Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hong Kong youths, cultural identity (and us)

As the 10 year anniversary of the handover approaches, a study by Hong Kong University suggests that the percentage of Hong Kong teenagers who identify themselves as dual nationality, specifically 'Chinese, secondarily Hong Kongers' has risen whilst the percentage of those who describe themselves as just 'Hong Kongers' has fallen.

This would seem to be in keeping with the gradual coming together of Hong Kong and China since the handover, and the end of colonial rule.

The survey also found that teenagers' opinions of China have improved over the last ten years, however their opinion of Mainlanders themselves remains negative.

The report ends with the following:

The results of the two surveys urge us to rethink the following questions: How successful is the civic education in Hong Kong after the turnover? What are the possible meanings of Chinese identity? If we want Hong Kong adolescents to construct a Chinese identity, what do we encourage them to explore and identify with?

Is there only one way to be patriotic? If we want Hong Kong young people to be patriotic, what are the different ways of being patriotic we can encourage them to explore? These are the questions we should bear in mind when we design and implement civic education.

The results are probably what you would expect given Hong Kong's SAR status, but it reminded me of what a complex issue 'bbc identity' is.

What do I mean by that? Well, first of all we grow up as 'local foreigners', having to deal with issues of fitting into the society around us whilst belonging to a very different family culture at home. I'm sure many bbcs out there will know that feeling of being 'pulled in two directions'.

As we've grown up, the new challenge is making our way in this society - not as Outsiders like our parents, but Insiders. The issue for the grown-up generation is no so much 'being pulled in different directions' but having to decide on a direction for ourselves and taking it.

Hong Kongers, for me, play a big part in bbc identity because they represent this 'other direction'. Hong Kong culture, society and trends are always in our peripheral vision. How much we invest ourselves in it is a major part of what defines each bbc's sensibilities.

I think this study is a reminder - to me, anyway - that Hong Kong cultural identity is a fluid, changing thing and it would be very easy for bbcs to become disconnected from it, which I think would be a bad thing. The point is that as a bbc, you do have to make an effort if you want to keep up with this rapidly changing culture on the other side of the world - if you want to keep that 'other direction' within sight.

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