Jump to the main content block

Navigating through the Past and Present of “My City”: Hong Kong Lecture Series by Professor Ip Iam-Chong at NCCU

Date : 2022-06-20 Department : International College of Innovation
【Article by International College of Innovation】
In order to comprehend Hong Kong’s tempestuous situation in recent years and what leads to it, the International College of Innovation (ICI) of National Chengchi University (NCCU) had invited Ip Iam-Chong, founder of Hong Kong Independent Media and now a visiting professor at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU), to give a lecture series. From late April to mid-May, Professor Ip gave three talks under the theme Hong Kong Lecture Series: Diaspora, Migration and History, in which he introduced the key events and influential policies of the city.

The first lecture Chinese Immigrants and Politics in Postwar Hong Kong on April 26th mainly focused on the city’s societal change from late 19th century to mid 20th century. Hong Kong at that time was “a society of (Chinese) refugees/immigrants,” and such position is regarded as an explanation for many post-war phenomena there. They often did not view Hong Kong as their “rooted” place, some identified themselves as Chinese or people of their ancestral birthplace instead. In the movie The Kid (1950), for instance, its ending was the immigrant family “went back to the countryside,” which means heading back to mainland China. This scene indicated that even though there were many who moved to Hong Kong from China in the 1940s and 1950s, the immigrants never completely severedties with their places of origin in mainland China.

Professor Ip suggested that during this period, there were two segments of immigrants: the majority was escaping from political conflicts, and the minority was a highly politicized and politically affiliated crowd. The former generally were not interested in local politics. “Since pro-democracy activists failed to win their support,” Professor Ip quoted from scholar Law Wing-sang, the former thus “failed to give sufficient pressure to the colonial government to launch political reform.” As for the latter, it eventually resulted in political conflicts between pro-Communist and pro-KMT groups in Hong Kong. The conflicts not only happened in the Double Tenth Incident (1956) or the 1967 riots, but also in different fields and sites of the everyday life. In the film industry, there were competitions between pro-Communist film companies and pro-KMT film companies. Despite the conflicts, the colonial government did not launch mass crackdowns on these political elements; instead it attempted to “normalize” the political strife in the Cold War.

In the second lecture, Migrants, population flow, and Hong Kong Nativism (May 3rd), Professor Ip explained the evolution of immigration from mainland China to Hong Kong from the 1970s to recent years. From 1974 to October 1980, the colonial government implemented Touch-base Policy to tighten the control of the border due to the large number of Chinese immigrants fleeing from political conflicts such as the Cultural Revolution. Under the policy, Chinese illegal immigrants who arrived in the urban area of Hong Kong and made contacts with their families here were allowed to register for Hong Kong Identity Cards; if they got caught on their way, they would be deported. The cancellation of the Touch-base Policy marked the beginning of Hong Kong as a relatively stable population and society. Throughout these years, the solidification of the HK-Mainland border, real or imagined, has become the core of the communal imagination of Hong Kong, which also resulted in the anxiety over the collapse of the border.

The speed of population growth in Hong Kong since then has slowed down compared to previous years. Starting from 1980, mainland residents who would like to settle in Hong Kong for family union must apply for One-way Permits (OWPs) which is subject to a quota system (only 150 per day). Under this scheme, these “new immigrants” contributed to more than 90% of the population growth. Since the 1990s, it has triggered concern over population quality and social burden, and numerical control on immigration thus become a key issue in policy and public debates. The right-wing concerns and agenda, blended with the HK-Mainland border issue, became one of the sources of Hong Kong’s nativism and the city’s anti-China sentiment in social movements in recent years.

As for the third and the last lecture of the series, Gangpiao: Cosmopolitanism or Critical Internationalism? on May 10th, Professor Ip specifically addressed a new type of Chinese immigrants to Hong Kong called Gangpiao. Piao in Chinese refers to those highly educated young mainlanders moving to the big cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai for the purpose of work or study. Therefore Gangpiao, literally stands for “HK drifters” in Chinese who are kind of “flexible talents” in Hong Kong. After interviewing dozens of Gangpiao, Professor Ip observed that they are usually not that eager to assimilate to the local way of life, and some might not identify themselves as Hongkongers even after living in the city for a long time. They are in pursuit of a cosmopolitan way of life in a relatively familiar culture and environment. Hong Kong is simply a convenient option. Although most Gangpiao sometimes avoid strong attachment to any identity, some do care about the local issues and the community. These “drifters” are indicative of the changing community of Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong after the handover.
Click Num: