People's Daily says mainland migrants needed for Hong Kong's development

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 8:55am

Mainland migrants are needed for Hong Kong's development, according to a Communist Party mouthpiece that described them as "new Hongkongers".

The signed commentary in yesterday's overseas edition of the People's Daily - the latest sortie by state media into the debate over the mainland-Hong Kong relationship - drew a mixed response from lawmakers and academics.

Prominently displayed on page three, the 1,600-word article was illustrated by a picture of actress Tang Wei, the Lust, Caution star who obtained Hong Kong residency in 2009 through the quality migrant scheme.

"Most of [the new migrants] earn their own living rather than relying on social security. Some of them are absorbed to become the city's new elites," the article read.

"But while mainlanders today are no longer seen as 'Ah Chaan' [a derogatory nickname for their shabby looks], they become feared 'locusts'," it added, in a reference to a popular term for the growing cross-border influx.

"Time and wisdom are needed to understand and reconcile the differences," it said, adding that Hong Kong people shared "a sense of anxiety" about Shanghai's rise as a financial centre.

The article concluded by quoting Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor saying that mainland migrants were an important source of Hong Kong's population growth.

According to government figures, 27 per cent of 32,000 mainland migrant households below the poverty line are on welfare.

Dr Richard Wong Yue-chim, a professor of economics at the University of Hong Kong, said mainland migrants were coming to Hong Kong "overwhelmingly" for family reunion reasons.

And since people "who marry spouses across the border tend to be less educated and less skilled … the quality of the population has gone down since the 1990s".

Labour Party lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said labelling the migrants "new Hongkongers" would not end discrimination.

Lawmaker Ip Kwok-him of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said Hong Kong had long been a migrant city.

"Any migrants should be considered as Hongkongers and should not be discriminated against," he said.