In his weekly column on Hong Kong identity, Evan highlights the important distinction between those who identify with Hong Kong by choice and those for whom a Hong Kong identity is their only reference. Evan Fowler is the founder of the Hong Kong Identity Project (HKIDP), a privately funded initiative to document, archive and explore the Hong Kong identity; the Chinese translation is provided by Alan Chiu.
編按：在本週的專欄， Evan 強調「選擇」當香港人的人與只以「香港人」作唯一身份的人，兩者之間是有重要的分別。「香港身份計劃 (HKIDP) 」由方禮倫創辦，是私人資助項目，旨在記錄、歸檔和探討各種關於香港身份的活動。譯文由 Alan Chiu 提供。
One of the most important distinctions to make when talking with people about their Hong Kong identity is whether this identity is chosen.
Whether or not we feel we have a choice in identifying with Hong Kong fundamentally alters both our understanding and our relationship with this identity. Is the Hong Kong identity an external identity, separately constructed from ourselves and for which we have reason to identify? Or is it foundational to our identity, providing the framework on which our own person is constructed? In other words, is this an identity we choose from without or is it an identity we find from within?
In almost all cases people I interview are not aware of this distinction. There are however a few markers.
I often ask people to describe when they first became aware of their Hong Kong identity. It is not just when, but also how they describe their first experience of making a conscious identification that is interesting. Answers fall broadly into two categories: those who point to a personal and transformative moment when “Hong Kong began to feel like home”; and those who experience a realisation that they are not alone, and find meaning in an identification from a shared experience.
When people talk of “realising how much I like this city” and of “deciding to stay” Hong Kong is understood externally from who they are. Their personal identity exists separately, and is not inherently tied to the choice. This Hong Kong identity is engaged and understood not from within ourselves, but from projecting who we are already outwards. There is also an underlying presumption that there is an alternative. Hong Kong is understood comparatively. To decide to stay, and call Hong Kong home, presumes that there is a choice.
As a choice this identity is rationalised. Thus we often hear of the city being “safe” and “efficient”, or of the “great food.” This is identity as fashion, something outside of us that we select as we feel it to best represents us at a moment in our lives. It is pleasing to our eyes, comfortable on our skin, at tune with our values. But for it to be pleasing to our eyes is quite different than for it to have shaped how we see.
For others a Hong Kong identity is not an issue of what fits but of who they are. For these Hong Kong people their identity is not a choice but an acknowledgement. People with this identity often struggle to tell me when it was that they first identified with Hong Kong, as they have always had this bond. They did not choose Hong Kong as home, but have instead formed a concept of home around Hong Kong. Often they will describe their identification as a “love” or “feeling”. They do not describe an experience of falling in love with Hong Kong and establishing the bonds that tie them to their home, but highlight instead those moments when this love was expressed. For some this expression came when they first left Hong Kong, or when they first spoke to people with whom they do not share a common sense of home.
In recent times many have said that the greatest expression has been in the sense of solidarity they have felt during protests, when for the first time they have come to realise that they are not alone not only in their values, but in how they understand and feel about their home. What was once a personal identification has become part of what they believe to be a distinctly Hong Kong identity.
Another word I often hear in relation to how people understand their Hong Kong identity is “family”. The existence of a familial relationship need not be reasoned or rationalised. Whether they like Hong Kong, or show interest in their home or openly care is irrelevant to the relationship.
To have a choice though is to lose this certainty. Needing to rationalise their choice, those with a chosen Hong Kong identity almost invariably view Hong Kong positively. This is especially true of those who have come to identify with Hong Kong since the 1980s, when this city became more a beacon of opportunity than a place of refuge, and to call Hong Kong home became increasingly a positive choice.
The difference is again apparent in the subtle differences in the way people answer questions about their identity. Talk of “Hong Kong food” and the city as an exciting or multicultural place may be the standard answers thought at schools, but if these identifications are themselves, to a degree, imposed.
Without a comparative framework, many people who identify only with Hong Kong do not talk so generally. They do not talk of “Hong Kong food” being good, but of specific types of food being good at specific places and for specific reasons. As one interviewee recently said, the “cheung fun (rice rolls) in Cheung Chau” are particularly good, and specifically “those made by the auntie by the ferry pier.” Hong Kong is both described and understood, and the quality of food judged within its own context.
It is not that those who so identify with Hong Kong have neither the imagination nor the means to picture a home outside of Hong Kong. Many do, and in recent years many have looked longingly towards Taiwan. But they still look outwards from a perspective that is very much set by their identity as Hong Kong people. Much as we need not like our family, we still feel bonded to them, and realise that to sever this bond is to discard much that has shaped the person we are today.
It would also be wrong to dismiss the Hong Kong identity of those who identify with Hong Kong by choice. Identity is very personal, and when taken beyond the individual should be defined not by differences but the core ways in which we relate. I would like to think what ultimately defines the Hong Kong identity is a love of Hong Kong, and love takes many forms. We should recognise these differences.
而「選擇」，就會失去這肯定性。由於需為自己的選擇解釋，那些選擇香港作為身份的人，幾乎無一例外更為正面地看香港。尤其是在上世紀 80 年代來到香港的那批人，當時這個城市對於很多人來說是機遇處處而非避難所。故此，「香港是家」成為一個越來越正面的選擇。