Public Eye

A city of crooks? Greedy Hong Kong rides on the back of mainland tourists

Television footage showed customs officers handing out warning flyers to mainlanders about the tactics of local shop owners

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 October, 2016, 4:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 October, 2016, 4:23pm

Are we a city of crooks or has the tsunami of mainland tourists turned us into cheats? I wondered about that after seeing TV footage of Hong Kong customs officials handing out warning flyers to mainlanders about crooked shop owners.

What a brilliant way to sell our city as a shopping paradise during the National Day golden week holiday. Whoever’s brainchild it was to fill tourist hot spots with uniformed customs officials telling mainlanders to beware of our retailers deserves a Bauhinia medal. It reinforces the negative mindset mainlanders already have of Hongkongers.

Sure, many Hongkongers have succumbed to excessive greed. Dried seafood shops fleece mainlanders with exorbitant prices. Pharmacies, jewellery shops and cosmetic chain stores have sold our city’s soul to line their pockets. Even taxi drivers salivate at the easy pickings by demanding inflated fares.

But what made us that way? It’s a chicken and egg question. Which came first, our greed or the mainland visitors? The answer is both. Greed is part of human nature. But the tsunami of nearly 50 million mainlanders a year brought out its ugliest face.

Shopkeepers complained that only a few customers were lining up outside luxury brand stores this golden week. Lining up? Doesn’t that mean the shop is already full? The boss of a company that manages hotels moaned that rooms were only full for part of the holiday even though he didn’t charge double the normal rate like before. Read that again to fully understand the level of greed the mainland swamp has stoked in us.

What payback have we got for showing our greediest face? Pain rather than gain. Tourism accounts for only about 5 per cent of our economy. It supports about 200,000 low-end jobs.

The huge profits from the mainland flood go to the pockets of bosses and foreign luxury-brand retailers. Profiteers sounded their usual alarm that arrivals will drop this golden week but more actually came. They just spent less because we had nothing new to offer.

Salaries for ordinary Hongkongers are now lower than they were before the handover. University graduates are lucky to get HK$15,000 a month. What would you do if you’re young, see your boss ride in a luxury car while you live in a subdivided home and hear business leaders say a minimum wage and standardised working hours are wrong? You would hurl bricks at the police and agitate for independence.