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Boston student's Hong Kong identity sparks Chinese anger



By Shibani Mahtani | The Washington Post

HONG KONG – Sitting on a bus in Boston, thousands of her home in Hong Kong, college student Frances Hui crossed paths with an inquisitive fellow passenger.

Where are you from? the passenger pressed.

When she finally replied "Hong Kong," the man started to get aggressive, Hui recounted. He insisted that they should define themselves as "from China" – which was handed control of the former British colony in 1997.

"He kept telling me, 'You are Chinese, you need to fix your identity,'" Hui, a junior at emerson college, said in an interview. "I felt really insulted. Identity is really personal. It's my thing. "

Hui penned a column at Emerson's student paper, entitled" I am from Hong Kong, not China. "She opened with the line:" I am from a city owned by a country I do not belong to. "

The squabble was far from Hong Kong, but one that reflects questions playing out in the

Five years after massive street protests in Hong Kong over Beijing's controls, China has steadily tightened its grip on the territory and its young pro-democracy movement.

And they wonder how to respond.

The terms of Britain's handover were meant to be guarantee Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, allowing the territory to keep its own political, judicial and economic systems until 2047.

But Beijing's controls stepped up after the 201

4 street protests, which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets for months in one of the biggest acts of defiance against China's Communist Party in decades.

In recent months, Hong Kong courts have overwhelmingly been charged and imprisoned the pro-democracy movement's leaders for up to 16 months despite the protests peaceful. 22-year-old Joshua Wong, one of the movement's symbols, wants to return to prison.

Last year, a party that advocates for Hong Kong's independence was banned, and a senior Financial Times editor was expelled. The Hong Kong Government is also pushing through a bill that would make it insulting the Chinese national anthem a criminal offense. All over Hong Kong, the "Greater Bay Area," a Beijing-driven plan that aims to draw the city closer to the mainland.

Most controversially, the Hong Kong government is pushing for extradition that would allow Beijing's powers into Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's Legislature descending into chaos on May 11 over the bill. Scuffles broke out between lawmakers and one was taken to a hospital.

A congressional commission in Washington said the extradition law, "could create serious risks for U.S." national security and economic interests in the territory "and could violate a US Hong Kong act that allows Washington to treat the city as separate from China.

" At the heart of every one of these projects and efforts is a political calculation on The part of Beijing, who is asking: What can we do to diminish Hong Kong as a place, "said Jeffrey Ngo, a Hong Kong activist activist and Ph.D. candidate at Georgetown University.

Earlier this month in Washington, a congressional hearing on the future of Hong Kong's independence and how to the US, it is really sad, but it has certainly motivated people to assert, even more strongly, the Hong Kong identity. government should respond. Live streamed on YouTube, commenters flooded a chat box during the live video streaming with comments as "Hong Kong is not China" and "free Hong Kong."

Against this backdrop, Hui published in late April on the website of the Emerson College newspaper, the Berkley Beacon.

A Taiwanese friend, she wrote, wrote the following sentence: "Chinese" identity despite her love for Taiwan , too afraid to "fight over her identity" with her Chinese friends.

Articles in the student paper usually get anywhere between 20 to 40 views. Hui's piece quickly went viral – attracting hundreds of comments and thousands of readers.

"I got a lot of attention, which I really did not expect," said Hui.

Students from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other places like Singapore reached out with messages of support and encouragement, she said. Among them was Natalie Law, a 22-year-old Hong Kong student at Boston University, who connected to Hui over Instagram.

The article started appearing on Chinese forums including the messaging app WeChat,

shared on Facebook and Instagram pages and distributed among students from Boston. Chinese students started tagging their social media accounts, with comments like "shame on you" and "your parents should be ashamed of you."

Someone in a WeChat group with over 200 Chinese students called her a "psycho," and another

"It made me feel really uncomfortable, like I was being monitored," she said.

The most jarring comment came from a Chinese student at Emerson, who made Hui's personal Facebook posts public. In one post, he wrote a comment that translates to: "Whomever opposes my greatest China, no matter how far they are, must be executed."

"I was panicking," she said.

Hui has not been

Hong Kongers at overseas universities.

Kacey Wong, a visual artist in Hong Kong, remembers pockets of protests at an exhibition he event last year at the University of Essex outside London. Works on display centered around Hong Kong's 2014 Umbrella Revolution – named after many protesters – and showed photos of police hostility.

"They said my exhibition was biased. They said, "Wong said. "They created Facebook groups in protests. It seems like a pretty standard procedure. "

Hui was a student activist when she was in Hong Kong, along with countless other young people who were inspired by leaders like Joshua Wong, who was only 17 at the time of the protests.

Wong said.

Yet, the pressure on Hong Kong and its quest for greater freedoms has only been intensified.


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