It saddens me that we have become a city filled with hate. Everywhere I went this past week, there it was. I saw it in the people standing next to me in the taxi queue. A mainland Chinese woman with a small child strolled down the street and walked right up to an approaching taxi. Eight people in line lunged towards her. "Hey!" they screamed, grabbing her by the arm, "You can't come here and jump our queue! This isn't China!" They proceeded to bark insults at her, one after another, so much so that she started shaking and could barely utter the words, "My husband … he's in the queue … at the front of the line …" We all turned to look at the husband, who waved at us. Did anybody apologise? No.
I saw it in the words people wrote on Facebook forums all week, complaining about the "swarms of locusts infesting Ocean Park" or beautiful sunny days at Disneyland ruined by the "hordes of dreadful mainlanders". These are not anonymous forums, either. People are happy - proud, even - to put their names next to such hate. And, of course, I saw it on the faces of shoppers - countless shoppers who looked like someone had died because they had to share their mall with "those people".
The hate is stomach-turning, especially as the Lunar New Year is a time for us to celebrate and come together as a community of Chinese people. Growing up in the United States, I longed to see another Chinese person whenever the Lunar New Year came round. It didn't matter if they were Taiwanese, mainlanders or Hongkongers. In my mind, they were all my fellow people.
Hate is a cheap and dirty trick. When California was in a recession in the early 1990s, then governor Pete Wilson pushed for the passage of legislation to make illegal Mexican immigrants scapegoats for all California's problems. Proposition 187 aimed to deny illegal immigrants health care, education and many other public benefits. Voters passed the proposition by a wide margin. Years later, studies showed that illegal immigrants contributed far more to the economy than they cost in social services.
If you went to school in California in the 1990s like I did, you would have heard the nasty comments children at the playground made to anyone who looked remotely Mexican. Or the terrified looks on the faces of Hispanic children, not because they were illegals but because Proposition 187 encouraged us all to distrust, disassociate and despise.
Does the influx of mainland Chinese affect our everyday lives? Absolutely. School places are harder to get and apartments are more expensive to buy. Even milk powder is getting scarce. But does that make it right to narrow our eyes, point our fingers, and call them names whenever we see one of them walking down Queen's Road? For our children to laugh at them? To automatically presume that every mainland tourist who comes to Hong Kong is going to jump queues, urinate in public and hoard milk? I don't think it does.
We may have legitimate reasons to want to keep them out, and every right to address our concerns through legal and legislative channels. But when we vent our anger on perfect strangers, people whose only "wrong" is booking a holiday here, what we're doing is hating.
And hate, no matter how you sugarcoat it, is toxic.
Kelly Yang is the founder of The Kelly Yang Project, an after-school programme for children in Hong Kong. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard Law School. firstname.lastname@example.org