• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 11:01pm
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

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.
jtc
Very well put, Michael. Greg So et al should be deprived of their chauffeur-driven cars for a week and made to use public transport for a reality check.
53b2975e-180c-4da4-a53b-52c50a3209cb
As an ethnic Chinese born and have spent most of my life here, I have always been puzzled by the level of greed of Chinese tycoons, in HK or other places ,as compared with other racial groups. They seem to see earning money as the means and not ends, never satisfied with the astronomical amount they have amassed, enough to sit back and leave behind so much to their next few generations that their lives will be well taken care of without any concern for incomes whatever. Yet they prefer to scrap every profit dollar from their community, people rich or poor, enraging especially the poor folks and making the community they live in a pressure cooker ready to explode when the rich-poor divide becomes too big. Hong Kong,s senior government officials are blessed with high and very stable salaries but the performance of this government has been very disappoing indeed. The "accountability system" espoused by Tung was supposed to make the 3 secretaries and 12 bureau chiefs accountable for their job performance just like politically appointed or elected ministers elsewhere. The financial secretary Leung Kam Chung did step down to take responsibility of his mishandling of car purchase incident, but Tung and his other cabinet members stepped down when the kitchen was too hot, citing reasons only they themselves would accept. CY Leung's administration is even worse, as he seemed to have difficulty in footing suitable candidates to his cabinet!!
markranson
Yep, HK's elite are collaborators in the modelling of HK into nothing but a shopping mall where the territory's youth can look forward to a stultifying future in either the hospitality or retail industry.
HK's elite are also collaborators in the ethnic cleansing of HK and the destruction of HK's unique way of life and cultural identity.
HK's elite are the selfish and treacherous epitome of unimaginative mediocrity.
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!
daily
Very good article and hits the key points right on................this is why there is so much unrest and political chaos in HK these days because the people in the HK government (such as Gregory So amongst many more of his kind) are not serving the people of HK. They are appointed to these positions by people who don't give a damnn about the general HK population and thus, it would be obvious that guys like So have no clue whether 40 million mainlanders or more will overcrowd HK...........Until the day when HK's government is rid of the incompetent and useless officials such as Gregory So, and replaced by officials that truly have grassroots and can serve the local people.................HK is a lost cause.
acny
You can talk about stats as much as you like but average HKers can recount endless horrendous tales and just a few incidence can ruin your numerical perception.
I stayed in a hotel of service apartments for my home renovation once for three months. This hotel serves mostly Mainlanders with tour groups busing in almost nightly. It was a three month of hell. There is a single street leading up to this hotel and those Mainlanders just turned it into one giant spittoon of a place and we had to dodge their bodily secretions on a nightly basis. On numerous occasions we shared the same lift with them and they would shout questions at you in a language that I have no clue of not to mention they were half drunk and having wife and kids in toll that was not a pleasant experience.
Sixty five years of communism suddenly turned brutal capitalism just because they killed their own youth on June 4th had turned a wonderful culture into a bunch of selfish heartless citizens is really a heartbreaking sight not to mention the shoeshiners in HK ready to serve up our dignity to their masters in the North.
input
It is common knowledge that HK is "owned" by the big tycoons all of whom are in property. They also own telecom, supermarkets, pharmacies, container terminals, and public transportation. As a result they can dictate terms of service that only benefit themselves. The concept of sharing is unknown to them except when it comes to powerful interests in China. Hongkong needs a anti monopoly law to prevent these tycoons from having a stranglehold on the HK economy.
Christine Wong
8 Robinson Road
Mid Levels, HK
whoaman
And Hong Kong apparently has the most multi-millionaires in the world (as a city)...
.
And when these elite losers are going on about how less mainland visitors would be an economic catastrophe, they seem to forget that HK is at under-employment, which is in fact a serious problem and will hurt the economy even more. Why is property so expensive? One reason is that construction costs are much much higher (even ridiculous - my friend operates a crane and makes 50k a month), because of lack of workers...
.
I have lost hope for HK, if these elites remain in power - they're killing this city with their ineptness and ignorance, sitting in their big houses and fancy cars.
chaz_hen
And I'll bet you that for all their rah rah China and love the mainland visitors, every one of these so called elite have their backup Plan B exit strategy (along with foreign passports and property) for the time when the shxt will hit the fan.
Carpetbaggers and users every one of them with nothing redeeming to add to the value of HK!

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