My Take

It may be time for Hong Kong activists to look outwards as good Asians

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 2:48pm

Who's a patriot? That's an oft-asked question about loyalty to the Chinese nation or the communist state. But does it matter?

George Orwell has a famous distinction between nationalism and patriotism.

"By 'patriotism', he writes, "I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.

"Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige … for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality."

In that sense, through their attachment to the city, many Hong Kong people, especially the so-called post-80s and 90s generation, are neither patriotic nor nationalistic, hence their turn against mainlanders and the central government.

If anything, they are more attached to the city - and the goodness and core values, whether real or imagined, they think it represents.

Older patriotic democrats like the late Szeto Wah cared deeply about China. Many younger local activists couldn't care less so long as mainland authorities and visitors stay away.

Their attachment to Hong Kong has been criticised - often by pro-Beijing people - as too parochial or narrow-minded. In truth, it is. But it is equally pointless to insist they should learn to appreciate China and mainland-Hong Kong integration when that is precisely what they have rejected.

There is an alternative vision, one that is lacking in the current debate but, given the rising nationalistic tensions over maritime claims in Asian seas, quite relevant.

Friedrich Nietzsche talks about the good European who feels at home everywhere across his continent. Perhaps it's time for us to talk about the good Asian, someone who can rise above the nationalistic fervour and petty fights to see the bigger whole and common good in the East.

Perhaps then, our young activists would care to learn more about China. That would be a peaceful pan-Asian outlook worthy of an international city in Asia.