• Wed
  • Sep 17, 2014
  • Updated: 6:04pm
PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 3:14pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 August, 2014, 1:40am

Hong Kong's elite clueless about the pain of coping with tourist flood

Michael Chugani says many of those with power and influence in Hong Kong are out of touch with the realities of everyday life

BIO

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.
 

Let me tell you why there is such societal anger, polarisation, and public contempt in Hong Kong for those with power and influence. It is because of people like Shirley Yuen, Caroline Mak Sui-king, and Greg So Kam-leung who represent big business and government. They influence policies that affect the people but live in a world of their own, completely clueless about what the people really want.

We saw that when So, the commerce secretary, insisted Hong Kong could handle millions more mainland visitors while haughtily telling passengers who complained about MTR overcrowding to wait for the next train. Last week, Yuen, the chief executive of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, showed us how lost she is in her own world in an article in this newspaper.

And this week Mak, the chairwoman of the Retail Management Association, gave Hongkongers more reason to loathe big business by doing what big business here always does - putting profits above people. Mak, together with other business group bosses, warned of an economic earthquake if Hong Kong cut back on the over 40 million mainland visitors who come here yearly.

These are the same people who warned of doomsday if Hong Kong had a minimum wage law. The wage has now risen from its original HK$28 an hour to a still paltry HK$30 but I am still waiting for doomsday. They now say a cut in mainland visitors will make thousands jobless, and cause a HK$40 billion economic loss.

What they really mean is that fat cat landlords, and jewellery and cosmetic chain store owners who pay meagre wages but reap billions in profits, will take a hit. If the mainland flood is so wonderful for our economy, why do we still have 1.3 million poor people?

I'll tell you why. The tycoons who control everything from property development to shopping malls are pocketing rather than fairly sharing the billions they make. Yuen represents these tycoons. She too warned of doomsday if we restrict mainland visitors, with fear-mongering talk of efforts by Singapore and others to snatch tourists away.

Hong Kong had 54.3 million tourists last year, 41 million of them mainlanders. Do you know how many Singapore had? Just 15.6 million, with about 2.3 million of them mainlanders. Let's ask Yuen this: do you think Singapore would still be wooing mainlanders if they already had 41 million a year?

Forget about parallel-goods traders and grocery shoppers. We now even have tour groups who come just to use public swimming pools. Over 300 million mainlanders who can enter Hong Kong at will are within an hour away by bus, train or ferry.

Yuen sees hostility towards mainlanders as discrimination. It has nothing to do with that. People are just fed up with having to compete with the visitors for everything, and seeing their city's character being eroded. But how can people like Yuen, Mak and So understand this? They live in a world of chauffeur-driven cars sheltered from overcrowded MTR trains and public pools.

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

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This article is now closed to comments

paulpd2
While there is room for valid debate about how the cake should be shared, that is a different issue from the size of the total cake. A 5O% share of nothing is nothing.
mh0908
If Hong Kong is not a fun and lovely city, tourists would not come. I was shopping for food at SOGO on Saturday so I know how crowded CWB can be. But that's a city's way of life. Ginza, Shinjuko, Bangkok, NYC, London are all very crowded cities. My dissatisfaction lies with the Government and legislators' lack of action to build new shopping malls, milk powder retail outlets, swimming pools, water parks, amusement park, driving ranges, outlet shopping centres near the border in NT. With these new developments, Hong Kongers living in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tai Po will also get employment opportunities. Sprread things out! Tourists should not concentrate themselves on TST and CWB. Create new TSTs and CWBs in NT!
wailamtmhk
Before you move all of these "tourists" to the NT I suggest you visit Tuen Mun Town Plaza (TMTP) any day of the week, but especially on weekends and holidays. You will find TMTP packed with mainland shoppers as are the other major shopping malls in Tuen Mun (V City) and Yuen Long (West Rail Station). Sorry to tell you, but it is too late to "spread things out". Mainland visitors have already taken over most of the big NT malls!
53b0f5e6-6e88-4562-8f64-08d50a3209ca
uhh shouldn't we be forcing the tycoons to share the profits rather than trying to stop money flowing in through tourism?
artdig18
Some plain truth and reality checks here, our Government leaders needs to serve HK people as a whole not just the few.
Brendafung888@gmail.com
I am a tourist, not from mainland. I have visited HK every year for the past 12 years. This current visit will likely be my last, sadly.
I love this city. Love visiting, love the food, love the atmosphere, love the people. I don't love the constant stream of rude, spitting people. I don't love having cigarette smoke blown in my face. I don't love the crush of suitcases on the MTR. I don't love being shoved and pushed aside as I politely and correctly wait my turn in a queue. I don't love that I can't enjoy a day at Ocean Park or Disney with my kids because the mainlanders have over-run the place.
Oh I love Hong Kong, but this visit, I'm over it. The mainlanders have destroyed this beautiful vibrant city.
Shame on the elite that have allowed this.
mh0908
While we have issues with mainlanders's poor manners, we must on the other hand be compassionate and understanding. Most lived through a period of turmoil including the cultural revolution. It will take a long while to readjust to what we consider civilized behavior. But I see hope in the young generation who were educated abroad
-
As far overcrowding, Hong Kong is indeed too small. But there are vast land in NT that can be rezoned and turned into an alternative to TST, CWB, LKF and MongKok. If the Government and the money taking legislators are willing, I am sure smart people like Allan Zeman can come up with a plan to transform the border area and create employment opportunities for border towns like Tin Shui Wai.
niels.werdmuller@gmail.com
>> we must on the other hand be compassionate and understanding
That's not reason at all to allow it.
First thing the government needs to do it start thinking of the needs of the HK people.
ow4126
What the people want is different from what they need, hong kong lives off tourism, finance, logistics and professional and producer services. As much as you hate the mainlanders a simple truth remains, hong kong needs money and this is money. If you really want to, make it to the elite and change it for us common people, but if it becomes worse than it already is then prepare to face the wrath of the people. This is the nature of humans, it's easy to lay the blame onto others once we've known what the outcome is, it's easy for us to say it was wrong afterwards but when choosing it we will only know what happens after it has happened. No matter what logic you have, no matter how you think, no-one can say for sure what the outcome is until it happens. The term "good" and "bad" is an opinion, some may think you are bad, some may think you are good. The strong feed upon the weak, it's blindingly simple. I'm sorry for stating the truth but unfortunately the truth does hurt.
niels.werdmuller@gmail.com
Are you another Internet commentator for the communist party? There seem to be a lot of these around these days. Sometimes making it hard to what's a real post and what's fake.

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