Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese, Hongkonger? The Construction of National Identity in light of the Anti-Moral and National Education Movement and the Umbrella Movement in Post-1997 Hong Kong

  • Chung Yan Priscilla Kam

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores the formation of Hong Kong identity in post-1997 Hong Kong through the 2012 Anti-Moral and National Education (MNE) Movement and the 2014 Umbrella Movement, and a youthful movement organisation influential within these social movements known as "Scholarism". In the aftermath of these two social movements, the rise of Hong Kong identity vis-a-vis Chinese national identity has become particularly salient in post-1997 Hong Kong. The rise of Hong Kong identity prompts three key research questions for this thesis: How do the conceptions of national identity develop variously over time through three political generations? What are the specific cognitive markers of Hong Kong identity in post-1997 Hong Kong? How significant is emotion in characterising the emergence of Hong Kong national identity and social movements? Addressing these questions, and taking a bottom-up approach, this thesis is interested in self-claimed Hong Kong national identities, the meanings attached to and reasons for these identity claims, how they interplay with different identity claims, and their evolution over time. The findings of the thesis challenge the previous characterisation of Hong Kong identity as politically apathetic and market-oriented. The thesis is based upon 30 semi-structured qualitative individual and four focus group interviews with social movement activists and participants born in three cohorts, "post-1970", "post-1980" and "post-1990", who were associated with the 2012 Anti-MNE Movement and/or the 2014 Umbrella Movement, and/or the movement organisation "Scholarism". The key findings reveal that an exclusive Hong Kong identity and a desertion of Chinese identity is emerging. In particular, this exclusive Hong Kong identity is characterised with its salient cultural and civic markers. Previous studies showed that people in Hong Kong generally embraced an "ethnocultural" China but rejected a political China. However, this thesis finds that the exclusive Hong Kong identity claim contests the concept of Chinese nationalism based on race and ethnicity. Since 1997, a national identity shift has been occurring among all three generations, in which the post-1990 are especially inclined to see Hong Kong and China as mutually exclusive entities by claiming an exclusive Hong Kong identity.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Mcmylor (Supervisor) & Nicholas Thoburn (Supervisor)


  • Social Movement
  • Nationalism
  • Ethnic and civic Identity
  • Emotion
  • National Identity
  • Hong Kong Identity

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