Wake up and see your skin colour: self-denial for Hongkongers to say they’re not Chinese
Michael Chugani says as much as some in city may want to disown their identity, it’s human nature for others to view one not by nationality but by facial features
Hate Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying all you want but he spoke the truth last week about being Chinese. What he said in essence was that if you’re born Chinese, others will always regard you as Chinese no matter what passport you hold or how much you want to disown your identity.
Many young people distance themselves from being Chinese. They identify themselves solely as Hongkongers. You can say you’re from outer space but unless you have bulging eyes, pointy ears, and scaly green skin, only kooks will believe you.
You can neither run nor hide from your ethnicity. Cosmetic surgery can only go so far, as the late and great Michael Jackson discovered.
Hongkongers who loathe being Chinese can wear foreign or SAR passports on their foreheads, but it’s human nature to view others not by nationality but by facial features. I speak with authority on this.
I always say I’m American when people ask what I am. But then they always ask again what I really am.
Saying I’m from Hong Kong won’t suffice. They always retort I don’t look Chinese. The only way to satisfy them is to say I’m Hong Kong-born with Indian parents and that I’m also a naturalised American.
When I explained this to an inquisitive Shenzhen bartender, he said: “Ah, you Indian. Bollywood movies good.” It mattered little that I’ve never lived in India and can barely speak the language.
When Hongkongers travel, it is natural for Thais, Europeans, Americans, and others to assume they’re Chinese. You cannot expect them to differentiate between Hongkongers, mainlanders, and Taiwanese. Some cannot even tell apart Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans.
Whenever mainland Chinese tourists behave obnoxiously abroad, Hongkongers often get caught up in the scornful local backlash. One way out is to wear T-shirts proclaiming they’re Hongkongers.
Unlike young Hongkongers, Chinese in the United States are proud of their ethnic origin. They consider it an insult to be called American-Chinese and insist on being identified as Chinese-American.
OK, that’s an unfair comparison. Chinese-Americans live in a democracy. Young Hongkongers fear the growing shadow of communist China will darken their future freedoms.
It’s fine for them to boycott the June 4 candlelight vigil with the rationale that the Tiananmen crackdown had nothing to do with them. But it’s self-denial to say they’re not Chinese. They need to wake up and see the colour of their skin.