethnicity – the blood that runs through your veins, the colour of your skin and hair, etc, not by which master you serve. The people of Hong Kong needs to accept the reality that they have never been British. They have always been Chinese”A head scratcher for us as you can simply argue that people grow up and live in different countries all the time and also the world is becoming more mixed race in general.
But back to the point, while the first of the series paints Hong Kong as the former British colony, part two highlights China’s increasing hold over Hong Kong, threatening the city’s way of life and freedoms that we’ve become accustomed to. Their main point rings true, China is trying to blur the lines between borders and reunify Hong Kong. Just last week the Chinese government announced that any Hong Konger’s looking to work in China no longer require a work permit, making it far easier to start your career in China and lifts restrictions of moving freely between companies.
But in an effort to paint the narrative, Vox’s bias begins to show. The episode claims that Hong Kong’s evening news is in Mandarin and therefore that Cantonese is under attack. A statement that is false as the main evening news is broadcasted in Cantonese and in English – neither of which have the Chinese national anthem prelude them like the series suggested.
One netizen correcting Vox by saying “The mandarin newscast only occupies 25 min of airtime per day. And it’s not broadcasted on the flagship channel that most people tune in to by default. The regular newscasts, done morning, afternoon, evening, and late night on the flagship channel, as well as round-the-clock coverage on its dedicated finance/info channel, are all done in Cantonese. There’s also an entire English channel.”
Vox could have easily flipped this argument around and highlighted TVB or ATV’s English news coverage and discussed Hong Kong’s western influence, but that argument would have diluted their point. The fact is, Cantonese remains strong and Hong Kong is proudly bilingual.
Dissecting Hong Kong’s intricate social constructs definitely isn’t easy, Hong Kong’s identity as a whole is still evolving and as individuals, Hong Kong-ers can’t seem to agree and sit on a wide spectrum. We’re sure the series isn’t done with making its faux pas – in its next episode it falsely attributes all holes in buildings to feng shui, nevertheless, we’ll be watching because it does spark the right questions as to who Hong Kong wants to be, it puts the love-hate relationship with Britain as well as China under the microscope and above all it makes for a bite-size introduction into the struggles the city is facing as a collective.