Confrontations such as this one in Yuen Long in March between mainland shoppers and members of HK Indigenous and Civic Passion typify nativism. Photo: Felix Wong

Hong Kong nativists' constant need to find the next enemy makes no sense

Danny Chan deplores some Hongkongers' need to invent false rivalries just to fuel the movement. Wouldn't it be better to focus on the positive?

Danny Chan

There is no such thing as Hong Kong "natives" if their nativism is bred from a reactionary womb that resists a vast array of invented and questionable rivalries, including against the local and central governments, throngs of mainland tourists and even street performers.

Though I can't say which materials will be used to sculpt the next invented enemy of Hong Kong, if this is really the only way the so-called localism or nativism movement can be initiated, then the situation is truly alarming.

Hassling street performers in Mong Kok for singing in Putonghua is a good example of this, particularly after lawmakers' rejection of Beijing's political reform package. Now a new enemy is desperately needed to reheat the cooling emotions of the younger generation and to, well, safeguard media exposure.

Without even a mild historical awareness, there's every chance that any sensible debate will be overshadowed by the need to find enemies

After all, you can't roar or throw things at a shadow and demand a standing ovation from your followers or the media; there must be a personification of hatred, with faces of course, as if these personas are breathing out the stale aroma of a bygone Hong Kong affluence.

But besides these imagined enemies, what else do we have in local Hong Kong?

Many claim Hong Kong has no history, and that is true to some extent, because we no longer make it a mandatory part of the curriculum. As today's young nativism activists blame Beijing for marginalising or, in some extreme cases, strangling the Cantonese language, for example, don't forget how our predecessors confronted the British administration in the 1960s to legalise the Chinese language, which finally happened in 1974. How does this square with brandishing the colonial flag on the streets? Clearly, without even a mild historical awareness to put things in proper context, there's every chance that any sensible debate will be overshadowed by the need to find enemies.

This is true in the creative arts, too. For a long time, the city has been a muse for innumerable literary and artistic endeavours of locals or immigrants passing through Hong Kong, many seeking shelter from the political turmoil to the north. Some moved on, some returned home and others decided to stay. Yet how many of our screaming young nativists are aware of this, and how their movement may affect the substance of communities?

Hong Kong's nativism is really only a synonym of negativity. When the nativists are busier than ever after the farcical end of political reform seeking new scapegoats, it's time to stop, take a closer look at what we actually have here, and start to treasure it, or else we will simply let our own ignorance be the eternal coloniser of Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Seeing enemies everywhere