'Dogs' Row Highlights Divisions

Beijing professor says all Chinese have a 'duty' to speak Mandarin.

kongqingdong-305.jpg A Hong Kong resident protests Kong Qingdong's statement.
Photo courtesy of VOA

Recent popular anger in Hong Kong over comments by a Beijing University professor who referred to the territory's residents as "dogs" has highlighted a long-running rift between inhabitants of the former British colony and their mainland Chinese counterparts, analysts said on Wednesday.

The comments, made by professor Kong Qingdong on his blog this week, sparked angry demonstrations by dog-toting protesters outside Beijing's liaison office in the territory, prompting Kong to try to clarify his comments in a later essay.

"I didn't say that Hong Kong people were dogs," Kong wrote in an attempt to ease hurt feelings. "When I spoke about Hong Kong people, I didn't mean all Hong Kong people."

Citing revolutionary author Lu Xun, Kong said the appellation "dogs" referred to Chinese people who kowtowed to foreign powersknown as "imperialist dogs"and not to all residents of the Special Administrative Region, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but kept its own system of government.

Such people, Kong quoted Lu as saying, were "dogs to the imperialists, but wolves to their fellow Chinese."

He also appeared to soften his stance on the use of Mandarin in Hong Kong, saying that the Chinese national language, which has become the standard form of communication between Chinese from different dialect regions, was the best choice where two dialects were mutually unintelligible, as Mandarin and Cantonese are.

Language protests

In July 2010, thousands of people took to the streets in protest at calls for cuts to Cantonese-language broadcasting in Guangdong province, sparking similar demonstrations in neighboring Hong Kong.

Kong's comments came after an online flame war between mainlanders and Hong Kong people over the latter's disdain for mainlanders eating on the city's pristine subway system.

Media commentator Poon Siu-to said the latest spat had highlighted divisions between the mainland and Hong Kong, whose population is made up largely of refugees from Communist Party rule, many of whom do not even describe themselves as Chinese.

"We have to remember what is at the root of this whole business," Poon said. "I think a lot of people have mistaken the real flashpoint."

"I don't think there's too much cause for concern," Poon said. "People are simply voicing opinions they have suppressed for a very long time."

"At the very least we should respect [Kong's] freedom of expression, as long as he is only speaking for himself as an individual."

But he added: "If he is speaking on behalf of the Chinese government or his university, I think that this should be investigated further, and Kong Qingdong should resign."

'Inappropriate remarks'

Kong, who claims to trace his direct lineage from Confucius (551-479 BC), said in an online video that all Chinese have a duty to speak Mandarin, adding that "many Hong Kong people are used to being the dogs of British colonialiststhey are dogs, not humans."

Hong Kong current affairs commentator Wu Yisan said Kong's remarks were inappropriate for a high-profile academic.

"Professors and scholars shouldn't speak without a sense of responsibility," Wu said. "Beijing University has got rid of a lot of very good scholars, and some academics aren't allowed to teach class."

"Instead they have allowed people like Kong Qingdong, who are hoodlums without quality, culture, or civilization to teach ... [They] are the shame of our country and our nation," Wu said.

Wu called on Hong Kong people to take some of the work of Beijing University to task, and criticize it in a self-determined way.

Last month, a University of Hong Kong survey showed that only 17 percent of people in Hong Kong identified themselves as Chinese, the lowest percentage since 2000, official media reported.

Repeated calls to Kong's phone went unreturned on Wednesday, during the Chinese New Year holiday.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Jan 25, 2012 10:07 AM

It is a blot on the reputation of Peking University to have a loud-mouthed hooligan like Kong Qingdong on the faculty there. His boorish comments reflect worse on himself than on Hong Kong residents.

Jan 26, 2012 06:13 AM

See carefully the whole context of his TV interview/comment, he is merely reflect the commonly held view of a lot of poeple that Hongkees are trying to victimise the little kits on the subway

Feb 12, 2012 12:53 PM

chinese do business together & make money - good. chinese kill each other - no good.