It turns out that Hong Kong Indigenous’ Edward Leung Tin-kei, who received 15 per cent of the vote in a recent Legislative Council by-election, was born in China and arrived in Hong Kong as a baby. To reconcile the ironic dissonance of having a China-born vanguard leading an organisation whose virulent anti-Chinese rhetoric borders on racism, Leung’s supporters are suddenly demonstrating their capacity for nuanced reasoning, arguing that a true Hongkonger isn’t defined by where he’s born.
Whether it’s for political expediency or they actually mean what they say, the argument that one’s birthplace isn’t a determinant of one’s loyalty is certainly true, and is supported by many historical and contemporary examples.
One of the most famous military commanders during the Tang dynasty was Go Seon-ji, better known by his Chinese name, Gao Xianzhi. Born in the northern Korean kingdom of Goguryeo, he arrived in China as a child when his homeland was vanquished by the southern Korean kingdom of Silla in alliance with Tang China. Gao became a soldier in China and served Emperor Xuanzong well, leading military expeditions deep into Central Asia, all the way to the Caspian Sea. He brought most of the Central Asian states under Chinese control but, in 751, the Abbasid Caliphate and China clashed in the Battle of Talas, resulting in massive losses on both sides and a stalemate between the two empires. Gao, the commander of the campaign, was posted back to China. In 755, however, after leading a campaign to quell a rebellion, Gao was executed by the emperor for alleged corruption.