• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 6:34am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 4:49pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 May, 2014, 12:01pm

The stink of a failed government policy

Michael Chugani says the peeing-toddler fracas only points to the bigger problem we must deal with - a failed policy on mainland visitors


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Once again, we've lost the larger plot. Everyone is focusing on the mainland toddler peeing in a Mong Kok street. Commerce Secretary Greg So Kam-leung urged tolerance of mainland habits. Health Secretary Ko Wing-man cautioned that public peeing is illegal. Commentators offered advice ranging from spare nappies to making babies pee into bottles and poop into bags.

Wake up and smell the real stink. The peeing uproar was only a symptomatic whiff of a larger stink. Follow your nose. It'll lead you to the very heart of our governance. That's where it's coming from.

Are Hongkongers really so intolerant as to raise hell over a toddler who couldn't wait to go? Would locals have bothered filming the boy peeing if he hadn't been a mainlander? Why did such a minor incident get so blown out of proportion? All these questions should be put to our policymakers who make policies without factoring in the consequences.

The peeing toddler only provided an excuse for locals to vent fury. The real trigger was a government policy gone awry.

If we didn't have over 40 million mainland visitors every year, overcrowded MTR trains, long lines at Ocean Park, mainlanders buying up all the baby milk powder, and shopping malls catering to the needs of mainlanders rather than locals, no one would have paid much attention to a mainland toddler peeing in public. But we do have over 40 million mainland visitors a year and this is expected to almost double in three years. That is why every incident involving mainlanders becomes an explosive spark.

There is no guarantee a good policy will last forever. It can backfire over time. That is exactly what has happened to the government's policy of opening our doors to mainland tourists to revive our economy after the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. It worked wonders, but instead of regulating the flow, the government turned the tap full blast without paying any heed to the subsequent flood.

There is now such hostility to mainlanders that even mention of closer integration between Hong Kong and the motherland invariably breeds fears of erosion to our way of life. The recent outcry over the Mandarin Hotel's use of simplified characters is but one example of that.

We have seen many mini-explosions, the peeing toddler being the latest. But, with each one, our policymakers shut their eyes tighter to reality. Their mantra has become numbing: we need mainland visitors, our retail sector depends on them, their tourist dollars create jobs, we should be more tolerant of their culture, and no other place shuts the door to tourists.

Regulating the flow is not the same as shutting the door. No other place shuts the door but they regulate the flow through visa control. In our case, we have over 300 million mainlanders living within an hour's train or ferry ride from us. Many come several times a day to trade in parallel goods. The policy of "the more, the merrier" has soured to a point where animosity has replaced the red carpet. Please wake up and smell the stink, policymakers.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

The points in your article are all valid. The silence from the Government on tackling the underlying problem of too many tourists is deafening.
Thank you Michael.
Exactly what i wrote in one of my comments. These incidents are HK'ers venting, striking out.
the REAL issue is an ineffective government that is doing .... nothing
understand the real issue, HK people are fed up, if policymakers don't see the real picture, it's going to get worse (for everyone).
hard times !
I am sorry to say that our policy makers have never woken up or will ever wake up to smell the stink of unregulated inflow of Mainland visitors who are expected to double in three years' time. How impotent or incapable this Leung administration looks ! Shame on such bureau head such as Greg So who can just tell we Hongkongers to tolerate the unhygienic ways of lots of Mainland visitors.
the kid was taking a dump unless wieners are on the other side in China
where is the Tourist Association list of public conveniences on their website ?
Why do we need a Mega Events Fund to attract more people to HKG ? just open the doors wider & build more loos
Meanwhile when they cancel the duty on luxury items in China watch how we become a ghost city, property /jewellery prices start to revert to normal & hotels come off their high horses
"we should be more tolerant of their culture..." And their "culture" is shi**ing on the streets?????
Other than finding a McDonalds or Starbucks, where can visitors relieve themselves? The few public toilets available are really filthy and smelly. Adding convenient toilets at all MTR stations would be a start. Of course the toilets may be 2 years behind schedule.
Very true! But with regard to the parallel traders, do not only blame the government. Also the local shop owners could have made provisions for local families, but instead they sold every can of baby milk rather to those parallel traders to make more and faster profit. And these local shop owners who control the sales are also Hong Kong people.
Thanks very much Mike... Spot on!
Mr. Chugani,
I accept that HKSAR government is very incompetent and fail to implement good policies and execute projects. That said, you must understand HKers scapegoating the government and their hate passions of China are due to the transference of a serious social neurosis.

The reason you gave about the legitimacy of public discontents is off the mark.

On the frequency of encounters with mainlanders, here is a good comparison. I use two metrics, the ratios of mainland visitors per day to population, and the number of mainlanders encountered per day per square mile, for Macau and Hong Kong.

The ratios between Macau and Hong Kong for these two metrics are respectively 6.92 and 20.75. In other words, Macanese have far more encounters with mainlanders day in and day out that we. Yet they welcome them. Our scumbags insult and harass them.

If this is due to overtaxing public resources, the Macanese have more rights to complain than us. They didn't! If this Hong Kong sentiment is not neurosis, what do you call this giant Hong Kong inferiority complex by another other name?
You're a LIAR. Eyewitnesses said the woman was putting a diaper to catch the child's micturition. You remind me of US Confederate states vigilantes lynching black folks.
Male senior citizens sometimes have problems with benign prostate hyperplasia or cancer of the prostate gland. Immediately after operations they may have temporary incontinence. As a result, they wear diapers. Are you going to target these senior citizens if they are a little wet in the pants? The young Chinese lady had shown extra consideration that her child wouldn't make a mess. She should be commended instead of being vilified by scumbags like you.
Many Hong Kongers living in Bowen Road used to walk their pets without poopy scoopers or carrying plastic bags and latex gloves, why didn't you go after them? I know why, you have this inferiority complex and are afraid of white folks.
Do you have a sense of shame?


SCMP.com Account