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  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 8:57am
NewsHong Kong

‘Hong Kong is becoming like the mainland’: Author Bi Feiyu urges city to preserve its culture

Mainland author sees city growing less civil and urges its people to keep on setting good example

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 11:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 12:06pm

A leading mainland writer has urged Hongkongers to stay vigilant to prevent the city's hard-earned culture from gradually fading away.

Bi Feiyu, one of China's best-known authors, said he had observed "subtle changes" in the city that might seem trivial to locals but were significant to him.

"Unlike my previous stay in 2009, people here no longer say 'excuse me' or 'I'm sorry' when there is bodily contact as they used to. I did a small test on the MTR with my shoulder at one point, but the contacted party did not respond," said Bi, who is spending a month in the city as writer-in-residence at Baptist University.

"I see that as an early sign that Hong Kong is becoming like the mainland. If these sort of things keep happening, it will affect the quality of the city and the people in it," said the 50-year-old novelist, whose Three Sisters won the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2010.

Bi is best known for his approach to sensitive social issues, such as the treatment of disabled people. Most recently, a film version of his acclaimed novel Blind Massage won an award at the Berlin Film Festival.

He says he sees the novel as a "philosphy, a life view", and that in creating and falling in love with the characters he creates, it "helps me [learn] how to confront life".

"Good habits take hundreds of years to develop, but losing them could happen very quickly. Hong Kong people should be proud of their culture and etiquette. Safeguard it and don't let it fade away," he said, acknowledging the effect that Hong Kong's colonial past had had in shaping the territory.

"Colonisation is bad, but the diverse culture that comes out of it is good."

One way to ensure a cultured society, he said, is to maintain high standards of cleanliness. "Hygiene is culture," he said.

Citing an inscription he was invited to write at a literary event in Shanghai a few years ago, Bi said: "Instead of writing 'love books' or 'love the motherland', I wrote, 'Wishing for sparkling clean toilets at Shanghai Book Fair'.

"I said that because of my experience at the Hong Kong Book Fair, where the toilets are so clean that if you drop a scoop of ice cream on the floor, you could still pick it up and eat it," he said.

"That's why I feel very unhappy whenever I hear mainlanders talk about Hong Kong being a cultural desert. A place without culture would not produce civilised citizens, teachers or students. It's as simple as that."

Such remarks tie neatly with the recent row over a mainland couple allowing their toddler to urinate in the street in Mong Kok. The row has sparked protests from Hongkongers over the behaviour of mainland tourists.

Bi called on Hongkongers to "be more tolerant towards the mainland people, who, for their part, should enhance their code of conduct".

"I must say a good number of mainlanders, especially those who visit for the first time, are impressed with Hong Kong's civility and orderliness, and often talk about it when they return. In that sense, I think it is a good thing for more mainlanders to visit Hong Kong," he said.

"But it is necessary to regulate the number of visitors. It was very crowded during my visit five years ago. I feel it's even more crowded now.

"When a given space, however attractive it is, becomes overcrowded, it will lose its charm. A family of four is nice. But when 40 people are crowded into the household, that will spoil the well-being of that family."

In contrast to the "subtle" changes in Hong Kong, he said China was altering at a far quicker pace and the future was difficult to envisage.

"China is going through rapid changes now, please note I'm not using the word development here. When I ride on a bicycle, I can see both sides very clearly as I pedal along. But now I feel like I'm riding on a bullet and it moves so fast that I can't see where I'm heading to."



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This article is now closed to comments

We need no doomsday sayers to remind us of this fact; we already felt the pinch. Ask the Chinese government to stop interfering HK affairs and we will be back to normal overnight.
But isn't that exactly what the governement in Beijing through its puppets here in HK intends to do? Diluting HK's culture and style to make it fully "compatible" with the rest of the"big Chinese Family".
M Miyagi
Author Bi Feiyu very qualified to be POTUS. Replace Snake Obama with Baldheaded Bi. Just the man for the MF US of A.
His observation may be correct only because HKongers are so fed up with the ill-mannered mainlanders that we deemed them unworthy to show them courtesy. When we show acts of kindness and all we get in return is contempt. A betrayal and rude awakening. News Flash- Respect is never given, but must be Earned. How's that for wisdom?
Can it be more ironic that HK is becoming more like mainland because we are under siege from Mr Bi's countrymen every day ? it's not rocket science that our civilization is rotting away thanks to the cancer cells aka: lo_custs/deficators. We are literally being dragged back to the stone age, a total violation of natural order. Cause and effect.
Bi Feiyu- I have not heard of you and I think either you are a con man, a genuine tree hugger or just full of it! Quote "Colonisation is bad, but the diverse culture that comes out of it is good."Unquote- Is this some kind of a paradox, oxymoron philosophy or Bullshxt ? It's like saying marry the woman, make offsprings and dump her into the ditch afterwards. Even Plato would roll his eyes.
Everything this guy says is nothing but contradiction. So full of Zen why not just live in solitude and talk to the bees and the butterflies. Go home and write your books and preach to those that are ignorant and benighted . I hope he will continue with his test of rubbing shoulders and get arrested in the MTR for groping. To me he is another average joe from the mainland, hoping to make a few bucks.
So then, are you being polite only as a response rather than being genuinely courteous? Sir, rather than being dragged back to the stone ages, these mainlanders conveniently exposed your true nature. If anything, you should be grateful to the mainlands that you don't have to put up an act anymore.
At least he just used his shoulder to make contact. He could have tested Hong Kong manners by **** on some street in Mongkok...
Well said. It is also the money coming in through stock market & real estate that made HK becoming much more materialistic, the rich gets richer as the poor gets poorer.
What is new? HK has always been like this.
This is what the communist government are doing to HongKong. Influx of mainlanders have cause a big risk to the Hongkonger. For the past years, foreign tourist decrease tremendously simply because of these illiterate, insane, pervert, moron and uncivilized mainlanders. They're so annoying and nuisance to the Hongkong society. They shout, spit, urinate and now defacate in public places. Majority of the foreigners can't stand the unruly and bad behaviour of these mainlanders. Now, Hongkong will no longer be consider as "world city" anymore. The HK government should take action immediately if they want to maintain their image as a "World City". They should take control of the visa application for all mainlanders coming to HK. Immediately, stop and cancel all individual visit scheme with multiple entry permit and replace it with 2-way permit only. IF this matter will not be taken seriously by the HK government. Then, expect more conflict and protest by the HK people against these MORON mainlanders. This will only bring more social disturbance between the two side of the borders. IMMEDIATE ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN BY THE HONGKONG GOVERNMENT....
You know, in many ways Mainlanders are much more civilised than HKner like you. You just jealous of them being more successful than you.




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