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  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 2:12pm
PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 8:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 8:59pm

Only a patriot can be a true leader

Michael Chugani says while talk of patriotism here has been causing furrowed brows, love of country really isn't that complicated


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Whenever people ask me if I love my country, I am stumped. Which country am I supposed to love? It's a question I often ask myself. As a naturalised American, I, of course, love my adopted country. I pay my taxes, vote if there's someone worth voting for, and root for America in the Olympic Games. George W. Bush's needless war in Iraq diminished my faith in America's moral authority but not my love of country. Pride swelled again inside me when the US proved its democratic credentials to the world by electing its first black president.

But since I am ethnically Indian, shouldn't I love India instead? In fact, most of my Hong Kong Chinese friends see me as an Indian rather than an American. There's this argument that if you're an American by nationality, then you're American and race doesn't come into it. That is nonsense. Most people define you by how you look, not what your passport says.

This is particularly true in Asia. A hotel manager on the mainland, astonished by my fluent Cantonese, asked me what my nationality was. I said American, to which he replied: "But you're Indian." Even the Hong Kong government considers me a so-called "ethnic minority", not an American. No one seriously treats Allan Zeman and Mike Rowse as Chinese, despite their Chinese passports.

Since I have visited India only three times, my connection to the country is limited. But I take pride in its long history, culture, economic strides and its recent launching of a Mars mission. As an American national but ethnically Indian, which country should I love? Why not both? In the US, different ethnic groups label themselves as Chinese Americans, Italian Americans, Vietnamese Americans and Indian Americans. They love their adopted country yet still take pride in their ethnic origins.

But shouldn't I love China ahead of America and India since I was born and raised in Hong Kong, which is now part of China and I make a living here? It's a tricky question, which leads to another one: shouldn't I love Britain above all since I was born and raised under British rule? That's an easy one to answer. I feel no moral obligation to love Britain because it never treated me as a full British national.

The question of love for China is far trickier for Hong Kong Chinese than for me. It now looms large as a sensitive issue in our political debate over who should qualify as chief executive candidates. Strictly speaking, as a Hong Kong permanent resident without Chinese nationality, I need only love Hong Kong although I would still feel obliged to respect China.

But Hongkongers with Chinese nationality are naturally expected to love both Hong Kong and China. Yet there is this baffling squabble over why only patriots should qualify as chief executive candidates for universal suffrage elections. Hong Kong Chinese nationals with no great love for China attribute this squabble to their hatred of the Communist Party. That's a lame reason. I detest America's ultra-right "tea party" but that doesn't diminish my love of my adopted homeland. I expect presidential candidates to be patriots, for only patriots can be true leaders.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com


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True leaders don't need to use force to be listened to..
They also listen and govern by the rule of law, instead of treating the law as something to be applied or disregarded according to whim and convenience. This has come about in HK.
The country you feel most patriotic towards comes from within, and how "most people define you" should have no bearing on it.
And of course, when it comes to China, the country must be distinguished from the CCP. Love for China can absolutely be mutually exclusive with love for the CCP. So all this talk about Basic Law mandating the CE have love for the country is really no barrier to anyone being elected...unless the CCP erroneously insists that such love must also be directed towards itself. A patriot loves China. An apologist loves the CCP. Two very different animals.
No matter how long or passionately one loves China, you'll never have that love returned unless you're ethnically Chinese. And only if the CCP can get some use out of you (science, engineering, economics, political science that agrees with the CCP outlook).
White foreigners are treated as curiosities (much like the ethnic nationalities within China) that perform Putonghua skits, appear in ads with white labcoats and act as baddies in movies. Black foreigners are only good for singing and dancing in Putonghua during Spring Festival and pretty much all other foreigners aren't much recognized.
I've been all over China and one consistency is seeing “爱国“ on billboards in red & yellow characters (CCP colors) alongside how loving the nation and being obedient to the CCP are the same. Very Confucian, right?
Therefore, Michael, you'll never have any love for China reciprocated, even if you had any, but any Hong Kong person today that wants to "serve the people" in HK will be measured not by his love of the nation of China and the Chinese culture's thousands of years of history but rather his obedience to the whims of the Beijing Mandarins. Alan Zeman and Mike Rowse only did what was economically expedient for themselves knowing they'll never return to their nations of origin be it for tax purposes or the fact that there's nothing there that interests them anyway.


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