In the mainland, October 1st marks the beginning of a big holiday, with some people getting a week off. Even in plucky little Macau they get three days to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. In Hong Kong, where 1949 marked the beginning of a decades-long influx of refugees fleeing communism, National Day is what it says: a 24-hour deal. Or, to hear citizens of the Big Lychee tell it to opinion pollsters, maybe an ordeal…
This pie chart was purloined from a presentation by political scientist Michael DeGolyer of Baptist University to the HK Democratic Foundation. While the survey methodology was no doubt faultless, it is hard not to look at the data and wonder about the integrity of the respondents.
For example, 9% of them claim to feel excited, which the dictionary defines as “very happy and enthusiastic because something good is going to happen, especially when this makes you unable to relax” – not a feeling we associate with the joint Home Affairs/Leisure and Cultural Services Departments’ National Day Carnival at Victoria Park at 3pm. Not with the best will in the world. People are giving this answer because they want the opinion poll to show Hong Kong to be loyal to Beijing.
Similarly, a massive 56% claim to be indifferent. Unless they are working, which some will be, this is also a lie. It’s a holiday. You can go out the night before, you can stay in bed late, you can hang around at home in your pajamas half the day. You don’t have to go into the office. What is there to be indifferent about? These people are giving an exaggerated answer in order to influence the result of the survey and show Hong Kong to be more negative towards the motherland than it really is.
Or maybe it’s the other way round. Maybe 56% of us are going to be dragged off to sing Wo Ai Ni Zhong Guo and are candidly admitting to the Baptist U interviewers that the whole thing will be a bit of a drag, while 9% of us are planning to spend all day in our pajamas and are feeling uncontrollably thrilled by the prospect (I know I am). In which case, everyone’s being extremely honest.
Most likely though, my first theory is correct. There is nothing to celebrate about what happened in China from 1949 to 1977. In the name of ideology, millions of innocent people were killed or tortured because of their families’ social status; then millions (as in 30 million or so) were starved so officials could pretend there were food surpluses; then millions more were killed or tortured or sent to pig farms just to be sure. Since 1978, the government has gone with whatever works, and a once-impoverished people now find themselves up at El Salvador’s level in terms of GDP per capita and inequality. That’s a drastic improvement, but does it really merit that much excitement or pride when coming from such a wretched and artificially low base? This is simply where they should have been all along. If the country had 2% of the world’s population instead of 20%, we would never have noticed. It’s the scale rather than the substance of the achievement that makes it hard to be indifferent. And the fact that it’s a day off.