Hong Kong’s identity is safe as part of bay area

Seeking mainland economic opportunities as part of the Greater Bay Area initiative doesn’t mean we need to give up local identity and characteristics

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 1:46am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 1:46am

It’s the blind fighting the blind. Sadly, this is what mostly passes for political debate in Hong Kong these days. As chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, it is Jonathan Choi Koon-shum’s job to promote the so-called “Greater Bay Area” initiative, an ambitious attempt to integrate Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau socially and economically. 

Nothing wrong with that. Choi may even help raise awareness among young people that there are better job prospects and housing provisions north of the border than being confined to tiny Hong Kong.

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But he went overboard in a newspaper interview when he claimed a Greater Bay Area identity would replace the identity of Hong Kong people.

“We will no longer be Hong Kong people, but Greater Bay Area people. We should therefore focus on integration rather than on the interests of Hong Kong.”

Predictably, his statements provoked a backlash from the “yellow-ribbon” press and social media. Among many attackers was Apple Daily commentator Lo Fung. 

Lo accused Choi of selling out the city for his own personal gains “by weakening or destroying Hong Kong’s unique international status and characteristics”.

This in turn provoked a rebuttal from former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who accused Lo of misleading young people and promoting Hong Kong independence. He also mocked Lo for miswriting Choi’s Chinese name six times in his article. 

Of course Hong Kong needs growth, and where else can we find it than through further integration with the economic engine of southern China? I consider this point non-controversial, even self-evident. Why?

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At the time of the 1997 handover, Hong Kong’s economy made up a fifth of the mainland’s. Today, it’s about 3 per cent. The local economies of Shenzhen and Guangzhou are rapidly approaching our size, if they haven’t exceeded it already. 

Lo and his fellow yellow-ribbon diehards are sticking their heads in the sand if they think Hong Kong can survive and prosper on our “unique international status and characteristics” alone. We have been boasting about that in the last 20 years and look where we are now.

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However, just because we have to seek mainland economic opportunities doesn’t mean we need to give up local identity and characteristics. We couldn’t even if we tried. A moderate dose of “localism” doesn’t equate to Hong Kong independence. 

Given the resistance and resentment against the mainland from many locals, let’s not oversell the Greater Bay Area plan.