Hakka Dialect Identity versus Chinese Identity in the Face of Government Policy in Malaysia
Danny Wong Tze Ken
Institute of China Studies
Like most countries outside China, Chinese community in Malaysia is organised based on dialect groups. This is a legacy of both Chinese migration process and the colonial policies, where the two factors strengthened the importance of dialect identity in the country. Dialect identification remained strong even with the growing importance of Chinese nationalism and Chinese identity in the 1930s and also during the period of anti-Japanese War. This was sustained through post-independence Malaysia where the Chinese continue to put up a united identity vis-à-vis other ethnic groups, especially the dominant Malay and Bumiputera – to continue to have a united and strong bargaining position – and dialect identity is seen upon as divisive. Despite all these dialect identity remained strong. In some cases, they enjoyed a form of revival. As for the Hakka dialect group, they too remained a potent force, and a renewed interest on Hakka identity emerged. This paper will investigate the position of Hakka dialect groups in Malaysia against the dominant view of furthering a single Chinese identity and interests in the face of inter-ethnic contestation for rights and interests; and to position the Hakka dialect group’s attempts to strengthen its dialect identity, including embracing a global outlook and at the same time, assuming a strong local presence.
Hakka, Chinese, Dialect, Identity, Contestation