It’s not a big secret that there’s little love lost between Hong Kong people and mainland Chinese. Even after 14-plus years of being part of the same country, Hong Kong still mostly sees itself as very distinct, culturally, psychologically and emotionally. Many Hong Kongers perceive mainlanders as uncivilized and scary, while many mainlanders, as well as people of other places, see Hong Kongers as arrogant and full of themselves. Just last week, a big controversy erupted over a Beijing University professor calling some Hong Kongers dogs for their arrogance towards mainlanders. His criticism stemmed from a video of an incident in Hong Kong’s MTR subway system, where a Hong Konger got into it with some mainlanders for eating, which is not allowed. This incident was really ugly, and puts both parties in a bad light. The mainlanders should not have been eating, but the Hong Kong guy shouldn’t have been so worked up and abrasive. I can’t help thinking that if he had tried that against someone else, like say a Westerner or an African, maybe fists would have flown. Furthermore, I couldn’t help notice that the Hong Kong guy was arguing with a woman, and later on another woman. I don’t think this is really polite or gentlemanly, for a guy to argue with a woman, and a mother at that. I wonder if this is a sign of the disdain that some Hong Kongers harbor towards mainlanders or if this particular guy was just really asinine. I mean, if the woman was white or black, would the guy have argued with her? So going back to the professor, he was wrong in calling people dogs (note he didn’t say all Hong Kongers are dogs) in a public arena, were his sentiments completely wrong and groundless? I think the professor did raise some valid points.
The negative anti-mainlander feelings of Hong Kongers isn’t completely unwarranted. Over the years, there’s been several incidents such as the shortage of hospital beds for mothers, due to a huge influx of mainlander mothers coming to HK to give birth, and a milk powder shortage, caused by mass buying by mainlanders due to panic over unsafe mainland milk powder. Mainlanders also haven’t done themselves any favors by doing things like spitting in public, jumping lines, or letting their kids pee in public. All this has aroused in many HKers a sense of fear over losing their public space, resources and culture to the mainland. But yet, I can’t quite agree with this fear, though I admit I don’t live there and I have had much more positive interactions with mainlanders than most average HKers. A lot of Hong Kongers have quite a serious sense of superiority and disdain toward mainlanders. For instance, locusts is a popular term to describe mainlanders, obviously not in a good way and influenced by events like the milk-powder buying spree. I do know a little of anti-mainlander sentiments given one half of my family is from HK and expressed a lot of these sentiments. Of course, the sentiments of some HKers from a decade ago and earlier were much more fearful, with paranoid expectations of bloodshed and destruction and death when Hong Kong was given back to China. This didn’t materialize, as did largescale interference with Hong Kong’s political, regulatory, and judicial systems. That’s not to say China hasn’t tried to interfere and push for changes to limit aspects of HK’s more open media and assembly laws, but nowhere to the point of completely disregarding HK’s existing laws. However, much of Hong Kong was created by the British. The education system, the laws, the judicial system, the street layouts, and so on, are all aspects of British rule. They largely work well and that’s the reason why Hong Kong became so prosperous and well-known. But in this sense, while it’s important to respect the British and what they left Hong Kong with, it’s also important to respect your Chinese values and identities. In other words, is it right to maintain a sense of intrinsic superiority over your fellow countrymen, when what made you supposedly superior was all created by a foreign ruler?
In short, both sides need to change. Mainlanders should be more aware of how they behave in Hong Kong, and Hong Kongers should be more humble and conscious of the fact that like it or not, Hong Kong is part of China and that hating and insulting people won’t benefit anybody.