Greg So: People should be understanding. Photo: Felix Wong

'Help educate mainlanders in good manners', minister urges after 'urinating' row

Commerce secretary calls on Hongkongers to positively influence cross-border visitors amid debate over Mong Kok public peeing case

Lai Ying-kit

Commerce secretary Gregory So Kam-leung today urged Hongkongers to help educate mainlanders in good manners rather than pointing accusatory fingers at them, in the wake of the 'urinating in public' incident that led to heated debate on social media last week.

So said he was not asking the city's residents to ‘turn a blind eye’ to tourists misbehaviour in the city, but to show respect and help educate them in good manners.

In an article carried by six Chinese-language newspapers today, So clarified remarks he made last week that urged Hongkongers to "make allowances" for ill-informed actions.

“I want to point out that people should be ‘understanding’. Certainly I do not agree to… urinating in the streets,” So said.

 “It is not that we turn a blind eye to what is wrong, but that we must deal with it in a rational way.”

Commerce secretary Gregory So Kam-leung has appealed for 'understanding' in the row over mainlanders' behaviour in the city. Photo: SCMP pictures
On Thursday, So appealed for understanding after a video showing a mainland couple allowing their toddler to urinate in a busy Mong Kok street was posted online, creating heated debate both in Hong Kong and across the border.

His remarks quickly attracted condemnation from critics, who accused the minister of allowing bad habits to flourish.

One internet group used a social networking website to call for people to urinate at the door of So’s residence on May 4 to protest his remarks.

The commerce minister explained in today’s article that it would take time for many mainland tourists to change their habits.

He said a large number of the 1.3 billion population on the mainland are first-time tourists who may often “feel helpless when an urgent situation arises”.

He said Hongkongers' good manners were slowly influencing those of their counterparts from across the border and said the city should educate foreigners on manners and persuade them to act in civilised ways, rather than condemn them for wrongdoing.

“Bystanders pointed their fingers [at the mainland tourists] and watched from aside. This obviously created pressure and anxiety [in the tourists],” he said.

“What I meant by being understanding is essentially [having] a basic sense of respect for others,” he said.

The incident over the urinating toddler, reported early last week, reignited a debate about the behaviour of mainland tourists in the city, dividing opinion on whether the parents were right in allowing their child to urinate in a busy Mong Kok street.

Since being posted on social media the video and images have drawn more than one million comments and reposts on Weibo alone, while the incident sparked heated debate on both Facebook and Twitter.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Teach mainlanders - don't shame them, says Greg So