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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

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.
sudouest
From most Mainlander's perspective, they have transformed themselves in a short 30 years overnight. I haven't heard as many cursing as HK like spoil kids. Put yourself in other people's shoes for once.
xiaoblueleaf
There are more gentle and polite visitors from China than rude and rowdy ones - so are HKers!
crbfile
Milk powder is not scarce in Hong Kong. Common sense, good logistics, and a "can do" attitude are sorely lacking however.
Who is behind the hate in Hong Kong? Hong Kongers have little hearts? no capacity for understanding? on and on....? WTF Hong Kong? You're the problem, not the mainlanders
Dai Muff
Milk powder is not scarce in China. The problem is mainlanders cannot trust it. They believe it kills their babies. You are wrong., The mainland IS the root cause.

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