Most people both sides of the border oppose anti-mainlander protests, finds survey

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 4:51pm

A quarter of Hongkongers support protests targeting mainland visitors, a poll found.

The survey by the state-run Global Times was conducted about a week after scores of protesters booed and hurled abuse at mainland shoppers and passers-by in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The chief of the anti-discrimination watchdog weighed in on the furore.

"Just as we don't want to feel unwelcome when travelling elsewhere, staging protests targeting tourists to make them feel threatened or uncomfortable is inappropriate and unwise," the chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, said yesterday.

Also yesterday, a concern group on the city's population policy paid for advertisements in two Chinese-language newspapers calling for an end to multiple-entry permits for Shenzhen residents. It said many were not genuine tourists but shoppers who crossed over regularly to buy daily necessities.

In the Global Times survey, about 1,000 Hong Kong residents and 1,209 mainlanders were interviewed between Friday and yesterday.

More than half of the mainlanders polled attributed escalating cross-border tensions to "incitement by radicals and foreign influence".

Almost 40 per cent accused Hongkongers of envying "the faster economic progress on the mainland".

But the "uncivilised behaviour of mainlanders in Hong Kong" and the impact of cross-border students and mainlanders who snapped up infant formula and properties were also key reasons for the tension, according to more than half of the respondents from both Hong Kong and the mainland.

The principle of "one country, two systems" drew differing stances. While 38 per cent of the mainlanders said both aspects should be emphasised, 36 per cent said "one country" should come first. About a half of Hongkongers put the stress on "two systems".

The initial protest sparked condemnation from Beijing and senior officials in Hong Kong, including Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Following the stern warnings, few turned up for a second protest, held on Sunday in Mong Kok.

Dr Chang Chak-yan, a leader of an anti-Occupy Central group and a Chinese University scholar, was quoted in the Global Times as saying the difference in perceptions was due to a lack of national identity in Hongkongers. He said more education was necessary.

Chow said last week that the city could extend its anti-discrimination laws to protect mainlanders against abuse.

He said yesterday his commission was reviewing wording of the legislation in ways that would protect Hongkongers and mainlanders alike.

"I believe many mainlanders come not only to shop; they also want to get a taste of our freedom and discipline, and how civilised we are," he said.