Friday, 20 January 2012

Mounting Pressure

Tensions continue to build in Hong Kong as locals' patience of hosting mainland tourists is quickly fraying at the edges.

After the Dolce & Gabbana incident which subsided after the Italian fashion brand finally issued an apology earlier this week, we now have another row that sparked on the MTR.

In a video clip uploaded by a Hong Kong internet user on YouTube, a Hong Kong man tells a mainland woman and her daughter they are not allowed to eat in the MTR train and demands that they apologize, but the mother refuses, saying it's no big deal.

Then other passengers join in on both sides.

A local person presses the emergency button and notifies platform staff. An MTR employee goes on board and tells the tourists they can't eat inside the train. The mainland woman says sorry in English. A Hong Kong man then says sarcastically, "Oh, she knows English".

Then a mainland woman tries to explain the situation to the MTR staff member but is interrupted by local people as the quarrel continues. At the end of the video, a Hong Kong man says, "No need to speak to them. That's what mainlanders are like."

Of 4,000 surveyed on Sina, 35 percent supported the Hong Kong passengers' demands that tourists abide by local public order rules. Another 10 percent said Hong Kongers held a grudge against mainland tourists, and 31 percent said Hong Kongers and mainlanders should show each other more respect.

We're not quite sure how the incident started, if the man told the mainland tourists politely to stop eating or not, but the mother was definitely wrong for eating in the carriage when there are signs on the train as well as in the stations not to eat or drink in paid areas.

The other thing is that mainlanders are used to eating -- wherever they are. In almost all the train lines in Beijing they can eat in the carriages and at times even leave an unsightly mess on the floor.

While it is understandable they may have to travel a long way and thus only have time to eat on the train, Hong Kong people are used to cleanliness particularly after their experience with SARS in 2003 and have become especially sensitive to hygiene.

It's this clash of cultures that is creating more and more friction in Hong Kong. As I've said before, locals are feeling pushed aside in their own city as shop spaces now sell brand name goods that mainlanders come here to spend their cash on. The latest now is that UA Times Square Cinemas which has been in the Causeway Bay shopping mall for 18 years will shut down and make way for a giant Louis Vuitton store that will pay HK$20 million a month in rent.

On top of that heavily pregnant mainland women are rushing in to emergency rooms to give birth at the last minute, straining medical resources for locals. These women come across the border to give birth so that they can have more than one child, or make sure the child has Hong Kong residency to take advantage of the social benefits from health care to primary schooling.

The worst part of it all is that the Hong Kong government has done nothing to ease the tension. Yesterday Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen only promised to look into the public hospital emergency ward issue, but not try to stop pregnant mainland women from coming to Hong Kong.

Things are really starting to get ugly here and could further escalate if the government doesn't do anything meaningful.

We are tired of telling mainland tourists how to get to Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui; we are also losing patience of mainlanders speaking loudly and not standing on the right on the escalator.

Some may say we are complaining about the most trivial things and should get a life.

But we used to have a very efficient city where visitors quickly learned and integrated into the system.

Now it's log jammed with an overflow of people who seem to demand things their way.

And Chinese officials can't understand why local people prefer to call themselves Hong Kongers than Chinese?

1 comment:

  1. Guess what, now mainland citizery calling people of Hong Kong 'dogs'