Communicating citizenship in Hong Kong: A critical discourse study of letters to the editor

Project: Research project

Project Details


One area of debate emerging from the recent socio-political upheavals in Hong Kong SAR has been focused on what entails (good) citizenship, especially in light of the government’s adoption of the slogan, “patriots governing Hong Kong”, to justify changes to the electoral system. Likewise, the roll out of COVID vaccines has engendered discussions on what it means to be a good citizen (or patriot), i.e., by fulfilling one's civic and public duty in getting vaccinated. It is therefore within this politically charged climate that we aim to study forms of citizenship in Hong Kong, and, more specifically, how citizenship may be communicated through written argumentation in public forums. While there has been much research carried out on media reports of recent sociopolitical events (protests) in the SAR, in this project we propose to shift the analytical focus to a type of public forum that has been somewhat neglected to date - the letter pages of Hong Kong’s main English language daily newspaper, the South China Morning
Post. With the understanding that the letters section of a newspaper is an opportunity for non-professional writers (i.e., citizens) to express their opinions on current affairs and topics of public interest, we suggest that a closer examination of the subject content, language and argumentative strategies of these letters will provide us with much insight into how people may communicate and form ideas about citizenship relevant to the current Hong Kong context.

After first building a corpus of letters published in the SCMP over the past decade, we intend to combine quantitative (corpus analytical tools) and qualitative approaches (textual analysis) to carry out our research. This research will not only uncover key issues of public interest raised by the letter writers over the period concerned, but also examine the strategies of argumentation used, thus gaining critical insight into the broader discourses on which these arguments are based. As such, our project expects to offer a comprehensive analysis of how citizenship is communicated through this forum, particularly with respect to the claims, goals and values that are drawn upon in processes of argumentation across the data set. Moreover, this project is directed towards
facilitating educational activities that seek to inspire future generations in the art of communicating citizenship in public discourse, along with the compilation of a digital archive of letters for future research.
Effective start/end date1/01/2431/12/25


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