Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Mainland Invasion

Local resentment towards mainland Chinese coming to Hong Kong is happening on many levels.

The first is the sheer number of mainland tourists coming to the city daily, mostly to shop. For the most part they are not in Hong Kong to learn how the city was a refuge for tens of thousands of people escaping the Communists in 1949, or how Cantonese food is about using cooking techniques to enhance the natural flavours of ingredients, or how Chinese traditions have been practiced uninterrupted for hundreds of years.

They are here to invade luxury brand stores and snap up handbags, clothing and shoes because the Hong Kong dollar is weaker than the renminbi and also there is no luxury tax like there is in China. In effect, things here are practically 30 percent less. And they're real.

And then there are the parallel traders who cross the border everyday, several times a day to buy everyday goods to bring back because they can be sold for a profit. They are snapping up milk powder for babies, cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoo, and more recently boxes of chocolates and cookies for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

The third level are the mainland mothers, who up until a few months ago came over the border up to nine months pregnant to give birth to children in Hong Kong to take advantage of the social benefits here, including subsidized health care and free primary education. It also gives mainland families a chance to have more than one child as the one born in Hong Kong is not considered a Chinese citizen.

However, this arrangement has created a number of social problems for the parents and the children. Usually the mother is in Hong Kong with the child, or the boy or girl is being raised by elderly relatives and they can barely make ends meet depending on monthly government handouts. Another scenario is the child crosses the border to go to school everyday and many are falling behind academically.

The next level up are wealthy mainlanders, those who can afford to buy flats or work here. Based on appearance they are can be difficult to spot, as they wear name brand labels and carry the most fashionable handbags... until they open their mouths. Some have even go to school in Hong Kong and can speak Cantonese as well. Many of these young people are getting good jobs here, mainly because of their language skills and connections.

But perhaps their ultimate goal here is integration into to infiltrate Hong Kong and not necessarily making the city into a more Chinese one.

I just found out today that after a mainland Chinese becomes a permanent resident after living in Hong Kong for seven years, they have the option of changing their name on their Hong Kong Identity Card to have a Cantonese spelling than a pinyin one.

Why is this even allowed?

That in effect means they are changing their names, just because they have become a permanent resident of Hong Kong.

By changing the spellings of their names into Cantonese ones, they will then fully integrate into infiltrate Hong Kong.

It is because of pinyin names that The New York Times and Bloomberg were able to track down and verify mainlanders who had business interests and assets in Hong Kong and were connected to Premier Wen Jiabao and incoming President Xi Jinping respectively.

In a handful of cases, the names were changed, but through more paper work, were able to be traced.

Nevertheless we are simultaneously fascinated and disturbed by the fact that the Hong Kong Immigration Department invites mainlanders to have the option of changing the spelling of their names after living here for seven years.

Surely this is akin to creating a new identity for oneself in Hong Kong?

The feeling of mainlanders living in Hong Kong reminds me of the 1983 television miniseries "V", where "The Visitors" from outer space come to Earth and these aliens look very much like humans...

Does anyone else get the same feeling?


  1. It can seem like some Mainlanders are trying to infiltrate into -- as opposed to integrate with -- Hong Kong. Also, the attitudes of some -- though surely not all -- of them can seem akin to cultural colonialism to me.

    The problem is that due to its history, Hong Kong is not like much of the rest of China. And Mainlanders not realizing nor accepting that are driving a greater wedge between them and Hong Kongers.

  2. Yes! Infiltrate is the word I'm looking for!

    Did you ever see that show "V"?

  3. actually I think the word 'infect' works better than infiltrate. I would consider mainlanders to be a cancer of Hong Kong, period.

  4. Hi nulle -- do you think this is the beginning of the end of Hong Kong then? We are economically dependent on them now with no long-term goal of weaning ourselves from them...