My presentation script

  • In looking at immigration trajectories, we can see when a Hong Kong identity might have been conceived.
  • Under British rule, Hong Kong was a port facilitating trade and the movement of Chinese diaspora between China and the West. According to Smart and Smart, there was no notion of Hong Konger as an identity – they were Cantonese, Hakka or Chiu Chau.
  • When the PRC was founded in 1949, there was a new wave of immigration into Hong Kong to escape communist rule. Along with Maoist isolation, the border was closed to stem Chinese immigration flows. These restrictions have been argued by Ku to be the foundation of Hong Kong’s identity as a quasi-city-state.
  • In the ’70s, the right of abode was introduced, giving legal status to Hong Kong PRs. The legislation created new distinctions between local and immigrant, Chinese and British, and gave salience to a Hong Kong identity.
  • A re-problematisation of illegal Chinese immigration and a state discourse of Chinese people disrupting Hong Kong’s progress further propagated this.
  • Looking at Hong Kong’s border control today, we can also see how its identity has changed and become increasingly complex.
  • Under Basic Law, though Hong Kong remains under the PRC, it maintains a high degree of autonomy. According to Smart and Smart, border control is required to maintain ‘one country, two systems’.
  • Officially, Hong Kong calls the border a ‘boundary’, which Breitung sees as a political choice to emphasise the shift of the ‘border regime’ from an international, external issue to an internal one.
  • Hong Kong’s identity is further complicated by globalisation, changing the meaning of the border and disrupting the order of state-based rights. According to Castells, it has become a ‘space of flows’, diluting the importance of the state and border. Individuals increasingly adopt multi-identities, relating to different nations.
  • However, borders are also reinforced. Breitung argues that the nation remains significant in the ‘sociopsychological’ borders that Hong Kongers construct by tying their identity to the state and distinguishing between themselves and the ‘other’.
  • Border control gave Hong Kong some agency to define itself, but social movements have given stead to individuals beyond state-based actors.
  • Civil movements typically occurred over demands for democratisation, but most importantly for Hong Kong’s identity to not be co-opted.
  • Lam argues that activism has challenged state narratives, letting civil society build its own identity. The youth is significant in the ‘democracy movement’, as they increasingly dissociate from the Chinese and identify purely as ‘Hong Kongers’.
  • The Umbrella Movement was catalysing in erecting borders that delineate Hong Kongers from the Chinese, and breaking down spatial borders by occupying the city. Lee argues that the streets were also liberated: protesters utilised the city non-destructively, for example, by setting up ‘mobile democracy classrooms’ or engaging in artistic expressions.
  • The use of Cantonese and colonial relics like flags and ‘Keep Calm’ slogans represented a resistance to China. Protesters used the Cantonese phrase ‘zhe da’ (遮打) instead of the Mandarin word ‘yu san’ (雨傘) for ‘umbrella’, giving the movement an alternative name: the ‘cover-hit’ movement, signifying defence against identity erosion and an attack on the Hong Kong government and China.
  • However, the efficacy of movements have yet to be proven and it can seem like no one is listening.

My final bibliography + Filmography

Cited Works

Abbas, Ackbar. Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance, University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Bazin, André, et al. “An Auesthetic of reality: Neorealism (Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of the Liberation).” What Is Cinema?: Volume II, 1st ed., University of California Press, 2005, pp. 16–40,

Fan, Victor. “Introduction: What is Extraterritoriality?” manuscript, 2017.

Li Cheuk-to, “On Four Films by Ann Hui”, translated by Victor Fan, originally published as “綜論許鞍華的四部電影.” City Entertainment Biweekly, no. 95, 1983, pp. 34–35 (excerpt), no. 96, 1983, pp. 25–27, no. 98, 1983, 27–29.

Li Cheuk-to. “The Return of the Father: Hong Kong New Wave and Its Chinese Contexts in the 1980s.” New Chinese Cinemas: Forms, Identities, Politics, edited by Nick Browne, Paul Pickowicz, Vivian Sobchack, and Esther Yau, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 160–79.

Rocchio, Vincent. “Revisiting Psychoanalysis and the Cinema.” Cinema of Anxiety: a Psychoanalysis of Italian Neorealism, University of Texas Press, 1999, pp. 9-29.

Yau Ka-fai. “Looking Back at Ann Hui’s Cinema of the Political.” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 19, no. 2, 2007, pp. 117-150.


投奔怒海 / Boat People. Directed by Ann Hui, Blue Bird Film Company, 1982.

再见中国 / China Behind. Directed by Tang Shu-shuen, 1974.

重庆森林 / Chungking Express. Directed by Wong Kar-wai, Jet Tone Production, 1994.

父子情 / Father and Son. Directed by Allen Fong, Phoenix Film Company, 1981.

十年 / Ten Years. Directed by Ng Ka-leung, Jevons Au, Chow Kwun-Wai, Fei-Pang Wong, Kwok Zune, Ten Years Studio, 2015.

Some interesting visuals (2014 Umbrella Movement)

Umbrella Movement 1

Artwork during the Movement

Umbrella Movement 7

Peaceful protests: appropriating the city space in alternative ways (1) – group of young people singing

Umbrella Movement 2

Peaceful protests: appropriating the city space in alternative ways (2) – playing ping pong

Umbrella Movement 5

Violence mainly invoked only by the police

Umbrella Movement 6

Staged photo by Raymond Kam – reminiscent of Iwo Jima

Umbrella Movement 4

Protesters face off with the police

Umbrella Movement 3

Cardboard standee of PRC President Xi Jinping (umbrella digitally manipulated from blue to yellow)

Photos from:
Lee, E. (2015) ‘Space of disobedience: a visual document of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong’. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 16(3), 367-379.

Some further analysis of Leung Ping Kwan’s ‘Images of Hong Kong’, from a historical perspective

…we are looking for a different angle,
that neither adds nor subtracts,
forever on the margin, forever in transition.
We write with pens of different colours,
but these things, too, easily become superficial.
Is this how history is constructed?
He is a good writer of spy stories with an Oriental flavour.
Entangled with what others have said
Why is it so hard to tell our own stories?

I’d like to go back to the poem ‘Images of Hong Kong’, by Leung Ping Kwan. To my mind, this is a poem whose subject is history; the way history is written, and who gets to tell it.

The line, ‘Entangled with what others have said’ suggests the problematic nature of memory, and the fact that there is not one hand in the writing of the history of a place, but many. It also identifies a problem, which follows neatly after the Oriental comment, which is that even if a place’s history is written by foreigners, their version is, to some extent, absorbed by the population that it describes, until it is difficult to extract exterior observation from interior thought. Edward Said makes a similar point about Orientalism as a process in which the Orient accepts the image that the Occident creates of it, and to some extent begins to reproduce that image.

History writing – and particularly colonial history writing – is a process of response, reaction, and reframing – not so different to the identity-negotiation process of the Hong Kongers themselves, which in many ways is a response to and rejection of the colonised position. Indeed, both histories and identities have a complex relationship with place, events, narrative and belief, and we might even go so far as to say that we create identity from the history to which we have access (or that we are able, in turn, to create) – whilst at other times particular identities, just as histories written by foreigners, are imposed upon people. This is relevant in the case of the people of HK, who officially passed from one relational identity in 1997 (connected to the British, under colonisation) to another (connected to the Chinese, becoming a Special Administrative Region).

This poem actually calls to be unpacked in order, since the layers of meaning build upon one another and its lines interact subtly. The first line in this extract is repeated multiple times within the larger context of the poem (though it is first phrased in the first person singular, and later in the first person plural) and represents the most important message therein: a quest to tell one’s own story, and from a fresh and somehow whole, truthful perspective – an angle ‘that neither adds nor subtracts’. This is an impossible feat – the ‘pens of different colours’ are needed, because a history must necessarily be polyphonic: it must tell multiple stories from multiple angles.

Note the sandwiching of the line “He is a good writer of spy stories with an Oriental flavour” between the question concerning history’s construction and the line denoting the problematic nature of memory and competing histories. This positioning proposes a certain identity for the ‘good writer’ – not just a novelist but a historian – and by describing his work as fiction full of intrigue and Orientalist allure, Leung underscores the subjective nature of History, and how damaging and biased it may in fact be. When I read this line Frank Welsh, a historian of British colonial history, sprang to mind. In one section of his history of Hong Kong (published a few years before the handover, and revised after the fact) he literally writes the colonial past (as well as economic imperialism) out of the city’s architecture, as if to whitewash the actions of the British and to absolve them of any responsibility for events post-1997. Welsh provides one ‘Image(s) of Hong Kong’ therefore with which to compete.

Cross-border cities: Hong Kong and Macau

Came across this article while researching:
Hong Kong, Macau struggle with their identity as cross-border cities

Though this article mostly focuses on Macau’s urban planning, the research into the attributes of cross-border cities – and the implications these have on their identities – can be applied to Hong Kong as well due to them being ex-colonies and current Special Administrative Regions (SARs).

  • Physical, cultural and economic landscapes of cross-border cities in relation to their identities and “authenticity”
  • How do the ways in which border cities interact, cooperate and compete (e.g. Macau-Zhuhai; Hong Kong-Shenzhen) impact their identities?
    • Because of their geographical proximity, but political/economic boundaries, the Macanese and Hong Kongers foster a stronger sense of identity – “…this flow of goods and people brings the tension of identity. So when the Macanese are placed next to Zhuhai, they are very proud of being Macanese”
  • Predictions for the future?: “immigration control points will not exist in 20 or 30 years. So eventually, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border will no longer exist”

This links to my research into the HK-China border post-Handover: even though Hong Kong remains under PRC sovereignty under the Basic Law/’one country, two systems’ principle, it retains a high degree of autonomy. According to Smart and Smart (2008) the border is controlled more like those between nation-states rather than internal boundaries within nations/states (see the Lo Wu checkpoint between HK and Shenzhen). It is referred to officially in HK as a ‘boundary’, which Breitung (2002) sees as a political move that recognises that the ‘border regime’ (openness of the border) has shifted from an international/external to internal issue. The two sides of the border clearly differ politically, economically and socially, but Hong Kong seems to be able to only separate itself through a notional, semantic change. Breitung (2002) also suggests that borders are a ‘sociopsychological construct’ – in creating and identifying different cultural and personal identities, Hong Kongers (and the Macanese) can form some semblance of identity by distinguishing between themselves and the ‘other’. The last part also raises questions that we as a group have also been looking at, namely, what happens in 2047?


My final bibliography

Breitung, Werner. “Transformation of a boundary regime: the Hong Kong and Mainland China case”. Environment and Planning A 34 (2002): 1749-1762.

Castells, Manuel. The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring and the Urban-Regional Process (Oxford: Blackwell), 1989.

Edwards, Jette G. Hansen. “The politics of language and identity: attitudes towards Hong Kong English pre and post the Umbrella Movement”. Asian Englishes 18.2 (2016): 157-164.

Ku, Agnes S. “Immigration Policies, Discourses, and the Politics of Local Belonging in Hong Kong (1950-1980)”. Modern China 30.3 (2004): 326-360.

Lam, Wai-Man. “Depoliticization, Citizenship, and the Politics of Community in Hong Kong”. Citizenship Studies 9.3 (2005): 309-322.

Lee, Eunsoo. “Space of disobedience: a visual document of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong”. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 16.3 (2015): 367-379.

Leung, Ping-Kwan, ‘形象香港 Images of Hong Kong’ trans. Michelle Yeh (1990),

Lim, Tai Wei. “The Aesthetics of Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’ in the First Ten Days: A Historical Anatomy of the First Phase (27 Sep 2014 to 6 Oct 2014) of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution”. East Asia 32 (2015): 83-98.

Ortmann, Stephan. “The Umbrella Movement and Hong Kong’s Protracted Democratization Process”. Asian Affairs 46.1 (2015): 32-50.

Quartz, “Here’s why the name of Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Movement’ is so subversive” (22nd October 2014),

Rühlig, Tim. “Hong Kong’s umbrella movement in search of self-determination”. Swedish Institute of International Affairs UI paper 3 (2015): 1-27.

Smart, Alan and Smart, Josephine. “Time-space Punctuation: Hong Kong’s Border Regime and Limits on Mobility”. Pacific Affairs 81(2) (2008): 175-193.

Taylor, Peter J. “Territorial absolutism and its evasions”. Geography Research Forum 16 (1996): 1-12.

The New York TImes, “Keeping Hong Kong Protest Art Alive Means Not Mothballing It” (18th May 2016),

TIME, “A Year After the Umbrella Revolution, Calls for More Autonomy, Even Independence, Grow in Hong Kong” (28th September 2015),

Remaining tasks:

Tomorrow’s meeting
1) dress rehearsal! Run through presentation, timed, twice (feedback after first run through and a second run through with this in mind)
2) brainstorm the questions listed below together
3) nail transitions
4) reflect further on interdisciplinarity*

After the meeting
4) homogenise presentation aesthetic
5) handouts with the poem to be typed/printed

Questions to consider after the drop-in on Friday:
– Why Hong Kong?
– Why did the project require all our disciplines?
– What do we understand interdisciplinary to mean?*
– What challenges did we encounter whilst undertaking the project and how have our expectations changed?
– How did our research develop?
– How did we work together as a team?*

*One of the important points to emphasise is that interdisciplinary is different to multidisciplinary – it implies work done between disciplines that is able to reach more creative and illuminating consequences by way of collaboration, rather than working separately in our disciplines and then sticking it all together.

Presentation – New Ideas, Findings and Readings

As reported on our Facebook group already, I wanted to give a bit of context about the poem that I have selected for my analysis, written by Leung Ping-Kwan (one of the greatest HK writers also known as Yesi) before the handover in 1990. It mentions significant places in HK as if cultural identity to him also means identification with the urban and therefore physical borders. The poem also shows how HK identity has always been a hybrid that has both struggled and benefited from this partition (J.N. Erni “triangular articulation of Chinese nationalism, British colonialism and globalism”). Not gonna go into a detailed close reading here but the poem starts with “I am looking for a different angle to approach the issue of point of view.” which could relate to how culture is also a matter of subjectivity other than a universal experience. Then “endless images too much titillation from trends distracts you, too many trivial matters, different occasions, constantly changing identities.” and “We keep changing our position, we are looking for a different angle that neither adds nor subtracts, forever on the margin, forever in transition. We write with pens of different colours, but these things, too, easily become superficial. Is this how history is constructed?” It ends with: “Why is it so hard to tell our own stories? They plan to redecorate this room, We look up, searching –”, which could be a clear hint to the Handover- metaphor “redecorate this room” – as someone else is taking over and leading to alienation of communication and identity. I’m going to connect this to some Stuart Hall’s “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”. I am thinking that a way to pick up on this could be to highlight the transition before/after Handover and what has and hasn’t changed with the “re-nationalisation process” and from there everyone else could pick up and give a broader insight on the historical, political, cultural and so on.

  • John Nguyet Erni’s keywords for Handover à transition, decolonization, reinstatement, restoration, reversion, retrocession, reunification, “returnification”
  • I’ve found this article from the South China Morning Post on “Everything you need to know about Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. Check it out!
  • Pictures of the Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong, crucial to the HandoverHongkong-Golden-Bauhinia-SquareGoldenBauhiniaSquare




  • Hall, Stuart, “Cultural Identity And Diaspora”, in Identity: Community, Culture, Difference, 1st edn (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 2016)
    • Identity is not as transparent or unproblematic as we think – another way to think about it is identity as “production, which is never complete, always in process, and always constituted within, not outside, representation”. Identity and its representation are so closely bonded that it is hard to tell them apart at times and it is perhaps arguable as in Hall that they lie within each other.
    • Cultural identity can be seen as “one, shared culture, a sort of collective one true self, hiding inside the many other, more superficial or artificially imposed selves, which people with a shared history and ancestry hold in common.” This is the creation of oneness that gathers individuality into a universal and transcendental spirit shared by one same group of individuals.
    • On the other hand, Hall claims that cultural identity is not a fixed essence, lying unchanged far from history and culture. “Cultural identities are the points of identification, the unstable points of identification or suture, which are made, within the discourses of history and culture”. Cultural identity is in constant transformation and does not belong to any fixed time, as it belongs both to the past and the future. (Could link this to Chai’s analysis of the interaction between past and future, which in turn produce a liminal present).
    • “Identities are the names we give to different ways we are positioned by and position ourselves within, the narratives of the past”. Therefore in the case of Hong Kong, identity is shaped by the way in which Hong Kongers perceive themselves in terms of their “bipolar” historical, political, social background. “Such a conception of cultural identity played a critical role in all the post-colonial struggles which have so profoundly reshaped our world” What will happen once the SAR status of Hong Kong will expire in 2047 (as Chai also mentioned) in terms of cultural identity?


Meeting with George, 10/3

So according to our own schedule, by 10/3 we should have had our points locked down, and after this meeting, I think we’re definitely on the right track. It was now just a matter of putting all our weeks of sporadic researching and reading into 3-4 slides each, and we’d be on our way.

In this meeting, we talked more and deliberated on the speaking order for the presentation itself and how we could grab the audience’s attention right from the outset. George suggested a quote, and we mulled it over, but Lucie later suggested in our Facebook group that perhaps Francesca could do a reading to start us off before we transition seamless into the rest of the presentation and really put our backs into Translating across disciplines.

We went through the points that each of us wanted to make, and agreed on a provisional speaking order. However, we were aware that we could only confirm it once all our points were laid out clearly and we could envision a real flow to it. And only then can an introduction and conclusion be written, preferably together. Thematically, we had to really focus on identity as a common strand between our disciplines, be aware that there needs to be a natural coherence between each individual disciplines in the presentation.

I created a black powerpoint presentation on google docs just so everyone would be able to upload their individual bits when they needed to, and this would facilitate us being able to work on it together even if we couldn’t meet face to face.

On the point of team work, I think we’ve really started to come together over the last couple of weeks as we headed into the bulk of the actual doing of the project, as opposed to at the start when we were somewhat confused and unsure of our topic (once we got the crux of our project settled and we could go off and focus and research for ourselves). We work well together and post on facebook as and when ideas come (it seems like quite a few of us don’t sleep), and there’s a lot of sharing of resources that could be relevant to team mates, which is always welcome!

Meetings notes that I take are shared on google docs still, but at this point when we know what we have to do, it’s not necessarily as relevant anymore.

On my end, I’ll be focusing more (SPOILER ALERT) on the films in the Hong Kong New Wave (1980s-90s) where films really “embodied a consciousness, experience, and memory that were markedly different from what had come before” and also touch on neorealism, which relates to the handover and anxieties surrounding it, then end with a mention of a 2015 film Ten Years that speaks to Hong Kong’s worst fears regarding 2047 when its status as a S.A.R. is slated to end. In this sense, I’ll be moving through two stages of transition, one in the past and one in the future, while still emphasising that the present, at whatever point in time, is always liminal and in flux.

Also we were reminded again that whatever discussion we had outside of this blog could (obviously) not be counted when grading starts, so apologies for ending on this massive stream of screencaps of our Facebook group feed. It spans from our mild (not so mild) panicking of trying to find a topic, to proposed biblios, and then ultimately to slightly more chill logistical matters of where and where to meet etc. Unfortunately, because it’s a facebook feed, the content in screenshots are in reverse chronological order, so read from the bottom of each cap if you want to make sense of any of it at all, and prob click through to actually see anything because wordpress sux:

Recommended Watching

This is a video from the ’97 Handover Ceremony.
I wonder if we could include a section of this – it illustrates some of our points very well.
Chai, is it screaming for your visual analysis?
Any ideas on how we might use this everyone, if we do?
Screen shots might even make an interesting backdrop to our presentation. Chinese flag one side, British the other. However, if we could actually run a bit of the clip, I think that would best take advantage of the material.