University of York Rethinking the Impact of the "Touch Base" Policy on the Formation of Hong Kong Identity, c. 1967-1980
9 Feb 2017
This paper examines the impact of an increased influx of immigrants from Mainland China on Hong Kong. The scale of illegal immigration from China strained Hong Kong's limited housing stock and its under-developed welfare and education systems, and the public's attitude towards these migrants shifted in the mid-1970s.
By analyzing the changing international and popular discourses regarding immigration and how the colonial government managed this "problem" through implementing a "new" immigration policy, the paper explores a shift in political culture: how Chinese residents in Hong Kong differentiated themselves from Mainlanders and related themselves to the colony. It argues that these effects were initially weak and were "top-down" processes affected by press reports and official rhetoric. The paper also points out that discourse was not exclusively anti-immigrant: some press and civil society groups advocated assimilation and espoused toleration, especially in the early 1970s.The public held flexible attitudes towards immigration, which influenced political culture and vice versa. The mid-1970s was a turning point in which attitudes towards Chinese immigrants changed dramatically.
The paper observes that the term "Hong Kongese" was rarely used, and that the meaning of "Hong Kong identity" was vague and unclear. As such, it revises the claim that a sense of belonging towards the colonial government and a "Hong Kong identity" emerged in this period.
Florence Mok is a graduate of the University of Durham and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of York. Her doctoral research examines the political culture and identity shifts in Hong Kong, c. 1967-1984.
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