• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 5:10pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 4:24am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:17am

Hongkongers should see the bigger picture on mainland Chinese visitors


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.

When you are narrow-minded, mean-spirited and ignorant, you end up being one of those 100 or so people rallying in Tsim Sha Tsui against mainland visitors.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I have heard all the arguments about how mainland visitors don't benefit the average Hongkonger, only those in property, retail and high-end services. They push up housing costs, pricing locals out of the property market.

On the last point, you see something similar in London, New York, Singapore, Vancouver among other major world cities; that is, foreign buyers going into the local property market driven by the tide of central-bank-induced liquidity and low borrowing costs during the financial crisis. That is the kind of foreign or outsiders' buying you would expect to see in such an economic environment. The government's anti-property- speculation measures, whether you agree with them or not, have cooled such buying.

But the main point is a moral one. If you believe in one China and that we are all Chinese citizens, then mainland visitors have every right to be here. It is also very hard to deny that, without the mainland, Hong Kong would have fared much worse during the Asian financial crisis, the Sars outbreak and the global financial crisis.

We don't know how lucky we have been when it comes to unification. Not only has the handover been bloodless and peaceful, it has become a pillar of our economic foundation. Most other peoples and countries have had to pay a far heavier price. By one estimate, German reunification has cost that nation two trillion euros over 20 years. Between two and three million Vietnamese died during the Vietnam war that led to the country's unification.

If and when North Korea collapses, is there any doubt the South will have to foot the bill, including integrating North Koreans into normal society?

But these are countries and so are not comparable to a city like Hong Kong, you say. Well, the size of our population and economy is bigger than many full states around the world.

Sure, we fret and complain about our streets and public facilities being crowded by visitors. But we could have a lot worse to whine about than Prada-wearing mainlanders.


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This columnist says: "We don't know how lucky we have been when it comes to unification. Not only has the handover been bloodless and peaceful, it has become a pillar of our economic foundation."
What a myopic view. A lack of bloodshed is not a guarantee for a better life. People from the mainland may have brought in lots of cash since the handover, but a large chunk of the money has gone to those luxury brands they patronise, big corporations, property developers et al, whereas ordinary folks are facing ever soaring property prices. Meanwhile, HK's Gini Coefficient rose to 0.537 in 2011 to 0.525 in 2001 (1986: 0.453; 1991: 0.476), the highest ever since records began in the 1970s. I doubt the old ladies pushing tray carts on the street would say they feel lucky to have had a "peaceful" handover.
The anti-mainland tourist protest was set against the backdrop of all these, plus many other factors not cited here. Of course, these local guys were raucous, rowdy and a bit silly. But they did what they did because they saw the bigger picture, unlike this columnist.
When you are close-minded, myopic and ignorant, you end up writing such a commentary.
I would have thought Hong Kong has been the pillar of China's economic success
I thought the demonstration was shocking and disgusting. Ordinary people being subjected to abuse while on holiday. Ordinary people with families, young children being frightened by bullies.
I thought that was bad enough, but what I have read in these comment columns in the last two days leaves me fearing for the sanity and future of Hong Kong people. I hope that those commenting here truly don't reflect the majority. It's Ok to dislike having large numbers of tourists but it is not Ok to be so isolationist, fearful and prejudiced against outsiders. Actually, if those from the Mainland were foreigners then it would be racism. It has all the hallmarks of racism - fear, bullying, intimidation of a majority over a minority, stereotyping of supposed bad behaviour, stories about supposed bad behaviour by Mainlanders followed by "but most Mainlanders are well behaved", type phrases.
Can we not treat the issue of how many tourists we can handle as a society and the 'racism' as two separate issues.
In that case I would like to express my apologies to all those who suffered as a result of the xenophobic protest on Sunday. As one who has a family and goes to the Mainland and Overseas on holiday I empathise with you. It was disgraceful and I am sorry that it happened to you.
I personally don't think it comes down to the amount of mainlanders coming to HK. I just find their overall attitude is what frustrates many people here - they lack respect of others, oblivious to any one outside of their own little world, then do as they please with their behaviour.
I'm in line for a ride at Disneyland last year, and one mainland mother held out a tissue while her young daughter did a big p-o-o-p into it. Then she wrapped it up and threw it into the bushes next to the line. And what about all the other people in the line? They didn't seem to notice, since they were all mainlanders.
Come on, lets be serious please. This is an awful opinion piece at best.
1. Comparing unification of China and HK with the process in Germany is ridiculous. HK is a rich, prosperous territory, that was and is well organized, has a developed civil society and is comparatively small. Thanking China for a smooth, cheap reunification is just silly. You should thank HK for being such a place that allow it to happen. Also HK was just fine before the unification so to say it is a PILLAR of the economy is incorrect.
2. The issue is a practical one - a territory the size and as densely packed as HK simply CAN NOT take the influx of visitors that it currently does, be them Chinese or from wherever. It causes quality of life of HK to deteriorate hugely, from prices, to the types of shops, to sheer density of people, to saturation of services, to house prices etc etc. Its just a fact and EVERY HK person I know feels that same. It benefits a few, BUT is a burden for the VAST majority.
The general idea that Hk should take any level of visitors is impractical and WILL back fire and cause it to turn into an anti-mainlander issue, when really its simply a common sense logistical one.
Endlessly pushing the "fear argument" that HK depends so heavy on china and the "Nation Argument" that HK can't limit Mainlander presence or activities here as its Anti chinese, is VERY dangerous and disingenuous and will back fire causing very real tension in the future.
Its a practical issue
"It is also very hard to deny that, without the mainland, Hong Kong would have fared much worse during the Asian financial crisis, the Sars outbreak and the global financial crisis."
Really? Didn't sars originate in the mainland the the continued denials by the mainland there was a crisis increase the cases in Hong Kong?
Let's talk about morals,
Amongst the 100s of thousands of visitors there are thousands of individuals who are packing large sums of money into Hong Kong from questionable sources in a effort to hide it or divert it elsewhere. This is against the core values of Hong Kong society.
And your arguement doesn't make a lot of sense as it is only natural that people will become defensive when their standard of living is threatened. It is ridiculous that you can expect people to become paupers to show patriotism or to say that you aren't discriminating against others.
And where did you get the idea we are "all" Chinese. More than 30% of Hong Kong people hold a passport other than an SAR passport.
And after reading the stats and taking a quick survey it is difficult to believe that most Hong Kong people are willing to be referred to as Chinese at all so what does "one China" have to do with us embracing large numbers of visitors from north of the border?
For a senior writer at a world class newspaper, you sure don't seem to put much thought into what you are writing about. And your opinion often appears to be of little value even to seondary school students.
Here’s an idea that’s far-fetched:
Establish certain weeks of the year where the land borders are closed to tourists. These would be weeks that are adjacent to HK public holidays.

Just imagine that. Families in HK would actually be able to visit interesting places during the holidays within our own city. People can take their kids to Ocean Park. We can ride the 360 cable car. We could take leisurely strolls at TST. These are all supposedly enjoyable activities but are made not pleasurable due to the ridiculous numbers of mainland tourists.
True, foreign buyers are snapping up properties in London, NYC, Vancouver et el. But unlike in Hong Kong, the governments and big corporations of these places are not mollycoddling and kowtowing to moneyed foreign visitors to an extent that the interest and basic livelihood of the local citizens are grossly affected.
Think the Dolce & Gabana photo ban brawl in 2012, think how the police allegedly turned a blind eye to baby formula smugglers from the mainland in Sheung Shui before a cross-border limit was set, think how many age-old shops in Central, Causeway Bay et al that used to be the haunts of locals have been replaced by shops in recent years selling luxury things that only the rich mainlanders can afford, think the new hotel that's going to be built on the tranquil Lugard Road on the Peak. The list goes on.
You know what, Hong Kong pays a premium per cubic meter for the water supply, and the money goes to a listed company, which formed a big part of its income. Hong Kong can get cheaper water by desalination like Singapore at a fraction of the cost per cubic meter we pay for the water!




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