When Mandarin sparks anger in Hong Kong, have anti-mainland feelings killed civility?
My wife, who speaks both Mandarin and English, and my two children entered Hong Kong last Saturday at Lo Wu. They encountered three incidents that prompted me, as someone who was born in Hong Kong and lived here for 18 years, to shake my head at the bigotry and intolerance of the citizens of my beloved hometown.
At the Lo Wu customs crossing, my younger daughter, a preschooler, walked across the border without waiting for her mum. The agent yelled at my wife for letting the child walk away.
At Lo Wu station, my daughter crossed the fare gate and it shut before my wife could cross. The gate agent would not let my wife through and ordered her condescendingly to speak with someone far away, despite the child being by herself on the other side. The agent then told my wife the child could crawl under the gate back to her side.
And then, on an MTR train near Prince Edward, my daughter was standing in front of a seated middle-aged woman and grabbing the pole. The woman stood up and yelled at my daughter for being in her way when she wanted to exit the train car.
All that happened within the first hour of their entering Hong Kong.
I am fully aware of the disapproval in Hong Kong of certain behaviours of mainland tourists, the tense geopolitics between mainland China and Hong Kong in recent years, and that my wife shouldered, unfairly, the baggage of the entire country.
That said, my wife, who has a kind and cheery demeanour, did not do anything to provoke such reactions. Her sin? Speaking Mandarin.
A few people do not represent Hong Kong. What does that tell you about ourselves, when her troubles would most likely have disappeared if they had conversed in English? Mr Erick Tsang, is this how you train your Immigration Department staff, the first people foreigners encounter upon coming here, to represent us? Mr Lincoln Leong, is this how your MTR staff talk to customers?
What have we come to as a citizenry, when we cannot even treat another human being with decency, and a small child with politeness and kindness?
Sampson Shen, Palo Alto, US