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  • Aug 23, 2014
  • Updated: 4:10pm
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PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 4:12am

Anti-mainlander hate demeans Hongkongers

Kelly Yang says whatever the daily frustration of living with more visitors from the mainland, it demeans us to take it out on them

It saddens me that we have become a city filled with hate. Everywhere I went this past week, there it was. I saw it in the people standing next to me in the taxi queue. A mainland Chinese woman with a small child strolled down the street and walked right up to an approaching taxi. Eight people in line lunged towards her. "Hey!" they screamed, grabbing her by the arm, "You can't come here and jump our queue! This isn't China!" They proceeded to bark insults at her, one after another, so much so that she started shaking and could barely utter the words, "My husband … he's in the queue … at the front of the line …" We all turned to look at the husband, who waved at us. Did anybody apologise? No.

I saw it in the words people wrote on Facebook forums all week, complaining about the "swarms of locusts infesting Ocean Park" or beautiful sunny days at Disneyland ruined by the "hordes of dreadful mainlanders". These are not anonymous forums, either. People are happy - proud, even - to put their names next to such hate. And, of course, I saw it on the faces of shoppers - countless shoppers who looked like someone had died because they had to share their mall with "those people".

The hate is stomach-turning, especially as the Lunar New Year is a time for us to celebrate and come together as a community of Chinese people. Growing up in the United States, I longed to see another Chinese person whenever the Lunar New Year came round. It didn't matter if they were Taiwanese, mainlanders or Hongkongers. In my mind, they were all my fellow people.

Hate is a cheap and dirty trick. When California was in a recession in the early 1990s, then governor Pete Wilson pushed for the passage of legislation to make illegal Mexican immigrants scapegoats for all California's problems. Proposition 187 aimed to deny illegal immigrants health care, education and many other public benefits. Voters passed the proposition by a wide margin. Years later, studies showed that illegal immigrants contributed far more to the economy than they cost in social services.

If you went to school in California in the 1990s like I did, you would have heard the nasty comments children at the playground made to anyone who looked remotely Mexican. Or the terrified looks on the faces of Hispanic children, not because they were illegals but because Proposition 187 encouraged us all to distrust, disassociate and despise.

Does the influx of mainland Chinese affect our everyday lives? Absolutely. School places are harder to get and apartments are more expensive to buy. Even milk powder is getting scarce. But does that make it right to narrow our eyes, point our fingers, and call them names whenever we see one of them walking down Queen's Road? For our children to laugh at them? To automatically presume that every mainland tourist who comes to Hong Kong is going to jump queues, urinate in public and hoard milk? I don't think it does.

We may have legitimate reasons to want to keep them out, and every right to address our concerns through legal and legislative channels. But when we vent our anger on perfect strangers, people whose only "wrong" is booking a holiday here, what we're doing is hating.

And hate, no matter how you sugarcoat it, is toxic.

Kelly Yang is the founder of The Kelly Yang Project, an after-school programme for children in Hong Kong. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard Law School. kelly@kellyyang.com

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This article is now closed to comments

mockinggenius
Now Hong Kong people are being labelled as being racist, uneducated for our so called hatred towards these mainland visitors. Is this fair to us whose patience, tolerance have been tested to the limit? I don't want to walk around with anger, frustration but frankly some of the things which these people do - a big spit landed on my shoe inside the MTR without an apology from the culprit, feet crushed by their suitcases which they pulled everywhere even inside tiny shops, ears deafened by their screams inside a confined elevator space (try taking the one in Salisbury Rd from G/F to MTR subway), their toddlers urinating in public areas is no longer shocking because it has become too common. Last but not least I was being shown an I Pad by a salesman and had it snatched away because a mainland visitor wanted to test the weight. Yes there is a difference in culture and acceptance of behaviour but there is only so much a local can put up with each day .Hong Kong is a small place and we can no longer go to a tiny corner which we can call our own.This is how bad the situation have come to.
Dai Muff
This article HAD to be by an American-Chinese, who does not recognise that many Hong Kongers do not have her way out of an unliveable city.,
Dai Muff
Here's the fact. If I go to Rome or Paris or Madrid and behave like a pig, people will look down on me. And it won't be because of racism. I actually like many of the mainlanders I meet here, if they come with genuine openness and appreciation and not to make a fast buck at the expense of Hong Kong people. But people DO get judged by the behavior of other members of their group whether they like it or not.
honger
Absolutely, you and yours are venting their political frustrations on the visitors.
It is shameful, and you know it. If not for China and the advantageus economic policies by Beijing to help it - pre and post 97, Sars, and even now - this barren piece of rock would have collapsed years ago. There would be no stayers, let alone tourists, mainlanders or not.
We all need to remind ourselves to not let this city be reigned by hate, as Kelly rightly points out. The origin and colour of those hated does not matter - it is those who perpetrate this kind of insidious culture that needs to be checked. Most Hongkongers - especially those perpetrating the hate - have never lived abroad and do nto know how lucky they are to be in this city.
As for the milk and doubel traders, the immigration dep did say the majority of them are Hong kongers!!!
ianson
Hong Kong anger is natural and proper. The distortion we have experienced in the short span of several years has been radical. The difficulty is that people are inevitably going to take their frustration out on the objects of their displeasure when their government appears unwilling to take any steps to adjust the huge imbalance we now have between local and tourist numbers. This is very unfortunate. It need not have happened. It is driven by greed from the wealthy, well-connected who profit directly from the influx - property magnates, big retailers, hoteliers. Hong Kongers did not ask for the very complexion of their society to be turned on its head overnight. What is needed now is to drastically reduce the numbers of mainland visitors. Failing that, the sad sights and sounds Ms Yang decries are only set to become more frequent and more severe.
the sun also rises
Well-written,Kelly ! I apprecitate your comments on the manners and attitudes many fellow Hongkongers shown against the Mainland visitors.They are indeed a shame of Hong Kong which has long been an immigrant city.Only the ancestors of some fishermen and farmers in the New Territories were aborigines/natives of Hong Kong.My parents migrated here late in the forties of last century and I was born here in 1950.I and many of my relatives and friends are the second generation of immigrants who came here after 1949. But our parents and we ourselves have never been despised or discriminated in any ways by Hongkongers already lived here before 1949. When have we Hongkongers become so narrow-minded and mean towards our fellow countrymen ?
xiaoblueleaf
There are more gentle and polite visitors from China than rude and rowdy ones - so are HKers!
jkhleung
@ A Hong Konger: In a nutshell, you're blaming the lack of universal suffrage as the root cause of all evils in HK. I beg to differ. I suggest possible (and simpler) reasons for the uncultured responses to the mainlanders: the gutter press, low standard of journalism, low standard of the teachers, superiority complex and an ambivalent attitude to mother China.
jayb
WAIT a minute Kelly Yang!!! mixing CA denying illegal aliens from getting public welfare, public health care, public education with prejudice against Chinese tourists to HongKong? no country in the world allows illegal aliens from getting freebies at the expense of taxpayers. tell me which country, except crazy USA, does this?
jandajel
One might expect hatred towards Mainlanders from the local "economic losers" who 10 years ago were still financially better off than their cousins from the north, and who now can't stand the fact that they have been passed by on the economic ladder. What is really shocking to me is to see so many "winners" of Hong Kong society join the fray. Maybe the economy here has been relatively too good for too long so that basically anyone who wants a job can get one. Can you imagine people in Greece or Spain protesting about too many tourists?

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