Saturday 11 February 2012

"Mainland could learn from HK"

They published my letter in the South China Morning Post yesterday.  This issue of tensions between Hong Kong residents and mainland visitors is bubbling along here in Hong Kong and is getting nasty at times. It was sparked by a video of locals berating some food-eating mainlanders on the MTR (our subway, which doesn't allow consumption of F&B).  Issues include mainland mothers-to-be coming to Hong Kong to give birth, because of our better hospitals and because babies born here can get permanent residence.  There's also tension over mainlanders buying local property, pushing up prices, and often leaving their apartments empty, speculating on rising prices.  These are valid concerns.  Unfortunately, some locals have gone too far in the rhetoric, taking out an ad in the highest circulation paper, Apple Daily, labelling them "locusts". Not nice, evoking, as it does, memories of Rwandan genocide, when Tutsis called Hutus "locusts" (or was it the other way round?), before butchering them...
Politicians and pundits have bought into the brouhaha, and not a day goes by without a number of articles and letters on the subject.
The Editorial today called for "Hate Crime Legislation".  I'd be against that, as it's often used to silence any criticism: Islam in the west is notorious for using hate crime legislation in various jurisdictions (Canada and Australia for example) to shut down any criticism of their religion on the basis that it's "hate".  Legislation already on the books here ought to be enough to handle the current upsurge in angst, I would have thought.
Here's my letter, as published, below the fold.  Was sent on 1 Feb, as "One country, two cisterns":

Mainland could learn from HK

There has been a lot of correspondence about clashes between mainlanders and Hongkongers over public manners.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee says we should learn from each other ("A test of HK's ability to adapt", January 29) and Anthony Cheung Bing-leung says we must not live on past glory ("Pain of integration", January 31). Fine as those principles sound, we must ask: who has more to learn from whom? As one who has studied, lived and worked in mainland China, and now lives in Hong Kong, I believe it's the mainland from Hong Kong.
I had my own experience recently of this conflict. In a shop in Pacific Place, a group of mainlanders was smoking and I said to them in Mandarin that they ought to stub out their cigarettes as there was a stiff fine for smoking indoors in Hong Kong. With some bad grace, they did so.
When they left, the shop staff thanked me. They said that whenever they told mainlanders they should not smoke, they were ignored.
There are other public manners taken for granted here, but not so on the mainland: orderly queuing, not spitting in the street, standing on the right on escalators, not eating on the MTR, and so on.
The mainland does mount campaigns from time to time to promote "spiritual civilisation", or, in other words, public manners. But, we already have them here. We should not feel ashamed to stand up for them.
Hong Kong's success is based on the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, transparent and clean bureaucracy and so on. The mainland is still grappling with these issues but we are already there.
We should stand up for our public manners and for what's made our success and not give them away because of well-meaning but mistaken notions of "learning from each other" or assuming that our "past glory" is somehow irrelevant to our present and future success.
Yours, etc,
Peter F, Discovery Bay