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.

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.


Xinyan Fu, Jiachen Liu, and Xinyi Tu

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  1. J. C. says

    First, the so-called reiteration is completely unnecessary. However complicated the historical backgrounds is in Hong Kong, Tibet or in Taiwan, their partially independent status, different from the mainland China, is undeniable. The author of the original article has, therefore, to my understanding, gives a fair summary of the difference between these region and the mainland.
    Second, I cannot see any problem regarding calling people living in Hong Kong ‘Hongkonger’, so does those living in any cities in China or in the States. The official status, as in the Basic Law, of being a Hong Kong resident is also internationally recognised – the city even has its own passport. I am regretful but it is very suspicious of your intention attacking the author to call Hong Kong citizens as ‘Hongkongers’ – is this the way you trying to suppress the right of Hong Kong citizens to call themselves however we want?
    Third, the author has never argued that Hong Kong is not a part of China. Even the title says ‘I am from Hong Kong, not China’, it just depicts the thought that some Hongkongers, at least the author him/herself, wish to be identified in such way. As you uphold the freedom of speech, I believe you would have agree the author’s right to say his thought (even if it is a pro-independen e one). Such excessive, being way too politically correct, argument further leads to suspicion of your intention of writing this reply – are you trying to mute the voices of Hongkongers, by attacking the columnist and his view with absurd points?
    It is completely fine if you have alternative view, and I shall support and defend your freedom of speech even if I have different thoughts. But, I do hope you will respect people of different opinions, just the same way most of the Hongkongers do – the berkeley beacon is a diverse place for opinion exchange, not a platform to mute any ‘politically incorrect’ messages.

    1. B says

      Remarks: Hongkongers born in Hong Kong are different from those communist chinese from mainland china.

  2. Little prince says

    Holding an opinion against 1.3 billion people doesn’t make my opinion ‘wrong’.

    1. Yaki says

      Well said

  3. George says

    Well said!

  4. Willie Wong says

    I’m not sure if the author is intentionally attempting to misguide readers, or merely lacks knowledge in the history of Hong Kong.
    In signing of the Treaty of Nanking after the Opium War, Hong Kong Island was ceded to Great Britain in perpetuity. In 1860, the cession extended to the Kowloon peninsula, just south of Boundary Street.
    In the signing of the Second Convention of Peking, the area north of Boundary Street and south of Sham Chun River was “leased to Britain for 99 years, rent free”. The British representative of the convention, Claude Macdonald, picked a 99 year because he deemed long enough to be as good as forever. Britain in fact never thought they would give the leased territory back to Imperial Qing government.

    I am not sure why the authors is denying Hongkoners’ right to identify as Hongkongers, as in fact, we Hongkongers born in Hong Kong are…in fact Hongkongers. Just as a New Yorker in the US can freely identify as a New Yorker; a Vancouverite from Vancouver, Canada can freely identify as a Vancouverite.


    1. One China says

      You serious? Citing sources from wiki?

      1. San Ha says

        The information by Willie is correct. Please study and do your research before critising. The original copy of the Treaty of Nanking can be found in Taiwan. You can visit and take a look.

    2. AB says

      Well said! Only people with absolutely no confidence in themselves would create smoke-screen to confuse those who don’t have a clue about Hong Kong or Hongkongers. Never mind, hearts made of low-quality glass materials or recycled glass materials tend to be on the fragile side. We can’t do anything to help them, really.

  5. Nk Wong says

    There is an array of mistakes made by the author that I would like to clarify three of them here:

    Firstly, You ought to grasp a basic concept of “nation” and “ethnic” from the political perspectives, and also to study more about a history(particularly cultural history) of Hong Kong before publishing this article. The national identity, “Chinese” and Hongkonger are all actually political terms. Nation from the political perspectives is defined as a group of people bounded by history, culture, traditions or religion, and they have political aspiration referring to national self-determination, establishing a nation state or demanding a higher degree of autonomy. Hong Kong tends to regard themselves as a Hongkonger because of its unique history(since British Hong Kong) and culture; both of which have shaped the unique Hong Kong identity. Particularly, they have political aspiration because the Chinese government invariably undermine the autonomy of Hong Kong and violate the Basic Law, the mini-constitution of Hong Kong, One Country Two Systems and the Sino-British Joint Declaration which has been perceived by China as a mere historical document and it is thus invalid (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-anniversary-china/china-says-sino-british-joint-declaration-on-hong-kong-no-longer-has-meaning-idUSKBN19L1J1). Therefore, the word “Hongkonger” is conceptually correct, because Hongkongers possess their national consciousness. Therefore, I think you should examine more about the historical background of Hong Kong before developing your ideas in order to acquire more accurate peices of factual information and develop a more accurate and objective arguments.

    Secondly, You mentioned “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”. It may actually show that you also ignore that there are also over 60% of Hongkongers regarding themselves as Hongkongers. You should also consider such a crucial factors when making this kind of topic sentence denying the concept of Hongkonger.

    Thirdly, I think you also have a wrong perception of the concept of One Country Two Systems. You ought to be aware of the fact that One Country Two Systems is not to “protect Hong Kong’s democratic system”, since the political system of Hong Kong is not full democratic; it is instead a semi-authoritarian system where the Chief Executive (similar to the US president) is appointed by the Chinese government and is not universally elected by the people in Hong Kong. In fact, One Country Two Systems (and actually the Basic Law) is a continuation of semi-authoritarian political system of British Hong Kong, since the Chinese government thinks that the undemocratic nature of Hong Kong’s executive branch is the most effective system when it comes to governing Hong Kong, also, and most importantly, China can further its control of Hong Kong by appointing the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. On the other hand, there is also an important feature of “One Country, Two Systems” (theoretically) ensuring that Hong Kong can retain capitalist economic system, freedom of speech, human rights, political system(yet it is not a democratic system) , legal system(particularly common law) etc. just as seen in the British Hong Kong between the 1980s and the 1990s.

    Actually, there are also many mistake you have made; but I am very busy with my studies at university so I can’t list all of them. I think you should find more information to understand more about Hong Kong and what the Hongkongers think before making your judgement. Thank you

  6. Leo says

    Official surely want Hongkongers to admit the identity as Chinese, but over 60% won’t. So I think the problem is not about the official definition of the identity. The issue is hongkongers’ belongingness.
    The problem won’t appear on paper work, but it did happen in Hong Kong. The conflicts, the crimes from mainland.

  7. Timothy Chan says

    I am unable to see which part of the original article misled readers when the opinion was backed by credible source and all the author said was his personal views. Moreover, this article seems to have misunderstood the original author’s point on Hong Kong being different entities from China in various aspects, as he never denied that HK is indeed a SAR under China. However, it is evident and undisputed that HK is a different entity from China in many different aspects. One of the most prominent difference would be the adoption of a common law legal system where rule of law is valued(as reflected in the Basic Law), contrary to China’s socialist legal system, where rule of law is non-existent.

    From my perspective, this repsond letter is itself misleading readers as it attempts to distort the original author’s views and supplement facts that are apparently not of great importance to the original author’s argument.

  8. Vincent Ho says

    Everything is complicated.
    In my trip in Europe, a USA person says Hong Kongese speak Chinese and we are Chinese.
    So I think that USA person are British because they speak English.
    Maybe you are living a place without citizenship problem so you don’t understand.
    Is Obama a American or African? you cannot even use blood to identify. Somebody in this world don’t have passport in their life. Are they nothing?

    Country is always authority group to control a land. boundary is always changing through time.
    Land of Australia is owned by Indigenous Australians originally. what’s now. Roma Emperor or Mongol Empire are past and we have to admit it. But think about World war 2, you are one of citizens of Nazil at that moment. Will you think that you are people of Nazil because Nazil take your land and give you a passport of Nazil?

    I am HongKongese.

  9. GGG says

    Traces of the China logics and tricks in putting forward arguments: 1) China’s political history/issues are very complicated [did they mean “complex”?] (to a point that no one knows better than exactly who they conveniently think knows accurately) ; 2) intentions, intentions, intentions (respect yes and we wonder what your intentions are, Frances); 3) self-victimize; 4) we are concerned that this may harm others (Let’s not divide but unite …. under us)

    1) diminish the authority of your arguments 2) diminish the credibility of your arguments 3) appeal to emotions 4) appear to be unselfish and for the benefit of all

    Re the identity survey, check out the age groups and the number of samples. Do a calculation of what that 66.35 stands for and you will know Frances is right and she is speaking for the younger generations. Then check out the past survey results and think deeper for the reason for the change starting roughly from 2008. You guys can do better.

  10. Kelvin says

    I understand that Hong Kong is not China. There are 2 different cultures, Hong Kong people can talk about 1989 June 4th, the Tiananmen event. They have a speech of freedom, but the RPC is going to destroy that. They can protest the government, complaint about the officers. These things absolutely cannot happened in the China.

  11. Alexander says

    Are either of these authors who wrote this article from Hong Kong? As a Hongkonger born and raised in Hong Kong, I wish to clarify certain points in my perspective in an article that feels like a piece written by someone with less exposure to Hong Kong and the identity of Hongkongers.

    The majority of Hongkongers do not identify themselves as Chinese but ethnic Chinese. This is especially apparent when the figure provided by the authors are put into perspective that the 31.9% people from who identify as Chinese includes Mainland Chinese and Mainland Chinese immigrants post-Handover of Hong Kong currently residing in the region. This is a significant population as Chinese Central Government has a quota of allowing 150 Mainland Chinese to immigrate to Chinese per day in a policy similar to the treatment of Tibet.

    Hong Kong is a multi-ethnic society encompassing ethnic groups such as Tanka, Pre-Partition Indian-Pakistani and many others who were never under Chinese rule in any dynasty throughout history. As Hongkongers not of ethnic Chinese descent or where both parents did not have Chinese citizenship are not Chinese citizen even though they are permanent citizens of Hong Kong, the equating of Hongkongers as Chinese is legally and culturally false. The majority of the region’s population were born during the colonial era, under a government established before the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China. Referring to a Hongkonger as a Chinese is clearly a misnomer unless the party personally agrees with that statement.

    As the figure provided by the authors suggests, it is more often inappropriate to refer a Hongkonger as a Chinese. As complicated as the history of Hong Kong is, it is universally correct to refers to a person from Hong Kong as a Hongkonger but generalising Hongkongers as Chinese carries the same assumption as naming any East Asian a Chinese. Out of sensitivity and respect towards students, we should not opt for a more general and inaccurate assumption over a factual and objective demonym.

  12. Tom Yuen says

    I don’t know why are you still going over in here study is not stay in (mainland)chain study .looking at the now ,we are not only saying the history. The history was past tense.its know how to build or become of the city but Future Has build up your (people) choose.Only History can not become the city.Maybe you are right but your choose has left the china. (Mainland) Thing back why are you stay in here study. Thank you

  13. Joe Beef says

    This letter was brought to you by the Communist Party of China.

  14. Jen says

    Having witnessed the drastic downturn of our birthplace, it is always hard to see how weak the voice of our people is, and how humble our wish had become.

    In so many of these places the authored mentioned, the people are helpless from the control of PRC because the lack of attention or international pressure. Their humble desire, our humble desire, is merely self-identification, or reservation of our culture that is being erased. In this article- the author just expressed the former, and yet , again the article apparently bothered and disturbed so many who does not even know her in person.

    Politics is in the favor of a few. We as civilians, should not let it overpower our values, one basic part of it is mutual repect.

  15. Ken Kwok says

    Hong Kong is not China. Long live Hong Kong!

  16. Concerned Student says

    Simply because something is legal does not mean that it is right – LGBT+ marriage is not legal in many countries, whereas stoning gay couples is the legal punishment in some countries. This response completely misses the pretense of the original article, whose purpose was to defend the freedom of Hong Kongers to identify as from Hong Kong, not China.

    The fact that 1/3 of the population choose to identify as Chinese does not undermine the decision of the rest of the 2/3 to choose to identify as from Hong Kong. Furthermore, the statistic severely understates the amount of people from Hong Kong who identify as Hong Kongers, as the interviewed population includes all Cantonese speakers residing in Hong Kong, which will no doubt include a significant portion of mainland Chinese who speak Cantonese and reside in Hong Kong.

  17. Epsilon says

    “One country, two systems” is just a slogan and a lie. Chinese government promised to sustain high autonomy, but what we have seen in HK is completely different from it. The loss of human rights, free of speech, freedom of press, many Chinese are invading our beautiful city. Those welfare is priority to Chinese, majority of Hongkongese can’t obtain the welfare. The anger of HongKongese will keep on rising until independence.

  18. Windy says

    Very true. Most of the goodies in Hong Kong have been earned, cultivated, reserved and retained for hundred years, even so for a long time mainland China was crucially benefited from it. If the rise of a Great China cannot embrace a plain fact, but imposing a unique idea otherwise across the continents by voices/noises, history will tell the true greatness she can ever go.

  19. Liwen Li says

    No matter where you come from, Taiwan, Honkong, Mainland, when it comes to politics like this, all of you become clowns, the spread of anger, hate, madness, all of which sound like jokes. People, stop wasting time.
    I am from Mainland China, No matter where you come from, love and respect! You can always stand out to speak your own voice, but do not let the anger spread.

  20. Peter says

    It is quite sad to see how these 3 mainland Chinese were brainwashed by the evil chinese communist party. Hong Kong is not part of China, Taiwan is not part of China, Tibet is not part of China, Xinjiang is not part of China, Inner Mongolia is not part of China, period.

    1. Different Voice says

      Sorry. Can’ t agree with your idea. I am Mongolian from Inner Mongolia. I am 100% CHINESE.

  21. Peter says

    Americans got to appreciate our democracy. Look at what communist did to these 3 mainland chinese!!!

  22. Wong says

    Political propaganda. That’s a really strong word.

    The author NEVER said Hong Kong doesn’t belong to China legally. She is only saying that recognised herself as HongKongers because of the “complicated” political issues that you’ve mentioned. You, yourself, quote data that shows 66.3% of Hong Kong residents doesn’t consider themselves as “Chinese”. 66.3% is not a small number. This is a thing that’s happening in Hong Kong, Tibet and Taiwan.

    Yes. She left out some of the details when explaining the history of Hong Kong. But is she misleading the reader by intentionally neglecting those details? I don’t see it personally, and all of the information included are accurate. You are calling the article “misleading”, but you never explain why is it misleading. You failed to response to the author’s viewpoint. You also failed to mention Chinese government is interfering Hong Kong through different ways. Instead, you only said it’s “complicated”.

    Yes, she might be proposing independence. But what’s wrong with proposing such political view? As future journalist, you should know that freedom of speech is the cornerstone of press freedom and democracy. Stopping someone from addressing his/her political view is detrimental to our democracy. It is very hypocritical to say we can protect cultural division by suppressing freedom of speech.

    I wonder, by distorting what the author said in her article, is this article a political propaganda?

  23. Cheung Leung says

    Although, literally, Hong Kong is the special administrative region of China, for only 22years til now. Still, with the “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong is politically, economically, judicially separated from China.
    Besides, there is still a large gap in culture, morality between Chinese and Hong Kongers. You three Mainland Chinese won’t understand why majority of Hong Kong residents claimed themselves Hong Kongers.

    1. Oxford Frankie says

      They just pretended that they did’nt know why majority of Hong Kong residents claimed themselves Hong Kongers.

  24. PDF says

    This article includes a few points that have to be reconsidered.

    1. First, you mention that HK was ceded to Britain from Qing China. Then why was it legitimate to hand it to the People’s Republic of China? Besides, the concept of Zhongguo came only after the foundation of the Republic of China in 1911. In other words, HK had never been part of Zhongguo before 1997 and the handover of sovereignty was never under a referendum. Why should the self identity of “Zhongguoren” be imposed on HKers?

    2. The word “China” is widely recognized in the world as the synonym of the PRC. While most HKers are ethnically Chinese, it doesn’t mean that they are obliged to identify with the PRC. This doesn’t mean they disdain the cultural identity of being Chinese but because of the label attached to the word “China”, they need to make a distinction. If you say you are “from China”, you’ll most likely to associated as citizens from the largest communist country with her capital in Beijing.

    3. It’s been proved that the PRC government has been increasingly intervening the self governance of HK. One example is the intervention in the Legislative and Chief Executive (government head) elections. TV stations like Cable TV has received phone calls from the Liaison Office in HK asking not to report certain news which was unfriendly to China. If the Sino-British joint declaration has been breeched so blatantly by the Chinese side, do you think HKers would be so willing to identify as Chinese?

  25. Ching Ho says

    “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.” TOTALLY AGREED.
    People, Hong Kong has been a Communist Chinese colony since 7/1/1997. Period, no matter you like it or not.
    Before that date, all communist Chinese map marked Hong Kong as “British occupied, Hong Kong”. In order to let everybody know Hong Kong had been changed hands, it is better to put down “Communist Chinese occupied, Hong Kong” in all the Asian maps. Note, the word “communist” is used to distinguish it from another China which is Republic of China (Taiwan and Peng/Jin/Ma Islands).

  26. Jenny says

    lopsided article with insufficient research

  27. Mandy says

    Showing sympathy towards writers who might havesome problems when getting back to China if they do not write this letter with their history learnt in China. You guys can do better research with Google though.

  28. Steve says

    Thank you!!!!!

  29. Ki says

    Oh please. I laughed when your argument is that the Chinese central government is banned from interfering in Hong Kong affairs and the Communist Party has no official presence. They may be “banned” and not “official” but Hong Kong people knows what is really going on tbh. Even if some do not mind, they cannot deny that the Chinese communist presence is getting more influential and all compassing. I wish I’m from Taiwan tbh at least then we’ll have a fighting chance without all this one country two system bs.

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