Younger Individuals Are a Key to Reconciliation Between China and Hong Kong

In 2019-20, a pro-democracy motion erupted in Hong Kong. College students from each excessive faculties and universities took to the streets. They gambled with their futures for democratic beliefs. As a substitute of getting impressed by the youth in Hong Kong, lots of their counterparts in mainland China turned towards them. Some mainland Chinese language youth even supported the tough crackdown by authorities and different repressive measures.


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The divide between mainland Chinese language and Hong Kong youth has reached alarming ranges. A number of surveys have revealed that just about nobody below 30 in Hong Kong identifies as Chinese language. The conflict between these two teams has now arrived at college campuses around the globe as each side are adamant in presenting their aspect of the story. COVID-19 has solely exacerbated these variations. Mainland Chinese language see the success of the Chinese language Communist Celebration (CCP) in managing the pandemic as proof of its competence. Hong Kongers don’t belief their CCP-influenced authorities and consider the measures to manage the pandemic as one other excuse for elevated repression.

Regardless of the Variations

The divergent beliefs amongst younger folks in mainland China and Hong Kong assume significance within the context of latest geopolitical realities. US President Joe Biden is championing a democratic agenda for the world, corralling like-minded nations to counter rising Chinese language affect. Hong Kong is vital on this new world battle between democracy and autocracy. Having been below British rule till 1997, the territory remains to be ruled by widespread legislation and has loved higher relative freedom than mainland China. Now, that period appears to be ending. 

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Since 1997, many mainland Chinese language have moved to Hong Kong. Specifically, college students have arrived in giant numbers. On the finish of 2019, greater than 38,000 mainlanders have been learning in Hong Kong. Better interplay between these younger folks was supposed to extend mutual understanding. As a substitute, they nonetheless reside in parallel universes. Mainland college students reside collectively, hang around with one another and have a tendency to share related beliefs. As hosts, Hong Kongers have made little effort to succeed in out.

Regardless of many variations, each teams of scholars have lots in widespread. Each are bored with the rat race, the lowering social mobility and widening inequality. Mainlanders have fun slacking off throughout work. They converse of “mō yú,” a phrase meaning “feeling the fish.” In addition they converse of “tǎngpíng,” or “mendacity flat.” It is a refusal to take part within the financial rat race. Hong Kongers are equally, if no more jaded concerning the financial system. They see the town’s economic system in decline. They fear about getting first rate jobs, shopping for an residence and elevating youngsters. Prima facie, mainland and Hong Kong college students needs to be uniting round widespread financial issues.

But Chinese language and Hong Kong youth have very totally different views. The previous has sturdy emotions of nationwide delight because of ideological indoctrination. For a lot of Chinese language college students, the CCP has delivered good governance, financial development and social stability. The CCP’s “efficiency legitimacy” has elevated amongst mainlanders. They’re cautious of Western democracies that criticize the Chinese language mannequin. This wariness is rooted in an schooling system that the CCP developed within the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Sq. protests.

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The schooling system highlights the “century of nationwide humiliation” that started when late imperial China was pressured to cede sovereignty and territory to international powers. It glamorizes the CCP-led “nationwide rejuvenation” that entails China reclaiming its seat on the prime desk as an awesome energy. Beneath President Xi Jinping, the CCP has redoubled its drive to promulgate nationalist schooling. In 2019, the federal government printed a brand new define for Chinese language patriotic schooling that emphasizes rejuvenation even additional. As per this doc, nationwide rejuvenation is “the Chinese language Dream,” Xi’s pet slogan from November 2012.

A Completely different Studying of Historical past

Hong Kong college students have a unique studying of historical past. In 2012, they took to the streets to protest towards a proposed curriculum that emphasised China’s mannequin of political meritocracy over the messiness of Western democracies and downplayed political occasions just like the Tiananmen Sq. bloodbath. In 2014, college students rose up once more in what got here to be referred to as Occupy Central, or the Umbrella Motion. They demanded common suffrage as promised within the Fundamental Regulation, the town’s structure. 

Hong Kong college students have a really totally different expertise when in comparison with their mainland friends. Hong Kongers have opposed the CCP’s growing interference within the territory’s governance. Mainlanders see the CCP because the torchbearer of nationwide rejuvenation. Hong Kong college students need the autonomy and freedoms of the “one nation, two programs” mannequin to proceed. Mainlanders need China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong asserted.

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Importantly, younger Hong Kongers are more and more cynical of authority. They’re ready for extended underground resistance to the tough new nationwide safety legislation. Some have adopted a damaging philosophy of “final burnism” as a result of they’ve misplaced religion sooner or later. At the moment, virtually 60% of these between 15 to 30 would depart Hong Kong if that they had the prospect to take action.

It’s clear that younger mainlanders and Hong Kongers have totally different historic recollections and political aspirations. Consequently, prospects for long-term reconciliation between the 2 sides seem grim. Nonetheless, such reconciliation is extra essential than ever. Hong Kong was as soon as a mannequin for the coexistence of Western democracy and Chinese language one-party rule. Its political destiny is a bellwether for the longer term relationship between China and the West.

As such, you will need to construct belief amongst younger folks on each side of the divide. Solely after they begin understanding one another’s historical past and greedy their respective cultural nuances does reconciliation stand an opportunity.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.