A borderline case: ethnic politics and gangster films in post-1997 Hong Kong

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Hong Kong has long been seen as a racially harmonious and ethnically homogeneous (predominantly Chinese) global city in spite of the hundred-year British colonization. But since 1997 its ethnic front may have gradually changed. It is not simply because the new Chinese nationalism promoted by the state has led to the (re-)emergence of ethnic antagonism that had been suppressed by the colonial racial segregation and hierarchy in the past. The negative feelings of Hong Kong local Chinese towards the new mainland arrivals have been on the rise. The influx of immigrants from mainland is Beijing's conventional policy to stabilize its regained territory.

On the other hand, Hong Kong Chinese are (un-)consciously positing themselves or being positioned as ‘ethnic minority’ in relation to China. Being given a high degree of autonomy and other privileges as do ethnic minority groups in the mainland, postcolonial Hong Kong is anxious to preserve its own cultural uniqueness by distancing itself from other Chinese cities. Meanwhile, after a decade of debate, the draft legislation of race discrimination was introduced in the end of 2006 to make racial discrimination, harassment and vilification unlawful and to prohibit serious racial vilification.

Being far from encompassing and with too many exceptions, the bill may, however, uncover deep-rooted bigotry in the society and even intensify the city's internal otherness which could be constitutive of a new sense of identity for postcolonial Hong Kong. This paper studies the implicit assumptions and attitudes about ethnicity found in post-1997 Hong Kong gangster films by recasting what these texts have said so as to reveal the ideas about ethnicity that are always already there (that is, the language of boundary-setting, differentiation, and discrimination).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-446
Number of pages16
JournalPostcolonial Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


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