Matters of Opinion Once again

Matters of Opinion

Once again I revisit China Hand’s thoughtful and on-target commentary on the hubris of the Honkies, especially his observation that “Hong Kong people have always had a feeling of separateness from the rest of the black, hair, black eyed, yellow skinned people. The Chinese students in Australian universities right from the very early days quickly divided into two groups: Honkies and the rest. Honkies of course were a cut above the Taiwanese, Malaysian, Singaporean, and mainland students. Of course it was obvious.”

Having lived in HK for nearly two years I understand this all too well, and it was driven home dramatically during my recent trip to Thailand. One morning at breakfast I started chatting with a fellow from Hong Kong, who pointed out a group of Singaporeans also staying at the hotel and suggested I might want to practice my Mandarin by talking with them. When I asked him if they were in Bangkok for business or pleasure he astounded me with his reply: “I don’t know. I refuse to speak with people whose native language is Mandarin.” He went on to tell me in the nastiest tones how he is sickened by all the Mainlanders visiting Hong Kong. They are the worst of the disgusting lot, he said, with people from Singapore and Taiwan only a bit less vile. I was taken aback at his having no qualms whatsoever about revealing his prejudices.

I did meet up with the Singaporeans, where I had a similarly unexpected conversation. One of them told me how “a friend” he knows was absolutely delighted with the September 11th slaughter. He went on, always prefacing his remarks with words like, “Now, I don’t think this way, but my friend says…,” and he’d go on to cite a litany of reasons why Americans had it coming to them for their vanity, their cocky attitude about the world being their playground, their contempt for non-Americans, their racism, their obscene wealth, their smugness, etc., etc. It didn’t take me more than a minute to know that there was no such “friend,” that he was stating his own repellent beliefs. I listened to everything he said and I just smiled. When he was done, I said I had to go get some coffee and walked away.

It has been vastly interesting living overseas and seeing how certain people think and how they view us. Generalities are always dangerous — there are, for example, plenty of absolutely magnificent Hong Kong people. But one cannot help noticing how certain peoples have certain characteristics and beliefs, just as they have different ways of stepping into elevators. I found wherever I went that English people, for example, held similar thoughts on Israel (diametrically opposed to my own). Honkies in general view Mainlanders with a mix of contempt, nausea and, increasingly, a sense of jealousy. The only topic where I heard total unanimity irrespective of race or creed was the perception of President Bush. I find it truly extraordinary that every European and Asian I’ve met has identical thoughts on our leader. Identical.

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