Hong Kong has always struggled with a major identity crisis. Once a former British colony, it was only handed back to China in 1997 under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy which promised another fifty years of limited autonomy from the mainland government.
For the most part, Hong Kong has benefited from the convergence of Eastern and Western culture.
Buddhist shrines are scattered all over the city just as its signature skyscrapers are. Expats and locals coexist whether it’s having traditional afternoon tea in a Chinese-style cafe or having dinner in internationally renowned restaurants.
Walk around the city and you’ll hear teenagers skillfully switching back and forth the local Cantonese dialect and English - sometimes even mixing the two into “Chinglish”.
However, this multicultural facet of the city has recently shown a dark side in light of the ongoing Hong Kong protests, commonly known as the “Umbrella Revolution”.
The people of Hong Kong are upset at Beijing’s decision to handpick candidates for the city’s upcoming elections for Chief Executive (the region’s highest political position). This move by Beijing is blurring the line for Hong Kong as to whether or not they are still truly independent from China.
Having grown up in the neighbouring city Macau, which is also under the same “One Country, Two Systems” government, I understand the concerns of the citizens of Hong Kong. People from China’s Special Administrative Regions don’t like to identify themselves as Chinese.
To the people of Macau, they are Macanese. To the people of Hong Kong, they are Hong Kongers.
They like to think that they have their own distinct identity detached from those that have heavily influenced their culture today, and understandably so. Nobody likes to be compared to his or her parents, right?
This is the trouble with relatively young cities such as Hong Kong.
It is still searching for its identity while also trying to prove itself on the international stage.
For the most part, it’s proud of its associations from parent-figures, China and the United Kingdom. However, it also doesn’t want to be confined to those definitions.
The question is, what happens in 2047 when the “One Country, Two Systems” contract expires?
Hong Kong is likely to be absorbed back into China completely with the Beijing government’s controversial decision from last month being the main sign of the beginning of this tough transition.
The only thing that could prevent this from happening is stronger resistance from the adamant people of Hong Kong but historically (Tiananmen Square in 1989), China has proven itself to be just as iron-willed.
Two tenacious beings against each other is never a good start but it just goes to show, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.