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Journals from Hong Kong 2008

2009-01-31 China vs. Hong Kong

Ever since 1997, Hong Kong has been officially a part of mainland China again. The British handed it back with the agreement that there would be a 50-year transition period from British rule to Chinese rule. When I first decided to study abroad in Hong Kong I would tell my friends I was going on a study abroad in China because I thought it was the same thing. I learned when I was over there that the two places are distinct enough to be considered different entities. Hong Kong was under British control since the mid 1800s. This separation from mainland China excluded Hong Kong from the oppressive communist experience of Mao Zedong which included the catastrophic starvations caused by the Great Leap Forward, the systematic murder of intellectuals in the Anti-Rightist Movement, and the collapse of institutions like education and religion during the Cultural Revolution. Mao dictated until his death in 1976 and was soon followed by one of his advisers, Deng Xiaoping. Under Deng, oppressive communism was still instituted with weak attempts towards capitalism. This led to the massacre of student protesters in Tiananmen Square and the famous footage of Tank Man. All of this means that Hong Kong has enjoyed a booming economy because of open markets while mainland China has suffered the indoctrination of an oppressive communistic system for nearly 50 years. The mainland Chinese hold distain for Hong Kongers because of these historic differences. Hong Kongers are seen as complainers. They are said to ask for too much and be spoiled. The Hong Kongers see the mainland Chinese as old fashioned and difficult to deal with because of their closed-minded and guarded approach to anything Western. On top of this, the two dont speak the same language. Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong and Mandarin in mainland China. The two languages are written the same but pronounced differently. Nationals on both sides need passports and visas to cross the border, further distinguishing the two, and the students from mainland China studying in Hong Kong are treated the same as other study abroad students from Europe or America. Although these differences may begin to disappear as Hong Kong is further phased into mainland China, at this point the two act like different countries. -Alyse Newby

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