Today's ad in the Apple Daily. Online users raised $100,000 HKD to campaign against Chinese mainland visitors to HK.

Locusts

A full page ad was published in a Hong Kong newspaper today, depicting a giant locust perched on a mountain overlooking the Hong Kong skyline.

Today’s ad in the Apple Daily. Online users raised $100,000 HKD to campaign against Chinese mainland visitors to HK.

The text asks: “Are you willing for Hong Kong to spend one million Hong Kong dollars every 18 minutes to raise the children born to mainland parents?”

The locust is now synonymous for some very unwelcome mainland Chinese visitors to Hong Kong. Web users coined the term to describe the 28 million Chinese visitors now looked upon as marauders, bringing chaos to Hong Kong’s order and rule of law and consuming precious resources in the city.

Hong Kong residents are particularly vexed about the tens of thousands of pregnant mainland women who cross the border every year to give birth, obtaining Hong Kong benefits for their children and putting a strain on congested public hospitals. There is also much resentment towards the nouveau riche who come to the territory and splurge on luxury goods and apartments, driving up already exorbitant rents in the property market.

In less than a week, an online group raised $100,000 HK dollars to place the ad in The Apple Daily newspaper.

The advert, I fear, now signals that the gloves are off in an already vicious and long simmering dispute, dividing Hong Kong residents and those who come from the Chinese mainland.

But maybe the gloves were already off. Last week,a Beijing academic went on an internet talk show and went on a 15 minute rant, calling Hong Kong people “bastards,” “thieves” and “dogs” for insulting mainland Chinese visitors.Since Hong Kong returned to the Chinese mainland in 1997 after 100 years of British rule, and since cross-border travel rules were eased in 2003, the Hong Kong/China divide has been a contentious issue.

But this recent blow up can be traced back to an incident in January when more than 1,000 people protested outside a Dolce & Gabbana shop. The fashion store banned locals from taking pictures outside, telling them only mainland Chinese visitors could do so.

Later, a video of a group of Hong Kong people angrily confronting a mainland Chinese family for eating on the city’s underground train network where food is banned went viral.

I totally get why the Hong Kong people are pissed. It’s a bit of an invasion. Out of the 42 million visitors Hong Kong gets each year, 28 million come from China. Though Hong Kong is now officially part of China, the two places couldn’t be more different. I have always marvelled at how clean and orderly Hong Kong is (even by Canadian standards) compared to cities in mainland China. Just crossing the border from HK to the city of Shenzhen gives travellers a stark comparison to see just how different the territory is from the mainland. The clean toilets disappear and we are met with dirty squatters. The orderly line ups in Hong Kong give way to frantic clambering and pushing. Everything changes. Even the air quality.

At Harbour City in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui, where many mainland visitors shop, it is easy to spot who comes from China and who is a local. Some of the worst stereotypes come true. The mainland shoppers move in loud, boisterous packs, line up outside Chanel and LV, squat on the sidewalks instead of finding a nearby bench, and they spit, a lot.

Illustrations featuring locusts, aka invading Chinese mainlanders, have gone viral on the internet.

We lived in Hung Hom, where there was a train station directly connecting Hong Kong to Shenzhen. We watched as the apartments in our neighborhood were bought up by the Chinese. Our land lady was one of them and she was impossible to deal with. She dropped by unannounced. Even stayed a night at our place after handing us the keys and signing a one-year contract with us. In the end, she refused to return our deposit and we left Hong Kong a few thousand dollars short. The real estate agent apologized profusely to us. “These mainland Chinese,” she said. “I just can’t deal with them. They don’t listen.”

And that’s why the noodle incident caused such a big uproar. I think the Hong Kong locals shouldn’t have gotten so worked up about it, but when the family was confronted about eating on the subway, the Chinese mother of the family was defiant and unapologetic. “So we’re eating? What’s it to you?”

I get that a lot in China. “Um, there’s a line up here,” I would meekly say. “What’s it to you?” is the answer I usually get. “You line up if you want. I’ll do what I want.”

So obviously, I think the mainlanders need to be more respectful of Hong Kong’s rules. I don’t know how we can do this, how we can go about mass educating and enacting some kind of mass change of behaviour. It’s also important to remember not to hold all Chinese mainlanders accountable for the unruly behaviour of some and the hate speech of one loony professor. And finally, I can say for certain, that taking out a full page advert depicting locusts isn’t going to help.

12 thoughts on “Locusts

  1. After living in Beijing for a year, then Hong Kong for a year, then another 8 months in the countryside of Zhejiang province (Qingtian, where my parents/ancestors are from), I can attest to the differences (understatement) in human ethics/interaction.

    For me, the HK people — and I have spoken to many people who disagree — are some of the nicest kind of people I have ever encountered. I may be very lucky, but throughout my year I have been met with kindness, genuine smiles, patience and humbleness. When asking for direction, it surprises me every time how much care they take and make sure that you get to your destination (e.g. a bus driver running to the upper-level to tap me on my shoulder, telling me that this is the stop I should get off). To be fair, there has been the other grumpy taxi-cab that took me on a detour for 30 HKD.

    In China, it’s the other way around. It’s the daily haggle with taxi-drivers, aggressive survival-of-the-fittest jostling trying to get on the commuter bus, and perhaps once or twice a year a cheerful person that will point you to the correct direction of the bathroom. The list alone could be a full blog-post.

    It saddens me to see HK “under siege,” especially for the older local population. I think the HK government should control their indulgence in the seemingly infinite stream of tourist capital, for the sake of the future of their city. My rent doubled a year after I left – how will locals cope with the influx of arrogant richness?

    If this goes out of hand, Hong Kong might risk its current super-status metropolitan image; there are enough crazy out-of-control state capitalist cities in China, please don’t ruin this beautiful oasis.

  2. “I think the HK government should control their indulgence in the seemingly infinite stream of tourist capital, for the sake of the future of their city. … please don’t ruin this beautiful oasis.”

    Well said, and thanks for your comments. <3 Hong Kong!

  3. Hi Suzanne,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. The unfortunate thing is… the mainland Chinese have now brought their behaviour into Canada.

    Real estate agents are appalled by the horking and spitting by the Chinese, while viewing the open houses.

    We bananas get lumped into the disgusting behaviour by the mainlanders… the irony is… back in the late 1980s and 1990s, it was the Hong Kong Chinese who brought their arrogant behaviour into Vancouver.

    Eventually, the mainlanders will find out that Canada taxes the hell out of them, and that their kids can’t find a job here… and no one here really gives a rat’s ass about the showing off of wealth by the mainlanders. Nope. We bananas don’t give a shit. Maybe their fellow insecure mainlanders may care, but try as they may… Whites and bananas don’t give a shit.

    I couldn’t care less how much face they want or how self important they may want others to see them.

    Once the mainlanders realize they don’t have folks grovelling at their feet, they’ll head back to China to seek suck ups.

  4. Suzanne,

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve shared it with a few of my cousins and friends in the USA who do not and probably cannot understand the tension and firestorm between mainlanders and Hong Kongers. As an expat who has lived here approaching two years now, there were a lot of things that surprised me when I first came here. Hope you are well and can’t wait to read your book.

    Daniel Chan

  5. @Suzanne,

    I thought so. Because when one day you see Americans hurling insults at Canadians or vice versa, you probably would have a different understanding than people who have never lived in North America.

    @THE UGLY CHINESE CANADIAN,

    “Hong Kong Chinese who brought their arrogant behaviour into Vancouver.”

    Did you actually read and understand what is going on before you posted?

    There are two issues:
    –people who cross the borders to give birth.
    –people who supposedly “splurge on luxury goods and apartments, driving up already exorbitant rents in the property market.”
    –people angrily confronting a mainland Chinese family for eating on the city’s underground train network which led to Beijing academic went on an talk show, calling Hong Kong people “bastards,” “thieves” and “dogs”.

    Let me explain to you in a way that you born and raised Americans and Canadians can understand.

    1. How do you feel about Anchor babies – illegal immigrants come the the U.S. with the intent to have babies, who are automatically granted citizenship. Both parents are illegal aliens.

    2. “Another group of mainland visitors” who can afford to buy luxury goods and apartments. They are welcome as customers to purchase on goods and services in HK. Regarding the real estate market, yes, 15% of real estate is brought by mainlanders, but it has to do with the unique situation in hk with respect to taxation, flow of capitals, population density and etc.

    ~The fact of the matter is Hong Kong doesn’t need money from them~

    Unlike Canada, we didn’t lure these mainland chinese to emigrate to Hong Kong. Without immigrant’s money, Canada is bankrupt in Vancouver and Toronto, not counting the exisiting provincial, municipal and federal debts and deficits.

    3. Someone was not happy; a war of words. I have seen Canadian politician telling Americans off on who won the War of 1812?

  6. “Real estate agents are appalled by the horking and spitting by the Chinese, while viewing the open houses.”

    I have seen white people done worse things in open house.

    “Eventually, the mainlanders will find out that Canada taxes the hell out of them, and that their kids can’t find a job here… and no one here really gives a rat’s ass about the showing off of wealth by the mainlanders. Nope. We bananas don’t give a shit. Maybe their fellow insecure mainlanders may care, but try as they may… Whites and bananas don’t give a shit.

    I couldn’t care less how much face they want or how self important they may want others to see them.

    Once the mainlanders realize they don’t have folks grovelling at their feet, they’ll head back to China to seek suck ups.”

    It sounds like some bananas are jealous, insecure and living in poverty. Tell those white Canadian billionaires to throw you a bone?
    But no, you are not invited to their club. Get out!

  7. Pingback: Locusts | Hongkong
  8. Hi Tony! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your comments and for drawing some interesting comparisons to the situation of Chinese immigration to North America and in particular, Canada.

    In regards to how people feel about anchor babies, it is definitely a sticky issue here with many similar issues. Tax paying, law abiding Americans and Canadians feel undocumented immigrants are taking advantage of the system by having their children born here and therefore privy to all the benefits that come with being a citizen.

    About your second point regarding mainland visitors buying up real estate, I need you to elaborate. I agree with you that HK doesn’t necessarily need or want the infusion of mainland money (though the government and big luxury brands like the money, most HK people I know don’t) and that Canada is in fact doing a lot to lure mainland money here because yes, Canada needs immigrants and the money they bring. So what is your point? Are you saying the influx is good or bad?

  9. Suzanne,

    1. You got it.

    2. The influx is good or bad? Are you asking about HK or Canada? I will just answer about Hong Kong. It is a bad thing, because we don’t need money into the real estate market. The overall house prices are inflated. And unlike Canada, the hk government doesn’t benefit at all with any tax revenue (as I said, due to the unique situation in hk with respect to taxation, flow of capitals, and etc.). It won’t create local jobs nor do we need to create jobs because the unemployement rate is at 3.3% in hk. Most construction workers are foreign labour anyway.

    Anything else you want to know?

  10. Hi Suzanne,

    Glad you’ve brought this topic up and invited us to comment on this. I could see some very interesting points of view in your article and the comments. Having read your article I would wonder if you have ever left Hong Kong!

    I’ve always tried to be fair while expressing my views about Mainland Chinese’s behaviour in HK. Like you said, “It’s also important to remember not to hold all Chinese Mainlanders accountable for the unruly behaviour of some”. But I can’t deny my feelings of having my home “invaded” by these Chinese big spenders whom I rather give way to on a busy street in order not to get hit by those giant GUCCI bags. But I’m not the only one – you’ll see book stores, cafes and even cinemas moving up buildings and malls. It’s frustrating to see how luxury stores are taking over the streets, first are the jewellery stores along Nathan Road, then the designer brands – GUCCI, LV, Prada – repeating every 10 steps after one another in HK’s popular commercial districts. All with reds and gold in their window display, surely not to the local’s taste.

    But your conclusion is also true. But the fact is most HKers feel quite helpless in this situation and they are somehow stepping up their actions to get themselves heard. I don’t think it’s situation that can be improved by firing extreme opinions over the media, but HKers should remain calm, display their wisdom in every individual incidents regarding the Mainlanders and get themselves prepared for the worst before anything can change. We come from a different background with different value systems after all and changes require time, a lot of it.

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