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Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction
Hong Kong: minority rights
Neither inside nor outside China
Chapter 2: The fall of the Hong Kong Myth
Political texts as a multi-dimensional space
Patten’s Hong Kong Myth
Tung’s double responsibilities
Tsang’s personification and pragmatism
Chun-ying Leung and “proactive policy”
Carrie Lam’s “good governance”
Chapter 3: The city of jiyu/geijyu: Refashioning a neoliberal subject
Neoliberalism and keyword
Jiyu/geijyu from China to Hong Kong
Turning crisis into opportunity
Individualized motivation, psychological condition, and ethos
Chapter 4: Ethnocracy: A study of the campaigns against mainland Chinese visitors
China: a magic ticket?
Populism and ethnocracy
From disempowerment to empowerment
Conclusion: scaling down the colonial power
Chapter 5: Defending the city: Nativism and political existentialism
Ambiguity, ambivalence, and contradiction
“Shaking things up”
Conclusion: a rift into the political order
Chapter 6: Neoliberal populism: Ethnicization of right-wing economics
From right-wing economics to the thesis of “lazy people”
New anti-Mainland China sentiment
“The Gundam Incident”
The birth of zogaau
Chapter 7: Poised between two times: Young men, temporality, and identity politics
Time as an object
Hong Kong’s disjointed time
Williams: nostalgic nationalism
Charles: a sectarian youth
Kelvin: closeted participation
Identity politics without recognition
Chapter 8: “Hong Kong is not a dream”: Disengagement, translocality, and gangpiao
Hong Kong is not a dream
Translocality as network
Translocality and disengagement
Self-representation of gangpiao: pragmatism and mobility
Concluding remarks: “becoming gold-plated”
Epilogue: Will to power
Hong Kong as a neoliberal experiment
Two mechanisms: neoliberalism and affective autonomy
Hong Kong’s New Identity Politics
Ip uses Hong Kong as a case study in how the production of the desire for “the local” lies at the heart of global cultural economy. Perhaps more so than most places, the construction of a local identity in Hong Kong has come about through a complex interplay of neoliberalism, post-coloniality and reaction to the consequent anxieties and uncertainties. As its importance as an economic center has diminished and its relationship with Mainland China has become more strained, its people have become more concerned to define a “Hong Kong” identity that can be defended from external threat. Ip analyses the working and reworking of power relations and modes of agency in this global city. A must read for scholars of Hong Kong politics and society as well as a fascinating case study for scholars of identity politics as a global phenomenon. Iam-chong Ip is Assistant Professor and Associate Head of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.
Routledge Contemporary China Series
Internet Video Culture in China YouTube, Youku, and the Space in Between Marc L. Moskowitz Securitization of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong The Rise of a Patriotocratic System Cora Y.T. Hui Non-Governmental Orphan Relief in China Law, Policy and Practice Anna High Living in the Shadows of China’s HIV/AIDS Epidemics Sex, Drugs and Bad Blood Shelley Torcetti China’s Quest for Innovation Institutions and Ecosystems Shuanping Dai and Markus Taube Ecology and Chinese-Language Ecocinema Reimagining a Field Edited by Sheldon H. Lu and Haomin Gong Civilian Participants in the Cultural Revolution Being Vulnerable and Being Responsible Francis K.T. Mok Hong Kong’s New Identity Politics Longing for the Local in the Shadow of China Iam-chong Ip For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/ Routledge-Contemporary-China-Series/book-series/SE0768
Hong Kong’s New Identity Politics Longing for the Local in the Shadow of China Iam-chong Ip
First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Iam-chong Ip The right of Iam-chong Ip to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-0-367-41054-4 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-367-81446-5 (ebk) Typeset in Galliard by Wearset, Boldon, Tyne and Wear
Acknowledgmentsvi 1 Introduction
2 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth
3 The city of jiyu/geijyu: refashioning a neoliberal subject
4 Ethnocracy: a study of the campaigns against mainland Chinese visitors
5 Defending the city: nativism and political existentialism
6 Neoliberal populism: ethnicization of right-wing economics
7 Poised between two times: young men, temporality, and identity politics
8 “Hong Kong is not a dream”: disengagement, translocality, and gangpiao117 Epilogue: will to power
Engagement in dialogues is indispensable to intellectual endeavors. My colleagues at the Lingnan University offered numerous insightful and creative suggestions when I presented some chapters in seminars: Roberto Castillo, Stephen Chan, Angeline De Dios, Hui Po-keung, Lau Kin-chi, Law Wing-sang, Lisa Leung, Li Siu-leung, Tejaswini Niranjana, Denise Tang, Yvonne Yau, and Yoon Soo Ryon. I would also like to express my special gratitude to Stephen Chan, Cheung Siu-keung, Jamie Doucette, Lui Tai-lok, and Andy Wang who commented on some sections of my draft chapters. Naturally, they should not be held accountable for the book’s errors, flaws, and deficiencies, which are definitely my responsibility. Thanks must also go to Yick Man-kin, Corex Tang, Huang Jiangling, Cheung Choi-wan who helped me collect and translate some empirical data. Finally, I owe my deepest debts to my partner Lam Oi-wan, whose caring support and patience are indispensable for the completion of this book project. Chapter 4 partially draws on two previous articles. The first was published in the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 16(3) 2015, pp. 410–421 under the title “Politics of Belonging: A study of the Campaign against Mainland Visitors in Hong Kong.” The second appeared in a book chapter of Precarious Belongings: Affect and Nationalism in Asia, edited by Chih-ming Wang and Daniel Goh (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017), under the title “Becoming a Revanchist City: A Study of Hong Kong Nativist Movement.” One section of Chapter 5 is derived from a book chapter of the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Hong Kong (Edited by Tai-lok Lui, Stephen W. K. Chiu and Ray Yep, 2019) under the title “Political de-institutionalization and the rise of rightwing nativism.” Two sections of Chapter 6 draw on a Chinese article published in the Reflexion 26, 2014, pp. 153–168 under the title “Nativist Right and Economic Right: The Case of an Online Controversy” (co-authored with Yick Man-kin). This work has been supported by the Early Career Scheme sponsored by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (Project no.: 23600616) and three Faculty Research Grants sponsored by the Lingnan University (No. 101877, 101868, and DA14A8).
Midway along the journey of our life I woke to find myself in some dark woods, For I had wandered off from the straight path. (“Inferno,” Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri)
Two turns Should an underdog give up the fight? Let’s put aside the talk of international politics favoring China rather than Hong Kong. While the police had guns and already fired (in the Mongkok riot in February 2016), why didn’t the “rioters” run away? As a Chinese saying goes, “The commander of the forces of a large state may be taken down, but the will of a man cannot be taken from him.” Fighting requires the will to live. This could not be taken away by guns and bullets. One would not give up resistance even in a one-sided game. (Lu, 2016, my translation) Lu, a Hong Kong pro-nativist critic, explained why people engaged in the Mong Kok riot in 2016. He portrayed the rioters as fighters in the name of Hong Kong against the rule of China. The remarks above help paint a picture of an angry young man hurling bricks to police on the street of Mong Kok. But Lu admitted that it is a struggle doomed to failure. My question is: Why was he so keen to do something in vain or self-defeating? What Lu believes and the politico-economic setting confronting Hong Kong are not even a loose fit. They are contradictory. His words, rather than prompting me to challenge his argument or advocacy, remind me of something at odds with his seemingly “unrealistic” account of “Hong Kong.” The early attention to Hong Kong identity was unanimously informed by a sociological conception of identity, described by Stuart Hall (1996) as a somewhat old-fashioned idea, in one way or another. It is an alignment of subjective feelings with the city in its post-war era. For example, Tai-lok Lui (2002), Eric Ma (1999), and others focus on the economic changes in the 1970s and delineate the late colonial contexts in which we derived our sense of belonging
2 Introduction to this city from popular culture and project ourselves into a cultural identity. Murray Maclehose, who became the Governor of Hong Kong at the time, rolled out social policies, launched a massive public housing program, and set up the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Hereafter, his legacy has defined Hong Kongers’ self-understanding. Stephen Chan (1995: 24) conceptualizes Hong Kong identity, rather than as an ideology engineered by the state, as a “tacit popular acceptance of the existing regime of power” in its final years and subsequently perpetuated by the Beijing government and its proxies in Hong Kong. Other critics, despite their post-colonial and postmodern rhetorics, portray a Hong Kong identity implicit in the broader socio-cultural contexts. Rey Chow (1992: 158), focusing on an image of Hong Kong as being doubly victimized by the two dominating states, Britain and China, renders Hong Kong’s coloniality/post-coloniality a “third space,” serving as “the forefront” of Chinese modernity. Ackbar Abbas (1997) positions Hong Kong as a “non-space” or a culture of disappearance within the global cultural economy. In a more recent study, Hong Kong is posited as an object of desire functioning as a satellite city of modernity between highly developed areas and developing countries in the world (Ma, 2012). The accounts above, despite their different concerns and conceptual tools, share a discursive impetus to locate Hong Kong in an institutional or geopolitical context. However, the notions above do not address adequately the two turning points in “identity.” The first one is about the global trend while the second concerns Hong Kong in particular. As most cultural narratives of globalization suggest, the social anchorage on which identities rest has now become more contradictory and problematic. One is tempted to summarize this process in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s famous quote: “All that is solid melts into air.” But it turns out to be much more complicated than this phrase suggests. As we are living in a society of rapid changes in pace and scope, our way of life is not simply changing endlessly and undergoing boundary collapses. Simultaneously we have become increasingly reflexive in the sense that all our previous social practices, traditions, and identities are constantly retrieved, examined, and reformulated. The political claim of identity does not fade out; instead it intensifies across the world. The second turn is marked by the gulf between identity claims and institutional politics in Hong Kong. This gulf, rarely addressed by cultural critics, has become widened since the dramatic changes in the post-handover years: The burst of the economic bubble since the 1990s, the repeated setbacks of democratic reform, and the escalating politico-economic influence of China. These give birth to a new time consciousness, a new concept of political practice, and a new notion of legitimation. The power elites, despite their refusal to abandon the status quo in words, attempt to reposition Hong Kong by engineering a new vision of the city as a gateway to China’s state capitalism and a special administrative region tightly integrated into its national power matrix. The integration, by no means agreeable, is hierarchical and full of conflicts. The relationship between Hong Kong and China, however, is more complicated than any simple notion of
Introduction 3 “colonialism/imperialism” suggests. It is true that the elitist attempts are stateled projects of identity rendering invisible Hong Kongers’ own perspectives and group-specific experience. The city is marked out and stereotyped as the Other. Its own colonial legacy, capitalist success stories, and neoliberal subject are varloried and fed back into the imaginary of Chinese nationalism and economic triumphalism. Ironically, these projects, with limited effect in fostering political compliance, serve to generate new problems and to stake out a territory fertile of conflicts over belongings and allegiances. For the political opposition, the new consciousness means a break with the political compliance of the naturelike continuity of the status quo. It is expressed in the conviction that a new beginning could and should be made. Political practices, uncoupling the present from the past, are now understood, legitimized, and contested in terms of selfdetermination and self-realization, i.e. the basic features of political modernity, as noted by Jurgen Habermas (Habermas, 1996: 467). The new generation sees themselves burdened with the responsibility for the future of the city. Yet, no road map is found. These two turns refer to the crisis of identity as a structural process in which modern identities are being “de-centred” (Hall, 1996). It is now commonplace to celebrate or bemoan the withering of individuals’ stable anchorage in the social world. This book endorses this direction but yet works somewhat differently. It is written from a position attentive to the diverse attempts to “recenter” the identity of Hong Kong. Identity becomes an issue not simply when it is in crisis, but also when it is assumed to be something worthy of longing and pursuit.
Hong Kong: minority rights In order to examine the notions of identity in Hong Kong, I would like to take a step back and look first at how they emerged. Identity, as Zgymunt Bauman notes, is “born to be a problem” (1996: 19). The talk about Hong Kong identity, as most local scholars and critics note, came out of the socio-cultural changes of the last two decades of the British colonial rule. In the post-war years, the colonial government continued to localize the civil service, to provide homes for local people, and to expand the scope of welfare assistance and public services. Since the 1970s, the rise of local popular cultures, such as local TV programs and Cantopop, served as the major medium through which people imagine their community. The city, comparable to what “nation” or “ethnicity” means, is a more or less institutionally complete community having a given territory and sharing distinct customs, language, and culture. In this light, one may see Hong Kong’s post-war legacy as something complicating its journey of unification with China. However, this is not simply about a community finding ways of coexisting with and respect for the central state, which is a familiar feature of many empires and modern states throughout history. It is a much more complicated historical phenomenon, surfacing on “a larger human rights revolution in relation to ethnic and racial diversity”
4 Introduction (Kymlicka, 2010: 100). Despite its late-/post-colonial specificities, Hong Kong’s political concerns appear to follow the global trends of expanding the scope of human rights, advocating multiculturalism, and struggling for minority rights. In western countries, they are about legal and political accommodation of ethnic diversity in liberal-democratic constitutionalism, which is usually portrayed as proceeding in an orderly way. But in the case of Hong Kong, no stable political framework, not to mention liberal democracy, serves as the backbone for accommodation. The principle of “One Country, Two Systems” implies an expedient arrangement for integrating and dividing two incompatible political systems under the rubric of national unification. What we have witnessed is a process full of foreclosures, contradictions, and recurrences of minority rights. As Ernest Gellner said, having a nation is not an inherent attribute, but it has now come to appear as such (Gellner, 1983: 6). National belonging came to Hong Kong very late. In defining themselves, the local people often said they are “Chinese” in a casual way until the late 1970s. Few thought as if national as well as local identities are part of their essential nature, not to mention their political implications. However, since the transitional period before the handover, one has been obliged to identify oneself as something greater and more serious – as a member of a home he/she recognizes instinctively and of a nation in formal sense. Hong Kongers are no longer supposed to follow the alien rule as if it was the only way to be. Therefore, one may understand why the voices for self-determination were only confined to a handful of students or intellectuals when the political prospect of Hong Kong firstly became the contested agenda for the general public in the early 1980s. These voices were so weak that they were completely overwhelmed by the concerns about maintaining the “status quo,” i.e. the capitalist way of life and the “current system.” These concerns, informed by the interests of the colonial elites, represented the desire of evading the troubling issues of identity and political allegiance continuously. No one could convince Hong Kong people of accepting wholeheartedly the membership of the family of the Chinese nation. Instead, it only temporarily unified the classes across social divisions by providing them with a pragmatic but shaky point of identification. The political arrangements made by the British and China government were only intended to address the “confidence problems,” i.e. confidence in the continuity of the status quo. Historically speaking, this status quo was not vividly imagined as a social and political life specific to Hong Kong people until the late 1970s. With their new and rough imagination, Hong Kongers were so ill-equipped to deal with its own political prospect. It did not lend itself to people’s political consent, not to mention deliberating the various forms of self-government. Less than a decade later, after the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed, Hong Kong people, usually termed as “residents” (jumin) rather than “people” (renmin) in official documents, were required to come to terms with the structures of the Chinese state, Hong Kong’s existing system, and its distinctive way of life. All these
Introduction 5 make up a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the future. Their individual rights and right to a “high-degree of selfgovernment,” rather than demanded and announced in any Hong Kong’s founding moment, are supposedly “given.” For Hong Kong’s political future, all options except national unification were foreclosed. A report published by an European human rights non-governmental organization (International Commission of Jurists, 1992) in the early 1990s, is an interesting example. It pointed out that the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the PRC was illegal because no consent of the local people was sought formally. This report and its view came far too late to have any impact on public debate and to arouse people’s interests. The graduated sovereignty (Ong, 2006), engineered by the Beijing government under the rubric of “One Country, Two Systems,” absorbed the late-colonial elites, governing techniques, and political mechanisms to facilitate a set of institutional arrangements. They function as accommodating Hong Kong’s distinct culture, a sort of self-government, and human right consensus within the straitjacket of Chinese authoritarianism. Against this background, inspired by the discourses on minority rights, the political struggles in Hong Kong continue with an increasingly strong devotion to the local. In the post-handover years, the longing for the local has become more complicated. On the one hand, while there is little room for the city negotiating national identity, the power elites, under a different constitutional structure, attempt to maintain Hong Kong’s “colonial legacy,” i.e. its governing techniques and power mechanisms, in the name of “Hong Kong ruled by Hong Kongers,” to serve China’s project of national unification. On the other hand, Hong Kong’s farewell to the colonial rule and approaching the unification with China came alongside aspirations for self-government and the local. However, the perpetuation of coloniality within the framework of national unity, coined as “sub-imperial relationships” by some post-colonial critics (Johnson and Chiu, 2000; Law, 2009), has never allowed its dominance to be undermined by political aspirations from below. These two contradictory trends have paved the way for different agenda of making local identity. The economic upheavals, such as those immediately after 1997 and in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007–2008, stimulated more policy and planning initiatives for integrating the city with China, which served as rescue packages and development projects. Following these initiatives and their social consequences, there have been attempts to refashion the identity of Hong Kong as one manageable, governable and acceptable to the authorities. However, all these projects constitute a confusing imaginary geography (Said, 1990) in which the subject sees “himself/herself” mirrored in the fractured faces, in a “home” “he/she” no longer recognizes, and in a disjointed time. This is the first time for Hong Kongers to live in the condition of modernity characteristic of a strong affection for their “home” (Giddens, 1990: 18). In the opposition camp, all these spur the new generation of political activists on to bring up the issue of Hong Kong’s political autonomy again and again in the campaigns for
6 Introduction democratization and even self-determination. An emerging mode of political talk and action that postulates popular sovereignty and constituent power resulted in serious conflicts with the sovereign power of the Beijing government (Ip, 2016b). It is one of the clichés that the local comes under siege. Locality is perceived as a passive and fragile homestead as an achievement of restoration against various kinds of odds. This perception perpetuates an endemic sense of anxiety and insecurity. The political project under the rubric of “Hong Kong” embodies a sense of belonging to a territory as well as a body politic. Yet, most take it as an outcome or a given fact rather than as moments of localization, i.e. the spatiotemporal production through complex ritualistic practices of performance, representation, and action (Appadurai, 1996: 180). It is substantially a process of locality building. It includes producing reliably local subjects as well as a structure of feeling under conditions of anxiety and uncertainty, through which such subjects recognize and organize themselves. This is the major theme of this book.
Neither inside nor outside China Hong Kong’s eccentric position within the wider framework of modern Chinese nation, in particular, contributes to a special structure of feeling. The city’s journey of national unification defies not only the organic view of nation as something grounded in common language, shared history, and folk culture, but also Ernest Renan’s view of nation as a political entity pursuing the common legacy of memories and a commitment to go on together (Renan, 1990: 19). Yet, unlike many disparate cultures, Hong Kong was not unified by violent conquest and the following forcible suppression. Neither does “Chinese” culture consist of an equal partnership between Hong Kong and the Mainland. Instead, the city institutionally and imaginarily occupies a space neither inside nor outside the nation-state. The Beijing government, apart from holding on to its “graduated sovereignty” in the name of “One Country, Two Systems,” relies on double formulations to accommodate Hong Kong in the imaginary of Chinese unity: the quasi-ethnic or historical origin of Chinese nation and the gradual “melding” (ronghe) of Hong Kong and the Mainland into a capitalistdevelopmentalist future. Yet for Hong Kong, the national imaginary has never been free of counter-collective memories and political feuds. Hong Kong’s involvement in the major events of modern Chinese history, ranging from the Opium War, anti-Manchu campaigns, Xinhai revolution, political agitations against western imperialism in the first half of the twentieth century, often cited by pro-China scholars, do not eradicate the city’s colonial legacy. More ironically, it is deemed by China’s patriotism as national humiliation, on the one hand, and imperial statecraft transposable to the Chinese state and the local elites for governing the city, on the other (Law, 2009: 173). The cold-war memory of Hong Kong as a settlement for refugees escaping from the current Chinese regime during the political campaigns in the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution
Introduction 7 in the 1960s, an unpleasant shared history, still lingers in the minds of the local people and the Beijing government as well. For the latter, there is also very much a confusing picture of what Hong Kong was and is. In Mao’s period, the city was depicted as a corrupted capitalist society, yet a window to the West subject to the Chinese Communist Party’s “long-term planning and full utilisation.” After Deng Xiaoping came to power, Hong Kong’s post-war economic success served as a model for China’s economic reform, but sometimes in political controversies the city is often portrayed as a base used by the “foreign forces” to contain China, if not to overthrow the regime. Given the contested memories not to be forgotten and Hong Kong’s problematic national identity, an allegiance to a more unified national identity could barely begin to be forged. The modern nation, as Timothy Brennan (1990) notes, refers to making a connection between a vaguely defined ancient past and a community of local belonging. In the case of Hong Kong, these two halves of the equation never come together. For many locals, the Chinese nation never feels like home. Likewise, local identity, neither simply a strategic retreat to more defensive position nor a return to the past, is subject to the play of history, politics, and difference. The loosening of strong allegiances to the national culture, in most western countries, usually came as the outcome of globalization. But it is not the case for Hong Kong. The problem of national identification has loomed large since the 1980s. However, the sense of what it is to be Chinese can never have a straightforward answer or consensus. And the new interest in the local is much more a reaction toward the national than the global. The oddity of Hong Kong is further reinforced by its socio-economic achievements in its late colonial period. Since the 1980s, Hong Kong’s economic success, like that of other capitalist cities, has constituted a sort of self-understanding characteristic of modernity centered around a concept of development as a continuous and homogeneous process, and a model. What made Hong Kong unique is its openness toward an indeterminate future, perpetuated by the notion of “status quo,” namely the capitalist way of life and the “current system,” taking shape in the final years of the colonial rule. The project and system of “One Country, Two Systems” implicitly suggests a progress haunted by an anxiety over getting off the track, the apocalyptic fear of decline and even death. The local identity claim always finds its content in synchronic comparison of Hong Kong and Mainland China. They are sometimes ordered diachronically in a scale of capitalist development while they assumedly fall into two incompatible systems, i.e. so-called “capitalism” and “socialism.” More complicated, Hong Kong’s economic success was seriously challenged by the Asian financial crisis immediately after the handover and the years of recession that followed. Since then, Hong Kong’s politico-economic troubles have been contrasted to its assumedly glorious years by the locals. These differences and tensions are played out in various controversies over Hong Kong’s political status and Chinese national identity. Hence, Hong Kong identity has registered the ultimately self-defeating character of positing itself as an “invariant” embracing its future prescribed by the
8 Introduction Chinese nation-state in the era of uncertainty. There has gradually emerged a discourse of Hong Kong political community, insofar as an idea of autonomy is built into its time consciousness and spatial fantasy which formally cut the city off from its troubling ties with the Chinese nation. However, in reality, the city, now and in the future, is deeply entangled with China’s authoritarian rule, its capitalist economy, and the process of “national rejuvenation.” Hence, there are always contradictions between experiences, aspirations, and discourses, out of which new political initiatives are taken.
Methodological issues This book is offered at a certain moment in the history, in which I think it is necessary to pose the questions of identity again and differently. To follow Stuart Hall’s methodological injunction (Hall, 1995: 53–54), one could no longer work on identity, e.g. race, as a kind of subcategory. Instead, examining the political effect of identity in the whole social formation is a must. Identity is not one that people always naturally ascribe or “discover”; instead they feel compelled to talk about it, to make claim to it, and to embrace it by integrating it into varied political projects. Put it simply, Hall directs us to see identity as less about becoming a member of a specific group than relating itself to subjectivity, practicing self-determination in one way or another. In this light, the chapters of this book try to highlight the twisted temporalities, spatial disorientation, anxieties and uncertainties of becoming a new kind of Hong Konger in the shadow of China. However, it is not adequate to attribute these upheavals to a particular epoch, institutional setting, a fixed position in global capitalism. I call for a shift in the emphasis of identity theory and analysis from the sociosemantic concern with meaning structures to the exploration of new possibilities in practices. In the past two decades in Hong Kong, the myriad identity claims could be summarized as a twofold process: attempts to fend off the challenges to the status quo and to break out of it. Both are in the name of the local. There are two key questions to be answered: What are the driving forces behind the claims to and longing for Hong Kong? How are they different from those prescribed by British colonialism, cosmopolitan triumphalism or Chinese nationalism? Hence, this book is to respond to the demands, the constraints and the possibilities of the new contexts of Hong Kong. “Context,” as Lawrence Grossberg notes, is the beginning and the end of cultural research (Grossberg, 2006: 3). The immediate context is my institutional life. Identity politics was the major concern with which cultural studies appeared locally in intellectual fields and academic sites. But in Hong Kong, both the elites and the populace did not echo this concern strongly until the past ten years. The immediate question that comes to mind is: while the prospects of the city look less and less promising, why did an increasing number of young people, including my students, get involved in activism in the name of “Hong Kong”? Why are the high-sounding slogans such as “Hong Kong first,” “self-determination,” and even “independence”
Introduction 9 so appealing? They arise along with “an ideal, that of being true to myself and my own particular way of being,” a pursuit of authenticity (Taylor, 1994: 28). Then looking back upon what happened in the post-handover years, I found that the power elites have also increasingly invested in different projects of local identity, although ironically they are always subject to accusations of having their heads in the clouds, being pretentious, betraying “Hong Kong,” or merely working for advancing Beijing’s agenda. These failures, futile efforts, and ideas unrealized are crucial to addressing the complexity and contingency of the context. They need to be rendered different from what they originally appeared to be. I attempt to release the context from conventional understandings into a free play of non-stable multitude of meanings and practices. Henceforth, it is an intellectual endeavor from a particular position in both cultural studies, the larger institutional site of knowledge production, and the geopolitical history of Hong Kong. While the talks of identity have become the system of sign codes governing people’s actions and interactions, it is time to examine and reflect upon how people create, use, and negotiate the semiotic rules and resources. The political upheavals and multiplicity of voices for the local in Hong Kong over the years remind us of avoiding the fallacy of positing imaginary social unities as the explanatory basis for phenomena (Frow and Morris, 2003: 492–493). Adopting a social semiotic approach (Hodge and Kress, 1988; Vannini, 2007: 115), attributing meanings to practices and power rather than vice versa, this book focuses on the context-bound and struggle-laden processes. It aims at strengthening the feelings hanging around and behind varied identity claims. More tales attentive to the indignations for diverse forms of oppression will be told. Rather than pretending to hold the key to an objective and privileged view of reality, I seek situated knowledge which makes unexpected connections and openings for positioning a collective subject in particular (Haraway, 1988: 590). One more methodological issue that needs to be clarified is about the normative and epistemological implications of identity (Alcoff, 2000: 334). There have been challenges to the ontological status (Butler, 1997; Moran, 2015), epistemological validity (Derrida, 2004), and political uses of identity (Lilla, 2017; Fukuyama, 2018). Being aware of the pitfalls of identity politics, I define it as a sort of positional consciousness, to which one brings to actions and contestations (Alcoff, 2000: 340). In this light, I focus on how one articulates one’s concerns, makes choices, and planning through enacting identities. My primary concern is more about how one identifies with Hong Kong than how one is identified, located, and imagined in social significations. The role identity claim plays varies with circumstances. Sometimes it does appear as a pursuit of authenticity. But its functions are not merely confined to legitimizing the dominant designations and creating divisions, but also organizing experience, making the world intelligible, or fostering solidarity with others. Selfidentification is not simply accepting the hail or submitting oneself to power, as Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault note, but also constructing a subjectivity and actualizing agency. In other words, it means the potential of making a
10 Introduction radical break from the interpellations. The notion of ‘identity’ contains not merely the idea of subsisting self-sameness and differences, but also the attempts to disrupt the political dominance, envisioning an alternative order, and passions for struggles. These attempts, visions, and passions do not necessarily gain recognition from the authorities or win public support. But they definitely clash with one another. In other words, as Stuart Hall (1996: 16) notes, identity is both “necessity” and “impossibility.”
Chapter outlines In a nutshell, this book is therefore about my thoughts about Hong Kong culture in action. Some chapters, partially derived from articles published elsewhere, have been significantly revised and extended for integrating into a more coherent framework. The next chapter offers a critical account of the twists and turns of the “Myth of Hong Kong” over the past two decades by focusing on the public discourse of the four Chief Executives. Their administrations rebranded the city and adjusted its development strategies in response to the crises. Despite their repeated attempts to recycle and fine-tune the myth for creating new visions, they fail to maintain the glorious image of the city. Their resorting to the narratives of Hong Kong–China’s co-prosperity proves to be useless. Worse, Hong Kong has been increasingly portrayed as a subject without agency except the imperative to seize economic opportunities. Chapter 3 follows up this point by developing a more longitudinal and semiotic approach to the neoliberal subject of Hong Kong. Most accounts of neoliberalism date its origins back to the western politico-economic upheavals in the 1970s and trace how the neoliberal ideas, problematics and policies travel to the rest of the world. Yet, neoliberalism, rather than an epoch-making force imposed by western countries on the non-western countries, takes effect in local and regional encounters subject to national and local agents’ adoptions and adaptations. While Hong Kong had already served as a model of free economy in the 1980s and offered a role model for China’s post-Maoist economic reform, China government’s own narratives, lexicons and rhetorics eventually emerged out of its embrace of global capitalism in the same period. In return, they have increasingly shaped the semantic grid in which Hong Kong re-imagining its position in its journey from British rule to its post-handover years. This chapter picks up the Chinese term “jiyu” ( geiyu), literally referring to “opportunities,” a keyword invented in China’s official documents in the early years of economic reform and then migrating to Hong Kong’s public discourse. This study not only sheds light on the historical and geopolitical trajectory of the formation of neoliberalism in Hong Kong and China, but also examine how Hong Kong refashions its neoliberal subject in the aftermath of the economic recession at the turn of the century. The sense of identity loss emerges out of the moment when the city has been urged to embrace its opportunities. Chapter 4 is a case study of the anti-mainland visitors campaign. The recent hostility toward “China,” unprecedented in the history of Hong Kong, arose when China departed from a poor socialist country to become a global capitalist
Introduction 11 power. The city’s closer economic ties to China accompanied with the mainland Chinese visitors’ wealth, shopping activities, mobility and even physical presence are now felt to be revolting and threatening. This sentiment has unsettled and politicized the Hong Kong–China relationship in all aspects of everyday life. I argue that the contestation and negotiation over local belonging take a biopolitical turn in pursuit of ethnocracy. The new call for Hong Kong identity, linked to a governmental subject with strong racist overtones, is about the anxiety over Hong Kong as a collective form of life. The new nativists yearning for their homeland comes from frustration over the inability to settle their distinction with the “intimate other” and their anguish about the “disappearance” or “death” of Hong Kong, a city overwhelmed by the fear of China as both a politico-economic power and a biopolitical power. Chapter 5 addresses the driving force behind the campaign by analyzing the rise of right-wing nativism as an intellectual movement. Most interpret it as an immediate response to a wide variety of “China factors,” such as Beijing’s political interventions into Hong Kong’s democratic reform, closer economic ties of Chinese economy to the city, and their social and cultural consequences. I will focus on the distinctive qualities provided by the recent rise of nativism for Hong Kong’s local consciousness: sense of crisis, skepticism of liberalism, rejection of political pluralism, insistence on sovereign imaginary and political belligerence. I argue that nativism serves less as a resistance against the authoritarian regime of China than as a challenge to Hong Kong’s political culture nurtured in the late colonial times and the post-handover era. This phenomenon echoes two tendencies in the late-modern societies: political deinstitutionalization and the increasingly discontinuous, ephemeral and partial guidelines for political action. Chapter 6 further contextualizes right-wing nativism in neoliberalism and populism. The term New Right usually refers to a strand of economic conservatism influenced by the rise of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and the economic policies they advocated and implemented since the mid-1970s. They ideologically upheld the idea of free market and committed to deregulation of business and industrial relation, dismantling of the welfare state, and privatization of public sectors. Meanwhile, Hong Kong embraced this movement by popularizing the doctrines of neoclassical economics, such as the notions of “homo economicus,” “private property” and “perfect competition,” in media and justifying the Hong Kong government’s policies and its non-interventionist stance as examples of “laissez-faire” system. Hong Kong’s neoliberal economics has further developed into a pursuit of reducing “welfare dependency” and a public discontent with the welfare recipients since the 1990s. This chapter argues that a new breed of opinion leaders have taken over the attack on welfare state by posing “homo economicus” as local people against the ethnic others, such as new immigrants from Mainland China. They successfully ethnicize the neoliberal economics doctrines, work ethics and enterprising spirit by inventing a new political lexicon and drumming up a populist sentiment against
12 Introduction mainlanders, the liberal left-wing politicians and social movement activists. It opens up a new ideological struggle for cultural hegemony and political leadership. In the past decade, Hong Kong has witnessed the emergence of youth activism with an emphasis on local identity. Its confrontational styles, emotionally charged repertoires and localist overtones have drawn public attention to their challenges to authorities and the rupture between Hong Kong and China. Although most movements did not achieve what they intended to and their long-time effect on political changes remains inscrutable, it is worth studying what activism brought to the activists themselves, especially how young people live out their political being in their everyday life. Chapter 7 argues that young activists politically engaged themselves in Hong Kong by defining and imagining new temporalities and spatialities for the city. Hong Kong, for them, has become an entity breaking down into fragments whose trajectories are different and not guaranteed. The evolutionary time-frame, embodied by the ideas and notions centered around the concept of “democratization,” has become less appealing to the new generation. Instead, some prefer to imagine a “high time” of messianic sense, exploding one’s mundane, homogeneous and empty time. These contribute to the heated political debate and the widening gap between young activists and their predecessors. Longing for a new Hong Kong is not confined to the locals. The continuous flow of highly educated youth from Mainland China into Hong Kong, usually coined as “Hong Kong Drifters” (gangpiao), appears as one of the examples. In contrast to nativist youngsters making their voices heard locally, nationally, and globally, gangpiao is a group of new urban dwellers, usually the first generation of migrants, portrayed as individuals feeling alienated and detached from the community at large but turning toward their in-groups. Sociologists have long defined “urbanism” as a way of city life which is characterized by massive flow, transiency, impersonal and formal relations, anonymity, lacking intimacy and individualism. However, the phenomenon of gangpiao is not that simple. On the one hand, their alleged “drifting” character makes a big contrast to the increasingly localized society of Hong Kong. Hence, they often got caught in the crossfire of the local political feuds. On the other hand, the Beijing government attempts to contain Hong Kong’s political influence on them and to weaken their attachment to the civil society of Hong Kong. Becoming gangpiao (Hong Kong drifters) rather than heunggongyan (Hong Kongers), mainland youth in Hong Kong have to negotiate their subject position in relation to nationhood, local sense of belonging, and their cosmopolitan longing. In summary, this book is not primarily about how to re-imagine the Hong Kong identity in the midst of the collapse of boundaries and fragmented network. What interests me most is the key power mechanisms, especially the strategic unities of discursive dynamics, by which people live. If we do not look into and beyond our game of identity politics, usually falling into rigid categories, there is very little hope for us to discern our environment, not to mention creating new possibilities.
2 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth
During the 1980s–1990s, the economic miracle of Hong Kong served as a successful case of cosmopolitan society in East Asia, featuring economic growth, urban gentrification, and fast-growing middle class. Many Hong Kong people, benefiting from economic prosperity and indulging in economic triumphalism, felt proud of their own city. However, this is no longer the case over the past two decades. The financial crisis and economic recession immediately after the handover undermined people’s confidence. More surprisingly, the economic rebound and booming after 2003 did not restore it. Since then, public opinion also seems to shift dramatically. The changing perception of the local tycoons is an example. Ka-shing Li, the most successful property developer in Hong Kong, was regarded by the locals as a hero in Hong Kong’s capitalism in the past. But his public image has eventually turned into a faded memorial fact. During the strike by dock workers at Kwai Tsing in 2013, Li was portrayed by protesters as “devil.” This demonization was echoed by many people, especially those bemoaning the so-called “Property Hegemony” for years. Regarding democratic politics, over the past ten years, the escalating engagements did not make the city a cohesive community with a bright future. Instead, the several waves of political radicalization, such as the anti-national education campaign, Umbrella Movement, etc., are often accompanied with a mixed feeling of fear, disillusion, and depression, summarized by the hit phrase of “the city is dying” in the shadow of China. Among the most popular items in the vocabulary of humanities and social sciences, “identity” may well also be the least decisive. Although we invoke, pursue, defend, and are worried about it, few of us can say exactly what we mean by history, except in political gestures. Looking at it closely, we find ourselves mired in complex debates and insecurities. In Hong Kong, after the handover, the politicians, with their pretentions, have looked to identity as to a safe harbor, persistently washed over by the wave of politico-economic uncertainty. In this chapter, I will take a social semiotic approach to the discourses of the four Chief Executives over the past two decades. The analysis will be attentive to how they constructed and reconstructed “Hong Kong” when the glorious image of Hong Kong seems to be fading away. I will not only focus on the discursive patterns of the corpus, consisting of policy addresses and major
14 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth speeches delivered by them, but also discuss their implications for power. The discussion will also include other media sources such as public speeches at different official occasions.
Political texts as a multi-dimensional space The remarks made by the Chief Executives are not simply the discourses of individuals. Instead, each of them make their speeches within a specific context and in response to a contingency (Goffman, 1981: 144). The ideas they selected are encoded in a specific way and echoed by others, such as other officials, media, the public, and the Beijing government. In return, their speeches contribute to and evoke the context for further discursive proliferation which is bound to have ramifications. The political dominance of China in the post-handover years and the explicitly pro-Beijing stances of the four Chief Executives direct most to assume the existence of a uniform project to obscure, repress, or tame the local claims. Refuting this conventional wisdom, I argue that what distinguishes these two decades is the variety and “the wide dispersion of devices that were invented for speaking about it, for having it be spoken about, for inducing it to speak of itself, for listening, recording, transcribing, and redistributing what is said about it” (Foucault, 1978: 34). All changes of official discourses still happen around the “Hong Kong Myth” invented by the late colonial British authorities. The discursive devices invented do not constitute an official ideology in systematic sense. Instead, over the years, one witnesses the repeated yet different failures of the power elites to absorb the myth into their political projects. But the Chief Executives have increasing difficulties of accommodating it in the post-handover power matrix. Their erratic attempts unsettle the ground of the myth and further incite themselves and others to talk about Hong Kong identity. There has been a number of research concerning political speech since the 1980s. In general, the political leaders’ public speeches are seen as rhetorical and persuasive in defining a context for constituting action (Denton and Hahn, 1986; Van Eemeren and Grootendorst, 2004). Since then, more research, informed by critical discourse analysis (CDA), focuses on the socio-linguistic features and strategies for formulating the public speeches and making them intelligible to the audience. These studies further analyze the interplay of diverse ideologies (Van Dija, 2002: 25). For example, focusing on Chen Shui-bian’s inaugural speeches, Cheng delineates and constructs the rhetorical strategies used by Chen to create a new political spectacle (Cheng, 2006) for maintaining the political status of Taiwan. It was intended to tackle the troublesome relationships with China and the US for gaining public support. Capone (2010) singles out Barack Obama’s polyphonic mechanisms and rhetorical devices for understanding his discursive strategies and their implications. His tactics of personification evoke sentimental responses and invite multiple identifications. Many studies tend to correspond the political discourse with the relations of dominance by reading out the hidden meanings from the discursive labyrinthine
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 15 (Van Dijk, 1997: 9). For example, Teun A. van Dijk, one of the leading scholars of critical discourse analysis, views ideologies as systems of belief or “social representations” shared by particular, mostly dominant, groups, shared as the “common ground” by different groups (Van Dijk, 2002: 16). For instance, in two recent discourse studies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, researchers focus on how the linguistic strategies to support a fixed ideology and power relations (Sarfo and Krampa, 2013: 388; Wang, 2010). In general, these discursive strategies, at the micro-level, work as fostering social compliance with the existing order and/or the political leaders’ plans for the future (Biria and Mohammadi, 2012: 1293). They also function, at the macro-level, shaping or bringing forth the dominant perception of the world, thereby perpetuating the existing state of affairs or promoting sectional interests accordingly. The research above tends to endorse the so-called “social cement theory of ideology” (Thompson, 1992: 91). It presumes that ideology works like cement binding all people to a dominant order. But there is little empirical evidence to confirm this view. The “social cement theory” fails to take account of the changing nature of the dominant class and dominance (Abercrombie and Turner, 1978). The historical development of a political leader or an elite group and their distinctive character need to be specified and re-examined, rather than assumed. Any attempt to reduce the diverse histories and characters to simply a part of the ideological state apparatus, in Louis Althusser’s sense (Althusser, 1971), would be a gross oversimplification. A critical approach has to study and theorize the more complicated ways in which individuals and groups make sense and use of the symbolic forms that matter very much to themselves. Indeed, since the 1980s, there have been varied theoretical initiatives, informed by Antonio Gramsci’s work, post-Marxism and psychoanalysis, to address these dynamics. Stuart Hall’s analysis of Thatcherism is a classic example (Hall, 1988). He points out that the rise of Margaret Thatcher was symptomatic of the collapse of the post-war social democratic consensus. Rather than promoting any “ready-made” political belief, she seized the moments characterized by moral panic and eco-social crises to launch attacks on several fronts, such as nation, class, family, and sexuality simultaneously. These political moves are proactively responses to the contingency rather than functionally corresponding with any existing politico-economic dominance, such as Toryism or a project informed by neoliberal doctrines. Discourse analysis, penetrating into the complexity of discursive structures and processes, enables one to redefine the dynamics of power and dominance, rather than reduces them to an allembracing ideology determined by the infrastructure. They were struggles over political, moral and intellectual leadership. Thatcher’s “authoritarian populism,” coined by Hall, worked as a contingent articulation of ideological themes, discursive elements, and rhetoric devices. Its self-representation, improvised and piecemeal, is not persuasive in conventional sense. The inconsistencies or even contradictions, such as endorsing an “anti-statist” stance and asserting the power of the central state in moral issues, strengthen rather than compromise its efficacy (Hall, 1985: 117).
16 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth Hall’s examination of Thatcherism not only follows Gramsci’s and Ernesto Laclau’s concept of contingency, but also echoes Michel Foucault’s methodological stance on discourse as event – an active occurrence informed by power and action. Rather than reducing political speech and discourse to rhetorical strategies or inter-texuality, Foucault addresses discourse as “a war rather than that of language: relations of power, not relations of meaning” (Foucault, 1980: 114; Hook, 2001: 529). Hall’s post-Marxist approach or Foucault’s genealogical approach to discourse does not assume a groupbased identity from which discourse or power is derived. Instead, making political speech, as an event, invokes subject position(s) by setting a variety of discourses and discursive devices in motion. These positions, not to be reduced to a unified subject or a socially bounded identity, are discursively posited in institutions, yet are given agency to speak, alter, connect, and take action. The recent revival of Lacanian psychoanalysis in reconceptualization of ideology, posing a challenge to discourse analysis, shifts scholarly attention to practice. Slavoj Zizek, the most prominent contemporary Lacanian theorist, bluntly rejects the notion of ideology as a belief system. Instead he theorizes the relationship between language and power by postulating the “lack” of the symbolic order, or empty signifier. Ideology works as fantasy which “is a social reality whose very existence implies the non-knowledge of its participants as to its essence – that is, the social effectivity,” i.e. “acting as if” rather than knowing (Zizek, 2008: 15–16). It is not a system of belief involving moral commitment and cognitive activities. Instead, it is an “objective belief” embodied in social relations with effectivity in terms of symbolic exchange. In other words, it is exterior and embodied in practices (Zizek, 2008: 31). Therefore, there is always a distance, and even a rift, between identity and subject. The latter as a void or empty position which is interpellated, yet misrecognized, by the symbolic network as identity (Zizek, 2008: 46). In this light, there is one issue noteworthy and specific to Hong Kong’s political situations. Most research on political speeches, privileging success above failure, assumes the completeness and efficacy of the discursive power. This view implies a force organizing people’s perception and cognitive horizon, or even delivering a dominant world view. It obscures the tensions, fragilities, loopholes, and ambiguities inherent to political discourse. Politicians, despite their attempts to innovate, could not evade a wide range of burdens, such as their prescribed roles, identities, political vocabularies, and traditions, passed on from the previous era and put on their shoulders. Restricted and enabled by these burdens, they are bound to improvise, yet to keep distance from them as well. Making use of the discursive elements available to address the problems at hand and the situations currently confronting them is necessary. More importantly, there is no guarantee of success in words or deeds. For instance, the four Chief Executives discussed below are far from regarded as successful. Their political discourses are characterized more by their failures, difficulties, and agonies than their accomplishments and confidence. Right in these instances of
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 17 incompleteness, the political texts constitute “a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (Barthes, 1977: 146). In other words, the textual meanings lie in this space of readingwritings. The numerous constructions of Hong Kong identity in official discourses can only be fully comprehended within the contingencies in which different administrations have responded to the social, economic, and political challenges of their respective eras. They are the stories about the breakdown of the Hong Kong Myth.
Patten’s Hong Kong Myth In order to critically understand the discursive-power shift of the Chief Executives, one needs to address their predecessor – Chris Patten, the last colonial governor of Hong Kong. He made a name for himself by his political reform package, friendliness, casual manner, and his heated arguments with the Beijing officials. In his speeches, he repeatedly upheld a colonial legacy, i.e. a “Myth of Hong Kong” – free market, individual freedom, the rule of law, and democracy (Flowerdew, 1997). More important, Patten, downplaying the role of the colonial power in the development of Hong Kong, summarized the British rule as a form of “stewardship”: Success in Hong Kong is the result of a combination of factors. This is a Chinese city. Its success is the result of the hard work and skill of its Chinese men and women. It is also a city over which, for a century and a half, Britain has held stewardship. We have tried to exercise that stewardship in a way which has been true to our political values. Those values have been institutionalized in the rule of law and a meritocratic, politically neutral Civil Service. (Chris Patten, 1996) Patten humbly characterized Britain as holding stewardship over the city and gave most credits of achievement to the local Chinese. The term “steward,” referring to the official in charge of managing another’s property, supervising arrangements or keeping order of an estate contrasts with the terms of “proactive government” and “good governance” used by the Chief Executives in recent years. With his rhetoric of western-style political values and the Myth of Hong Kong, Patten successfully won the support from the public, especially the pro-democracy camp. His support ratings remained above 50 and reached as high as 64.1 (Social Sciences Research Centre, 1997). It made a sharp contrast to Chun-ying Leung, Chief Executive during 2012–2017, whose ratings are mostly below 45 and reach a low as 35 throughout his tenure (Li, 2017). Chee-hwa Tung and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen were also significantly behind Patten. One may approach Patten’s myth from two perspectives. First, it deliberately conceals the complexity of Hong Kong’s colonial history. The first three elements of the myth were largely the strategic choices by the colonial government. Free
18 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth market and individual freedom were highly related to Hong Kong’s role of entrepôt primarily for the British Empire’s pursuit of power and wealth in Asia in the mid-nineteenth century. The colonial elites, unlike their counterparts in East Asia (White, 1988; Chan, Clark and Lam, 2006), were never committed to any long-term project for Hong Kong per se. Their primary concern was managing a Crown Colony with a relatively stable social order and a business hub in the midst of geopolitical changes. It is true that Hong Kong’s policies of entrepôt successfully attracted capital and refugees as sources of cheap labor from China immediately after the Second World War. They contributed to rebuilding Hong Kong economy with flexible production and small enterprises for capturing the opportunities provided by the international and regional markets. However, the colonial state never fully embraced laissez faire policies as neoliberalists suggest (Friedman, 1981: 54; Rabushka, 1979: 83). The colonial government implemented and adjusted its intervention strategies selectively whenever in need. Its interventions are comparable to many welfare states’ in terms of their scope and extent. Mass provision of subsidized housing and government land system are two examples. Deep and long-term collaborations with business groups, especially those from the UK, for facilitating property development and large-scale redevelopment were also prevalent (Schiffer, 1991). The rule of law came much later and was not yet quite in place until the post-war years. The principle whereby each member of the society is equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and procedures was institutionalized largely for the colonial government to represent itself as politically neutral in the years of the Cold War. The authority attempted to stay aloof from the intense and politicized matters by striking a delicate balance between the Chinese Communists, the KMT, and the US (Choi and Lee, 2017). It also helped consolidate the legitimacy of the government in the local political feuds (Jones, 1999). While the colonial regime improved the working conditions and welfare policies for the lower-class people after the two riots in the 1960s (Scott, 1989), protection of human rights was not legalized until 1991. When it comes to democratic reform, the British colonial government fared even worse. In the 1980s, the first significant constitutional reform only covered the consultatory body of the District Board. Only in the final decade of the colonial rule were there some popularly elected LegCo members. Most proposals of democratic reform were postponed (Tsang, 1988) until the 1990s when Patten launched his proposal and received strong oppositions from Beijing. Throughout Hong Kong’s 155 year history, the city was mostly governed by an administrative-political machinery composed of expatriate colonial officials and representatives of British and local business interests. In other words, there are numerous gaps, time lags, and inconsistencies between what Patten claimed to be Hong Kong’s (colonial) legacy and historical reality. In terms of economic affairs, the colonial governors of the post-war era carefully weaved the cloak of laissez-faire to cover their interventions. Patten further created a political vision for Hong Kong. However, I do not suggest that what Patten advocated is false consciousness. His claims, not to be underestimated
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 19 for their empirical inadequacy, take effect in myth, in Roland Barthes’ sense. Myths, according to him, appear in fragmented images and ideas, rather than figuring in axiomatic narratives. They work through naturalized metaphors, suggestive of or associative with non-literal meanings. In communication, they substitute a systematic linkage of connotations for denotations. In other words, the literal meanings retreat from the chain of signifiers which constitute meanings in naturalization. I attempt to develop an approach sensitive to the effects of the mythical elements in political reality and how they shift in different discursive articulations. The four elements or political themes, since the 1990s, have served as a critical part of Hong Kong’s political vocabularies, on the basis of which most political discourses are articulated. These four elements, on the one hand, are presented as local, particular, and central to Hong Kong, i.e. “the current system,” “a way of life,” and eventually “core values.” They are to be protected and developed, yet are assumed to be fragile in front of China’s authoritarian rule. They also function as a yardstick for measuring the performance of the SAR government. In sum, they operate as a myth-making process to erase the historical traces from them and lend themselves to become universal values and naturalized categories for political legitimacy (Flowerdew, 1997: 457). In order to understand Patten’s myth, one needs to address the political tensions between Hong Kong and China in the 1990s, out of which it emerged. The fear of China’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong in the 1980s culminated and reached its peak in the Tiananmen incident in 1989 when the locals mobilized themselves to support the Beijing student movement. Following mass mobilizations, the crackdown and the conservative turn of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Hong Kongers’ sympathy with the Beijing students and their anti-communist sentiment turned into an explicit confrontation between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps in local politics. The Myth of Hong Kong, left to the locals and the Beijing government by the British colonizers, contributes to the making of Hong Kong identity. Since then, a vague sense of autonomy has been invoked and invited multiple interpretations. After the Tiananmen incident, the local people are not simply bound to protect their individual freedom and wellbeing from the possible Beijing state violence. They are also politically motivated to safeguard Hong Kong’s rule of law and its road to democracy under the rubric of “keeping the status quo intact.” For example, Martin Lee, one of the most prominent barristers and the founder of the Democratic Party (DP), characterizes Hong Kong’s rule of law as the most valuable legacy on the one hand, and it could check upon the arbitrary exercise of power by the China government and the transfer of “its authoritarian system wholesale to Hong Kong,” on the other (Lee, 1996: 170). In other words, the myth does not simply function as cognitive schema through which Hong Kongers understand their past and present. It also has implications for future and agency. People feel obliged to talk about, to embrace, and strive to defend it forcefully. Henceforth, it works as political obligation imposed on all politicians, especially the Chief Executives. Patten,
20 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth with his western triumphalism, emplaced Hong Kong in a western-centric map as a successful capitalist city in the Far East. It was placed as opposed to the stereotypical image of socialist countries that endured their economic underdevelopment. Hong Kong came to be imagined as a place where western civilization found their natural ground and stability in the East. Yet, paradoxically, one is always tempted to ponder what the future holds for Hong Kong and its legacy.
Tung’s double responsibilities Tung Chee-hwa, despite his close ties with the Beijing government, did not dare to discard the colonial legacy passed on to him by the last colonial governor. The post-handover government of Hong Kong by no means make a clean break with Hong Kong’s colonial past. Words like “colonialism” may be out of fashion and politically incorrect for Tung and his successors, but not among the populace. The power elites of Hong Kong and Beijing are fully aware that the late colonial experience still bears upon people’s memory. Tung’s lack of previous political experience and popular mandate made him more cautious about continuing the Hong Kong Myth for maintaining his legitimacy. Under the rubric of “smooth transition,” he carried on Hong Kong’s localcolonial legacy with unease. Reiterating the importance of free market, individual freedom, rule of law, and democracy, he carefully slipped in new vocabularies and agenda into the Hong Kong Myth: An efficient and effective administration without hindering free market and individual freedom; Promoting democracy “in full accordance with the letter and spirit of the Basic Law”; Safeguarding the rule of law without disregarding the need of public security (Tung, 1998). Tung used “effective administration,” “the spirit of the Basic Law,” and “public security” as euphemisms for his statist agenda. But his change of the official tune, i.e. throwing off the cloak of invisibility and taking up the more proactive role of manager, should not be simply explained by the Beijing government’s pressure. The historical moment of the resumption of sovereignty itself urged Tung to lead Hong Kong to take an interventionist turn. First, he was eager to strengthen the state capacity of the Hong Kong SAR government to achieve all kinds of successes which compares favorably with the colonial government’s. And due to the Asian financial crisis and economic recession in the immediate years after the handover, Tung was motivated to roll out interventionist measures and stimulus packages to rescue the market from crash and to recover the economy. On the one hand, asserting the role of the government, he risked overriding the government’s pro-market stance to advocate “new vision” (Tung, 1997: Paragraph 3), such as engineering the transition to knowledge-based economy. On the other hand, he refrained from choosing an expansionary budget for adhering to “the principle of keeping the expenditure within the limits of revenues” stipulated by Article 107 of the Basic Law. This conservative stance also fitted in with the mentality of the
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 21 ruling coalition composed of top bureaucrats and business groups (Goodstadt, 2014: 4). He further advocated his national project on two fronts. First, against the background of China on its track of joining the World Trade Organization in the late 1990s, he saw it as his chance to naturalize Hong Kong’s ties with China by emphasizing the shared interest in embracing global capitalism by both parties. Since 1997, in his policy addresses and public speeches, he had repeatedly emphasized the direction of “leveraging on the Mainland” and later even asserted that it is a consensus widely shared (Tsang, 2005a: Paragraph 9). In many occasions, he spoke his famous lines, “What is good for Hong Kong is actually good for China” and “What is good for China is very good for Hong Kong.” This strategy is partially intended to conceal the decade-long political feuds over Hong Kong’s relationship with China by fostering a shared bright economic outlook. Second, he resorted to Confucian and traditional Chinese values to culturalize the transfer of sovereignty. He saw it as the moment for valorizing a set of moderate, if not conservative, values of “sincerity, honesty, humbleness, and equanimity” (Tung, 2001). They suggest a belief in order and stability and obligation to community. Tung’s vision did not work out well. Hong Kong economy continued to suffer from economic downturn and unemployment problem until 2004, despite China’s entry to WTO and further regional integration. He attributed these problems not only to macroeconomic changes but also internal factors such as “overheated development,” “bubble economy,” and narrow economic base (Tung, 1998: Paragraph 5). In retrospect, he pointed out “the bubble economy and superficial prosperity before Hong Kong’s return to China” which allegedly bred “a false sense of superiority” (Tsang, 2005a: Paragraph 14). Tung’s political discourse, noted by Clement So (2017), often sticks with an ambiguous figure of “we” compared to Patten’s preference of “I.” Likewise, it was “our,” rather than simply his or his government’s, inattention to the challenges of globalization, Hong Kong’s structural problems and the opportunities offered by China’s economic growth. It is doubtful if this strategy could ameliorate public perception of Tung’s responsibility for these flaws. But it implies that the belief in the success of Hong Kong’s free market, a critical part of the “Hong Kong Myth,” is an overconfidence, if not totally misguided. In Tung’s and his successors’ discourses, Hong Kong is no longer located as an absolute model of successful capitalist society in the Far East. Instead, it is portrayed as a point in its constant movement. Hong Kong is valorized by its proximity to China and its relations with other places. For instance, Hong Kongers have been reminded of the neverending place competitions with other cities and countries. Most citizens are urged to feel a sense of anxiety all the time. Furthermore, Hong Kong has been constantly problematized as a society to be protected, energized, and reconstructed. Despite Tung’s interventionism, he and his successors have never been bold enough to fundamentally change their administrations’ fiscal policies. Budget
22 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth expansion for welfare reform is never his or his successors’ option. Instead, integrating Hong Kong into China’s growth machine for economic and political calculations is always considered to be a panacea. It is evidenced by the frequent appearances of the section about leveraging on or making close ties with China economy in all Chief Executives’ policy addresses. For example, Tung’s determination to push forward the project of nationalizing Hong Kong was never deterred by economic downturn. On the contrary, he seized the chance to advocate the importance of China to Hong Kong. The Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), signed not long after the outbreak of SARS, is an example. Unlike most free trade agreements, CEPA was not an outcome of a series of negotiation between equal parties. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce proposed it to the Beijing government and then the latter drafted it very quickly. Finally, the Beijing government and the SAR government signed it in June 2003. It corresponded with Tung’s direction of “leverage on the Mainland” and reinforced the city’s role as a financial center and service hub. Before the economic measures such as CEPA took substantial effects, Tung already encountered the most serious challenges to his administration. The outbreak of SARS exposed his administration’s incompetence in handling public health crisis. In the summer of 2003, a panic over the threat from Beijing to Hong Kong’s rule of law and civil liberty overwhelmed the whole city after the Tung’s administration tabled the National Security Bill in the Legislative Council (LegCo). Surprisingly, half a million people took to the street to protest against it, thereby plunging Tung’s government into a crisis of governability. And the pro-establishment politician James Tien resigned from the Executive Council and his party refused to support the bill. As a result, the government backed down and shelved the bill indefinitely. A couple of top officials eventually stepped down. Tung’s discourse on “co-prosperity” of Hong Kong and China barely sustained itself. And the political rift between Hong Kong and Mainland China was widened so much that Tung’s national project looked more like a conspiracy than a bright vision to be embraced by all Hong Kongers. The success of the protest against the legislation for the Article 23 valorized three of the four elements of the Hong Kong Myth: individual liberty, the rule of law, and democracy. It consolidated a community of fate and reinforced the sense of crisis rather than enhanced people’s confidence in sustaining the Myth of Hong Kong. A year later, the National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee of (NPCSC) ruled out the possibility of universal suffrage in 2007/08. Apart from scattered protests, a group of professionals and academics published a statement on their worries about the threats to the core values of Hong Kong. It covered the three elements above and others such as pluralism, tolerance, professional autonomy, etc. The co-signatories called upon the general public to stand firm on the core values. Since then the term “core values” has become a political keyword in Hong Kong. The anxiety over the fall of the core values and the determination to safeguard them are the most prevalent tropes in political talks.
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 23
Tsang’s personification and pragmatism Following Tung’s resignation in March 2005, Donald Tsang took up the office. He was selected by a 1,200-member election committee (EC), dominated by the pro-Beijing camp. Tsang, a veteran civil servant with more than 40 years experience in the administration, was regarded as more capable than Tung. Two years later, he successfully extended his tenure by five more years until 2012. In the first few years, he shored up popularity, which was evidenced by the higher support ratings and the decline of the scale of protests. The economic rebound, partially assisted by the Beijing government’s economic “carrots” such as easing restrictions on mainlanders’ travel to Hong Kong and CEPA, is one of the key reasons. The crisis of governance of the Tung’s era seemed to be largely over although the structural problem of legitimacy inherent to Hong Kong’s semidemocratic regime remained (Fong, 2013). Tsang apparently learned a lesson from Tung’s failures. Tung’s national project filled with Chinese, Asian or Confucian values gave way to Tsang’s pragmatic approach. His pragmatism is, rather than simply an attitude, a keyword for him to build up a metaphoric connection between his persona, experience, leadership, and local identity. In his “Letter to Hong Kong” on August 26, 2006, he associated himself with Jean Monnet, Father of the European Union, to elaborate his pragmatic approach: Monnet’s pragmatic approach may serve as a lesson on the way in which we deal with constitutional reform in Hong Kong. I believe that we can realise our vision only by assuming a pragmatic, down-to-earth attitude to resolve difficult issues, and to adjust our pace from time to time. This is what commitment is all about. I am fully aware that I will never be a hero of any kind, and that I may look very awkward chanting slogans. After such a long career in the civil service I have learnt, however, that the ability to resolve issues, administrative skills, tenacity and, above all, commitment are essential elements of pragmatic politics. (Tsang, 2006a) He personified his speech by using “I” rather than “We” as personal pronoun to highlight his personality and commitment. Tsang further stretched out the connotation of pragmatism to characterize Hong Kong people’s character with which the locals forged an economic miracle. Appealing to the alleged pragmatic majority of Hong Kong, he attempted to manage the Hong Kong people’s political expectations, especially for political reform, and facilitate a sort of moderate stance, if not political compliance. Indeed, when Tsang worked as Chief Secretary for Tung’s administration previously, he already deliberately portrayed himself as a “Hong Konger” to deal with the issue of constitutional reform. Since then he has been remembered, and sometimes mocked, for his famous quote:
24 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth The Secretary for Justice, Miss Elsie Leung, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, and I were born and raised in Hong Kong. We drink Hong Kong water, have the blood of Hong Kongers in our bodies. I assure you that we will follow our conscience and the principles of the Basic Law to work on this matter (collecting public opinion and drafting a proposal of constitutional reform). (The transcript of the press conference given by The Chief Secretary for Administration, Donald Tsang at the Central Government Offices New Annexe Conference Hall after the Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, delivered the Policy Address on January 7, 2004) www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200401/07/0107268.htm One may clearly identify the connotations of Tsang’s pragmatism in his first policy address (Tsang, 2005). This phrase, appearing four times, refers to his administration (Paragraph 3), policy and measure (Paragraph 53), working style (Paragraph 99), and the distinct character of Hong Kong people (Paragraph 101) respectively. The relationship between the identity of Hong Kong and Tsang’s governance, asserted by him, remains so ambiguous that one is not sure if it is functional, cultural, or simply rhetorical. But the more noteworthy is the discursive context of Tsang’s pragmatism. It worked as a further development of the discursive impetus of correlating colonial managerialism with the political apathy of the local population, dating its origin to the 1970s. As Wing-sang Law (2009: 163) points out, Siu-kai Lau’s works in the 1980s are exemplary of the logic of colonial managerialism in Hong Kong. Let me take a quick digression before my analysis of Tsang. Given the fact that Lau has worked as political advisor for the China government since 1993 and then for the Hong Kong SAR government, his academic work is an interesting case for indicating the paradigmatic shift of the late colonial power in Hong Kong. Lau, based on his survey data in the late 1970s and early 1980s, describes Hong Kong Chinese society as “an inward-looking, selfcontained and atomistic society with apolitical orientations and low potential for political mobilization” (Lau, 1984: 68). Unlike Tung, Lau has never endorsed any culturalist account and his portrayal functions as a prototype of “the pragmatic majority” in Tsang’s discourse. Emphasizing his concept of utilitarian familism as an adaptation to “a particular set of structural conditions imposed by the urban-industrial setting,” Lau developed his sociological account out of the late colonial government’s success in securing political stability and economic growth since the mid-1970s. Therefore, from Lau’s point of view in the 1980s, Hong Kong’s distinct character is functionally related to the colonial authority who successfully managed the urban society of Hong Kong. Structurally, the society and the polity, remaining separated from each other, constitute a minimally integrated system. All potentially political conflicts are fragmented into apolitical and manageable issues, demands, and services. Despite Lau’s pro-China stance, he valorizes the experience of colonial governance by neutralizing it as a set of transferable power techniques. These
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 25 techniques, coined by Law as myth or a counterfactual fable, work as legitimizing the colonial rule and post-colonial rule as well. Interestingly enough, Lau might have already changed his assessment of Hong Kong people’s cultural norms and values and noticed their strong support to liberal-democratic legitimacy and post-materialist values (Kuan and Lau, 2002). Yet in 2005, Tsang still continued to retrieve the image of “pragmatic majority” from the colonialmanagerial discourse to re-indigenize the late-colonial power, with an attempt to consolidate his leadership over Hong Kongers with the umbrella term “pragmatism.” He evidently achieved success in his campaign of re-election, especially public appraisal of his leadership and administration capacity (Fong, 2013: 126; Fong, 2011). Tsang’s pragmatism works as a shuffling evasion of the arguments over constitutional reform on the one hand and as a justification for his excessive caution, if not inaction, on the other. He inadequately addressed the deteriorating socio-economic problems, such as the widening of the income gap, the poverty of the lower working class, housing bubbles, etc. Invoking the memory of colonial managerialism, Tsang had to adhere to the principle of “big market and small government,” a vision even narrower than Tung’s. Tsang presented himself as a firm supporter of “free market” more forcefully than Tung did. Despite Tsang’s popularity in the first few years of his office, his politicking quickly proves to be futile or even self-defeating. The official statistics and research report published by social services groups and think tanks eventually revealed the inadequacy of his pragmatic politics in dealing with socio-economic issues and political controversies. In 2008 or even earlier, Tsang’s government was already aware of the long-standing problem of “working poor,” accounting for above 6 percent of the workforce throughout the years (Secretariat to the Commission on Strategic Development, 2008: 24). In the post-handover period, the average annual GDP growth at above 3 percent did not improve this problem at all, not to mention the soaring property price which only worsened the living conditions of the working class. Few measures were taken by Tsang’s administration to address this problem. One of them is the statutory minimum wage, which did not come into force until 2011, only one year before the end of Tsang’s second term. In 2010, a report released by Oxfam in Hong Kong indicated that the gap between the rich and the poor had been widening and the lower-class’ income remained stagnant since Tsang took his office (Oxfam Hong Kong, 2010). The problem of poverty got worse in economic recovery. “Free market,” symbolically represented by Tsang and his policies, fared badly in media discourses and many people’s experience. In fact, Tung’s and Tsang’s administrations never came up with a clearly stated philosophy or slogan acceptable to the public for characterizing the role of government in economy. Antony Leung, the Financial Secretary of Tung’s government, tried to use the term “pro-active market enabler” (Leung, 2002) for justifying the government’s deep involvement in the projects of Cyberport and Disney theme park. But he immediately backed down by asserting the principle of “big market, small government” due to the bitter criticisms from
26 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth pro-market ideologues in Hong Kong and abroad (Tkacik, 2002; Yeung, 2002). Although Tsang followed Antony Leung’s principle and repeated his commitment to open competition, free market and small government, he gave up Sir Philip Haddon-Cave’s “positive non-interventionism” (Tsang, 2006b). He admitted that Haddon-Cave’s idea worked well in the past but the Hong Kong government should move with the times. He emphasized the need to take a proactive approach in response to the “rapid changes in the world and on the Mainland” and to get the government’s work free from “a simple watchword or slogan.” His account might be a more accurate description of the complexity of Hong Kong government’s economic policies than the term “positive non-interventionism” suggests. His more pragmatic and syncretic approach proved to be more necessary for coping with the adverse effect of the Financial Tsunami in 2008 (Cheung, 2010: 89). But his rhetoric and policy repositioning, lacking “simple watchword or slogan” to galvanize society, was so ambiguous and deviant from the Myth of Hong Kong that it could neither satisfy the expectations of the pro-market dogmatists (Friedman, 2006; Yeung, 2006) nor build up a new consensus among the public. Still worse, Tsang’s quasi-developmentalist stance might serve as evidence later to confirm the alleged accusation of government’s favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism. Tsang incompetence or reluctance to address the problems of poverty and social inequalities was roughly attributed to his pro-business stance. Indeed, as early as 2005, the organizers of the July 1 Rally set the theme as “Oppose government-business collusion, striving for universal suffrage.” His refusal to relaunch the home ownership scheme and to speed up the pace of providing rental public housing aroused public anger. Media and the general public gradually held Tsang’s “non-interventionist policies” responsible for the sudden surge of property price. Some even speculated that what lies behind all these is collusion between government officials and business tycoons. Chin-man Leung was a landmark case. In 2004, when Leung worked as Director of Housing, due to the downturn of the property market, he endorsed a sale of a disused subsidized housing project for a low land premium to New World Development (NWD). In 2005, an Audit Commission report accused Chin-man Leung of exercising his discretionary power in a deal with another local property developer. It resulted in allowing it to gain extra revenues of HK$3.2 billion in a development project. Three years later, soon after his retirement, upon government’s approval, he was hired by a subsidiary of NWD as deputy managing director and executive director. There was a widespread suspicion that it was a job offer in exchange for the favors he granted to that company some years ago. The similar scandals had disturbed Tsang’s administration and were bubbling up on media throughout his tenure. It should not come as too much of a surprise that a bestseller titled Property Developer Hegemony appeared in 2010. Since then the Chinese term “Property Hegemony” (dichan baquan) has become a catchword. According to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies in 2011, 67 percent respondents believed that “Property Hegemony” really exists 62.3 percent found its effects negative and serious (Ip, 2018: 547–548; Hong Kong Institute
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 27 of Asia-Pacific Studies, 2011). Behind these shifts is the dramatic transformation of Hong Kong’s status quo. The Chinese term “Property Hegemony” marked the final years of Tsang’s administration. In the last few months of his office, media further exposed a couple of news stories, including Tsang allegedly receiving favors and hospitality from businessmen. After his departure from his office, he was charged with misconduct in public office and was convicted.1 Worse still, Tsang had achieved almost nothing at all in the constitutional reform. In 2005, under the constraints imposed by the NPCSC verdict in the previous year, he announced a blueprint for widening the base of the indirect electorate for chief executive. For example, he proposed to increase the number of members of the EC from 800 to 1,600. His reform package includes ten extra seats of LegCo, five geographical constituencies and five functional constituencies of District Councillors. The pro-democracy camp demanded a clear path and timetable to universal suffrage as the precondition for accepting Tsang’s proposal. Most probably under the pressure from the Beijing government, Tsang could not satisfy the pan-democrats’ demand. Following a mass protest against his proposal, the pro-democracy LegCo members voted it down. In 2007, the NPCSC further resolved that the election of chief executive could not be implemented by the method of universal suffrage until 2017. Only after it could universal suffrage be fully extended to all LegCo members. In other words, the Beijing government finally released the timetable. Despite Tsang’s attempt to use his pragmatism to make the political opposition to conform to the track of “progress” to universal suffrage paved by Beijing (Tsang, 2008), he revealed his powerlessness again in the whole process. Tsang failed to table a package that could gain enough support from the pro-democracy camp. His campaign roadshow with the slogan of “Act Now” (in Chinese, meaning “up-anchor”) drew criticisms and protests across the city and was parodized as “All Wrong” in Chinese. The standoff got solved after the representatives of the Beijing government directly negotiated with the DP and accepted its counter-proposal for the five new functional constituency seats of the LegCo to be elected by popular votes. In exchange, DP was willing to endorse the reform package. It was believed that the concession made by Beijing was intended to sideline the radical democrats’ de facto referendum movement. Finally, Tsang got enough votes of the LegCo for supporting his amended package. In retrospect, Tsang barely played a significant part in the whole process, not to mention steering it. Hong Kong’s democratic reform is a wrestling between the political opposition, radical or moderate, and the Beijing government, if it is not completely dominated by the latter. Although DP’s “pragmatic” calculation and concession were crucial to the electoral reform in 2010, they neither help the party consolidate its electorate base nor push forward the progress of democratic reform in the coming years. Even the pragmatic line of the prodemocracy camp is in vain, the failure of Tsang’s pragmatism should come as no surprise.
28 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth
Chun-ying Leung and “proactive policy” Leung finally won the support from Beijing and most members of the EC after his opponent Henry Tang Ying-yen’s popularity was undermined by the scandals about the illegal structures of his luxury home. Yet, Leung, whose votes were only slightly above the half, took the office in the midst of controversies and scandals too. Therefore, his legitimacy was compromised from the outset. The political oppositions questioned his integrity for his alleged secret deal with the sale of his company to UGL Limited which was made a few days before he announced his decision of running for the election. He was accused of having potential conflicts of interest and fraudulence. In spite of it, the most serious challenge to Leung’s administration is the speculation over his special political ties with the CCP. As early as the 1980s, he was already nominated by the Hong Kong Basic Law Drafting Committee as a member and then the Secretary-General. After the handover, Chief Executive Tung appointed Leung as the convenor of the Executive Council. Since 2003, he has been a member of the National Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, except during the period of his tenure of chief executive. He was once addressed as “comrade” (tongzhi) by the online version of the People’s Daily immediately after he won the election. Upon controversies, it removed this sensitive term from his profile immediately (BBC, 2012). Unlike his predecessors, he made his inaugural speech in Putonghua, instead of Cantonese. Given all these controversies, there are always questions over his allegedly secret membership of the CCP. In the first year of his office, Leung was determined to make some concessions for the political oppositions. Before his first policy address, he had already rolled out some policy adjustments and new policies. For example, only two months after he took the tenure, he canceled the implementation of the school subject of national education after a series of mass rallies and occupation during August– September 2012. Under the rubric of “Hong Kong property for Hong Kong people,” he designated some sites for housing development restricted to Hong Kong buyers. He also saw his mission as addressing the issues of “MainlandHong Kong conflicts.” Adhering to the principle of “Hong Kong first” (Leung, 2013: Paragraph 5), a slogan chanted by the nativists, he quickly banned on all hospitals delivering bookings of pregnant Mainland women whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents in 2012. Then he imposed strict quota upon the amount of infant formula taken over the border in order to solve the problem of shortage, which was largely caused by mainland visitors. In 2013, he revived the Commission on Poverty and introduced a poverty line for monitoring the problem of poverty in Hong Kong. What he added to the legacy of Tsang’s pragmatism, a term he continued to use in his first policy address (Leung, 2013) is his rhetoric of “proactive government” (Leung, 2013: Paragraph 3). Although he still highly regarded Hong Kong’s image of “free economy” (Leung, 2017: Paragraph 2), he presented himself as an interventionist by his proactive policies and repeated underscoring of the necessity of Hong Kong’s economic integration with China.
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 29 Leung, born to a junior police officer father and a lower-class family in the 1950s, should have been regarded as a hero of the generation of post-war baby boomers. He began his career as a chartered surveyor in the late 1970s and became the vice chairman of the Hong Kong branch of a global enterprise in the mid-1980s. However, compared to Tsang, Leung barely impressed the locals, except the minority of his hardcore supporters, by his success stories. It is probably due to his close ties to Beijing. His “proactive” policies, at least in the first two years of his administration, earned him some support. But he only managed to position himself as the guardian of some particular interests of Hong Kongers, but not the imaginary order of Hong Kong as a whole. As a media critic points out, Leung rarely used “I” in his policy addresses or public speeches (So, 2017). Unlike Tsang, Leung rarely personified himself as a member of the community of Hong Kong. Instead, he portrayed himself as a protector of Hong Kong and the city as one requiring his protection and further development through proactive policies and planning. Like his predecessor, he attempted to promote a moderate version of “Hong Kong” with favor of nostalgic mood more than nationalistic cultural values. In 2013, he launched the campaign of “Hong Kong: Our Home,” reminiscent of the “Festival of Hong Kong” used by the colonial government to foster a local identity with political compliance after the riots in the 1960s (Turner, 1995: 15). The new initiatives of cleaning up the city and raising people’s awareness about personal and public hygiene looked similar to the cleaning campaigns in the 1970s. Leung’s administration further recycled and improvised the theme of “Below the Lion Rock,” a popular TV series produced by the Radio and Television of Hong Kong (RTHK) and its theme song in the late 1970s. In 2013, the theme song of the campaign “Sail On” sounds so familiar to Hong Kongers in terms of its melody, verses, and chorus. The first part of the lyrics of the theme song “Sail On” reads: Through laughter and tears, this small island carries on The Lion Rock bears witness to all who come and go Families have their ups and downs, but that doesn’t mean we’re foes We’re in the same boat, holding hands when the going gets rough … (Sail On, 2013, Lyrics: Abrahim Chan, James Wong) Available at http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/201306/05/ P201306050661_0661_112425.pdf The campaign was intended to foster a sense of “care, mutual help, and togetherness” devoid of political feuds. The government invited 249 partners, including statutory bodies, charities, social services organizations, and pro-establishment civic groups, to join it (Hong Kong SAR Government, 2013b). They organized cultural, sports and recreational activities for promoting the vibrancy of the city,
30 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth creativity, healthy lifestyle and ecological concerns. However, the message of the campaign has already lost its power through over-usage. The clichés by no means settled down the political conflicts. It only helped consolidate a united front of the collaborators involved in his proactive policies and measures and contributes to strengthening the pro-government camp under the banner of “Hong Kong.” Indeed, he and his secretaries attempted to mobilize the “silent majority,” mostly referring to the pro-Beijing groups, to voice and act out in support of the government views and policies (Leung, 2013; Hong Kong SAR Government, 2014). Leung’s tenure is marked by the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement. To be fair, one should not put the blame on his leadership as the major cause of these political conflicts. As I said before, the SAR Hong Kong government has been marginalized on the issue related to constitutional reform since 2010. The triggering points of the political agitations in 2014 were Beijing government’s hardening stance and the restriction imposed by the NPCSC on the method of the nomination of chief executive for election by popular votes from 2017 onwards (the so-called “August 31 decision”2). However, the ways Leung managed the mass rallies and protests in September 2014, such as fortification of the “Civic Square” in front of the Government Complex’s East Wing, arrests of student activists, police firing tear gas to disperse protesters, etc., proved to be a fuse that set off the explosion of public discontent. The government’s responses, stunning the community and fostering a global media spectacle, drew more people to join the protests rather than pacified the public anger. Leung’s overreactions and mishandlings might be attributed to his so-called proactive approach of his government. They definitely shattered his fragile image of guardian of Hong Kong. The incidents above and the controversies over Hong Kong independence movement later lent themselves to the controversies over the rule of law. Leung’s interpretation of this so-called core value of Hong Kong by highlighting the importance of law-abiding rather than civil rights and liberty. He weaned this value from the liberal tradition and grafted it onto China’s sovereign power. In 2015, in his policy address titled as “Uphold the Rules of Law, Seize the Opportunities, Make the Right Choices,” he reasserted the need of “adhering strictly” to the central authorities on the one hand (Paragraph 4), and deliberately put the pro-independence students and the student leaders of the occupy movement into the same category of people and characterizing them as lacking “full understanding of the constitutional relationship between our country and Hong Kong” (Paragraph 9–10) on the other. The ensuing trials of student activists, disqualification of pro-independence activists from election and LegCo, and ban on the Hong Kong National Party further instigated the debates on Hong Kong’s rule of law. Leung incarnated the power of the central authorities in exercising “overall jurisdiction over” Hong Kong, stated explicitly in the Chinese State Council White Paper on ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy in Hong Kong. All these moves undermine many people’s confidence in the political autonomy of Hong Kong.
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 31
Carrie Lam’s “good governance” After Leung announced his decision not to run for re-election, two former top officials of Leung’s government, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and John Tsang Chun-wah contested the Chief Executive election. While the former was believed to get the blessing of the Beijing government, most people highly expected the latter’s iconoclastic performance. Both appealed to the unity of Hong Kong people and symbolically addressed the political rift after the Umbrella Movement. Compared to Lam’s pragmatic and conservative move, John Tsang demonstrated his boldness to make diverse promises such as reactivating the process of constitutional reform without regard to the “August 31 Decision,” completing Article 23 national security legislation, introducing a progressive profit tax, etc. Interestingly enough, his contradictory stances did not compromise his electoral campaign much. In both manifesti, they portrayed two different images of Hong Kongers. Lam, following most politicians of postwar baby-boomer generation such as Donald Tsang, highlighted her grassroot family background (doing homework on a bunk bed when she was small) in passing (Lam, 2017). John Tsang’s detailed articulation of his migratory experience in the US and the identity of overseas Chinese was found more surprising and appealing. He intended to address two opposite demands and concerns. On the one hand, his personal stories as a new immigrant in a foreign country and longing for his home country offer a more down-to-earth version of cultural nationalism, probably favored by the pro-Beijing camp. On the other hand, his personified discourse associated his speaking position with the locals’ considerations of leaving Hong Kong due to the gloomy picture of Hong Kong’s political prospect. At an abstract and affective level, he appealed to some Hong Kongers’ feeling of “being a stranger” (Tsang, 2017). Despite John Tsang’s pro-Beijing stance, he won the support from pandemocrats and even some nativists such as Kay Lam. According to a poll, 62 percent of respondents support him (Weng, 2017). An Tu, a local political critic, adopts the concept of “empty signifier,” to understand the popularity of John Tsang as a populist figure. Despite its internal contradictions and inconsistencies, it draws a wide variety of desires and forces at the moment that abounds with anxieties over the virtual order of liberalism. Tsang’s widely acclaimed campaign, speeches, political gestures, and rally work as a psychological compensation for the sense of loss (An Tu, 2017). Here, An Tu’s usage of “virtual liberalism” is close to the Myth of Hong Kong in this chapter. John Tsang winning the fight for public opinion but failure in gaining support from the majority of the EC and the central authorities marked the end of the myth in a dramatic way. The first two policy addresses made by Lam focus primarily on “Good Governance.” Following her manifesto, she calls upon Hong Kong people to “stand united and remain focused” (Lam, 2018: Paragraph 2). She not simply evades the sensitive issues, but also largely backs off from imagining Hong Kong identity with a subject of action. In deeds and words, Lam follows the path set by her predecessor. Like Leung, Lam prefers to portray Hong Kong as a community to
32 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth be protected, served, and governed. Carrying on her nickname of “good fighter,” she positions herself as the guardian of Hong Kong who knows the best of the interest of the people. The only possibility of action assigned by her discourse to Hong Kongers is seizing the opportunities provided by China’s economic growth and development plans. She reduces the character of Hong Kongers to their function in economic activities. For example, she further developed Leung’s positioning Hong Kong as “super-connector” into “being a more proactive ‘participant’.” More specifically, she encourages “Hong Kong’s young people to participate in the development of the Greater Bay Area” (Lam, 2019). It corresponds with her portrayal of the Government’s new roles as “facilitator” and “promoter.” In general, she resorts to economic triumphalism and the discourse on “co-prosperity” for imagining the path of national unification for Hong Kong. Her attempt to nurture neoliberalism with Hong Kong and Chinese characteristics does not help her gain much support. In the midst of the recent controversies and protests over the extradition bill, the legitimacy and authority of her government was severely challenged not only by the opposition but also by some pro-government politicians. Her efforts to act in the name of Hong Kong prove to be unconvincing.
Authoritarian neoliberalism The fall of the Hong Kong Myth in the Chief Executives’ public discourses come alongside the repeated emphasis on the proactive role of the government in the market economy. The power elites of Hong Kong have barely preached the economics of minimal government, laissez-faire policy, or “active non- interventionism” in recent years. The relationship between this ideological and rhetoric shift and the stalled democratic reform is by no means accidental. From a broad perspective, it is a variant of “authoritarian neoliberalism,” an emerging regime across the world (Bonn, 2018). Left-wing political economists have long pointed out the state coercion and violence inherent to the market economy. For example, Karl Marx’s argument that capital is set free while labor is always “external forced labor” (Marx, 1993: 611) already reminds us of the authoritarian nature of capitalism. From a historical perspective on capitalist development, Karl Polanyi draws our attention to the active state interventions into the society for making the “self-regulating market” work (Polanyi, 1944). But it is not until the recent decades that scholarly attention shifts to the varied compatibility of authoritarian rule and neoliberal doctrines such as market economy and free trade (Harvey, 2005; Peck and Tickell, 2007). This shift occurred out of the increasing concerns with “effective state” and “good governance,” pushed forward and shared by various international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (Bonn, 2018: 125; Taylor, 2004). Even Francis Fukuyama, once the most renown triumphalist of western liberal-capitalism, pays much more attention to a government’s capability of making rules and delivering services rather than its adherence to democratic norms or authoritarianism (Fukuyama, 2013: 3).
The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 33 Another relevant background is the rise of China. The “China model,” despite its economic growth, does not fit in with the western-style definition of “good governance.” But some stretch out the meaning of “quality of governance” (QoG) to justify China’s success by appreciating the relatively arbitrary power of the cadres and its “efficiency,” which often violates the rule of law and aggravates the problem of corruption, to achieve the economic goals set by the party state (Rothstein, 2015: 16; Mahbubani, 2013; Ottervik, 2013). The issue of whether the term “authoritarian” is applicable to the political system of Hong Kong might still be the subject of debate. Hong Kong is generally considered to be an example of a hybrid system where civil rights are largely protected, but the government and the LegCo are not elected by universal suffrage (Wong, 2015). But if Hong Kong’s political system is defined as a part of Chinese authoritarianism, the perspective on authoritarian neoliberalism might offer some insights. The Chief Executives’ efforts to reposition Hong Kong in China’s new geopolitical territories and imaginations, such as the Belt Road Initiatives and the Greater Bay Area, are strategies of roll-out neoliberalism. What follows the downfall of the late-colonial urban imagination – a successful model of free economy and a society with liberal-democratic prospects is the rise of authoritarian neoliberalism. The agenda of democratic reform and the rule of law are eventually obscured, if not canceled completely. Embracing China’s new markets and development projects has become the policy priority for all Chief Executives. The post-colonial state recenters its power and legitimizes itself by functioning in nurturing citizens to be enterprising economic agents. The authoritarian-neoliberal power, more responsive to the politico-economic elites and market forces, is essentially anti-democratic, i.e. rejecting and repressing the popular-democratic demands. Compared to Mainland China, authoritarian rule figures less in straightforward repressive measures than in “evacuating human agency” and portraying necessity, if not a sense of emergency (Horner, 2011: 44). Piecemeal political reform is only possible as long as it would not radically challenge the economic monopolies and ideological hegemony of the ruling class. The “August 31 Decision” made by the Beijing government and the system of functional constituencies favoring professional elites and tycoons are examples. The “rule of law” is objectified and rational law regulating the society, rather than protecting civil rights or pursuing social justice. The room for political opposition, such as the checks and balances functions of the LegCo, is structurally limited. However, authoritarian neoliberalism in Hong Kong rolls out without consensus building among the government and the public. While the power elites are no longer willing or capable of binding the society with the Hong Kong Myth, the bottom-up quest for new meanings of Hong Kong continues and proliferates in the fragmented ideo-political landscape.
Notes 1 On June 25, 2019, the Court of Final Appeal quashed Tsang’s conviction and sentence by ruling that the trial judge’s directions were not adequate in 2017.
34 The fall of the Hong Kong Myth 2 The decision states that a nominating committee for the 2017 Chief Executive election would be formed to nominate two–three candidates, each of whom must receive the support of more than half of the members of the committee. This nominating body is similar to the current EC whose composition is favoring pro-Beijing and business interests. The nominated candidates would then join popular election under universal suffrage. The method of forming the Legislative Council would be unchanged until the Chief Executive was elected by universal suffrage.
3 The city of jiyu/geijyu Refashioning a neoliberal subject
The term jiyu (Putonghua) or geijyu (Cantonese) has figured strongly in Hong Kong’s media and official documents since the early 2000s. I tried to search this term in one of the Hong Kong-based tabloid-style newspapers, Apple Daily, via Google, and more than 4 million results came out. In daily language use, this term, equivalence to “opportunity” in English, refers to a time or a situation that makes it possible to do something. But the term jiyu/geijyu in Hong Kong or Mainland China carries a more specific denotation – economic or business opportunities. For example, investment opportunities: In the coming ten years, there will be enormous development in Tung Chung. The first aspect is the expansion of the new town. Housing development will bring in an extra population of 140,000. There will be 30,000 subsidized housing units and 180,000 private housing units. Apart from it, Tung Chung will have more employment opportunities (jiyu/geijyu) due to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the artificial island of the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities, and the business areas north to the airport. They will provide a lot of jobs for local residents … More jobs mean better income, more consumption, and opportunities. Tung Chung is no longer a remote place. Instead, it is full of opportunities (Z. Li, 2014) In this article titled “The First Step of Financial Management: Tung Chung Abounds with Opportunities (jiyu/geijyu) in the Coming Ten Years.” The term jiyu/geijyu appears three times. One specifically refers to job opportunities. The others are loose usage covering choices and the number of jobs, higher income, and the expansion of consumption. In sum, the author reminds readers of the bright future of Tung Chung. They are supposed to seize the chance. This is an article, published in the page of finance and property development, and is intended to offer advice on personal financial management and investment. The term jiyu/geijyu is so malleable that its usage could be specific as well as general. It is applicable to an individual, a region, a city, a country, and even the globe. It usually marks a specific moment. Suggesting potential economic benefits, it serves as a reminder and encouragement. This term, carrying normative and
36 The city of jiyu/geijyu positive connotations, delivers an urge and message: the opportunities are too good to be missed! It is an example of how a dominant idea is constructed as common sense. Although it sounds like an ordinary term of daily conversation in a highly capitalist society such as Hong Kong, a close examination will reveal that its specific background, against which the sea changes of China happen and it radically changes China’s relationship with the city. This chapter examines the rise of the popularity of the term jiyu/geijyu in media and official discourses, the ways in which its meaning has been formulated and transformed, and it relates itself to diverse discourses. It proceeds through three parts: linguistic history, historical account of the political uses of this term in the post-handover era, and finally the ideological analysis of the discursive mechanisms and their political implications. The first section addresses the era of China’s economic reform out of which this term emerged and spread across the border to Hong Kong during the transitional period of the 1990s. The analysis of the usage of this term will focus on the discourses of Chief Executives and other top officials of Hong Kong government. Finally, the discursive dynamics around the term will be further examined by attending to their implications for Hong Kong’s governance and the neoliberal turn of the city. It is this chapter’s contention that ideas centered around the keyword of jiyu/ geiyju are promoted by the power elites to reconstruct economic freedom by fashioning the subject of Hong Kong or Hong Kongers in a region-wide competitive liberal order.
Neoliberalism and keyword Left-wing critics tend to use the term “neoliberalism” to characterize a wide range of politico-economic transformations, from economic globalization, privatization to the retreat of the states from their welfare programs (Bourdieu, 1998; Callinicos, 2003). According to their theoretical paradigms, individuals, social organizations and governments have been forced to adopt the neoliberal rationality of enterprising, engage in profit-pursuing, and persistently compete with others. Yet, David Harvey, among the Marxists, does not take the ideologues of neoliberal policies at their words (Harvey, 2005). Instead he reminds us of the gap between capitalist practices and ideological justifications. Neoliberalism manifests itself as a project of discursive, policy, and institutional practices that posit individual and collective well-being can best be achieved and advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial impetus and actions from shackles and boundaries, yet forcing compliance with the institutional frameworks of private property rights, free markets, and free trade (Harvey, 2005: 2). Moreover, neoliberalism is by no means a uniform set of practices. Each project, subject to multiple ideological, economic, political, and historical conditions, is put together according to local logics (Brenner, Peck, and Theodore, 2010) and for different purposes, such as restoring the power of the dominant class in the US and rescuing the Chinese party state from legitimacy crisis (Harvey, 2005; Duménil and Lévy, 2004).
The city of jiyu/geijyu 37 Recent work on neoliberalism scrutinizes the interaction between capitalist development, governance and subjectivity, rather than as a top-down process or a well-designed program that imposes a set of economic ideology on everyone. It is understood as either a set of governing techniques of enabling individual citizens to think, talk and practice according to entrepreneurial choices in all aspects of life (Rose, 1999; Brown, 2005). In order to develop a more robust framework for delineating the historical and local paths of neoliberalism in the non-western contexts, Aihwa Ong, defining neoliberalism as a mode of governing/ self-governing through freedom, draws our attention to the fact that it is neither uniformly applied to all groups of people nor fully adopted without modification by everyone. Given its western origins, the global form of neoliberalism disseminates itself through its interaction with situated institutions and practices, particularly in post-socialist countries whose regimes had long paid lip service to antiwestern doctrines and sentiment. Ong proposes to use the concept of “exception” to analyze the interplay between neoliberalism as exception and the exceptions to it (Ong, 2007, 2006). Following Ong’s reminder of exception at the local level, Lisa Rofel identifies the neoliberal/post-socialist subject of desire in multiple sites of Chinese public culture. She notices that popular culture in contemporary China, a new arena not (or less) designed for official propaganda, has become the field in which people learn “the art of longing or desiring” for freedom by articulating their personal experience with national re-imagining. She highlights China’s socialist past as the key field in which a wide variety of individuals, social groups and the state articulate their desiring subjects for freedom in a neoliberal as well as post-socialist world (Rofel, 2007: 25). In this light, neoliberalism, as an ideological process, does not work through indoctrination, i.e. fostering acceptance of a set of beliefs. More attention should be paid to the fragmented and local sites in which disparate practices are encountered across geopolitical and social boundaries (Rofel, 2007: 200). The discursive power of neoliberalism figures in laying out the field of possibility as a market-like space. Each site, as an element of “the heterogeneous ensemble” in Foucault’s sense, functions in invoking a subject position, orienting itself to the world, shifting to other positions (Foucault, 1980: 195). The subject is loosely defined by the possibilities of being and what to do. Henceforth, methodologically, the neoliberal keywords in circulation in media, power elites’ speeches, and daily conversation are more important than the doctrines and well-articulated accounts, such as those of neoliberal economists’ (Block, Gray, and Holborow, 2012; Horner, 2011). These keywords contribute to envisioning a fantasy of freedom, equilibrium and prosperity, not actualized in the real world. As some scholars argue, the neoliberal project is intended to take forceful measures to make the real world conform to the imagined representation of market or an idealistic model of equilibrium (Fine, 2004: 216; Clarke, 2005). But this mission is never completed. The gap between the reality and imagination is never bridged. Ironically the reality is always found inadequate and the imagination is regarded as the truth in epistemological and moral senses.
38 The city of jiyu/geijyu Providing accurate description and understanding of the reality is by no means the purpose of any neoliberal project. As Colin Crouch sharply points out, neoliberalism is not as powerful as some proponents and opponents suggest. Instead it takes effect in the ways that “other values, interests, and prejudices” are taken out of their contexts and expressed through an imagined space of market (Crouch, 2014: 114–115). These semantic inconsistencies are discursive and psychological mechanisms functioning to obscure and confuse the varied policies and state interventions for actualizing the imagination, ranging from prescribing “shock therapy” for socialist countries, offering economic aid to the poor in African, to embracing China’s state capitalism (Wilson, 2014). In this “double truths” or “regulation in denial” (Mirowski, 2013: 68; Peck, 2010a: xiii), keywords play a critical part in it. The meanings of these words are often enormously stretched in varied context and subject to multiple interpretations and uses, rather than rigorous reasoning, research, or theories. Therefore, neoliberal logic is articulated locally and blended into varied ad hoc projects that do not necessarily constitute a program with unity. In sum, what binds these heterogeneous and local elements together in an imagined marketplace are keywords or public rhetoric which are usually unspecified, yet prevalent and important. The analysis of keywords help us to engage with their elusive usages, rather than its proper meaning. Following Raymond Williams, I stress the interaction between language use and social process, which are masked by “a nominal continuity.” This is a materialist perspective with which one is obliged to approach the words and their changing semantic networks we live by in our actions and institutions (Williams, 1985: 17). A keyword is an element embodied with the problems it is adopted to address. That said, it is bound up with some specific ways of problematization, thinking, and acting. What concerns this chapter is the imperative to extend and transform word meanings, such as valorizing a word away from its descriptive sense, loading it with new moral and pragmatic values, and grafting it onto a new semantic context (Durant, 2006).
Jiyu/geijyu from China to Hong Kong There were barely any Hong Kong publications carrying the term jiyu/geijyu until 1996.1 In the 1980s, it appeared in some book titles published in Mainland China. But it merely referred to business opportunities for enterprise or something accidental and good for individuals. No reference was made to a city, a country or global changes. The current usage could be dated to the official documents of the Beijing government in the mid-1980s. The Central Committee of CCP’s Decision on Economic System Reform (1984) reads: “We should be aware of the rise of the revolution of new technologies across the world. It poses new challenges (tiaozhan) and opportunities for our country’s economic development.” Since then, the terms tiaozhan/tiuzin and jiyu/geijyu have been paired up in language use. It emphasizes economic development and changes which serve as
The city of jiyu/geijyu 39 opportunities to be captured by people, enterprises, and governments. One is also bound to take up the challenge – overcoming the difficulties or joining competitions. In the 1980s, Chinese scholars and media repeatedly used these terms to discuss the prospect of economic reform. For example, “[C]onfronted with new technological revolution,” said Shunping Qiu (1985), a Chinese scholar, “Guangdong has to cope with the situation by seizing the opportunity, taking up the challenge, and achieving strong growth.” More books are titled with this term. For example, in a book titled Opportunities and Choices: Technological Advancement and Reviving China Economy, the author articulates it with global economic environment: Our country’s coastal regions will ride with new favorable opportunities for economic development. In recent years, the US dollar depreciates, the Japanese Yen appreciates and the global stock market declines. The developed countries are undergoing new adjustments of industrial structure. The labor-intensive industries are shifting to the regions of low wage level. (Xu, 1988) Xu was the director of the Hong Kong branch of the Xinhua News Agency from 1983 to 1989. Before he fled to the United States and lived there in exile due to his sympathy with the Beijing student movement in 1989, he was the highest ranking delegate of the Beijing government in Hong Kong. In the 1990s, the pair of tiaozhan/tiuzin and jiyu/geijyu appeared more often when describing the interaction between China and global economy. As early as 1992, more publications focused on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and made use of them. Around 1997, the focus shifted to the issues about China’s entry to WTO. The first book titled with the term jiyu/geijyu was published in Hong Kong at this moment. In 1996, The Interactive Integration of Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao: Opportunities and Obstacles (1996), edited by Wong Ka-ying, Sun Tung-man, and Liu Kwong-sheng, was published by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong. Since then, under the influence of Mainland China, this term has been frequently used in the disciplines of regional research, public administration, economics in Hong Kong. One year later, the year of the resumption of China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa delivered his first policy address and began to use this term: Paragraph 6. As China’s economy, culture and spirit develop and as the world continues to progress, Hong Kong can either stand by passively, content with what we have achieved, or ride the wave of opportunity and go forward, adding new dimensions and vibrancy to our lives. I believe that the people of Hong Kong will rise to the challenge of this brave new era. (Tung, 1997: Paragraph 6)
40 The city of jiyu/geijyu
Figure 3.1 Frequencies of jiyu/geiyu in Hong Kong news media (1998–2018). Source: WiseSearch (Hong Kong).
According to the searchable news media database of Wisers, the frequency of jiyu/geijyu has been steadily increasing during 1998–2016. Except the five years of decrease (less than 20 percent), the annual growth rate reaches between 5–30 percent. The most dramatic surge happened between 1998 and 1999, 2.55 times within a year. Apparently, this is a linguistic phenomenon of the post-handover years. Some scholars and power elites, wittingly or unwittingly, made use of this term to draw public attention to the new changes of China’s economic reform, especially its entry to WTO, and the convergence of China’s economy and international trade system. The term jiyu/geijyu, not only descriptive, prescribes Hong Kong’s economic ties with China. Until mid-2000s, jiyu/geijyu referred primarily to business opportunities: The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ concept puts Hong Kong in a strong position to develop our special status. We must make the most of this advantage, and grasp the opportunity to expand further our business links and economic co-operation with the Mainland in areas such as finance, trade, transport, communication, energy, innovative technology, raw materials, tourism and agricultural development. (Tung, 1998: Paragraph 14) The Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) followed Tung’s notion: China’s accession to the WTO will provide further opportunities. Hong Kong knows the Mainland much better than any other economy, and competition is very much Hong Kong’s game. I am also sure that the entrepreneurial acumen of Hong Kong businessmen will effectively cope with the likely changes in the nature of Hong Kong’s intermediation role in
The city of jiyu/geijyu 41 response to a greater openness among Mainland markets and that they will benefit from the associated opportunities. Closer to the HKMA, efforts to strengthen Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre will be sustained, creating attractive opportunities for Hong Kong. (Yam, 1999) For Hong Kong, the opportunities are manifold. The first one is China’s entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO). It makes no difference from the usage of “challenge and opportunity” in Mainland China. But due to Hong Kong’s status provided by the principle of “One Country, Two Systems,” the opportunities for Hong Kong are perceived as more plentiful. Because of Hong Kong’s geographical proximity to Mainland China and competitive character, the local citizens are more capable of seizing the chances. The term jiyu/geijyu is not simply economic but highly related to Hong Kong’s changing political status and Hong Kong’s allegedly shrewd market acumen and rich experience in competition. Exhorting everyone and the society as a whole to live by their opportunities may seem like one of the doctrines of market ideology, but when politicians keep reminding the population at large of the opportunities provided by China’s economic changes, it represents a deliberate political project. As Vološinov notes, the ideological theme takes shape through its speakers who define its “uniaccentual” character, i.e. imparting a “superclass, eternal character” to their discourse, yet still from a perspective implicitly informed by political and economic interests (Vološinov, 1973: 23). However, the power of this term and its related discourses is exercised not simply from above, but also from below, i.e. through common sense. The proliferation of this term in media discourses and daily conversations facilitates a new way of perceiving, thinking, and talking about the world. In the late 1990s, the term jiyu/geijyu only appeared in pro-Beijing media, such as Wen Wei Po, Ta Kung Pao, and Hong Kong Commercial Daily. Other media did not get used to it until the early 2000s. It was first used by government officials rather than other politicians, businessmen or professionals. A few years later, this term eventually spilled over to other areas and became more naturalized in media discourses. For example: This year, there is one more event worthy of celebration. The six mobile networks are integrated on the SMS services. Although it comes a little bit late, it is better than nothing. And from the perspective of the history of telecommunications, coming late is not necessarily worse than coming earlier. It depends on whether the industry could capture the opportunity. (Zhao, 2001) Yet, even if you could handle the two skills above, you could only guarantee an acceptable reward. If you want to be rich, there are two necessary conditions. The first one is opportunity. The opportunity once in a lifetime
42 The city of jiyu/geijyu comes by luck rather than by search. A great chance would still be useless if you do not have enough money. (Si, 2003) Around the early 2000s, it became a more flexible term of the daily vocabulary. In the first quote, it refers to a business opportunity for the whole industry. The latter is a chance for individual. The popularity and proliferation of this term in diverse areas obscure the fact that it has been increasingly loaded with politicoeconomic values.
Turning crisis into opportunity Hong Kong underwent the Asian financial crisis (1997–1998) and a dramatic downturn of property market and economy at large. “Opportunity” was not simply paired up with “challenge” but also “crisis.” In 1998, the title of Tung’s policy address is From Adversity to Opportunity. In Chinese, it is from “crisis” (wei/ngai) to “opportunity” (ji/gei). Since then, this pair of terms have been widely used to describe Hong Kong’s economic situations and the way one should deal with them. In other words, opportunities are assumed to be generated out of crisis. The previous usage focused on the opportunities offered by external environment and historical moments. The role of the individual or the city is assigned to seizing them. Furthermore, jiyu/geijyu eventually becomes something to be transformed from crises. Opportunities are not confined to the background of China economy or globalization. They are inherent to every moment of change, adversity or advantage, and individuals’ mind set, ability, and creativity. It is not simply up to “capture,” but also to “transformation.” The latter suggests we stay alert to all changes. While we bravely meet our challenges ahead, we know that Hong Kong is presented with unprecedented opportunities (jiyu/geijyu): our country is making spectacular progress, and the Asia-Pacific region is poised for new growth. … I, together with the Principal Officials of the SAR Government and all civil servants, will redouble our efforts to strive in this direction for Hong Kong and our country. We should be tolerant and inclusive. We should have fewer arguments to avoid missing good opportunities through idleness and indecision. With all sincerity I hope and urge everyone to unite and focus on seizing every chance (jiyu/geijyu) to build a better tomorrow for Hong Kong. And to perform new miracles for this blessed land. (Tsang, 2005b: Paragraph 103) Later on, the second Chief Executive Donald Tsang even set up a committee called “Task Force on Economic Challenges” (TFEC). The English term “challenges” is rendered jiyu/geijyu in Chinese. Its mission is:
The city of jiyu/geijyu 43 In response to the global financial tsunami, the Chief Executive announced in his 2008–09 Policy Address that he would “establish and chair a task force to continually monitor and assess the impact of the financial tsunami on local and global markets, and provide timely evaluation of its impact on the local economy and our major industries during this trying period. More importantly, the task force will propose specific options for the Government and business community to address the challenges. This will help us overcome the crisis, turn it into new business opportunities and enhance our competitiveness. (Website of the Task Force on Economic Challenges, www.fso.gov.hk/ tfec/eng/index.html) Here, Tsang made use of Tung’s notion of “from adversity to opportunity” again. Opportunities are not simply something to be identified in, but also transformed out of the economic adversity by government and professional elites. Since then, opportunities have become an object, not simply to be captured but also created. In 2008, Tsang highlighted six economic areas to support by policies, tax abates, and subsidies. They not only cover closer regional cooperation between Hong Kong and China, but also varied and piecemeal “liberalization” policies. For example, Tsang speeded up the pace of redevelopment of old buildings by lowering the compulsory sale threshold from 90 percent to 80 percent of property rights acquired. This is an agenda item having been promoted since 1997 or even earlier. While education is one of the six areas, the government relaxed the requirements by, for example, allowing more Mainland students to pursue studies in Hong Kong. He often used the term “align” or “alignment” in his discourse which meant making policy changes to satisfy the needs of the industries (Hong Kong SAR Government, 2009a). All policies, especially those for deregulation, are justified under the rubrics of “opportunities,” “advantages,” and “alignment.” Since Tsang’s administration, the SAR government has clearly defined generating jiyu/geijyu as its key responsibility. Apart from deregulation for creating more business opportunities at the expense of social consequences, the various projects of transport infrastructure across the border with Mainland China were also valorized as offering more opportunities in general. For example, the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou– Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) project is intended to “create new opportunities for the future development of Hong Kong in the medium and long term” (Hong Kong SAR Government, 2009b). Compared to Tsang, his successors put more emphasis on the opportunities and advantages offered by China’s economy and policies. For example, Leung Chun-ying claimed to formulate a holistic industrial policy. He set up the Economic Development Commission (EDC) as a cross-departmental and crosssectoral body to oversee the advantages and opportunities provided by China to Hong Kong (Leung, 2013: Paragraph 23). At the more micro-level, following the logic of “alignment,” he requested the SAR government’s Mainland offices
44 The city of jiyu/geijyu to liaise with Hong Kong people and groups in the Mainland for providing them with information and assistance in capturing the opportunities offered by national and local policies (Leung, 2013: Paragraph 29). Like Tsang’s TFEC, Leung’s EDC is composed of four working groups to cover a wide range of industries. More specifically, he intended to “grasp the opportunities provided for under the National 12th Five-Year Plan and other plans.” Despite controversies over further “mainlandization,” Leung was determined to jump on the bandwagon of China (Hong Kong SAR Government, 2013a) by reasserting the “appropriately proactive” role of the government in addressing the cases of “market failure” (Leung, 2013: Paragraph 20). The Chief Executive Carrie Lam, embracing the development and plan of the Greater Bay Area recently, simply follows their predecessors by expanding the scope of “alignment” with the industries in regional cooperation (Lam, 2018: Paragraph 143). As mentioned above, neoliberalism, in practice, is always articulated with local projects and agenda. The deep collaboration between government and the industries for relaxing administrative restriction is one of the local policy concerns and changes. In Hong Kong, the urge to develop one’s potential for intense competition is nurtured and reinforced by the varied notions of jiyu/ geijyu, assumedly economic opportunities largely from China as a magnet on the one hand. This portrayal plays into the political agenda of fostering political compliance with the SAR government and China on the other. In general, the notion of jiyu/geijyu hints at the disadvantage of political arguments to economic development. “Arguments,” associated with “idleness” and “indecision,” contrast with “unite” and “focus.” For example, in alignment with Tsang’s pragmatism, the usage of jiyu/geijyu suggests a character of “pragmatic majority” who, like a kind of “economic animal,” always “bravely” concentrate on seizing the economic opportunities. Tsang’s remarks arose from the controversies over his political reform package which was severely criticized and rejected by the pan-democrats in 2005. Under the pressures from the Beijing government and the pro-Beijing business and professional elites, Tsang was not willing to extend universal suffrage in the constitutional arrangements of the selection of chief executive and LegCo election. The power elites of Hong Kong always attempt to fend off the political challenges and expectations with economic measures such as highlighting the China government’s policies presumedly favoring Hong Kong since 2003. Both Leung Chun-ying and Carrie Lam recycled Tsang’s pragmatism and his interpretation of jiyu/geijyu in their policy addresses for ameliorating the political challenges to his close political ties with the Beijing government. By doing so, they work hard on fostering an enterprising character of Hong Kongers. The Chief Executive Lam further expands the scope of the neoliberal logic formulated by her predecessors. The word meaning of jiyu/geijyu is further stretched to cover “the opportunity to enlarge the living environment of Hong Kong residents” (Lam, 2018: Paragraph 96). The focus on “seizing opportunities” shifts to “participation” in the development of China, specifically that of the Greater Bay Area. The opportunities are not confined to economic sense, but also
The city of jiyu/geijyu 45 social and livelihood possibilities. Therefore, the Hong Kong SAR government also changes its role from working on pro-business policies to promoting and facilitating people’s participation in the development of the Greater Bay Area: Within the HKSAR Government, I will establish a high-level Steering Committee for the Development of the Greater Bay Area, with me as the chairperson and its membership comprising all Secretaries of Department and Directors of Bureau. The Steering Committee will be responsible for the overall co-ordination of matters relating to the HKSAR’s participation in the development of the Greater Bay Area. (Lam, 2018: Paragraph 97)
Individualized motivation, psychological condition, and ethos In sum, the notions of jiyu/geijyu work at the individual level more than at the institutional or organizational level. It facilitates a moral obligation or a vague sense of necessity, echoing the intermittent sense of crisis. For instance, in 2006, Rafael Hui Si-Yan, former Chief Secretary, suddenly expressed his anxiety with Hong Kong’s problem of “marginalization” without providing a clear definition and any solid evidence to support it (Hui, 2006). He warned the general public that the city could be sidelined in economic development when China’s 11th Five Year Plan was announced. He urged Hong Kongers to embrace the opportunities and take up the challenges offered by the plan in order to overcome the problem of “marginalization.” His warning created a small storm and debate on media. Since then, the Hong Kong and Beijing governments have kept using the “thesis of marginalization” to justify all policies and projects for Hong Kong–Mainland integration, including the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link, the co-location of immigration and customs facilities at the Kowloon West Station, the Greater Bay Area, etc. However, the problem of “marginalization” is almost a fabrication out of nothing. The warning is groundless. For example, even the research conducted by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, a statutory body founded by the government, largely refutes this thesis. It argues that the socalled “marginalisation” is a part of a “normalization” process: Hong Kong is no longer a developing region and in terms of GDP, it has already outperformed most developed countries. Hong Kong’s relative weight of its economy within China as a whole is many times that of its population proportion (HKTDC Research, 2018). The warning of “marginalization,” is primarily intended to strengthen people’s urgency to capture the business opportunities of China. This neoliberal form of subjectification place individualized motivation, psychological condition, and ethos, rather than human capital, at the center of the competitive market world of Mainland China. Presenting opportunities in a highly subjective fashion, the discourses centered around jiyu/geijyu privilege
46 The city of jiyu/geijyu people’s readiness to embrace opportunities over other economic considerations. Individuals are held responsible for seizing the chance or not. The policymakers rely on a triumphalist neoliberal narrative that promises economic growth and economic prosperity, and nurtures citizens’ enterprising spirit to participate in China’s development. In other words, neoliberal citizenship is closely connected to national citizenship. The term, as a rhetorical device, implies Mainland China or any particular region as being free markets, thereby concealing the conflicts, borders, and segregations between Hong Kong and the Mainland. For example, the China government enforces the “Great Fire Wall,” the combination of legislative actions and technologies, to regulate its domestic online space and separate it from the rest of the world, including Hong Kong and Macao. It is never mentioned in the official discourses. The urge to seize the opportunities continues unabated despite evidence of little enthusiasm, if not growing resistances or refusal. The general household survey conducted by the government in 2011 already indicates the declining number of Hong Kong residents who had worked in Mainland China during the 12 months before enumeration since 2005 (Census and Statistics Department, 2011: 15). According to a sample survey conducted in 2015, there were 64.7 percent respondents (aged 18–29) not willing to seek employment in the Mainland. Among those who are willing, only 14.9 percent took action to achieve the target of seeking a job in Mainland China (Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre, 2015). In 2019, a report published by the Youth Research Centre and Youth Ideas found that 62 percent of respondents were not willing to live in any of the nine major cities of the Greater Bay Area, and 68 percent were unwilling to work there (Cheung, 2019). Young people’s lukewarm response to the call for seizing the chance serves as an unorganized protest in silence. Although few challenge the notion of jiyu/ geijyu per se, the Hong Kong SAR government’s attempt to encourage Hong Kong youth to work and live in the Greater Bay Area remains to be largely futile. The counter-hegemonic interpretations or alternative “possibilities” coexisting with and sometimes challenging the hegemony usually take the form of protecting local culture or even nativism. The oppositional perspectives and agency are attentive to the cultural implications of the officials’ remarks on Hong Kong’s competitiveness than economic concerns. For example, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, the city’s education chief, suggested experts study whether the Chinese language should be learned in Putonghua rather than Cantonese, noting that “the future development of Chinese language learning across the globe will rely mainly on Putonghua.” He further questioned that learning Chinese in Cantonese put the locals at a disadvantage in global competition. His remarks sparked uproar over his disregard of the status of Cantonese as an inalienable part of Hong Kong identity and fears about “mainlandization” of Hong Kong (Su, 2018). The local language is not only constructed by him as something like a commodity to be measured in terms of its economic value (Heller, 2010). What is noteworthy is that he “reenregistered” language in a neoliberal way. His discourse on language is
The city of jiyu/geijyu 47 different from the attempt to reconceptualize language as transparent medium of communication in a globalizing society, such as valorizing English in Asia as a language for self-development and international competition, as some researchers point out (Ryuko, 2016; Park, 2016). Instead, he grounds Putonghua and Cantonese in the geopolitical space envisioned by the varied notions of jiyu/geijyu. Learning Chinese in Cantonese or Putonghua is imagined by Yeung as “an investment in cultural capital which can then be exchanged within the global labour market” (Rassool, 2007: 148) favorable to seizing better chances. This global market extends from China to the globe in which the presence of Chinese and China has increasingly become important. The imagined form of cultural capital is acquired not simply by individuals for struggles over social distinction and inequality, but also rendered as a profitable resource for individuals and place competitions at large (Boutet, 2012). Both Putonghua and Cantonese have come to be “re-enregistered,” yet not in terms of their places respectively, as some linguistic anthropologists note, but by assigning different economic advantages, potentials and prospects to them and placed in hierarchy. Yeung accomplishes this discursive process by assuming China as the source of opportunities and Hong Kongers’ obligation to seize them. The varied projects centered around jiyu/geijyu function as aggressive marketization without social policy and democratic accountability rebalancing. While they break down the barriers to commerce, they never challenge the political barriers to exchanging information and thoughts. Neither are the authoritarianneoliberal rules set by the China government questioned. These projects barely address the socio-economic issues, such as marginalization of the economically disadvantaged groups by the real-estate bubble of the whole Greater Bay Area. The rising health care crisis, such as the vaccine scandals, on the side of the Mainland have pushed the mainlanders in Guangdong to rush to Hong Kong, thereby overburdening the city’s public health system. The pro-business character of these projects does not allow them to alleviate these problems but only to worsen them. The popularity of the term jiyu/geijyu, a regional or indigenized keyword for the discourse on globalization, is symptomatic of a deep ideological shift. The denotation of it is so ambiguous that it suggests an imagined world full of opportunities, challenges, and competitions. This is a world perceived at individual, sectoral, societal, regional, national and global levels. It presents itself as a necessity and urgency to stay alert to all possibilities, overcoming difficulties and challenges, and seizing every chance. The popularity of this term, despite its connotations of globalization, did not begin from the United States or other advanced capitalist countries. Indeed, it did not flow from developed countries to developing countries. On the contrary, it emerged out of China’s official discourse on economic reform and entry to WTO. It is a term invented and used in a developing country and then moved to a more developed region. The perpetuating force behind is not an assumedly overwhelming force of globalization. Neither is this keyword fully formed in the West and then adopted and spread across the globe. Instead, it
48 The city of jiyu/geijyu serves as a keyword of the Chinese Communist Party’s economic discourse in the post-Mao period. It was first promoted by scholars, political elites, finance officials, and pro-Beijing media, and then spread to other media. One is tempted to coin it as “mainlandization.” However, it is by no means an ideological indoctrination. This process is grounded in the capitalist development of Hong Kong and Mainland China and national unification. In other words, neoliberal ideas work behind the political scenes. The use and popularity of this term are perpetuated by the power bloc’s desire to mobilize Hong Kong citizens to embrace the capitalist vision engineered by the central authorities. To a certain extent, it is intended to facilitate political compliance with the local and central governments. The most fundamental effect is to nurture a neoliberal subject – an agency to adapt to the volatility of capitalism, to seize every chance, and to compete with enthusiasm. Jiyu/geijyu symbolically marks the new stage of Hong Kong’s capitalism. In the 1980s, Hong Kong was regarded as one of the Four Dragons of East Asia, a successful new industrial region. Following Japan, alongside other East Asian countries, it represented a new paradigm of Asian capitalism. Neoliberal economists, such as Milton Friedman and Steven Cheung, and media, such as Economic Journal of Hong Kong, cheerfully promoted Hong Kong’s free market economy as a successful model. Right at that moment, Hong Kong served as an example modeled after by China for its economic reform and open door policy. Ideologically, Hong Kong’s capitalism was largely portrayed as a formula independent of the global economic environment. Against this background, Deng Xiaoping remarks that China needs to make a few more “Hong Kongs” (Deng, 1993). After the Asian financial crisis and the handover, Hong Kong has to reposition itself in global capitalism and to make another image. The loss of the Myth of Hong Kong, as discussed in Chapter 2, has left Hong Kong’s power elites bereft of a readily imaginable and manageable object for governance. In order to continue its image as a successful economic city, Hong Kong has to embrace the jiyu/geijyu provided by China’s economic changes. It is impossible to simply rely on its economic achievement in the last century. In presenting itself as a global city, Hong Kong has been undergoing an identity shift from neoliberal model to neoliberal subject. Hong Kongers are expected to react quickly to the world outside, and China in particular, and to adapt accordingly. Opportunities, suggesting a wider and freer horizon for maneuvers, work as a ruse to obscure the authoritarian reality. Henceforth, Hong Kong’s post-handover years are a period of marketfriendly re-regulation or roll-out neoliberalism. It is a deeply managed and consolidated form of market rule and China rule as well. Remaining to be “the freest economy in the world” does not help the city be at ease with its economic achievement. What really matters is motivation to embrace market competition. The government, every industry, entrepreneur, professional, and ordinary citizens are reminded of the need to seize the chance. Otherwise, Hong Kong will lag behind others and will be “marginalized” by its competitors and the
The city of jiyu/geijyu 49 broad trend. The British colonialists may have lectured Hong Kong bureaucrats to be “prudent” on fiscal and welfare policies, but it is the China government and the SAR government who eventually have come through on the promise of facilitating unlimited economic opportunities; and the colonial government may have already cultivated Hong Kongers’ neoliberal mentality, but it is the Chief Executives and Beijing officials who keep spurring us to embrace the neoliberal world. The term jiyu/geijyu and the discourses around it push Hong Kong to a new position with new anxieties and contradictions.
Notes 1 There was a book titled How to Seize the Chance? It is a self-help book. The term jiyu/ geijyu refers to chance or opportunity for individual. Its usage is different from those since the 1990s onwards.
4 Ethnocracy A study of the campaigns against mainland Chinese visitors
In the 1990s, when Hong Kong identity began to become the talk of the small circle of cultural critics and scholars, almost no memorable or iconic place was involved; instead there was a strong nostalgic mood in cultural commodities and the styles of popular culture. Heritage preservation did not catch much public attention at the time. Ackar Abbas’ notion of “culture of disappearance” fits well into this structure of feeling (Abbas, 1997). The postmodern mood served as legitimizing the government’s aversion of historical buildings as an obstacle to profitable redevelopment and infrastructure projects. Whereas Hong Kong was always regarded as an exemplar of a fast-growing capitalist city, few people questioned this governing logic. Urban space was merely considered an instrument for actualization and valorization of land value. Even urban activism had long been targeting housing and public resources redistribution rather than cultural concerns. To many people’s surprise, the place-specific issues, such as community design, urban planning and historic preservation have surfaced in Hong Kong since the early 2000s. In 2007, when my friends and I joined the campaign for preserving Lee Tung Street, Star Ferry Pier, Queen’s Pier, we did not win the support of the majority of the society although we drew extensive media concerns. Neither did we notice the spatial turn in urban activism, later coined by scholars as the new wave of spatial struggles for reclaiming local identity (Ku, 2012). But it seemed to further take effect in Hong Kong’s political rhetorics. Over the past ten years, the spatial and even territorialized vocabularies, such as “occupation,” “reclaim/restoration/recovery” (guangfu), and “driving away” (qugan) eventually came to be familiar and readily understandable. Interestingly enough, they figure strongly in the protests against anti-mainland visitors in various neighborhood rather than preservation movement.
China: a magic ticket? These protests are not only filled with anti-China sentiment, but also fashion a nativist identity. The narratives of identity politics usually date its origin to the new social movements in the 1960s which expanded the scope of democracy, promoted multiculturalism, and accelerated the pace of social reform in western
Ethnocracy 51 worlds. However, these narratives obscure the fact that the reactionary conservatism such as the Christian right and other religious fundamentalism have come to the fore at the same time (Calhoun, 1994: 22; Ang, 2001: 152). Its proponents hardly fall into the category of “progressive.” The conservative and right-wing notions of identity should not be viewed as a sort of political pathology. Instead, they deserve our critical examinations of their close ties with the political system. The widespread surge of the notion of authenticity, noted by many (Hall, 1996; Castells, 1997), is an attempt to control people’s territories, which have permeated the cultural and political landscape in the era of globalization. The rise of China as an economic-political power shrouding the city is the background against which the burgeoning nativist movement took place. The economic success of China seems to give the city a magic ticket to a prosperous future in a globalized world. However, the celebratory mood of Hong Kong and Beijing governments does not deter a significant number of people from perceiving the city’s future as a dystopia: a society in which “Hong Kongers” would be socially marginalized or symbolically annihilated. The anti-mainland visitors campaign, representing only a small albeit significant minority of disaffected Hong Kongers, received echoes from all walks of life. The protests happening right in the shopping areas crowded with Chinese visitors and causing more chaos and noises in the bustling streets, might not please the majority. But their actions sent a strong message to the public: The city has already changed beyond recognition and been “taken over” by newcomers. The local people have been imprisoned in a false and distorted condition. Painting a picture different from the impression that Hong Kong is a metropolis permeable to the flows of capital, information, ideas and peoples, this campaign illustrates the importance of physical, social, and imagined boundaries to the cultural formation of Hong Kong, especially its relationship with China. This political scene is also specific to the post-1997 contingency. The longstanding practices, modes of thought, and emotion against “China” are reworked and combined together for new purposes. Anti-communism, populist sentiment, longing for local identity, anti-mainlanders hostility are now all bundled together into a force and further proliferate in other similar contexts. These diverse elements are grafted onto one another for forging a politically effective subject. Yet, it is an exaggeration to say that the campaign serves as a resistance against the expansion of China’s authoritarian capitalism into the city. I argue that the Hong Kong nativists practice a sort of ethnocracy, resorting to populist rhetoric and action styles, in urban spaces. They develop their governing agency, foster an ethnic subject, and facilitate efficacious and subtle political connections with Hong Kong’s and China’s administrative power.
Populism and ethnocracy In recent years, alongside the new surge of national populism in Europe, there are not only an escalating number of political studies on particular populist
52 Ethnocracy parties (Lubbers, Gijsberts, and Scheepers, 2002; Minkenberg, 2003; Ivarsflaten, 2005; Rydgren, 2007) but also theoretical discussions on populism in general. For example, Ernesto Laclau shifts the whole discussion to theories of political ontology by addressing the rhetorical and performative structures of “the political” (Laclau, 2005). His reminder of the importance of “constructing a people” to left-wing politics is timely. Going beyond the unproductive polemic around “democracy versus populism” is also a good piece of advice. Despite his theoretical strength, Laclau’s ontological discussion tend to strip the concept of “populism” of most analytical meanings (Müller, 2014: 483). His conceptual tools could not help us normatively distinguish among diverse populist movements (Arato, 2013: 165). His recommendation of hegemonic struggles for peoplehood barely addresses liberal-leftists’ anxiety over the threats from the radical Right. In this respect, more attention to power relationships, institutions, and even regime is needed. This chapter attempts to contextualize populism in ethnocracy. This term usually refers to a sort of political structure and even state apparatus. It appears to come at odds to populist vandalism and verbal abuse which do not appear to be about governance. Likewise, conventional wisdom has it that the nativists do not serve as qualified opposition leaders. Hong Kong’s semi-authoritarian or hybrid political structure indeed barely allows any room of governance for opposition parties and groups, not to mention the less organized populist groups. Yet, I argue that the concept of ethnocracy enables us to further explore populism as a specific mode of subjectivity and practices, rather confining the discussion to political ontology. In Europe, ethnicity and populism, often rendered closely inter-related, come to define the radical Right parties characteristic of their urge to govern and rule in the name of peoplehood in ethno-national sense. In other words, ethnicity is the most powerful medium for establishing the idea of authenticity in contrast to the “contaminated” elites. By using the concept of ethnocracy I further foreground the implications of ethnicity for power and governance. The concept of ethnocracy used to be a special and ideal type of state regime. It reminded political scientists of the diversity of political phenomena which could not be contained by the western-centric notion of “democratization” (Howard, 2012; Wade, 2009; Yiftachel, 2006). The conventional framework of “democracy–non-democracy,” prevailing in political studies, overlooks the proliferation of the ethno-national forces shaping political and cultural institutions. The research on ethnocracy does not simply attempt to go beyond the yardstick of liberal democracy for measuring other regimes, but also digs into the politicalgeographical project of ethnicization addressing contested territory (Yiftachel, 2006). Analysis of ethnocracy opens up the unstable links between nationbuilding, citizenship, and governance. Most scholars agree that each political regime functions as a power center featuring the dominance of a particular ethnic group over others. Ethnic hierarchy is usually identifiable in citizenship and class relationship. For example, Barry Sautman outlines the hierarchy of citizen, denizen, and margizen fostered by the Cantonese Chinese tycoon regime in
Ethnocracy 53 Hong Kong (Sautman, 2004). This state-centric perspective, however, risks obscuring the complexities of ethnocracy. While few governments represent themselves as ethnocracy due to the prevalence of the rhetoric of human rights and racial equality across the world, ethnocratic practices are still common in governance. Nevertheless, ethnicity, rather than something given and group-bounded (Brubaker, 2004), is subject to discursive-power mechanisms, such as official classification, enunciative action from below, and political mobilizations. For example, the identity of the dominant ethnic group is always purified for naturalizing its citizenship and belonging to the nation. The marginalized groups are not only excluded and oppressed but also regulated in terms of their movement, settlement, and allegiance. They are sometimes even called into service of varied political projects, such as representing the country as multicultural, cosmopolitan or in alignment with the international standards of human rights (Vora and Koch, 2015). Therefore, racial hierarchy is usually not sanctioned by law and other political institutions; instead, it is played out in policy implementations and the practices of everyday life. Ethnic relationship is not confined to hierarchal domination but also structured through expressive conflicts, affective mobilizations, segregations, normalized disciplines, and multiple forms of surveillance. In view of the methodological stance and new conceptualization above, one may reassess the discussion on Hong Kong identity. Most scholarship on Hong Kong society and culture has focused on either the emergence of local consciousness or the representations of Others in media and literary cultural production. Following the colonial government’s full-scale social reform in response to a youth riot and a pro-communist riot, in 1966 and 1967 respectively, Hong Kong had experienced her prosperous years after the oil crisis in 1973. Hong Kong’s burgeoning cultural industry (Lui, 2002) followed suit and enacted membership categorization devices to set mainland Chinese against the locals (Ma, 1999: 35). Added to the cultural boundaries, the colonial government strengthened its border with Mainland China. In most of the years of colonialism, the border was so porous that Hong Kong’s population and the social composition were often in flux. During the peak time of the Cold War, the government even granted the refugees immunity from repatriation and citizenship in one way or another. In the 1970s, the so-called “Touch Base Policy,” which allowed illegal Chinese immigrants to reach urban areas of Hong Kong to seek the right of abode, brought a significant number of mainlanders to the local society. Since this policy was revoked in 1980, the local population has become stabilized, running parallel to the emergence of local consciousness (Ku, 2004; Lui, 2002). Since then, Hong Kong’s administrative and psychological boundaries with China, the alien other, have shaped the locals’ self-images and anxieties as well. These boundaries are singled out and valorized in policy deliberations and cultural imaginations, especially during the crisis years (Pang, 2002; Lo, 2007). For one thing, these accounts provide nuanced contexts and insights for understanding the boundary-making processes from below. For another, there is a risk that the discursive-power relationships involved are reduced to media
54 Ethnocracy text and official discourses. Henceforth, the nativist activism, such as the campaign against mainland visitors, offers a vivid example and helps us to come to grips with the power relationships played out from below. The protests appear as an outbreak of spontaneous frustration over the negative impact of the rising number of mainland visitors on the daily life of people. But they have further cultural implications and ramifications. Shopping areas make the city the most popular destination for mainland tourists who enjoy shopping rather than siteseeing. For Hong Kongers, consumerism has also become a critical part of their way of life since the late 1970s and eventually defines Hong Kong’s urban landscapes (Lui, 2001: 25). Through the “banal, bodily and sensuous practices” of everyday encounters (Haldrup, Koefoed and Simonsen, 2006: 173), the shopping areas offer sites for imagining and making boundaries with the other. The influx of mainland shoppers and their shopping craze do not bring out a celebration of the unbridled consumerism, the major feature of late-modernity. Instead, they contribute to a “milieu of becoming” (Grossberg, 1996, 180) featuring the discourse of “Hong Kong’s decline” and an ethnic subject to defend what belongs to Hong Kongers. The problem of identity here, as Hall (1996: 4) puts it, is a matter of “what we might become” rather than “who we are” or “where we came from.” It is a sort of agency rather than a social entity determined in the past, subject to the continuous play of history, culture and power (Hall, 1990: 225). On the one hand, it marks a desire for identity and a meaningful link between how we have been represented and how we want to represent ourselves. Identity serves as a discursive channel through which we motivate ourselves to make sense of our present, to construct our futures and to become political agents. On the other, there is a “future fear,” in Meaghan Morris’ (1998) terms, a sense that things can only get even worse, that ironically arouses people’s desire for local identity. The shopping areas as sites of protest serve as a stage for the desire, meanings, and emotions to play out. In the following, I examine the protests against mainland tourists and parallel traders, which happened between 2013 and early 2015. In 2015, I interviewed individual netizens and members of small activist groups such as The Coalition of True Love for Country and Party, Hong Kong Indigenous, Civic Passion and North District Parallel Imports Concern Group, and so on. The purpose of this chapter is not only to conduct discourse analysis of their materials for publicity, slogans and commentaries, but also to contextualize their identity talks and performances from a cultural-geographical perspective. I argue that Hong Kong’s new wave of nativist activism is a project of forging an ethnocratic governing subject with an imperative to control the city’s imagined and physical boundaries with China. What lies at the heart of this imperative is a biopolitical will to administer population flow.
Outbound tourism The increasing number of Chinese visitors, in the wake of their rising incomes, embrace new consumer freedoms and less government restriction on passports
Ethnocracy 55 in China. It has become the newest driving force of global tourism. Yet, what the tourists, coined as the “biggest spenders” on international tourism (Reed, 2016), bring to tourist destinations is not merely their money, but also their crude and rude behavior widely covered by media (G. Chan, 2015). The case of Hong Kong might be special due to its cultural, political and geographical proximity to Mainland China and the city’s exceptional status within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But the “problems” of mainland visitors are not unique to this city. Following Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and even western countries have also become popular destinations for Chinese travelers. Shop sales and restaurant owners also complained about mainlanders’ misbehavior such as refusal to line up, making noises in public areas, littering in trains and buses, blocking ways by spreading out their suitcases, and sometimes even allowing children to urinate on the road or sidewalk (Teon, 2015; Freeman, 2015). Some tourism organizations revised their guidebooks with illustrations showing example after example of bad tourist behavior allegedly committed by Chinese visitors (Kyodo, 2016). Japanese media half-seriously urged their government to limit mainland visitors to “Chinese-only” zones in some tourist sites (Xie, 2016). Special trains for Chinese tourists to a Swiss mountain resort were introduced after complaints of their rude behavior by the locals (Piggott, 2015). Following the widely rumored or real cut of Chinese tour groups to Taiwan, probably due to President Tsai Ing-wen’s landslide election, Taiwanese netizens recently unleashed a series of satirical advertisements of “Welcome to Taiwan, without Chinese!” along with photos of idyllic and tranquil landscapes (Rowen, 2016). International tourism opens up a more porous but not inclusive world order of consumer citizens. The rise of Chinese visitors implies a picture of global capitalism more complicated than the integration of millions of potential new consumers into tourist markets. The increasingly mobile world is contradicted by the growing controls over the cross-border movements (Bianchi and Stephenson, 2014: 2). China was once a member of the former Communist bloc in which the freedom of movement and travel was strictly restricted. Now a huge number of Chinese people are encouraged to participate in a new project of national development which holds out the prospect of global mobility. They join the ranks of western tourists with “good” passports to consume other places and cultures on the one hand and are reminded of their “national qualities” and restrictions with which they are confronted on the other. This whole process is not simply a gradual evolution of liberalization in which Chinese citizens exercise their freedom of movement and consumption. Rather, it is “a vast biopolitical mobilization of the population of the PRC for macroeconomic goals” (Simpson, 2014: 824). China’s economic reform, like the great transformations in all capitalist economies, is characteristic of biopolitical administration and mobilization. Apart from birth control and the one-child policy, state-led massive movements of people constitute the governing strategy of the China government. In the first two decades of the reform years, due to acute rural–urban disparity and dissolution of
56 Ethnocracy the People’s Communes and the Production Teams, hundreds of millions of peasants of inland provinces flooded into coastal city regions and became the largest disposable labor force in the world for burgeoning sweatshops invested and financed by global capital. It also triggered-off rapid urbanization. Following internal migration, since the late 1990s, while the China government has implemented week-long national holidays for helping expand the domestic consumer market (Oakes, 2005; Chio, 2014), it has relaxed its exit-visa restrictions for most citizens by implementing the policy of Approved Destination Status (ADS) for group tourism, allowing individuals to apply for passports with their personal identifications, and launching the Individual Visit Schemes (IVS) for residents of affluent provinces and cities traveling to Hong Kong and Macau. Although the authorities continue to restrict the freedom of movement for ethnic minorities in outlying regions and political dissidents, multiple segments of populations and their capacities to move are enabled differentially in relation to market calculations and governance concerns. These policies and regulations in combination of the “graduated sovereignty” (Ong, 2000: 57) have created Hong Kong and Macao as the biggest Chinese outbound tourism markets over the past ten years. With “zoning technologies,” the central and local states, and those selected corporate groups (such as the US casino operators in Macau) have engineered dramatic urban changes in these “special regions.” At the global scale, Chinese outbound tourism as a promising market not only boosts the tourist industries and retailing sectors in most popular destinations, but also attracts investment in infrastructure which soaks up excess capital and surplus labor. The Chinese states at all levels, in collaboration with domestic and foreign capital, construct a state-manipulated outbound tourist market that delivers spectacular growth. These politico-economic mechanism and measures are typical of neoliberal state’s interventionism or “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics” (Harvey, 2005: 72, 122). On the side of the host countries, which is the focus of this article, the protracted accounts of “China Tourism Wave” (Garrett, 2016), cover not only visitors’ unruliness but also the adverse impact of excessive number of visitors on locals’ everyday life. They are embodied with a self-righteous gaze upon the alien others or racial prejudice against the “strong presence” of Chinese tourists. More important, the vigilance over the inbound human flow deemed to be out of control implies a redefinition of citizenship rights centered around an ethnonational subject: a will to keep one’s homeland in place and keep control over the border. It is a response to the great number of incoming mainlanders as well as an intensification of imagination of Hong Kong as “our city” or even “our country.” Citizenship here refers not merely to a set of rights and duties stipulated and enforced within a politico-legal framework, but also to a set of practices which define a person as a member of the society, his/her entitlement to public resources and belongingness to a community. Hence, dismissing the outrage at Chinese visitors’ bad behavior as an anxiety or panic blown up by the media is not adequate. A theoretical articulation of consumption and citizenship with ethnicity in the new global cultural economy is needed (Appadurai, 1990). The conventional notions
Ethnocracy 57 of cultural difference and “civilization quality,” held by most media and critics, obscure the growing impulses to control one’s border and imagined boundaries within the context of mobile, globalizing and deterritorializing societies. This study focuses on a series of protests against Chinese tourists which, compared to the much more moderate responses in other countries, seem to be an extreme and xenophobic reaction. But the ways they relate themselves to mainland Chinese, their own government, and their ethno-cultural boundaries might not be completely unique to Hong Kong. In this chapter, I argue that the bewilderment at Chinese visitors’ presence and misconduct consists of a new configuration of identification centered around managing the border and making boundaries in the ever-expanding consumer culture, a common phenomenon across the world. Here ethnicity is, rather than merely an expressive identity, a longing for governing, i.e. a will to act by invoking a new politics of consumption. This serves as re-negotiating, if not resisting against, with the state power at a neoliberalist moment.
From disempowerment to empowerment The Beijing government’s launch of the Individual Visit Scheme to allow mainland travelers to visit Hong Kong and Macau on an individual basis rather than in tour groups (LCS, 2014) was a part of the stimulus package for recovering Hong Kong’s economy during the recession years. However, since a couple of years after the tourist industry and retailing sector benefited from it, the public grievances over mainland visitors began to multiply. The number of mainland visitors has increased sixfold since 2002, reaching 51.2 million in 2018 (Hong Kong Tourism Board’s website). Hong Kong’s city life started to change while frustration, anger, and conflict bubbled up. A pro-nativism critic summarizes the relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China by the old saying “good fences make good neighbors” (Ku, 2014). When their fences could not be maintained properly, their relationship began to turn sour. Online media serves as an outlet for expressing racial slurs and other forms of abuse. In early 2011, an escalating sentiment against mainland Chinese was articulated around the term “locust” on the Internet and eventually spread to other media. A music video titled “The World of Locust” released on YouTube in February 2011 is an example. Its hit rate reached over one million within two to three weeks. This video covered a wide range of phenomena, among which birth tourism was the rallying point for mobilization and campaign against mainlanders at the time. As Hong Kong is believed to have much better health care and education than in China, parents made use of the individual visitor visa to come to the city to give birth and obtain citizenship for their children. This trend instigated the locals’ fear and aversion. The term “locust” demotes mainlanders to the rank of pure nuisance, a stain to be effaced on the canvas of an orderly Hong Kong society. Among the diverse problems of “China,” the influx of mainland pregnant women drew public attention largely because of the public health crisis and
58 Ethnocracy social panic caused. A Facebook page titled “Against the Mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong,” which was launched in the summer of 2011. The administrators introduced the background and their missions as follows (but which had already altered a few years after I had studied it): Hong Kong’s pro-locust politicians, fake social workers, unethical lawyers, snobbish private hospital sand mediocre officials only care about their fame and votes. They are obsessed with factional struggles, profit-seeking and flattering. They always betray the interest of local women…. We are ordinary HK citizens not involved in any political conflict. This purely “citizen-initiated movement” takes the interest of the local pregnant women as the first priority. And we are also concerned about the social development, local civilization and prevention of “locust cleansing”. We defend the right the local citizens deserve to have. We represent ourselves. We will continue to struggle until the final victory. No political parties and politicians are allowed to join us. (www.facebook.com/pg/itstimetosayno/about/?ref=page_internal) The coarse and populist rhetoric accompanied with concerns about livelihood problems featured in other campaigns. The intense sense of crisis and panic finally pushed the newly elected Chief Executive Chun-ying Leung to take measures to ban birth tourism in 2012. A couple of inter-related issues, from overcrowding of shopping areas and neighborhoods to shortage of basic goods, such as baby milk powder, continue to cause public outrage. Later on, the government imposed a limit at the border on how much infant formula could be taken. Yet it seems that the favorable response from the government to the grievances energized rather than stopped the nativist activism. A small and hastily formed group began to launch a series of protests against parallel traders in Sheung Shui. The group members accused mainland visitors (and some Hong Kongers) of working as traders to pass on goods to buyers across the border to Shenzhen. The protests, quickly spreading to other communities, encouraged more concerned groups to take similar actions. Yelling at the mainlanders to “go home,” the protesters called them “locust” and “Shina” (zhina), a Japanese term for “China” with derogatory meaning. Some participants carried placards and banners reading “Restore Hong Kong” ( guangfu xianggang) and waved a modified colonial-era Hong Kong flag. The full-blown anti-mainland sentiment is not only unprecedented in scope and intensity. It also contrasts with the stereotypes of mainlanders in the past. In the 1980s, they were usually portrayed as country-bumpkin fool or violent criminals in the media (Cheng, 1990). Now fear of threat and aversion arises from every corner of the everyday life. The pejorative label “locust” helps to discursively bind them together in social action and explains away the complexities. All dissipated terrors were attributed to a seemingly tangible and overwhelming target. The affective moment was characterized by disempowerment. Kam-shing Leung was renowned for leading the first protest against mainland visitors in Tsim Sha Tsui in 2014. Before it, he already founded North
Ethnocracy 59 District Parallel Imports Concern Group (Beiqu Shuihuoke Guanzhuzu). With some concerned citizens, Leung staged protests almost every weekend at the Sheung Shui station. They demanded the Mass Transit Railway Company to deploy more staff to strictly enforce the luggage weight limit. They also called upon the police to warn or even to charge the parallel traders obstructing the pedestrian path. Some protesters, working like militia, even tried to stop those with overweight or oversized luggage from entering the station. Leung always highlights his role as an ordinary citizen and described his involvement in the protests as “by accident”: I didn’t know how bad it is until I took a look at the Sheung Shui station at holiday time. It was really bad. I knew that some people rallied to block the traders. I went there to observe what really happened and eventually became concerned about it … We took action continuously … The most outrageous are the government officials’ responses. They keep talking about improvement and follow-up. But they always told us there was nothing they could do … They initially proposed to cut the quota for mainland visitors. Later they said that it was impossible. Then they promised to check passengers’ luggage. After a while, they said it was too difficult to implement it. It doesn’t make any sense. The government always breaks its promises. So we citizens have to watch over and push it to do something from time to time. We feel helpless. A district board member even said, “this problem could not be solved at all.” … We feel very angry and depressed. (Interview, February 12, 2015) Harnessing the trope of feeling disempowered, Leung accomplishes an empowering narrative of nativism to motivate actions. In early 2014, a government report projected the growth of visitors reaching 100 million per year in the coming years (CEDB, 2013: 9). It instigated Leung to take further action. He was upset by the government’s indifferent attitude toward the pain and suffering of the people caused by mainland tourists. Along with some netizens, in the name of “Anti-Locust,” he launched a protest in Tsim Sha Tsui. He not only expressed the worries about the overburdening of Hong Kong by the huge number of visitors. Without a second thought, he highlighted the cases of mainland visitors’ bad behavior and manners as examples. The pictures of parents allowing their kids to defecate and urinate in shopping streets, having widely circulated on media and the Internet for years, were shown at the scene. Apart from portraying mainlanders as a sinful crowd, devoid of moral standards, threatening the integrity of the city, he strongly felt a sense of power gained from their actions: We cherish and actualize our Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and assembly today. We insist and continue regardless of others’ view. We call those mainlanders locust. They are locust! Why do we need to modify our
60 Ethnocracy expression? I believe a lot of Hong Kong people also call mainlanders locust. Today we voice out your feelings by calling mainlanders locust (“Locust! Locust!” chanted the crowd) … We, as ordinary Hong Kong citizens, could organize rally and assembly without following political parties. We did it! (Kam-shing Leung’s public speech on February 16, 2014, Tsim Sha Tsui) Leung acknowledged their freedom to hate mainlanders as part of liberty of speech, which has long been claimed as one of the core civic values of the city. With their hate-mongering, presumably a sort of “boldness of speech” in defiance of civility or “political correctness,” they empowered themselves by fashioning the populist subject position of “ordinary but concerned” citizen, on the one hand, and venting the real voice of the alleged “Hong Kong people” on the other. This authentic pursuit in defiance of courtesy, civility rules, and sometimes legal rules could explain their unique style of activism. These sporadic protests advanced the nativist agenda for others to follow and further develop. Ray Wong Toi-yeung, aged 21, formed a group called Hong Kong Indigenous (Bentu Minzhu Qianxian) and organized campaigns against mainland visitors in the name of “Restore Hong Kong,” in February and March 2015. He recruited his members through social media and from the pro-nativist sect within the Umbrella Movement in 2014. When I interviewed him in 2015, he shied away from his political affiliation and experience. It was a contrast to the leading role he played in the nativist agitation, such as the confrontation with the police in the Mong Kok riot in February 2016, and the electoral campaign later.1 In 2015, he followed the populist rhetoric to justify his actions by recollecting his frustration and anger over the “cultural cleansing” in his childhood: When I was a primary school student in Tai Po, all classmates were Hong Kongers. But after moving to Tseung Kwan O [a new town], I found a lot of Putonghua speakers in school. The new immigrants had their own circles and refused to learn Hong Kong culture. For example, they don’t line up. Their bad habits influenced local kids also. I felt a kind of cultural cleansing. Since 1997, it has continued and we have been culturally altered. During the Umbrella Revolution, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I stand out to form this organization to protect Hong Kong’s cultures and values. (Interview, May 16, 2015) He adopted the “othering” technique to render new Chinese immigrants equivalent to mainland tourists and parallel traders from China. In his account, he mentioned the classmates who are Chinese new immigrants coming to settle in Hong Kong on One-Way Permits (OWP). While the daily quota of OWP is fixed at 150 since the mid-1990s, the number of visitors, who only stay for several days or even overnight, has been escalating since 2003. “Cultural cleansing” (wenhua qingxi) or “colonization” works as an umbrella term for covering
Ethnocracy 61 these two radically different types of people and influences from China. The usage of the term “cultural,” rather than “politics,” to characterize the mission of his group also helps him graft the diverse kinds of mainlanders he encounters in everyday life onto the Chinese Communist Party’s political influence and interference with the city. His narrative largely ran around the trope of victimhood and attributed the sprouting of nativist groups to the Hong Kong government’s failure to fulfill its duties of preventing “cultural cleansing” and protecting the local interests. It prompts him and others to stand out firmly for Hong Kong. In the Umbrella Movement, described by him as a failure, he further experienced political repression from police violence, an extension of the power of the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities. He found the liberally minded politicians and activists incompetent, pretentious and alienated from the people, especially those who dare to challenge the authorities directly and forcefully. Therefore, he took it as his mission to address the political inadequacy of the oppositions and to raise people’s local consciousness. The stories told above are about forging a subject without proper government, country and political community, but with a common language, belonging, and interest. Despite the nativists’ bitter criticisms of the government and challenges to the authorities, they still count on an administrative power to provide not only a sense of security for the local society, but also its definition. There is a historical and institutional relationship between the colonial-managerial state and the local sense of belonging. This relationship, after China resumed sovereignty over the city, has become fragile and questionable. On the one hand, the constitutional principle of “one country, two systems” requires the Beijing and Hong Kong governments to maintain the boundaries between the city and China. On the other hand, a host of metamorphoses, largely caused by the rise of China as an economic as well as political power, blur the boundaries. There has been an escalating insecure feeling and skepticism of the authorities’ capacity and will to maintain their homely domain. In the protests against mainland visitors, there were worries about the “death” of Hong Kong, a place as well as a form of collective life. The fear of “China” is a menace not only politico-economic but also biopolitical in nature. The concept of “biopolitical” refers here to the contested domain of administering and regulating life processes at the level of the population, especially its number, flow and distribution (Foucault, 2007; Lemke, 2011: 5). Ethnic differences and hierarchies are played out and conditioned by it. The long-standing discrimination against mainlanders is discursively recycled into a new form of power. The word “locust,” not simply a derogatory term, connotes the fear of a threatening population and an urge to drive them away from the territory. In other words, their governmental belonging (Hage, 2000: 5–46) is mixed with a thick dose of anger and aggression, and the apocalyptic future fear. This affective moment, not entirely disempowering, allows the nativists to make themselves a “worrying” crowd in opposition to those who allegedly are out of touch with most of Hong Kongers, lacking commitment to their jobs, or even doing harm to the city. Worrying, noted by Ghassan Hage, is the available strategy for
62 Ethnocracy the weak to perceive themselves to be in control of the home territory in crisis (Hage, 2000: 10).
Spatial governance The shift from disempowerment to empowerment is reminiscent of the creeping sentiment, termed by Neil Smith as “revanchism.” He notices that vengeful attacks on some target groups occurred at the end of the 1980s boom when American cities were trapped in recession (Smith, 1996: 44). The case of Hong Kong is different from Smith’s in the sense that the target groups are not minorities, such as new immigrants, social welfare recipients, homeless people, and so on. Instead, Hong Kongers confront a huge crowd of mainland visitors who represent China’s politico-economic dominance. However, the nativists share a vengeful passion and populist impulse. Indeed, Smith argues later that this passion and impulse have become a global phenomenon–rhetoric and sentiment against the enemy who has “taken our city or our country from us” (Smith, 2009). The recent springing up of nativist activism features ad hoc groups and spontaneous actions. A bunch of volunteer groups, vocal opinion leaders, and individual activists make use of hot issues to incite and gather people in public places and online sites. They are shifting continuously, changing in directions, and hopping from one issue to another. However, their decentralized impetus, in response to de-territorization of Hong Kong, results in reterritorization around ethnic boundaries: containing, excluding, and eradicating the other. A closer examination of the naming, the syntax, and the rhetoric of the nativist discourses reveals the complicated and confusing effects and objectives. Despite their xenophobic slogans, such as “Go Home!” and “Go back to China!,” the condemnation of improper behavior of individual visitors suggests an intention to impose a disciplinary order on them rather than simply expelling them out of shopping places. The so-called problems of Chinese visitors, as pointed out by local critics (Hui, 2015), are socially or collectively caused and need to be solved by collective means such as policy and planning. Yet the campaigns take it as an individually committed evil. The nativists’ perception and reasoning might be misguided, yet they demonstrate the populist logic and function as causing troubles and chaos to give pressure to Hong Kong and China governments to curb visitors. In this light, nativism, rather than a consistent ideology, keeps swinging between civic discourse, i.e. advocacy of policy change and critique of China’s colonialism, and outlaw discourse, i.e. racism and cultural chauvinism (Sloop and Kent, 1997). What ethnocracy means here is primarily a governing power maintaining an affective boundary, although it often connotes cultural, linguistic and racial differences (Balibar, 1991). The differences take on new meanings in boundary-making. Ethnocracy here operates through questioning, if not rejection, on all fronts, of the mainlanders’ imagined entitlement to Hong Kong. A tourist-consumer would expect hospitality from the locals and fair treatment regardless of one’s ethnic
Ethnocracy 63 origins as long as he or she could afford constant consumption. This expectation, a kind of privilege exercised unknowingly, is implicit in consuming spaces and activities. For some mainland visitors, their consumerist entitlement might be accompanied by their identification of Hong Kong as a part of China. The nativist activism shatters the “naturalness,” socio-cultural expectations implicit of the shopping areas (Cresswell, 1996: 8). The nativists perceive mainlanders as “flawed consumers” not because they could not afford goods and services. On the contrary, their consumption craze is deemed to be out of control. Hong Kong would be much better off if the mainlanders stay in their home country. They are portrayed as the ugly “nouveau riche” who only contaminates Hong Kong. Henceforth, the nativists, rather than protesting against the authorities, such as the Hong Kong government or the liaison office of the Beijing government, tended to organize actions in the hustle and bustle of shopping areas and sometimes to instigate verbal and sometimes physical conflicts with visitors. Indeed, they occasionally mistook Hong Kongers or non-Chinese Asians for mainland Chinese visitors when they chanted racial slurs against shoppers. In their eyes, mainland visitors as a crowd cease to be consumers worthy of respect, equal treatment, and empathy. More scandalous was bullying people resembling mainlanders, such as kicking over packs of diapers, cans of baby formula, and trollies carried by passengers. For example, a trolley-pulling mother was stopped by a group of angry protesters who accused her of engaging in parallel trading. Her little girl, standing by her, burst into tears in front of them and news reporters. It turned out that she was only carrying some books for her child. Another example is a local elderly man. A group of masked activists mistook him for a mainland parallel trader and pulled him to ground. In the eyes of the activists, these wrongdoings might be forgiven for, if not justified by, their noble cause. More important, the confused fights on the streets remind people that beneath the surface of bustling shopping districts and the crowd of mainland visitors are the “Hong Kong-mainland conflicts.” Their mild vandalism is not, however, to be confused with criticizing or subverting consumerism; instead, through causing troubles, they reclaim the role of “host” to promote tourism and to manage the imagined entitlements to consumption. An English public letter distributed in Tsim Sha Tsui read: Dear friends from afar, We welcome you to Hong Kong! We are protesting against the lack of common courtesy and social grace (sic) among Chinese visitors. We apologize for causing any inconvenience while we make our city more enjoyable for all … Without ideological cohesion, the campaigners render the global city of Asia a peaceful and stable place for consumption and other economic operations, yet under the ethnocratic gaze. The sentence “We welcome you to Hong Kong!” sounds like the tone and slogans of the official campaign of “Be a Good Host”
64 Ethnocracy (xianggang haokezhidao) launched by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) in 1998. Encouraging Hong Kong citizens to be more knowledgeable about their own city for promoting tourism, it mixed their personal identification with Hong Kong with gaining global admiration of the city. This campaign was not limited to urge local people to welcome global visitors. There were also recruitment programs called Student Ambassadors and Youth Ambassadors to engage young people in promoting tourism by working as volunteers, student interns, and part-timer (Hong Kong SAR Government, 1998, 2000). To remind the locals of the omnipresence of the tourist gaze at all corners of the city, it attempted to foster a docile subject through self-defining and self-surveillance (Pang, 2007: 209). The success of the script of “good host” and its officially designed identity is evidenced by the “anti-locust” activists’ rhetoric. On the one hand, they reconfirm the subject of “good host” by entertaining the nonChinese gaze, while, on the other, reverse the gaze upon the allegedly unruly mainlanders to keep the city “enjoyable” (Urry, 1990). The nativists are not as radical as they appear to be. With their racist slur, they enact their governing subject to attempt to keep mainlanders at bay for maintaining the consumerist order. While it is by no means possible to drive away all mainland visitors, the activists tried to restrict their freedom of movement, to challenge their right to travel to Hong Kong, and at least to undermine their entitlement to Hong Kong’s consumer society. The power they claim for themselves is derived from different sources. They not only embrace the colonial-managerial subject and play the role of “good host,” but also, despite their anti-communist stance, justify their request of controlling visitors by citing the examples of hukou (household registration) system since the 1950s. They make reference to the city’s discriminatory rules against non-locals and the measure of repatriating rural migrants away from the city. The protesters put themselves in the shoes of some Chinese state-like authority to command its subjects to return home, thereby keeping a tighter control over the cross-border flow of people. There is another example testifying it. In March and April 2014, wearing look-alike Red Guard costumes and holding up the portrait of Mao Zedong, a group of protesters mocked mainland visitors’ disloyalty to their home country for buying foreign goods. They yelled at the mainlanders and urged them to go home for shopping rather than hanging around the corrupted capitalist city of Hong Kong. These actions and remarks are not simply selfindulgence or pleasing oneself, but also serve as self-empowering. In early 2015, the activists initially intended to continue their actions in shopping hotspots. But after the scandalous protests in March, there were media criticisms of their violent acts against the weak. All the nativists groups had an internal meeting and decided to hold on for a moment. All my informants were satisfied with the outcomes of their campaigns in terms of government’s responses and the number of mainland visitors, which dropped by 13 percent compared to the same period in the previous year (Wu and Wang, 2015). On the part of the governments, Leung Chun-ying and the central government terminated the multiple-travel visa arrangements for residents of
Ethnocracy 65 Shenzhen. Whatever the reasons for the drop in visitor number and policy change, the nativist action successfully fed the protesters back into the political process of governing Hong Kong’s boundaries. Under their pressures, the local state and the Beijing government enforce tighter discipline and surveillance on the outbound Chinese tourists. These victories paved the way for the nativist groups to further agitations and campaigns, such as running for the District Board and the Legislative Council elections.
Conclusion: scaling down the colonial power Hong Kong’s recent nativist movement appears as a story of the fall of old certainties, i.e. cultural belonging, economic security and social stability, in the era of globalization. The nature of the global forces and how they are felt by the people should be further specified and analyzed. The unsettling changes are perceived here more as “sinicization” or “mainlandization.” The way of national unification for Hong Kong is portrayed as a black hole that exhibits such strong suction power that nothing can escape from inside it. The indigenous umbrella terms, substituting the term “globalization,” offers justification for people to conjure up an imaginary closure, holding on to a defensive identity, and deriving a righteous sense of self-worth and integrity. The media coverage of the nativist agitation sometimes leads us to perceive them as a kind of extremism, an oddity on the political scene of modern society. However, nativist activism should be viewed as symptomatic of the crisis of civic politics, rather than a political pathology. The populist sentiment is premised on the malfunctioning of the establishment, including the local and central governments, politicians and civic associations, to address the issues specific to their livelihood, home territories, and the socio-cultural distinctions between Hong Kong and China. Therefore, the nativists lost their sense of a democratic society and are prepared to resort to ethnocratic principles at least temporarily, if not permanently. From this depressing moment, the ordinary citizens derive a sense of urgency and a lofty moral mission. There is a tendency of collapsing all mainlanders, sometimes even all people and things associated with “China,” into one entity and rendering them all collectively as threats to Hong Kong. Nativism, as a pro-nativist critic notes, “whatever Hong Kong independence, autonomous city-state, or simply taking back the power of vetting and approving applications for One-way Permit, the key point is ‘distinguishing Hong Kong from China’ (zhonggang quge).” This key point, a slogan, is not meant separating Hong Kong from China on all fronts. Instead, it refers to a power to hinder and control the excessive exchanges between Hong Kong and Mainland (Wang, 2014: 30). However, if one looks closely enough, one will find that the seemingly extremist remarks and acts are committed not simply for unleashing impulses and emotions, but out of moral duty, political calculations, and boundarymaking practices. Before the surge of Hong Kong nativism, in his studies of Hong Kong movies, Kwai-cheung Lo notices the importance and prevalence of
66 Ethnocracy boundary thinking and perception to Hong Kong’s self-identity. This mode of thinking and perception is further valorized by the economic rise of China which may weaken the material foundation of Hong Kong’s “ethnic bourgeois identity” fostered by the colonial government (Lo, 2007: 443). The sensitivity to boundary, as Wing-sang Law suggests, manifests itself not only in thinking but also in practices in which the existing power relations are displaced, circulated and exercised (Law, 2009: 207). In this regard, Hong Kong nativist activism, however defensive in appearance, should be read as a project of re-inscribing colonial power and other sources of state power in localities from below. These practices and political relations are more complicated than the concept of legitimate identity suggested by Manuel Castells. The power to regulate the cross-border movement of people (Steil and Ridgley, 2012; Varsanyi, 2011), as some political geographers point out, is no longer monopolized by the nationstates. The state power is “scaled down” by some activist citizens who seek to advance their agenda in immigration policy. This process is different from the devolution of state power in not following the given scales and administrative hierarchy. Instead, it is initiated locally, thereby creating new spaces and scales (Jessop, 2002; Brenner, 2004; Peck, 2002; Varsanyi, 2011). And the power, not formalized and centralized in administrative authority, is premised by a governing subject encounter with others. The form of power is a syncretic one. It sometimes successfully gains support from the authorities; yet it perpetuates a xenophobic mood, not justified by civic codes, thereby playing out ethnic differences and hierarchies by demarcation and territorialization. Here the abnormality of the mainlanders, placed outside the accepted boundaries of the city, normalized the nativist subject through re-empowerment and revengeful actions. Simultaneously, reclaiming the colonial form of power and exercising it in Hong Kong’s urban spaces and consuming life, the nativists forge their identity as a governing subject.
Notes 1 Wong was charged for inciting others to riot and to take part in an unlawful assembly in 2016. In 2017, he was approved by the judge of his trip to Europe on condition of a cash bail. But he did not show up and return his travel documents to the court in 2017. He sought political asylum in Germany and was granted subsidiary protection status in May 2018.
5 Defending the city Nativism and political existentialism
… we have created a myth. This myth is a faith, a noble enthusiasm. It does not have to be a reality, it is an impulse and a hope, belief, courage. Our myth is the nation… (From a speech by B. Mussolini (undated), quoted in Mannheim (1979): 123)
Ambiguity, ambivalence, and contradiction In September 2018, the Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu announced the decision to outlaw the Hong Kong National Party on the grounds of national security and public order in the city. Since 2016, a bunch of lawmakers have been disqualified because the court ruled that their oaths were invalid. And a significant number of candidates were banned from standing in the Legislative Council elections. The sincerity of their loyalty to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was questioned by the authorities. The central government and some pro-Beijing politicians even accused them of pushing forward separatist movement in Hong Kong. In the summer of 2019, Chinese state media described the protests against the extradition bill as “riots,” “extremism,” “terrorism,” and “pro-independence” agitations. In the officials’ eyes, the existence of such a movement seems to be free of all ambiguity or uncertainty. Nevertheless, these political engagements are more ambiguous than they seem. It is true that the varied, yet confusing, discourses of “city-state,” Hong Kong nationalism, “minority nationalism” (versus state nationalism), self-determination and independence (Chin, 2011; Q. Li, 2014; Wu, 2014) contributed a lot to Hong Kong’s increasingly challenging political situation over the past few years. However, looking closely, all these are remote visions or indeterminate futures without any concrete plan, transitional program or practicing what they preach. Not to be overlooked is the ambivalence in their words and deeds. For instance, the editors of Undergrad (the University of Hong Kong Student Union official magazine) who published Hong Kong Nationalism, which attracted sudden interest, once denied any plan to promote political independence (Cheung and So, 2015; So and Cheung, 2015). As they said, their advocacy was intended to stimulate people to think about Hong Kong’s political prospect. Andy Chan, a young man claiming himself as one of the founders of the Hong Kong National Party, admitted that they did not have any plan either, although they refused to
68 Defending the city recognize the constitutional status of the Basic Law and threatened to use “whatever effective means” available to push for independence (Cheung, 2016). When it comes to actions, they often can do no more than lead or join protest movements raising flags and banners with “Hong Kong Independence.” The riot in Mong Kok was often regarded as a landmark incident of the rise of proindependence movement, evidenced by the deep involvement of Hong Kong Indigenous (HKI), a pro-independence group. However, this incident escalated from the government’s crackdown on unlicensed street hawkers rather than political causes. People of diverse social and political backgrounds joined the ensuing confrontation between HKI and police on the street and the violent clashes after midnight. All were much more spontaneous rather than wellplanned. More important, among the participants and in the process, no political demands could be clearly identified. Amid the protests against the extradition bill in 2019, the protesters stand firm on the five demands such as complete withdrawal of the bill and relaunching political reform. But the vague message about pro-independence could still be identified in the slogan of “Reclaiming Hong Kong; revolution of our times” chanted by many young protesters. Despite its semantic shift, it originates from Edward Leung Tin-kei’s election campaign in 2016. While the future vision of the proponents project remains blurry, they sometimes uphold the glorious past. It must be observed that these movements appear, sometimes, as an attempt to defend a type of society that seems to be dissolving. However, many participants are so young that they were very small or not born yet before 1997. Despite their nostalgic longing and being up against the coming threats, the people who fight most forcefully for the old world are by no means those who desire to have a place for themselves in it. They paint a rosy picture of the past merely for criticizing the present. It is clear that the nativists have not managed to overcome the ambiguities internal to their discourses and practices. Despite their denunciation of the status quo and the players in it, they can only develop by entering it, e.g. forming political parties and running for election. It is most epitomized by the complex sequence of the nativist agitations in 2016. After the arrest of a number of participants in the Mong Kok riot, Ray Wong Toi-yeung, the spokesperson of HKI published recorded audio on the Internet with the title of “Final Message to Hong Kongers: Better to Die with Honour than Survive in Disgrace.” It stirred up a tragic mood as well as reminded people of their achievement in the issue of mainland visitors. Then, the seemingly last moment of a revolutionary suddenly turned to an electoral “victory.” A few weeks later, in the by-election Leung received about 15 percent of the total votes in the election, considered as a promising outcome for the nativist movement. Although Leung was later barred from running for election, a large number of candidates from the nativist groups such as Youngspiration and Civic PassionProletariat Political Institute-City-State Alliance, planned to contend with the traditional democrats and pro-establishment camps in the upcoming Legislative Council election. In September, at the opening of the new Legislative Council
Defending the city 69 (LegCo) when all lawmaker-elects took oaths, Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang wore and displayed the “Hong Kong is not China” flag. They even pledged loyalty to the “Hong Kong nation” (Ip, 2016a). Both of them pronounced “China” as “Chee-na,” similar to “Shina” a term considered insulting since the Second Sino-Japanese War. Yau even mispronounced “People’s Republic of China” as “people’s re-fucking of Chee-na.” They claimed that their mispronunciations were due to their local accent and the term “Shina” is an archaic Japanese term, rather than a derogatory term, for China. However, they obviously made reference to the popularity of the term “Chee-na people” on the Internet. One of the example is the viral YouTube music video titled “Nasty Chee-na Style” in 2012, a parody of the “Gangnam Style” to portray Hong Kong people’s daily animosities toward the rudeness of mainland visitors. The Hong Kong government challenged Yau and Leung’s qualification as legislators in court. After the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC)’s intervened by interpreting the Article 104 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the court finally vacated their seats. Within half a year, these young activists underwent a convulsive transformation and ended with a severe political setback. If Leung and Wong’s shift between riot, revolution, and election was an accident, Yau and Leung made a terrible political mistake, without an excuse. It is obvious that they did not learn a lesson from Leung’s disqualification from election just a couple of months ago. Their anti-Chinese slurs and half-joking excuses make people wonder if they took their seats of LegCo seriously. Did they simply seize the chance to advocate independence in front of the media? They are clearly ambivalent about the existing institutions, which they both reject and join. They confused their role as lawmakers with their role as key opinion leaders appealing to their followers on the Internet. They give no unity to their political rationality. In sum, the types of logic governing political life have become disconnected from each other. The contentious and contradictory co-existence of these logics unsettles our conventional understanding of politics and identity. However, these inconsistencies should not lead us to dismiss their political practices as their immaturity and miscalculation. On the contrary, in this chapter, I argue that a new form of political subject is constructed out of these ambiguities, ambivalences, and contradictions. What lies at the heart of this series of agitations is neither a political program nor a political ideology. Ironically, the lack of the usual social or ethical norms of political behavior, unique action style, extreme political rhetoric, and unconventional organization serve as a driving force. It points to some serious challenges to the institutionalized political life. These challenges are more profound than those posed by the visible forms of political conflicts. Social movements and opposition parties, proceeding out of the gap between the status quo and public expectations, usually work to bridge it by institutionalizing conflicts within the system. Universal suffrage, change of the ruling party, collective bargaining, lobbying, etc., are the examples in modern history. It is in this context that diverse social movements, party politics, and electoral campaigns, on
70 Defending the city the one hand challenge the administrative machinery, and on the other, appear as playing central roles in political life and addressing all problems. The conflicts are partially reconciled in institutional games. These games are not confined to the political system and also cover the sphere of civil society organizations. When Hong Kong’s political landscape is on the verge of the state of normlessness and has lost its unity, such as the Umbrella Movement and the recent political agitations following protests against the extradition bill, individuals, associations, and parties have increasing difficulties in orienting themselves on the basis of common values and tacit consensus. Although what would happen is not simply a sudden systemic crisis of governability, it is a weakening of political space, in which the key players have become less and less relevant to individual citizens. In other words, society no longer corresponds closely with the state and other political institutions. This is a process of deinstitutionalization, implying much more than what the concepts “anomie” and “alienation” suggest. It is not simply about the political machinery’s failure to adjust individuals to their roles or individuals’ rejection of the responsibilities prescribed by their roles. The obverse of all these is the obligation and imperative “to be free and sovereign, to produce one’s own experience” (Dubet, 2004: 708). The meanings of one’s political action are constructed by one’s experience rather than given by political institutions. In Hong Kong, it points to a new moment for a reworking of identity politics in which a multiplicity of conflicting and irreconcilable appetites, in the name of “nativism,” compete for political dominance. This chapter argues that understanding this process of deinstitutionalization is crucial to explore the political agency of nativism.
Political institutionalization Political reform had barely come to the agenda of the colonial British rule in Hong Kong until the early 1980s when the city’s political status was confirmed. Previously, the political system was largely colonial and soft-authoritarian. However, since the late 1960s, a nascent civil society has already taken shape. Following the failure of the pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) organizations’ anti-colonial insurgency in 1967, coined as “Riot 1967” and regarded as a spill over effect of the Cultural Revolution, the highly sectarian and politicized strife led by both pro-communist and pro-KMT camps ended. Despite the repression of the riot and some of the rioters’ scary terrorist tactics, another sort of radicalism, featuring anti-capitalist theories, nationalism, and anti-colonial sentiments, spread among young people after 1968. A new wave of social movements consisting of student associations, labor organizations, teachers’ unions, and community groups eventually came on the scene. This also marks the beginning of and the making of the local society of Hong Kong (Leung, 2000: 212). Apart from the pro-China faction of student activists who strongly identified with socialist China, there were a group of activists, called “Social Actionist Faction,” critical of both the colonial British rule in Hong Kong and the Stalinist-Maoist regime of China. The latter, distinguishing themselves from
Defending the city 71 the previous political camps more clearly, proved to be more active in diverse social and political issues in the coming decades. Throughout the 1970s, their movements also gathered momentum and gained their influences among the post-war baby boom generation who began to work in media, publishing houses, social services sector, and schools (Lui and Chiu, 1999). However, the vibrancy of civic engagement was not regarded as politically important to the China and British government. In the early 1980s, during the Sino-British negotiation over the city’s political prospect, there was not a single Hong Kong representative. As a result of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 and the countdown to China’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong, the young activists ironically felt a strong sense of powerlessness and political opportunities at the same time. Without other options, they began to develop their political careers and organizations thereafter. The British government started to push forward the long-stalled political reform by increasing the proportion of elected seats in the District Board and the Legislative Council (LegCo). The Beijing government also strived to recruit the elites of diverse backgrounds to join its united front in support of the political arrangements for transition. To seize the political opportunities, many pro-democracy activists and their groups, identified as “democrats” or “pandemocrats” later, formed alliance for advocating social and democratic reforms. But they did not receive much positive feedback from the authorities. Amid the process of drafting the Basic Law for the post-handover period, the Beijing government was so eager to gain support from the local business and professional elites. It endorsed their politically conservative stance and agenda. For protecting their interests, the China government rejected all proposals of social reform and speeding up the pace of constitutional reform. The conflict between prodemocracy camp and pro-establishment began to emerge and reached its peak in 1989 when more than one million Hong Kong people took to the streets in support of the student movement in Beijing and challenged the legitimacy of CCP. The Beijing student movement and the following Tiananmen crackdown on June 4 further politicized the civil society of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements (HKASPDM), founded by the democrats and social movement groups, served as a launching pad for the democrats to engage in party politics (So, 1999). The state violence of the crackdown, despite frightening many Hong Kongers, strengthened the locals’ feeling of their fates entwined with each other’s on the road to 1997. At the same time, it helped secure the popular support to the democrats as defenders of the city’s liberty. It was evidenced by the electoral victories of the United Democrats of Hong Kong and the Democratic Party founded in 1990 and 1994 respectively. At the same time, the party politics was further fueled by the last colonial governor Chris Patten’s package of political reform throughout the 1990s. In response, the Beijing government saw the democrats as leading the civil society of Hong Kong against China. This antagonism, consolidating the proBeijing camp for competing with the democrats, has defined Hong Kong’s
72 Defending the city political landscape to this day. More important, the Beijing government hardened its stance on the constitutional reform stipulated by the Basic Law passed in 1990. Although the promise of election of the Hong Kong chief executive and all LegCo seats through universal suffrage remains intact, no implementation is allowed before 2007 and 2008 respectively. It guarantees that the Chief Executive would be selected by the magnates and Beijing’s proxies in the election committee. In addition, under this constitutional arrangement, the LegCo could not have many checks and balances over the administration. And the Article 23 of the Basic Law also requires the future HKSAR government to enact laws “on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government” and the theft of national secrets. This article is always seen by the democrats as posing potential threats to civil liberties in Hong Kong. Since the 1980s, moderate democrats and civic groups have stood firmly in opposition to the administrative-led state and pro-Beijing establishment parties. Although the hybrid representative political system, deprived of most power of checks and balances, is always tilted heavily toward the local business elite, it facilitates a political order featuring liberal-democratic values and norms. Despite some tensions inherent to it, this order had long been largely accepted. It is an order premised on a managerial state power pursuing political stability, economic growth, and Hong Kong’s borders with China. Ironically, the political opposition, led mostly by baby boomers, eventually felt comfortable with playing their prescribed role of “loyal opposition” that it lacked sufficient determination and agency to lead a confrontational resistance movement.
Political deinstitutionalization Given the closeness of the political system and limited political opportunities, street politics is almost the only option for the democratic movement to expand after 1997. In this environment, people’s grievances are easily articulated as popular rage directed at the authorities. The post-handover economic downturn and the mishandling of the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003 undermined the legitimacy of the first Chief Executive Tung Chee Wah. The protests culminated in the mass rally of over half million people, i.e. “July 1 mass rally,” against the legislation for national security. It dramatically resulted in suspension of the legislation process and probably caused Tung’s resignation in 2005. The political effects of this challenge are more profound than these two outcomes. Apart from the sprouting of small activist and concern groups, the two new major pan-democratic parties, the League of Social Democrats (LSD) and the Civic Party (CP) were founded in 2006. In addition, this political upheaval triggered the general anxieties over media freedom, which drew an increasing number of citizens to make use of the Internet for disseminating information and satirical works to criticize the government. Some online media outlets even rivaled the mainstream media. These paved the road of online mobilization in the following years. Hong Kong, as some scholars argue,
Defending the city 73 has become a “social movement society,” in which protest is a routine part of political or even social life (Meyer and Tarrow, 1998; Lee and Chan, 2013). The July 1 mass rally is a success story about the solidarity and expansion of civil society. It also encouraged more youngsters to engage in street and party politics. However, all these did not bring out much institutional changes; instead this mass mobilization has gradually eroded the public trust in political institutions. It began to strengthen a belief in the so-called “people’s power” and a perception of the institutional forms of political deliberation as increasingly irrelevant. However it is wrong to attribute it completely to the activists’ misconceptions. The Beijing government’s responses to the opposition, indeed, made the situation even worse. The mounting discontent and political demands resulted in Beijing’s firm denial of the possibility of reaching universal suffrage in 2007/2008. More restrictions were imposed on the procedures of proposing political reform by the Chief Executive. Therefore, the gap between the promise or expectation and reality has continued to sustain the extra-institutional political engagement. The Beijing government has a strong belief in economic development and prosperity as a placebo for political frustrations. Amidst the political standstill, in collaboration with some business groups in Hong Kong, the Beijing government announced the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Hong Kong intended to stimulate local economy. It simultaneously launched the Individual Visit Scheme, partially for bringing more mainland visitors to boost Hong Kong tourism. These constitute the beginning of the new round of economic and social integration with China, further opening the gate to the Mainland capital, visitors, and new business opportunities. In retrospect, the economic stimulus package proves to be a double-edged sword. It is true that some particular sectors, business elites, and propertied class benefit from it. But its effect of ameliorating public grievances is short-lived and limited. The living cost and property price boosted by inflow of mainland visitors and capital are also detrimental to the lower middle class. The social consequences of further integration gradually unsettle the demarcation between the “Two Systems” (DeGolyer, 2010; Hung, 2010). Beneath the surface of economic rebound, popular resentment against the authorities continued and was eventually directed to the collusion of big business groups and government. Relatively small-scale protests against urban redevelopment and infrastructure building and campaigns for historic preservation and community life eventually came to the fore (Ku, 2012). New and more radical democratic groups sprouted out of these scattered agitations. Among them, there are two incidents indicative of the changing political landscape. Since early 2009, largely thanks to online mobilization and networking, the very small-scale protests by Choi Yuen villagers, whose home village was about to be demolished for the construction of the the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL), mutated into a citywide movement. The focus shifted from protecting a small village to questioning many aspects of the project: the expensive construction cost, the
74 Defending the city developmentalist ideology, ecological concerns, and the pace of integration between Hong Kong and Mainland China. This movement marks the sea change of values shared by young people (Ma, 2011b). In January 2010, almost 10,000 protesters surrounded the LegCo building during the sessions for debating and voting on the government budget for the project. They successfully pressured most pan-democrats to oppose the project. The ensuing blockade of the LegCo building, thereby detaining officials and pro-project lawmakers inside overnight alarmed the government and the general public. The mobilization, involving a number of passionate young people, revealed the predominance of the LegCo members of functional constituencies (FCs) elected from professional and vested interests groups and pro-Beijing parties. The most worrying issue for Beijing was the de facto referendum movement launched by the two parties mentioned above, in order to give pressure to the central government to turn green light to universal suffrage in 2012. It targeted at the HKSAR government’s political reform proposal which continued the “small circle” election methods for the Chief Executive and the seats of FCs of the LegCo. The de facto referendum was initiated by the LSD and CP whose five directly elected legislators, representing the five geographical constituencies covering the whole city, resigned and then campaigned under the rubric of universal suffrage demand to regain their seats in the by-election. Each vote for any of the five candidates was regarded as in support of the demand. It is unprecedented in Hong Kong history as an event of expressing people’s will on constitutional reform. It came as no surprise that these two parties used the slogans “People’s uprising” and “Liberate Hong Kong” to appeal to young activists. However, Beijing and some pro-establishment politicians charged that this movement was violating the principles of the Basic Law. There are several noteworthy issues. First, this campaign gained a lot of support from the participants of the anti-XRL movement which occurred immediately before it. A number of young activists worked as volunteers and articulated the protests against XRL and social inequalities with the call for abolition of FCs. Both campaigns shared a taste for online mobilization and militant challenges, at least in rhetoric and sometimes in action, to the regime (Ma, 2011a: 60–61). For instance, the young activists took numerous spontaneous and confrontational actions against the SAR government’s promotion activities for its own political reform proposal. A radical pro-democracy faction supported by young people, mostly aged under 30, has taken shape and further proliferated. It was evidenced by the high proportion of young voters (Sing and Tang, 2012: 151). The second issue is related to the visible presence of young people in the campaign. The turnout rate (17 percent, 572,521 votes) was lower than expected not simply because of the pro-establishment parties’ boycott. The DP, opting for negotiating with the central government, stood apart from the campaign. The DP’s proposal of increasing the number and proportion of seats for geographical constituencies was finally accepted by the authorities and passed in the LegCo. Some younger voters and civil society groups, who supported the de facto referendum movement with enthusiasm, accused the DP of betraying the
Defending the city 75 democratic movement. This incident, making a rift within the pro-democracy camp and deepening the distrust of the pro-democracy politicians, is often cited by the radical factions, including LSD’s supporters and the nativists later. Finally, the controversy was temporarily settled by the China government, rather than the SAR government, who negotiated with the DP. It only reinforced the perception of the inadequacy of the political institutions in Hong Kong. In the post-handover years, as a result of internal and external pressures, there has been a gradual exhaustion of the legitimacy of political institutions. The regime’s incompetence to manage the issues such as economic recovery and political reform have already paved the path to deinstitutionalization. The gap between reality and expectation alienates the youth from institutional politics. It eventually brings forward new political actors, such as the teenage activists leading the anti-National Education campaign in 2012 and the diverse kinds of nativists thereafter. Since then, “anti-mainlandization” has become the major slogan of the pro-democracy camp (Ma, 2015). The issue of political reform continues to linger. In 2013, due to disaffection and frustration with government inaction and Beijing’s hard-line stance, Benny Tai and other pan-democrats planned to launch the campaign of Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP) to advocate universal suffrage. It was intended to call upon the opposition in solidarity to join a highly organized campaign of civil disobedience to give pressure to the Beijing government. After Beijing’s decision to impose heavy restrictions on the nomination mechanism for the election of chief executive, students launched class boycott to protest immediately. In the midst of student protesters and other citizens outside the Central Government Offices in Admiralty, OCLP was launched but failed to proceed as planned. It was evident that the pan-democrats’ leadership could not sustain itself in street politics, a phenomenon of deinstitutionalization. Instead, OCLP and the arrested student protesters drew more unaffiliated individual citizens to join. After the police used tear gas, pepper spray, and batons to disperse the protesters, thousands more came to occupy three sites of the city center. The protests turned into a mass movement with no explicit leadership or formal organization, which was later named the “Umbrella Movement.” In the 79 days of occupation, there were a lot of arguments over strategies and tactical differences among the protesters. In hindsight, the Umbrella Movement proves to be a breeding ground for nativists. They recruited and gathered more like-minded people to experiment on more aggressive tactics rather than heeded the principles of civil disobedience. Some of them challenged the calls of pro-democracy leaders and attempted to dismantle their leaderships. Although the nativists preferred to called the movement “a failure,” it brought forward a bunch of young nativist leaders such as Ray Wong Toi-yeung, Baggio Leung Chung-hang and others.
“Shaking things up” In Chapter 4, I date back the origin of nativism to the anger at mainland visitors. But this is only an immediate cause. Without the broad background of
76 Defending the city deinstitutionalization, the anti-China sentiment would hardly develop into a faction with such a strong sense of local belonging and influences in political field. Over the years, a significant number of citizens have increasingly found the liberal society of Hong Kong lacking stable institutional protection, full of contradictions, distant from their immediate concerns, and devoid of any effective power to resist China’s influences. This disaffection, nevertheless, implies, rather than a total rejection of political democracy, the uncertainty and vulnerability of people’s lives and the loss of relevance of political institutions for social life in Hong Kong. The identifications with the traditional democrats have weakened its function as providing a fundamental reference point for organizing individual political universes, especially among the young people. The nativists concentrate more on specific causes and determined actions rather than adherence to civic codes and loyalty to opposition parties. What is needed for them is a new breed of prophet-like political stars offering provocative thoughts and visions to capture people’s anxiety and urgency, something splendid and sublime, for social mobilization, rather than liberals preaching that liberty and democracy will prevail over tyranny in the long run. In their eyes, a dose of sect-like enthusiasm, such as ethnic struggles or secessionist nationalism, that can be embraced, loved and appropriated by Hong Kongers for struggles, is indispensable. In general, apart from a handful of incidents of violence during the Umbrella Movement and the Mong Kok riot, what defines the nativists’ mobilization is their aggressive ethos, sometimes coined as “chivalrous” (jungmou/yongwu) with connotations of confrontational struggles, coarse language, bigotry and even racist slurs in opposition to the liberals’ principles of “Peace, Rational, Non-violence, non-profanity.” Yet, the protests against mainland visitors are not organized into anything like a disciplined fighting force that could serve as the backbone for a pro-independence movement. It is evidenced by the sudden rise and fall of the Youngspiration duo, who earned their electorate support quickly out of their anti-China sentiment across the Internet and in street politics but failed to secure their seats in their struggle with the Beijing and Hong Kong SAR government. The surge of nativism as a right-wing movement creates a sort of political activism characterized by “atomisation” of movements participated by individual activists, small associations and even ad hoc working groups. What holds them together is often a set of symbols, images (such as “locust” and the pictures of Chinese parents allowing kids to urinate in public), expressions (“Chee-na”), and conceptual categories (e.g. “Putting Hong Kong first” and “Segregation of Hong Kong from China”). A bunch of commentators, primarily active on the Internet, capitalize on the excitement, rage, and a very weak sense of solidarity, further whip up fear, justify the nativists’ actions, define the field of possibilities within which actors move and portray the political visions for which they struggle. What has bred the nativist consciousness is the city’s crumbling “status quo” wrought by the Chinese state and its allies in Hong Kong who trigger off a new round of biopolitical mobilization for neoliberal capitalism and attempt to
Defending the city 77 tighten their grip on political dissidence. Their repeated warning against “marginalization” (please refer to Chapter 3), ironically, fuels people’s anxieties over the future of the city. They create the biopolitical condition in which right-wing scapegoating can seem to provide immediate answers. Even worse, the pandemocrats and left-leaning social movements fail to offer any alternative to it. What strikes at the heart of many Hong Kongers is an urgent injunction: there is no time to reflect and “we” have to act now! From the nativists’ point of view, Hong Kong people need to make an existential decision, seemingly the only freedom left to them by the worsening situation. At least, they see their support to some nativist leaders as “shaking things up,” i.e. upsetting those in power, despite the lack of promising results. It is reminiscent of the political phenomena, such as national populism, occurring out of “democratic deficit” (Durant, 1995). Citizens, perceiving their government, political parties and politicians with aversion and even hostility, find them untrustworthy and incompetent to solve problem or resolve conflict. The decline of trust in political institutions coincides with the escalating feeling about their country under threats from outside (Dubet, 2004). These global changes are somewhat out of reach for the government. The populist leaders, with their anti-elitist, nationalist, and sometimes racist rhetoric, occupy the political vacuum left by the major parties. In terms of their endeavors to protect their home territory by means of borders, rejecting the invasion of foreign culture and political forces, and seeing themselves as incarnating the national/ local identity lost in the sea changes, Hong Kong’s nativism is a sort of national populism emerging out of a political background unique to the city. In Hong Kong, whatever one’s political stance, one must recognize the tension between the two facets of “One Country, Two Systems.” The terms of “One Country” and “Two Systems” have worked as a universal norm, a fiction, or a postulate that invites contested interpretations and political uses. Under the rubric of “One Country,” China government, a state power with its strong politico-economic interventionist compulsion, finds itself legitimate to extend its reign over the city through economic integration and political interferences. The opposition camp, holding on to “Two Systems” bemoans the threats to Hong Kong’s “self-government” or “One Country, 1.5 Systems” (Moriyasu, 2017). This bitter criticism is repeated by the international society recently (House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, 2019). Any move from either or both sides would possibly escalate the tension. This constitutional basis facilitates a delicate and fragile political order superficially featuring the values of liberal democracy and pluralism. The surge of nativism indicates the waning of the political order which emerged in the late colonial times and continues to this day.
Existential struggles The surge of nativism represents a sort of “atomized” activism participated by individual activists and ad hoc groups gathering on social media and other sites of the Internet. They jumped from one issue (such as protest against Chinese
78 Defending the city visitors) to another (such as action in support of illegal hawkers) with passions. But their sense of solidarity is questionable. Binding themselves into open networks, they neither maintain a stable organizational structure, nor make a strong alliance, nor hold an ideological belief. Instead, their mobilizations rely very much on a set of symbols and categories articulated and elaborated by some opinion leaders. There are a number of online commentators who incite fear, rationalize actions, and articulate the political visions for which they struggle. These intellectual adventurers and their opinion become popular and appealing in a series of incidents of “Mainland-Hong Kong conflicts” over livelihood issues. It is also about the political feuds, ranging from the incidents of media self-censorship to the stalled constitutional reform to disqualification of pro-nativist candidates from election. The city’s media tend to mix the incidents and issues above together by using the term “mainlandization.” One of the pronativism writers portrays a pessimistic picture of mainlandization, yet from which a political will is derived: Around 1997, Hong Kong people only sought to maintain the status quo (“keep the status quo”). Unfortunately it has been crumbling like a marble statue standing in the middle of sand and dust storm. Its face has been increasingly blurred and is about to be smashed into pieces and abandoned on the road. What shall we do? Submitting to the authority and resigning ourselves to adversity? Or we have our backs against the wall to secure and defend what we have? (Chin, 2011: 8) Chin Wan, a productive writer engaged in local debates, has become a household name since the rise of nativism. He gained his fame by positioning Hong Kong as “city-state” with a strong urge to demarcate Hong Kong from China on all fronts, except keeping Hong Kong’s status as Chinese financial hub. Chin’s accounts of Hong Kong identity and nativist politics, though at odds in some respects with other pro-nativist critics such Lu Sida (cited and discussed in Chapter 1), is contiguous with them in that they issue a moral injunction – “There is no time to reflect, and we have to act now!” Nativist activism bounds up with a desire for authenticity which is perceived as in opposition to Hong Kong’s political institutions. The nativist-existentialist choice is made as a result of the disappearance of the comfort zone. Lu, Chin, and others see the fact that this choice is an option chosen by the minority as a proof of Hong Kong’s neocolonial condition rather than undermining their stance. In their eyes, most are not bold enough to engage in “Realpolitik.” The mainstream politician and even social movement activists are so pretentious that their engagements are merely a formality without real political meanings. The rest are either “Kong-pigs,” a term for politically ignorant Hong Kongers or CCP’s minions. The nativists keep making themselves distinct from others by the term jungmou/yongwu. But one should not be misled by its literal meaning. It is far from confined to a particular type of action style with core values.
Defending the city 79 Rather, it functions more like a gesture despising all certainties with courage to live in the face of the abyss. In practice, the nativists might not act radically different from others in most occasions. Rhetorically, jungmou/yongwu is a device inspiring life and action rather than doing everything by the book. To understand the nativist interpretation of identity more deeply, one might need to go beyond the view on identity as group membership or one defined by institutions. Instead, identity is felt, articulated, and practiced as subjectivity, a self-determining will (Laclau and Zac, 1994). Therefore, it is worth retracing briefly the modern/western philosophical discourses on subjectivity. The ideal of autonomy, as Charles Taylor points out, has defined the intellectual, moral, and political pursuits in the modern world. Individuals and even communities are constructed and imagined as a disengaged self in one way or another (Taylor, 1989). The subject is capable of objectifying the external world, in a physical and social sense, on the one hand, and one’s body, mind, and emotion, on the other. The gap and dynamics between self and the Other are subject to different philosophical interpretations of human subjectivity and modernity. In this light, the nativists in Hong Kong engage in pursuit of modern moral ideals of autonomy in the political arena. On the one hand, their denunciation of the political institutions suggests an engagement in, rather than a complete disengagement from, culture or history. On the other hand, with their modern revolutionary rhetoric, there is a coincidence between the idea of freedom and the experience of a new beginning (Arendt, 1990: 29). It sounds like Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s “Absolute Spirit,” a process of self-determining not to be found in any originary moment or final destination but in the movement itself. It is a perfecting yet indeterminate mutation, in which the subject objectifies and negates the givens (Hegel, 2001: 70). In Hegel’s other works he emphasizes more the sublation of the Other, i.e. negating and absorbing the Other. Subjectivity requires recognition of the Other; to put it in another way, it is social being. But the recognition of the Other, rather than an outcome of socialization or normalization in the sense of classical sociology, consists in overcoming the Other in the evolution of subjectivity through the “cancelling of its otherness.” Hong Kong nativists’ exposition, however, is still different from Hegel’s political philosophy which is anchored in the existing forms of modern/western political institutions such as law, civil society, and the state as the collective goals and realization of the “Absolute Spirit.” These institutions provide a basis on which collective interests are articulated and rational action and judgment can be made. But the Hong Kong nativists are much more ambiguous about their relationships with institutions. In another sense, their exposition of Hong Kong’s identity resembles JeanPaul Satre’s existentialism (1956), especially in that both acknowledge the Other’s dominance and characterize the relationship between self and the Other as a struggle of life or death. A real or core self is derived from the critique of our being-for-others (être-pour-autrui) which limit our freedom. The former is a being-for-itself (être-pour-soi), i.e. a capacity to negate the Other. Henceforth one may understand identity in two contradictory yet related
80 Defending the city senses. The first one is defined by one’s roles in social and political institutions according to oppressive categories. The Other is accorded the power to name, to recognize, and to limit one’s identity. The second sense is an agency to alter or even repudiate the Other and the first sense of identity. It is a form of radical freedom. Therefore, the fact that the insufficient or inaccurate accounts of Hong Kong’s history and culture do not make nativist politics inadequate or efficacious. During the peak time of mobilizations and struggles, even the unfavorable political environment does not matter so much. The political ontology of identity resides in the excess that goes beyond all representations. However, it is noteworthy to highlight one feature which distinguishes Hong Kong’s nativism from Satre’s notion of radical freedom: Most nativists do not make the full responsibility of his existence rest on themselves. Nativist choice is somehow involuntary. In other words, their resistance and agency, rather than a moral and ontological obligation, are responses conditioned by the Other. For instance, Chin explained that he previously did not want to get involved in the troubled water of “rescuing Hong Kong.” Yet, due to so many people standing on the sideline and the worsening situation, he finally decided to advocate his cause (Chin, 2011: 16–17). Another example is the special issue of Undergrad, the official student magazine of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union (HKUSU), on Hong Kong nationalism. This issue titled “The Hong Kong Nation Deciding Its Own Fate,” published in early 2014, first sparked heated debate on the Internet, and then eventually caught media attention. Next year, on a radio program, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying slammed it. In this issue, Wong Chun-kit, assistant editor-in-chief, wrote an article titled “Local Consciousness is the Only Way Out for Hong Kong People’s Struggles.” In the article, although he traces the different stages, forms, and extent of Hong Kong’s local consciousness in history, he admits that Hong Kong identity was neither so political nor against China until very recently. Nativism does not come from or is legitimized by a long-standing tradition of Hong Kong nationalism, not to mention nationalist movement. Strictly speaking, nativist struggles serve as an inevitable response to the Chinese new immigrants and the increasing number of mainland visitors rather than a political resistance against the authoritarian Chinese Communist regime. To put it simply, Wong calls for a movement for “self-protection” (Wong, 2014: 30) under pressures from above and outside. The communist regime is their enemy from outside. Their intimate enemies constitute a long list of culprits to blame – pro-Beijing groups, democrats, and zogaau (“leftist pricks”). Finding their ineptness, stupidity, arrogance and greed unbearable, the nativists stand out against the adversity. What makes the nativist-existential subject even more interesting is the varied notions of “culture.” While the nativists find the institutions alienating, most of them look for something called “culture” as the foundation for their discourse and action. It is by no means accidental that a significant number of nativist groups identify their works as “cultural” in one way or another. Many of them
Defending the city 81 trace one of their founding moments to reading Wan Chin’s culturalist account of nativism. For instance, Civic Passion, founded in 2012, adopted the slogans “Building Cultural Nation” and “Cultural Anti-Communism,” borrowed from Chin’s ideas, as Wong Yeung-tat, one of the founders, said. They did cooperate with each other in an alliance during the election in 2016. Chin founded his group Hong Kong Resurgence Order by highlighting the notions of “Restoring” the ancient Chinese civilization (huaxia wenhua) and the legacy of the citystate of Hong Kong. Even HKI also identified themselves as working on “culture” before they launched their electoral campaign. Their notions of culture appear as inconsistent with their existential inclinations. While the former is usually based on tradition or heritage, the latter emphasizes the agency to give meanings to one’s life and living sincerely to break through the past. In order to understand the relevance of culture to nativism, one has to examine the semantic structure they share in common rather than their detailed elaborations. Their notions of culture, despite their variations and different elaborations, are a sort of bricolage, i.e. replacing linearity and analytical order with a construction from a diverse elements available. Therefore they are by no means traditionalist, adhering to traditional beliefs or practices. What binds these elements together is the binary opposition in a purely abstract sense. This gesture is prevalent in some schools of cultural criticisms at the turn of the twentieth century, such as Kulturkritik in Germany (Mulhern, 2000: 4–6). Culture is intrinsically local, traditional, free, inward, and authentic, while China, an “uncultured” force, is represented as foreign, excessively modern or progressive, despotic, outbound or expansionist, and corrupted. The former is under threat from the latter. This rhetorical device helps them consolidate an imagined homestead after the political institutions and the related values and norms have collapsed.
Conclusion: a rift into the political order What the nativists achieved most is successfully making a wedge in local political landscape. The story of Hong Kong nativists is about navigating in a fragmented and deinstitutionalized world without clear reference point and direction. Henceforth, the rise of nativism is not a paradigm shift in institutional politics, such as the emergence of new opposition parties. Rather, it is a new kind of contentious politics featuring ever-shifting discourses and practices, yet asserting a right from a belligerent position. Therefore, nativism is less a cultural identification with Hong Kong than a rift into the political order from a combat position. It has not brought about institutional changes, but it has revealed the alleged truth beneath the delusion of “One Country, Two Systems.” Now this gesture is shared by many as few would believe that we are capable of living in a politically peaceful order. “What is more naive than believing in ‘One country, Two systems’?,” said Kin-man Chan, a moderate democrat sentenced to prison for his leadership in the Umbrella Movement. He made this remark after the verdict and in response to a judge, characterizing the Occupy Central campaign as “naïve.” Chan has never sided with the nativists. But his irony and questioning
82 Defending the city are indicative of the changes of Hong Kong political culture partially triggered by the nativists. Another example is the injunction of “Hong Kong’s last battle” often heard in the recent anti-extradition bill agitations. Nativism in Hong Kong is by no means an organized movement for political independence. The problem of separatism is magnified, if not created, by the expansion of China’s bureaucratic institutions and their hardening measures. The authorities, as Lixiong Wang argues, make self-fulfilling prophecies by instigating stronger and stronger separatist consciousness in China’s frontier regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang (Wang, 2009: 225, 235). For Hong Kong, these self-fulfilling effects are primarily caused by the institutional design. For the sake of political calculation and economic convenience, Hong Kong and Macau are incorporated into China’s national body as two “special regions.” Cathryn Clayton, following Aihwa Ong’s famous notion of “graduated sovereignty” (Ong, 2006: 103), notices the ideological effect of the state-led zoning technologies of scaling the nation space into an archipelago of political enclaves (Clayton, 2009: 143–144). As a “sorting mechanism” of spatialization, the “System” in the principle of “One Country, Two System” reifies Hong Kong’s and Macau’s parts of their colonial histories as an imagined community. Her argument is supported by how Chin and other nativist columnists characterize Hong Kong – clarity of boundaries, unique history and culture, separate social system, political regime and judicial system. In other words, the conditions for self-determination are in place. The case of Hong Kong indicates the contradictions inherent to the “system.” It is a distinct governing regime, serving as a detour on the road to unification, designed for continuing the city’s flexible capital networks and bringing economic benefits to China’s neoliberal reform within the authoritarian framework of “One Country.” Therefore, from Beijing’s point of view, tightening its control over civil rights and electoral democracy is inevitable. However, it also evolves into an ethnicized resistance defying Beijing’s official version of Chineseness. The eagerness of Beijing and the Hong Kong SAR government to enforce political compliance in the city further fuels the fear of the city or the “system” as a sacred image of the body under threats from an alien system. The fear provides the ground for enacting semi-constituent power in one way or another. Even worse, as some critics point out, the SAR government officials, Beijing top officials, and state media tend to blow separatism out of proportion. Their repeated accusation of the allegedly serious threat to national security only draws more media attention to some frivolous political groups and help them earn more support or sympathy. (Cheung and So, 2015; Cheung, 2016). The authorities might prefer to have more pro-independence voices to justify more hard-line measures. While all parties play into this game, the politico-economic borders premised on the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” could no longer look self-evident.
6 Neoliberal populism Ethnicization of right-wing economics
Unfortunately, and contrary to what is currently assumed about the proverbial ivory-tower independence of thinkers, no other human capacity is so vulnerable, and it is in fact far easier to act under conditions of tyranny than it is to think. (Arendt, 1998: 324)
In the wake of the Financial Tsunami during 2008–2009, the prevalence and dominance of neoliberal ideology have continued, yet in different forms. Over the past decade, a couple of key governments across the world have implemented the policy of quantitative easing, in which a central bank purchases securities from the market for lowering interest rates and increasing money supply for rescuing financial institutions and enterprises from crisis and even bankruptcy. In the shadow of unprecedented interventions, any full-fledged neoliberal policy program on the basis of the Washington Consensus could hardly be sustained anymore. While the neoliberal orthodoxy declines, neoliberalism as a hegemonic force by no means disappears. A bunch of scholars have noted that neoliberalism is dead but still continues to “walk the earth” (Crouch, 2011; Dean, 2012; Peck, 2010b). The observations of the uncanniness of neoliberalism suggest that either assuming the predominance of neoliberalism or jumping to proclaim the death of neoliberalism is too hasty and unfounded. But the questions as of whether, how far, and in what way neoliberalism plunges into “zombie” condition are worthy of closer examination. In Hong Kong, the attack on the welfare system, a long-standing issue for neoliberalists, has been dominated by the nativists’ voices rather than the doctrines of free market economy. Since the late 1990s, there has been heated debate over the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme, a safety net for people who are not economically self-sufficient and ensures that their basic needs be met. In December 2013, the Final Court of Appeal ruled that the seven-year residency requirement needed for the application for CSSA was unconstitutional. In other words, new immigrants are eligible for CSSA after arriving in Hong Kong for a year. The court’s ruling sparked a huge uproar on the Internet. Comments such as “Hong Kong has fallen,” “Hong Kong is finished” (c98137208[Philip], 2013) popped up on social media. Critics argued that the ruling has created “the incentive attracting large
84 Neoliberal populism numbers of mainland immigrants,” thereby overburdening Hong Kong’s social welfare system (Lu, 2013b). These nativist attacks on the welfare system, following the slurs against people from Mainland China under the label of “locust” since 2011, have not been endorsed by market fundamentalists whose voices have been withering in public opinion. For example, the researchers and columnists affiliated with the Lion Rock Institute, an advocacy group committed to “promote free market ideas” and to advance “concrete solutions to keep government small, taxes low and restrictions on business and the individual minimal,” explicitly oppose the trend of “locust-bashing.” They argue that the welfare system itself nurtures the psychology of making gains without pain in general, rather than specifically for mainlanders. They even advocate further liberalization of immigration policy for attracting more talents and young labor force to the city (Zhu, 2011; Work, 2015). However, the anxiety over the flood of mainlanders into the city is so intense that few people embrace their neoliberal doctrines. Has neoliberalism already faded away? Has nativism already replaced neoliberalism in shaping the public discourse on welfare reform and other related issues? In this chapter, I will focus on a series of recent controversies over the neoliberal ideas and issues. They serve as some cases with which one can identify the shift in neoliberal consensus in Hong Kong. The first part will outline the founding moment when the city initially embraced neoliberal ideas and articulated them with the public discourse on its identity. Then I will track down the changing ideological themes and discursive patterns in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Finally I discuss the most recent right-wing nativist turn of neoliberalism in Hong Kong. I argue that neoliberalism, rather than offering convincing arguments or policy programs, now manifests its power in public discourse through the vulgarized ideas, fragmented rhetoric, and slogans abstracted from neoliberal economics, through which populist impetus, nativist pursuit, and even racial prejudices find their expressions. A form of right-wing identity politics contributes to the undeadly condition of neoliberalism in Hong Kong.
From right-wing economics to the thesis of “lazy people” Since the 1970s, neo-liberalist economic discourses, in particular the Chicago school of economics, has gained prominence in Hong Kong, thanks to a few economists and columnists. By translating, introducing, reviewing and writing newspaper columns, such as the so-called “economic prose,” they spread ideas of “free market economy,” “private property” and “economic man,” etc. through the media and popular books. As Po-keung Hui notes, they successfully made use of colloquial stories, slangs, martial arts fiction, and collective memories shared by the locals to strengthen their persuasiveness. They invoked the dichotomy of Hong Kong’s economic miracles and the traumatic memories of Communist China, and appealed to pseudo-authority to create a fictional world of laissez-faire economics. This is the first wave of localization of neoliberalism in Hong Kong (Hui, 2002). It was definitely a result of the spread of
Neoliberal populism 85 western neoliberalism, evidenced by Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (1981) in which Hong Kong was cited as a living example of running economy according to his market principles. It also coincided with the Hong Kongers’ and the colonial government’s attempt then to uphold the city’s economic success and the colonial idea of “positive non-interventionism” in contrast to the “backwardness” and “failure” of China’s state socialism. Right at the time, Xiaoping Deng began to give up Mao’s economic policies and promote market reform. The historical moment when the Hong-Kong-born neoliberal economist Steven Cheung accompanied Friedman to meet with Ziyang Zhao, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 1988, marked the peak and symbolic time of the first wave of domestication of neoliberalism in Hong Kong. The popularity of neoliberal ideas in the 1980s was largely an outcome of a movement led by economists and media workers who targeted government policies and planning. Since the 1990s, neoliberal ideas, instead of figuring in a rigorous set of politico-economic theory or ideology, work as more dispersed discursive practices centered around the government of the subject – homo economicus (“economic man”) – and his others, a concept noticed by Michel Foucault (2008: 226). In general, the “economic man” represents individuals with the aggressive personality traits of entrepreneurs. By the end of the 1990s, three types of “others” for the “economic man” emerged. They are CSSA recipients, new immigrants from the Mainland, and youths (Hui, 2007: 141–159). These groups of people, often mingled, are seen as “lazy people” incapable of self-reliance and refusing to work hard, or even criminals and moral degenerates. Thanks to the media, neoliberal ideas, rephrased in even more coarse languages, are even more widely disseminated than the preceding wave. The media depictions of them, resting on judgments about their worthiness, refer them as a burden on Hong Kong society in every way. Although all these look quite unique to Hong Kong, the policy and institutional changes ensued are in alignment with the welfare reform in western countries. The neoliberal shift in discourses emerged out of the Hong Kong government’s plan for “work-fare” program which is later named as The Support for Self-reliance (SFS) Scheme. Since 1999, all able-bodied CSSA applicants aged 15 to 64 have been required to participate in this scheme. It is a prerequisite for having their application processed and receiving CSSA payment. The recipients receive training for employment from non-government organizations, to constantly look for a job, and to accept job offers as soon as possible. They are also assigned volunteer community works regularly. Non-compliance is subject to penalties such as deduction or termination of CSSA payment. Obviously, instilling work discipline has become one of the goals of CSSA. What makes Hong Kong’s neoliberal reform in social welfare system unique is that, ironically, it has come alongside the interventionist turn in the posthandover years. The increasing role of government in developing and regulating the city’s economy is by no means a Keynesian or social democratic agenda. Instead, as Chapter 2 and 3 demonstrate, the administration is committed to
86 Neoliberal populism dismantling the institutional barriers to economic activities across the border with China. By doing so, it provides more opportunities for corporations and high-end professionals to enter China’s market. What lies behind this “roll-out” strategy of neoliberalism is the political project of national unification of the city by politically binding ordinary citizens to the central authorities. The neoliberal changes, engineered by the SAR government and Beijing, reposition Hong Kong in a new geopolitical space in both real and imaginary senses. This sino-centric space of neoliberalism has helped to create unique opportunities for the political agenda of the radical-right or far-right that features extreme social conservatism, in relation to race or ethnicity (Rydgren, 2007: 243). Hong Kong nativists, similar to those non-fascist far-right groups in Europe, seek to win electoral seats for advancing socio-cultural interests (Hofstadter, 2002; Knigge, 1998; Lubbers, Gijsberts and Scheepers, 2002) and populist causes in the name of returning the people to their past happiness (Ivarsflaten, 2005: 465; Lubbers, Gijsberts and Scheepers, 2002: 364), rather than engineering a new people with sovereign power by violent means (Albertazzi and McDonnell, 2008: 5; Mann, 2004: 367–368). Against the backdrop of the surge of nativism, Hong Kong’s neoliberalism takes a new turn by engaging in a wide range of issues and policies, including the welfare problem. The neoliberal ideas have by no means lost their power and prevalence, despite moving away from the relatively intellectual discourse of the first wave of localization. First, “new (Chinese) immigrants” are seen as the ethnic other, the adversary and opposite of Hong Kongers whose nature are defined by economic self-reliance; second, the attack on “new immigrants” has been targeting not just the other of the “economic man” but also the social activists who have a center-left political-economic stand and support redistributive social policy. The latter are accused of helping the ethnic other to snatch away Hong Kong’s social resources and to invade and harass the local society. Finally and more fundamentally, the welfare concerns are metonymically associated with other concerns with the threat of China. Henceforth, the ideological shift has to be understood against the new anti-China sentiment.
New anti-Mainland China sentiment In recent years, due to the Internet and the media, there is a strong surge of new anti-Mainland China sentiment in Hong Kong. Compared with the long-standing anti-China sentiment, the new sentiment works as a mixture of the previous ideological elements and subject matters. Aversion to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or phobia as political sentiment, not new at all, had remained distinct from the plebeian annoyance with new immigrants until recently. Now they are often mixed and tightly linked together and their targets have expanded to all things connected with “the mainland.” Nativism, as Chapter 5 points out, should not be seen as an integrated, concordant and consistent system of thought since there are internal differences and even conflicts and there is not any united organization. It is instead a loose network of individuals, opinion
Neoliberal populism 87 leaders, small organizations, as well as individuals who are members of political parties. However, no matter what they stand for or where they come from, in general they all proclaim an ethnicized Hong Kong identity when they oppose “the mainland.” In fact all these are characteristic of the logic of populist politics. This mixture or convergence of anti-Mainland China sentiment occurs in the awareness of China as a “powerful country” (qiangguo). Literally, it refers to not only the rise of China as a global economic and political power, but also the anti-western and nationalistic sentiment brewing in cyberspace, such as the “Strengthening Nation Forum” (qiangguo luntan) since the late 1990s. Now the term qiangguo still often appears in China’s official propaganda and top leaders’ speeches. In Hong Kong, the term qiangguo ren, i.e. the nationals of the “powerful country,” a mockery, functions as an umbrella word for all kinds of mainland Chinese to be hated. In this light, the rise of China takes another effect in ethnicization of Hong Kong versus China. First, as Eric Ma and others point out, Hong Kong consciousness of themselves as a community since the late 1970s came along with Hong Kong people’s attempt to distinguish themselves from their “poor relatives” in the Mainland. But nowadays, the coming of mainlanders to the city has barely be perceived as “poor relatives” visits. First of all, China is no longer regarded as a poor country. For example, the wealth of some mainland visitors was appalled by the locals. The repeated exhortations to the citizens to grab the golden economic opportunities provided by China’s growth machine have also increasingly associated China with “wealth” rather than “poverty.” Second, the SAR government, the local governments in Guangdong, and Beijing have adjusted immigration policies, rolled out various visa schemes, improved transport infrastructure, and pushed forward regional planning for facilitating a marketized region conducive to intense human and capital flow over the past two decades. As a result, mainlanders have come to the city in huge numbers, for different purposes, and with multiple socio-economic consequences since 2003. Chin Wan, one of the advocates of nativism, claimed that he felt reluctant to engage in politics until the Hong Kong government announced the “Action Plan for Livable Bay Area of Pearl River Estuary,” a study undertaken in collaboration with Macau and Canton Province (Chin, 2011: 6–7). In 2011, the public outcry over birth tourism reached its peak. There was a drastic increase in the number of pregnant women from the Mainland and newborn babies whose parents were not Hong Kong permanent citizens. While it immediately resulted in a crisis in the public health system, people began to worry about the “burdens” added to education system and other public facilities. Moreover, the over-expansion of cross-border tourism and consumer activities of mainlanders has put pressure on the space of everyday life as well as housing needs of Hong Kong citizens. This is manifested in the overcrowding of MTR trains, the vanishing of small shops and the blocking of main passage and roads by excess tourists and parallel goods traders. Around the time, the anger over “the plague of locusts” bubbled up in media and turned into street protests against mainland visitors. The metaphor of “poor relatives”
88 Neoliberal populism is already out of fashion for understanding the reality and people’s subjective feeling. The presence of mainlanders now is strongly felt as a threatening force in numerical sense shaking up the whole society of Hong Kong. Mainlanders have transmogrified from laughable, despised but unthreatening “relatives” to a menacing massive swarm of “locusts.” Added to these sea changes is the Beijing government’s hardening stance on Hong Kong affairs, including instilling patriotism, forestalling constitutional reform, and manipulating election. It is believed that Beijing has been attempting to insert its agents in the SAR government and has even bypassed the local privileged class, such as people and the network of high-ranking government officials controlled by so-called property tycoons. In 2012, Donald Tsang, the SAR Chief Executive and a former senior administrative officer, was replaced by Chun-ying Leung, a suspected underground CCP member, who defeated Henry Tang, a candidate supported by most industrial and business elites. This political shift was widely interpreted as a change in Beijing’s policy vis-à-vis the governance of Hong Kong. Beijing, together with the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR, assumed the power to select the person to govern Hong Kong. In the meantime, the Liaison Office, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council and members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) frequently made comments on and even intervened directly in Hong Kong affairs, in particular, in 2003 during the debate on the legislation of the National Security Act, in debates about the timetable and the contents of plans for political reform, the subsequent interpretation of the Basic Law by NPCSC, and in the controversial introduction of the curriculum of national education in 2012. The political presence of the Beijing government in Hong Kong has been looming large day by day. As a critic points out, nativism is a “response to the challenge posed by the powerful state machine of Beijing” (Chiu, 2014). The phenomena above, despite being heterogeneous in nature, are further articulated by the far-right politics as “mainlandization” or “colonization” on all fronts engineered by the China government. Chin Wan and Ho-fung Hung, two opinion leaders affiliated with Civic Passion, a radical nativist group, are good examples for illustration. Chin, the author of Hong Kong as a City-State, said that the Mainland was “hell and a ghost kingdom, a party of bandits and a people of thieves,” and that “a few generations of mainlanders have been persecuted by CCP, and having suffered in silence for generations, their natural instincts are distorted and they have become CCP’s collaborators” (Chin, 2011: 47, 49). According to Hung, the authoritarian capitalism and patriotism of the Mainland “has permeated the social fabric of Chinese society at a deep level,” giving rise to “devious changes in public sentiment” (Hung, 2013). Even worse, CCP conspires to exercise its rule over the city by dispatching its people and capital to Hong Kong to bring about a reshuffling of population composition and capital. In sum, the assumed “Hong Kong-ness” has been “spread out.” Both of them argue that China is “colonizing” Hong Kong.
Neoliberal populism 89 There is an example indicative of this trend. In late August 2016, about two weeks before the LegCo election, there was an online news report, quoting a survey from an academic article, about the comparison between the locals’ political stance with the Chinese immigrants’ (Standnews, 2016). The authors argue that the latter tend to support the pro-Beijing political parties and show less sympathy with the pro-democrats’ political stance (Wong, Ma, and Lam, 2016). The political intention and effect of this news report are suspicious given its timing and the strong participation of pro-nativist parties in the election. This report was widely circulated immediately and echoed by the public although their results and analysis are questioned by other scholars (Choi, 2016; Cheung and Choi, 2016). This news article and their research are repeatedly cited as an evidence to prove the detrimental effect of Chinese immigrants on Hong Kong’s democracy. For example, in the Kowloon West By-election 2018, the defeat of the pro-democracy candidate was explained by some netizens as the outcome of the pro-Beijing new immigrants of the public housing estates in Kai Tak, coined as “locust villages” (LIHKG, 2018). They made reference to the academic article again. The frightening depictions of mainland Chinese above substantiate the argument for Hong Kongers backing off from mainland affairs and refusing to identify with mainlanders as their compatriots. Valorizing Hong Kong values, way of life, and ethnic identity as distinct and separated from mainlanders is the only way out. From a nativist point of view, only on the basis of Hong Kong’s ethnic subjectivity can the city resist “Chinese colonization” and fight for autonomy. Here one observes how a discourse articulates the mundane experience with the presence of “China,” such as visitors, new immigrants, China news, etc. with ethnic implications and further blend these into an imagination of political community, political demands, and blueprint.
“The Gundam Incident” It is understandable that the nativist favor is often found in the recent attacks on welfare system in Hong Kong. “The Gundam Incident” is an interesting case. On August 22, 2013, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) reported that the population of poor people in Hong Kong had increased to 1.16 million and proposed that the government allocate $4.8 billion for income subsidy to families living below the poverty line. While reporting this news, a Television Broadcasts (TVB) reporter interviewed a family of three. The mother, who had come to Hong Kong many years ago, talked about the conditions of the family and their difficulties. During the interview she said that if her family received support, her son would be able to eat better. “I wish that my son could eat better. Nowadays ‘even butter’ (beef) is so expensive,” she said. Her accented Cantonese and mispronunciation caused a misunderstanding. In a post on Facebook entitled “Stop zogaau1 Advocating Universal Love and Tolerance,” a netizen called Fat Tsoi accused the mother in the interview of deceiving the audience by pretending to be poor (for details, please read Ip and
90 Neoliberal populism Yick, 2013). A group of netizens commented and shared the post widely. Over 3,000 people shared the post on their Facebook pages within one week. Apart from sharing the post on their Facebook pages, netizens also talked about the incident ardently on other platforms, such as Hong Kong Golden Forum. The web was suddenly filled with racial slurs against mainlanders. The criticisms of netizens involved mainly three issues. First, some netizens, who watched the interview on the screen, noticed that the interviewed family had a few boxes of Gundam series models (a Japanese TV animation series featuring giant robots with the name “Gundam”). They therefore accused the family of spending money on expensive toys while claiming that they were too poor to buy “butter.” They said that the family was ridiculous or they wanted to deceive the audience. Second, a lot of criticisms targeted the identity of the mother as a new immigrant from the Mainland. She was blamed for her greed and some portrayed her as one of the new immigrants from the Mainland who allegedly always cheat for welfare. Third, some netizens targeted HKCSS and social workers for helping these greedy people and defending their wrongdoings. They were labeled as zogaau (“leftist pricks”), referring to liberal-leftists who pretentiously adhere to socio-economic justice and support wealth redistribution without regard to the social reality. Upon learning what had happened, Ronald Yik, an online columnist, sought information from the reporter and the social worker about the details. The social worker clarified three points. First, the mother was talking about “beef” and not “butter”; second, she had lived in Hong Kong for more than seven years, so she was legally a permanent resident in Hong Kong; third, her husband worked as a cross-border truck driver. Yik subsequently wrote an article to clarify some of the facts. He also mentioned that the family was not a recipient of CSSA (Yick, 2013), and the family income (HK$12,000) was slightly higher than the poverty line (HK$11,750). The rent of the partitioned flat they lived was so high that it accounted for more than a quarter of the family income. Yik concluded that the attack on the family was not justified and argued for expanding the scope of the welfare system to cover the people like this couple and their son. Yik’s article drew another wave of attack and flood of strongly worded replies, but the focus shifted to the question of how the husband of the interviewee owned the Gundam models. Yik mentioned in his article that “the husband of the interviewee was a truck driver for transporting toys,” and “because of his work, it was quite natural for him to have some Gundam models.” Some netizens accused the husband and father of theft. Two weeks later, the reporter who had conducted the interview wrote an article to further clarify matters and to respond to netizens’ criticisms. She confirmed most of what Yik said and felt sorry that the interviewee had come under attack from netizens. She explained that the case was intended to illustrate the proposal of HKCSS. Whether the interviewee was a new immigrant or not was not the point. The interviewee had never complained about her poverty. In response to her questions, the interviewee had mentioned about her family’s income, daily expenses, and her view on the proposal.
Neoliberal populism 91 The usage of “new immigrants” in this case is quite common in public discourses. This term has been widely used by Hong Kongers and the media since 1990s, but its meaning is so malleable that it does not simply refer to the new arrivals, but also indicate the “mainlandness” of the non-locally born citizens, especially those coming to Hong Kong after the 1980s. Chinese from other parts of the world and other ethnicities, such as South Asians (who are given other bad names) or white people, are rarely referred to as “new immigrants.” Second, “new immigrants” is usually a label for low income people. As Hon-chu Leung (2004) argues, this term is by no means defined by residential period. Neither does permanent residency granted by the immigration department matter. Hence, it comes as no surprise that this term is still applicable to a woman with permanent residency in the Gundam incident. Instead, “new immigrants” are often used to refer to the “outsiders” of the so-called “normal” cultural and economic life of Hong Kong, in particular language, accent and the work ethics that emphasizes self-reliance and a consumerist lifestyle. It is part of a local discourse of neoliberalism as well as an attempt to construct a Hong Kong identity. What makes the Gundam incident more noteworthy is the netizens’ imagination which quickly gave rise to a vivid image of a “mainland family in Hong Kong” made up of characters with distinctive personality, motivation and behavior. This image conforms less to the portrayal of “social welfare breeds lazy people” than to the stereotype of “greedy mainlanders” who lie to gain sympathy and feel smug about their tricks. The Gundam series models, a sort of expensive toys, and their unreasonable complaint about their own poverty (not affording butter) provide evidence to prove that mainlanders are all highly motivated swindlers who attempt to cheat the public and give pressure to the government for gaining more social resources. Hence, mainlanders are not imagined as a subject absolutely alien to Hong Kong culture or society, as Leung points out. They represent an ungovernable figure who belongs to and comes from the outside but sabotages the inside. The family portrayed by the reporter lives an ordinary life of the lower-class people in Hong Kong. Collectible toys like Gundam are also quite common among young adults in Hong Kong. But the toys suddenly became a piece of evidence to support the racialized and neoliberal imagination. The mother’s accented Cantonese, her remarks on her poverty, and the reporter’s news frame for welfare reform suggest an aversive image of mainlanders lurking in many locals’ minds. The family’s cultural proximity to the Hong Kong society, does not mitigate the attack on mainlanders, but ironically contributes to the plot that an increasing number of “new Chinese immigrants,” mostly welfare recipients, have been latent for seizing every chance to rob the city of its welfare and other social resources. It is a racist reading and development of the discourse on the others of homo economicus. In this light, unlike the previous attack on the welfare system for “breeding lazy people,” the nativist-neoliberal discourse shifts the attention to the relationship between China and Hong Kong. For example, Martin Oei, a pro-nativist columnist, said that the main reason why many Hong Kongers are antipathetic to new immigrants from the Mainland was that the latter always want money
92 Neoliberal populism from Hong Kongers and the Hong Kong government. Since their departure for Hong Kong was approved by mainland public security departments, they did not have to submit any documents about their financial status to Hong Kong’s Immigration Department. After they arrive in Hong Kong, their residency in the mainland would be annulled and the Chinese authority does not have to shoulder their welfare expenses. These people who no longer have the right to live in their own home towns can only turn to Hong Kongers for money. (Oei, 2011a) For him and other nativists, the mainlanders’ greed and impetus are hardly to be contained. A critical understanding of the nativist voices behind the attack on welfare recipient sheds new light on the controversy over the lifting of the seven-year residency restriction on CSSA application, which is mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. The worry about the uncontrollable increase in social welfare expenditure sounds like conventional right-wing economic notion. But beneath it is a racist imagination in which mainlanders are imagined to have “an insatiable appetite” and “know how to maneuver”: Chinese nowadays are particularly good in taking advantage of such loopholes in systems and take as much as they can. Now you remove the mechanism to show ‘we are the world’ in the hope that they would abide by the rule and take only when they are in need? Now you cannot even make them line up, why do you think you can do that? You have underestimated the appetite of Chinese. (Lu, 2013a) In the quote above, the uncontrollability and ungovernability of mainland Chinese are highlighted again. Another online writer said: I don’t mean to look at the people of the powerful country through colored glasses, but the fact is that most of them are not only less civilized, they are also impolite, loud, inconsiderate, tell blatant lies and are highly capable of copying others (producing fake products, gutter oil, etc.), robbery and porn business, etc. Self-taught, they have become skilful in every business and in their eyes, human lives are expendable. Once they are allowed to enter Hong Kong and knowing that they can get money without having to work, they would definitely become more imaginative and can produce something ten thousand times more awesome than gutter oil. (c98137208[Philip], 2013) Compared with the figure of “lazy people bred by the welfare system,” the racialized other of homo economicus is a subject ascribed an agency to act, to
Neoliberal populism 93 trespass, and to destroy. According to the nativists, the threat from China has always been there. The existing political and constitutional institutions, maintaining Hong Kong–China separation, have marginally contained it. The wall of separation is falling piece by piece. The ruling of the court against the sevenyear residency restriction would result in the collapse of the boundary. Some used “a coop with no door,” a Cantonese saying, to describe the impact of the ruling. Chin Wan put it more bluntly that the ruling is a death sentence for Hong Kong because it “mingles the two ethnic groups—Hong Kongers and mainlanders” (Chin, 2013). The fear of the disappearance of the so-called ethnic boundary and the sentiment that there was a pressing need to delineate and to maintain ethnic territorial integrity was very obvious. City-State Forum, a group close to Chin Wan, published an advertisement in which they claimed that the ruling allowed “the identity and the rights of Hong Kongers to be taken over by ‘non-permanent residents’ ” (City-State Forum, 2014). They therefore demanded that the Basic Law be revised so that Hong Kong may regain the right to review and to approve immigrants from the Mainland.
The birth of zogaau In the Gundam incident, the netizens did not only target the others of homo economicus and “the ethnic other” but also those who were called zogaau in recent years. The term zogaau is first used on the Internet and eventually appears in media. From my preliminary research, the term first appeared on the Internet in 2008 when some netizens commented on economic and welfare policies, such as the issue of statutory minimum wage. Initially the term was only applied to politicians and social activists who seek social and economic justice. However, in recent years, the term has increasingly taken on an ethnic tone. According to Lam Kay, a famous nativist critic, the term zogaau was invented and used by him and some right-wing commentators, such as Simon Lee and Andrew Shuen, in their daily conversation around 2007 or 2008 (Lam, 2016). Both Lee and Shuen are founders of the Lion Rock Institute. As early as 2009, Lam referred those who supported a ban against idling of car engines as zogaau. But in the article, his usage was not specific and covered a wide range of ill-conceived views and pretentious left-wing slogans on issues such as environmental protection, statutory minimum wage, regulation of pornography etc (Lam, 2009). In 2011, Martin Oei, probably the first person to use the term zogaau to refer to a specific group of politicians and activists, published a blog post on March 2, 2011 to comment on the government’s cash handout scheme, giving out $6,000 to each holder of Hong Kong permanent identity card (Oei, 2011b). It was used to describe the pan-democratic legislators and others who criticized the government’s plan for benefiting only permanent Hong Kong residents. Oei believed that the benefit should only be confined to “Hong Kong citizens.” “New immigrants” were not qualified as “Hong Kong citizens” in the full sense. His comments are not exceptional. In the eyes of the nativists, zogaau are accomplices harboring the mainlanders, and sometimes
94 Neoliberal populism even CCP, who are invading and eroding Hong Kong society. In sum, zogaau are traitors of Hong Kong. From Lam’s article to Oei’s comments, one could identify the semantic shift of the term zogaau, from a position or ideology in the western-style political spectrum to a loosely defined group of people betraying Hong Kong. From the nativist perspective, the problem of zogaau lies less in politicaleconomic views than in the so-called zogaau’s refusal to endorse the nativist agenda, maintaining the ethnic boundary. Their betrayal of Hong Kong is felt so much that the attacks are beyond verbal fights. The case of the seven-year residency requirement for application of CSSA is exemplary of the intensity of the nativist pursuit. The ruling was a result of a judicial review launched by a woman supported by the Society for Community Organization and its heads, Ho Hei-wah and Tsoi Yiu-cheong. They were subsequently blasted as “zogaau who betrayed Hong Kong.” Apart from verbal abuse and threats on the net, in the New Year march in 2014, someone threw placards at Tsoi and surrounded him in protest. Although the term zogaau has been popular in the political talk of Hong Kong, especially on the Internet, one would be mistaken in believing that all people bashing zogaau share the same political agenda. This political label, catchy enough to mock and belittle the left-leaning parties, politicians and their views, is often mobilized by the nativists to challenge the pan-democrats and social activists for the leadership of the opposition movement. Its meaning points to an ever-changing set of differences – left-wing opinion leaders, politicians, social workers, and social movement leaders. Compared to the attacks on new immigrants as a group, those on zogaau target concrete persons, especially celebrities, by destroying their reputation, undermining public support to them, and labeling them as traitors or yielding to CCP. The case of the Hong Kong Television Network’s (HKTV) is a typical example. The Hong Kong government had been dragging its feet on processing its license application since 2009. In 2013, the application was rejected formally while two licenses were granted to the subsidiaries of two existing television service providers. Riding on a strong and massive outcry against the decision on social media, a left-leaning group called “Left21” took the lead to organize a protest on October 21. In the midst of rally, some nativists and pro-nativist citizens broke into the main stage to drive away the organizers for various reasons ranging from poor leadership, advancing hidden agenda, to charity fraud (Cheng, 2014). Afterwards, the organizers responded to the criticisms and denied some accusations (Au, 2014). The raging voices against zogaau continued on the Internet. More conflicts between nativist groups and pan-democrats or left-wing social activists happened during the 79 days of occupation of the Umbrella Movement in 2014. The movement, despite connected with the campaign of Occupy Central initiated by Benny Tai Yiu-ting and others, is so spontaneous and massive that the leadership barely earned the trust of most participants. The desire and fantasy of practicing horizontalist connective action also form a haunting subtext. Slogans such as “No one represents me” and “There is no
Neoliberal populism 95 organizer but the crowd,” chanted by some occupants, offered a convenient justification for some nativist groups to undermine the ad hoc and weakly organized leadership of the student leaders. In the early phase of occupation, there were already posters of the faces of some so-called zogaau, social activists of the previous anti-national education movement (2012) and the campaign for preserving Star Ferry and Queen’s Piers (2016/2017), seen everywhere in the occupied sites. In fact, they were by no means the key organizers of the Umbrella Movement. Following zogaau-bashing, the intense conflicts then aroused over the management of the “main stage” (datai), such as arranging and inviting speakers to address the crowd on the stage in November 2014. Then it further developed into the confrontation between the pro-student leaders’ groups and those who attempted to abolish the stage. The labels were also given to the student leaders and pan-democrats for their refusal to escalate actions against the authorities and sticking with their own non-violent principles. By doing so, some nativist groups and parties gained popularity and even electoral votes. This political process might not help push forward the neoliberal agenda much, but it at least de-legitimizes the arguments for social reform. The debate on the viability and feasibility of the universal pension scheme (UPS) to provide sufficient and stable income for elderly people is an indicative example. There has been a long-standing campaign for setting up UPS to address the inadequate social protection offered by the Mandatory Pension Fund (MPF, contributed by employees and employers only) and CSSA (means-tested) (Wong, 2015). Although it is true that there are some criticisms of the proposal of UPS on the pro-nativism websites and forums (Huwangxiatian, 2015; WuliqiuD, 2016), there is no evidence to show the existence of a strong consensus on this issue among nativists. However, some critics deliberately invoke a nativist perspective. For example, Hung, based on his observation of the opinions on HKGolden Forum, asserts a perspective of “local (bentu) youth” (Hung, 2015). The term bentu here is ambivalent that it may refer simply to “locally born” or “holding a nativist view.” Critics like Hung pointed out that the China government, rather than Hong Kong government, has the power to vet mainlanders’ applications for settlement in Hong Kong, which is increasingly the major source of population growth due to the low birth rate of the city. In other words, Hong Kong’s future population composition is unpredictable and tightly controlled by China government. Therefore it is difficult or even impossible for anyone to plan and design a pension scheme benefiting the locals and to solve the aging problem of the society. In this light, they found UPS was not fair in requiring the current young generation to contribute their income to this scheme for supporting the elderly (Hung, 2015). There were even speculations that the government would make use of UPS to channel public money into the pockets of the mainlanders in the future. The ungovernability of mainlanders, the fear of it, and unpredictability are invoked again to override the concern of social security proposed by the proponent of UPS (Huang, 2015). The logic runs in this way: If we are not able to govern the population from the Mainland, any claim to “society” or “social interest” is meaningless. Even worse,
96 Neoliberal populism behind the mainlanders is China’s tyranny. In the name of “fairness and justice,” people should take responsibility for their own retirement life and security individually. They should only count on their individual effort, talents, and luck. Some critics and netizens explicitly attribute the UPS to a zogaau’s scam for benefiting the “locusts” (Youmaxiansheng, 2015) or canvassing votes (Qianzai, 2016). They even refer the proposal of UPS to China’s socialist planning and “People’s Commune.” Despite their different rhetoric and arguments, what these views share is an appeal to Hong Kong young people. Interestingly enough, right-wing economists, without mentioning the issue of the power to vet mainlanders’ applications for settlement, fully endorse the argument that the young people will only contribute a lot to, but gain nothing from any UPS (Yuen, 2015; Lui, 2016). In 2015, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam also appealed to the young generation to question the fairness of UPS (RTHK, 2015). The consultation document on UPS (Commission on Poverty, 2015) also highlights that “the burden of taxation to be borne by the younger generations will be much heavier in the future” (Commission on Poverty, 2015: 22).
Conclusion Between 2007 and 2008, Lam Hang-chi, founder of Hong Kong Economic Journal, one of the media outlets for introducing neoliberal economics and promoting neoliberal ideas in the 1980s, said that he felt some regrets for having righteously defended the capitalist system. After witnessing socio-economic equalities and injustices, he admitted that he no longer “blindly believes in the free market” (Lam, 2007). Lam’s faithful readers were quite shocked by his change. Lam’s slight turn to left epitomizes the change of neoliberalism in Hong Kong. Over the last two decades, the influence of neoliberal economics has declined and the critiques of the neoliberal programs, especially those under the rubric of anti-globalization, have gained popularity. People have become more skeptical of the deregulation of the financial industry and other economic sectors. In Hong Kong, the first wave of localization of neoliberalism in Hong Kong was no longer in vogue. However, bits and pieces of the ideas, rhetoric, and arguments have gained new meanings in the recent surge of right-wing nativism. Compared to columnists advocating free market economy or scholars upholding classical economics in the 1980s, right-wing nativists’ attacks on Hong Kong’s social welfare system and its reform, thanks to its populist stance on the Internet, have drawn much more attention and are more provocative. In fact, the few remaining critics and think tanks of the economic right-wing have been distancing themselves from nativists. For example, they have always demanded that the CSSA system be changed so as to forestall long-term dependence and to prevent people from taking advantage of loopholes in the system. However they oppose targeting new immigrants. Some even explicitly deny that there is any “local interest” (Wang, 2013; Xu, 2013). However, their voices have been nearly completely subdued or replaced by right-wing nativism in the debate on social welfare.
Neoliberal populism 97 Taking over the issues related to social welfare, nativism has absorbed some vocabulary, ideas, and imaginaries of neoliberalism, yet not in full and systematic sense but in selective and fragmented manners. The nativists racialize the imaginary other of homo economicus as mainlanders coming to Hong Kong to encroach on and spoil the city’s public resources. Their neoliberal distrust of the state was fueled by their discontent with the status quo and fear of Hong Kong’s prospect. In their eyes, the social security system would only provide unregulated resources benefiting the wrong people (mainlanders) and cheating others (the locals and the youth). The pre-eminent message delivered by nativists is not a fairy-tale of market equilibrium, individual liberation, and promise of freedom. Instead, the nativists create an agonizing subject for themselves with an injunction of self-government, self-protection, and self-management in response to the ungovernable threat or even doomsday scenarios. Neoliberalism, as Peck notes, is not what used to be or it can never be what it used to be or is supposed to be (2010b: 106; Wacquant, 2009). Compared with the varied projects of jiyu/geiyju discussed in Chapter 3 as a form of “rollout neoliberalism,” nativism has become an ideological arm to pull back any reform for wealth redistribution and social security, i.e. “roll-in neoliberalism.” Without any sense of social integrity or solidarity, social reform is unimaginable and all debates on political economy and social policy are ruled out. While “rollout neoliberalism” comes through on the promise of co-prosperity of Hong Kong and China, nativism brings out a fear and distrust of the state and social policy per se. This coupling is probably most appropriately characterized in terms of symbiosis rather than collaboration, which is registered in a new claim to “Hong Kong.”
Notes 1 In Cantonese, the pronunciation of the Chinese word gaau, despite literally meant “plastic,” comes close to the vulgar word of “penis” (gau). The term gaau is substituted for gau for delivering the anger and vulgarity in a mild way. The latter word is often blended in verbal abuses, such as ngonggau (fucking stupid), for characterizing somebody as foolish or acting stupid.
7 Poised between two times Young men, temporality, and identity politics
Some young people, holding loudspeakers, yelled at the people sitting on the lawn. These youngsters accused the crowd of inaction. “Do you still remember why you started!? What the hell are doing by staying there? Many people have already crossed the road! When will you wake up? We are on the verge of death. You still stick to your principles of “peace, rationality, non-violence, politeness!” These remarks, like an angry song or a passionate preaching, were heard all night and in every corner of the occupied zone. It bombarded those who did not rush onto the main road. (K.-f. Chan, 2015)
Time as an object Chan King-fai, once an icon of the “Post-80s” youth in 2009, is now regarded by many young people as belonging to the old generation of social activists. He described an incident of the Umbrella Movement during the campaign of socalled “Step up the Action” on November 30, 2014. With his strong belief in civil disobedience, he got frustrated by the remarks made by the nativists during the besiege of government offices. These young activists called for an act of supreme identification with group values by invoking a strong sense of urgency for actions. What followed was serious confrontations with police who then pepper sprayed protesters, wrestled some of them to the ground, and arrested them. While some found these actions in vain, for others, it was a necessity without any room for deliberations and contemplation of principles. Escalating the conflict with the authorities is the only option. But having said that, most activists in the Umbrella Movement still used defensive tactics rather than attacking the riot police. Yet, in the Mong Kok riot in 2016, the conflicts evolved into the scene of direct assaults on the less prepared police and setting fire to rubbish bins. A lot of nativists were involved in it. To strike back, the riot police swarmed to the streets and arrested rioters. A significant number of them were convicted of rioting, and then sentenced to jail later. In the summer of 2019, more intense confrontations happened amid the anti-extradition law protests. What interests me most is not the effectiveness of their tactics, engaging in a set of selective and violent interactions with the authorities mostly represented
Poised between two times 99 by police. Instead, their eagerness to act reminds me of the line “C’est la lutte finale” of the Internationale, the left-wing anthem, I sang in rallies for many times in the past. However, I did not have their sense of urgency at all. Now the nativists, by no means left-leaning activists, fashioned their populist rhetoric and sometimes even far-right racism against mainland Chinese. Another feature that intrigues me is a deep discontinuity between the pressing moments and their everyday life, i.e. ephemeral moments of heightened vitality and bodily strength, and the normal time of everyday life characteristic of routines, boredom, and fatigue. As the previous chapters mentioned, since 2011, there has emerged a concern about the state of the city, exemplified by the hit phrase “The city is dying, you know?,” a quote from a local television drama. Dying as a metaphor refers to an extended period of depression, declining, and approaching death. In contrast to this possibly long lasting, if not forever, dying process, there are some particular moments that time abruptly presents itself to consciousness as pressing. In the midst of the year-long political storm, including the Umbrella Movement (2014), and the Mong Kok riot (2016) and a series of Hong Kong– Mainland China conflicts, time suddenly becomes an object filled with political passions and imperatives of action. People desperately need, invoke, and seize some forms of punctuated time. How activists deal with the discontinuity between the dead time and the active time is the major theme of this chapter. I use a discussion of Hong Kong young activists’ predicament to argue for an approach to the study of politics and culture, one attuned to temporal multiplications.
Temporal multiplications It is commonplace to regard time as a critical dimension constitutive of social life (Giddens, 2007: 127; Fabian, 1983: 24; Bourdieu, 2000: 206). The making of time, manifesting itself at different levels, mostly entails the naturalized and given cycles, routines, and schedules to which one is obliged to adhere. For example, the making of industrial capitalism and the modern state were accompanied with the synchronization of clock time with work discipline (Thompson, 1967). Others put more emphasis on the multiplicity and longterm diffusion of industrial time consciousness and discipline (Glennie and Thrift, 1996). Since the late 1980s, social experience of velocity and acceleration permeates the contemporary discussion on capitalism, culture, and human conditions. But temporal experience is not only about speed, i.e. the rate at which one changes, moves, operates or innovates, as the notions of “time compression” (Harvey, 1989) and “fast capitalism” (Agger, 1989) suggest. But sometimes one may come across the occasions that time is perceived as a figure standing out in experience, rather than implicit in the mundane world. In other words, time is foregrounded as something problematic. When the naturalized flow of time is broken, we might find time running out of control. Or we feel compelled to seize a particular moment as a rare opportunity for taking a detour
100 Poised between two times and embracing a new future (Frederiksen and Dalsgård, 2014: 5). When time becomes contested and articulated with political actions, it lends itself to an object of material entity and matters of concern. The discussion on temporality emphasizes event as a moment for actualizing an alternative relationship to the naturalized and normalized time. To quote Walter Benjamin, this is a moment at which “the past can be seized only as an image which flashes up” (Benjamin, 1968: 255). Event stands as a redemptive disruption of the linear and homogeneous process. Foucault highlights event as central to his analytics of power. By doing so, he makes his genealogical analytics distinct from other approaches to discourse analysis and shift scholarly attention to the historically situated effects of power out of which new subjects emerge (Hook, 2001; Foucault, 1991). Benjamin and Foucault, despite their different theoretical concerns and orientations, both refer to a disrupted time. This view on time sheds light on activism as an eventful moment when participants have been oriented to bodily intensity and new public discourse. At the time, activists become a subject with a new power – invested modality of enunciation, thereby rescuing agency from the coerced present and daunting prospect. It is an instant ungrounding of the present, in Deleuze’s sense, disrupting the long-established ethico-political commitment for actualizing a potential for different ways of becoming (Deleuze, 1995: 202). Ontologically this view is similar to Paul Ricoeur’s idea of fiction as a split between the lived time and the “world” or “historical” time (Ricoeur, 1988: 128). Following Ricoeur, Jacques Rancière (2010: 125) sees artistic practices as creating ruptures which remove us from our assigned roles, prescribed meanings, and imposed historical destiny. The theoretical speculations above are centered around a sort of “critical temporality.” They echo the re-problematization of “youth” as a disrupted and discrete time of personal growth, rather than a transitional period. Modern child psychologists tend to foreclose the possibilities of youth by defining it as a period departing from the dependency of childhood adolescence and not yet arriving at the “normal” stage of adulthood. For example, both Eric Erikson (1950) and Bärbel Inhelder and Jean Piaget (1958) propose stage theories for placing the youth in the path of personal development. The former develops Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual theory to lay out the ladder of growth. The latter adopts a structuralist view to elaborate the different stages of constructing cognitive schema. They assume youth as moving toward the final stage of adulthood characterized by equilibrium, stability, and formal regulation. Jeffrey Arnett develops the more flexible concept of “emerging adulthood” to make room for understanding people’s exploration of possible futures and refraining from making long-term decisions (Arnett, 2000: 469). Yet these perspectives fall short of reducing the dynamics of the life course to cumulative and progressive series of stages without sufficient attention to reversibility and detours (Baron, Riddell and Wilson, 1999: 484). Bynner (2005) fundamentally questions developmental psychologists’ basic premise of “stage” and argues for a critical understanding of the variety of experience. Valentine (2003) advocates more attention to youth’s identity in their performative practices. The possibilities of
Poised between two times 101 becoming or “going on,” radically different from the path toward putative “adulthood,” should not be ruled out (Bucholtz, 2002; Horton and Kraftl, 2006a, 2006b; Worth, 2009). Testament to the importance of youth as a critical temporality is the debate on youth and political engagement. In many western countries, there is a lot of evidence showing that youth’s political participation does not live up to the adults’ expectations. Scholars who highlight the shrinking of youths’ participation in electoral democracy (Ipsos MORI, 2015; Kimberlee, 2002; Park, 2004; Russell et al., 2002) tend to assume a normalized path of civic engagement in western-style democracy. The thesis of youth de-politicization, largely based on surveys of political attitudes and behaviors, is accompanied with a worry about the long-term viability of representative politics and the political immaturity of youth. In contrast to this thesis, there is increasing research focusing on youth’s alternative paths of political becoming: sentiment against conventional politics, unconventional repertoires of action, issue-cause oriented mobilization, and strong concerns with micro-politics (Norris, 2003; Benedicto, 2013; Sloam and Henn, 2019). Most of these characteristics suggest political engagement as an emotionally charged moment, such as referendum, occupation, and even riot, which clashes with or even disrupts the gradual movement of time coordinated by representative democracy, legislation, and political deliberations. Against the background of these theoretical reflections on time, youth, and politics, this chapter attempts to address an issue that has been largely overlooked. Large-scale actions and protest events do not last long, especially for the young people who first engage in politics. After social and political agitations, an activist might get stuck in a world characterized by extreme individuality, powerlessness, and apathy again. The very experience of everyday life most often marries objection and resistance with acceptance and endurance. In this constellation of temporal experiences, how to derive meanings and agency from the present and near future becomes a difficult task. The normal chaos caused by temporal clashes and discontinuities prevails over activists or any concerned citizens. In other words, the connection and disconnection between the critical temporalities of social mobilization and the normalized time are the major theme of this chapter. Political conflicts are definitely peculiar to Hong Kong youth and the society at large. After the youth rebellions in the Kowloon Riot in 1966 and the radical youth movement in the 1970s, there were barely any massive youth movements until around 2009. Over the past ten years, a series of protests primarily led by young people that struck Hong Kong society and the authorities. They include the post-1980s protesters against the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL), the campaign against the national education subject, the Umbrella Movement, and the Mong Kok riot surprised the government, the pro-establishment parties and even the opposition camp. The mainstream society of Hong Kong never conceived and expected young people to be engaged in politics so passionately. Neither did most people know how to handle the political passion of the youth. For example, in the past, there was a long-standing
102 Poised between two times stereotype that young people are politically apathetic. Against this background, the Education Bureau introduced Liberal Studies as a compulsory subject in the senior secondary curriculum in 2009. It aims to arouse students’ awareness of public affairs, develop their global vision, and strengthen their critical minds. Ironically, not long after this subject was launched, some pro-establishment politicians and educators began to worry about young people’s political passions. They keep accusing the subject of misleading students to engage in “shallow debates on the issues of the day without the benefits of in-depth research and time-proven theories and principles to guide them in analysing contentious issues with rigor and discipline” (Wong, 2016; Cheng, 2018). There are many voices from the pro-government camp to review it, make it elective, or even scrap it right away. Likewise, intense political engagement, definitely a new and unprecedented experience for most young people, is not consistent with the role prescribed by their parents and schools for them. Their political engagement represents either a suspension of or a detour beyond the normalized path of personal growth. I develop my research interest in activism and temporal experiences out of my study of 30 young activists, largely male and aged between 16 and 24 over the past two years. More than half of them identified themselves as nativists who make political claims to the identity of Hong Kong in one way or another. The moment of their activism is even more disruptive to Hong Kong’s political order and themselves as well because the identity claims, such as separating Hong Kong from China and political independence, are fundamentally rejected by the current political system. Although their engagement in momentary upsurge shocked the city, they encountered difficulties in binding their radical causes to conventional politics and everyday life. Most informants of my research are young men of lower-middle class background. Their stories echo the recent scholarly tendency to address young men’s anxieties about time (Jeffrey, 2010: 11; Cole and Durham, 2002; Comaroff and Comaroff, 2000). Over the past two years, I interviewed them, conducted field observation of their political activities, and recorded their online interactions. My research question is: What are the multiple temporal structures of their new political experiences? How do they narrativize the identity of Hong Kong by justifying their actions and positions from their temporal perspectives? How do they handle their sudden incursions into political agitations in their everyday life and future prospects? I will first discuss the changes in how political time has been imagined and experienced in Hong Kong’s late- and post-colonial years. Then I focus on the stories of three activists to discuss their implications for our understanding of youth activism and temporality.
Hong Kong’s disjointed time Although Hong Kong had been brought into the trajectory of imperialism and western modernity by the colonial power since the nineteenth century, there was no long-term project of nation-building or development plunging the local
Poised between two times 103 people as an organic whole into any evolutionary temporality in a potent manner until the second half of the twentieth century. In general, what concerned the colonial government most was how to manage a politically stable social order and a business hub in the middle of the changing international economy and geopolitics. It was not until the rise of the notion of “Four Asian Dragons” in the 1970s that the power elites reconfigured the notions of linear time into an evolutionary vision of capitalistic social and economic development, eventually shared by the populace. It was also the time when most local people began to see Hong Kong as their home town with an evolutionary vision of development. They imagined themselves as a socio-cultural unity in the unfolding of progress (Chakrabarty, 2000: 256; Williams, 1985). This hegemonic temporality rendered Hong Kong comparable to other modernized capitalist regions or countries. Against this post-Cold War background, Hong Kong, alongside other newly industrialized countries in East Asia, served as a capitalist model for China’s economic reform in the 1980s. The geopolitical shift in communal imagination above coincided with the talk of the problems of “Hong Kong political prospect” in the early 1980s. All dust settled with embarking on the journey of “returning to China” in 1997 under the rubrics of “One Country, Two Systems,” “High Degree of Autonomy,” and “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong.” Apart from maintaining the status quo and the “current” system, the Beijing government made promises of a “better tomorrow.” For example, political reform toward universal suffrage is a key agenda item, yet without a clearly charted road map. The local community perceived itself as occupying the waiting room of national unification and democratization. A particular model of political life, since then, has been mapped onto chronological time and become endorsed in laws and institutions. However, the political aspirations for continuing Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and a “better tomorrow” were always tainted by political uncertainties and fear, such as the crackdown on the Beijing student movement in 1989. On the one hand, the pan-democratic parties fashioned themselves as the firm believers in democratization in Hong Kong and China as well. On the other hand, they canvassed public support in elections by fueling people’s fear of China government’s political interference into Hong Kong. A significant portion of the overall Hong Kong people accepted national unification with reluctance and skepticism. In the post-handover era, while the pro-establishment elites repeatedly attempt to bind the society of Hong Kong with the time of Chinese national rejuvenation and economic triumphalism, the pan-democrats and their supporters have met with increasing difficulties in positioning themselves firmly in the evolutionary timeline of democratization under the rule of China. The Beijing government’s hardening stance on Hong Kong’s transition to full formal democracy with universal suffrage has compromised people’s confidence in the city’s political prospect, not to mention the increasingly authoritarian rule in the Mainland. The widening gap between the promise and reality of Hong Kong’s political development after 1997 has drawn more enthusiastic participation by
104 Poised between two times youngsters. Meanwhile, as the previous chapters point out, since around 2010, following the further economic and social exchanges between Hong Kong and the Mainland, the anti-China sentiment has run high. All these political and social grievances contribute to the outbreak of the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and the following political agitations. A significant number of Hong Kong people, including those in pursuit of separatism, get frustrated by their future inextricably bound up with China. They feel alienated to the historical narrative of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.” Put it simply, the assumptions about time on which the notion of democratization rests has become increasingly problematic. While many Hong Kong– Mainland relationships have become questionable and politicized, the faith in democracy as a long and progressive duration is obscured by a sense of urgency for rescuing Hong Kong from falling down. Engaging in politics in terms of antagonism and exclusion, a new breed of activists further bring hitherto hidden conflicts out into the open. This sort of contestations, recentering multiple conflicts in the self-founding political subjectivity and community, is premised on an urgent imperative to act at an intense conjuncture. Many people conceive their political struggles as a deadly battle in territorialized vocabularies, such as “occupation,” “reclaim/restoration/recovery” ( guangfu), and “driving away” (qugan), rather than in long-term temporality. The struggles are discrete moments invested heavily with emotion. Hong Kong has been undergoing a disorienting transition from the relatively anticipated time to the “disjointed time.”
Williams: nostalgic nationalism When I first met Williams, aged 22, in 2016, he regarded himself as the only nativist student in his university who was bold enough to stand out to lead the campaign for breaking away from the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), as they were not happy with how it handled the Umbrella Movement and its alleged “pro-Greater Chinese” stance. The story of his political engagement is all about a deep distrust of political institutions that are perceived as working against the interests of ordinary people. Williams remembers, when he was still a junior higher student, he felt excited by watching the TV news about the trio of the League of Social Democracy (Kok-hung Leung, Raymond Wong Yuk Man, and Wai-yip Chan) who staged protest and engaged in vandalism in the LegCo. Later on, largely out of his affection for Wong, his maverick action style, and seditious remarks, he followed his turn to nativist causes and had been affiliated with Wong’s political group, Civic Passion, since 2013. Joining its actions and canvassing support in election, he identified himself as one of the devoted followers of Wong and his associates. He attributes his devotion to his personality. Despite his political affiliation and laboring to be Wong’s follower, he often positioned himself as an individual fighter. For example, he rarely wore the uniform of Civic Passion in protests and sometimes stood outside the picket line. He found it more flexible
Poised between two times 105 for him to engage in spontaneous and confrontational actions which were not necessarily endorsed by the leaders. Civic Passion would also not be held responsible for any consequences of his actions. To my surprise, he did not cherish very much his participation in the occupation of Mong Kok during the Umbrella Movement in 2014, as he termed it as a “failure.” Like most nativists, after this “failure,” he then became more determined to insist on their stance and a clear delineation of their struggles, coined as jungmou, radically from other opposition parties. In 2015, he joined the protest against mainland Chinese visitors in Tuen Mun. In his campus, he called for holding referendum to vote for breaking away from HKFS. He even joined the Mong Kok civil unrest in early 2016. After the Mong Kok riot and Edward Leung’s winning 15 percent of the votes in by-election, the nativist camp envisioned a promising future for gaining more political influence. A number of pannativist candidates were fielded to contest the general election in September. Paradoxically, it also boosted young people like Williams to imagine and plan for more aggressive strategies and tactics: At the very beginning, we may probably launch an ambush attack on the police. Then, eventually we might be able to occupy a place. What I mean is not like “Occupy Central”. Instead we would cause paralysis in government operations of a place. What we imagined is a military action like what ISIS did…. (Interview, September 8, 2016) Although the remarks above sound like unrealistic fantasy and a contradiction to his participation in electoral campaign, they demonstrate an urge to take immediate action in an instantaneous moment for profound changes. It is also the only or the most important way for him to embrace a collective body called “Hong Kongers,” a group of people acting forcefully and quickly in concert. However, the city is far from a battle field or undergoing a civil war. His aspiration proves to be hopeless longing and sometimes even results in aggressive and deviant behavior. For example, during the election in 2016, he had a fight with a pro-Beijing supporter during canvassing and was charged with common assault. He was convicted on probation. Despite his efforts and devotions, the election turned out not to be satisfactory for him. Only one of Wong’s political alliances won a seat of the Legislative Council. He explained his frustrations as follows: Now we only have one seat. We are a political party, but a failed and weak one. I feel sort of stuck in the middle. … We couldn’t go underground. Yet, as a political party, we are not powerful enough to do anything significant! (Interview, September 8, 2016) Williams believed that if they had five seats of the LegCo, they would launch a constitutional reform by all citizens through a de facto referendum, in the form
106 Poised between two times of by-election triggered by legislators resigning from the five geographical constituencies respectively. It was intended to give pressure to the Chinese Communist Party to accept the amendment of the Basic Law for guaranteeing the political autonomy of Hong Kong after 2047. Now all is in vain. The liberal democratic ideas of legislation and party politics, theoretically, are prospective in the sense that it plans and coordinates state activities for the future over time in a deliberative and slow manner. But the activists like Williams refuse to acknowledge this prolonged but forward-looking process. Their limited achievement turns out to be irrelevant and even obstructive to potentially radical and immediate actions. After election, he got involved in in-fightings within the Civic Passion and among the nativists for a while. Struggling with his manic depression, he quit the group and since then has become disengaged from politics. On September 28, 2018, he published a post and a photo featuring the beginning of the Umbrella Movement. The photo is a scene of riot police firing tear gas on the same date in 2014 with the following lines: 928. Politics. I woke up with a stretch. I turned on my mobile phone. September 28. It suddenly came to me that, in retrospect, politics makes me lose too much. (Facebook update, September 28, 2018) As he said, what he got from previous political engagement was passion, hope, meanings of life, and friends. But all these were already gone. He described his experience since the Umbrella Movement as ups and downs. Each mobilization, such as Umbrella Movement, Restore Hong Kong Campaign, and Mong Kok riot, rekindled the fire in his heart. He felt excited and then disappointed again and again. Now, “all fire is put out and disappeared”: In the past, I saw politics as the only meaning of my life. I thought I could do something, change something. Now I realize that I could barely change myself. How could I change the world? Looking back on the several years of my political engagement, I found them totally empty. I didn’t get anything. Even worse, I lost a lot. Because of political feuds, I lost friends and myself. With regret, he eventually retreated back into his personal life although he still yearned to restore Hong Kong’s greatness and indulged in his nostalgic nationalism. His political consciousness could be summarized by one of his posts on Facebook. In the summer of 2017, he visited Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, a popular tourist spot for many Hong Kong nativists according to Williams. He could not be certain if it has something to do with the shrine’s centrality to the political strife between Japan and China or the historical memories of the Sino-Japanese
Poised between two times 107 War. In the shrine, there is a museum, called Yūshūkan, the oldest war museum in Japan. He felt very touched by one of the scrolls hanging at the corner. On it a line was written by the right-wing Japanese literary critic Mitsui Kōshi (1883–1953), “The painful lives of those who cared for their country – piled up, and up, and up, protecting the Land of Yamato (an ancient name for Japan).” Although photography was not allowed in the museum, Williams could not help sneaking a picture of it and sharing it on his Facebook status immediately. Williams’ political frustration and nationalist imagination serve as another example of “nostalgia without memory” (Appadurai, 1990: 3). He looked back to a world he never experienced and lost. What facilitates this seemingly pastichelike cultural reproduction is definitely the digitally mediated environment, as a kind of postmodern culture, which offers a sort of “uncanny sense of closeness” to oneself and social life (van Manen, 2010). But what makes Japanese rightwing nationalism and its political images fare so much in this cultural loop is less global cultural production and reception than an aggression against China. This sentiment is not anchored in any common history or narrative shared by the political sects across the region, but built around cultural proximity and re-runs (Iwabuchi, 2002; Jameson, 1983). Williams under the pen name Mingyi had published some blog posts since 2017. The term “Ming-yi” has multiple meanings in Chinese. Given his interest in Confucianism, he might borrow it from Mingyi Daifang Lu, by which Huang Zongxi (1610–1695) made himself known to most Chinese intellectuals. This book, published in the mid-seventeenth century, the time of the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the rise of the Qing Dynasty, is a critique of Chinese despotism and an exposition of the Confucian ideals and principles of good government. And mingyi, the title of the thirty-sixth hexagram in Book of Change (Yijing), means “brightness obscured” or “intelligence repressed.” Huang adopts the metaphysical meaning of this term to refer to a cosmological phase during which “the forces of darkness prevail but the virtuous preserve their integrity, hopefully waiting for the power of evil to wane, hence: Waiting for the Dawn” (de Bary, 1993: 6). But as Williams has not updated his posts for almost two years, I am not sure if he is still have the patience and determination to wait anymore.
Charles: a sectarian youth Over the past two years, most nativists, like Williams, kept their heads down until the recent mobilization against the extradition law. But some have been active by developing their new forms of activism and working on an everyday level. Charles, aged 16, studied in a Band 3 (ranked as the lowest level) secondary school in the New Territories West (NTW) when I first met him. He, despite his young age, founded a pro-independence group in 2016. His experience is exemplary of the capacity of ICTs and Hong Kong’s political structure that empower sectarian group. While a series of social activism aroused his
108 Poised between two times interest in politics, nothing touched his heart very much until 2015 when he joined the campaign of “Restore Hong Kong, Defend The Local,” a series of protests against parallel traders and tourists from Mainland China. Charles admits that democratic struggle for constitutional reform is not his major concern. Instead, concerns over the huge number of mainland tourists and the problems caused by them motivate Charles’s commitment to ethnocracy (see Chapter 4), a pursuit of furthering Hong Kong’s ethnic interests, power, and resources by maintaining separation from “China.” Living close to Yuen Long, another district of NTW, one of the popular communities flooded by an influx of parallel traders and tourists from Mainland China, he strongly feels the “threat” of China which makes his community unrecognizable. The campaign of “Restore Hong Kong” was first initiated on Facebook in 2012 by a handful of local residents in Sheung Shui. It eventually gained its momentum and spilled over to more sites in the New Territories in 2015 after the viral circulation of news, photos, video, updates and comments on Facebook attracted hundreds of people like Charles. In the name of protecting local people’s community and livelihood from the “invasion” by mainlanders, these protests happened in local neighborhoods, rather than in conventional protest sites, and proceeded without leadership of political celebrities and social movement organizations. They featured populist rhetoric, gesture and action style which Charles found very appealing. Becoming a follower of many nativists’ online media and Facebook pages, Charles has acquired more political knowledge and vocabularies, and attempted to position himself in Hong Kong’s political spectrum. Endorsing most conventional right-wing agenda (such as attack on welfare system, anti-feminism, rejection of liberal-leftist concerns and values, etc.), he gradually has identified with the political strategy of jungmou and differentiated it from the moderate stance of the pan-democrats. For him, the meaning of jungmou has shifted constantly from boldness to admit one’s pro-independence stance, direct confrontation with tourists, engaging in fights with police in the Mong Kok riot, canvassing for pro-independence candidates, and further to pro-independence advocacy. Rather than making political stance and strategy consistent, what really matters to him is a new register of dissent distinguishable from the existing opposition parties. These issues, advocacies, and actions, have been launched and managed solely by nativist groups over the years. And most pan-democratic parties refuse to endorse them. The scandalous protests against mainland tourists in the Restore Hong Kong campaign and attacks on police during the Mong Kok riot even drew pan-democrats’ criticisms for their violations of civic principles. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand Charles’s political allegiance to rightwing nativism. His political identity is further strengthened by his participation in the election campaigns for Tin-kei Leung in early 2016 and other nativist candidates in September 2016. After the election, a lot of in-fightings happened within the camp of panlocalists, especially between the Civic Passion and Leung’s Hong Kong Indigenous. Many nativists accused one another of sabotaging the nativist movement
Poised between two times 109 or pro-independence movement. Then their political influence was further undermined by a series of events, such as disqualification of two pro-independence Legislative Council members by the authorities and the imprisonment of a bunch of activists, including Leung, involved in the Mong Kok riot. Interesting enough, these chaos, suppressions, and setbacks by no means undermine Charles’ and his associates’ political will. Instead, with their reinforced populist sentiment, they are eager to continue their pro-independence advocacy in the name of teenagers and young people. He keeps repeating the sense of urgency in the rhetoric of their group’s public statements. For example, he often characterizes Hong Kong’s situation as shuishen huore, literally meant “in deep water and hot fire” or “trapped in an abyss of misery,” and call for immediate action against China’s campaign of “cultural cleansing” and brainwashing. Despite holding dear to the distant goal of Hong Kong independence, he could not offer any transitional plan. Without massive mobilization and lukewarm responses from other groups, Charles’ group wittingly or unwittingly gets stuck in their own sectarianism. Since 2018, Charles’ group and another pro-independence group have become the most active nativist organization in Hong Kong. And there are also massive coverage of Charles by pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspapers, such as Ta Kung Pao. Indeed, although he was singled out by media as one of the most important pro-independence activists, his group and their actions are somewhat of a dispensable oddity in Hong Kong’s political landscape. Amidst the decline of nativism over the past two years, they continue to set up booths on the streets as well as hang up banners to propagate their simple message: “The only true option left for Hong Kong would be independence, however difficult it may be.” Apart from it, they also rally behind secondary school students who were punished by schools for their pro-independence advocacy or protest against the compulsory language policy of Putonghua of their schools. However, probably due to their slightly extremist public image, Charles’ calls have rarely received responses and support from the pan-democrats and other social movement groups. Charles’ group is far from well-organized and disciplined. Hundreds of secondary school students have joined his group throughout the past few years but they keep coming and going constantly. Two years ago, a couple of members and he launched a weekly talk-show program in a pro-independence online channel. At the very beginning, his shyness and poor speech skills did not bring him much attention. But now Charles is almost the talk-show host left alone by others. He has become the only one who continues to serve as the representative and spokesperson of his group. In each regular street action, not more than five members, most of them not acting with enthusiasm, would show up. Their advocacy only draws inquisitive stares. Yet, all these do not prevent Charles from viewing his works, demonstrating his bravery and resilience, as the first step toward Hong Kong independence. Compared to his classmates, Charles has a heightened awareness of Hong Kong’s political prospect. For instance, he finds the period from now to 2047 as a critical moment for political engagement and achieving independence:
110 Poised between two times After 2047, what will happen to us? We have no idea. But my classmates responded to me: “Don’t worry. We will be already dead after 2047”. But … 2047 is not in the distant future. We will still be quite young! … We will be only in our 40s. Now we are 16. If there is no accident, we will have a long life! The “year 2047 problem” is an issue we have to confront. (Interview, October 4, 2016) Charles’ classmates might look ridiculous due to their miscalculation. But it comes as no surprise that most ordinary young people in Hong Kong, unlike Charles, do not care much about Hong Kong’s political prospect. He, at the discursive level, clearly asserts an evolutionary path of struggles for independence and articulates it with his political practices. However, his determination and proactive attitude toward Hong Kong’s political future is not consistent with the fact that he always feels perplexed and at a loss about his own near future. He does not see any option other than taking public examination. As a low-performing student, he does not believe he could pass the examination, not to mention gaining admission into university. Neither does he come up with any alternative plan for his near future. In spite of it, he could not get rid of his desire to emulate most Hong Kong politicians who are middle class, and university degree holders. Once he told me he wants to be like Tin-kei Leung and study political science at university. But he immediately said that it was only a wild dream which would never come true. Charles is an unremarkable student with passable looks. However, his radical political stance and advocacy earn him fame and attention in school, despite little recognition. Given his poor academic performance and radical political stance, he is often slammed or ridiculed by the majority of teachers and students. However, Charles’ engagement in his sectarianism empowers him so much that he feels more confident than before in dealing with adversity. One could tell from the changes of his profile picture on social media, i.e. his self-chosen public representations. Around 2016, when I first met him, he only showed his back, rather his full frontal face, in a black-and-white picture. Later on, he showed more pictures associated with his causes. For example, he tried to use a photo with Tin-kei Leung. A picture displaying him beside his stall on the street was used for a while. Eventually he preferred to use close-up headshots or half-body shots. For example, there was one with serious facial expression, back straight, backlighting and the Chinese characters of “Hong Kong Independence” at the four corners of the photo respectively. Another one was a half-body shot featuring the slogan of “Hong Kong is not China” on his T-shirt. His self-confidence is not confined to his public image, but also his comments on his school teachers: It is fine to talk about my poor academic results (but I passed all subjects at school). It is also fine to mock me in front of many people. But if you [his teachers] suggest that I’m just an incompetent keyboard warrior, you are wrong. Yesterday I was harassed by cops and I knew how to deal with them. So what you said is quite silly and ironic. Let me repeat again: Do I
Poised between two times 111 need to get a selfie of my action as an evidence to prove my competence? What you see sounds to you like bluffing. But if bluffing was the only thing I could do, you would not notice me. (Facebook update, June 5, 2017) He has been undergoing a process of self-empowerment through his involvement in the struggles of jungmou style and his continuous devotion to proindependence propaganda. Political sectarianism helps him reduce the anxiety caused by the gap between his bewilderment about his own future and his assertiveness in political goal. He probably enjoys his struggles with his adversaries within school and on the street. But his iconoclasm is largely regarded by his teachers, classmates, and even the government as a sort of coming-of-age rebellion, less threatening than other separatist parties to the establishment. But his school life could not last long. Whether he will be able to make meaningful connections between his political practices, career planning, and Hong Kong’s political prospect in the future remains unknown.
Kelvin: closeted participation Kelvin dates back the origin of his political awakening to the campaign against national education (2012) when he was 16. The movement led by the secondary school student leader Joshua Wong inspired him that even a teenager could achieve something big. Describing his social awareness as stemming from his open-minded mother and a secondary school teacher, he highlights the importance of the political knowledge he gained from his study of social policy and administration in a community college. He did not participate in any political group or movement until he joined the Umbrella Movement as an ordinary year-1 university student. He eventually identified himself as a nativist when he worked as a volunteer for canvassing support to a nativist candidate of election in 2016. However, compared to Williams and Charles, Kelvin is much less sectarian. He also deliberately distinguishes and distances himself from the political celebrities of the nativist camp: After the Umbrella Movement, many youngsters participated in politics or organized groups concerning “big politics” (dazhengzhi). But their foundations are weak. I find them very rough and sloppy. For example, their political speeches are very rough… and too emotional. … Hong Kongers sometimes are aversive to the organizations of “big politics”. (Interview, December 27, 2017) Kelvin derides most nativist actions, including Charles’ sectarian advocacy of Hong Kong independence and election campaigns for LegCo, as “big politics.” He also finds most nativist groups “too emotional,” “not organized well,” “not politically articulated,” and “lacking preparation in political theory.” More specifically he does not agree with the ways the Youngspiration duo’s oath-taking
112 Poised between two times in the LegCo without considering the adverse and serious political consequences. He characterizes their actions as “hitting a big snag,” a move so reckless that it only did harm, rather than good, to the independence movement. While he voted for Wai-ching Yau and persuaded his parents to support her in the election, he did not expect Yau and Leung to take such an abrupt action which failed their supporters like him and his family so much. He admits that they make him feel embarrassed. But this incident further reinforces his confidence in his strategy of putting community politics first by envisioning a logical sequence of political engagement for nativism. We should work in an orderly manner. Before advocating our political concepts and theories, community works could help us gain people’s trust in us and our causes … And people would eventually feel our devotion to the community. (Interview, December 27, 2017) In our conversation, one may sense Kelvin’s and his friends’ hesitation over revealing their nativist views to local residents. In their posts on social media, no call for Hong Kong independence is found. The reasons are probably because they are afraid that high-sounding words might scare away the people or they would be ridiculed for their adherence to their political aspirations. Pro-independence remarks would also offer excuses for the government to disqualify them for election in the future. They believe that unnecessary politicization would compromise the local residents’ trust in them. They try to present themselves as agreeable people striving for social harmony and cooperation. With patience, he and his friends spent a whole year to prepare a small community group named “Green Home,” a very politically neutral name, in his own neighborhood. In the interview, the researcher did not feel his urgency at all. Instead, he is keen to talk about his small projects but he never specifies any long-term planning or goal. Like most residents in his neighborhood, Kelvin and his family have been living in an old tenement for years and has suffered from a wide range of problems unique to the so-called old district. For example, the Urban Renewal Authority and property developers have proposed new plans to the Town Planning Board. The demolition of old buildings often poses risks and hazards to others. In 2010, a building block crumbled and killed four people inside the building. The members of “Green Home” attended community meetings, raised residents’ concerns to the government, and made connections with other concerned groups. They also recruit residents to join the guided tours for learning the history of the neighborhood, a very common activity first introduced by social workers and artists to Hong Kong. He characterized these works as damsekzai, literally meant breaking rocks into pieces with a hammer in road construction. It is a colloquial and figurative term referring to tedious tasks that require step-by-step execution. In other words, the works of damsekzai are not high sounding but necessary for making social and political changes in the long run. The only big step he mentions is the elections of the
Poised between two times 113 District Council and LegCo, which he coined as “baptism.” He believed that changes will happen and their group would probably transform itself into a political organization after gaining a seat in election. He imagines a rite of passage politically and ritually marking the transition of someone to full membership of political practitioners. Kelvin’s practices work as struggling to redefine what it means to be a nativist. He presents himself as a well-informed and moderate activist. He even shows no interest in the so-called “Key Opinion Leaders” (KOL), the political figures, columnists and social media celebrities who make seditious comments, criticize the opponents and government bitterly, and even spur people into action. The prevalence of KOLs is one of the features of nativist politics. He, without joining any political parties and being a hardcore fan of any political celebrities, emphasizes very much on his independent thinking and highly regards his robust training in social policy and public administration. The only politician he models after is Po-yin Kwong rather than Tin-kei Leung and other nativist icons. Kwong, who was a doctor at a public hospital and former member of Youngspiration, made her name known by beating a pro-Beijing former chairman of the Kowloon City District Council in election in 2015. She then withdrew her membership of Youngspiration a few months before the LegCo election in 2016. She concentrates on her community works and largely stays away from all scandalous controversies over Youngspiration and other nativist groups. Kelvin also works closely with Kwong in a neighborhood. Practicing nativism from a bottom-up perspective, he does not quite share the apocalyptic portrayal of Hong Kong. Instead, he sees his works as politically strengthening the communal imagination of Hong Kong for a new wave of democratization with nativist favor. He believes that Hong Kong with its legacy of colonialism and history of being a refugee city has already developed its nascent national imagination. To quote Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, he finds the institutional pilgrimages of the current system providing a base for the locals come to see themselves as “nationals” (Anderson, 1991: 140). He calls his stance on nationalism “civic nationalism” which is based on association with consent rather than ethnic ties. From his point of view, the central authorities’ top-down approach to Chinese national unification never works for most people in the city. Given so many news and rumors about China’s political infiltration of the city in recent years, Kelvin’s slightly optimistic vision of Hong Kong’s political future is quite impressive. He even refuses to endorse the nativists’ overemphasis on immigration policies and the issues related to mainland tourists. He finds their militant gestures and talks of armed struggles very ridiculous. Instead, he attempts to redefine nativism in terms of social inclusion rather than xenophobia. In theory, he might have made himself and his group distinct, not only from pro-Beijing groups but also from pan-democrats and even nativists. But in practice, what they have been working on is not new at all. It hardly makes a difference from what social service center and District Council members have been doing for years. They largely follow the steps taken by the pan-democrats since
114 Poised between two times the 1980s. While our interview started from his support to Tin-kei Leung two years ago, Kelvin eventually mixed in the pan-democrats’ vocabularies in our conversations about his future plan. Strangely enough, the new surge of nativism, an abrupt moment of mobilization, is rendered by him merely a futile, if not irrelevant, prelude to a progressive path of social and political reform. Indeed, this is not simply a rhetorical adjustment. Kelvin and his associates blended themselves into pan-democrats and the so-called “left-leaning groups” in the community. One is not able to differentiate them clearly in terms of their strategies, working style, and the wordings of their publications. People often mistake their group for another left-leaning community group due to the similarity of their names. For gaining support from local residents, Kelvin and his friends deliberately take an apolitical and non-divisive strategy by reducing their pro-independence views to a minimum in their advocacy and speech. This strategy might perhaps look more politically viable. It is a sort of “closeted participation” as a strategy for survival in a political and socially divisive era (Leung, 2018). Their attempt to manage the failure and marginalization of nativist politics provides themselves with a chance to rebuild respect and a “feel for the game” as well. But would it eventually bury their political aspiration for independence forever in the mundane community life? Despite their confidence, Kelvin and his associates definitely have a feeling of unease. They are not sure if they will lose their political identity in this prolonged, tedious, and uncertain process of democratization. Would it merely divert his attention away from the oppressive reality, yet holding little promise of change?
Identity politics without recognition Overshadowing the city as a whole is the disparity between its educated youth and its small political elite. Following curriculum reform in primary and secondary education, children and teenagers have been taught that they have the obligation to participate in politics, if not a political vocation. Although the responsibility of the Liberal Studies Subject for youth radicalization is questionable, it definitely frequently requires students and teachers to pay attention to current affairs. The public examinations reinforce this point by including policy questions along with commentaries on political and social issues and even conflicts. There is a sizable stratum of educated young people with a sensitivity to political affairs, but barely with hope of participating in them. The disparity between the large number of educated youth with political awareness and the little opportunities for participation, for example in terms of government posts and the seats of the LegCo and District Council, is inherited from the preceding colonial government and is now widening. The Chief Executive Election Ordinance requires the elected Chief Executive (CE) to quit his/her party. And he/she could not form his/her cabinet and the CE’s principal officials proposed are appointed by the Beijing government. As a result there is technically no ruling party of the government in Hong Kong. That said, joining the existing parties is not quite promising for the young people who consider their political career. Street politics, notably for the nativists, is the easiest way of engagement.
Poised between two times 115 After mobilizations, however, they find it difficult to tether themselves to established institutional channels or civic associations and endure the dead and difficult times. Yet they exhibit a political malleability and complexity, which are overlooked by media who tend to blow up their physical and verbal confrontation with the authorities. People like Williams retreat from political bickering and attack, to meditation and nostalgia for self-healing. But Charles and Kelvin do not give up on nativist politics. While they find their way to continue political engagements respectively, Charles’ sectarianism makes an interesting contrast with Kelvin’s strategy of blending into the opposition camp. The accumulative effects of their strategies in the long run remains to be assessed. Under the same rubric of nativism, their political practices by no means cohere into fully formed identity; instead they vary with one another. What they share is the knotty problem of how to politically articulate the short-lived moments of political agitations with the mundaneness and tediousness of everyday life. There is no definite and simple answer to the question of enduring separatism in a city under China’s “overall jurisdiction.” They are eternal pilgrims, never feeling at home and finding themselves divided between sufferers and warriors. Yet this tension, highly productive, motivates them to engage in the disjointed time. The thorny issue of political temporality seems to be unique to the political landscape of Hong Kong. However, broadly speaking, the case of Hong Kong is a variant of the political culture of temporality in the new era. As Jane Guyer (2007) argues, there is a cultural shift to dissolution of the temporal frame and awareness of the “near future,” evidenced by the rise of neoliberal discourse and new religious practices. Between the present and the distant future, there is little room for projecting and imagining interim stages to reach for. The rise of nativism, as the previous chapters point out, occurs as a part of the process of deinstitutionalization in which people feel increasingly obliged and compelled to pursue autonomy and create new political experience. But these pursuits figure in “instant activism,” i.e. forcefully and sometimes even violently turning against the establishment, yet barely with enduring organizations and concrete plans. The activists should not be held fully responsible for these flaws. The recent moves by Hong Kong and Beijing authorities, in the name of beating separatism, to suppress a new breed of activists further exacerbates the evacuation of the near future of the city. Their authoritarian moves, such as barring nativists from election and banning pro-independence parties, and the chilling effects ensued further evacuate the temporal frame of “near future” for implicating oneself in political institutions. This chapter pays special attention to the aftermath of the political agitations, moments of fashioning political subject and facilitating agency during protests. The moment of mobilization entails a sense of solidarity, strength, and freedom keenly felt. Henceforth, the time troubling them most is the rupture between these activist moments and the normalized present, the period of dead time characteristic of loneliness, apathy, slowness, repression, and dying. Enduring the normalized dead time usually requires some movement organizations, functioning as “halfway houses” (Gamson, 1991). Accommodating bodily weakness,
116 Poised between two times passivity, and depression, they engage each activist in practical and routine tasks in a meaningful way, thereby implicating oneself in the ongoing struggles and political life. They offer a time and space prefiguring the values and goals one holds most dear. Building the future in political practice requires constant labor not only to fend off one’s absorption into dead time, but also to bridge the fundamental temporal gap between the coerced present and future fantasy. But all these prove to be difficult for Hong Kong nativists. Living in a fragmented and individualized political landscape, they have a rich experience of spontaneous agitations rather than the competence to build up an organization. Even worse, they are practicing a kind of identity politics without recognition. It contrasts with Charles Taylor’s “Politics of Recognition” (1994). The latter refers to the struggles for political representation by minority groups in liberal democracies. The three stories above demonstrate the difficulties of political recognition. Williams completely buries his political identity in his nostalgic nationalism. Charles is much more active and vocal. But he could only sustain his engagement by sectarianism rather than maneuvering in the civil society or the political arena. Kelvin, on good terms with other civic groups, risks identity loss. Although Hong Kong’s nativism as political practices are not petrified, they turn into diverse forms of identity politics trapped in the present. The “becoming” of identity, in Stuart Hall’s term (Hall, 1994), is drifting into a future that is alien, unimaginable and out of control.
8 “Hong Kong is not a dream” Disengagement, translocality, and gangpiao
Since around ten years ago, the talk about the changing relationship between Hong Kong and China has brought the term gangpiao to the fore. This term refers to mainlanders, usually educated youth, coming to the city for work or study. From the formulation of this Chinese slang, one can tell its connotations. This term is composed of two Chinese characters that literally mean “Hong Kong” and “drifting” respectively, yet without specifying who these people are. Their “drifting” defines their identity in relation to the city. Following the terms of beipiao and shangpiao, gangpiao has eventually become a term for mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong, used by themselves for self-identification and eventually appearing in local media. The increasing popularity of the term piao in media and daily conversation testifies the scale, scope, and varied forms of Chinese migrations. While the huge internal migration, especially the rural–urban migration, has stunned and perplexed many scholars since the beginning of the era of economic reform, the development of overseas Chinese communities have aroused scholarly concerns over the past two decades (Chan, 2013). When it comes to the latter, one of the issues is about the seemingly contradictory tendencies of the migrants’ political and cultural identities in an increasingly transnational age. While they live in a world of online media that binds them strongly with peers in China virtually and even consolidates their identification with the Chinese political nation, they continuously pursue their transnational dream and cosmopolitan identity. The term piao, though its ambiguity, accurately characterizes their ephemeral, incidental, and weak sense of local place. Hong Kong, despite being a political part of China, is a “special administrative region” outside Mainland China, officially categorized as jingwai. It not only serves as a financial hub, but also an offshore civil society and a hub of information not regulated directly by the central state (Hung and Ip, 2012). The market-driven Chinese state, pushing forward its agenda of national and political unification, has adopted the strategy of variegated or graduated sovereignty (Ong, 2000) to define Hong Kong as a special administrative region and to reinforce its connections with transnational networks of business, technology and information. In alignment with the central government’s advocacy of further economic integration, the Hong Kong SAR government has implemented policy
118 “Hong Kong is not a dream” changes to attract mainland talents to Hong Kong since the years after 1997. The University Grant Committee offers public funding to local universities for admission of a significant number of students from Mainland China to their undergraduate programs (about 10–15 percent of the total intake). Capturing the huge demand of postgraduate studies from Mainland China, many departments and schools have launched a number of taught-course master programs over the years. In 2008, the Hong Kong government began to provide the “Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates” (IANG) which allows non-local graduates to stay and work in Hong Kong. Hereafter, they are able to extend their visa every year or every two years with an employment certificate. After staying in Hong Kong for seven years continuously, they are also eligible for applying for permanent residency. Therefore, there are many motives for the exodus of highly educated young people to Hong Kong. Apart from its cultural proximity and economic ties with Mainland China, Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan position in the global imagination is an attraction. The abundance of jobs for the Chinese middle class and the opportunity for applying for permanent residency in Hong Kong provide more incentives for them to stay. In sum, as long as one could afford the relatively expensive tuition fees and higher living cost, one may come to the city to become a “Hong Konger.” Interestingly enough, many of them prefer not to stay permanently in Hong Kong and the permanent residency is not as attractive to them as many locals think. For instance, the number of mainland applicants for Hong Kong’s student visa has grown rapidly from 2,758 (2009) to 9,289 (2016) but there were only 1,979 people acquiring the right of abode from the government in 2016 (Hong Kong SAR Government, 2019, 2017). That said, many graduates return to China or leave for foreign countries. The local media usually attribute this phenomenon to the consequence of high property prices. Not completely refuting this “push factor,” this chapter attempts to offer a deeper understanding of the contexts in which they do not feel at home in this city. It focuses on how they position themselves and negotiate their relationships with the city. Rather than simply pointing out their global and transnational character, I focus on becoming gangpiao as a process of making translocality. It refers not simply to their geographical mobility but also to the making of a translocal site for maneuver and plan for futures. What is central to it is their urban identity constantly oscillating between socio-psychological distance and proximity to the local society. In other words, the issues of home, belonging, and identity are always contested and unsettled. This kind of Hong Kong-ness makes an interesting contrast with the recent nativist turn. This chapter adopts a qualitative approach to conduct interviews with 30 mainland Chinese young people who graduated from Hong Kong universities and then stayed in Hong Kong. They were recruited by snowball-sampling through my friends and research assistants between 2017 and 2018. In order to canvas diverse experiences and views, I try to ensure a balanced spread of age, gender, place of origin and major among the informants. Attentive to their personal experiences and feelings, I focus on their belongings and their future plans
“Hong Kong is not a dream” 119 in the process of migration and adaptation to the city. Then I use the case of gangpiaoquan, a social media platform, to analyze the interactions between the experience and self-representation of gangpiao.
Hong Kong is not a dream While a scholar describes the desire of the mainland Chinese students for Hong Kong as a “dream” (Xu, 2015), I have some reservations about this notion. The attraction of Hong Kong to mainland Chinese youth has become increasingly less like a dream. Hong Kong is positioned by my informants as a cosmopolitan society assumedly closer to other cities of the western world and Mainland China as well. For instance, the pace of economic growth of Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen has obscured Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan image. For my informants, Hong Kong is not the only option for further studies, not to mention developing careers. Describing Hong Kong as a “dream” sounds an exaggeration. Very few came to Hong Kong due to their strong interest in Hong Kong movies and television dramas or affection for its cosmopolitan life. For most, who did not know much about Hong Kong before they come, what really matters is not fantasy but practical calculation of the perceived advantage, disadvantage and opportunities. For example, the tuition fees of Hong Kong universities, despite being higher than those of the universities in Mainland China, are affordable and attractive. Its geographical location close to home towns makes parents more secure and less inclined to worry. The safety and orderliness of Hong Kong are highly appreciated. No matter how good it is, for them, Hong Kong is merely one among a bunch of choices, i.e. Chinese central cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, etc.) and foreign countries, waiguo. When it comes to the latter, they refer to western and economically advanced countries, yet rarely specifying which particular country or city they consider. In general, their outbound migration is embedded in a largely “sino-centric” network of cities, a deeply “perspectival set of landscapes” in which they imagine and plan to navigate across (Appadurai, 1990: 7). Hong Kong is only one of the nodal points, a transitory place: I find Hong Kong only a place for this stage of personal development in my life. Even if I try to take root in this city, it is merely for now or for 7, 8, 9, or 10 years. Do I belong to this place? Does it belong to me? Except Luoyang (her home town), there is no place belonging to me. I am not pessimistic. It makes no differences between Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Sydney. For me, they are only new living environments. (RF, August 4, 2017) My informants describe their places of origin as home (jia), especially those from small cities, towns and villages. They feel hesitant to see Hong Kong as their home. Perhaps, for them, this city never feels like home. However, homecoming
120 “Hong Kong is not a dream” is also not preferred, at least for now. Their desire to go is a flight from varied restrictions of home, such as patriarchal family, parental monitoring and local nepotism. Indeed, my informants often nag about the difficulties of their adaptations to their home city or town after staying in different big cities for years, although they maintain cross-border family bonds via information technologies and online media (Peng, 2016). For these top students, studying at Hong Kong universities is another step for accumulating further credential cultural capital which has long been regarded as the ultimate goal of the Chinese education system in the post-Mao’s period (Kipnis, 2011). Their educational success makes them largely feel at ease with the intense competition in study and work in Hong Kong. Embracing the values of self-enterprising, they easily derive a temporary sense of belonging from the managerial and professional works in global cities which supposedly grant them access to greater social and economic privileges. On the contrary, home is a place far away from their current urban way of life and even out of their supposed life trajectories. When my informants mention home, they rarely invoke the narratives of the nation and longing. For them, home is an object far from reach, evoking aversion, alienation, but yet at times a little nostalgia. Simultaneously, a sort of urban way of life, however vaguely defined, has become their realities near at hand. However, it is not true that all are aspiring young people. More than onethird of my informants admit that their personalities are not aggressive and brave enough to move everywhere for opportunities and a bright future. Hong Kong, for now, is a destination acceptable to them and their families, at least for now. Working here is also consistent with most expectations for a highly educated Chinese youth. RF told me that her dream has been to be a rancher or running a small café in Australia. However, neither does she take it seriously nor plan for it. She believes that she could have such a relaxed and calm life in the distant future, probably after retirement. Maybe, it is merely only her unrealistic fantasy. Now, she prefers to stay in Hong Kong because it is a big stage to meet people of different backgrounds. YJ, an informant from Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu, finds her choice of Hong Kong, rather than going abroad, very appropriate for her personality. She had been on exchange in a foreign country not long ago. She finds hanging out with foreigners not agreeable. Hong Kong allows her to stick with mainland Chinese all the time, mingling with the local ethnic Chinese briefly, but easily. The term she uses for characterizing Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan life is “enriching” (chongshi): Q: Do you envy people working in Central? Do you like the rhythm of life there? A: Yes. When we attended class (a taught course program) in Central, half of the students were part-time. They looked great in business attires. It seemed that they came from their offices nearby. This is a scene, an atmosphere and a pressure of life which are quite special.
“Hong Kong is not a dream” 121 Q: Do you enjoy the rapid pace of life and high level of work stress? A: Yes, it feels so enriching. If I made a choice once again, I would choose HKU. Now I really want to live in Hong Kong island. (YJ, April 17, 2017) The “enriching” life she enjoys is not unique to Hong Kong but shared by most global cities. These educated youth believe that this is the way of life that a young person should have. While Hong Kong is not the only or the best option, it comes as no surprise that they are always ready to move to somewhere else for better or new “opportunities” meant a better job, higher salary and other non-economic returns.
Translocality as network Although most of my informants enjoy their ways of life in Hong Kong in one way or another, they admit that they primarily mingle within their mainland Chinese friends rather than fitting in with the majority of Hong Kong people. But it is too facile to say that they do not want to walk out of their comfort zone. For example, it is true that the language of Cantonese, the most popular one in Hong Kong, poses an obstacle to many newcomers. But most of them could overcome the language barrier very quickly, usually within one–two years. Yet, quite a lot of my informants still make friends only with Putonghua-speakers, after they have been working in Hong Kong for years. The institutional setting of their arrivals shapes the way of their assimilation into Hong Kong society and social segregation from the locals. Most mainland Chinese students develop very limited friendship networks with the locals in the first one to two years of study. Their relationships with local students remain to be functional, developing out of class requirements such as group project and presentation. Their conversation with the locals is barely beyond small talk. When they study at university, in their leisure time, they often participate in the extra-curricular activities organized by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) registered in each university. CSSA is the official organization for overseas Chinese students and scholars which help migrant students in their life and study. It sometimes organizes holiday celebrations and public talks for them. It is clear that the executive committee members of each chapter and active regular members have close contact with the Youth Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong (LOCPGHK) (Editorial Board, 2012). Although the chapters of CSSA around the world have aroused controversies over their affiliation with Chinese embassies and their role in working in tandem with Beijing to control and monitor Chinese students’ speech and activities, their regular activities are largely not very political in nature. One of my informants was an executive member of a CSSA chapter. He was impressed by a special tour, organized by LOCPGHK, to visit the Bank of China’s Hong Kong head office,
122 “Hong Kong is not a dream” one of the tallest skyscrapers in Central. With excitement, he took the elevator to the top floors and then looked down into the city’s bustling avenues right below. I am not sure if and how far the LOCPGHK nurtures his aspiration of climbing the social ladder and political allegiance with the China government. But the much more visible effect is to help segregate mainland Chinese students from the local students and civic associations, sometimes by networking them with Chinese enterprises, government organizations and pro-government groups in Hong Kong. For some, their career development and future initiatives are based on these mainland Chinese circles. My interviews confirm the previous findings about the importance of Chinese social media such as QQ and WeChat to maintain kinship ties with their hometowns and friends in Mainland China (Hjorth and Arnold, 2012; Peng, 2016). This is a phenomenon revealed by the theory of polymedia, which argues that individuals navigate across various media and selectively use part of them to create new meanings, groupings and social relationships (Madianou and Miller, 2011). Peng argues that there is a clear division between mainland students’ functional relationships with Hong Kong locals and their emotional ties with mainland families and friends (Peng, 2016). It is true that most of my informants, after graduation, make local friends in the workplace, but do not develop strong ties with them. While tight schedules of work occupy their lives, many of them do not have much time for meeting new friends of different backgrounds and enlarging their social network locally. However, characterizing the community of Hong Kong drifters as merely segregation renders invisible the complexity of its dynamics. Some of them proactively develop new and translocal networks among mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong. In the two cases below, I find their translocal vision and identity in their new initiatives. The first one is quite exceptional. In 2013, two young men, DB and ZL, began to run a social media (website, Weibo account and WeChat public account) called gangpiaoquan (literally meant “the circle of Hong Kong drifters”), providing information, such as rental advice, transport information and tips for visa application, for mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong. It also appeals to the young people in different Chinese cities, especially those who are planning to study in Hong Kong or considering this option. At the very beginning, DB and ZL started up their project on Sina Weibo and attracted more than 300,000 followers for less than a year. Gangpiaoquan was originally an online community in Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro-blog website, akin to Twitter, posting information on apartments for rent and job vacancies suitable for fresh graduates. They also organized activities such as hiking, site visits, public talks for mainland Chinese students. They eventually turned it into a start-up company managing their Weibo account and later WeChat public account as media outlets. Apart from it, in 2014, it had organized the local audition for Feicheng Wurao, a nationally renowned TV dating show in Hong Kong. In 2017, it became a more than 200,000-strong online community on WeChat and the founders reframed it as “social
“Hong Kong is not a dream” 123 enterprise” whose staff members are primarily mainland Chinese. DB further opened a restaurant serving Sichuan and Hunan spicy food and targeting mainland Chinese people in Hong Kong while ZL made use of the network built up by gangpiaoquan to run a daigou business of importing foreign goods to Mainland China via Hong Kong in Shenzhen (Jiang, 2015). It is believed that gangpiaoquan has special ties with the Beijing government although DB and ZL deny the involvement of LOCPGHK. Yet, their WeChat public account did publish pro-Beijing government articles on some issues, such as canvassing support for pro-Beijing politicians and parties in Hong Kong (Pan, 2018). While DB has already got permanent residency, ZL still unsure of its value because it would result in having his mainland Chinese household registration revoked. His Chinese citizenship gives him some conveniences for running business in the Mainland. This case not merely demonstrates gangpiaoquan’s political uniqueness and background, but also these elite youth’s agency and capacity of making new mainland Chinese communities and social networks not bounded by the local society of Hong Kong. Another example is WK’s circle of backpackers. He came to Hong Kong for study in 2005 and now he is an engineer. He admits that he does not fit in with the local people very well. Instead, he prefers to develop his own circle for his interest. Some years ago, he joined an activity organized by gangpiaoquan and made some new friends there. Later on, one of them invited him to join a group of mainland Chinese people who love “deep travel” and outdoor sports. On WeChat, they share tourist information and enjoy traveling in groups for outdoor activities such as diving in Thailand, hiking in Malaysia and skiing in Hokkaido. In this group, he was a participant first and then became one of the key organizers. As he said, My local friends, mostly my fellow classmates at university, are limited to my WhatsApp (contact list). I feel they do not interact with one another frequently. Many of them live with their families and have a lot of relatives. They at most call upon people to have a chat or dinner party occasionally. That’s all. In these gatherings, I find that their leisure life is not as rich as mine. They are occupied by their works. They sometimes have dinner parties. Their conversation topics merely range from stock trading to marriage plan. Their mindset is different from mine. Then more people use WeChat for organizing activities and grouping. It is convenient. Most of us are mainland Chinese. (WK, 19 April 2017) WK’s experience provides another aspect of the “enriching” life for gangpiao. Hong Kong is merely a springboard for him to gather like-minded Chinese youth to explore more and go farther. These mainlanders are a social group settled in Hong Kong, but not quite part of it. Immersion in any places, including the city he is living, is not a must.
124 “Hong Kong is not a dream”
Translocality and disengagement It is not possible to deny that the rising anti-China sentiment in Hong Kong contributes to mainland Chinese people’s self-segregation in Hong Kong (Peng, 2016; Xu, 2015; Ng and Lau, 2014). But its influence on their everyday life is limited. In the wake of the political feuds over the past few years, people like my informants certainly notice the anti-Chinese hostilities and verbal abuse against mainlanders in Hong Kong, especially those appearing quite often on the Internet. On the other side, some mainlanders occasionally dance to the tune of the China authority and have bitter fights with people who criticize the China government or support Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet independence. To my surprise, almost no one got involved in these feuds. When it comes to discrimination in everyday life, only one of my informants has encountered it: My director was a Hong Kong woman who loved to gossip. She and my colleagues were in charge of administrative work and enjoyed gossip at leisure time. They were very judgmental on and discriminated against me … as a mainlander. I felt bad. One day, after I walked out of toilet compartment, there was a piece of tampon left on the floor. Very few mainland women used tampon. It was the first time for me to see it … I asked them what it is. I really had no idea of it. I thought it might be something for foreigners to take drug. Then they said, “QT, did you drop it? … It must be yours!… Is it yours?” I responded, “Could you think logically? I already said I don’t know what it is. How come you blame it on me!” (QT, March 8) Others only experienced discrimination vaguely, such as unfriendliness of taxi drivers and sales to them. But the so-called “Hong Kong-mainland conflict” works as clouds of tension hovering over the city. All informants say they are on good terms with the locals in public occasions, yet the online world, such as their local friends’ Facebook posts and comments about mainlanders, is another world. It does not irritate them very much because Facebook is not an important part of their online activities although they definitely know about the racist slurs against them over there. Furthermore, explaining away the political complexity of these conflicts, most of them find Hong Kong’s xenophobic attitude among the locals very “natural” and “understandable.” They compare it to the discrimination against outsiders with non-local hukou (household registration) in other Chinese cities such as Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. In 2012, there was an advertisement, published on media and circulated on the Internet, slamming mainland Chinese as “locusts” who rush to the city to drain its resources. Using it as template, some mainland Chinese netizens altered the slogan of “Hong Kong people, we have endured enough in silence” by replacing “Hong Kong” with “Shanghai,” “Guangzhou,” “Beijing,” etc. (Tan, 2012). Self-segregations and other cultural or language barriers do not mean that mainland Chinese youth have no idea of the politics of Hong Kong, such as
“Hong Kong is not a dream” 125 mass protest against the Beijing government, occupation for universal suffrage, racist slurs against mainland visitors and pro-independence campaigns. They have differing views on these issues. While some mildly disagree with the opposition voices in Hong Kong and highlight their disagreement as “(mainland) Chinese stance,” others take a liberal stance by respecting Hong Kong’s freedom of speech. What they share is their tendency to characterize their standpoints as more or less “neutral” or “objective,” and tend to use the term “understanding,” lijie, which rhetorically help them establish the role of “rational observer” not getting involved in any local political strife. It also stands as an imagined boundary separating themselves from ordinary Hong Kongers. Although no one has any experience of direct confrontation with Hong Kong’s nativist students, interestingly enough, what troubles them most is a minority of mainland students who hold a strong view on these political issues, no matter whether they side with Hong Kong protesters or fashion their Chinese patriotism. Irrespective of how much and what they have read and watched about the Umbrella Movement and other protests on site, they refuse to stand any sides strongly, but yet tries to “understand” more. Some of them explicitly identify themselves as “onlookers” and express their lack of emotional investment in these political issues. QT, a young woman working in an insurance company, simply dismisses all these conflicts as irrelevant: They (nationalistic mainland Chinese friends) often talked about Hong Kong in front of me. Then I told them: The elites in Hong Kong and mainland China are only interested in making money together. They are economically benefiting each other. Only the diaosi (a Chinese slang for young men of mediocre appearance and social standing) on both sides indulge in catfights. I suggest you not join the diaosi. While QT takes a cynical and pragmatic stance on politics, others cautiously avoid it. TY is a successful young entrepreneur rather than a diaosi. He came to Hong Kong for study in 2009. He is now running a chain store, including five outlets, in Hong Kong and Mainland China. After graduation, he worked in the human resources department of a Chinese state-owned enterprise in Hong Kong. He never found mastering Cantonese difficult for him. He believes that it is probably because of his mother tongue, a dialect in Southeast Chinese, is relatively close to Cantonese. In our conversation, he took delight in talking about his ability to get along with the locals. For example, most of his staff are locally born Hong Kongers. But he added cheerfully that they all talk with him in Putonghua. Although he emphasizes that he is always on good terms with the locals, his work and life in Hong Kong are surrounded by mainland Chinese people. In leisure time, he formed an interest group, formally registered in Hong Kong, for recruiting gangpiao to organize recreational activities for mainland youth. He eventually got well connected with CSSA and some clansmen associations who have close ties with LOCPGHK and pro-Beijing political parties. He is fully aware of their political backgrounds. He targeted their members as his
126 “Hong Kong is not a dream” clients by offering discounts to them and the association heads also helped him promote his services to their members. There might be some other support from LOCPGHK and others but he refused to talk about the details. He continues to maintain close connections with CSSA, such as sponsoring its activities, for the sake of business but he dissolved his interest group legally about two years ago. He tries to avoid the activities hosted by LOCPGHK’s and its affiliated clansman associations anymore because he does not want to get involved in politics too much. “All associations are political,” he sighed. Now he concentrates on his business in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and overseas. Now he is planning his first trip to New York for developing a global franchise in the future. Their lack of emotional investment in political issues is not specific to Hong Kong. Some are self-reflexive enough to attribute it to the political apathy caused by China government’s political thought education. They do not believe that they are “brainwashed” by it; instead they agree that it might nurture a kind of cultural alienation and political powerlessness. Certainly, the risk of political participation in Hong Kong which might implicate their families in Mainland China, given the surveillance of LOCPGHK is often their concern. Others point out that migrant students and professionals like them are always indifferent to and detach themselves from whichever city they enter. This is the cultural and political logic of “drifting” (piao). They sometimes explain their disengagement by their lack of sense of belonging. In sum, political engagements are futile attempts in the eyes of the people who try to maneuver smoothly across different Chinese cities. Their disengagement from the host society and its politics go parallel to their enjoyment of the “enriching” life of the cities – competitive environments, bustling crowd, and opportunities for geographical and social mobility. Some explicitly coined this condition as “living in Hong Kong superficially.”
Self-representation of gangpiao: pragmatism and mobility Gangpiaoquan, as mentioned above, is an example worthy of further assessment for understanding the cultural dynamics of gangpiao as a community. Although gangpiaoquan is run and managed by mainland Chinese in Hong Kong, it is facile to attribute it to a media outlet representing the views of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong. In fact, the local media of Hong Kong tend to depict it as a pro-Beijing new media, especially during the times of political conflicts. Some mainland Chinese youth also challenge it when it claims to be representing their views. For example, during the Umbrella Movement, gangpiaoquan initiated a hashtag campaign of “#I want to say something in Hong Kong these days” to call upon each mainland Chinese to upload one photo to express one’s view. And on WeChat and Weibo it published the photos and views including “I merely want to pick up my boyfriend” and “I only want to go to work as usual.” It was believed that it deliberately avoided the core issues of the movement and suggested the inconveniences caused by occupation to office workers. To strike back, some pro-democracy mainland Chinese set up a Facebook page
“Hong Kong is not a dream” 127 titled “Mainland Chinese Students Support Hong Kong” and challenged gangpiaoquan by saying “Gangpiaoquan does not Represent Me!” (Standnews, 2015). Given its close ties with China’s government, gangpiaoquan’s politically motivated and suggestive remarks came as no surprise. What makes it unique is not its official propaganda; instead, it draws heavily on mainland Chinese youth’s experiences in Hong Kong to depict their life and articulate an agreeable subject position for gangpiao themselves. Gangpiaoquan introduces itself as a media “offering useful information, convenient to and valuable for gangpiao’s everyday life, study and work” (“About us,” gangpiaoquan’s portal website). It is confirmed by the prevalence of tips for work and life in its media content. I randomly chose a month from the last three years as a sample for content analysis. There were 75 pieces published on WebChat in October 2016: Basic information about Hong Kong 14.6 percent Commentaries on public affairs 12 percent Employment 14.6 percent Recreational activities 14.6 percent Tips for shopping 24 percent Health and household 9.3 percent Experience sharing 5.3 percent Others 5.6 percent In the first two categories, the most regular topics are about housing problems such as high rent, crowded space, eviction, and bullies by landlord. Most articles are offering practical tips such as legal advice on dealing with landlords and special skills for making small apartments more spacious. They do not direct readers to policy discussion such as rent control, land distribution, or the problems under the rubric of “Property hegemony,” not to mention the policy backgrounds and politico-economic reasons of the soaring property price in Hong Kong and Mainland China as well. On the contrary, they sometimes highlight the differences between Hong Kong and other Chinese cities in terms of quality of life. This sort of pragmatism fits in with the new dwellers’ immediate, real but yet superficial experience in Hong Kong. It is not accurate to characterize gangpiaoquan as imposing self-censorship on all politically sensitive issues. But it does always scratch the surface without getting to the core of problems. For example, in 2016, Zhu Ke, a mainland student of the University of Hong Kong run for election to represent postgraduate students in the governing council. Gangpiaoquan published an article to support him on October 18. Later on, some local students accused Zhu of offering bribes in the name of “red packets” to voters through a WeChat group. His rivals called for investigation. But the university ruled that it does not constitute “corruption” due to the small amount of money involved. For some unknown reasons, gangpiaoquan did not publish any articles on this incident, not even Zhu’s electoral victory.
128 “Hong Kong is not a dream” When it comes to the incident of the Youngspiration duo’s “swearing-in” incident in 2016, gangpiaoquan did not skip it. Neither did it strictly follow the pro-Beijing media in Hong Kong to criticize them bitterly. It published an article entitled “Enough! Hong Kong Legco Members Call China “XXking Shina”?” (Zhang, 2016a). The author, named Zhang Chaoshuai, uses mild wordings for opening the article by saying: “I don’t care much about politics. But they dared to use dirty words in swearing-in. That’s such a big and troubling issue.” The name “Zhang Chaoshuai,” according to my interviews with a staff member of gangpiaoquan, is a pen name shared by the editorial team. The articles under this name are usually intended to comment on public affairs in a light-hearted and humorous way. This article is largely an introduction to the background information of the incident. By the end of the article, it only reminds readers of making comments in a “reasonable and cultured manner.” It did not join the pro-Beijing camp to condemn pro-independence activists. There is another noteworthy article by Zhang Chaoshuai. In June 2016, Beijing newspaper Global Times, condemning Canto-pop singer Denise Ho for her alleged support to Hong Kong and Tibet independence, slammed the cosmetics giant Lancome for inviting Ho to promote its products. Soon after it, Lancome canceled Ho’s promotional concert. Hundreds of local protesters swarmed Lancome’s branches to protest against its “kowtow” to China’s government. Zhang attributes the criticisms of Lancome to “mainland netizens” rather than Global Times. He further takes out all relevant backgrounds such as Ho’s deep involvement in the Umbrella Movement and deliberately associates the protest with other less relevant and totally unrelated incidents: Protests against D & G favoring mainland tourists, Hong Kong netizens’ criticism of Victoria Beckham (for using simplified Chinese characters), rally against parallel traders, protesting against the new Chinese translation of “Pikachu” (a Japanese cartoon figure), and the demonstration mourning the victim hostages killed in the Philippines. This random association only results in suggesting Hong Kongers’ addiction to protests and the chaos: Hong Kong people enjoy freedom of speech. People also enjoy taking to the streets to make a voice. I still remember what I came across when I had just arrived at Hong Kong. I went to Tsim Sha Tsui for shopping. When I left the mall, I found the street extremely crowded. The two sides of the road were blocked by police. I couldn’t cross the road. The cinematic scene of gangster street fight immediately came to my mind. I thought it was something big. But it turned out that I imagined too much. It was only a rally. I have already forgotten what it was about because this incident happened long time ago. I felt that Hong Kongers are really have that time. What is the use of that rally? (Zhang, 2016b) Zhang positions himself as a busy shopper, a diligent student, or a young professional preoccupied by his job. All protests only interrupt his busy life but they
“Hong Kong is not a dream” 129 mean nothing to him. Ridicule and mockery are his responses. He embraces the bustling life of the city but keeps a cynical distance from all these social and political controversies. They only bring out chaos and interruption to the economic activities and livelihood of the people. Arguing over these issues is irrelevant to him and of no practical use. This speaking position, rather than invented by Zhang, echoes the lived experience of this group of new urban dwellers. They are supposed to only care about the “practical” values of Hong Kong. The “practical” values of Hong Kong could be summarized as “mobility.” Gangpiaoquan’s information of recruitment, wittingly or unwittingly, strengthens its readers’ desire for upward mobility and reminds them of the need of competing with professional elites around the world. The photos of the central business district of Hong Kong and high-rise commercial towers attached to the articles or recruitment posts always remind their readers that they are living in a business hub and market society. Every week, it publishes the vacancies announced by global corporates and local big companies such as Deloitte, P&G, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, Cathay Pacific, etc. Apart from it, there are some personal stories in which Hong Kong is always depicted as a competitive market. Preoccupied with anxiety over social mobility, the authors see themselves as having low socio-economic rank and more subject to rejection: Your office is located by the Victoria Harbour. You speak English. Your work and life look stylish and elegant. Then a lot of people would classify you into the category of “successful people”. But the reality is that you have to compete with a lot of university graduates from Europe, Americas, and Australia. In job interviews, their accents knock you down in a second. In order to survive, you have to take examinations for more certificates, further study, complete your job nicely, and pass numerous evaluations. (Xiaozhijun, 2016) More specifically, this author compares the life appearing in her “Friendship Circle” (pengyouquan) in WeChat to her real life in Hong Kong. The former is supposed to be a more intimate domain for sharing and interacting with her choice of close friends. Users usually share pictures and websites with captions and comments. In her “Friendship Circle,” Hong Kong looks like a place of great pleasure, congeniality and enjoyment. But her reality is a different world. The personal stories shared on gangpiaoquan abound with anxieties over the competition from local graduates who speak fluent Cantonese and English or the discrimination against mainlanders in general. These psychological pressures come from the “public expectations” provided by themselves and gangpiaoquan as well. For example, an author is worried about unemployment but Hong Kong’s unemployment rate is already as low as about 3.4 percent. She compares the 1–2 percent GDP growth rate of Hong Kong to China’s 6 percent and then questions herself why she still stays here (Zheng, 2016). These sharings encourage a sort of work ethics:
130 “Hong Kong is not a dream” Whenever I hear about someone’s high salary, a good job or profession, great benefits offered by a company, I can’t help feeling envy of others. But behind all high salary, stable jobs and career achievement is hard work, probably invisible to others. One must pay a price for the carefree, classy, elegant life. As the old saying goes, “You have to make every effort to make a task look effortless.” (Xiaozhijun, 2016) The anxieties over social mobility come along with the temptation of geographical mobility. There are two themes among the personal stories: “Integration/ assimilation/fitting in” (ronghe) and “Stay or leave.” By what criteria is an educated youth judged to assimilate into Hong Kong? There is no simple answer to this question. It is definitely less about embracing local culture than related to “blending in with the anonymous crowd”: Regardless of my original plan, for study or work, we’ve eventually got used to Hong Kong’s way of life and rhythm, which is different from that of mainland China. We might probably take root in this city and blend in with the big crowd. This is a city of stifling heat, overcrowding, fast paces, and “unliveability”. My Hong Kong is different from the image of cosmopolitan city in many people’s mind. On the contrary, it is full of flaws and loopholes. But this is my “Hong Kong”. (Zheng, 2016) What is crucial to “integration” is the willingness to live in this suffocating reality. It means alienation characterized by intense competitiveness, great pressures, and anonymous crowd. In other words, this is a kind of uprootedness. Hong Kong never feels like “home.” Although gangpiaoquan introduces the colorful life of Hong Kong, its distinctive cultures, and diverse neighborhoods, it could not encourage these strangers to explore their cultural values, establish their political identities, and purse their social ideals. Instead, it wittingly or unwittingly fosters a subject embracing consumerism and work ethics. The rootless feeling drives everyone to ponder whether one should go or stay. If one decides to leave, should one return to Mainland China for beishangguang (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou)? Or should one go overseas? There are a lot of personal sharings in gangpiaoquan about these questions. The worth of Hong Kong is naturally put in question while one is only concerned with practical uses, shrugs off troubling political affairs, and positions oneself as a rootless wanderer. Hong Kong is just another global city. Susu recounts how she speculated over what Hong Kong means to her when she was looking for job in Hong Kong. The images that came to her mind are Victorian Harbour, office workers in Central, old public housing, and the footbridges in the downtown. After some struggles, she finally got a job offer from a company located in the office tower of Landmark in Central. She describes her psychological condition as follows:
“Hong Kong is not a dream” 131 I still remember the first interview three months ago. I walked out of the Landmark and looked at the fast paces of the office workers on the street, and the Bling handbags through the shopping window. Then I was thinking about something else. There are tens of thousands of reasons for leaving Hong Kong. But only one reason is already enough for you to stay. You encounter different people. Each one of them has many amazing stories. You could only encounter them here. You might talk to and encourage each other. We walk together for a moment. Then we take different roads. Let’s stay in Hong Kong. You can always stay if you work hard enough. (Susu, 2016) With the most “cliched” travel pictures of Hong Kong, Susu envisions an extremely individualistic society in which interpersonal relationship is reduced to functional. There is not a socially and culturally peculiar reason for staying. It is not about the uniqueness of the city. Neither is one’s personal adherence to it. No memorable experience is involved. The only reason is to prove one’s competence in the job market, purchasing power, and the effort one pays.
Concluding remarks: “becoming gold-plated” The recent research on Chinese migrations no longer sees mobility as a one-off decision and action based on instrumental calculations. It is consistent with the fact that nowadays migration is usually not followed by permanent settlement and assimilation. Instead more research shifts to see mobility as central to the patterns of human flow and practices which define, signify and regulate identity expression, class relationship and social status (Chu, 2010; Liu-Farrer, 2016). This perspective shifts our attention to how migrants characterize, regard, and reflect upon their migration. For example, my informants rarely characterize their mobility as yimin (emigration), which is usually regarded as the privilege for big businessmen and top officials. Neither do they see themselves as “new immigrants,” who are looked down upon by gangpiao and many Hong Kongers (Leung, 2004). In practice, like other kinds of Chinese migrants, they migrate without settling. Rather, they see their migration as “becoming gold-plated,” which allows them to equip themselves with educational credentials and transnational cultural capital, and then they might get “gold-plated” again in other cities. However, in the midst of China’s economic growth and the abundance of economic opportunities, their emigration to Hong Kong signifies less privileged class status than class distinction. They differentiate themselves from other mainland Chinese young people without or with less overseas learning and working experience. Their aloofness also allows them to claim a neoliberal subject in contrast to their local peers who overindulge in their gloomy state of mind ensuing from local engagements, political conflicts and frustrations.
132 “Hong Kong is not a dream” This process of neoliberalization, rather than simply the outcome of global capitalism, is largely engineered by the Chinese state. The mass exodus of educated youth to Hong Kong and overseas is another example of the biopolitical mobilization of the population for capital accumulation and integration with global capitalism in the post-Mao era (Simpson, 2014). They not only constitute a submissive and flexible workforce adaptive to transnational managerial and professional operations for Chinese and global capital, but also a new type of disengaged and dislocated citizens with political compliance. In the making of a translocal inter-city space for navigation, gangpiao are undergoing the process of mutations in citizenship (Ong, 2006). The bundles of civil rights and entitlements, no longer unified by a territorially bounded nation-state or city-state. Instead they are disarticulated from each other and are selectively re-assembled as a new sort of partial citizenship. This assemblage serves as a shifting landscape in which individuals manage and plan for their futures according to neoliberal norms. But most people’s transnational migration largely takes place in a translocal city network, a cluster of connected Chinese cities. What they aspire for is a cosmopolitan way of life, sticking with mainland Chinese in their leisure time, briefly mingling with the locals and foreigners in the workplace, but still disengaging themselves from the social and political complexities of the host society. In the midst of political strife, by playing the role of onlookers in Hong Kong, mainland Chinese youth try not to look for their own political coordinates. Ironically, the Hong Kong government’s endeavors to facilitate economic opportunities and nurture a neoliberal subject, discussed by Chapter 3, work better for them than the locals. This is a case illustrative of the making of translocality which is crucial to understanding the cultural logic of migration in contemporary China. The “Hong Kong drifters” attempt to constitute their translocal subject and to make their translocalities at the intersection of their own yearning for mobility and the discourse of China’s economic triumphalism. They are not “mainlanders out there.” Rather, they signify an internal Other unsettling Hong Kong’s local identity, as well as instigating a local urge to police cultural boundaries. They are marked and mark themselves as an insider/outsider by everyday practices at the heart of the city.
Epilogue Will to power
Despite all the opposition and activism that has arisen and become visible in recent decades, there is too little real optimism and too much desperation in the present struggles. It sometimes feels like our collective will has been beaten down or at least bent and disfigured. (Grossberg, 2018a)
Hong Kong as a neoliberal experiment In January 2019, the Heritage Foundation released the 2019 Index of Economic Freedom Report, in which Hong Kong was rated again as the world’s freest economy. The ranking of the city, according to this foundation, remains unchanged for 25 years. The “high-quality legal framework,” “little tolerance for corruption,” and “high degree of transparency,” as the report highlights, have defined the integrity of the government (Miller, Kim and Roberts, 2019: 220). Less than half a year, the authors of the report would be surprised by the anti-extradition bill protests severely questioning the government’s legitimacy and the rule of law. Obviously, this American conservative think-tank, like many western observers, has extremely underestimated and overlooked the sweeping changes happening to the city. The index, informed by a capital-centric and elitist perspective, might still tell us something about Hong Kong’s economic reality, but it is completely out of touch with ordinary people’s feelings to their hometown and the government. The Heritage Foundation’s comments on Hong Kong are also symptomatic of the official discourses on Hong Kong over the past four decades. In the early 1980s, announcing the end of Hong Kong’s colonial times, the power elites of Britain, Hong Kong, and China attempted to hastily convince the world of the city’s bright future. In the peak time of neoliberalism, what lay at the hearts of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was her concern with “financial confidence” (Thatcher, 1995: 260). The China government, planning to “resume” its sovereignty over Hong Kong, is no exception. In Deng Xiaoping’s words, his political novelty of “One Country, Two Systems” would “put their (investors’) hearts at ease” (Chung, 2001: 31). Both governments, local entrepreneurs, and global capitalists gained a large amount of capital investment by holding Hong Kong in their grip and desperately expected to further capitalize on it. No one
134 Epilogue wanted to ruin the city. For the priority of diplomatic expediency and the national interests of both countries, all problems related to Hong Kong’s political status and its relationship with China were put aside and remain clearly defined and resolved, even nowadays. The solution for Hong Kong’s political status proves to be abound with ambiguities, and even contradictions: How could the Chinese authoritarian state establish itself as Hong Kong’s central government without political interference into the city’s affairs? How “high” is the “high degree of autonomy” the city could enjoy? While the city is increasingly integrated into China’s engine of capitalist economy, what does “Two Systems” mean? At the time, many people probably tried not to think about the questions above. Despite political uncertainty, the money game of the city must go on. In retrospect, Hong Kong is a neoliberal experiment predating Francis Fukuyama’s projection or fantasy about a political order as the end point of all ideologico-political conflicts (1992: xi). But Hong Kong’s end point is not the existing liberal democracy as Fukuyama suggests. It is simply a future asserted and promised: The status quo is maintained and a form of self-government will be implemented. This end point relies on the faith in all parties’ reluctance to lose this financial city and free port. Therefore, Hong Kong as a political project is more adventurous than Fukuyama’s speculation. For Hong Kong, what emerged out of the historical conjuncture of the 1980s is the beginning, rather than the end, of its history. Hong Kong’s path of neoliberalism is not simply a continuation of the city’s position in global capitalism. Its post-handover years have been profoundly shaped by the expansive power of the connections between two long-term and dominant projects: a new authoritarianism and a reorganization of capitalist power. While the former rules out the possibility of democratic reform, the latter serves as the foundation of the legitimacy of the regime after 1989. Unfortunately, many people in power have believed that these projects are the only way for Hong Kong to maintain political stability and facilitate the smooth path of national unification. However, the success of China’s authoritarian capitalism since the 1990s, its state expansionism, and its repeated endeavors to integrate the city into China’s growth machine exacerbate the crumbling of the city’s boundaries with Mainland China. In sum, Hong Kong has been experiencing a trauma of deterritorialization. In combination of the ambiguous and internally contradictory arrangements of the special administrative region, this trauma has eventually generated new social, political and intellectual forces. Even worse, the rigid political framework leaves increasingly little room for channeling dissent and opposition forces into institutional negotiations. Over the past five years, they turn into a series of political spectacles to be seen around the world, such as the Umbrella Movement, the Mongkok Riot, and the citywide upsurge of the radicalized masses against the extradition bill. Despite the failures or very limited success of the governments in articulating a new agency for Hong Kongers, i.e. feeling and acting toward their political possibilities, they have enabled changes in the structures of political relations
Epilogue 135 and values. The neoliberal reasoning abounds paternalistic rhetoric, such as herding young people to the land of opportunity, arousing public awareness of “marginalization,” and urging people to get themselves prepared to compete with others, etc., work much better in nurturing a cosmopolitan subject for young mainland Chinese in Hong Kong. Rather than fostering political compliance in the local society, all these changes instigate anxiety, aversion and rebellion, thereby producing a widespread skepticism about the existing structures of institutions, governance, and norms. They by no means encourage the majority to embrace a capitalist nation, but on the contrary, perpetuate the mutation of a sense of belonging into a will to power, a desire for mastery over oneself, the boundaries with others, and the homeland. On many occasions, it expresses itself through varied causes of reclaiming the city from the rule of China. I will now unpack successively two mechanisms implicit in the mutation.
Two mechanisms: neoliberalism and affective autonomy The first one is the saga of the Myth of Hong Kong. Most accounts of Hong Kong identity situate it in the interaction between the local and the national (Chow, 1992; Lau, 1997; Lee, 1998; Teo, 2006), or the conflict between Chinese nationalism and Hong Kong nationalism (So, 2016; Wu, 2016; Fong, 2019). What these state-centric perspectives overlook is the historical and institutional path of “becoming Hong Kong,” which entails two moments of the political history of neoliberalism. The rise of Hong Kong as a model of “free economy,” as a critical part of the Myth of Hong Kong, served as one of the emerging sites of neoliberalism in East Asia. It then marked the political moment when Hong Kong first achieved its self-governing subject within the straitjacket of “One Country, Two Systems.” The decline of the Myth of Hong Kong in the post-handover years, however, is a sign of the breakdown of the consensus informed by the doctrines of neoliberal economics. What follows is another moment when the central and local states have repeatedly attempted to rescue Hong Kong as a successful model of capitalism from crisis by crafting the city onto the huge growth machine of China. Yet, the power elites not only fail to re-articulate a legitimizing identity, but also relegate Hong Kongers to the role of “economic animal” and become dependent on China’s rapid rise. Against this background, Hong Kong enters an era of rising, though frustrated, political expectations. With a strong urge to “reclaim” or “restore” Hong Kong, an increasing number of people are attracted by the imaginary of “community of fate.” It brings us to the second mechanism which is more socio-psychological. The “community of fate” emerges as a result of crisis, common danger, and a deep horizontal comradeship (Baehr, 2008: 141; Anderson, 1991: 7). Put it more precisely and theoretically, it is an affective process, which refers not simply to a felt bodily intensity (Massumi, 1995), but also “public feelings” (Cvetkovich, 2012) and structures of feeling (Grossberg and Behrenshausen, 2016). Its unfolding is not reducible to a single incident, a particular group of involved
136 Epilogue individuals, an organization, or an ideology. It is a relational dynamic of affecting and being affected evolving through a series of salient incidents. Rhetorically and discursively, it works through scattered codes, phrases, and slogans used in different issues and milieus. Therefore, with their intensity, they appear as both omnipresent and evanescent, or an embodied experience of a collectivity, a society, or a world in motion. For example, in the protests against the extradition bill, the slogan “Go Hong Kongers!” (Heunggongyan Gayau), chanted by the masses on the street, exemplifies this phenomenon. With this most commonly heard chant, people conceive a strong sense of fraternity and envision a collectivity on the move. On some occasions, notably in those of “critical temporalities,” there is an intensity of passionate commitment which solely justify the choice and action, a posture characteristic of Lawrence Grossberg’s concept of “affective autonomy” (2018b: 94–95). But this political will, albeit ceaselessly striving and in defiance of normative rules, instituted rationality, and political civility, is not a blind and irrational force. It configures in two modes of agency and belonging. In the case of nativist agitations, a particular form of governmental belonging predominates in the political scene. Implicit in their engagements in non-conventional repertoires of contention is their longing for ethnocracy. In some incidents such as protests against birth tourism and parallel traders, they did successfully feed themselves into the process of governance, especially in terms of enforcing the boundaries with Mainland China. The second mode of agency is political existentialism. In rhetoric, notably amid some campaigns or conflicts such as the Umbrella Movement, the overtone of existential struggles prevails. Hong Kong is an identity on the verge of losing its identity and the only option left to people is to fight against the authorities. While the former seems to appeal to a colonial order of demarcating Hong Kong from China, the latter functions as an intensity and feeling that define the semantic texture by which “we” as a collectivity relate to the city and our everyday lives. The recent intense agitations under the rubric of “Hong Kong,” despite my intermittent participations, brings me frustration rather than a celebratory tone. The only option left to us appears as bouncing between short-lived confrontational tactics against the authorities and prolonged pessimism and cynicism. My frustration is not primarily directed to the hardening stance of the authorities on Hong Kong. This is partially the outcome of the challenges from political radicalism. Neither is my anger at the right-wing anti-China sentiments shared by some protesters. In fact, amid mass mobilizations, apart from nativists, others representing a broad spread of the politico-ideological spectrum usually show up, chant the similar slogans, and march under the same banners. As a social reformist, my frustration has its source in our weakness at developing a more progressive vision of Hong Kong and China that would inspire people to constantly effect changes we want and need in our everyday life. That said, people could create or shape institutions that enable dynamic leadership to serve vibrant values of freedom and equality. In other words,
Epilogue 137 what we lack is an image of what our shared way of life might be. An alternative vision, speaking to, rather than fully endorsing or rejecting, the current affective assemblage of enunciations that predominates the political scene, remains to be created.
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Abbas, A. 2, 50 “Absolute Spirit” 79 adulthood 100, 101 affective autonomy 135–136 agency 9, 80, 134–135, 136 alienation 70 “alignment” discourse 43 Althusser, L. 9, 15 Anderson, B. 113 anomie 70 anti-capitalist theories 70 anti-colonialism 70 anti-communism 51 anti-extradition law protests 32, 67, 68, 70, 82, 99, 133, 134, 136 anti-globalization 96 anti-Mainland China sentiment 86–89; anti-Mainland visitors campaign 10–11, 50, 54, 57–65, 87–88, 108; see also nativists/nativism anti-national education movement 14, 75, 95 An Tu 31 Appadurai, A. 107, 119 Apple Daily 35 Approved Destination Status (ADS) policy 56 Arendt, H. 79, 83 Arnett, J. 100 Asian financial crisis (1997–1998) 7, 14, 20, 42 assimilation, mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong (gangpiao) 130 “August 31 Decision” 30, 33, 34n2 authenticity 9, 51, 52, 78 authoritarianism, Chinese 5, 134 authoritarian neoliberalism 32–33 authoritarian populism 15 autonomy 5–6, 8, 19, 30, 79, 89, 103, 106, 115; affective 135–136
baby boomers 71, 72 Barthes, R. 17, 19 Basic Law 20, 68, 69, 71, 72, 74, 88, 93, 106 Bauman, Z. 3 Beckham, Victoria 128 being-for-itself (être-pour-soi) 79 being-for-others (être-pour-autrui) 79 belonging 118; national 4; sense of 1–2, 6 “Below the Lion Rock” (TV series) 29 Belt Road Initiatives 33 Benjamin, W. 100 “big market, small government” principle 25–26 biopolitics 11, 55, 61, 76, 77, 132 birth tourism 57–58, 87, 136 Book of Change (Yijing) 107 boundary-making 53–54, 57, 61, 62–63, 66 Brennan, T. 7 Britain 4; colonial rule 2, 3, 14, 70, 71, 102–103; and political reform 71; “stewardship” of Hong Kong 17; transfer of sovereignty to China 5, 71, 133 bubble economy 21 Bush, George W. 15 business elites 72, 73, 88 business-government collusion 26–27, 73 Bynner, J. 100 Cantonese 46, 47, 121 Cantopop 3 capitalism/capitalist development 7, 32, 36, 37, 48, 99; global capitalism 8, 10, 21, 48, 55, 132, 134 Capone, A. 14 Castells, M. 66 Central Committee of CCP, Decision on Economic System Reform (1984) 38 challenge (tiaozhan/tiuzin) 38, 39
158 Index Chan, Andy 67–68 Chan, King-fai 98 Chan, Kin-man 81–82 Chan, Stephen 2 Chan, Wai-yip 104 Chen Shui-bian 14 Cheung, Steven 48, 85 Chicago school of economics 84 Chief Executive Election Ordinance 114 Chief Executives 10, 14–15, 16, 17; and Hong Kong Myth 14, 20–33; nomination of 30, 33, 34n2, 44, 72, 74, 75; see also Lam, Carrie; Leung, Chun-ying; Tsang, Donald; Tung, Chee-hwa China 1, 2–3, 4, 6–7, 21, 33, 51; Approved Destination Status (ADS) policy 56; authoritarian capitalism 134; British transfer of sovereignty to 5, 71, 133; Cultural Revolution 6, 70; economic integration with Hong Kong 11, 21, 22, 40, 73, 77, 117, 134; economic reform 7, 10, 39, 47, 103; freedom of movement 55, 56; “Great Fire Wall” 46; Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) 56, 57, 73; internal migration 55–56, 117; outbound tourism see Chinese tourists; political dominance of 14; and US relationship 14; WTO membership 21, 39, 40, 41, 47; see also anti-Mainland China sentiment Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 7, 19, 28, 48, 61, 70, 86, 88 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee, Decision on Economic System Reform (1984) 38 Chinese immigrants 53, 60–61, 80, 89; as ethnic other 86; “new” 90, 91–92, 131; and welfare system 83–84, 85, 89–93; see also mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong (gangpiao) Chinese language learning 46–47, 109 Chinese nationalism 135 Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference 28 Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) 121, 126 Chinese tourists 54–57, 80; bad behavior and manners 55, 56, 59; birth tourism 57–58, 87, 136; “locust” label 57, 58, 59–60, 61, 76, 84, 87, 88, 124; numbers 57, 59; protests against 10–11, 50, 54, 57–65, 87–88, 108 Chin, Wan 78, 80, 81, 82, 87, 88, 93
Choi Yuen village 73 Chow, Rey 2 Christian right 51 citizenship 52, 53, 56, 132 City-State Forum 93 civic nationalism 113 Civic Party (CP) 72, 74 Civic Passion 54, 68, 88, 104, 105, 106, 108 civil liberties 72 civil rights 33, 82, 132 civil service 3 civil society 12, 70, 71, 73, 74, 79, 116, 117 class relationship 52, 131 Clayton, C. 82 Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) 22, 73 Coalition of True Love for Country and Party 54 Cold War 18, 53 colonialism/colonial legacy 2, 3, 5, 17–18, 20, 24–25, 49, 53, 70, 102–103 colonial managerialism 24 “colonization”, Chinese 88, 89 Commission on Poverty 28, 96 Communists 18; see also Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “community of fate” 135 Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) 85, 95, 96; new immigrants eligibility for 83–84, 85; seven-year residency requirement 83, 92, 93, 94 Confucian values 21 constitutional reform 18, 23, 27, 30, 31, 71, 72, 74, 78, 88, 105–106 consumerism 54, 62–63, 64, 87, 130 consumption 56, 63 contingency 16 core values 22, 30 corruption 33 cosmopolitanism 12, 13, 53, 118, 119, 120, 132, 135 CP see Civic Party critical discourse analysis (CDA) 14–15 cronyism 26 Crouch, C. 38 CSSA see Chinese Students and Scholars Association cultural capital 47, 120, 131 “cultural cleansing” 60–61, 109 Cultural Revolution 6, 70 cultural studies 8, 9 culture 99; nativism and 80–81
Index 159 de Bary, W. T. 107 deinstitutionalization, political 11, 70, 72–76 Deleuze, G. 100 democracy 17, 20, 22, 50 democratic deficit 77 Democratic Party (DP) 19, 27, 71, 74–75 democratic reform 2, 18, 27, 33, 71 democratization 6, 12, 52, 103, 104 democrats 71, 72; see also pan-democrats; pro-democracy camp Deng, Xiaoping 7, 48, 85, 133 denizens 52 deregulation 11, 43, 96 deterritorialization 57, 62, 134 disappearance, culture of 2, 50 discourse analysis 14–16 discourse as event 16 disempowerment 58, 59, 62 District Board 18, 65, 71 dominance, relations of 14–15 DP see Democratic Party Dubet, F. 70 Economic Development Commission (EDC) 43, 44 economic freedom 133, 135 economic growth 7, 14 economic integration, China–Hong Kong 11, 21, 22, 40, 73, 77, 117, 134 Economic Journal of Hong Kong 48 “economic man” (“homo economicus”) 11, 84, 85, 86, 91, 92–93, 97 economic opportunities 10, 35–36, 38–39, 40–41, 42–44 economic policy 25–26; and colonial state 18; interventionist 20–21, 28, 85–86; laissez-faire 11, 18, 32, 84; neoliberal see neoliberalism economic recession 10, 14, 20 economic reform, China 7, 10, 39, 47, 103 education policy 28, 43, 88; national education protests 14, 75, 95, 101, 111 education system 87 elections 88; Chief Executive 30, 33, 34n2, 44, 72, 74, 75; Legislative Council (LegCo) 33, 44, 67, 71, 72: nativist candidates 65, 68–69 employment, mainland 46 empowerment 59–60, 62 Engels, F. 2 English language 47 entrepôt policies 18 Erikson, E. 100
ethnicity 3, 52, 56, 57, 86 ethnicization 52, 83–97 ethnocracy 11, 51, 52–54, 62–63, 108, 136 event 100; discourse as 16 existentialism: political 77–81, 136; Sartre 79–80 extradition law protests 32, 67, 68, 70, 82, 99, 133, 134, 136 Fat Tsoi 89 Feicheng Wurao (TV show) 122 financial crisis: Asian (1997–1998) 7, 14, 20, 42; global (2007–2008) 5, 26, 43, 83 Foucault, M. 9, 14, 16, 37, 61, 85, 100 “Four Asian Dragons” notion 103 freedom 37, 79; desiring 37; economic 133, 135; individual 17, 18, 19, 20, 22; media 72; radical 80 freedom of movement 55, 56 free market 11, 17–18, 21, 25, 36, 48, 84, 96 free trade 32, 36 Freud, S. 100 Friedman, M. 48, 85 Fukuyama, F. 32, 134 functional constituencies (FCs) 74 gangpiao (Hong Kong Drifters) 12, 117; see also mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong gangpiaoquan 122–123, 126–131 Gellner, E. 4 genealogical approach to discourse 16 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 39 geographical mobility 130 Germany 81 global capitalism 8, 10, 21, 48, 55, 132, 134 Global Financial Crisis (2007–2008) 5, 26, 43, 83 globalization 2, 7, 21, 36, 65 Global Times 128 good governance 31–32, 33 governance 37, 52; good 31–32, 33; spatial 62–65 graduated sovereignty 5, 6, 56, 82, 117 Gramsci, A. 15, 16 Greater Bay Area 32, 33, 44, 45, 46, 47 “Great Fire Wall” 46 “Green Home” community group 112 Grossberg, L. 8, 133, 136 Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) 43, 45; protests against 73–74, 101
160 Index “Gundam Incident” 89–93 Guyer, J. 115 Habermas, J. 3 Haddon-Cave, Sir Philip 26 Hage, G. 61–62 Hall, S. 1, 8, 10, 15–16, 54, 116 Harvey, D. 36, 56, 99 health care 47, 57–58, 87 Hegel, G. W. F. 79 Heritage Foundation 2019 Index of Economic Freedom Report 133 historic preservation 50, 73 HKI see Hong Kong Indigenous Ho, Hei-wah 94 “home” 5, 118, 119, 120 “homo economicus” (“economic man”) 11, 84, 85, 86, 91, 92–93, 97 “Hong Kong: Our Home” campaign (2013) 29–30 Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements (HKASPDM) 71 Hong Kong Commercial Daily 41 Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) 89, 90 Hong Kong Drifters see gangpiao Hong Kong Economic Journal 96 Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) 104, 105 “Hong Kong first” principle 28, 76 Hong Kong Golden Forum 90, 95 Hong Kong Indigenous (HKI) 54, 60, 68, 81, 108 Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies 26–27, 39 Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) 40–41 Hong Kong Myth 14, 17–20, 48, 135; Chief Executives and 14, 20–33 Hong Kong Nationalism 67 Hong Kong National Party 30, 67 Hong Kong Resurgence Order 81 Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) 94 Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) 64 Hong Kong Trade Development Council 45 Hong Kong University Student Union (HKUSU) 67, 80 housing 28, 35, 50, 87; subsidized 18, 26, 35 Huang Zongxi 107 Hui, Po-keung 84
Hui, Rafael 45 human rights 3, 4, 18, 53 Hung, Ho-fung 88, 95 identity 1–3, 8, 14, 54; “becoming” of 116; crisis of 3; de-centring of 3; and globalization 2; and institutional politics 2–3, 20; local 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 50, 51, 54, 77; nativist interpretation of 79–80; normative and epistemological implications of 9–10; re-centring of 3; and subject 16 ideology 14, 15; Lacanian theory of 16; social cement theory of 15 immigrants, Chinese see Chinese immigrants; mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong (gangpiao) Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) 118 immigration policy 45, 66, 84, 87 independence 67, 68; see also pro-independence advocacy Independent Commission Against Corruption 2 individual freedom 17, 18, 19, 20, 22 Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) 56, 57, 73 industrial policy 43–44 infant formula shortages 58 infrastructure development 43, 73–74 Inhelder, B. 100 institutionalization, political 70–72 institutional politics 2–3 integration: mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong (gangpiao) 130; see also economic integration International Commission of Jurists 5 International Monetary Fund 32 Internet 72, 76, 77, 86, 93; see also online mobilization interventionism, economic 20–21, 28, 85–86 Japan 55 jiyu/geijyu (opportunity) 10, 35–49; economic/business 35–36, 38–39, 40–41, 42–44; individual 45–49; in media discourse 35, 40, 41; political aspects of 41–42, 44; social/livelihood 45; turning crisis into 42–45; young people and notion of 46 July 1 Rally (2005) 26, 72, 73 jungmou/yongwu action style 76, 78–79, 108, 111
Index 161 Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) 113 KMT (Kuomintang) 18, 70 knowledge-based economy 20 “Kong-pigs” 78 Kōshi, Mitsui 107 Kowloon Riot (1966) 101 Kulturkritik 81 Ku, Sike 57 Kwai Tsing dock workers strike (2013) 14 Kwong, Po-yin 113 labor organizations 70 Lacanian psychoanalysis 16 lack (Lacanian psychoanalysis) 16 Laclau, E. 16, 52 laissez-faire policies 11, 18, 32, 84 Lam, Carrie 31–32, 96; “good governance” 31–32; and jiyu/geijyu (opportunity) 44–45 Lam, H-c. 96 Lam, K. 31, 93, 94 Lancome 128 land system 18 language 46–47, 109, 121 Lau, S. K. 24 Law, W. S. 24, 25, 66 “lazy people” thesis 85, 91, 92 League of Social Democrats (LSD) 72, 74, 75, 104 Lee, Ka-chiu John 67 Lee, Martin 19 Lee, Simon 93 Left 21 group 94 left-wing opinion 12, 32, 36, 52, 94, 99 Legislative Council (LegCo) 22, 27, 30, 68–69; blockade of (2010) 74; elections to 33, 44, 67, 71, 72 Leung, Antony 25, 26 Leung, Chin-man 26 Leung, Chung-hang Baggio 69, 75 Leung, Chun-ying 17, 28–30, 58, 64, 80, 88; and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 28, 88; Economic Development Commission (EDC) 43, 44; education policy 28; and “Hong Kong: Our Home” campaign 29–30; and “Hong Kong first” principle 28; housing policy 28; industrial policy 43–44; and jiyu/geijyu (opportunity) 43–44, 44; and political agitations (2014) 30; “proactive policy” 28–30; and rule of law controversies 30 Leung, Edward 68, 69, 105 Leung, Hon-chu 91 Leung, Kam-shing 58–60
Leung, Kok-hung 104 Leung, Tin-kei 108, 109, 110, 112 Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong (LOCPGHK) 121–122, 123, 125, 126 “liberalization” policies 43 Liberal Studies 102, 114 Li, Ka-shing 14 Lion Rock Institute 84, 93 Liu, Kwong-sheng 39 living costs 73 local/local identity 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 50, 51, 54, 77 “locusts”, mainland visitors/immigrants as 57, 58, 59–60, 61, 76, 84, 87, 88, 124 Lo, Kwai-cheung 65–66 LSD see League of Social Democrats Lui, Tai-lok 1 Lu, Sida 1, 78, 92 Macau 56, 57, 82, 87 Maclehose, M. 2 Ma, Eric 1, 87 mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong (gangpiao) 117–132, 135; and home 118, 119, 120; integration/assimilation 130; and political issues 124–126; self-representation of: pragmatism and mobility 126–131; (self-) segregation 122, 124; translocality 118, 132 (and disengagement 124–126; as network 121–123); university admissions 118, 119–120 mainlanders see Chinese immigrants; Chinese tourists; mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong (gangpiao) “mainlandization” 44, 46, 48, 65, 78, 88 Manchu 6 Mandatory Pension Fund (MPF) 95 Mao Zedong 7 “marginalization”, problem of 45, 48–49, 77, 135 margizen 52 market economy 32 Marx, K. 2, 32 media 86; freedom of 72; and neoliberal ideas 85 media discourse, jiyu/geijyu (opportunity) in 35, 40, 41 migration 131, 132; internal, China 55–56, 117; see also Chinese immigrants; immigration policy Mingyi Daifung Lu (Huang Zongxi) 107 minimum wage 25
162 Index minority nationalism 67 minority rights 3–6 Mirowski, P. 38 mobility 131; geographical 130; social 129–130 modernity 2, 3, 7, 79 Mong Kok riot (2016) 1, 60, 68, 76, 99, 101, 105, 106, 108, 109, 134 Monnet, Jean 23 moral panic 15 Morris, M. 54 multiculturalism 4, 50, 53 Mussolini, B. 67 myth 19; see also Hong Kong Myth “Nasty Chee-na Style” (music video) 69 nation 3, 6 national belonging 4 national education protests 14, 75, 95, 101, 111 national identity 7 nationalism 67, 70, 80, 135; Chinese 135; civic 113; minority 67 nationalization 22 National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) 22, 27, 30, 69, 88 national populism 51–52, 65, 77 national security 82 National Security Bill (2003), protests against 22, 72, 88 national unification 4, 5, 6, 32, 48, 65, 103, 113, 134 nation-building 52 nativists/nativism 11, 50, 51, 54, 58, 59–66, 76–82, 86–89, 99, 104–116; ambiguity, ambivalence, and contradiction 67–80; “atomized” activism 77–78; and culture 80–81; interpretation of identity 79–80; jungmou/yongwu action style 76, 78–79, 108, 111; and Mong Kok riot (2016) 99; and neoliberal ideas 11, 84, 86, 91–92, 96, 97; and political institutions 75–76, 79; political party formation and electoral candidates 65, 68–69; and problem of zogaau 93–96; racist discourse 11, 62, 64, 76, 77, 91, 92, 99; and universal pension scheme (UPS) 95–96; and welfare system 83–84, 89–93, 96–97 neoclassical economics 11 neoliberalism 10, 32, 36–38, 48, 56, 57, 82, 83, 84–86, 96, 115, 131, 132, 133–135; authoritarian 32–33; and
jiyu/geijyu (opportunity) discourse 45–46, 49; localization in Hong Kong 84–85, 96; and media 85; and nativism 11, 84, 86, 91–92, 96, 97; origins of 10; and welfare reform 85 nepotism 26 “new immigrants” 90, 91–92, 131 New Right 11 New World Development (NWD) 26 non-interventionism 1, 26, 32, 85 non-space 2 North District Parallel Imports Concern Group 54, 58–59 Obama, Barack 14, 15 Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP) 30, 75, 81, 94 Oei, Martin 91–92, 93, 94 “One Country, Two Systems” 4, 5, 6, 7, 30, 40, 41, 61, 77, 81, 82, 103, 133, 134, 135 One-Way Permits (OWP) 60 Ong, A. 37, 82 online mobilization 72, 74 Opium War 6 opportunity see jiyu/geijyu Other/Otherness 3, 53, 79–80 Oxfam 25 pan-democrats 71, 72, 74, 75, 77, 94, 95, 103, 108, 113–114; see also pro-democracy camp parallel traders 59, 87, 108, 128, 136 patriotism 88 Patten, Chris 17–20, 71 Peck, J. 38, 97 Peng, Yinni 122 pensions 95–96 “people’s power” 73 perfect competition 11 Piaget, J. 100 Polanyi, K. 32 political deinstitutionalization 11, 70, 72–76 political disengagement 124–126 political engagement 101–102 political existentialism 77–81, 136 political institutions/institutionalization 70–72; nativists relationship with 75–76, 79 political parties: nativists’ formation of 68; opposition 69; see also individual political parties political reform 74–75, 88, 103; British colonial government and 71; see also constitutional reform; universal suffrage
Index 163 political texts, as multi-dimensional space 14–17 polymedia, theory of 122 popular culture 3, 37 populism 51–52, 65, 77, 86 post-coloniality 2 post-Marxist discourse theory 15–16 poverty 25, 26, 28, 89 power relations 15, 16, 52, 53, 54, 66 pragmatic politics, Donald Tsang 23, 24, 25–27, 44 private property 11, 36, 84 privatization 11, 36 pro-democracy camp 17, 19, 27, 71, 74–75, 89; mainland Chinese 126–127; see also pan-democrats pro-independence advocacy 30, 67, 68, 76, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 115 Proletariat Political Institute 68 property development 26–27, 28, 43 “Property Hegemony” 14, 26–27, 127 property prices 25, 26, 73, 118, 127 psychoanalysis 15, 16 Putonghua 46, 47, 109 Qiu, S. 39 QQ 122 quantitative easing 83 Queen’s Pier preservation 95 racism 11, 62, 64, 76, 77, 91, 92, 99, 124, 125 radical freedom 80 radical Right 52, 86 Radio and Television of Hong Kong (RTHK) 29 railway projects 43, 45, 73–74 Rancière, J. 100 Rassool, N. 47 Reagan, Ronald 11 Realpolitik 78 recognition, political 116 refugees 6, 18, 53 religious fundamentalism 51 Renan, E. 6 residency requirements 83, 92, 93, 94, 118 Restore Hong Kong Campaign 106, 108 revanchsim 62 Ricoeur, P. 100 right-wing politics 11, 52, 86; see also nativists/nativism “Riot 1967” 70 Rofel, L. 37 rule of law 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 30, 33, 133
SARS outbreak (2003) 22, 72 Sartre, J.-P. 79–80 satire 72 Sautman, B. 52–53 sectarianism 107–111, 115 self-determination 3, 4, 6, 8, 67, 79, 82 self-government 4, 5, 37, 77, 97, 134 self and Other 79–70 self-protection 80, 97 self-realization 3 separatism 67, 82, 104, 115 Shuen, Andrew 93 “sinicization” 65 Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984) 4, 71 Smith, N. 62 Social Actionist Faction 70–71 social cement theory of ideology 15 socialism 7 social justice 33 social media 122–123; see also Gangpiaoquan; QQ; WeChat; Weibo social mobility 129–130 social movements 50–51, 69–70, 70–71, 73 social networks, mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong (gangpiao) 121–123 social reform 50, 53, 71, 95, 97 social semiotic approach 9, 14 social welfare see welfare Society for Community Organization 94 South Korea 55 sovereignty: graduated 5, 6, 56, 82, 117; transfer from Britain to China 5, 71, 133 spatial governance 62–65 Star Ferry Pier preservation 95 “stewardship”, British 17 street politics 73, 75, 76, 114 “Strengthening Nation Forum” 87 Student Ambassadors 64 student associations 70 subject, and identity 16 subjectivity 8, 9, 37, 79 Sun, Tung-man 39 Support for Self-reliance (SFS) Scheme 85 Susu 130–131 Taiwan 14, 55, 124 Tai Yiu-ting, Benny 75, 94 Ta Kung Pao 41 Tang, Henry 28, 88 Task Force on Economic Challenges (TFEC) 42–43 Taylor, C. 9, 79, 116
164 Index teachers’ unions 70 television 3, 94 temporality: and youth activism 12, 102, 104–116; see also time territory/territorialization 50, 52, 62, 66 Thailand 55 Thatcher, Margaret 11, 15–16, 133 third space 2 Tiananmen incident (1989) 19, 71 tiaozhan/tiuzin (challenge) 38, 39 Tibet 82, 124 Tien, James 22 time 99–101; as an object 98–99; dead 99, 115; disrupted 100; industrial 99; naturalized/normalized 99, 100; and political development of Hong Kong 102–104; as problematic 99; see also temporality “Touch Base Policy” 53 tourists/tourism 63–64, 73; see also Chinese tourists translocality see under mainland Chinese youth in Hong Kong (gangpiao) transport infrastructure 43, 73–74 Tsang, Donald 17, 23–27, 88; and economic policy 25–26, 42–43; and jiyu/geijyu (opportunity) 42–43; “Letter to Hong Kong” (2006) 23; personification 23–24; pragmatic approach 23, 24, 25–27, 44; pro-business stance 26–27; Task Force on Economic Challenges (TFEC) 42–43 Tsang, John 31 Tsoi, Yiu-cheong 94 Tung, Chee-hwa 17, 20–22; interventionism 20–21; and jiyu/geijyu (opportunity) 39, 40, 42; nationalization project 22 UGL Limited 28 Umbrella Movement 14, 30, 31, 60, 61, 70, 81, 94, 95, 99, 101, 104, 106, 126, 134, 136; nativists within 60, 75, 76; origins of 75; “Step up the Action” campaign 99 Undergrad 67, 80 unemployment 21 United Democrats of Hong Kong 71 United States (US) 14, 18, 36 universal pension scheme (UPS) 95–96 universal suffrage 22, 26, 27, 44, 69, 72, 73, 103; de facto referendum movement 74
university admissions, mainland Chinese students 118, 119–120 University Grants Committee 118 urban planning and redevelopment 50, 73; see also Greater Bay Area utilitarian familism 24 Valentine, G. 100 Van Dijk, T. A. 15 Vološinov, V. N. 41 wages, minimum wage 25 Wang, Lixiong 82 Washington Consensus 83 WeChat 122, 123, 126, 127 Weibo 126 welfare dependency 11 welfare policies 3, 18, 36 welfare state 11 welfare system: Chinese immigrants and 83–84, 85, 89–93; and “lazy people” thesis 85, 91, 92; nativist attacks on 83–84, 89–93, 96–97; neoliberal reform of 85; see also Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Wen Wei Po 41 Williams, R. 38 Wong, Chun-kit 80 Wong, Ka-ying 39 Wong, Toi-yeung Ray 60–61, 66n 68, 69, 75 Wong, Yeung-tat 81 Wong, Yuk-man Raymond 104 work ethics 129–130 World Bank 32 World Trade Organization (WTO) 21, 39, 40, 41, 47 Xiaozhijun 129–130 Xinhai revolution 6 Xinjiang 82 XRL see Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link Xu, Jiatun 39 Yam, Chi-kwong Joseph 40–41 Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo 106–107 Yau, Wai-ching 69, 112 Yeung, Kevin 46–47 Yick, Ronald 90 young people 85; and notion of jiyu/geijyu (opportunity) 46; and political engagement 101–102; and tourism promotion 64; and universal pension
Index 165 scheme (UPS) 95, 96; see also youth; youth activism Youngspiration 68, 76, 111–112, 113, 128 youth 100–101; as critical temporality 100–101; as developmental stage 100 youth activism 12, 73, 74, 101–102; and temporality 12, 102, 104–116 Youth Ambassadors 64
Youth Research Centre and Youth Ideas 46 Zhang, Chaoshuai 128–129 Zhao, Zhiyang 85 Zhu, Ke 127 Zizek, S. 16 zogaau 93–96