Monday, 17 February 2014

Escalating Anti-Locust Behaviour

Lines like this on Canton Road are common with a particular clientele in mind
The anti-locust brigade is out in force again.

Yesterday some 100 protesters marched from the Star Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui to Canton Road and got a lot of attention.

The beginning of the march was already tense with protesters clashing with people opposing the demonstration and police had to intervene.

Then along Canton Road which is lined with luxury brands such as Hermes, Chanel and Gucci, the protesters held up signs that said "go back to China" and "reclaim Hong Kong" or carried colonial flags as a symbol of their mistrust of the Chinese government.

Things got uglier when protesters booed or hurled verbal insults at mainland tourists passing by. The atmosphere was so tense that some shops decided to close.

Some mainland tourists were either surprised by Hong Kong people's supposedly "civilized" behaviour, others disappointed their tourist dollars were not welcome here.

Senior Hong Kong government officials saw pictures of the protest and were mortified, calling it "regrettable" and that mainland tourists had been "humiliated" and how it tarnished Hong Kong's image as an international city.

"The harassment of the tourists on Canton Road is very regrettable," said Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung. "Hong Kong has been very friendly not only to our tourists, but to other people conducting business here. This sort of harassment should not be repeated in Hong Kong."

Meanwhile Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok condemned the "humiliation" of mainland visitors and that some shops were forced to close.

"The protesters have affected the business activities in the area, as well as the public's activities here," he said.

And Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen was reportedly "shocked" when he saw the protest covered on TV.

The response of these government officials further proves they are definitely living in a bubble.

The anti-mainland sentiment has been simmering for years and the term "locusts" came out just over two years ago when Hong Kong people crowd-sourced enough money to put a full-page ad in Apple Daily openly describing mainlanders as this kind of insect using up goods and services meant for locals.

At that time the Hong Kong government did nothing to quell the tensions and instead stood by as landlords continue to be greedy by kicking out local businesses and inviting international chain stores to be tenants.

The authorities have made no effort to bridge the gap between locals and mainlanders, only using the reasoning that they boost the tourism sector in the city, but in fact the money goes to the headquarters of international stores and not locals.

And so it is actually shocking and disappointing to see senior government officials react this way, as if they didn't see protests like this coming at all.

Things are only going to get worse if the government continues to be blind to the reality of the situation. While verbal attacks are a form of assault, tensions need to be de-escalated soon, or physical attacks may be next.

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