• Sun
  • Apr 20, 2014
  • Updated: 6:33am
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 7:14am

HK must keep an open mind on a more open border

Peter Kammerer says opening our door wider to mainland visitors is to be welcomed, once we look past the bigoted claims

BIO

Peter Kammerer is a long-time columnist and commentator for the SCMP. He has received recognition for his writing at the Hong Kong news Awards, the annual Human Rights Press Awards and from the Society of Publishing in Asia. Before moving to Hong Kong in 1988, he worked on newspapers in his native Australia.  
 

Call Hong Kong an international city? The small-town mentality of some people is so Lilliputian that there are times when I have my doubts. As with the relaxing of entry permits for non-residents of six mainland cities, Shenzhen among them. The cry from the narrow-minded among us is spine-chilling: Our wonderful, special city is about to be despoiled and made unliveable by millions of second- or even third-rate no-hopers.

Dare I say that I have heard the same scaremongering as long as I have lived here. Back in the 1980s, the description applied to anyone living north of the Shenzhen River. Mainlanders were our poor cousins and backward to boot; if allowed to come to Hong Kong, they were likely to work illegally, deceive and steal. Whenever I went to Guangdong and beyond, I certainly found a less glitzy world, but its people were friendly, decent and honest.

Move forward two-and-a-half decades and mainland Chinese cannot be looked down on. Their spending power is the reason our economy is healthy. If we hadn't started opening our doors wide to them in the wake of the Sars outbreak in 2003, Hong Kong would be struggling for direction and in danger of decline. Yet, the voices of derision continue, criticising values, cleanliness, politeness and even fashion sense.

Now, if all that wasn't enough, the detractors say an even worse class of locust is about to descend. The new rules taking effect this month allow Shenzhen's 4.1 million non-permanent residents to get multi-entry permits without having to go to their home provinces to apply. About 16 million more in Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Tianjin will be eligible for single-entry permits. What sets them apart from present mainland tourists is they are likely to be factory workers and less well-heeled - and, in the eyes of objectors, prone to work illegally, deceive and steal.

To make matters worse, they will want to do their everyday shopping here, which will affect the price and availability of daily necessities. Our public transport will be jam-packed and streets made unsanitary. It's all so familiar - this is what was said when mainlanders first began arriving in numbers.

I wonder how aware the people making these claims are that Hong Kong allows visa-free entry for lengthy periods to visitors from far less wealthy places. Entry of up to three months is given to tourists from Gambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe, which have per capita incomes far below the mainland's. If those so worried are to be believed, there is surely a greater risk of citizens from these countries causing trouble. Yet there are no calls for quota or monitoring systems.

Those so fearful of mainland hordes seem to believe that Hong Kong is a nirvana, a place so special that it has to be protected. I hate to break it to them, but beyond our public transport system, country parks and compactness, it doesn't offer much that can't be found elsewhere. Globalisation means the world also has a wide range and choice. Not only that, criminals aside, it is not in our interests to keep out anyone wanting to spend money or do business. That's what being an international city is about.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post

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This article is now closed to comments

aksc
Besides the one-sided declaration of opening up the 4.1 million non SZ residents to visit HK, we also need to be mindful of the free traffic flow initiative pushed through by D. Tsang's Gov't. In addition to congestion and so called driving mannerism differences, has the Gov't, EPA or Traffic Department examined the potentially hazardous air pollution from different (lower?) grades of gasoline from China.
donniemcm
Open mind doesn't mean total open border. I think the missing point here is the focus on the control. Indeed locals outcry this sudden announcement.
We do have to think about how the pseudo melting of Mainland chinese and HK chinese have to be done.
In the current situation, birth by Mainlanders is quickly reaching the 40-50% of HK total births. This not only outpace the current clinical system but create a chain reaction in the education, local services, etc.
And just allowing any Shenzhen non permanent resident to pass will only the statistic to increase.
What I have noticed in few trip to Guangzhou in comparison to Shenzhen is that there are way more "locals" meaning people who are GZ-people and you feel quite good as mentioned.
And the difference with Shenzhen is there are lot of "non local" people coming from different places and considering Shenzhen as US during the gold rush period. No need to explain how Hong-Kong looks to their eyes and it will, if not already is, their City of Gold.
That was for the people most HKese look down, but let's do not forget about the wealthier one who indeed help the economy. I think their benefit is going directly to the government and private companies (Property and bank industries among others) and people anger comes from the fact we don't see the benefits they brought and can only see that few enjoy it. That's where the biggest part of HK population is claiming public housing and so on.
Too bad these comments are limited ..
whymak
Hong Kong provincialism is another Hong Kong shame!
scmpbeijing2
very informative.
ssslmcs01
Peter is entitled to express his view just as other Hongkongers are entitled to express our views.
-Firstly I fail to see how people expressing our concerns is taking away from us being an international city.
-If you look at the complaints that Hong Kong people have against large numbers of Chinese visitors flooding our city, they are all legit and verified.
-Stating that "they" are honest, seems very extreme. My wife is from China, after we first got married and she came to Hong Kong on a 90 day permit, we required three chops for a new permit, each chop comes with a price, no money and you will get excuses like come back next week the senior officer is on vacation, etc, etc.
-And as for the "mainlanders" spending money in Hong Kong to save us from the danger of decline. I beg to differ. Much of the money coming here is from questionable origin. For those who are using Hong Kong to get their money of questionable origin out of China, price is no object. That is why the cost of housing has gone beyond the reach of the average Hongkonger, not to mention the cost of everything else. But the ones serving these visitors get paid as low as $28 per hour. Sounds like they really benefited us doesn't it?
-Lastly, the comparison of length of stay for visitors from other countries. How many visitors arrive in Hong Kong every day from Kenya, Tanzania or any of the other countries Peter mentioned? How many arrive from China already, even before this new visa scheme?
babyhenry
So by any chance your wife dumped you once she reached to HK for "dishonest" reason?
I have met plenty of poor dirty Chinese farmers who are VERY HONEST, they are so honest I do feel sorry for them that they have to be bullied and push around whether in not as civilized Mainland China & in this so called "international" city which claims to be much better than the North and equipped with what the North is lacking a Civilized society. I consider them much more than say the cold calling that I received from HK's financial institutions trying to convince me to borrow money when I don't need to, or our ridiculous property developments.
pierremartin
"Beyond our public transport system, country parks and compactness, it doesn't offer much that can't be found elsewhere". You have lived in Hong Kong since the 1980s and you cannot see anything else but this ? You've been wasting your time !
warren_siu
Really it seems you haven't comprehended the issue beyond the idealogical/ethical/moral high ground. It's easy to blame the outcry on descrimination from your position, just criticize and walk away. Have you ever looked at the issue from an urban planning perspective, population management perspective? It's the city planning officials that have to deal with the huge influx of visitors, not blog commentators. Lets face it, this city's infrastructure can only hold so many people. Streets and transport are already over crowded, inflation is sky high, hospitals are packed with mainland mothers, and low-average income citizens are being marginalized. Those are the real reasons the Leung government is also against increasing the quota. The government can't fix most of these issues overnight, IMO they could build special districts in New Territories to accommodate all the tourists, but that would take years to complete. Hong Kong is a unique city where land is scarce and many mainlanders want to come down to visit/live. No where in the world is the situation more unique. Don't blame it on the people, we are just human beings that have to deal with one of the most crowded cities in the world. It's time to take a look at the real issues.
comuller
Last Sunday, TVB Pearl News, just minutes apart, did show two reports. One dealing with the mainland problem and the postponement of the single-entry permit for Shenzhen residents without Hukou, the second one about efforts by Hong Kong's tourist association to attract more visitors from Muslim countries. At the end of the second report came a nice graphic, why they are so welcome: They spend much more money while they are here, compared to the mainland tourists, even more than tourists from Europe.
I have lived equally long in Hong Kong and in China in the last 29 years, I consider myself to be a little bit knowledgeable. The attitude towards people from across the border hasn't changed much in that time in Hong Kong, I regret to say. When I lived in North Point in 1997/ 1998 I witnessed repeatedly, that visitors from the mainland were not served in restaurants when they wanted to pay with RMB. I myself was refused service as well, in addition to be verbally abused, after I changed money with an elderly couple who only spoke Mandarin and couldn't understand what they were yelled at in Cantonese. In the 15 years which have passed since then, not much has changed, unfortunately.
ktxu
You, sir, are even more narrow-minded than the victims of your slandering. Who are you to judge the Hong Kong people without even trying to comprehend the full picture first?
It's never about how wealthy these people are, therefore your argument based on "far less wealthy tourists" is completely useless. It's more about their behavior, their complete oblivion of people around them, it's their habit of abusing public systems, ESPECIALLY those wealthy ones who think their money can buy them everything, it's all of those things that make us feel ashamed of being Chinese ourselves.
I am fully aware that I am guilty of making a generalization here, but when the vast majority of a population is like that, there is no alternative to generalize unless you can come up with a good, effective, and practical system to weed out the bad from the good.
If you, my good sir, are so open-minded and receptive, why don't you persuade the great government of your place of origin to open up your borders to the billion and let them pass freely?

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