Call for calm as row intensifies over mainlanders

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Political pundits and the Equal Opportunities Commission are calling for calm amid an intensifying conflict with mainlanders.

The month-old furore shows no signs of abating, with a day-old Facebook group set up to oppose a government plan to make it easier for mainlanders to drive across the border drawing nearly 20,000 users.

Meanwhile, the Mannings pharmacy chain apologised over a Lunar New Year promotion that gave coupons to mainland passport-holders only.

Professor Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said discussion on the dispute among Hongkongers had become emotional and irrational, and it would be difficult to end the conflict if the trend continued. 'The discussion should focus on how to solve the problems through policies, if the purpose is to alleviate the tension,' he said. 'But right now, it's difficult for people to discuss rationally. It's getting a bit out of control.'

His colleague, Ivan Choy Chi-keung agreed, saying the authorities should address the tension by doing a policy review. 'The government has always been promoting the city's travel industry, but has failed to look at Hong Kong's capacity when doing so.'

The commission said it was concerned about a newspaper advertisement on Wednesday that described mainland visitors as locusts that consumed resources in the city.

Commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong called for tolerance and rationality. He said the government should adopt effective measures so Hongkongers would continue to enjoy priority in public services.

As of 7pm yesterday, nearly 20,000 Facebook users had expressed opposition to a trial scheme on cross-border private cars, announced by Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung last month. Users in the group, set up on Wednesday, said allowing mainlanders to drive in Hong Kong would affect road safety and worsen pollution. They also feared the measure would encourage expectant mainland mothers to give birth in the city without registering with hospitals.

A Transport and Housing Bureau spokeswoman said details of the scheme had yet to be finalised and only drivers with good records would benefit from the scheme.

On Wednesday, Mannings published a statement on its website apologising for its five-day Lunar New Year promotion, which handed out HK$100 coupons only to mainland passport-holders who bought six cans of milk formula. The same day, Golden Forum users published a full-page advert in Apple Daily, calling mainlanders 'locusts' and urging them to respect Hong Kong culture.

The ad followed Peking University Professor Kong Qingdong calling Hongkongers 'dogs' on an internet talk show, and Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana banning locals from taking pictures outside its Tsim Sha Tsui store, while allowing mainlanders and tourists to do so.

Dr Peng Qinghua, director of the central government's liaison office, said it regretted 'inappropriate comments from a certain academic'.


The number of Facebook users by 7pm yesterday, who had voiced opposition to a trial scheme allowing mainland drivers to drive in Hong Kong