You are welcome in Hong Kong: that's the message city should send to mainland migrants

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 November, 2015, 12:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 November, 2015, 12:39pm

The more mainlanders who settle in Hong Kong, the greater our city's way of life will be eroded, one argument goes. It was the basis for a recent Legislative Council motion by Civic party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching. Government figures showing that about 879,000 people from north of the border have moved here since the handover in 1997 add fuel to the discussion. Such an approach is misguided, though, and would be better served by a debate on protection of core values.

Mo's efforts were understandably defeated. Her argument, based on the assurance in the Basic Law that Hong Kong's way of life would be protected for 50 years after the return to Chinese rule, aimed to defend local history and culture from mainland influences. The bill called for the cancellation of multi-entry permits for Shenzhen residents, an end to projects promoting cross-border integration and the formulation of a long-term population strategy. This type of sentiment is shared by far-right politicians in the West who are against immigrants and the taking in of refugees.

READ MORE: Claudia Mo's anti-mainland motion a cynical masterpiece of campaigning

Equally, these views ignore Hong Kong's history as an intrinsic part of China before British colonial rule and also that it owes its success in large part to migration from the mainland. While 12 per cent of the population of 7.3 million moved here over the past 18 years under schemes like the one-way permit system, more than 90 per cent of people have mainland roots through parents, grandparents and earlier descendants. Migration waves after the second world war through to the 1970s brought people of wealth, skilled workers and those in search of opportunities and a better life. Together, they helped build our dynamic, international, city.

A fast-ageing population means Hong Kong needs to welcome migrants, not turn them away. Greater effort has to be made to integrate new arrivals from the mainland into society so that they can better contribute to our city's growth and development. In doing so, we can share and teach about the values that set our city apart from others in China.