“What are we?—A Journey in Search of Identity in Hong Kong Literature” by Englebert Tse

Academic Week’s Opening Ceremony (Monday 31 October 2016). Pictured l-r: April Wong, Sabrina Tsang, Natalie Hui, Carrie Chan, Dr Jason S Polley, Dr Jason Eng Hun Lee, Professor Stuart Christie, Dr Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, Dr Lian-Hee Wee, Englebert Tse, Jacqueline Tsang and Chan Shu Fung

A speech
given at the Opening Ceremony
of the Academic Week

on 31 October 2016

Professors and student representatives, good afternoon. On behalf of my cabinet, I am delighted to have you here to participate in this Academic Week hosted by the English Language and Literature Society. The theme of this year’s Academic Week focuses on Hong Kong literature and we have named it “What are we? A Journey in Search of Identity in Hong Kong Literature”.

Why Hong Kong? The answer is straightforward. Many of us were born and raised here. And we have observed that the importance and place of Hong Kong literature is not widely recognised in this city.

Why are we searching for an identity? After the handover of sovereignty from the UK to China, Hongkongers are continuously suffering from an identity crisis. In recent years, especially after the Umbrella Movement in 2014, there is a growing anxiety among Hongkongers concerning their identity: should we count ourselves as Hongkongers or simply Chinese? People in Hong Kong and those in China have huge disparities in many aspects of life.

Something in Hong Kong is missing—freedom. It has been only twenty years since the handover, but the Chinese government has already failed to keep its promise of maintaining our way of life unchanged for 50 years as stated in the Basic Law. Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law undoubtedly allows it to exert greater control over Hong Kong, which threatens the autonomy of our city. We are expected to accept drastic changes on every aspect of life since the handover. And such changes, whether good or bad, may also lead to a new identity for us.

But what we are is not the most important thing. You don’t need any authority to define who you are; instead, you can decide who you want to be. It’s a matter of choice. We should bear in mind that one can have fluid and multiple identities, but the most important thing is that we are comfortable and confident of who we are. In view of the major civil movements these last few years, including the controversies on National Education and Article 23, Hongkongers are ready to undertake a battle and for us, as students, can start this battle from the position of Hong Kong literature.

To dig deeper into what Hong Kong literature says about Hong Kong, I would like to invite my fellow students to join the CCL-recognised theme seminars on Tuesday and Friday. This year we have invited Dr Jason Eng Hun Lee and Dr Tammy Ho Lai-Ming to host the seminars for us, namely, “Glocal Hong Kong Writing” and “Can we say Hong Kong?” You may also notice that there are ten display panels showing our research on identity and Hong Kong literature. Please do take a look at them any time this week. Once again, thank you for joining us today and have a nice day.



Englebert.jpgEnglebert Tse is an MALCS (MA in Literary and Comparative Studies) student (2016-2017) at the Department of English. He is also the President of Enamor – HKBU English Language and Literature Society 1617. [Read all entries by Englebert here.]

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