The two faces of Hong Kong: incredible kindness and outright rudeness

Locals do often show empathy for those in need but there are times when overt racism raises its ugly head, as we have seen time and time again

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 4:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 4:45am

We pundits usually comment on the news. But in the past few days, my fellow Post writer Michael Chugani has inadvertently become a hot news topic online. That’s mostly thanks to his friend and fellow commentator Chip Tsao, who wrote on Facebook about a righteous act Chugani did on an MTR train and posted a photo of Chugani with the elderly lady he tried to help.

Now many people are talking about not just discourtesy on public transport but racism among some Hong Kong people, and even the freedom of hate speech.

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Chugani found himself in a crowded carriage and asked a woman to vacate her seat, which was reserved for the elderly and handicapped, for the old lady. The woman refused.

He made her even angrier by taking a photo of her with his mobile phone, so she used a derogatory Cantonese phrase, which roughly means a “dead Indian”, even though Chugani was born and raised here.

Tsao’s post was picked up by popular online news sites such as Stand News and HK01, and a media storm started in another teacup. Many comments supported Chugani, though quite a few were very unkind to him.

The incident itself may not qualify as news, but reactions to it say something about us. Like many other unruly MTR incidents involving misbehaving passengers, whether locals or mainlanders, it is a kind of an inkblot or Rorschach test, where people read their own preconceptions into it and draw their own conclusions from there.

There are roughly two camps: those who think the woman’s discourtesy and overt racism are fairly commonplace in Hong Kong; and those who think the woman is not representative of Hong Kong people at all.

How do we even know, some ask, if the woman is not from the mainland?

Could rude Hong Kong please learn from commuters in Japan?

Both sides are right. I have seen some horrific racist incidents in my time, but also others that showed people are generous.

I once saw a Filipino woman buy a newspaper in Admiralty and ask for a plastic bag to put it in. The cashier refused and told her to go away.

She screamed after her: “Yeah, I am discriminating against you and I like it.”

Then again, my late dad once collapsed in a street in Mong Kok and several people rushed to help him. Two stayed with him until an ambulance arrived and made sure the Rolex he was wearing was safe.