Give-and-take roles reversed between locals and mainlanders

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 4:23am

For decades, Hongkongers sent necessities to their worse-off relatives on the mainland to mark the Lunar New Year.

But these days, it's the mainlanders who visit the city to source quality products for a Hong Kong-style celebration.

Locally made goods are a hit with mainlanders because the "Made in Hong Kong" mark is considered a guarantee of quality - and gives mainland shoppers a sense of superiority over their peers, one cultural critic says.

"No matter … how rich mainlanders are, Hong Kong products remain very attractive to them as … they can't get [these] at home," said Perry Lam Pui-li.

Lam says mainlanders come to Hong Kong seeking things they cannot get so easily back home, such as politically sensitive books or foreign films censored on the mainland.

It's in stark contrast to the period from the 1960s to 1980s when basics ranging from clothing to food would be sent across the border.

At that time, Hong Kong was comparatively wealthy because of the success of its industrial development, while the mainland faced food shortages due to Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution.

But the mainland's economy has been revived since Deng Xiaoping opened it up in the 1980s, while visits to Hong Kong have increased drastically since the handover.

"It is unavoidable that Hong Kong changed its role from being a benefactor to a beneficiary of the mainland," said Lam.

"[Now,] they buy our goods … instead of us sending them what is redundant for us."

But Lam said Hongkongers should not be disgruntled or feel that their products are being exploited by their compatriots as they sweep the shelves in shops.

"If mainlanders adore our products and are even willing to line up for so long to buy, then we should be proud of it," he said, adding that the city should take this opportunity to develop more local brands.