From HK to main­land, bridg­ing a gap

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By LUO WEITENG in Hong Kong

By all ap­pear­ances, Jia Wan­lin is very much in the crowd — she’s no dif­fer­ent from a typ­i­cal post-90s Hong Kong girl.

She lives in Tai Wai with her main­land mother and Hong Kong step­fa­ther, hangs out with her lo­cal friends and at­tends the Chi­nese Univer­sity of Hong Kong (CUHK) af­ter tak­ing the Hong Kong Cer­tifi­cate of Ed­u­ca­tion Ex­am­i­na­tion (HKCEE) in­stead of gaokao — the main­land’s col­lege en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion.

Born and raised in Shen­zhen be­fore mov­ing to Hong Kong in 2008 and la­beled a “main­lan­der-Hongkonger” by her friends, the 22-year-old still sees her­self a main­land Chi­nese of her own.

“In some ways, I’m dif­fer­ent from my Hong Kong peers,” says Jia. “Al­though we all be­long to the so­called post-90s gen­er­a­tion, we don’t nec­es­sar­ily share the same la­bels.”

The post-90s gen­er­a­tion refers to those born af­ter 1990 and now in their teens, or Gen­er­a­tion Z as they’re known in the West. They are por­trayed as be­ing self­ish and ir­re­spon­si­ble — a gen­er­a­tion bask­ing in the lime­light.

“The me­dia, es­pe­cially, calls us lazy and over-de­pen­dent young people. Al­though we tend to dis­miss this ‘com­pli­ment’ as a mere stereo­type, I feel there’s an el­e­ment of truth in it,” Jia ad­mits.

Ac­cord­ing to the Group Val­ues and Con­sumer Be­hav­iors of Post-90s Gen­er­a­tion Re­port re­leased by main­land mar­ket-mon­i­tor­ing firm, Hori­zon, in De­cem­ber 2011, more than 90 per­cent of the main­land’s post-90s young­sters are ei­ther to­tally or largely de­pen­dent on their par­ents to keep them­selves fi­nan­cially afloat.

“Ad­mit­tedly, Hong Kong’s youths are more in­de­pen­dent com­pared with their main­land coun­ter­parts. Most of them sup­port them­selves by tak­ing up part-time jobs to pay their univer­sity tu­ition fees,” says Jia.

She says he is much im­pressed by some of her Hong Kong friends who be­came fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent as early as in high school. “They led a hec­tic life, rush­ing off to work part­time as soon as they fin­ished their classes,” Jia says.

“Tak­ing up part-time jobs is com­mon among those of my age or older co­horts,” says Kevin Kwong, who was born in Hong Kong in the 1990s. He went to Fu­jian prov­ince for his un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies and re­turned to work in the SAR last year.

Kwong re­vealed he fi­nanced his univer­sity stud­ies by work­ing part­time as a waiter in restaurants, of­fice clerk, in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor and a ref­eree for bas­ket­ball games, while his main­land class­mates tended to ex­tend their fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence to the post­grad­u­ate level.

He said he was as­ton­ished when a main­land friend asked him: “Why do you still do part-time jobs? If you’re fi­nan­cially strapped, I can lend you money.”

“I fully un­der­stood he said that out of con­cern and kind­ness. But, for Hong Kong’s post-90s gen­er­a­tion, work­ing part-time does not nec­es­sar­ily mean their fam­i­lies are not well off,” said Kwong.

Kwong added that Hong Kong’s post-90s youths are more out­spo­ken and ea­ger to ex­press their views, which he at­trib­uted to Chi­nese-lan­guage ed­u­ca­tion in Hong Kong.

“The im­por­tance of train­ing in de­bate could never be overem­pha­sized when I was in high school. In ev­ery Chi­nese-lan­guage class, we were di­vided into two groups to de­bate cur­rent af­fairs,” he said.

A re­search re­port on Hong Kong’s post-90s gen­er­a­tion by Hong Kong Ideas Cen­ter in Jan­uary last year showed that the city’s post-90s youths are more likely to come up with “rad­i­cal” ide­olo­gies.

More than half of the post-90s re­spon­dents re­fused to be rep­re­sented by ex­perts or par­ties, and ad­vo­cated group par­tic­i­pa­tion and protests.

Jia re­marked: “I feel our Hong Kong peers long to make them­selves heard even if their opin­ions are not pen­e­trat­ing or pro­found.”

“Eleven” Zhou — a 20-year-old, sec­ond-year stu­dent at CUHK — dis­agreed.

Zhou, born in He­nan Prov­ince, cited stu­dents at Fu­dan Univer­sity, Jiangxi Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity and Xiangyang No 5 Mid­dle School in Hubei Prov­ince as hav­ing quoted fa­mous po­etry from the Song Dy­nasty in de­mand­ing that air-con­di­tion­ers be in­stalled in their dor­mi­to­ries.

She also cited a huge protest by stu­dents in Sichuan prov­ince in 2012 against plans to build a multi-bil­lion­dol­lar metals plant at Shi­fang. Mod­er­ate ap­proach

“Some­times, we may choose a mod­er­ate way of ex­press­ing our­selves while, on other oc­ca­sions, we are brave enough to speak up,” said Zhou.

Zhou ob­served that the main­land’s post-90s stu­dents would pre­fer to dine to­gether or go to karaoke, while their Hong Kong co­horts tend to go hik­ing or cy­cling.

“But, the fact is that many of my Hong Kong friends hud­dle in a 40-square-me­ter apart­ment with their par­ents, broth­ers and sis­ters most of the time. They re­ally need some fresh air on week­ends,” Zhou said.

Hong Kong stu­dents ar­gue that it’s not fair to draw an over­all con­clu­sion on how lo­cal and main­land youths think or be­have.

“Frankly speak­ing, I don’t be­lieve we can present a rea­son­able con­clu­sion on the dif­fer­ence be­tween the main­land’s and Hong Kong’s post-90s gen­er­a­tion,” says Chan Chi-hou, 24, who moved to Shen­zhen at the age of 13 and earned an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree at the Ren­min Univer­sity of China in Bei­jing last year.

“Com­pared with Hong Kong’s post-90s young people, their main­land co­horts are much more dif­fi­cult to de­fine. While study­ing in Bei­jing, I mixed with main­land stu­dents from var­i­ous prov­inces. They do vary a lot with re­gard to taste, cus­tom and di­alects,” said Chan.

He said mem­bers of Hong Kong’s post-90s gen­er­a­tion are com­par­a­tively less di­verse in cul­ture be­cause they are not shaped by such an amaz­ing re­gional di­ver­sity on the main­land. In­ter­net men­tal­ity

Zheng Shi­hao, a 21-year-old main­land stu­dent at Hong Kong Bap­tist Univer­sity, said he no­ticed that some of the dis­tinct so­cial and ed­u­ca­tion in­cli­na­tions be­tween the main­land and Hong Kong post-90s gen­er­a­tion are dis­ap­pear­ing. In his view, both main­land and Hong Kong youths are tech-savvy and well versed with on­line life. As the first gen­er­a­tion to grow up with the In­ter­net, they are largely shaped by the In­ter­net way of think­ing. The in­creased free flow of in­for­ma­tion of­fers them a bulk of com­mon in­ter­ests and topics, Zheng said.

“Both our younger gen­er­a­tions also have the habit of spend­ing more time on the so­cial me­dia. Even if we know there’s no up­date on the so­cial scene, we just couldn’t help re­fresh­ing it,” said Zhang Boya, a 21-year-old main­land stu­dent of the Univer­sity of Hong Kong.

“The only dif­fer­ence is that main­land stu­dents tend to surf Ren­ren and China’s Twit­ter-like Weibo, while Hong Kong stu­dents like Twit­ter and Face­book more.”

Tony Sze, a 22-year-old who moved from Fu­jian prov­ince to Hong Kong at the age of 15, com­mented: “We may be dif­fer­ent in some ways, but, at least, we shoul­der sim­i­lar heavy bur­dens — dif­fi­culty in land­ing a plum job and un­able to cope with soar­ing property prices.”

Ac­cord­ing to China 360: The Rise of the Ur­ban Post-90s Gen­er­a­tion in China, a re­port pub­lished in Septem­ber 2013 by KPMG — one of Hong Kong’s “Big Four” au­di­tors — the num­ber of new col­lege grad­u­ates on the main­land soared to al­most 7 mil­lion last year.

At present, a con­sid­er­able num­ber of new post-90s grad­u­ates have been un­able to get a job of their choice, and many are elect­ing to de­lay the start of their ca­reers.

The find­ings were echoed by The So­cial At­ti­tudes of the Youth Pop­u­la­tion in Hong Kong Re­port, con­ducted by CUHK in De­cem­ber 2010.

The re­port re­vealed that the post90s gen­er­a­tion has be­come more dis­con­tented than those born in the 1970s. Nearly 40 per­cent of the post90s re­spon­dents said they ex­pected their fu­ture prospects to worsen.

The post-90s gen­er­a­tion of both Hong Kong and the main­land tend to spend more time on the so­cial me­dia and see their cul­tural and so­cial prac­tices get­ting closer.

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