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  • Aug 21, 2014
  • Updated: 7:32pm
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SOCIETY

Why tourism is sending city down the pan

Writer of hit toilet guide says visitor influx has left Hong Kong at 'breaking point' - and urges locals to stand up and fight for their values

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 9:00am

In many societies a couple seen letting their toddler urinate in public after struggling to find a toilet might expect a little sympathy. Certainly more so than a mainland family recived in Mong Kok a couple of weeks ago.

But this was not a case of Hongkongers being less civilised in their behaviour than people elsewhere, according to the local engineer who wrote a guide to the city's public toilets which has been widely shared on mainland social media.

Rather, the row shows that Hongkongers have reached "breaking point" as a result of the unbearable problems a flood of mainland tourists onto already crowded streets has brought.

The 33-year-old, who uses the pseudonym Stephen Hui Chi-hang because he works for the government and is not authorised to talk to the media under civil service rules, has seen his long post - From Hong Kong with Love - the Complete Guide to Finding a Toilet in Hong Kong - shared widely on Weibo. He gained some 10,000 followers on China's answer to Twitter.

The Mong Kok row prompted an outcry from mainland social media users, with some even threatening a mass "pee in Hong Kong" campaign, while Hongkongers said they would take photographs of anyone who participated. In the event, the protest planned for the Labour Day holiday that started last week proved to be more of a damp squib.

But Hui was struck by comments by mainland internet users about a couple who found themselves in the same situation in Taiwan and were offered help.

"If you made Taiwan as small as Hong Kong and threw the same number of tourists there, you would see what would have happened. I think Hong Kong has surpassed its capacity for tourists," says Hui, who moved to the city from the mainland in 1995.

A record 40.8 million mainland tourists visited Hong Kong last year, out of 54.8 million visitors overall. The government expects overall visitor numbers to hit 70 million in three years and 100 million in a decade, with mainlanders making up the bulk of the influx.

Hui believes this rapid growth in tourism has caused Hongkongers to develop a grudge against mainlanders, while the government's failure to act to limit tourist numbers had "fostered this grudge".

Had the Mong Kok toddler incident happened in 2003, when mainlanders could only visit in groups and there were fewer tourists, the attitude of locals might have been different. Likewise, had the incident happened in a less crowded environment like, say, Taiwan or Britain, their may not have been a row.

"Now Hong Kong people have been pressured into craziness," he says.

While the business sector and the government have hailed the economic benefits of tourism, Hui believes the economic impact for Hongkongers has come in the form of rising rents that have forced out local businesses in favour of chain stores to the benefit of landlords.

If the tourists stayed away, he argues, the rents would fall and local companies would thrive.

But he does not believe the status quo will change soon - not only because the government ignores the needs of local people, but because locals, including him, do not have the courage to stand up for their own values.

Calling previous demonstrations and protests "social movement karaoke tours", Hui says it is not enough for demonstrators simply to gather, chant some slogans and sing some songs before going home, citing the often rocky and sometimes violent road to democracy in Taiwan.

"Democracy in Taiwan is deeply and firmly rooted and was achieved by its people's own fights. But in Hong Kong we ask others for universal suffrage. We've never really fought for it," he says.

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This article is now closed to comments

felix_wong
We all know what's going on here. The behaviour of mainland tourists is not just a problem for HK, but has become a world-wide issue. The only characteristic for HK is that it is small, and is flocked with tens of millions of mainland tourists! It has not only jammed the streets in HK, but has also changed the lives of an average HK'er, who finds that even in a satellite town like Shatin, you can find jewelry shops and luxury goods stores far easier than finding a ParknShop for your daily necessities, and "drug stores" for selling infant milk formula are everywhere! And the most unfair part of the deal, we have constantly been complained by mainlanders in China for "occupying their resources" by working and living there, and that "HK's success has always relied on the mainland". These are very dangerous comments to make, and the truth is quite on the contrary. HK's success up to 1997 has been built on the hard work of our generation and of our ancesters. HK was already a famous seaport for international trade when China closed its doors during the Cultural Revolution. What HK goods have China been buying from HK during the 60's and 70's? On the contrary we have been drinking Zhujiang water and eating canned curry chicken made in Shanghai back then! Will people stop making comments which are contradicting to the truth?
simon.chiu.560
When Hong Kong was swamped by mainland refugees in the late 50s and the 60s, the locals did not like it. The predominately Cantonese locals used to chide at "Outside Provision Persons", of whom my parents were among them. However with time the people get absorbed and some of the children or grand-children of those "Outside Provision Persons" are probably now among those demonstrators against mainland tourists. Given time, I believe the problem will be contained. But in the mean time the government does owe the local public effective solutions to ameliorate the rapid rise in mainland tourists and the crash of the different local cultures.
sinohog
Frankly, I'm not sure if the mainland gov't fully understands HK's point of view. I just spent last week in Guangzhou. There were many more tourists around the Guangzhou than there are in HK. So it is hard for them sometimes to understand what HKers are complaining about, I think. But many of the trade fair attendees in Guangzhou from Western countries seemed a bit bewildered by the holiday crowds. I've been there so many times that I didn't feel that it was a big problem. Most people were polite to me on the subway. But that is distinctly part of Guangzhou's culture. HK has its own unique culture that needs to be respected and preserved as well. The problem is complex and there aren't any quick and easy solutions. For example those people who are flagrant offenders could be immediately fined ane required to do community service e.g. sweeping the street and picking up litter. I think that they would quickly learn that HK does things differently. I also agree that because of the much higher population density in HK, that there are a finite number of tourists that HK can absorb without changing HK's unique living environment.
BoSee
The problem with this flood of mass tourism, is the local economy suffers dreadfully. Rents go sky high, local independent businesses are forced out and wages plummet towards the minimum wage in the outlets that replace them. The only rewards go to the shareholders and the property owners/developers.
But the Government still promotes it as a good thing for Hong Kong. Just like the "Bridge to Nowhere" that will soon need some artificially stimulated traffic, the "Slowest Fast Train to China" that doesn't stop in city centres and the dolphin graveyard aka third runway. All infrastructure projects of extremely dubious merit to anyone without a vested interest in the concrete pouring industry.
It's little wonder this gets translated into a frustration with the crowds that are paying for it all.
John Adams
The whole toilet episode per se is a red herring. It's nothing to do with HK vs Mainlanders. It's to do with the fact that we simply have too many Mainland tourists in HK and so a single incident of appalling bad manners has proved to be the touch-paper for the bomb that was waiting to explode. Lay the ultimate blame at the feet of the government, in particular Mr Greg So for allowing suicidal tourist immigration policies.
.
Actually, even if a toilet guide is available in print, or on-line, it's not something one would carry about ( although an I-phone app would probably help these days). Many are the days I have personally been 'taken short' both in HK and in China. Finding public toilets in China is far more challenging than in HK, but the simple answer is to ask for the nearest McDonalds or KFC or shopping mall. They all have public toilets, and if the price of using one at McDonalds or KFC is that I have to buy a bag of chips, then that's the price of allowing oneself to be 'caught short' and not using the toilet when one had the opportunity to do so.
.
A friend just came back from the Seychelles. There they restrict tourists by just making everything very expensive for them. Why not a 25% duty on luxury goods ?
Dao-Phooy
Just look at the other article in today's paper on the poor behaviour of Mainland tourists - even the party mouthpieces have complained. The Government still has it's head wedged firmly up its backside by failing to acknowledge and address the genuine concerns of local citizens. When will an announcement be made that numbers will be curtailed? Do we have to watch as more and more of our city becomes one big shopping mall for Mainlanders?
chuncw@usc.edu
"But in Hong Kong we ask others for universal suffrage." - the key word here is "ask" - exactly.
Because "power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." - Frederick Douglass
XYZ
He left two steaming turds on the pavement of a busy city street in broad daylight, after which his charming parents accosted a photojournalist and stole his property, for which they were arrested and charged by police. That is hardly the same as merely taking a pee.
Dai Muff
The child did not just urinate. He defecated. Next Magazine has the photos. Stop playing this down SCMP.
aplucky1
please stop hong kong from being run over by peasants
how could our LEADERS stand by idly while everything they have worked for is literally taken away in less than ten years
it is all gone
the land, the culture, the language, schools, hospitals
WHAT ELSE IS LEFT
WAKE UP !!!!!!!!!!!!

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