Hong Kong Citizenship, And Attitudes to Mainland China

15 Feb


Since the return of Hong Kong (HK) from the British Crown Colony to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, there has been an overwhelming nervousness from Hong-Kongers towards its superpower China. Skeldon (1994) notes that this transfer of sovereignty has left concerns for political stability and personal freedom for those in HK. Some of the contentions originate from HK and China’s separate histories and political development. On the one hand, HK has transformed from a collection of fishing villages on the southern fringe of China to a globally recognised entity. It has adopted a capitalistic mentality under British rule, forging a distinct ‘democratic-like’ economy which has fostered a high degree of freedom. Mainland China largely suffered through revolution and war which has long denounced the ‘egotistical individualism’ (Lau and Kuan, 1988, p.53) in HK. Yet the area has been synonymous with developing China’s Pearl River Delta region post-reunification. And although there is an increasing merging of populations between these two spheres, the HK people seldom refer to themselves as ‘Chinese’. This suggests that clear distinctions between HK and China persist into the 21st century.


“The Hong Kong University survey conducted in November showed 31.8% of Hong Kong people have “negative” feelings for people from mainland China” (2013 AFP).


Indeed, this quote surmises the failure of social cohesion proposed by the PRC, which advocates the ‘one country, two systems’ approach. Alas, the ‘one country’ popularly utilised by central government for national pride and solidarity is often overlooked by Hong- Kongers who remain indifferent to Chinese cultures, derogatorily referring mainlanders to ‘locusts’ with ‘unrefined social habits’. This is echoed by business elites being disturbed by mainlander’s work ethic and adherence to communist systems, leading to resettlement within their native HK (Ma, 2009).  Other scholars discuss Hong-Kongers as feeling and identifying themselves as different to mainlanders both socially and culturally (Ko, 2012).  However, lingering British colonial identities are also met with contentious relationships, suggesting there is cultural separation from both past identity and current identity. This phenomena has instilled a diaspora within Hong Kong identities. There are fears that HK will be absorbed back into China as just another city, one that bears no unique characteristics. Another node of resentment stems from an influx of mainland Chinese who are driving up property prices through lavish spending in designer stores. The number of mainlanders entering the region for essential products such as baby milk formula after the 2008 tainted-milk scandal frequently leaves locals struggling. The rising number of pregnant Chinese women entering HK to give birth and gain citizenship has sparked opposition from local activists wanting to prevent autonomic citizenship and benefits.


The people of HK are therefore referred to as transient, or in diaspora as ‘not Chinese’ but ‘not British’. Amidst rising caution towards China’s economic and military prowess, Hong-Kongers remain careful by gaining dual citizenship ‘just in case’ in order to protect the freedom of their children and grandchildren.











Ko, V. 2012. Trouble Down South: Why Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese Aren’t Getting Along. [Online]. Available: http://world.time.com/2012/01/24/trouble-down-south-why-hong-kong-and-mainland-chinese-arent-getting-along/.

Lau, S. K. and Kuan, H. C. 1988, The ethos of the Hong Kong Chinese. Hong Kong: Chinese,

University Press.

Ma, R. 2009, ‘Communication experiences and adaptation of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong and Hong Kong Chinese in mainland China’, Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, vol 38, no. 2, pp. 115-132.

Mcdonald, M. 2012, China Sends Two to Labor Camp for Marching in Hong Kong, [Online]. Available :  http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/26/china-sends-two-to-labor-camp-for-marching-in-hong-kong/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0.

Skeldon, R. 1994, Reluctant exiles?: Migration from Hong Kong and the new overseas Chinese, Hong Kong University Press.

AFP. 2013, Hong Kong residents dislike mainland Chinese more than Japanese: poll [Online]. Available: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/hon-kong-residents-dislike-mainland-chinese-more-than-japanese-poll.


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