So, who is this person that is calling Hong Kongers "dogs"? It is none other than Kŏng Qìngdōng 孔庆东, associate professor in the Chinese Department at Peking University, who also just happens to be the 73rd generation descendant of Confucius (Kǒng Fūzǐ 孔夫子 ; Kǒng Qiū 孔丘), or at least he claims to be a descendant of Confucius. We might, then, interpret his name, Kŏng Qìngdōng 孔庆东, as "Scion of Confucius who Celebrates the East". He also goes by the moniker Kǒng héshàng 孔和尚 ("Monk Kong"), which is laughably ironic.
Kŏng Qìngdōng was also in the news recently as one of the judges for the Confucius Peace Prize that was awarded to Vladimir Putin and for representing the First Sage at the ceremony.
Kŏng Qìngdōng is notorious for using foul language and for inciting violence, so much so that last November Peking University students circulated a petition requesting that school officials dismiss him for being a danger to the public and an embarrassment to the University.
This is certainly not the first time that Kŏng Qìngdōng has uttered profanities and made threats.
Aside from being a bully and party hack, Kong Qingdong has a checkered past, having participated in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations on behalf of democracy, but then switching over to become an ultra-nationalist and anti-Western polemicist.
The problem with Kŏng Qìngdōng's outrageous antics in the present instance is that they come at a time when relations between Hong Kong and China are strained to the breaking point, and Kong's vitriolic abuse was directed solely and squarely at the people of Hong Kong.
First I shall analyze exactly what he said about the people of Hong Kong that is so insulting, then I shall explain that there is a vital linguistic issue at the basis of his hatred for the people of Hong Kong. I should note that Kong's rant is so inflammatory that many of the websites that carried video recordings of it later took them down because what he said is considered hate speech. The Shanghaiist website has a good video (with English supertitles) of the web news interview in which Kong excoriates Hong Kongers, although sometimes I have not been able to access it.
A few newspapers in the West have reported Kong's incredible stream of abuse against the people of Hong Kong, but the growing friction between the PRC and Hong Kong has gone largely unnoticed by the public at large.
The part of Kong's diatribe that so infuriated practically every citizen of Hong Kong is where he called them "dogs". After Hong Kong erupted with outraged demonstrations against him and China (there are also many other festering issues, some of which I shall touch upon later in this post), Kong backtracked and complained that the media were distorting what he really said, that he never really said "Hong Kong people are dogs" (more on that below). I should mention that Kong's tirade against Hong Kong was prompted by viral videos of a conflict between local passengers on a Hong Kong Metro train and mainlanders who contravened regulations by eating noodles on the subway.
So, let us see what Kong actually said.
At 0:42-43 of the video that appears above, Kong states that Hong Kong people who do not recognize themselves as Chinese are used to serving as the "running dogs" of the British imperialists: "dāng zǒugǒu dāng guànle 当走狗当惯了".
This is immediately followed at 0:45 by the accusation that still to this day "they're all dogs" and "you're not human": "dào xiànzài dōu shì gǒu 到现在都是狗" (N.B. the subtitles on this video are not entirely accurate, hence my transcription may vary slightly from what is in the subtitles) "nǐmen bùshì rén 你们不是人".
Immediately on the heels of that last accusation comes another rephrasing of the assertion that Hong Kong people are dogs: "Wǒ zhīdào Xiānggǎng yǒu hěnduō rén shì hǎorén, dànshì yǒu hěnduō Xiānggǎng rén zhìjīn háishì gǒu 我知道香港有很多人是好人，但是有 很多香港人至今还是狗。" ("I know that there are many good people in Hong Kong, but there are many Hong Kong people who still today are dogs").
Kong then at 1:12 reiterates with extraordinary vehemence that many Hong Kong people are dogs: "Wǒ zàicì shuō, Xiānggǎng rén hěnduō shì gǒu 我再次说，香港人很多是狗!" ("I repeat, as for Hong Kong people, many of them are dogs"). The form of this topic-comment denunciation is irregular and is calculated to put maximum emphasis on the word gǒu 狗 ("dog") at the end of the exclamation. Even someone who does not know Chinese can hear the angry stress that Kong applies to the word gǒu 狗 ("dog") at the end of the sentence. He achieves this not only through the unusual syntax of the sentence, but also by altering the third tone so that it rises higher than it normally would, and by his finger-pointing gesture and bobbing head.
Putting Xiānggǎng 香港 at the beginning of the sentence also follows the rhythms of the previous clauses, several of which begin with Xiānggǎng 香港.
The normal word order of the blast at 1:12 would be "Wǒ zàicì shuō, hěnduō Xiānggǎng rén shì gǒu 我再次说，很多香港人是狗!" ("I repeat, many Hong Kong people are dogs").
In a follow-up program, Kong claims that he never said "Xiānggǎng rén shì gǒu 香港人是狗" ("Hong Kong people are dogs"), which is true. He actually said, "Xiānggǎng rén hěnduō shì gǒu 香港人很多是狗!" ("As for Hong Kong people, many of them are dogs!"), and other variations on that theme.
In Western society, where dogs are man's best friend, it might not be a terrible insult to call someone a "dog", but in China, where dogs are eaten and kicked around (except by pet owners and lovers), calling someone a "dog" and saying that they are not "human" is about as vicious an insult as one can imagine. Many people who have watched this video of Kong's fulminations — both Chinese and Westerners alike — feel that Kong is more despicable than any dog, except perhaps for the meanest pit bulls, to which he bears a remarkable resemblance.
Let us move on to the linguistic issue that lies at the heart of Kong's denunciation of Hong Kongers. Before he gets to the part about Hong Kong people being dogs, he decries their unwillingness to speak Mandarin and insistence upon speaking Cantonese. Here I shall give only a rough English translation-summary of the relevant portion, but — to save labor and space — will forego transcription of the Mandarin.
"Two different kinds of language; this detail that you mention is very important. One is Mandarin, the other is a topolect. Right, huh? Mandarin speakers don't have any responsibility or necessity for mastering any of the topolects. Right, huh? Chinese people have a responsibility to speak Mandarin, but they don't have any responsibility to speak any of the topolects, such as Northeastern topolect, Sichuanese, Pekingese, Tianjinese. Right, huh? Maybe you can only master the topolect of the area where you grew up, the mother tongue of your homeland. You have no responsibility to speak the topolect of some other area. But every person, huh, has a responsibility to speak Mandarin. Huh? But what do you do when you meet someone who speaks a topolect that is different from yours? Both sides should speak Mandarin. Huh! What sort of person stubbornly refuses to speak Mandarin? Bastard! [wángbādàn 王八蛋] They certainly must have some other purpose in mind. For example, Hong Kong people, do you accept that they are Chinese? But according to what I know, many Hong Kong people don't consider themselves to be Chinese. When they open their mouths, they say, 'We Hong Kongers, you Chinese.' They are bastards!"
From here, Kong starts to lambast the Hong Kong people for being "running dogs" of the British imperialists, and so forth, which I have already covered above.
These sentiments, the anger and indignation over the alleged stubborn resistance of topolect speakers to speak Mandarin, are directed not just at Cantonese, but also against Shanghainese and anyone else who allegedly refuses to speak Mandarin. Having visited Hong Kong scores of times and having lived there for longer periods up to a year, I can verify that there are many people in Hong Kong who don't speak any Mandarin or speak it very poorly. Kong Qingdong must be extraordinarily obtuse if he thinks that everybody in Hong Kong or elsewhere in China can speak Mandarin.
The conflicts over language and eating in subway cars are just two of a multitude of frictional issues that exist between Mainlanders and Hong Kongers. The causes of tension between the two groups are endless: Mainlanders coming in droves to have their babies in Hong Kong hospitals and buying up safe milk powder for their children, soaring real estate, favoritism toward mainlanders at Dolce & Gabbana, the rule of law (which Kong Qingdong scoffs at and says that only an uncivilized people like Hong Kongers needed to have imposed upon them by the British imperialists), and so on.
The atmosphere in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, as expressed by one of my most thoughtful and sensitive friends there, does not bode well for the future:
The suffocating feeling I get, both literally and figuratively, when having to wait four trains at the Admiralty Station just to cross over to Tsim Sha Tsui, or doing a breast-stroke walk through a sea of sneaker-shopping teenagers in Mong Kok at eleven in the evening, is of 1.3 billion Chinese desperately trying to squeeze themselves onto Hong Kong territory for the freedom, decency, opportunity and prosperity it still has to offer, while, at the same time, this freedom, decency, opportunity and prosperity is gradually being eroded and curtailed with each passing day. I think the conflict and resentment between Mainlanders and Hong Kong people can be traced back to this untenable situation.
Whatever happens in the coming years, we can be sure that language issues will be at the center of the controversies between Mainlanders and Hong Kongers.
[Thanks to Joel Martinsen, Bob Bauer, Arif Dirlik, Perry Link, Haitao Tang, Mandy Chan, Genevieve Leung, Nelson Ching, Erling Hoh, Leander Seah, Bonlap Chan, Bin Qing Zheng, Maiheng Dietrich, Zhou Ying, Gianni Wan, Jing Wen, Rebecca Fu, Jiajia Wang, Zhao Lu, Sijie Ren, Denis Mair, and Brendan O'Kane]