[Undergrad/HKUSU] In Search of Moral Courage for the Hong Kong Nation

In Search of Moral Courage for Hong Kong Nation: A Journey of Civil Membership Thinking
Translated by Karen Leung, edited by Chen-tang, written by Marcus Lau Yee-ching 劉以正 (Aug 2015)
Original: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0nrPotOynIFLUdMbFFRbjlaZE0/view
A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which are really only one, go to make up this soul or spiritual principle. One of these things lies in the past, the other in the present. The one is possession in common of a rich heritage of memories; and the other is actual agreement, the desire to live together, and the will to continue to make the most of the joint inheritance.
 — Ernest Renan

Localism rises in Hong Kong's recent political discussion, with several theories towards City-State Autonomy, Nationalism in Hong Kong and Hong Kong Independence derived from it. It is seen political organisations just as Civic Passion, Hong Kong Localism Power and Hong Kong Indigenous manifesting of "China holds no authority over HK" or "Segregation of China and HK" to be their very foundations.

While the operation of the keyword "Nation" has barely been explained to keep up with the current situation since 2013-2014 Editorial Board of Undergrad's publication of Hong Kong Nationalism, some of the interpretations are off.

Umbrella Revolution in the national history of Hong Kong, acted as a significant turning point, along with 2010's Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) controversy and 2012's protests against brainwashing National Education, has altered the new generation's self-cognition and sense of identity and has gathered an irreversible momentum to Hong Kong Nationalism. According to HKUPOP, in this June, 63% of young adults (aged from 18 to 29) identified themselves as "Hongkongers", which is 10% higher than that of last year. While decrease of ethnic identity is seen among the interviewees aged 30 or above, particularly a 7% drop from 38% to 31%, the 32% discrepancy between the two is the biggest since the Handover in 1997.

In the following paragraphs, this article, with the "Hong Kong civic nation" concept suggested by Hong Kong Nationalism as a foundation, attempts to define the cultural and political signification in the "Imagined Communities" and to illustrate the civic membership of Hong Kong nationalism in accordance with the current social order of Hong Kong. By which it is to prove the ideological and moral legitimacy of Hong Kong nationalism without a nature of blind exclusiveness and antagonistic polity against universal values, so that Hongkongers who are now gradually losing their directions and passions under the severe pressure from mainland China could be freed and relieved.

To define Hong Kong Nationalism, it is shaped as the weapon or leverage against Chinese Imperialism. So when CCP colonial regime or their mouthpieces attempt to label this concept as "Separatism" or defame "Hong Kong independence", it in fact shows us CCP's fear on losing its legitimacy in the governance of Hong Kong. What they do not understand is that the political consideration during the course of consolidating Hong Kong Nationalism is merely the people's declaration to preserve the land's culture — this, is the freedom of speech.

Cantonese Culture as Hongkongers' Native Culture

First things first, in order to categorise a nation, it is a must to seek ways to distinguish one from another, whereas the "ways" vary among Nationalists' theories. In British sociologist Anthony Smith's point of view, nationalism can be divided into two forms: ethnic and civil. Smith suggested through distinct inborn and random factors, notably race, ties of blood, language, etc. can one recognise its categorisations, while civil nationalism, Smith said, is compatible with a shared political life, the values of the land's culture and a sense of identity.

In the mention of ethnic nationalism, Nazi Germany in the 20th century will naturally pop out as an example. Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil in English), of which emphasises the relationship of their tie of blood and their livelihood so as to deepen the inseparability of the two. With intensive propaganda, it had unified the people's cognition of Blut and Boden and what romanticism calls Volkgeist (roughly, Spirit of the People in English). Particularly, through songs, music and alike, it had managed to build a sense of ethnic superiority among the people, and gradually forming an introverted and racist nation. The then invasion, expansion, and massive genocide against the Jews were measures to exhibit Volksdeutsche's brutality and brilliance. Their tyranny is the extremity history in practising ethnic nationalism making one to withhold the possibility that nationalism can bring civilisation.

In its ideology, there is a core concept named

In contrast to the savage acts, civil nationalism frees the common stereotype of nationalism, expressly the distinct definition of collective identity. British sociologist David Miller is in the stance that it takes merely the common belief of the existence of the nation to its birth. Extending the idea, Benedict Anderson's theory of "imagined communities" put forward that even the members within the nation do not know each other personally, they, living with regular plebiscite practice, could share collective memory. Thus and thus, the life cycle of such a nation will sustain.

Still, regardless of the types of nationalism, it would not have worked without tenacious common conscience or practical needs generated along with the history. In reality, among the nation states in our modern world, we barely see anyone adopt mere one form of the nationalisms mentioned. As for the sovereign states under higher influence of globalisation, the less difficult migration nowadays has been seen frequent. Thus, ethnically homogeneous states are rarely seen. Dominating our world today are multinational states. 

Once as nation state, Taiwan, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, undergoing the Third Wave Democracy, now follow principles of anti-imperialism, post-colonialism and authoritarianism to construct nations of multiculturalism and shared belief. Hong Kong Nationalism suggested that during the resistance against CCP and the puppet regime, Hong Kong civilians fighting for democracy have learnt to embrace freedom, rule of law and integrity more than before. Similarly, it proposed, the ones which genuinely believe in Hong Kong's core values (freedom, integrity, rule of law, etc.) and are willing to devote oneself to the society of Hong Kong are regarded as one of the members in Hong Kong nation. Although this hypothesis seems magnanimous enough, I must say, it fails to take into account of the population structure of Hong Kong society.

It wasn't that Hong Kong nationalism didn't emphasise multiculturalism, but it's the integration of ethnic minorities into Hong Kong society being slow, both the organisation and development. Mass media and social movements with Cantonese in verbal form and Chinese in written form are making non-ethnic Chinese hard to participate as a part of it which can be seen during the Umbrella Revolution. On the ground that foreign news media relies heavily on Chinese media as a source of first-hand information, real-time reports are normally unavailable for the rest to understand the subtle changes during the movements. It implies the indirect refusal to the non-ethnic Chinese, let alone putting them on the same page.

Genuine multiculturalism, Smith said, can solely be implanted in a nation with multicultural values as the core. With the premise that the majority in Hong Kong society is formed by ethnic Chinese, it will not be appropriate to interpret Hong Kong nation merely with the framework of civil nationalism and it lacks full understanding of the real situation in Hong Kong. There is approximately 450,000 non-ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong, especially ethnic minorities, and most of them are on the edge of the civil society. In the public discussions, it is rare for the voices of ethnic minorities to be included. Even if there is, they are mostly concerned with employment, education and rights. Other than that, either issues concerning the political system or social involvement can we barely hear them from the big crowd.

Between groups of people, if an effective communication platform was not built, "imagined communities" would not stand for a slightest chance. Several paragraphs below will be illustrating the impassableness in interpreting civil nationalism by the Americans' example.

Americans today embrace cultures from distinct ethnic groups, by which encourages them to participate in various social involvement. Every generation of them inherits the spirit of equality. But still, Smith reminded us that even for American society, there was Christians' ethnie. Nearly two-century winding history and political struggles such as slavery in the 18th century, the abolitionism afterwards, and the African-American Civil Rights Movement in 1960s, each and every day, American civilians literally live in the process of social integration. Even though various ethnic groups are there, Americans share the same language, symbol (a national flag), specific customs (celebrating Thanksgiving), and a national myth known as the American Dream. That is what makes the inseparability of the American nation. 

Very much is American nation differed from Hong Kong nation, a community sharing the same destiny and fighting against Chinese Imperialism. Its nature is of decolonisation and defensiveness, longed for separating from Chinese cultural subject, values and beliefs. Many Hongkongers have been struggled in their sense of identity (as a Chinese or a Hongkonger). Since finding a way out of the confusion and refusing to be a member of Chinese, most of them, as one of the members in Hong Kong nationalism, bravely pursue the democratic future of Hong Kong, whereas non-ethnic Chinese, born in Hong Kong, have difficulties dealing with the above conflict and being affirmatively sure as one of them. That says, only by redefining a cultural subject for Hong Kong nation can non-ethnic Chinese be included.

18th century German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte said, a unique language constructs a unique nation. Fichte did not provide conscientious demonstration, but the saying did tell us the significance a common language in constructing a political community. Cantonese is the core of Hong Kong creative development. In the form of songs, dramas, movies, or TV series, Cantonese represents the uniqueness in Hong Kong culture.

It is important for us to realise the current defect in the building of Hong Kong nation — the non-ethnic Chinese indeed have less right to give opinion comparing with ethnic Chinese. To enforce the influence of Cantonese culture, it doesn't mean only the ethnic Chinese fit as the target and we should be clear that embracing multiculturalism doesn't equal to an act of tolerance. By simple deduction, only the ones willing to learn Cantonese and embrace Cantonese culture are qualified to be one of the members in Hong Kong nation.

Establishing Citizenship and Drawing Political Boundaries

To the present day, HKSAR still has no approval authority of one-way permit. In another words, the territorial boundary of Hong Kong will not be effective. As an immigrant society for quite a long time, Hong Kong has accepted numerous immigrants from mainland China during the time of turmoil, including the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the Cultural Revolution, etc. It changes, every time, Hong Kong's population structure. As a result, even for the ethnic Chinese, it is rather hard to integrate seamlessly given distinct developmental processes and social experiences, let alone to embrace the common ideology people need to carry on in shared political lives. The instability adds burden to the definition of citizenship. Under such circumstance, it will be extremely challenging to build a healthy and long-term political community out of it.

English political theorist Margaret Canovan, in Nationhood and Poltical Theory, suggested that citizenship isn't just about integrating individuals, but a political community which opinions through ways like elections and consensus will be adopted in the governance and decision making. Citizenship of this kind, once established, becomes an inborn characteristic which the next generation will be bound to take upon certain moral and political responsibilities, by which the highest support can be gathered easily when the national interest is being threatened. 

Therefore, under the conflicts between the Chinese and Hong Kong nation, it should be Hong Kong nation's goal to build up a self-governing community putting its people on the top and to draw explicit state-frontier seeking for complete independence of financial allocation, judicial authorities, and political system from mainland China. It could be a nation state, a dominion or other suitable sorts.

We should all understand that Hong Kong nation is bestowed automatically the self-determination right in the international law given its awfully inferior position against Chinese Imperialism. Only with self-determination can Hong Kong nation be possible to live with dignity. If you watch closely to CY Leung's 3-year regime, you will be able to tell after the Umbrella Revolution and the denial of political reform, the suppression is expected to be strengthened. To see an example, the Council of the University of Hong Kong had postponed the appointment of the Executive Vice-President with ridiculous excuses.

In addition to that, it should be no surprise that CCP's regime will further extend through Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR so as to eliminate the potential threat against CCP's authoritarianism and to deliberately weaken the high degree of autonomy stated in "One Country, Two Systems". Political space, therefore, will inevitably be narrowed.

It does leave doubts whether pure civil values in "Imagined Communities" are enough to gather power from Hong Kong nation. Canovan insisted that behind our modern societal system, the social justice and sustainable democracy, it is in fact subject to a continuable and stable nationhood. For more than 30-year of democratisation movement, the failure is a denial of regarding democratic values as the sole destination of democratic movement. Thus, it is noted that the citizenship of Hong Kong nation should be formed by a trinity of Cantonese culture, civil values and political community.

The three supplement with each other, helping Hong Kong nation to give clearly defined boundaries. With these three elements, Hong Kong nation could have the self-renewal ability to form a community of politics, culture and ideology. For a new wave of democratic movements, Hong Kong nationalism should be leading so that the ideology of self-determination can be trained among Hongkongers. To fight for a slim chance of autonomy, a widespread national consciousness is our biggest bargaining chip.

Italian poet Dante in Divina Commedia wrote, "Once you enter the door, you ought to give up all the hope you've ever gotten. This very high wall in front has blocked countless souls desperate for freedom, and it is expected to stopping many future ones. That is why it is for us to carry a heart of truth, spirit of humbleness and rightfulness, along with moral courage to lift a burst of whirlwind for a new wave of nationalism movement.

What Are You Laughing At? You Are Chinese Too!