For a long time, I thought protesters who waved the colonial, British and American flags and sang their national anthems during protests were doing so just to spite Beijing and Chinese nationalists.
There is surely a strong element of that. Now, though, I realise some of them actually mean it. I have seen too many videos showing protesters and rioters who immediately calmed down, reacted reasonably and/or even backed away when Western-looking people intervened in their actions.
Whether it was blocking road traffic, rallying at the airport, stopping MTR trains from running or in a new YouTube clip, arguing with an expatriate woman who was tearing down messages from a “Lennon Wall” – they amazingly showed awe, respect or deference.
If a mainlander or a local did it, they would beat them up.
Given the chance, there is a small but vocal subset of Hong Kong people who really want the Brits to recolonise the city or the Americans to take it over. But since that’s an impossibility, they accept the next best thing, which is to get those Western countries to interfere in Hong Kong as much as possible.
That may be hard for outsiders, especially mainlanders, to understand. Didn’t Hong Kong get over a century and a half of colonial rule like it was yesterday?
But forget about Britain’s legitimate interest in Hong Kong; or debates about China’s obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and whether the treaty’s main functions have been superseded by the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Those are afterthoughts, justifications used to invite the Brits to interfere. They are basically academic.
We are not even talking about the viability of communist or authoritarian government. At a gut level, many Hongkongers believe they are fundamentally superior to mainlanders, so there is something deeply wrong about being ruled by barbarians. At the same time, they believe they are equal or possibly inferior to Westerners. Well, if they have to be ruled by someone, their preference, however unrealistic, is clear. Ironically, that’s a common Chinese trait – to place peoples within a “barbarian hierarchy”, say, South Asians, Filipinos and Indonesians in Hong Kong.
Whether and to what extent they succeed in realising it, most Western societies at least have a strong cultural attachment to the ideal of equality. It’s rather different in Chinese societies. Perhaps if more Hongkongers admit their inferiority-superiority complex about mainlanders, we may all have an easier time coexisting.
Source: South China Morning Post