Tensions between Mainland China and Hong Kong are at a fever pitch these days following last year’s Occupy movement and recent protests that have targeted Mainland shoppers in the city’s Tuen Mun and Sha Tin neighbourhoods.
While it would take a proper thesis to outline the root causes of Hong Kongers’ discontent, the simplified version is this: they feel their way of life is under threat, and their uniqueness isn’t respected by the Mainland government or people. (This is a vastly simplified explanation, so please go easy on me in the comments).
Enter, then, the latest Chinese New Years greeting by Caroline Wilson, the Consul General of the United Kingdom to Hong Kong and Macau. In it, Wilson pulls off more than three minutes of Cantonese, a language notoriously hard to learn and one few visitors to Hong Kong, from the Mainland or elsewhere, even attempt. One imagines it took a lot of time and practice to put this video together, and her efforts will naturally go over well in Hong Kong. Trying to speak the local language is endearing, after all, and shows a certain level of respect for the local people. As any foreigner in the Mainland knows, this can go a long way.
Wilson has done these videos for a few years now, and last year even her American counterpart joined in with his own greeting in Cantonese. Conversely, many Hong Kongers feel the Mainland has shown little respect for the local culture or language, when even a simple dai ga hou (大家好) would be a nice touch before a speech. It’s not required, but it’s a small sign of acknowledgement and might be a first step towards a bit more understanding.
While Wilson deserves praise for her Cantonese, she has a way to go before being this good.