Photos of a small boy urinating into a rubbish bin in an upmarket Canadian shopping mall have sparked a debate about standards of behaviour in the Vancouver satellite city of Richmond, North America's most Chinese municipality.
Photos of the Asian boy with his pants around his knees at the Richmond Centre mall, steadied by a woman as he stands on the rim of the bin, provoked a fierce reaction after they were posted by Twitter user Brandon Beavis. The vehement response mirrors that which followed an incident in Hong Kong last month, when a Putonghua-speaking girl urinated on an MTR train.
The images of the boy, aged about two or three, went viral this week and were the subject of a report on the main CBC news bulletin on Thursday night.
Internet reaction focused on the ethnicity of the child and woman - and varied according to the proclaimed ethnicity of some respondents. Some said such behaviour was typical of "Asians" or "Chinese", but the fiercest reaction came from people who identified themselves as Hongkongers or Canadian Chinese, and said they were certain the pair in the photo were mainland Chinese. There was nothing in the photos to prove this.
The responses reflect changes in the demography of Vancouver and its satellite city of Richmond, which have seen waves of Chinese migration, first from Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s, followed by even greater numbers of mainlanders in recent years. Richmond is now about 50 per cent Chinese by ethnicity.
"That is not how normal civilised people behave, and it is inexcusable," wrote SkinnyPupp, whose profile on the Revscene website - a car modification site popular with young Vancouver Asians - listed his hometown as Hong Kong. "This is not a 3rd world country", wrote another Revscene user.
A posting on the Vancitybuzz news website prompted "Embarrassed Chinese-Canadian" to suggest that the ethnicity of the Richmond Centre pair was obvious. "Why not go one step further and say Mainland Chinese," the user wrote.
"This kind of undignified behaviour is common amongst Mainlanders in Hong Kong. I can't have a conversation with my cousin in Hong Kong without him telling me at least once how much the Mainlanders are mucking up the city," wrote Canucks Star, a member of a fan forum for the Vancouver Canucks ice hockey team.
Some users unfamiliar with discontent over the supposed behaviour of mainlanders in Hong Kong were confused by the ferocity of the reaction.
The CBC report noted that going "diaper free" had long been practised in China and a veteran foreign correspondent said "manners … and the standard of toilets" in rural China were "very different" to those in Canada.