State media weighed into the debate over a mainland child urinating in a Hong Kong street on Thursday, stating that both the youngster’s parents and those who so vocally objected to their actions needed to “raise their level of civilisation”.
In a commentary published in its overseas edition, the People’s Daily questioned whether the bystanders who captured the young boy’s act on camera had acted properly, while calling for a need for “mutual civilisation and understanding” between tourists and Hongkongers.
Meanwhile, in a move which could further escalate tensions between Hong Kong and the mainland, an anonymous internet user at one of China's most popular online forums, Tianya.cn, has urged mainland parents to take their children to Hong Kong next week and let them urinate in the streets.
"Bring children to Hong Kong and let them urinate in Hong Kong's streets. Let's see who will come and take photos. They will see it as natural after they have been familiarised with the act," user Haijiao No68 wrote.
The incident over the urinating toddler, reported earlier this week, reignited a debate about the behaviour of mainland tourists in the city, dividing opinion on whether the parents were in the right or wrong in allowing their child to urinate in a busy Mong Kok street.
Since being posted on social media earlier this week the video and images have drawn more than one million comments and reposts on Weibo alone, while the incident sparked heated debate on both Facebook and Twitter.
Using a conciliatory tone, the editorial stated that due to sheer numbers alone, not all tourists would behave badly.
“It is an act of civilisation to understand others’ difficulties,” it read. “No one occupies the moral high ground of civilisation.
There were over 30 million mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong last year, so it was inevitable some of them would not act up to modern standards."
It added: “It is normal for kids to have difficulties holding in their urine. If there is a long queue at the washroom … one can understand the difficulties of being parents.”
The commentary described the toilet incident as “just a trivia in society which could have easily blown away in the wind”, but added when scuffles and discrimination comes into play, it highlights a wider problem in society.
The piece concluded: “It takes a lot of self-reflection and learning to achieve civilisation, while experiences are also required for travelling. Both the tourists and [the people at] the destination need to raise their level of civilisation to get along with each other. The crux of it is understanding.”
The commentary came after an opinion piece in the Global Times the previous day criticised the pair who shot the footage for being “more uncivilised” than the family allowing the child to go to the toilet by the roadside.
“Those locals cannot face the fact that the difference between the pace of development of Hong Kong and mainland coastal cities is rapidly diminishing… their attitudes have been distorted, losing patience towards the mainland Chinese,” the state-run newspaper said.
The dispute erupted on Sai Yeung Choi Street when the parents allowed their child to relieve himself by the road, leading to a fierce quarrel with passers-by.
Surrounded by onlookers, the woman desperately explained to the crowd that they had found a public toilet but saw there was a long queue, so had no other choice but to let their child go on the street.
“The kid was going to pee in his pants, what do you want me do?” the mother asked the young men before a scuffle broke out and the parents attempted to snatch the memory card from one young man’s camera.
The husband and wife, both two-way permit holders, were subsequently arrested on suspicion of theft and assault respectively, Hong Kong police said.
The woman was later released on bail and was ordered to report back to police in mid-May pending an investigation, while her husband was released unconditionally.