Tuesday 19 November 2019

"Look back in anger": Matthew Cheung and the issue of polling public sentiment. (Letter to SCMP)

ADDED:  published 24 November here.

Letter to SCMP, 

You asked for readers' views on Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung's much mocked statement that he "didn't know what the biggest cause of public anger was".  He proposed a recognised international company do a poll of public grievances.

Absolutely! I fully agree. I don't know why it hasn't been done already. I said back in August, that we needed to do a wide-ranging opinion poll.

Of course we know of the "Five Demands" which must be delivered with "not one less". (五大诉求,缺一不可)

But I believe there is rather more to it than that, judging by the words of protesters themselves.  There is a strong tinge of nativism in their anger.  

Consider this from your investigative article on 23 October

Their yearnings, as revealed on social media, imagine a Hong Kong where people speak Cantonese, patronise family-run shops and not chain stores and pharmacies catering to mainland Chinese tourists, and care for one another as neighbours in close-knit communities. 

In any other country, in any other context, this would be criticised as the nativist bigotry that it is. Recently the comedian John Cleese was savaged for suggesting that "London is not an English city anymore"; this is exactly the same sentiment we see above ("Hong Kong is not a Cantonese city anymore").

A video by the Washington PostAnatomy of a Protest features a woman who says that she fears the "invasion" of mainlanders, who "refuse" to learn Cantonese, and only speak their own "dialect"(!), Mandarin.  

Graffiti around Hong Kong calls mainlanders "locusts" and Zhi Na Ren (支那人), the latter a term last used by the invading Japanese in the 1930s. Nothing is more insulting to mainlanders. The graffiti Tian Mie Zhong Gong (天滅中共) — Heaven Destroy the Communist Party —  goes back to early KMT days and was chanted by the Falun Gong. Also insulting. In 2011 I was involved in a debate in these pages over the use of simplified vs traditional characters. I couldn't understand what the hang up was with simplified. Now I know. Simplified = mainland and mainland = bad. [Our locals can dish it out but can't take it. They are incensed — outraged! -- when mainlanders themselves make tart and germane observations about Hong Kong and our protesters].

In short, the hatred of mainlanders is visceral and leads me to the thought that the stated worries about "Beijing interference" are really deep concerns about individual mainlanders (locusts, invaders), not so much things done by officials in Beijing (even given Beijing’s slamming the High Court ruling in face masks). If that's correct, a fair response to the protesters might be "get over it" rather than the molly-coddling and praise of "brave freedom fighters" heaped on them now here and in the international media.

Whether or not I'm correct about this would be flushed out through an international polling exercise. It should have been done long ago

(446 words) 

Peter F. etc…