I’ve noticed some interest in my identity recently. I would prefer not to talk about myself; the focus should be on the freedom struggle. I am merely one of several million involved in that. But given the situation, I believe it best to say a few words.
I am a Hong Kong permanent resident with the same legal status and rights (and lack thereof) as any other citizen of Hong Kong.
More important than my legal status, I consider myself a Hong Kong person (香港人). All of the people I love most are in Hong Kong. I have lived in Hong Kong for many years and have no other home. Throughout those many years, I have fought for freedom and democracy. I stand side by side with the millions of others who have done so, and I consider them my brothers and sisters.
In my writing, I use a pen name. It was given to me long ago by a Chinese human rights activist. In Putonghua, it is pronounced Jiang Songjian. After the Umbrella Movement, I decided to write about Hong Kong and adopted the pen name, in honor of the man who gave it to me and in solidarity with all of the others in China and Hong Kong who have fought so long and hard for basic human rights. I also felt a need to distinguish my writing life from the rest of my life, not least out of concern for the security of those I knew and worked with.
I adopted the name in the spirit and tradition of many in this region of the world who have taken pen names, Lu Xun being one of the more prominent examples. My only regret is that I think it would have been much braver not to have done this, especially as I have seen many I’ve worked with persecuted for speaking out publicly.
The issue of identity in Hong Kong is complex. Most Hong Kong people these days do not identify as Chinese but as HongKongers. This is especially true among young people. Through the Hong Kong freedom struggle, a distinct Hong Kong identity is being formed. The Communist Party (CCP) finds this threatening. What is “foreign” and what is not is precisely what is being fought over. The Party seeks to impose a mono-cultural identity, defining Hong Kong by ethnicity, and one ethnicity alone. But Hong Kong is an open and multicultural society. HongKongers demand democracy and the universality of human rights as cornerstones of our common Hong Kong identity.
The CCP seeks to discredit such ideals as “foreign” and people they dislike as “colluding with foreign forces.” It has now gone so far as to even label that a crime under the recently imposed “national security law”. Meanwhile, the family members of top Hong Kong government officials hold foreign passports. Many of those officials did too, only renouncing them in order to assume their government positions. Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people have citizenship elsewhere.
It is important to entirely reject this bogus and dangerously xenophobic propaganda line about “foreign interference”, an insidious allegation with absolutely zero evidence, so impoverished as to stoop to singling out a relatively inconsequential person like myself. Hong Kong people have taken their fate into their own hands, and what they get for it is patronizing insinuations that somehow they have no agency and are only puppets in foreign hands. Only one who has no understanding of what is happening in Hong Kong could believe this.
I certainly have not intended to deceive anyone about my ethnicity. I would say I understand the recent debate over identity politics and may have chosen a different name if I were making the choice for the first time today.
I do not “pose” as anyone except Kong Tsung-gan. I have written three books and numerous articles on the Hong Kong freedom struggle. I have expressed my views on Twitter. I have documented protests, arrests and prosecutions of protesters. My work speaks for itself. If you disagree with something Kong Tsung-gan has written, I would be happy to engage with you on that. No matter what name I might go by, the writing remains the same. No one who has attempted to discredit me has so far chosen to debate my ideas and opinions. I am left with the impression that they are not interested in discussing the merits and issues of the freedom struggle but instead wish to engage in character assassination. As Kong Tsung-gan, my character is my writing.
I believe remaining silent on the use of the pen name has become untenable because it has been taken up as a cudgel by opponents of the freedom struggle in order to attack it. Therefore, I acknowledge the pen name and plan to continue to use it because it is how I am now known in my writing. Since some have referred to me as a journalist, I should make clear that I am not a journalist and have never said I was. I am a member of the Hong Kong freedom struggle and a writer.
Anyone who has followed Hong Kong in the past year knows many if not most people wear masks and obscure their identities. This is out of very real concern for their safety in a political environment in which our own government regards us as the enemy and will not hesitate to use all of the power and mechanisms at its disposal to persecute us.
The interest in my identity, or, to be more precise, the use of it for propaganda purposes, goes back to last June when nearly identical articles about me appeared in the CCP-owned Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po, spawning endless regurgitations in pro-CCP social media, coming in waves over the course of months. Corresponding to those waves, threats to me and my family have also ebbed and flowed.
The threats began to spike again in late May, in the lead-up to the imposition of the “national security law”. They reached the point where I decided it was best to leave Hong Kong. This is a terrible decision to have to make. If I had no children, I do not think I would have made it. No one in the freedom struggle wishes to leave. I feel I have abandoned all those brave people who remain in Hong Kong, but I will continue to do whatever I can for the freedom struggle from outside.
As I said at the start, it is regrettable to me that I have had to speak about myself. I have taken this decision because I think it is for the good of the freedom struggle. I am not special: many people around Hong Kong have had their lives completely upended in the past year and faced dilemmas similar to mine; many others face much greater danger than I ever have.
In the face of this oppression, HongKongers have been magnificent. They have stood up for their rights against the biggest dictatorship in the world. They will continue to do so, and I will continue to stand beside them. The road to freedom is long and hard. These are dark times. But it is my firm belief that as long as HongKongers continue to resist, in the end we will win.