Monday, 7 March 2016

Who is a Localist?

Edward Leung now admits he was born in the mainland but few up in HK
It is very surprising to find out now that the localist who ran for the New Territories East seat in last weekend's election and managed to secure over 60,000 votes is not technically local Hong Kong Chinese.

In fact 24-year-old Edward Leung Tin-kei was born on the mainland and moved to Hong Kong when he was one year old.

How do we know?

He said in an interview with local media that his mother arrived in Hong Kong from Wuhan with him when he was about 12 months old, while his father is a Hongkonger who taught Chinese history in a secondary school.

He said what defines a Hong Kong person is not the place of birth, but on whether the person "embraces the values and culture of Hong Kong."

"A new immigrant is not necessarily an Other. If a new immigrant arrives in Hong Kong, actively learns Cantonese and accepts Hong Kong culture and core values, then he/she can become one of us," he said in the interview.

Growing up, Leung noted his mother couldn't speak Cantonese at first, but learned it and she only spoke to him in Cantonese, not Putonghua.

While she loved Chinese literature, she introduced him to Tang and Song dynasty poems, but the country China is very alien to him.

"It is clear that the place where I live is called Hong Kong and everybody says that I am a Hongkonger. I have been to China a few times. Am I really Chinese?" he said. Leung stated he went to Wuhan twice with his mother when he was five and 13, but apart from seeing snow, he didn't have much of an impression of the mainland.

It is interesting that Leung has chosen to disclose this now, a week after the election, because the way localists see it, his mother did what many other mainland women did -- come to Hong Kong to raise families and use up local resources.

Perhaps as a way to come clean now, Leung's enemies won't have as much dirt on him come the September legislative Council elections.

But as expected this has erupted into a debate into who is considered local and who isn't.

The vast majority of people who claim to born in Hong Kong probably had grandparents or ancestors who came from somewhere else. And how far back do you go to claim you are a true local? Or can you be born elsewhere but grow up in Hong Kong and live most of your life here count?

As expected, some people were not sympathetic, saying Leung should not claim to represent Hong Kong people. One commenter called Vincent Lam left a message on Leung's Facebook account, "Go back to the mainland!"

We'll have to see how Leung weathers the storm, but it is really strange to see how he can claim to be a localist, when he should know that the media and the court of public opinion will not look too kindly on him...

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