Before the handover, some people predicted the change in sovereignty would trigger a burst of ethnic consciousness: an upsurge of nationalism would make Hong Kong more Chinese. Today, for the first time in history, the SAR celebrates Chinese National Day under the flag of the People's Republic of China. This year the celebrations are of an unprecedented scale, but this is is largely due to the entire government machinery being mobilised to make the day as spectacular as possible, rather than it being organised only by Xinhua, as was the case in previous years. The full day's programme - including a flag-raising ceremony early this morning, annual reception in late afternoon and a $3.8 million fireworks display on the harbour - makes one thing clear: anyone who wants to celebrate will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Sure, prominent politicians, businessmen, community leaders and civil servants will be pitching in, but more interesting is how many ordinary people will want to use this occasion to prove their patriotism. Realistically, many Hong Kong people still have a very vague sense of their Chineseness. Before and after the handover, public opinion polls have consistently showed Hong Kong people are more inclined to identify themselves as Hong Kong citizens rather than Chinese nationals. Even three months after the change-over, many locals still do not know how to sing the national anthem and many others have no deep knowledge of China, Chinese history or Chinese culture. Worse still, despite repeated encouragement from Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa for us Hong Kong Chinese to bolster our understanding of our own country and its culture, many in the community are likely to be more interested in spending their time doing other things. A snap poll conducted today would probably find more people playing mahjong or shopping than making a conscious effort to seize their first opportunity to celebrate National Day under the Chinese flag. The simple reason for this is that celebrating the National Day, be it a Chinese or British one, is not part of Hong Kong's culture. China can blame this on colonial education, but local Chinese are more likely to say that, if they feel like celebrating, they have their own ways of expressing national pride. For many people here, their understanding of patriotism is not the same as that on the mainland. To them, celebrating National Day is not the only way to show their patriotism. Demonstrators will say their protest action today is a demonstration of their patriotism. They protest because they want our leaders to know what mistakes they have made and hence know how they should improve our country. Many people will also agree that patriotism cannot be taught. Today, even the SAR Government's injection of patriotic education into our school syllabus is not going to produce instant results. If patriotic education means telling locals that China is good, the mainland system is great and the Chinese leadership is superb and worth our unreserved support, it is more likely to backfire than instil a sense of national pride and dignity among local citizens. Hong Kong has been separated from China for more than a century and a half. Like it or not, there is a big cultural gap between the SAR and the mainland, even though we are both predominantly ethnic Chinese. It will take time for Hong Kong to re-integrate with the motherland. In this process, the mainland will have to be patient because thrusting its concept of patriotism on Hong Kong people will only prove counter-productive.