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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 7:25am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong could learn to be more gracious towards mainland visitors

Lau Pak Chuen says education campaigns can go far to ease friction with mainland visitors

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 4:55am

The individual visit scheme for mainlanders was hailed as an effective measure to boost the recovery of Hong Kong's economy after the severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis in 2003. However, the rapid rise in the number of mainland visitors in recent years has fuelled conflict.

The scheme undoubtedly contributes to our economic development, so it's vital for the government to resolve what is causing this antagonism.

The large number of mainland shoppers has disrupted the daily life of Hong Kong citizens. Prices have gone up, essentials are sometimes out of stock or reserved for mainland visitors, and locals are slighted by some shops that cater to the big spenders from the north. Shopping areas have become more crowded while the behaviour of visitors is not always in line with the norms here.

Some economists say the government should develop the districts closest to the border to cater to the mainland demand for shopping malls and related facilities. That way, mainland visitors could shop in less congested areas, thus alleviating pressure on downtown space. Consequently, the chances of direct conflict would be reduced, while jobs would be created for those living in the border areas.

Part of the conflict also arises from differences in social manners and customs. This relates to forbearance.

Problems can be dealt with by showing the visitors our social norms while persuading Hongkongers to be more accommodating. However, the government has done little, if anything, in this area.

Most visitors are willing to abide by the customs of a place they are visiting. The local authorities of Tokushima prefecture in Japan, for example, issues a guide for foreign residents that visitors would also find useful. The guide, available in simplified Chinese, has been well received. This approach helps visitors understand and respect the host nation, leading to smoother integration.

Apart from helping our visitors, we should also examine what we can do to avoid conflict. For example, the government could publish on its website guidelines to show people how to be more accommodating.

There's certainly room for improvement in our own behaviour in public places; we could refrain from talking loudly on mobile phones and give up seats for the elderly and pregnant women. By the same token, we should encourage Hongkongers to be hospitable and accommodate any cultural differences.

The government needs a publicity campaign to target these issues. This will help cultivate good behaviour in the community, to set an example for our visitors, so they can integrate more harmoniously.

Lau Pak Chuen is a researcher at SD Advocates, an independent think tank with no political affiliation. pclau@sdahk.com


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Nonsense. When I visit other countries or cities, I conform to their cultural norms. I am the visitor and outsider and therefore the onus is on me to blend in. I've seen a video of a Mainland visitor defecating outside a store in Causeway Bay, are you suggesting that we should bring him toilet paper in order to be more accomodating? The conduct of most Mainland visitors are rude, disgusting and vile, to accomodate them would be to condone this sort of behaviour. If anything, Mainlanders should be the ones receiving lessons in etiquette, no one should ever bend over backwards to cater to boorish tourists.
Lau has summarised the issue very well. But I am not sure whether locals are the ones who need to be more gracious. Mainland visitors should respect local customs just like any other visitors. I agree that government should make attempts to educate these people, but it's a tall order when we allow 35 million in Hong Kong each year. Mainland visitors are encouraged to behave as if this is their home simply because they see plenty of other people spitting, shouting and any other anti-social behavior. The fault lies with the fact that people who makes the decision either don't care about the well-beings or culture of the locals and rather focus at the money / GDP it brings in the short-term. Chinese/HK all suffer from myopia to the point where are blinded from anything but the goose right in front of us. I am not optimistic where HK is going from a social or economic standpoint. The labor force is too unskilled (i.e property agents loitering in malls and sales assistants) and more people feel like they're dying rather than living as days go by. Please correct me if I am wrong because this is my home too.
I have to say I’m shocked about what is going on here. I am an expat in Hong Kong and have been here nearly 20 years.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first person to get annoyed at the influx, rudeness and lack of common courtesy (as well as lack of sense sometimes) from our cousins across the boarder. But I’m sorry Hong Kong, time to clean up shop before calling the kettle black!
Look at the society they are brought up in, suppression etc... So answer me this:
Is it so hard to let people off the train before getting on?
Why don’t you move inside the carriage?
I think its time to wake up! I love this city. I was not born here but it is my home and I’m getting fed up of how little respect HK locals have for each other and those around them,
I’m seeing an increasing trend in peoples reaction to HK when visiting for the first time. Unless you are money focused or here to simply party... more than 50% of people say they don’t like it here because locals are rude and unhelpful... sometimes I agree. Not all, but a lot.
So yes, this is a country belonging to China. A booklet to advise on how things are done here would be an excellent idea (which would not take long to implement... Education is key) but at the forefront of this, its time for Hong Kong people to stop complaining about the mainland folk and start setting an example. You cant expect anyone to act in the right manner when they see locals just as, if not more rude.
Sorry for the harsh reality
Having an etiquette booklet for everyone crossing the border is a very good idea. But the problem is not only across border, like out of town tourists littering all along the Forbidden City. They can see a trash can right in front of their face, yet they choose to discard the garbage everywhere.
Mainland China as a whole, needs a prolong national campaign to promote acceptable behavior. These are common sense behaviors that anyone with the right upbringing should know. But don't expect any radical changes overnight, this will take a least a generation. I remembered in the 70's that children defecated on the street on Tze Wan Shan. Imagine my surprise when I saw that it was acceptable behavior inside Beijin Zoo and Tianamen Square back in 2008.
The white elephant in the room that no one acknowledged is that there are just to many people in one place. Creating conflicts, frictions. Try to hail a cab after closing at Ocean Park.

I am "made in China" (I know...not a statement of high quality...) but I cannot help noticing one thing in common between the PRC and HK "peoples" - none of them knows how to smile...guys, have a good w/end!
Adrian P
I'm sure Hong Kongers know that not all mainlander are alike. Just like in any other country, the better educated and big-city dwellers among the mainlanders tend to behave better. By eliciting the help of those mainlanders Hong Kongers will have a better chance of changing the behavior of rude mainlanders. Part of the problem is terminology. Words like "mainlanders" are just too grossly indiscriminate. They pit tiny Hong Kong against 1.3 billion people. Who wouldn't become paranoid under that kind of imaginary pressure? The result if ugly identity politics and self-fulling antagonism.


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