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  • Apr 24, 2014
  • Updated: 11:02am
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

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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doctorh
"Who are you to judge the Hong Kong people without even trying to comprehend the full picture first?"
Who are you to judge the all Mainland people without even trying to comprehend the full picture first? Granted a lot of them don't follow rules but I personally have known many who are law abiding and people of integrity.
The issue shouldn't be about the open border but about how to control population and resources and that would apply to visitors from all countries not just from Shenzhen.
babyhenry
"It's never about how wealthy these people are"
Really?
Back in 1996 when I was still in middle school, the complaint was they (Mainlanders) will come and take all of our money because they are poor, not because of their bad habits/attitude. Their country pumpkin habits was used as a joke more than as a reason to reject them, the main reason have always been because they were poor until recently some coming from the North is not Filthy poor but Filthy rich. Never?
Perhaps Ironically some of the bad habits Mainlander's have right now can be traced back to how some HK, Taiwanese & Singaporean people behave in Mainland when it was just open and dirt poor, eg flaunting wealth in public. Now unfortunately they learned and took it to an whole other level.
tomonday
great article! I couldn't agree more. been here 17 years and all I ever and still hear among hongkongers, whether at work, malls, streets, mtr, restaurants etc is constant complaining, and most dissatisfaction towards mainlanders. and unfortunately, it's the vast majority who feels this way. I believe underachievers behave this way. so sorry, so sad.
The Stranger
There are obvious problems associated with having so many mainland tourists crossing the border. I crossed the Lohu border 4 weeks ago, coming back to HK - middle of a weekday - when I thought there would not be too many people. OMG, the lines were probably half a km long! Luckily the line for foreigners was much shorter, but it still took an hour to cross. But it got worse. the cheapest hotels available (other than brothels and Chunk King Mansions was US$235 a night. That was 30 mins from central. They did not even have bottled water in the tiny room! I won't even bother with the huge problem of land prices being driven up, and the working poor/unemployed/old (the vast majority of HKers) being unable to afford to rent even a shid-hole in the NT.
yeemayee
I have lived in Shanghai and Hong Kong for long period of time as well as being born in Hong Kong. It is sad the racist attitude that is underlying in some of the comments. Tourism beside banking is our top industry segment. Like it or hate it, this a fact. The opening up of the border as pointed out did help our economy after SARS.
I do agree that we need to build up the infrastructure which is what the government trying to do (although in a slower pace than I would like). If we are to be a international city we need to welcome visitors but figure out a way how to handle it.

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