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How to Know Hong Kong and Macau

Roberto Ignacio Diaz, Dominic Cheung, Ana Paulina Lee, Authors

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Who Is Hong Kong? 6

"Hong Kongers"

What does it mean to be a Hong Konger? Locals call themselves Hèung Góng Yàhn (香港人), which literally translates to “Hong Kong people.” Most importantly, this term includes not only those who are ethnically Chinese or permanent residents of Hong Kong, but also encompasses the assorted minorities of the region as well as those who live here and call it home, whether this is for a year or a lifetime. This is reflected in the laws of citizenship. Both Hong Kong migrants and residents are assumed to abide by Hong Kong laws under the Hong Kong Basic Law Article 42, which defines permanent and non-permanent residents. The Hong Kongers are thus united in common view as well as in the eyes of the law. 

Hong Kong University Surveys

It is clear just how overwhelmingly this sense of "national" community has grown without any real nation to be founded upon, as shown by a series of survey conducted by the Public Opinion Programme (POP) at Hong Kong University. The surveys, which were conducted via telephone under close supervision, targeted Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong of age 18 or above but also included minorities and non-Cantonese speakers. They aimed to measure Hong Kong people’s ethnic identity. Four categories were given to participants to choose from: "Hong Kong citizens", "Chinese Hong Kong citizens", "Chinese citizens," and "Hong Kong Chinese citizens." A dichotomy was created between Chinese identity and Hong Kong identity by classifying those who responded as “Hong Kong citizens” or “Chinese Hong Kong citizens” as Hong Kong People overall and those who responded as “Chinese People” or “Hong Kong Chinese Citizens” as Chinese People overall. 

The surveys revealed that 63% of the respondents identified themselves as Hong Kong People in the broader sense while only 34% identified themselves as Chinese People in the broader sense (the remaining 3 percent were removed due to response errors). Robert Chung, the director of the Public Opinion Programme, went on to explain that, “Figures also show that in terms of absolute rating, people's identification with ‘Hong Kong citizens’ has reached a ten-year high, while that of ‘Chinese citizens’ has dropped to a twelve-year low. This is contrary to the China's economic development in recent years, so it must be due to factors beyond economic development” (Hong Kong University). Indeed, if the people’s affinity for China was tied solely to their belief in its economic status, the opposite trend would be expected, as China’s GDP has increased exponentially within the last few decades and China is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy. This suggests that the identity of Hong Kong people is rooted in ideologies beyond the realm of global economics. 

Another telling measure is the results of the surveys’ use of “identity indices.” These combined participant’s responses to two measures, strength and importance, in relation to six different identity categories. The final index, between 0 and 100, is meant to measure the strengths of people's identities; the higher the index, the stronger the identity. Zero indicates no feeling while 100 indicates extremely strong feeling. The results are as follows: Hong Kong people's feeling is strongest as "Hong Kong citizens", followed by "members of the Chinese race", then "Asians", "Chinese citizens", "global citizens", and finally "citizens of the PRC.”

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