Hong Kong has throughout most of its history been a place full of "people from elsewhere," from China and from all over the world, often in transit to somewhere else. Until the 1970s, and 1980s few people identified Hong Kong as their cultural home. Hong Kong cultural identity emerged only in this era—but ironically, this took place in the shadow of its potential disappearance with Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997. However, to the surprise of many analysts, this has not happened yet: over the past twenty years since Hong Kong’s handover, Hong Kong has been a “city of protest,” largely based on Hongkongers emphasizing their differences from mainland China, extolling democracy and freedom of expression, and wholly failing to comprehend “love of country” in a way that many people elsewhere in the world take for granted. But that era now seems over. With the passage of the National Security Law in 2020, and dramatic new Chinese control over Hong Kong, is Hong Kong identity coming to an end? Will we see a new surge in emigration as Hongkongers flee their city? Or can Hong Kong identity continue as a distinctive identity within China, but taking new, presumably apolitical forms?
Dr. Gordon Mathews is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has written or edited books about what makes life worth living in Japan and the United States, about the global cultural supermarket and the meanings of culture today, about the Japanese generation gap, about what it means to “belong to a nation” in Hong Kong and elsewhere, about how different societies conceive of happiness, about Chungking Mansions as a global building, about asylum seekers in Hong Kong and the global treatment of asylum seekers, and about African traders in Guangzhou and low-end globalization around the world.
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Illinois Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies (CEAPS) and Indiana University East Asian Studies Center (EASC) East Asia Consortium (IL-IN East Asia Consortium) with generous support from the US Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center program. Visit our websites to learn more about programs and resources we offer at our universities and beyond to promote teaching, research, and greater public understanding about East Asia.