Letter: Students respond to “Person of Color Column: I am from Hong Kong, not China”

To the Editor:

Re “Person of Color Column: I am from Hong Kong, not China” (Column, April 21)

The Living Arts Section recently published a Person of Color column about students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tibet being “falsely” identified as Chinese. The article claims that, “International students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and other places in relation to China face backlash for not identifying as Chinese.” As international students from China, we are happy to see that the Berkeley Beacon is allowing students to share their thoughts on international issues through the Person of Color column. However, there are some topics that need further clarification, and we feel obligated to share our perspective with readers.

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First, the historical background of the Hong Kong territory needs further reiteration. In 1839, Britain invaded Qing China and captured Hong Kong as a colony as the result of Britain’s complete victory over Qing China in 1842. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Hong Kong officially reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 after 48 years. Chinese and British government signed the agreement that stipulates a “one country, two systems” rule which protects Hong Kong’s democratic system except in matters of foreign relations and defense. According to the principle of the policy, the central government is banned from interfering in Hong Kong affairs and the Communist Party has no official presence. Freedom of speech, press, religion, and protest are all defended by law.

Moreover, Xizang, or Tibet, and Taiwan cannot be discussed under the same context as Hong Kong due to China’s complicated political history. Unlike Hong Kong, there is no historical territory problem left behind because of colonization, and the political controversies of Taiwan’s ownership are the complication of the Chinese Civil War in the 1940s. Hence, putting these issues together as evidence to back up the identity crisis is an act of generalization; it fails to provide readers with the complicated historical context behind the identity crisis. The controversies surrounding ownership of these territories have existed for a long time and cannot be explained through a simple piece. Thus, confusing the unexplained with the inexplicable further misleads readers.

Second, the article applies the title of “Hongkonger” to all Hong Kong residents, ignoring the fact that one third of Hong Kong residents identify as “Chinese”. According to a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong in 2018, 66.3 percent of the sample consider themselves as “Hongkonger” in the broader sense, while 31.9 percent regard themselves as “Chinese.”

In addition, the article also calls out Emerson’s need for more “awareness” toward issues relating to international politics and gives an example of how Emerson listed Hong Kong as “Hong Kong, China.” It says that “if the college promotes their education abroad programs to broaden students’ global vision, they must be more cognizant and knowledgeable of the places they accept students from and send students to.” It also mentioned that “it is globally agreed that Hong Kong and Taiwan are different entities from China politically, socially, and financially.”

Despite what the article said, it is globally and legally agreed that the Hong Kong territory is a part of China. According to the U.S. Department of State, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and its foreign relations and defense are the responsibility of China. Besides, Hong Kong is also recognized as a Special Administrative Region of China by the United Nations. The Hong Kong Institutional Instruments also states that Hong Kong is the Special Administrative Region of China. The Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region also demands the nationality law of the People’s Republic of China to apply in Hong Kong. Therefore, by listing Hong Kong as a part of China, Emerson is following the region’s legal recognition.

We acknowledge that China’s political issues are very complicated. However, as journalists, it is the writer and the editor’s responsibility to inform the public with accurate facts. We strongly believe that this column failed to inform its readers, who are mainly Emerson faculty and students without sufficient knowledge of China’s politics. Without learning the full context, the reader may not be able to form an independent opinion on such a complex issue.

We appreciate the Beacon’s effort to create the POC column to support the voice of minority students, and we respect the author’s political opinion and her identity. Yet, we are concerned that the column might be used to create misunderstandings and generalizations among different ethnic groups at Emerson. We believe that the goal of the POC column is to create a platform to promote cultural diversity at Emerson rather than personal, political propaganda. The POC column should be a safe place for students to share their experience as members of the POC community. It should be a place to unite POC students, rather than divide us apart.

Sincerely,

Xinyan Fu, Jiachen Liu, and Xinyi Tu

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