Thursday, 24 April 2014

Here We Go Again

Another kid relieving himself on the streets of Hong Kong, flaring tensions
A few days ago Hong Kong had another mainland Chinese kid urinating on the street, this time in Mongkok.

Two young men filmed the incident and a row erupted with passers-by. As the husband, wife and child were surrounded, the woman desperately tried to explain that they had found a public toilet, but there was a long queue so they had no choice but have the child relieve himself on the street.

"The kid was going to pee in his pants, what do you want me to do?" the mother asked the young men before a scuffle broke out and the parents attempted to snatch the memory card from one of the young man's camera.

The husband and wife, both two-way permit holders, were then arrested on suspicion of theft and assault respectively, said the police.

While the woman was released on bail and ordered to report back to police in mid-May pending an investigation, the husband was released unconditionally.

Nevertheless, the report of the peeing incident created another uproar in Hong Kong and the mainland, resulting in rising tensions as well as divided opinions.

Interestingly on the mainland there were those who felt the Hong Kong people overreacted, while others thought the family should have been more civilized and gone to a public toilet.

And now Chinese state media have weighed in. The nationalistic Global Times criticized the pair for being "more uncivilized" than the family, and today the People's Daily had an editorial that said both parties were in the wrong.

The editorial started off that the number of these peeing incidents was not large, a handful of incidents compared to the 30 million mainland visitors to Hong Kong each year.

And then the article went on to say "It is normal for kids to have difficulties holding in their urine. If there is a long queue at the washroom... one can understand the difficulties of being parents".

In the end the editorial concludes: "It takes a lot of self-reflection and learning to achieve civilization, while experiences are also required for travelling. Both the tourists and [the people at] the destination need to raise their level of civilization to get along with each other. The crux of it is understanding."

What Chinese state media don't understand is that urinating on the street is not only an ugly scene, but a public health hazard. Hong Kong people are shocked at seeing kids relieve themselves on the street because their own kids are toilet trained at a young age, and particularly post-SARS, locals are more sensitive to hygiene and expect others to do the same.

Which is why the Chinese and Hong Kong governments need to do more to educate mainlanders when they travel abroad -- and yes Hong Kong is considered an international city despite it being technically part of China.

Perhaps maps and guidebooks geared towards mainland tourists should indicate where public washrooms are so there is no excuse of not finding one. And if a child is not yet toilet trained, perhaps a diaper is in order?

Hong Kong doesn't need more of these incidents to flare up again -- we're just trying to deal with the massive influx of visitors as it is...