• Tue
  • Jul 29, 2014
  • Updated: 2:02pm
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

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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321manu
As always, in order for a comparison to be legitimate, it has to be comparing things that are actually comparable. Some people still fail at the most basic things, it seems.
Taiwan is not comparable to HK in any way/shape/form. It's not a land crossing. It's not a day-trip destination for milk powder. Last I checked, it's slightly bigger than HK, so overcrowding is less of an issue. As an entity, it is also entirely self-governing, with no expiration date to same. Besides, i don't think most people would visit Taiwan expressly thinking that it's part of China. If "HK is part of China (as in officially it is), but not really (in that you can avail yourself to many things in HK that you can't in China)", then Taiwan is simply 'not really part of China'.
Did you just compare Hawaii with HK? LOL. Surf's up, buddy. Time to hang ten and get a clue.
There probably are HK tourists in Shanghai. Are they present in the same way that mainlanders are present in HK? Perhaps you forgot to incorporate scale into your comparisons.
You know what, West Berliners are probably pleased about the fall of the wall. West Germans, on the other hand, I would be less certain about. Note also that West Germany taking in East Germans is again of a slightly different scale than HK taking in mainlanders. Note also that it was the West German political system that prevailed, which, based on HK's difficulty in determining how to run its own election, will not be the case for HKers.
pslhk
People in Hainan and Taiwan
would find the arcane comment funny
if told that their popularity as tourist destinations
is because “it's part of China, but also not really”
Native Hawaiians may ask the same question:
“When the mainland tourists stop coming”(?),
that will mean (their islands have become totally mainlandized?
Are there Cantonese tourists in Shanghai?
I’d wonder if W Berliners ever yearn
“for the good ol' days of being overrun”
by politically curious tourists of the pre 89 era
ramesses
"We don't know how lucky we have been when it comes to unification." Think twice next time you make this statement. I wonder what you would say if HK took up wholesale the political, legal and personal practices of our fellow mainland citizens. You might regret it but I know I have been very lucky to have been born under the Lion Rock.
321manu
The large number of tourists can be a bit of a double-edged sword. However, HK is popular because it's part of China, but also not really. When the mainland tourists stop coming, that will mean HK has become totally China (with all that that entails). If that day comes to pass, I wonder if Hker's will be yearning for the good ol' days of being overrun by mainland tourists.
Giwaffe
According to government statistics there were 22.4 million tourists in the first seven months of 2013 of which 74.6% were mainlanders.

1. For a city as small as Hong Kong, 22.4 million tourists seems quite excessive. Sure New York, London, and Tokyo would host more tourists, but they are massive in comparison to Hong Kong.

2. Correct me if I am wrong, but it strains credulity that tourism by origin country to such cities as New York, London, and Tokyo would exceed over 70%. If anything, the high number of tourists from the mainland are crowding out tourists from other countries. Diversification and balance of incoming tourists is a good way to ensure sustainable levels of tourism, to afford a good experience for incoming tourists (of any origin country), and to maintain a high quality of life for people who live in Hong Kong.

3. As some commentators have noted, it is simply a matter of practicality. On many levels, Hong Kong's infrastructure is overloaded. It is nothing unusual for governments to enact remedial regulation, such as imposing a quota on the number of or a fee on incoming mainland tourists, to ensure that infrastructure is not overloaded and to ensure diversification of tourists.
lucifer
"f you believe in one China and that we are all Chinese citizens, then mainland visitors have every right to be here."
ummm...that's not what the Basic Law says and that is not what was negotiated with the CCP government in China. Let's also not forget that many Hong Kong permanent resident are not Chinese nationals and thus buy into that mantra even less.
Where you are losing this argument is your failure to see Mainland tourists as a drug addiction. Besides raising rents and pushing out local shop owners in favor or luxury retailers, we know two things. 1.) The addiction to Mainland tourism prevents the government from making decisions about the sustainable economic direction of the SAR, how it will employ is talented people, what kinds of businesses will find Hong Kong a good place to do business, etc., and 2.) The Mainland tourist boom is mostly just shopping sprees; the costs of imported goods is going down every year in China as the Mainland government seeks to increase consumption and abide by its trade commitments. It does jot have to go down to 0% and be a duty free port like Hong Kong. Most electronics and luxury goods are less expensive in California, which has a 9% sales tax and some import duties. It's the "hidden tax" due to the increased overhead caused by sky high rents that makes Hong Kong not the great shopping place it used to be. What did Hong Kong do before the Mainland opened? There were many, many tourists from all over.
fishfred007@gmail.com
The notion that HK rose and developed because of China's largesse is simply absurd. China's model of economic development is based on "western" methods - western only in the sense that it is the first successful experiment. Communism failed.
In the long run, Chinese economic development will depend on the development of democracy. Is it not blatantly obvious that all self sustaining developed countries share a common ingredient; democracy? The Beijing takeover of Hong Kong was a setback, not an advantage.
lucifer
Yes, and a symbiotic relationship like that, which exists between Singapore and Malaysia would have been much better. Singapore is keen to protect its own interests, economy and its people first, yet it does much trade with Malaysia, but on their own terms.
bolshoi
From recent news, one may conclude that certain Hongkongers are only capable of taking out their frustrations on domestic helpers and mainland tourists. How sickening it is, the self-proclaimed 'Asia's World City'...
shum1006@gmail.com
If you can read chinese, I sincerely ask you to read the following post.
****www.enterpr1se.info/2014/02/debunking-without-china-hong-kong-die-lie-the-reality-is-inverted/
jgmoreno
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. The extraordinary shallowness of Mr. Lo's analysis and absurdity of his comparisons is what baffles me the most....
romneyng
Many world-class cities - think Tokyo, New York, London, Rome, Barcelona - accomodate tens of millions of tourists a year and never considered imposing any curbs on tourism. Not only do tourists bring in significant economic benefits, they are a conduit for promoting a city's image. Sure, tourists often cause disturbances to the citizens' lives - be it loud noises, drunks, heavy traffic, increased real estate prices, but those citizens don't resort to despicable behaviours like hurling vitriols at people whose only crimes are trying to spend their hard-earned money and having a good time abroad.
Judging by the actions of those 100-odd bigots, Hong Kong is not worthy of the name "World-Class city". It was a sad day for Hong Kong.
keithkklau@gmail.com
An article with narrow perspective and does not take into account how general public feels towards mainland tourism. There are too many tourists coming to Hong Kong not for tourism, but just come here to buy daily necessities or smuggle. They have changed the ways local people are living and the influx is simply "too much". We should welcome China tourists as our economy needs them particularly those landlords. But the key question is whether HK has the capacity to cope with 50 million China tourists? If not at this moment, it is reasonable to ask the government to reduce the mainland tourist or else the growing discontent in the public is laying a time-bomb for the already weak CY administration.
honger
Some of the posts here, no doubt, are from the group or their supporters. Because freedom of speech is practiced in this paper, their comments are still printed. Can we expect the same if they were in control? Would differing views be deleted/shouted down?
As for desalinating our water vs the current supply from China, those ingrates choose not to remember HK's costly experiment with desalination.
Of course, they missed the whole point about who they really are - a mixed-up bunch of bullies of Chinese descent waving the Union Jack humilating their own race and creed. The UK would not touch them with a barge pole...........
lcheg@me.com
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
honger
"......is VERY dangerous and disingenuous and will back fire causing very real tension in the future.
So, are you threatening to extend your verbal insults and harassment to physical violence?
anson
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.
druwong123
Trust Alex to take aim at the obvious and not see the real issue - the Hong Kong government at whom the fury should have been directed for running such a bad show.
For anyone who protested against the mainlanders it would be easy to just ask them what they would have done if they lived in a country where the milk powder is poisoned and luxury goods highly taxed. I believe even Ms. Lam would see the point before she can finishing saying "WTF".
The real issue here is why our government did such a bad job of minimising the mainlanders' disruption to our way of life, when it is so easy to predict what the mainlanders would do in Hong Kong, given what they are not allowed to do in China.
And the ministers have the nerve to criticise the protesters?
Time to point out who should really be held accountable, no? If they continue to get away with doing such a half-assed job, things have no chance of improving in Hong Kong. Sure enough, sooner or later, no mainlander would be interested to come here.
honger
Ms Alpais Lam hurled abuse at a policeman in the Fa Lun Gong fracas near the Star Ferry terminal in TST not too long ago, right? People like her are full of hate for the establishment and whatever cause that gives them an opportunity to vent their pent-up hatred. They are serial troublemakers intent on destroying the peace in our city.
They did what they did because the mainlanders were of the same race, whom they regard as lower class than themselves. They would not dare try this on any other race. This atypical behavior of Hong Kongers is found among a small minority who glorify foreigners ( the Union Jack and colonial rule, Western style democracy, etc) but put down their own creed and race at every opportunity, citing democracy and freedom of speech to further their assault.
artdig18
Thanks Alex a good reminder of how lucky we are as compared to what could have happened
likingming
I would like to know how Macau, a city one-fifth the size of HK and one-tenth the population, to cope with the mainlander tourists.
Camel
For a short moment just imagine, Mainland China would from now on just ignore HK, taking away all the support, stop tourist to come to HK and put their attention to Shenzhen, Qinghai, Zhuhai and of course Shanghai. Hong Kong is doomed and broken within 5 years and those 100 protesters will be the first one on a plane to the country of their second passport. (including those ignorants below who claims that HK will do well without Mainland support. lol).
Giwaffe
Sounds like a good challenge. Past history would suggest Hong Kong would prevail.
lucifer
"Mainland China would from now on just ignore HK, taking away all the support, stop tourist to come to HK"
Are you stating that without Mainland tourists, HK would die? Are you forgetting we did that for the better part of 100 years? This would actually be the best case scenario. A competent HK government could then focus attention on real, sustainable, economic development and ditch this idea of a giant China shopping mall as a long-term plan.
321manu
I think Mr. Lo is confusing his logic. If "the main point is a moral one", then indeed you can argue on that basis that Chinese citizens should have freedom of movement within China. But the Asian/global financial crisis and SARS are not moral issues as it pertains to HK.
At the same time, there are still 2 systems. So the HK situation is unique, and cannot directly be compared to the rights of PRC citizens to go anywhere else in China. If you believe in 2 systems, then HK has the right to impose restrictions on mainlander travel that is not available to other Chinese cities.
1C/2S is a package deal. Mr. Lo can't choose to embrace one part, and ignore the other...as much as he'd seemingly like to do.
jgmoreno
This gentleman is completely out of touch with the vast majority of Hong Hongers. And the shallowness of his analysis and arguments also suggests he doesn't put much thought into what he is writing about.
scmpbeijing2
"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?
ssslmcs01
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.
rpasea
Alex: pls take a stroll around the Peak on any Sunday afternoon and tell us if you still feel the same way.
tom@fastmedia.com.hk
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.
ohyeahar
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.
Camel
Just imagine that families in Hk would actually found NO Disney Land and NO Ocean Park during the holidays as those two theme park went bankrupt long time ago because of lack of visitors. Ocean Park was on the brinck of closing down when it wasn't for the Mainlanders. Disney Land since the opening has been making loss and loss. They can only pay their bill because of the Mainland tourists.
lucifer
As it is, Disneyland HK can only scrape off $30 milling in profit, while Tokyo Disneyland makes hundreds of mill;ions of dollars annually. Now they are building one in Shanghai, so you can expect more people to take the easier trip there. There had better be a plan B to all of this, because when it subsides quickly, and there is not another plan, then we in HK will have a crisis to deal with. Focusing on a broader spectrum of tourists from around the world, who actually eat in nice restaurants and frequent entertainment venues is the more sustainable approach.
Eddy_hey@yahoo.com
Who wants Disneyland. It was a joke, plus a shame of Hong Kong. Com'ON Camel, do you know how the contract was signed between Disney and HKgov.??
gracetodd
It's actually a workable idea! Really like it!
likingming
Both the Ocean Park and the Disney would go bankrupt when mainlanders don't come.
ohyeahar
I’m sure they would. But I’m not talking about cutting off the mainland tourists completely. Just for maybe 2 months in a year. And if they still go bankrupt, then so be it. Tear it all down and build more housing because that’s what HK needs.
tom@fastmedia.com.hk
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.
honger
Of course some people are not thankful and do not grasp the fact that the mainland only needs to turn off its water supply - besides not lending a hand when crisis strike - to Hong Kong to punish us if they want to.
Do these demonstrators use water everyday? Where does it come from?
For that matter, who are their ancestors?
yellow_lynx_cat
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!
lucifer
HK buys it and has always bought it. What if Hong Kong turned off the spigot of foreign invest, for which it is the largest contributor to in China for decades now?
pslhk
All quiet in the democrazy front
LeeChanEuWongDaiMo
shadow cabinet self-styled with high moral standards
leaders of democrazy
show their true nature of silent lambs
before all and everything done under the skull and cross-bones banner
they’d promote and never criticize activities
that divide society and undermine 1C2S
whoaman
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.
dharmakarma
Boring read
keresearch
I would have thought Hong Kong has been the pillar of China's economic success
bolshoi
@keresearch
I think you should know that your comment was such an overstatement.
likingming
that was before 1979.
snelderj
I agree the way they express their frustration is inappropriate but I also hope the government does not just take side and blame the protesters and make a point to address the frustration behind. HK is overcrowded in every way, the government need to have more effective policy/measures in place, including the possibility of a daily quota, there's nothing political or exclusion but logistic management. let's be practical about what we do with a heart of embracing our fellow chinese at the same time.
Dao-Phooy
Government has it's head in the sand on this issue. Gregory So doesn't think 70 million visitors will be a problem whilst Paul Chan says we're at breaking point! The genuine concerns of the demonstrators have not been addressed at all - it's really unfortunate for all of us that they felt compelled to take to the streets of TST to express their frustrations. The abuse of Mainlanders was uncalled for - but the Administration needs a policy on the root problem of too many visitors.
 
 
 
 
 

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