Sitting on a bus in Boston, thousands of miles from her home in Hong Kong, college student Frances Hui crossed paths with an inquisitive fellow passenger.
“Where are you from?” the passenger pressed.
When she eventually replied “Hong Kong,” the man started to get aggressive, Hui recounted. He insisted that she should define herself as “from China” — which was handed control of the former British colony in 1997.
“He kept telling me, ‘You are Chinese, you need to fix your identity,’ ” Hui, a junior at Emerson College, said in an interview. “I felt really insulted. Identity is really personal. It is my thing.”
Hui penned a column at Emerson’s student paper, titled “I am from Hong Kong, not China.” She opened with the line: “I am from a city owned by a country I don’t belong to.”
It was soon followed by an intense and, at times, threatening backlash from mainland Chinese students at her college.