Hong Kong media vilification of mainland Chinese immigrants fails to reflect real attitudes, survey finds
Numbers accepting and rejecting new arrivals in city are about the same, according to university study
Hongkongers’ attitudes towards new mainland Chinese immigrants are not as negative as they are being portrayed in the media, according to a survey that showed the numbers who rejected and accepted them were roughly the same.
While almost 60 per cent of those polled thought new immigrants caused a strain on social welfare programmes, nearly half agreed with the statement that they should not be isolated because “we are all Chinese”.
Around a quarter (27.3 per cent) opposed mainland Chinese emigrating to the city, while a similar number (26.3 per cent) said they accepted it. The remaining 41.7 per cent were neutral.
The Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong polled 743 people aged 18 and above by telephone at the end of October to gauge their views on new immigrants.
“The negative attitudes of local Hongkongers towards new immigrants from the mainland China largely came from worries about the negative consequences on social and economic resources, but less from discrimination originated from their identity,” the institute said in the report.
Tensions have long been simmering between Hong Kong and mainland China. Locals have staged protests against “parallel traders” – mainland Chinese who travel to the city to buy tax-free products and resell them for a profit across the border – and blame investors for pumping up property prices.
The survey findings showed a more positive picture. Hongkongers were tolerant about having new immigrants as neighbours, allowing their children to play with them or marry them, with only a minority who strongly opposed these statements, the report found.
About a third believed that new immigrants could counter the ageing population and enhance the city’s competitiveness with a larger labour force.
However, Sze Lai-shan, a social worker with the non-profit group Society for Community Organisation, said the situation had worsened in recent years with the rise of localist sentiments.
“I used to think that the people who discriminated new immigrants were those who were not so well educated, but now I realise that even university students also have some misconceptions and negative views [of them],” Sze said.
Sze said some had false impressions that the majority of new immigrants relied on government handouts, but they did not really have a basis for their views.
About 879,000 immigrants from the mainland have settled in the city since the 1997 handover, comprising 12 per cent of the city’s population of 7.3 million, according to the latest figures submitted to the Legislative Council last year.
The one-way permit scheme was launched in 1997 to allow mainland Chinese to join relatives in Hong Kong. A daily quota of 150 permits are available for mainland applicants, but officials have said that the average daily use has slipped in recent years.