My Take
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 7:18am

Mainland help in a tragedy is not interference


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

Tragedies are supposed to unite people. But it seems even the ferry disaster is not enough to overcome our anti-mainland sentiment. In the days after the accident, the deputy head of the liaison office was criticised for visiting victims at Queen Mary Hospital and for offering aid to the Hong Kong government. Guangdong officials were rounded on for deploying ships to try to help. Even President Hu Jintao , Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-President Xi Jinping were faulted for their "high-profile" response.

Theirs was "an over-expression of concern", one seasoned commentator foamed, because "it was not an accident with tens of thousands of casualties". Perhaps he had a casualty threshold beyond which our national leaders may express concerns, but not before! Another said it was a "complete waste of resources" as mainland salvage ships could not enter our shallow waters. This went on and on.

Suppose a massive accident had occurred in Shenzhen waters and Hong Kong had offered assistance. Would they criticise local officials for failing to mind their own business under "one country, two systems"? Let's get real. In a major disaster, it's common for even enemy countries to offer aid, and for federal governments to rush in to help state officials.

Hong Kong people have always been the most generous donors when it comes to humanitarian causes on the mainland. Many have volunteered to help disaster victims, sometimes even under perilous conditions. Still, others consider it their patriotic duty to criticise one-party rule on the mainland and even call for regime change because they care about China and its future.

But turn the situation around and we will be crying foul about interference and "Sinofication".

Whence comes this double standard? I grant you that the large influx of mainland visitors has put a serious strain on our social and economic infrastructure and that Beijing is hardly a model government. But at the roots is our ingrained sense of superiority over the mainland and its people. We think we know what's best for us and the country but not the other way around. That's why we have this hypersensitivity that at times borders on the paranoid and the absurd.


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