• Sat
  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 11:31am
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PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 3:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 3:33am

Hongkongers may be unique, but we're not better than others

Alice Wu says while a new dictionary entry befits our unique identity, Hong Kong is not so special that we can disregard the rules of civility

So, the words "Hongkonger" and "Hong Kongese" have now been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. That sounds like a big deal: it will help define identity not only for the 7 million people who live here, but also for the countless Hong Kong natives who have emigrated.

The very existence of these words proves the need for differentiation. This differentiation - most notably, perhaps, from mainland Chinese and the mainland - is what has excited people.

One "Hong Kongese" lawmaker says their inclusion was "definitely prompted by the city's 'anti-mainlandisation' campaign, which has raised international attention over the past years". This Pearl of the Orient and its inhabitants aren't going to settle for Hong Kong being just another Chinese city.

In fact, she makes it sound almost triumphant. The "campaign" seems to have been deemed successful now that the Oxford dictionary is recognising these words. It's as if we've been lifted off to some "ethnopolitical" (also an Oxford addition) stratosphere.

But there is more to the "Hong Kongese exceptionalism" than just "anti-mainlandisation". It isn't just a campaign. It's part of our history, part of who we are. Hong Kong wasn't just another British colony. Once deemed the "barren rock" that would "never be a mart for trade", Hong Kong transformed itself into the goose that laid the golden eggs. If this transformation isn't "exceptionalism" in its truest form, what is?

Nonetheless, there is need for thoughtful reflection. Have we arrived at a point where this "exceptionalism" is clouding our views of ourselves and the world?

Cultural critics were all over the Oxford inclusion; one believes that the differentiation will help define Hongkongers as "more civilised", and as people who "respect rule of law and enjoy freedom more" than, say, mainland Chinese. But how could calling mainland tourists "locusts" be considered "more civilised" behaviour?

In our quest to be different, to prove wrong those who say we will be "just another mainland city", have we forgotten that the freedoms we demand do not include the right to infringe others' freedoms? Dehumanising people based on their place of origin isn't a human right. Our right to free expression and assembly doesn't mean we can tell non-"Hongkongers" to go back to where they came from.

We may be different, different enough for the Oxford dictionary to give us a separate entry or two. We may be gravely concerned with being "hegemonised" (another new entry), but has our perceived uniqueness and fear made us vulnerable and unwise?

Words are powerful. When pride in being a "Hongkonger" and "Hong Kongese" becomes hubris, we must also remember these words by George Orwell, in Politics and the English Language: "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better."

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA

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This article is now closed to comments

skywalker
Wow! What a great achievement! Hongkongers made it to the Oxford Dictionary. Face the fact that Hong Kong is still not a sovereign state and face the fact that Hong Kong and the well-being of the Hongkongers fully depends on the goodwill of the big bosses in Beijing. If Beijing would pull the plug on Hong Kong tomorrow, the Hongkongers could not do anything. And do not belive that the "international community" would care too much. The rest of the world, for example the EU, the USA or even Russia would rather care for its relationship to China than making trouble to the Beijing-Bosses because of tiny Hong Kong.
In fact, the people in Europe and the USA do not really understand the special status of Hong Kong. Most of them belive that it really belongs to China now and they are just astonished to hear, that there is still a border between Hong Kong an China.
"Oh, you cannot just drive into China from Hong Kong? But I thought it belongs to China now?" That's what I hear from Europeans, who have never been here all the time.
lucifer
At this present day and time and at this stage of development, the people of Hong Kong share very little with their distant ancestors across the border. Everything from their cultural identity to religion is completely different and often at odds with each that from the North. Our values, ethics, morals and basic understanding of the wold around us is totally different that that of Mainlanders. The fact that we might share some genetic code makes us no more connected to an ethnic Chinese in Singapore or the USA than it would with the people who live north of us. Hong Kongese are a distinct, unique, and culturally different people and this should be respected if the Mainland ever wants to get along with us. We value what we have and will not willingly let it be trampled or thrown away in the name of loving some Party, masquerading as a country, whose days are clearly numbered.
pslhk
C Patten has helped OU flashback 迴光返照
But the institution is irrevocably crumpling
Indian students have long jettisoned British universities
Oxford now attracts only Arab and Chinese princelings
with much money to spend and little academic acumen to develop
-
OED needs the Hker entries to gain authority / attention
But only foolish Hkers would consider OED fit to define their nature
-
OED somehow imparts an anachronistic eerie and unrealistic sense
Who’d want to check it given MW, Longman’s, and various .coms
pyklib
a social phenomenon should be read in its proper context. simply criticised the use of the word "****s" and ignored the very heart of of these series of actions will only hasten the disputes.....
Ant Lee
Everyday, Hong Kongers are bombarded with these agenda driven articles and indirect oppression on behalf of the Chinese government agenda which are just sickening.
cleareye
We are not different, we are just indifferent.
 
 
 
 
 

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