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Lost Identity of Hong Kong After 1997 emphasizes on the cultural shift of Hong Kong after China's take over in 1997. This paper mainly focuses on Hong Kong's lost freedom of press and expression and how the Chinese leaders turned away from their words after the hand over of 1997. This paper also highlights the consequence of many journalists who tried to defy the Chinese rule and went against their policy of freedom of speech. This paper finally concludes by stating the after effects of the Chinese rule in Hong Kong and their lost cultural identity.
The Lost Identity of Hong Kong After 1997
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian Primer Minister once said, "There is a great deal of confusion in my mind and I shall state quite frankly what it is. All kinds of basic questions crop up from what is going on in the world, an obvious thing that people should try to understand one another and to learn from one another. Yet when I look through the pages of history or study current events, I sometimes find that people who know one another, quarrel most. Countries, which are next door to one another in Europe or in Asia, somehow seem to rub one another the wrong way, though they know one another thoroughly." This was somewhat the same case when China took over Hong Kong. The year of 1997 was very significant for both China and Hong Kong, since it announced the end of the British rule in Hong Kong and created, what is now known as today, The Special Administrative Region of China. It was only after the first year when the public of Hong Kong felt the affects of the real transition. Wong Sui Lun said, "The real transition has been much more complex, subtle and profound... That is because the real transition is about identity and not sovereignty.1 Thus, real diverse identities lurk below the surface" (Allen Chun, Hong Kong Identity After The End Of History).
It is impossible to state that Hong Kong after coming under the rule of China has not changed its identity. The remnants of British authority over the once-colonial dominion have deteriorated rapidly than lotus petals since the momentous hand over seven years ago of Hong Kong to the Chinese government. The people of Hong Kong who were well familiar with the English Language are now receiving their utility bills in Chinese. Chinese Lettering has indeed replaced most of the English Signage. Children in school will now be required to use the local Cantonese dialect for instructions. "Mandarin, too, will be introduced in primary school, further sidelining English. Schools now use English or a mix of Cantonese and English for instruction. With a twist to the proverbial axiom, Hong Kongers are discovering that the more things change, the more things change" (Mindy Belz, Beijing: The New King Of The Old Crown Colony). Many people having the Christian conviction no longer feel the security in practicing their faith.
The population of six million people is facing critical decisions pertaining to modernization. Many are of the opinion that the hand over, despite being planned and well negotiated was a tricky transition. In the near future, the Hong Kong's hand over to China will truly reveal whether the workings of democracy and the connection between modern economy and communism exists in the region or not. Even before the hand over, China had begun to exercise its influence over Hong Kong.
They also chose shipping tycoon C.H. Tung as Hong Kong's next leader. The appointees will replace the democratically elected body that China says it will eliminate when it takes control. The provisional legislature is expected to rewrite anti- subversion laws that the outgoing British government had modified and toughen laws on freedom of information (Hong Kong: Returning To The Fold).
Hence, it can clearly be said that the identity of Hong Kong is undergoing a changing reality.
The best proof of the changing identity of Hong Kong's culture is seen through its media and press. Hong Kong's media and press, which once greatly reflected the open-minded nature of the country, is beginning to show signs of bureaucracy. One must not forget that Hong Kong came under the administration of China during the period when China itself was facing many paradoxes and dilemmas in terms of its communist past. It is exactly these elements which are now being portrayed through the media. According to Basil Fernando,
Chinese Bureaucracy relies heavily on the abuse and denial of due process rights in dealing with dissent. As Hong Kong is a world center of media and communications it is hardly likely that such abuse of due process rights could take place in Hong Kong without world's glare. On the other hand, it is not possible to alter the character of Hong Kong as a Media and communications center without altering the nature of Hong Kong as a whole (1997 Transition and The Place Of Hong Kong in the Asian
Debate on Democracy and Human Rights).
Before the hand over, Hong Kong's media was greatly based on British statuary and law. All such laws were annulled after the hand over. As a result, Hong Kong's freedom of press suffered greatly. Soon after the hand over, the Hong Kong Journalists Association or HKJA served a notice on Executive Secretary named Tung Chee-hwa. "On July 10, just days after the hand over of Hong Kong to China by the British, the HKJA sent Tung a letter criticizing perceived favorable treatment given to official Chinese state news agencies in coverage of the hand over" (Lin Neumann, Press Freedom Under The Dragon). Many people have complained that the Hong Kong's media gives a lot of coverage to Tung's early official semblance. Carol Lai, in his letter stated that, "If Chinese official media have privileges in reporting, then news and information will very likely be held in the hands of the official media, seriously threatening press freedom" (Lin Neumann, Press Freedom Under The Dragon).
The Hong Kong Journalists Association has been existing for twenty-nine years and currently has around five hundred members. The HJKA represents Hong Kong's largest press association and it has continuously fought for its country's free press under the Chinese government rule. "The group says it will tolerate no backward movement in the battle for free expression. In their letter, the journalists urged Tung to make efforts to preserve the existing media coverage system, which is based on fairness for all involved. In response, Tung's office called the incident a misunderstanding" (Lin Neumann, Press Freedom Under The Dragon). Hong Kong has always been considered to be the integral media center of the region as well as international press operations.
Hong Kong has long been East Asia's English-language news media capital and more important the principal safe haven for professional, independent Chinese-language reporting about the internal political and economic affairs of the People's Republic.
Readers in the vast Chinese diaspora from Taiwan and Malaysia to British Columbia and California have depended on Hong Kong reporters and publications for decades
Lin Neumann, Press Freedom Under The Dragon).
The people of Hong Kong are now scared about the integrity of the freedom of press and are making all sorts of efforts to safeguard it. They fear that if their dynamic journalism culture disappears than it will have profound reverberation on all of Asia.
In its mini-constitution for post-1997 Hong Kong, China seemingly provides sweeping guarantees for Hong Kong's future under Chinese sovereignty. Under the banner of one country, two systems, China's Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region or HKSAR of the People's Republic of China, Basic Law, promises to preserve Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and way of life...
A unchanged for 50 years. It grants Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. It pledges to maintain Hong Kong's common law legal system, right of private ownership of property and a panoply of political and civil rights currently not afforded China's own citizens. In the final months before the July 1, 1997 hand over, however, statements by Chinese leaders suggested that China did not intend to honor these promises to Hong
Kong. Restrictive Chinese interpretations of one Basic Law provision -- article 27's broad guarantee that Hong Kong residents shall have freedom... Of the press, created serious concerns regarding the meaning of post-1997 Hong Kong's mini-constitution as a whole (Frances Foster, Translating Freedom For Post-1997 Hong Kong).
Many Westerners are of the opinion that the Chinese Government plans to ignore the promises it had made to the people of Hong Kong.
Textual analysis of Hong Kong's two founding legal documents, the Sino-British Joint
Declaration and the Basic Law, reveals that China's oft-cited promises are essentially meaningless. These guarantees are framed in such vague and indeterminate language that they provide no real constraint on Chinese action in the post-1997 era. Hong Kong's mini-constitution effectively gives China the authority to interpret its own promises. Thus, China, not Hong Kong…[continue]
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