Hong Kongers and Mainlanders: A Complicated Relationship

More and more Chinese people are coming to Hong Kong from the mainland — whether to work, give birth, visit attractions like Ocean Park and Disneyland or travel — they are a growing presence, and not all Hong Kong residents are happy about this development.

I’ve spoken with a few Hong Kong natives who are unsettled by the influx and with some who express outright disgust at “mainlanders.” The latter group tells me that they spit, that they don’t have any manners and that they’re clueless and bothersome. The former just seem to be upset by finding more people in their already cramped city.

I’ve probed a little into where this animosity stems from — but I haven’t gotten far.

I’m not surprised that there is prejudice against a new group — but I am surprised that I’ve ecountered it among well-educated adults and students and that it is expressed freely, without concern over sounding politically incorrect.

Even in 2006, The Standard was editorializing about how far Hong Kongers had to go in learning not to discriminate and in enacting anti-discrimination legislation:

“…most mainlanders are not high-end shoppers, and many are presumably looked down upon, but discrimination, racial or otherwise, that vanishes when a full wallet is in evidence is not so much discrimination as prejudice, just as distasteful, but perhaps something better treated with education than legislation.”

 Asia Times goes further in its criticism:

“Whether it’s tour guides or shop owners trying to cheat them, teachers who don’t want to teach them or employers who don’t want to hire them, stories of the city’s enduring prejudices against their brothers and sisters from across the border are legion. Eleven years after the handover, too many Hong Kong people still regard their mainland brethren as rubes and social leeches who undermine their culture and threaten their way of life. The irony of these outdated attitudes is rich now that Hong Kong’s prosperity is dependent on China’s continuing economic boom.”

I wonder whether it’s just a matter of time before attitudes change for the better or whether they’ll only get worse? Is this an issue that other Hong Kongers are worried about? And why are educated people giving themselves license to discriminate? Does that mean sessions on prejudice against cultural minorities are not part of the curriculum here?

I’d love for Hong Kongers and others to weigh in.

About emilyfro

Emily Frost is a radio reporter and online journalist. She is an Annenberg Fellow at USC’s Annenberg Graduate School for Journalism and a producer at Annenberg Radio News.
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