• Wed
  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 11:07am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 2:34am

Anti-mainlander whingers miss the point of big city living

Peter Kammerer says Hongkongers need to stop whingeing about mainland tourists and learn to adapt to changing city life

BIO

Peter Kammerer is a long-time columnist and commentator for the SCMP. He has received recognition for his writing at the Hong Kong news Awards, the annual Human Rights Press Awards and from the Society of Publishing in Asia. Before moving to Hong Kong in 1988, he worked on newspapers in his native Australia.  
 

Once upon a time, back when Hong Kong had five million people and a fraction of the tourists it does now and mainland China was a poor, barely developed place, I used to shop in Causeway Bay. My every trip was by taxi and there was nothing I liked more than hanging out in music and video shops in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. If I was hungry, I simply walked into the nearest restaurant of my choice, sat down and ordered - there was never any waiting for tables or finding that menu items had been sold out.

Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st century and I no longer do any of that; this city has changed and I've been forced to do the same.

It's been the same wherever in the world I've lived, whether it was London, Manila, Sydney or Melbourne. Bohemian becomes trendy, a part of town that was run down turns fashionable, or a favourite shop becomes popular; the crowds move in and I either have to tolerate them or find somewhere else to get what I want. This is how economies work and always will. Given Hong Kong's proud adherence to free market principles, I therefore simply don't understand Hong Kong residents who complain about mainland tourists crowding them out.

The fundamentals haven't changed, after all: our shopping districts have always been busy places, the MTR at peak hours is a crush and what's popular sells fast. I appreciate that the rapid increase in tourist numbers over the past decade - to 54 million last year from 48 million the previous - makes those waits for a cross-harbour train at Admiralty after offices close even longer. But where we live, work and shop are our choices and if the queues become unbearable, we always have the option of going elsewhere. That's the beauty of free markets and big city living - you can always get what you want or something similar somewhere else.

Despite that, the howls from the anti-mainland brigade just get louder. They cry that the tourists are making our train carriages too crowded, are making off with our favourite brand of shampoo, are deterring us from shopping at Sogo and are forcing us to wait to get into our favourite restaurant. When a new iPhone comes out, we have to queue with them, there's never a taxi available because they're grabbing them first, and watch when you cross the street or try to get on a bus because of their wretched suitcases. Wah, wah, wah - it's like hearing the tantrums of a spoiled child.

I barely notice the tourist hoards. It's not because I can't see - simply that I avoid going to places that I know are crowded. If I have to go there, I try to do so at off-peak times. In the most public transport-friendly city in the world, there's more often than not an alternative way of getting around. If there's something you want to buy and it's unavailable - well, have you heard of internet shopping?

Those people who have been taking to the streets to protest that Hong Kong is being overrun by mainland tourists have lost the plot. City living is about change, competition, sharing and adaptability. Complaining about crowds is one thing; bleating that the people who are causing them should go elsewhere speaks of someone who hasn't yet learned how to be a good citizen.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post

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33

This article is now closed to comments

Hum-Balang
Peter is blind and he sees better than many others who provided comments below.
@lucifer & laiyuen, if you happen to be a Hong Kongese, you will probably know generally the Hong Kongers are xenophones!
Many of whom a generation or two ago were themselves emigrants from China, legally and otherwise. And many more of whom it appears don't emphatise the hoards of tourists arriving by the plane-loads to HK everyday, are probably village folks from China who haven't been out to their nearest Chinese cities but opted instead to visit HK. If that isn't enough to cure your hubris, consider this that since 2003 this is one of the mainstay of the HK GDP. So what if they urinate in the trains or in the streets, let the Tourism Board to put enough pamphlets and signboards to warn our visitors what HKers' expectation of 'culture' and etiquettes may be. MTRC also reflected they need to add more toilets to the tube stations, haven't they? If there's not enough hotel rooms or flagship brandnames in Central or TST, let's build more of those. Isn't that a good thing afterall, whichever way you cut it?
What makes you think you are necessarily better than any of our visitors and you are entitled to not share the trains, the streets, and the air with them?
Dai Muff
We pay the taxes. And, as much as some of you try to recast it, it would not matter if the visitors were Inuit or Sioux. The "patriots" like you would always be the first to complain if they were Japanese. And in exactly the same numbers. It is THE NUMBERS. And our government's incessant willingness to kowtow.
The fact is the government is letting us, our resources, our facilities, be swamped. Of course there are those who will always be happy to see prices go up on daily necessities. They profiteer anyway. They are not the ordinary people.
I don't approve of insulting individual tourists. I actually have no objection to many of the poorer people genuinely coming here as tourists, wandering around with their tea in glass jars and often help them. However, I feel differently about the cross border buyers, which the mainland government could stop in an instant, and dislike intensely the nouveau-riche jerks I have seen treating Hong Kong service staff with absolute contempt. It's people like them who led to a revolution in the first place.
In terms of manners, Hong Kong's own manners WERE worse, even in my own lifetime. What we are not happy about is seeing the place take a step back.
laiyuen
Is the writer suggesting that in order to manage our stress we should stay at home and shop online, do our groceries during office hours (obviously the off peak times are during office hours or weekends for those who have fixed day time jobs) and that all of us have to change our ways to accommodate the stress of the increased tourist populaton?? I don't necessary agree that protests and shouting abuse at mainland tourists is the correct way to express our views but before people start accusing HK people of not knowing how to adapt, change or share, can they please start think about the basic expectation of living in a community where it is clean, where we don't get pushed and squeezed onto the MTR/KCR by tourists with their suitcases, people don't squat or relieve themselves on the train and that actually there are still supplies in our supermarkets that we don't have to fight for?? Tourists come to HK because it is a safe place for shopping, reputable and mostly should be an enjoyable experience. Well, I wonder who in the first place made HK the place it is, a popular destination for these tourists. Surely HK people. So why can't tourists try to absorb the HK culture, behaviour and manners, come and shop without the air around them that they're royalty (while we are inferior) while the government should try and make sure that locals' daily needs are met? HK and Mainland Chinese are Chinese, but there is no denying that there is a different "culture".
lucifer
One excellent way to avoid the hoards of uncouth Mainland tourists is to commute to and from work via helicopter. I don't know why more people don't do this.
pslhk
I agree with PK’s observation and feelings
-
We all need exclusivity as a prize to incentivize
and not as an entitlement of inheritance for laid back enjoyment
-
No membership is required for the quiet and beautiful times and places
which I share with MBF every Sunday often without encountering any person
-
If I couldn’t avoid TST and Causeway Bay
I’d consider tolerance for the crowdedness
as the basic requirement of my global citizenship
-
Those like me who were here thru the SARS epidemic
should recall with appreciation
that the world didn’t look at HKSAR
as a ship hoisting a yellow flag
bolshoi
Well done! The blind columnist sees and points out what should be obvious to every sane person in Hong Kong...
What he, being a foreigner, does not (or cannot) comprehend is a defeated sense of superiority (many Hongkongers are now economically inferior to their mainland compatriots, particularly to those shoppers on Canton Road), deep-rooted animosity towards the Mainland - which had a good reason and is quite understandable given that many Hongkongers are refugees from the Mainland or descendants of these refugees - and perhaps subconscious self-loathing (a legacy of colonialism?) as they themselves being Chinese as well, a fact that they often conveniently forget.
If I had to use one word to summarize Hongkongers' current state of mind, that word would sadly be 'insecurity'.
ssslmcs01
Insecurity about?
Comments from people on hallucinogens should be deleted.
John Tsang recently stated that our budget surplus could turn to deficits within 7 years. How much of our hard earned money has gone to pay for children of Chinese parents born in Hong Kong. The cost and competition for medical care and education has been footed by us the Hong Kong taxpayers.
And as for the 1% of Chinese who can afford to shop on Canton Road, how many could not provide a reasonable explanation as to where the money came from?
As has already been mentioned, the Chinese themselves are complaining about making long and expensive trips to Hong Kong and then being denied entry to various attractions. Hong Kong has exceeded its capacity for visitors, any further increases in visitor numbers will undoubtedly be met with protests and hostility.
Dai Muff
Oh grow up. Even NPC members think there is a problem here so it's irritating as hell to see northern shoe-shiners pretend there is not.
blue
Great article in response to this inane and out of touch column on: biglychee.com/blog/?p=11625

Some excerpts:

"Maybe he is trying to be edgy and challenging. Maybe this is part of the SCMP’s weekly quota of stuff they can show the tycoon-owner as evidence of patriotism. Or maybe some despicable sub-human is writing columns under this name and keeping them from appearing in braille, so the man himself is unaware of it – though I shock myself by even conceiving of such cruelty. And let’s not forget that just because someone is blind, it does not stop them from being stupid or insane."

"Or perhaps the writer is correct in saying that you can always go somewhere else. I’m not sure where these ‘somewhere elses’ are; if he’s thinking of the tacky pagoda-thing halfway up the mountain on the trail between Disco Bay and Mui Wo, I must report that Mainland visitors have now found it. No doubt in his next column he will reveal the locations of all these plentiful and easily accessible neighbourhoods that ‘the beauty of free markets and big city living’ have passed by."

You also gotta love it when a foreigner with a foreign passport is telling HK people to go if they're not happy in HK. Where? Not everybody is privileged like you and has a Canadian or United States passport, which means applying for a residency Visa. That takes a year or more to do, is extremely costly, and it's only available to people who have in demand skills.
keresearch
You don't have to commute on the KCR mate. How else do you get in form North of Shatin. So quite frankly get out of your **** hutch and live in Hong Kong with the vast majority of others in the SAR.

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