Learn from Hong Kong’s sad fate
By Paul Lin 林保華
The provisional title of this article, “The sensitive issue of China-Hong Kong relations” would not be considered “politically correct” in Hong Kong. After 1997, when the British handed the territory back to China, Beijing decreed that a number of political terms would be used regarding the territory. For example, China-Hong Kong relations were to be known as “relations between Hong Kong and the interior,” because juxtaposing China and Hong Kong smacks of sympathizing with Hong Kong independence. Nor could one talk of the 1997 “transfer of sovereignty,” because in Beijing’s eyes, Hong Kong has always been a part of China: One could only speak of a “return.”
Even if the media in Hong Kong do not have to enforce these rules, such terminology is becoming ever more common. This is how Hong Kong is slowly becoming linguistically “Sinicized.” I beg your pardon — I should perhaps have said “interiorized.” This is one of the deep-seated causes of the tension that has broken out in Hong Kong of late between locals and visitors from the “interior.”
One issue that has recently highlighted these tensions concerns the introduction of the Hong Kong-mainland China driving scheme, allowing drivers registered in China to drive into Hong Kong. Many are concerned that Chinese drivers will not follow traffic rules, and some are also worried that it will lead to the adoption of China’s system of driving on the right. This last fear has led to criticisms that Hong Kongers are relics of British colonialism, though Japanese also drive on the left. Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (王岐山) dismissed these concerns by saying that Chinese motorists would observe traffic regulations when they are in Hong Kong, and the government of the Special Administrative Region dared not refuse to accept them. Some Hong Kongers fear this is the beginning of the end.