“香港人”一詞 在中文語境中使用多年，但英語專有名詞 “Hongkonger”則是在2014年才被《牛津英語詞典》正式收錄 (South China Morning Post, 2014)。“香港人”本身並不是法定用語，在政府文件中，通常被稱作“香港居民”。香港居民包括不同類型，例如：i) 非永久香港居民是指持有香港身份證但沒居留權的人士，ii) 香港永久居民是持有香港永久居民身份證及居留權的人士，iii) 大部份港人持有中國護照及香港永久居民身份證，iv) 也有部份港人持有香港永久居民身份證但並非持有中國護照 (HKSAR, 2019) 。
Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island in 1842, and its sovereignty was handed over from Britain to People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1997. For more than a hundred years in this British colony, people from mainland China and other parts of the world resided in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong people do not comprise of one particular ethnicity or nationality. After the 1997 handover, the proportion of ethnic Chinese has obviously increased, according to Hong Kong's 2016 census, 92% of its population is ethnically Chinese, with 31% were born in Mainland China, Taiwan or Macau. Among the 0.58 million non-Chinese, the largest ethnic groups in Hong Kong were Filipinos, Indonesians and Whites, constituting 31.5%, 26.2% and 10.0% of the non-Chinese population respectively, other south Asians include Indian, Pakistani, and Nepalese (HKSAR, 2017).
The Chinese term “xianggangren” has been used for years in Chinese contexts, but the English term “Hongkonger” has just recently been officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in March 2014 (South China Morning Post, 2014). The term “Hongkonger” itself has no legal definition by the Hong Kong Government. More precise terms such as Hong Kong Permanent Resident and Hong Kong Resident are used in legal contexts, in which there are different types of Hong Kong residency, such as: i) non-permanent Hong Kong residents who are people holding Hong Kong Identity Cards but they have no right of abode, ii) permanent Hong Kong residents are those holding Hong Kong Permanent Identity Cards and having the right of abode, iii) most residents hold permanent Hong Kong Residents Identity Cards and Chinese passports, iv) but there are also permanent Hong Kong residents who do hold Chinese passport (HKSAR, 2019).
More than two decades after the 1997 handover, the subjective ethno-national identity of Hongkongers is still an unsettled issue. A 2017 survey showed that citizens continue to feel the strongest when identified as “Hongkongers”, then followed by a number of ethno-cultural identities, such as Asian, global citizens, Chinese, etc. The feeling of being “citizens of the PRC” is the weakest among all identity options, and this was particularly obvious in the 18-29 age group (HKUPOP, 2017).
Some scholars see that “Chinese” has always been a complex concept. Shen (2007) sees that Chinese nationalism is complicated and diverse, and it is often bottom-up, supported by mainland citizens. Zhao (2006) sees that the term Chinese has denoted multi-ethnicities and multi-nationalities since the Qing dynasty (diversity in unity, “duoyuanyiti).