Yes, Hong Kong Chinese are all dogs. And they smell. Maybe. At least, that’s what a Chinese professor at the prestigious 北京大学 （Peking University) said. So what is it all about? Well, there are two issues here. The first is Hong Kong’s identity in the world and within China. The second is a bowl of noodles on Hong Kong’s underground, the MTR.
Let’s start with the easy part – Hong Kong’s identity and what it means of being “Chinese”.
For the Chinese, being “Chinese” is a question of race. A Westerner, living in China for 20 years and speaking Mandarin fluently would never be considered as a Chinese person. On the other hand, an ABC (American Born Chinese), born in America who’s never been to China and doesn’t speak Chinese would, in Chinese eyes, still be considered as a Chinese. This concept is fundamentally different to immigrant countries such as the U.S. where everyone accepts you as American (or should accept you) after you obtained the citizenship.
So Hong Konger’s, or Honkies, should also be Chinese, right?
Well, that depends whom you ask…
It seems that despite being part of China and holding the Chinese Citizenship since 1997 Honkies don’t seem to feel as Chinese. Even more, they often feel superior over their brethren across the border in Mainland China. Honkies claim to have better education, foreign language skills and a society based on the rule of law. A recent survey confirmed the Honkies attitude – they do see themselves more as “Hongkies” then as “Chinese”.
For a long time Hong Kong has been indeed superior over the Mainland. It was far more advanced compared to China. But things are changing and the Mainland is catching up on infrastructure, education and others. On the other hand, English language skills for example, are deteriorating in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, many Honkies remain the feeling of being superior compared to the rest of China. I don’t think it’s a unique problem of China though. After all, Californians look down on the rest of the U.S. and Parisiens are notorious for being snobbish to the rest of France.
“So where’s the story?” you might think?
Enter the “bowl of noodles”…..
Hong Kong’s underground, the MTR, is one of the cleanest and most efficient public transport systems in the world. Eating and drinking is strictly forbidden on the MTR. Announcements regarding this rule are made in three languages, signs clearly indicate these regulations. Honkies are proud of having one of the most efficient and clean public transport systems in the world – and with good reason.
Around two weeks ago, a Honkie saw a Mainland family on the MTR. No surprise here, with millions of Mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong they also take the MTR. One of the children was just eating a bowl of instant noodles. That is liable to a fine of up to HKD 2,000 (USD 260). The Honkie then told the Chinese woman, in a rather rude tone, that you can’t eat on the MTR. She ended the conversation by suggesting to the Mainland family to “go back to China”.
And here’s where the real problem started and we can blame the mobile phone industry for equipping their phones with video recording function. Yes, someone recorded a video, posted it on the net and the whole thing went viral.
Now, that’s bad enough but alas it’s not the end to our story. A Peking University professor answered in an interview with a China TV station. In that interview, he made ridiculous allegations among them calling all Honkies “dogs” who can’t speak Chinese (in Hong Kong Cantonese is spoken, which is a very different language from Mandarin Chinese). Honkies are also uncivilized (hence the need for rule of law), etc. To make sure he get his point across, he put in a lot of swear words in his monologue. Below you find the whole interview with English subtitles.
Then afterwards, a TV station also picked up the story and looked into the professor’s past. Apparently he claims himself to be decedent from Confucius, loves Mao and North Korea. He caused quite a stir among Chinese netizen and now the topic is a huge debate that won’t calm down.
And now the final question – who’s right?
As so often in life the answer is somewhere in between. It is true, that many Mainlanders coming to Hong Kong are sometimes not aware that they are in a place where different laws and regulations are in place. As such, you can’t spit around and litter all places (having said that I don’t say all Mainlanders coming to Hong Kong behave like that and the behaviour of some Gwai Lohs in Wanchai could also be improved).
On the other hand, the Hong Kong woman could’ve toned down her voice a bit. Very often it’s not what you say but how you say it. Besides, if I had been the one with the bowl of noodles on the MTR, I’m sure people would’ve treated me very differently. I wouldn’t have been shouted at. Why? Because I’m a Gwai Loh (Westerner). Instead, I would’ve been told: “Excuse me Sir, this is the MTR. You cannot eat noodles here”.
And that’s the second issue here – Honkies indeed look down on Mainlanders. But Hong Kong needs to understand that most of the economic growth it enjoyed over the last decade was only due to China. Without Chinese tourists flocking in Hong Kong’s shops, Chinese companies listing on Hong Kong’s stock exchange, Hong Kong would be screwed. Hong Kong, and all Honkies, need to understand that they’re not “superior” to Mainland China anymore. In twenty years from now, Hong Kong will only be one of many Chinese big cities. When the RMB will become a fully convertible currency, it is very likely that Shanghai will become Asia’s financial centre again leaving Hong Kong behind.
It’s for sure not a problem for Honkies to keep their own identity. But they need to realize that they need China. And you don’t want to shit on your own doorstep.
Back to the noodles. I should really test my theory I mentioned above – let’s have noodles on the MTR… .