UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From local to national : the creation of a new Hong Kong identity Kwan, Justin Patrick


Hong Kong is undergoing major political change. Its citizens have expressed concern over Beijing’s implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” and the Basic Law in protecting the city-state’s autonomy. The socio-political discontent arising from the re-sinicization of Hong Kong since 1997 has furthered the development of localism, a process whereby Hong Kongers are beginning to prioritize a local Hong Konger identity over a national Chinese identity. Situating this analysis within the nationalism literature, this thesis analyzes three types of localism: (1) preservationists who seek to protect local Hong Kong spaces through the discourse of cultural and socio-economic struggle (2) an ethnic localism which uses nativism to create a Hong Kong nation based on Southern Chinese traditions and an ethno-cultural superiority over China and (3) a civic localism that emphasizes an acquired identity based on liberal democratic values, universal suffrage as well as the right to self-determination. To illustrate this, an analysis of the 2014 Umbrella Movement will identify the diverging ideology of localism from other pan-democratic groups through an examination of the movement’s successes and failures and the impact of localist political forces on the electoral system. This is further analyzed through a case study of the 2016 New Territories East by-election. This thesis attempts to provide three main contributions to the study of Hong Kong: (1) to understand how the “local” is being articulated by various localist groups, (2) to analyze the process by which a Hong Konger nationality is becoming integrated into the political orientations of the people and (3) to link how the geopolitical relationship between Hong Kong and China is connected to an evolving Hong Kong identity. The transformation of localism from a social movement into political participation suggests not only a widening identity gap of Hong Kong from China, but the rising rationalism of Hong Kongers in defending their home.

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