Stop culture clash getting out of hand

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2012, 12:00am

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We are well aware of the gap dividing rich and poor, but among some people in Hong Kong, there is another as insidious gulf - between residents and visitors from the mainland. A video uploaded to YouTube last week vividly laid the animosities bare, showing a war of words between residents and visitors on an MTR train that led to those involved being forced off at the next stop. A Beijing academic renowned for left-leaning opinions escalated matters by referring to Hongkongers as 'running dogs for the British government' and accusing Hong Kong people of discrimination. Now, worryingly, there are plans by some Hongkongers to launch an advertising campaign against mainlanders. Such responses and incendiary comments reveal the need by governments on both sides of the border to do more to engender greater tolerance and understanding.

Authorities should not have to do this, of course. The more developed and aware of its surroundings a population becomes, the greater its levels of tolerance and willingness to help should be. Our community in Hong Kong is generally a tolerant one. But the heated argument on the Lo Wu-bound train at Mong Kok East station showed otherwise, with tempers between passengers from both sides of the border flaring over a mainland child eating in violation of MTR rules. What should have started and ended with a helpful reminder escalated into ridicule, vindictive remarks and undisguised loathing.

It is not the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last. Many of us have heard of such incidents, but through technology, we have now been able to see for ourselves how deep the animosity can run. The comments by Professor Kong Qingdong of Peking University's Chinese department were equally revealing, telling us that even well-educated people can lack comprehension. We now know how serious the problem is and it is time we all did something about it.

Getting to grips with the reality of the mainland's growing wealth and easier access to our city has been difficult for some Hong Kong people. Spending by wealthy mainlanders has brought changes to our retail and property sectors and even the face of some of our districts. Equally, the shift has been so swift that mainlanders have not always been accustomed to their changed circumstances. The clash of cultures is perhaps inevitable. That creates a need on both sides for education in the ways of one another. We are, after all, part of the same country. History has meant our societies have evolved with different values and outlooks. Over time, with greater interaction, we will move closer and our thinking will be more alike. It is important for the sake of development and unity that we are able to get along.