Why Chinese Canadians aren’t all the same?

Toronto (Inkstone): Simon Tse calls himself a “Honger,” a “Hong Kong Canadian” or simply “Canadian.” Chinese Canadian? Not so much.

Welcome to the awkward world of Chinese subethnicity in Canada, where its different communities defy the assumption from other Canadians that “Chinese Canadians” are all the same.

Tse, a 26-year-old marketing professional, moved from Hong Kong to Vancouver in 2006. He has been a Canadian citizen since birth, born in Hong Kong to immigrant parents who were naturalized in Canada and then returned to their home city.

“We’re all living in Canada now, right? But for my own identity though, I still insist that I be called a Hong Kong Canadian rather than a Chinese Canadian,” he said.

Simon Tse, seen in a pre-handover 1996 childhood photo in Hong Kong. Born Canadian in Hong Kong, he calls himself a “Honger,” or “Hong Kong Canadian.” Photo: Courtesy of Simon Tse
Subethnicity among Vancouver’s ethnic Chinese is the subject of new research by academics Miu Chung Yan, Karen Lok Yi Wing and Daniel Lai. It focuses on the wide gaps between Vancouver’s mainland Chinese and Hong Kong communities.

Published last month in the journal Asian Ethnicity, the study involved dozens of ethnic Chinese Vancouverites, mainly mainlanders and Hongkongers, as well as a small number of Taiwanese immigrants.

Some of the results were “common sense among Chinese,” but might surprise others, Professor Yan said. He is the director of the social work department at the University of British Columbia.

“We [ethnic Chinese] all know about the gaps and tensions between Chinese from different places. But the majority of Canadians look at us all as one group [and] that’s not the reality.”

People of Hong Kong origin now tend to identify as Hongkongers or Hong Kong Canadians, and not simply as Chinese, or Chinese Canadians.

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