How True are the “Hong Kong is not China” Images?

Hong Kong is not China

A Hong Kong designer by the name Local Studio HK created images to make the point that “Hong Kong is not China” that are going viral on social media and China blogs. Some of them take shots at Chinese people’s su zhi, or “character.” Others compare Hong Kong’s relative freedom to China’s authoritarian one party system. Some are just valueless like “Chinese drive it [on the] left,” and Hong Kong on the right.

The argument itself over whether Hong Kong is, or should be, a part of China is one thing, but what about the logic used to back up that argument in the pictures? I will take a look at each, and, as you will see, a lot of the pictures completely miss the mark.

More or less true. China has a one party system without rule of law. Hong Kong is comparatively more free and democratic. But anyone following the 2017 reform debate and Occupy Central knows it isn’t a true democracy. The chief executive is still elected by the election committee, after the failure of the Beijing-backed reform bill that would have allowed a few (probably pro-Beijing) candidates to run after being screened by a nomination committee. Only half of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong is elected by universal suffrage, and the other half is elected by functional constituencies of businesses and interest groups that skew towards the elite and pro-Beijing side.

This system is controlled by China, a Hong Konger might say, and the undemocratic reform bill was put forward by China’s government. True, also, but Hong Kong didn’t have any democratically-elected legislature before 1997 either.

This one points out that the anniversary of the clearing of Tiananmen Square, the early morning of June 4, or 6-4, is censored in China. True.

A shot at the police for their involvement in arresting protesters. Incidents of police brutality and alleged police brutality are widely shared by democracy supporters.


Chinese use WeChat, and Hong Kongers use different apps. So what? Some of those apps, like Instagram, are blocked in China. In addition, Chinese also use QQ, Didi Dache (taxi booking), and others that aren’t displayed in this image.


CCTV is the state-run channel in China. ATV is one of the main channels, which is perceived to be biased towards China and is less popular than TVB. Hong Kongers are disappointed with both options, and there were big protests outside the LegCo when HKTV, which was perceived as independent, was denied a broadcast license (my reporting). Two other channels were given licenses.

Of course, there is no requirement to watch CCTV. Although it is the most popular channel, a lot of people watch provincial networks that produce more inspired programming like Hunan TV (“Baba Qu Naer?” and Fan Bingbing’s “The Empress of China”).

Haha, Chinese food quality really can be suspect. Chinese say that themselves. That’s many go to Hong Kong to buy milk powder. There have been a lot of food safety scandals in China beyond the daily problems of pollution in the water and soil. Melamine milk, gutter oil… Gutter oil isn’t just a problem for street food, animal-grade oil was used by huge Taiwanese conglomerates like the company that produces Master Kong instant noodles. And the scandal involved a lot of food products sold in Hong Kong.

First, in the China picture, the Chinese person wouldn’t be laying on the subway seats. There would be four people sitting in those subway seats. Next, in the Hong Kong picture, the Hong Konger wouldn’t by standing by four open subway seats. He would be standing by four occupied subway seats.

There are a lot of people in China and Hong Kong, and the subway is often crowded. In fact, Chinese people who see someone laying on all four seats when it’s crowded would probably start yelling at him, and then other riders would film it and upload it to Youku.

Um… Chinese toilets are dirty? Yes, Chinese restrooms are often dirty, but do Chinese people really stand on the seat? I’ve never seen it, but then again, I don’t watch other people shitting. A lot of Chinese toilets are squating toilets in the floor. This is one of the images that is quite anti-Chinese people and not just anti-China. Some of the nativists among the pan-democrats in Hong Kong host anti-Chinese demonstrations with racist chants that sully their image.

A few of the others include things about politics, like how Hong Kong has free speech. A lot of them are just irrelevant. Chinese people use Chinese Yuan and Hong Kong uses Hong Kong Dollar. Chinese drive on the left and Hong Kongers drive on the right. And…?

Here’s one I already handled on Twitter:

Chinese people speak Mandarin, and Shanghai people speak Shanghai dialect, so Shanghai isn’t a part of #China. #HK

— Mitchell Blatt (@MitchBlatt) July 4, 2015

It says Chinese speak Mandarin, and Hong Kongers speak Cantonese, which, in Chinese is also referred to as “Guangdong dialect,” because Chinese in Guangdong speak it. Indeed, everyone in Chinese speaks local dialects/languages as well as Mandarin. Shanghai dialect is almost as confounding to non-natives as Cantonese, and yet Shanghai is a part of China.

I do find everytime I go to Hong Kong that there does seem to be a different kind of culture there. Openness? Creativity? (There were a lot of great films there, and a lot of Chinese language singers hail from there…) International? The fact that it preserved much culture destroyed during the Cultural Revolution? (Making it more Chinese than China?) I don’t know. It’s hard to put “culture” in words or images, which is perhaps one of the problems the artist had here.

Moreover, culture is fluid. And most countries are multi-cultural. Without even addressing Tibet or Xinjiang, you can see many cultural differences between the “laid-back” Sichuan and the “fast paced” life of Shanghai.

Anyway, I have to go to the airport now to catch a flight, so I can’t analyze every image. I’m on my way to Guangdong to see some cultural things there. See more images here at Local Studio HK’s photos.



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