I don't hate mainlanders - just their behaviour, TST protest organiser says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 9:54am

He's been accused of tarnishing the reputation of Hong Kong and condemned from the highest level of government, but the organiser of Sunday's anti-mainlander demonstration insists he was only expressing concern for the future of the city.

Speaking days after he made international headlines when he led 100 or so marchers through Tsim Sha Tsui's tourist hot spots to condemn mainland tourists, Ronald Leung Kam-shing insisted he did not hate mainlanders but was alarmed by projections that showed tourist numbers doubling in a decade.

"I don't hate mainlanders," Leung said. "I just hate some of their behaviour."

And Leung, a 37-year-old warehouse supervisor who had little interest in social affairs until a couple of years ago, believes Hong Kong has nothing to fear if mainlanders stopped coming.

"I don't believe that the Hong Kong government cannot attract more tourists from other countries even if there are no mainland tourists here," he said.

"Nowadays, we are having more tourists from Russia and India. The number of Japanese tourists has also increased slightly. I don't believe that we can't find other groups of tourists to fulfil what [mainland tourists] have contributed."

Leung says he wants to see the number of mainland tourists curbed rather than an outright ban. But he believes even if a ban was imposed tomorrow, the city would have no problems.

"Hong Kong will not collapse without the mainland's support. The city's economy started with trading many years ago. Our economy does not necessarily have to be internally oriented, it can be externally oriented."

Leung, who works for a company making parts for eyeglasses, said he paid little attention to social issues until he saw students join mass demonstrations against the introduction of national education classes in schools in 2012.

"I asked myself: I am a grown man, but had I ever done anything for the city?"

He grew more concerned about events in the city, especially the influx of parallel-goods traders - who buy products at lower prices in Hong Kong to sell over the border - in his hometown of Sheung Shui.

While political parties and the media paid little attention, he said, local internet users organised a series of so-called Reclaim Sheung Shui protests. Leung became an organiser of the campaign soon after it started.

The NeoDemocrats - a group formed by lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai after he quit the Democrats - recruited Leung as a community organiser, a term Leung said was just a fancy name for an ordinary party member.

The inspiration for Sunday's protest came to him last month, when the government projected that the city's annual tourist arrivals could rise from 50 million to 70 million within three years, and to 100 million in a decade.

While the government and business groups welcomed the news, Leung went online to rally support for a protest.

His group has since earned scorn from officials including Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, while the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office joined the condemnation.

But Ronald Leung, who recalled being yelled at by mainland visitors when he worked at a shoe shop in Admiralty years ago, sees double standards at work.

"It's laughable. Why can people from the mainland say that they are from Beijing and Shanghai, but we cannot say we are from Hong Kong? It's ridiculous how I get yelled at when I say I am a Hongkonger."