The recent initiative of seven Hong Kong men to defend the Diaoyu Islands, sovereignty of which is claimed by both China and Japan, provides a great opportunity to examine the contentious issue of Chinese identity among Hong Kong people.
In a sharp contrast with the enthusiasm among students, workers and other sectors in Hong Kong to defend the Diaoyu Islands some 40 years ago, the latest attempt only seemed to have attracted media attention rather than that of the general public. Even though the crew managed to land on the largest island of the archipelago on 15 August, for the first time in 16 years, few people in Hong Kong seem concerned. More often I hear and read comments such as, "Why bother?" "Aren't those guys anti-China? Why did they bring along the five-star red flag?"
The most astonishing remark reads, "I am a Hong Konger, I am not Chinese. Let's focus on Hong Kong politics. Chinese politics is none of our business."
As far as I can see, there are quite a number of people liking and sharing such sentiments on Facebook and other online platforms. Anti-communist and anti-Beijing as they firmly insist, those people have actually fallen into the fallacy set by the communist regime – the nation and the state are one and interchangeable in meaning. This means they despise the Chinese communists so much so that denying one's national identity is justifiable, or even natural and reasonable. Those who are fearless to show their patriotism, like the local defenders of Diaoyu Islands, are doomed to be ridiculed.
But isn't it more ridiculous that those who vehemently opposes to the communist regime in China have effectively adopted the communist fallacious school of thought without even knowing?
It is unfortunate that we, the Chinese people, are still denied of a truly national flag that transcends the change of regime. What we have now in mainland China and Taiwan are no more than state flags overwhelmingly connected to the ruling parties rather than the nation itself. Yet this is a political reality we must not lose sight of and thus we need to discern various contexts of using these flags. These must not be casually generalised or taken as identical. In the latest case of wavering the flags on the Diaoyu Islands, for example, it does not necessarily mean that the crew are supportive of any of the governments represented. It just so happens that these flags are only what is available to represent the Chinese nation. As symbols of our nation they are certainly not good enough, because their designs are far from being neutral and representative, but they are all we have and recognised by all peoples of the world.
It is even more unfortunate that so many people in Hong Kong are disposing of their Chinese identity in the false hope of detaching from the mainland, at least culturally and socially. But is it the right thing to do? Why do we deny our cultural roots just because of an authoritarian regime that claims to represent all of us, whose existence is merely temporal? In what capacity are we going to promote freedom and democracy in Hong Kong if we voluntarily give up the rare, if the sole, common ground with our Beijing masters?