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I’ve taken great interest in a couple of stories recently which are exposing well-formed – but for many, unseen – cracks between the Mainland and Hong Kong. The first one is this: luxury retailer Dolce & Gabbana found themselves thrust onto the front pages of Hong Kong (and international) newspapers after refusing to allow Hong Kong customers to take photos of the Hong Kong store, but apparently allowed Mainland shoppers to snap away. The second one is on growing concerns over the increasing number of Mainland women who are coming into Hong Kong and giving birth, thus ensuring their offspring have Hong Kong right-of-abode.

Then there’s this one, reported today in the Washington Post:

Fifteen years after taking back Hong Kong amid a blaze of fireworks and patriotic fervor, China is battling what it sees as a subversive challenge: an academic survey showing that many in this former British colony identify little with China.

The survey, conducted last month by the University of Hong Kong, found that the number of respondents who view themselves as Hong Kongers is more than double the number who see themselves as Chinese and that bonds of shared identity with the mainland have grown weaker since Britain relinquished control in 1997.

Infuriated by the results, Chinese officials have orchestrated a campaign of denunciation — the latest blast in a barrage of verbal and written broadsides against alleged disloyalty in Hong Kong.

Chinese officials are primarily incensed because the trend is going the wrong way. Conventional thinking has always been the longer Hong Kong is part of China, the more Chinese it, and its people, will become. You can’t really blame Chinese officials for reaching such a conclusion. Having spent four years toiling in China’s state-run media machine, I’m well accustomed to ensuring we refer to the territory as “China Hong Kong”, “Chinese Hong Kong”, “Hong Kong SAR”, etc. I’ve been at CCTV when we’ve showed video of the spectacular National Day fireworks over Victoria Harbour, hosts giddy with excitement over how Hong Kong people are elated to once again be part of the motherland.

This propaganda is dangerous, because many Mainland people may believe it. If so, they may come down here expecting to be in, well, Shanghai. It’s just another of China’s glitzy cities where they can speak Putonghua, shop, and eat local treats, right? Maybe not. I won’t be breaking any new ground by saying Hong Kong is different; I’m sure that’s already understood. But I’m not sure people in China – and this goes for locals and expats – realize the degree to which Hong Kong people consider themselves different, and why they do.

It’s not that Hong Kong people don’t feel “Chinese”; in fact, there are some who claim Hong Kong is more Chinese than the Mainland, because it was spared Mao and his destructive Cultural Revolution. There are wedding traditions, funeral customs, and even holidays celebrated here that are no longer part of regular tradition north of the Lo Wu border. In other words, Hong Kong people celebrate their Chineseness and are proud of it, but they don’t like the connotations that come with the phrase “Chinese”. If somebody is “Chinese”, it generally means they come from China, and China isn’t one big monolithic entity. Thus, Hong Kong people feel the need to point out they aren’t just Chinese, but they are Hong Kong Chinese.

Why is this? Let’s start with history. The longer I’ve been in Hong Kong, the more people I’ve met who had ancestors who belonged to the KMT, or fled China at great personal risk during the Great Leap Forward or Cultural Revolution. One former colleague’s family lost everything in the 1970s, and that memory is a bitter one. These people came to Hong Kong to be free (relatively, in comparison), make money, and be left alone by the government. What lingers, even decades later, is a deep mistrust of the Mainland and its current regime, which filters down to mistrust of people in China. There are people in Hong Kong who are amazed that I will take a taxi in Shenzhen by myself, lest something untoward happen to me. Part of this is sheer ignorance, but part of it stems from a real fear of China that has been passed down through the generations, through no fault of their own. It’s just not safe there.

Hong Kong’s unique history – and its spectacular achievements as both as a British crown colony and an SAR – has also led to a high degree of well-earned pride. For generations, Cantonese people have gone out and formed China towns around the world with a distinct Hong Kong flair. Hong Kong is free and open, with a free press, fair and transparent institutions, an independent legal system. The World Economic Forum named Hong Kong the most important financial centre in the world in December, the first time an Asian city has received such an honour. Global companies have emerged from this small collection of islands: Shangri-la Hotels, Cathay Pacific, the MTR Corporation, Swire, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Hutchison Port Holdings, and more. This was all done through the disciplined work of a few million people in a city that has never really felt it belonged anywhere.

People here have gotten rich (and many haven’t, which is a topic for another day) and found success. But it’s a different kind of success than China is having. Hong Kong has largely kept its civility intact: corruption here is exceedingly rare (largely thanks to the ICAC), people are generally polite (cha chaan teng wait staff not included), people say sorry if they bump into you, people line up for the metro, I could go on. This is in a city that is much more densely populated, stressed-out, high-strung, and fast-paced than either Beijing or Shanghai. Let me put it another way, based on information from my previous job with Hong Kong’s rail operator: if a person commits suicide in front of an MTR train in Hong Kong, service is stopped and crews try and rescue the person who attempted to take his/her own life. If the same happens in the Mainland, chances are the trains will continue operating normally with no suspension. The attitude in the Mainland is, why stop traffic for one person? It’s a difference of priorities, but shines light on the differing value structures. There is no way to say for certain, but chances are what happened to Yueyue, the 2-year old girl who was run over in Foshan and ignored by 18 passers-by, wouldn’t happen here.

These aren’t racial differences because most Mainland people and Hong Kong people are Han Chinese. It’s based on socialization and the vastly different development of two regions: the Mainland went through decades of violent political turmoil, followed by decades of rapid social upheaval under an authoritarian government. Hong Kong was brought up British with an emphasis on politeness, English-language ability, adherence to western traditions, celebration of western holidays (like Christmas and Easter), and even Christianity (churches seem to be on nearly every block). Hong Kong did go through its own political turmoil in the 1960s, but it was nothing compared to what the people of the Mainland had to endure, in which much of its traditional culture was wiped out.

This brings us to today, where we have two groups of people who are both Chinese, but who come from vastly different backgrounds, in many cases have vastly different belief systems (not to mention languages, which I’ll save for another day), and have vastly different priorities. At a democracy seminar I attended last year, there was talk of a decline in the popularity of democracy because of the mess in Iraq, political gridlock in the United States and decline of Europe. This, in contrast with the rapid growth of China and Russia under more authoritarian systems. Yet the yearning (and annual marching) for democracy continues here unabated as one of the city’s top civic goals, while it’s much further down the list of priorities among Mainland Chinese people.

I once asked a colleague, prior to National Day 2010, if she would go out and celebrate by watching the fireworks. Her reply: “Being part of China is nothing to celebrate!” Another colleague told me point blank he wished dearly that Hong Kong remained British. He said the British weren’t perfect, but Hong Kong was more “civilized” back then. He fears Hong Kong is being “overrun” by the Mainland, and its culture and uniqueness is being diluted. These are the feelings, circulating just under the surface, that gush forth at the tiniest prick. More than one Hong Konger has told me the D&G controversy has less to do with the retailer, and more to do with pent up anger at Mainland Chinese.

Finally, Hong Kong’s experience with the Mainland and people from the Mainland hasn’t exactly been a bowl of cherries. Without going into too many details, the behaviour of Mainland people is now under a microscope. Videos of kids peeing on the MTR, people yelling, and rude shoppers frequently go viral on popular Hong Kong’s BBSs, with many actually making the news. A kid peeing or defecating on a moving train is just as surprising here as it would be if it happened in Edinburgh, and it heightens prejudices when the kid then speaks Putonghua. Even my girlfriend, who is a born-and-raised Beijinger, often recoils in disgust at what she sees her compatriots do. People on Twitter tell me the same is happening all over the world, in places like New York and Singapore and Paris. I’m sure it is, but as Hong Kong is ultimately a part of China, people here sometimes feel more powerless to do anything about it. (To be fair, China does not have a monopoly on rude tourists, but they do get most of the attention in Hong Kong).

Still, it’s not all bad. Hong Kong’s business community welcomes Mainland shoppers with open arms, our fledgling Disneyland wouldn’t survive without the busloads of tourists from the Huanggang border crossing, and Beijing ultimately treats the city pretty well, designating it as an offshore RMB centre and sending many IPOs our way. But like any culture that witnesses an overwhelming influx of outsiders, people here are getting skittish. They are anxious. They don’t want to lose their identity, their language, their heritage. They don’t feel they have anything in common with the people of Mainland China.

Unfortunately, as the University of Hong Kong survey pointed out, the divide between Hong Kong and the Mainland is growing. Mainland people and Hong Kong people rarely circulate in the same peer groups; Mainland Chinese students ripped June 4 memorial posters off the walls of Hong Kong University in 2009 to the astonishment of Hong Kong students. Hong Kong people believe they have earned their money fair and square in a transparent environment, and feel Mainland people have received it through nefarious means in a shady system.

What can be done about it? Well, a first step would be stop trying to make Hong Kong like the rest of China. I often compare Hong Kong to Quebec in Canada. Both places have “distinct societies”, both places have different historical ties, and both places have different languages. Canada made a decision to preserve the uniqueness that is Quebec; China could do the same with Hong Kong.

Secondly, the Chinese government needs to be a bit more nuanced in its management of the territory. Calling the organizer of the aforementioned survey a “slave of black political funding” isn’t going to win friends and influence people. That kind of language hardly works on the Mainland; it makes Hong Kong people feel nauseous. To Beijing’s chagrin, unlike in Tibet and Xinjiang, where it can publish propaganda ad nauseam because it controls the airwaves, Hong Kong is much more free. The principles of an independent media and free speech are deeply rooted here, making winning over the population by force nearly impossible. The carrot will always work better than the stick. Beijing should strive to show China’s best face and make Hong Kong people proud to be a part of it (as they were during the Olympics, when China put on a spectacular show).

Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done regarding rude tourists, be they from China, Germany, the US or elsewhere. Nonetheless, this will continue to adversely affect the way Hong Kongers see China, and themselves.

Finally, I’m surprised sometimes at what some foreigners in the Mainland tell me: Hong Kong people should be speaking Putonghua, they’d “better get used” to being part of China, or worse. Yes, the die has been cast, and Hong Kong will forever remain a part of the People’s Republic. Not even Hong Kongers talk about separation, despite their anxiety over Chinese rule. But is diluting a culture to be celebrated? Is seeing a language drastically decline a good thing? Does anybody care?

Hong Kong people certainly do, and that is why people here feel the need to assert themselves as different.

Like Tibet, or Taiwan, or Xinjiang, China would do best to win over the population through trust, enlightened governance and respect for differences, not by vitriolic propaganda. It would be a good first step towards making Hong Kong people feel more proud to call themselves “Chinese”.

 

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129 Comments

  1. anonymous says:

    the “die” has been cast

    • admin says:

      Thank you. Fixed.

      • Guest says:

        do u mind if i translate this into chinese and let the mainland people to have a glance at?
        anyway…
        Me myself is a what HKers called “mainlander” and I sometimes have the same feelings towards my compatriots too. But I do not think they are tended to be like that, they are just ordinary people who has not been educated well mostly because they did not have money to get into school when they were small. They probably have been working since 10 years old in order to earn money and send their siblings into school.

        I think how HKers think of themselves as “with good manners” “well educated” “different from you chinese people” “we’re special” “we don’t like chinese attacking our place” is more like a lack of insight into themselves. Im sure HKers have their bad side too, the reason why mainlanders are more often captured doing rude things is just because HKers have this strong feeling of “get out of my place” and therefore amplified the behaviours of the mainlanders.

        If you say “Conventional thinking has always been the longer Hong Kong is part of China, the more Chinese it, and its people, will become….This propaganda is dangerous, because many Mainland people may believe it”..then i could say the way HKers propagate how rude mainlanders are is making HKers think all the mainlanders are the same, which is dangerous too. Because they value themselves higher than mainlanders. But have HKers ever tried to stop mainlanders doing “wrong things”? No they didn’t, instead, they took out their camera and captured what the mainlanders were doing..Is this gonna help mainlanders to improve their behaviours? Of course not! This is not going to change mainlanders’ behaviours and is not going to help improve the relationship between china and HongKong..Oh! I see..that’s what HK people want! they just don’t want mainlanders to be in HongKong, they focused on how bad and dangerous they are..Well even thought one day mainlanders are “good people”, will HKers accept them???

        • Kablee says:

          “But have HKers ever tried to stop mainlanders doing “wrong things”?”

          I don’t agree with your statement here. Let’s put waiting in line for MTR or to go into a store for example. While HK-ers wait patiently in line, the Mainlanders push themselves against the door and cuts in front of everyone else.

          I have once been in this type of situation. I politely asked them to wait, but what I get in return was getting hit by newspapers and ignorance. My grandparents with no education and came from Mainland in the 70s don’t even act like that.

          This isn’t about Mainlanders not getting adequately educated. This is simply ignorance and Mainlanders not treating HKers with respect.

          • Guest says:

            But when I politely asked them to stay in the Q they all did and even said “thank you”
            does your case apply for all other HKers? Have they all tried to persuade? or most of them just don’t do anything and just take a pic then post it online, making more people see it and they all agreed that mainlanders are rude and shouldnt be in hongkong, some of them even commented something like “fuxk all you chinese” or “fuxk your mother” …do u think its very “civilized” of the hongkong people to say in this way? :/
            what i meant by saying “But have HKers ever tried to stop mainlanders doing “wrong things” is that it would be much better for both sides to improve if HKers could kindly ask them not to do so instead of putting them on the internet. Triggering more angers isn’t the right thing to do and doesnt help this situation out. And thank you for reading and responding to my comment :)

          • Alice says:

            Great article. I think the Quebec analogy is spot on — a region can be a distinct part of a country. Since the country is so big, we don’t need to make all the regions exactly the same. That would be boring anyway, no?

            As for whether HKers have stopped mainlanders from doing something…I myself, am a 1980s HKer, and being who I am…I do voice up when I see anything bad done, like something skipping the line, etc.

            Once I have pointed out to a mainlander family that it is not right when they attempted to pass us in a Disneyland queue; however, the mother in that family decided to use Mandarin to yell at us for going “too slow” in the queue and wasting their time (in front of her child!) and refusing to apologize. She even tried multiple times to skip in front of us. She only stopped when she realized I understood everything she said and snapped back with Mandarin.

            Is that behavior acceptable? Attempting to defend a faulty behavior in front of a child and then refusing to apologize? That, right there, is teaching the child to not respect other people.

            I’m sure not all mainlanders are like that, and I have met nice people. However, more often than not, I meet ones who are loud, obnoxious, and impolite. Local HKers don’t speak up because sometimes it’s embarrassing to be the center of attention, but you can see their anger because they’ll all turn to stare at the offender. I do wish more people would speak up but Chinese core values kind of demand a respect for other people by not mentioning their faults in front of others. I think it is because of those values that a lot of HKers don’t speak up — in fact when I do, my friends would stop me and tell me maybe I shouldn’t make a scene like that because it’s a shame.

            Almost everyone I know has encountered a rude Mainland tourist (cutting lines, throwing trash, talking loud in places they’re not supposed to). I agree we’re busy city people who are hardly nice. But I think most HKers give others a basic sort of respect, and we are just expecting it in return.

            Just like most other people in the rest of the civilized world.

          • Tess says:

            we may be prejudiced – but not without a reason. If mainlanders have better manners, it may be easier for HKers to accept them. I’m born and raised in HK and I’ve seen all sorts of mainlanders – some of which are impressively polite, while the others do not seem to know what it really means to have manners. The other day while i was walking home i saw a mainland kid peeing on a closed fruit stall. a fruit stall, for goodness sake. i couldnt help but felt extremely disgusted. HKers may have wrongdoings as well but at least, i can tell you for sure that no HK kid would pee in the streets or on the MTR. and this is not about education – you dont have to go to school to learn about respect.
            and it’s not about totally about mainlanders “invading our territory” either. back in august i visited chimelong in panyu, guangzhou with my family and the shuttle bus was really crammed. then there was this mainland lady who kept pushing me. i politely asked her to stop pushing and she went all grumpy and pushed even harder. she even rested her arm on my shoulder (intentionally and definitely not in a friendly manner) and pushed me to the side when she had to get off. I believe that wouldn’t leave a very good impression to anyone – whether it happened in the mainland or in HK.
            I wouldn’t say it is appropriate for HK ppl express their dissatisfaction towards mainlanders using phrases like “fuxk your mother” but i guess all nations swear at times. And it is rather understandable. i mean, who wouldn’t be offended if they’re being described as “dogs”?
            i’m 17 and to be honest i’d rather consider myself a HKer.People are reluctant to call themselves Chinese and it doesnt happen without a good reason. we might be prejudiced, but i believe things may change – if mainlanders are able to prove that they’re not so barbarious after all.

        • admin says:

          No problem if you wish to translate it into Chinese! Go ahead. :-)

          • Born says:

            well, i am a local born and raised hker. i think you are so right about HKers seldom stop others ‘doing things’, i can say it is somehow a culture itself. we dont always give others a lesson, we think those people doing ‘wrong things’ will embarrass themselves.
            and of course, we do swear ‘fXXk your mom’ and so are other countries. that is normal. But one reason, hongkongers do not like mainlanders, i only refer for those acting wrongly (peeing or metro and so), is that they are consuming lots of benefits in Hong Kong and results that there are not enough for the locals like beds for labor. it is also undeniable that hong kong needs China. And A lot rich mainlander always say ‘if china does not help Hong Kong, Hong kong is doom.’ that makes hong konger feel bad, it also leads to a greater division.

        • anon says:

          Ok, this is going to be long.

          Little education does not translate into repulsive ‘manners’. Manners is a matter of respect – to respect people and their environment and the laws in HK. I’m sorry, but doing things like running over a 2 year old, running over people in the process of committing suicide at the MTR and peeing in the MTR is utter disrespect. Does the value of life really need to be TAUGHT? How about going to the washroom? There are designated areas for washrooms for a reason, NOT the public.

          It is not a job for the HKers to tell the Mainlanders to behave respectfully, but the job of China’s social systems. Taking out the camera only records a fraction of what has really happened in the real world. So you can’t really say that HKers never tried to stop them, that’s hard to believe. Anyone doing ANYTHING wrong, there will be people voicing out to stop them (with the exception of the China’s Yueyue case lol..). And hopefully posting videos online will give the Chinese government and the Mainlanders a wake up call on regulating their people better, after reflecting upon their revolting behaviour.

          And like all cultures, there are obviously bad sides to them… HK included. I won’t mention much as it is not the matter of discussion, but overly materialistic culture is surely one (hence “gong lui 港女”). But this isn’t really about the “bad” side of HK people. It’s about the invasion of Mainlanders into Hong Kong that makes the HK Chinese defensive about losing their culture, especially when there are those that AGREES HK should be speaking putonghua. This ‘invasion’ also brings the Mainland Chinese to take advantage of the HK system, purposely giving birth their and reaping the benefits of a HK born child. It’s also about the social differences of Mainlanders that aren’t just simply ‘different’, but also disgusting and unacceptable behaviour.

          They want to speak putonghua, fine. Don’t assimilate HK to be speak it. They are socially different, fine, every region would. Just don’t be nasty and brutish about it. And if they are originally like that, fine, don’t do that in HK where it’s unacceptable, do that back in Mainland China please. Like all tourists, they are living under Hong Kong rules, therefore they should conform, otherwise LEAVE. And HK rules are not hard to abide, really it is just common courtesy. But the Mainland Chinese has already violated that, and so yes, that IS why the HK Chinese want them OUT.

          So yes, as a HK Chinese I do want the Mainland Chinese out for all the reasons I gave. HK is our home and territory (hence we are an SAR), and we welcome guests (Mainland) in. But if they prove to be rude, then HK has all the right to want them to leave. The day that the Mainlanders become “good”, we will never know. It all depends if China will put any social rules in place.

          • Guest says:

            Dear anon,

            i think u get one point wrong.

            “HK is our home and territory (hence we are an SAR), and we welcome guests (Mainland) in. But if they prove to be rude, then HK has all the right to want them to leave”

            what do u think of the two videos?
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBnsaSgMuOU&feature=related

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnznKvSiTl0&feature=related

            Does your logic mean “only mainlanders doing wrong things” is wrong and HKers doing wrong things is okay and they can still stay in HK cuz its their home, they can do anything they want even if its wrong..

            well then just that i hope you understand the reason why you’re angry about mainlanders is “they are simply mainlanders”, not “they are doing wrong things”. Will you tell a HK guy to get out of HK if u see him being rude on the street? :/

          • Guest says:

            and btw, im not fighting for mainlanders or something like that, as a polite and well-educated mainlander with good manner, i also feel ashamed of my mainland compatriots.
            I am trying my best to tell them not to be like that anymore, i am publishing articles that promote decent behaviours and politeness on the newspaper.
            What i am saying is just i feel unfair because of the way HKers treat us. And i feel angry because some HKers are doing exactly the same thing as some mainlanders and they never get told off.
            Please do not consider all mainlanders to be ‘rude’. thank you.

        • Keith says:

          First of all, thanks to the author for such a great article, and for providing a place for open discussion.

          I am a local HKer born in the 1980s. What I feel is that HKers are afraid of, or are trying to defend themselves from, another wave of colonialism. The British started a localization move in the 1960-70s but that was interrupted by the handover. From the 1980s to the 1990s, the British were removing their influence bit by bit, and the PRC restricted themselves to remain an outsider at least until the very year of 1997. That gave HKers a relatively free environment and a sense of autonomy. PRC influence remained small after 1997 until 2003. On the one hand, the SARS-stricken economy resulted in CEPA and “free-roam tourists”. Some Mainlanders, officials and civilians alike, tend to think that Hong Kong would be doomed without PRC’s financial support. Yet they forget, or may not have been aware, that Hong Kong did and still do have strong economic ties with the UK, USA, Japan, France, Switzerland, Thailand, etc. On the other hand, the 2003 July 1 march alerted the PRC government that their previous political stance may have not been beneficial to themselves, and they responded by injecting higher doses of political influence. Now, HKers are afraid, or aware, of a gradual loss of identity (through increasing CCP influence) and culture (through the visitors’ misbehaviours and the SAR government’s slack policies). Not only abstract concepts like freedom and democracy, but also practical needs like food, babies’ milk, hospital places, school quotas, housing etc are all in peril because of the surging demand. This is what forces normally silent HKers to speak out and confront the Mainlanders. Yes, we can’t say all Mainlanders are bad, and labeling won’t help the situation. But we’re frustrated and desperate.

          About “correcting behaviours”, OK, when I first visited the Hong Kong Disneyland in 2009, a Mainland boy slid though the thighs of my female cousin and myself. With a firm tone, I questioned him why he had to “leap forward” like that. He was speechless and frightened, and retreated to his relatives. His relatives felt embarrassed and silenced the boy. Luckily that did not result in a YouTube video. But are all visitors that “easily-educatable”? There are cases where polite requests for proper behaviour resulted in screaming and yelling and swearing.

          There are PRC officials who think we are not “patriotic” enough; well, truly we don’t love the party, but we love our culture and our motherland, but that doesn’t fit the PRC’s definition of patriotism. There are people who question our loyalty; while they themselves are the ones who treat us like outsiders, e.g. rejecting our reporters from going into disaster scenes and government offices. We are just retaliating what they did to us, and what they thought of us.

          There is deep mutual distrust between people in the mainland and Hong Kong. We have a sense that we are better-off, we have a longer history (1842- vs 1949-), we have an independent and non-corrupt judicial system, we have our own international relationships, we have kept our culture while you have wiped out yours (including our common roots), why do we have to succumb to your rule? (“You” means PRC/CCP, not independent persons.) What do you have apart from money? A bloody history? A corrupt officialdom? An amputated culture? No I don’t need those. I don’t know about others but my personal feeling is that CCP is not qualified or well-prepared enough to rule such a complex society like Hong Kong. That is my observation of “deep-level contradiction”.

          Anyway, thank you “Guest”, I hope people in the Mainland truly understand what Hong Kong people think, and can adjust their expectations when they speak about or come to Hong Kong. I have friends who came from the Mainland, and now they are as considerate as an average HKer. I don’t want things to escalate to xenophobia.

        • Cecilie says:

          Excuse me? Hong Kong people “not educated”? Mainlanders in Hong Kong are seen as “rude” because Hong Kong people aren’t educated??? Please. Mainlanders come over to Hong Kong with a “we own the place” attitude, expecting, no, demanding that everyone must speak their language, acting as if they’re at home with the shouting, pushing and shoving, and of course smoking everywhere. For your information HK people aren’t made to work from they are 10 years old. They go to school but also know that nothing is free and that whatever they get must be earned. That’s why Hong Kong is successful. Not because of “we own it” mainlanders spending their ill-gotten gains to buy up the place.

        • HKer says:

          I’m HKer. Let me tell you something about education. My parents escaped from Mainland during 50′-60′. They survived themselves by being under-aged labour. They didn’t have much chance of going to school also, but they were well-behaved. My mother taught me to be polite, honest and considerate. I know how to queue up since I was a toddler. My mother taught me always say “thank you”, & “sorry/excuse me”. Being polite is nothing about school education. It’s something about how you SEE OTHER PEOPLE.
          For those Chinese big spenders, HK is a place for money laundry. And this is why they ask D&C stop us, HKers, to take picture even we are standing outside the shop. They just don’t want their face showing up on any media, even a snap shot. We hate them. I hate them. Those running in emergency room for giving birth are also disgusting. Ask any nurse or doctor working in ER and you will have A LOT OF very stunning stories. Don’t tell me they are not educated.
          After cultural revolution, people in Mainland are not the same. HKers are different not because we used to be under British governance. This is because people in Mainland never respect human any more, especially the new generations.
          Proof me wrong.

        • Wai C says:

          Thanks, Guest! I agree what you said. I was born and brought up in HK, while my mother was come from Mainland. Many of my relative lives in mainland, and they are kind to me. However, I did not agree with their value and what they did sometime. This is the matter of education, culture, norm of peers…..

          I also appreciate your point that HKers who said foul language, kept posting “bad side” of mainland people with any constructive move is kind of “not civilized” enough. It is a high time both of us to reflect what is the preferred choice to be a New Era Chinese. This is our mission in new century.

      • Andrew says:

        The “dye” is fixed :)

    • Priscilla says:

      Great article. I was born and raised in HK and moved to California when I was 13. I have always made sure to tell people that I’m from Hong Kong NOT China. I haven’t returned to HK since I moved and I thought by now, my mentality would be in the minority. However, looks like it’s still very much so the attitude.

      My husband is Caucasian and they always tell me “HK is part of China, so you’re from China.” Most Americans do not understand the disparity between HK and China and how truly different the cultures in HK and China are.

      While I don’t know in HKers are necessarily more “civilized” than Mainlanders, I do admit that our backgrounds are very different and I’ll never identify myself as a “China Chinese”.

    • Chan Chi Wai says:

      I am a Chinese American and have lived in America for over 20 years. I don’t like America. America now is like the dying Rome. I don’t like Hong Kong because my Hong Kong childhood was horrible. I was an outcast to put it mildly. Nothing has changed about Hong Kong, a very materialistic society. My parents were born in Hong Kong. I also hate my grandparents because they married off one of their daughters to a Chinese American so that they and we can one day live in America. Her daughter, my aunt, has been living a very unhappy life.

      I am pro China period. For the Hong Kong people to understand China they need to understand what socialism and communism did for China during the Japanese invasion. It reunited the country and empower the 95% of the peasant population. Being Chinese is more than practicing the tradition. It is also about understanding the political history of China. I know, Hong Kong people do not like the mainlanders. Hong Kong isn’t British. This is the shameful legacy since the territory was original sold to repay the English for the Opium War. I hate the English.

  2. [...] looks into the identity politics in Hong Kong in relation to mainland China, a motherland and a new colonizer. Tweet [...]

  3. Robert says:

    I did see some students at the July 1 March waving the old British Hong Kong flag.

  4. Fanny Lawren says:

    Well said. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I could feel the pain.

    I am now in New York. The “Chinese” issue is somehow different here. I guess it is not so much of Hong Konger vs Mainland Chinese, but more of “civilized” Chinese vs “undereducated” Chinese. Some situations could be very embarrassing. Say, you are in the theatre, and here it comes a group of loud Chinese tourists. Everyone looks at you assuming you are one of them. Worse, you are waiting for a cab (taxi), and there is a little Chinese boy peeping next the the fire hydrant. OMG!

    • WJ Zhang says:

      A blanket ridicule of a whole nation is a rather ironic way to demonstrate how ‘civilised’ you are.

      • Vincent says:

        While I cannot speak for Fanny, I would point out that it’s not blanket ridicule, but rather the dominant characterization of the Chinese nation. I would resent being lumped into that characterization too.
        Given, the best thing to do would be to create a more nuanced and unflattened characterization, but whether that’s a possibility in a place where Chinese is a minority group is another thing.

  5. Tenzin says:

    Just read your interesting article on democracy, where you mention that “Westerners” always say that Tibet is oppressed, China need democracy etc. However, you have changed your views after living in China for many years. Could you please expand on how your view on Tibet has changed while you have lived in China?

    In advance, thank you very much for your open discussion on these issues!

  6. Jeremy Yiu says:

    When people ask if I’m China, I tell them I’m from Hong Kong, they then ask “Isn’t Hong Kong a part of China?”
    My reply: “Yes we are a part of China, but we are also slightly separate as Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region, we’re different from the rest of China”;
    Then people ask if I’m Chinese, I tell them every time that “I’m ethnically Hong Kong Chinese, but NOT mainland Chinese”; There IS a difference!.
    With this article, I believe many people can start to understand why I say the things I say.

  7. alfred says:

    wow, this a great and well written article! it completely reflects the way I feel about the mainland as well . I would love to be able to feel proud about China but all those things just make me want to reject it more than I want it. thanks for the great read.

  8. derek328 says:

    This article pretty much says EVERYTHING that I feel and think about everytime ‘Hong Kong’ comes up, either as a thought or topic of discussion. It’s sad that most of the mainland Chinese population can be so oblivious to our existance and heritage, expecting us to conform to their ways as our new overlords. The city of Hong Kong and its people may buckle in financial and physical forms, but never at heart.

    And see what I did there? “mainland Chinese”? I decided to add the word mainland, just to double make sure people won’t see Hong Kong and China are the same.

    • Apple chan says:

      I wish H.K had never been returned to China. It is was a big mistake that the HK government opened the gates allowing mainland Chinese enterance to HK.

      • Brian says:

        Apple, if there was a ‘like’ button next to your comment then I’m sure there would be over 10,000 ‘likes’ by now as I have heard this comment so many times from friends and friends of friends. You have just said what is in the hearts of all HK people.

      • Guest says:

        If HK was never returned to China, our economy would never be what it is today. Yes, HK’s economy would be fine but it would not have experienced the massive growth in the past few decades that has led it to become the powerful economy it is today.

        • Jojo says:

          Hi! Guest,

          That’s the differences between the educated MLC & the Hongkonger. The MLC people alway say the determination with the history, like if Mao is not united the Chinese at that criticle moment. China won’t be got the staus of today. I could say the same way, if Mao were not ever rule China. China could hv a much better status now. Hong kong & China were in the situation of dependant each others since the days b4 the Opium War. We’re now talking about the phenomenon, that means it’s haapened & existed in reality. I live in this world more than 50 years. I can’t please everyone. If someone don’t like me. I never ask them to change their attitude to tailor me. If I need their respect(only if I hv to), I’ll change myself to earn their respect, but not the other way around. That’s the basic culture of Chinese, Am I right?

        • Brian says:

          Guest,
          I’m sure the ‘situation’ has got to the point where 90% of all Hong Kong people would be glad to live by just a ‘fine’ economy in exchange for HK not being handed back to China.
          It would be a small price to pay but very much worth it to all true Hong Kongers.

          • Chan Chi Wai says:

            The situation would never happen because Hong Kong lacks the power and military to fight for their independence. Hong Kong is too close to China. Also, by remaining separated from China, this means Hong Kong would still be under the British rule. It is inevitable for Hong Kong to return back to China.

    • Chris says:

      I hate when PRC people say, “Why don’t you just speak Putonghua and unite the language?” I want to say “Why don’t YOU speak CANTONESE!”

      • Julia says:

        Chris, your comment about Putonghua is stupid because in mainland China there are also so many Chinese dialects… Cantonese is simply one of them. ‘Putonghua’ is NOT the native tongue for most of mainland Chinese people. But in China all educated people learn Putonghua to be able to speak with each other. Putonghua is not a natural Chinese dialect, it’s not Beijing Hua, it’s not Shanghainese… it’s simply what they decided to be ‘the’ Chinese language for all Chinese people. I love Cantonese but I agree to the idea that, now that Hong Kong belongs to China again, they also should learn Putonghua. And actually all my HK friends learn it now… so what’s the big deal.

      • Guest says:

        dude PRC people never wanted you to speak Putonghua and unite the language. But the HK-Mainland businesses are getting bigger, some HK people learn Putonghua as a skill to get a better job.
        We respect every language and it is up to u whether to learn/speak it or not..
        I speak both fluently, btw.

    • Heidi says:

      Well, look at it this way. In different cities and villages in China, there are different dialects that is special for those Chinese regionally – Shanghai has Shanghai-ese for say. Similarly, Hong Kong (and Macau) speaks Cantonese as their own special dialects. Since both Special Administrative Regions have been separated from China for a long period of time, they have adopted Cantonese over Chinese. No one should be blaming anyone for speaking their own dialects in their provinces, right? Same should be for Hong Kong and Macau residents.

      As for double identity, since we have a different government infrastructure, a different education system and a slightly different law code under the PRC, shouldn’t we add that we are from Hong Kong? Since that we are “one country, two rules”, shouldn’t we state that we are the “second rule”? HK and Macau are in many ways different than Mainland China.

      • Rita says:

        Agree with your way of putting Cantonese and other regional dialects together – true that there’s nothing wrong with speaking ones own dialect (esp when they do live in the region). And it’s out of communication – financial too – needs that HK-ers start to learn Putonghua. It’s very depressing to see open attempts again the usage of traditional Chinese and the Cantonese dialect…wonder if you know about the appearance of simplified Chinese notices in some northern districts in Hong Kong.

        • Nick Fung says:

          Cantonese is not a “dialect”. A dialect of what? Putonghua? Noooo.

          I use a simple test to tell the difference between a language and a dialect: Does it need subtitles to be understood?

          For example, speakers of the Hokkaido dialect in Japan can be interviewed on the TV news without subtitles, because standard Japanese speakers can understand them. It’s a dialect; a variation.

          That’s not the case with Putonghua and Cantonese (or most other Chinese languages, especially Min). One is not subordinate to the other — they are separate languages.

  9. [...] know we have our personal grudges* and our inner struggles, but I love you really. Where else would you find a metro that has consistent cell phone signal and [...]

  10. in agreement says:

    Thank you for taking the words out of my mouth.

  11. Matt E. says:

    Great article, thank you.

    I was born in Hong Kong a few years before the Handover to a British expat and a local. I would advocate separation, but that is only a dream for the foreseeable future. China’s infiltration into the SAR has made it harder for me to be proud of HK; current and future generations born after the Handover will most likely be ignorant of HK’s British heritage. This is what saddens me.

    I think it was a mistake on the part of the British to hand over its best colony… but what else could they have done, besides not honoring the 99-year lease? It’s a hard question. By the time 2047 rolls around (which is when the SAR status runs out), I will be watching from the West..

    • Cheryl Y. says:

      Interesting
      I was born a year before the handover to my parents whose parents whose parents were probably from mainland (i don’t know about my dad’s parents, but my mother’s parents escaped to Hong Kong to avoid the Revolution)

      I don’t really like the way China treats Hong Kong. Mainlanders use this place and are lowering the worker’s wages, as well as increasing Hong Kong’s already large population of people, basically reshaping Hong Kong’s originality.

      • Rita C. says:

        ha…seems like the article is getting the attention from different generations of HK-born. Receiving primary education in the last British colonial years and secondary education after the return was quite an experience for me – recalling the edu. syllabus (esp for world and chinese history) it wont be difficult to tell what the governors were presenting/ educating the younger generation. History could be narrative.

        @Cheryl Y. – As said in the article I would say China is diluting the identity of Hong Kong and acquiescing the infiltration of Mainland Chinese in multiple ways: politically (no doubt, and just too obvious), socially (population influx) and most irreversibly, through financial channels…it’s tying Hong Kong and the Mainland closer and closer.

      • guest says:

        Interesting how you make the point about Mainland Chinese people lowering the worker’s wages in Hong Kong, as I’ve been hearing a lot from my colleagues in Hong Kong about how the richer section of Mainland Chinese society inflating everything in Hong Kong (i.e. residential, food). This would make it harder for anyone who are below the poverty line in Hong Kong (HKer or Mainland migrant) to make a living.

        It’s a great matter of concern how the influx of Mainland Chinese is also introducing their society’s rich-poor divide to Hong Kong.

  12. JM says:

    Great article! My parents were born in Mainland China, but left ASAP, going to college in the West. After earning degrees, they decided they had to move ‘home’ – to Chinese culture – but though they absolutely refused to return to China, they had no qualms living in Hong Kong. That decision sums up the Hong Kong/China divide. Hong Kong is not China. Hong Kong has the best of both worlds: a Chinese culture that predates Mao and the modernity of the Western World.

    Hong Kongers are proud of being Chinese. But this Chinese heritage has nothing to do with the regime in China. 我係香港人,拒絕再殖民!

  13. Chris says:

    I’m a bit of an anomaly. I’m of Chinese descent but I’m an American who grew up as an expatriate in Hong Kong. Even if I don’t speak Cantonese at all, I still identify as an HK-er. The British influence is one of the most important parts of our heritage, as it combines, in my opinion, the best of both Western and Asian cultures. Premier Hu Jintao’s attempt to infuse China and the world with “Chinese” culture (as a response to Hollywood and other Western art being more popular in the mainland) is trying to reverse damage already caused – damage that was avoided in HK and even foreign Chinese communities, where the traditions have endured unhindered, even in an ever-evolving world.

  14. TanyaS says:

    I was born and raised in HK but my whole clan packed up and immigrated to Australia (I’ve lived in Sydney for almost 30 years now). My greatgrandparents fled China during the war, and every generation since has been trying to avoid China. This is quite sad, considering we’re ethnic Chinese but why ? Because we don’t trust China. My dad told me even when he was just a schoolboy, he knew he had to immigrate to another country once he grew up because ‘one day HK will go back to China’. Everything this article has said pretty much sums up how I feel. I’m proudly Australian but I’m HK CHINESE ! We contniue to celebrate our heritage here. Sadly too many of the mainlanders have also come here, bringing with them their lack of civility. I work in a medical clinic and Mainlanders walk in and DEMAND that someone speak putonghua to serve them (last I checked this is an English-speaking country). When you tell them all appointments are full, they say ‘I’ll pay you whatever you want, I want to be seen by NOW!’ I don’t think I’m going to accept them as equals anytime soon.

    • Sabrina says:

      Well said! I have the similar background as yours! I dislike or you can say HATE the regime but I’m proud of being Hong Kong Chinese!

    • Anna says:

      ugh. I totally agree with you, I’m from Melbourne and pretty much have the same background as you. I completely reel when I see the way a mainland Chinese person behaves when out and about. It’s excruciatingly embarrassing and people will look to you as well to see if you are just as uncivilised as they are.

      Most Chinese people aren’t exactly mean but they do need to learn some patience, courtesy and politeness, especially in public. Or…gtfo.

  15. anonymous says:

    This has gone viral in my community of friends – we are all international students, who are just finishing up at university (mostly abroad).

    Every time we come back to visit home, it feels like we are being jostled out of our own city. Things that I love most about Hong Kong are really different now – I can’t remember the last time I walked up to a near-empty Admiralty mtr station, or didn’t have to be herded by mtr workers in Causeway Bay because of crowd control. I stay away from Disneyland and Ocean Park because that’s where the density of offenders is highest – shopping malls like Sogo (that I used to have a love-hate relationship with because it is so old and quintessentially HK) are also a general no-go.

    It’s a real, real shame. None of my mainland Chinese friends abroad want to be associated with this either – it’s ironic, really. The one thing that would ease my feelings about this (read: being shoved and elbowed out of my beloved city by mobile suitcases and their carriers on the street – seriously, why?) is if our visitors were a little more gracious. Hi, I don’t really want to hear your conversation. And yes, I was in the queue before you (and you, and you). No, this is not your playground.

    The great thing about this article is that it can appeal to everyone in different ways. Most of my friends quote a different paragraph when they recommend it.

    • Chris says:

      And no, the playground isn’t your bathroom… Neither is the train… or the sidewalk…

      It would also help for them to remember that they’re visiting another city, albeit in the same country. It’s not like the rest of the Mainland – or why else would they visit?

      @ Anon-You’re right about Sogo. Went shopping there over Christmas break… and… well. Mainlanders kept shoving me out of the way to get what they wanted. You’re also right about Disneyland (saw a little kid drop his shorts and let loose on the train platform.) Remember the time when we’d queue up and wait for Snoopy toys at McDonald’s? We’d wait for HOURS! And it was totally worth it. If McDonald’s ever tried to pull that I highly doubt there’d be lines. Just mobs.

  16. TheAmzingRacist says:

    Chinese Japanese… They All look the same. peeessshaaa

  17. British Hong Kong - Chinese says:

    I will not cease from Mental Fight,
    Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
    Till we have built Jerusalem,
    In England’s green & pleasant Land
    – Lyrics from Jerusalem

    It is a sad day when our government attempts to wipe away our Colonial past. It may be humiliating to be subjected to colonialism. However, to totally forget the merits of British Administration and the fruits it has brought us, we Hong Kongers will lose our heritage and history. Let us salvage our past to make a better future. I was born in ’91 yet I am still loyal to her Majesty the Queen. I am British Hong Kong Chinese. The status can never change, not a word more or less. I was born this way and God forbid I lose either part of who I am. God Bless Hong Kong, China and the United Kingdom.

  18. anonymous says:

    Really like this article because it articulated some of my thoughts after my recent holiday in HK & Taiwan. I’m from Singapore. Chinese. born & bred in Singapore.

    Started to like HK after this holiday because HK just had that buzz, vibes, excitement that Singapore doesn’t have. Taiwan is a little less exciting than HK, but it doesn’t have Mainland Chinese running all over the place. Singapore is the worst. Boring & with lotsa mainland Chinese who have become permanent residents.

    “More than one Hong Konger has told me the D&G controversy has less to do with the retailer, and more to do with pent up anger at Mainland Chinese.” — Sounds familiar. Last year Singapore’s election was described as a watershed election. (I like to think that) Mainland Chinese migrants was one of the major issue leading to several seats for PAP in the parliament because they issue too many permanent residency to Mainland Chinese citizens, resulting in a lot of social issues, crimes, causing transportation system & housing system to be overwhelmed.

    I think ‘locust’ best describes mainlanders, stripping away everything good and leaving behind everything bad, wherever they go, be it HK or Singapore. Taiwan still doesn’t has it so bad because there is still tension between China & Taiwan.

  19. anonymous says:

    I agree with this article, I live in Hong Kong, I would like to be proud to be chinese. But sometimes, I cannot. There are too many mainland chinese where ever I go, and their lack of manners and ignorance of others puts me to shame. Like what others have said, people assumes that you’re a mainlander when you’re next to them when you’re not. Then they treat you like a mainlander without respect when hey, i’m not even mainland and I don’t even want to be related to them but i have no choice but to accept that i’m chinese.

    The recent surge in chinese mothers rushing down to hong kong to have their kids and ensure that they get the hk passport is utter bull. I can’t believe they would do that just to gain a hk passport. And the fact that China is flooding hk with mainlanders isn’t really a good thing, the property prices, overcrowding, long working hours at hospitals are just some of the problems that we hong kongers face.

    I hope some of you has seen the youtube video uploaded march ’11 about mainland chinese (www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoA-QA9OhXg). Sorry if the video is in chinese, but it expresses a lot of my anger and frustration at the growing ignorance that the mainlanders display. The chinese government isn’t really helping much either, when recently University of Hong Kong did a study on what people found themselves to be and most Hong Kongers said they were Hong Kongers instead of Chinese, the PRC government thrashed the study. I mean come on, as a government I’d expect you to act with more restraint especially when you are under INTERNATIONAL spotlight.

    and one more thing to add, I hate the attitude of ‘I have the money, I can do whatever sh** i want to’ that the mainlanders display. I mean, this phrase should apply here ‘When in Rome, do as Romans do’.

    • TanyaS says:

      Just watched the video – almost felt like crying. China is running a different kind of imperialism by buying up everything everywhere – who needs to send soldiers to fight wars when you can just buy out others and use them as slaves. Something’s got to give at some point.

    • Julia says:

      Once I heard that some Chinese parents fly to HK to get their kid a HK passport is because this way they can have more than one kid. One kid can be a mainland Chinese but every other kid must have another citizenship. China should quickly stop this crazy, unhealthy one-child-family situation!

  20. Ginger says:

    Maybe it’s time to let rude people know their behaviour isnt welcome – its not hard to say something, esp if others will back you up. But as HKers, they might not…

  21. Nicola says:

    intact…vs in tact…I think the former’s more appropriate given the context you used it in.

  22. Bryan Lo says:

    Thanks for understanding, it really means a lot. :)

  23. Lived in Hong Kong for just over five years and now in Singapore. I agree with much of what you have written (though the comment that “people say sorry if they bump into you” did not ring true). Yours is a good analysis.

    As much as I like Hong Kong, I’m pessimistic about the city’s future. I believe the border will disappear, well before 2047 and Hong Kong will become increasingly unliveable for all bar the wealthiest, be they Chinese or expats. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that seems to me to be the inevitable direction of current policies.

  24. J.L. says:

    Let’s face it. If the Mainland weren’t mostly Han, or if Overseas Chinese weren’t mostly Han, we would be a bunch of tremendously racist people! Did that Singaporean commenter just refer to Mainlanders as “locusts”?

    The best way I can frame the mindset is this: we’re aristocracy, Mainlanders are commoners. A few million of us, a billion of them (the numbers make us feel special). We’re civilised, educated, well-mannered. Wealthy. They’re rude, uncultured, poor and dirty. And in recent years, damned nouveau riche impostors!

    But, come now. Weren’t we just the same a few generations ago? Were our ancestors not the same peasants, farmers and traders, fishermen and labourers, and possibly failed anti-Manchu rebels of yore? Did not our parents and grandparents raise us up from poverty to where we are today? And isn’t this the kind of ill-treatment we usually reserve for Filipinos?
    Let us give them a chance to better themselves, at least. If our former authoritarian masters can marry a Kate Middleton, after all, then why not our new ones?

  25. J.H. says:

    This is such a good post. As a first-year university student away from Hong Kong for the first time, it’s immensely frustrating to have to explain to people that I am NOT from China. Hopefully this will help a bit.

  26. Eva says:

    This is a great article! I agree with most of things that the post says.
    I am from mainland China and I have lived in the US for five years since Freshmen year in college. When I came to the US, I had to re-learn table manners and conversation etiquette. I still am learning all kinds of manners. I more of less understand the frustration of people in Hong Kong, because I have some American friends whom are close and frank enough to tell me that some manners that mainland Chinese people have are unbearable. At first, it was painful to hear. But after a while, I got used to it and can face it more or less objectively. After all, it is true.

    My position is that cultures influence each other. If HKers think their culture is more civil, more authentic, more Chinese, they should insist on living the way they like. HK culture will influence mainland. Propaganda from the mainland government is not going to go anywhere. Anyone who goes to HK will recognize the propaganda is wrong anyway. Hong Kong is already a highly attractive place to go for high education and work. People go their to be educated and influenced. The culture, the food is popular all over the world. Mainland China is opening up to the world and HK is only going to help speed up the process. While it is frustrating to have kids pee in the subway, HK does enjoy the benefit of booming business brought by tourists from mainland China.

    • Tom Wong says:

      Mainland Chinese are the bad blood in Hong Kong. Most are rude and are not educated. Hong Kong was much better off as a British colony even without business from China.

    • Eddie says:

      I wish every Mainlander was like you, in fact, I think both sides need people that can think objectively and without prejudice, but at the same time however, Hong Kong should definitely be left well enough alone. Some of the stuff posted a while ago by Weibo users about the Dolce incident disgusted me, I couldn’t believe the sheer narcissism and arrogance displayed and I’m sorry, but no matter how large your economy is, no nation should present itself to the world’s stage without acknowledging its own problems and taking steps to rectify them.

  27. hearts says:

    Great article; I’ve been pointing out a lot of these observations to my friends as well.

    fix: ‘nearly every block’

  28. Jaime T. says:

    Thank you for sharing! I really like this post and I like readings different opinions on this identity crisis.

    When someone ask me where I’m from.. I tell them I’m Chinese and I’m from Hong Kong. HK is part of China and is a former British Colony.

    What you said about your friend being ignorant about safety in China is not unheard of. I think people should embrace China with an open mind. I LOVE CHINA. I love Beijing! Most people there are very civilized and they treat you the way you should treat anyone. I would love to work there or live there sometime in my life. I would love to go back just to experience the local culture again.

    I don’t have a problem with tourists from Mainland China coming to HK to shop or enjoy their time. My friend once told me how she hates Mainland Chinese tourists and bumping into these tourists everywhere speaking Mandarin and how some boutiques provide better service to tourists than to HK citizens. To be honest, I was not only shocked, but also kind of angry at how she said it. I think it’s perfectly fine for chinese tourists to go wherever they go, since China is going through some major economic development and having said that it’s the world’s fastest growing economy. If you have the money to buy what you want, you are a consumer. Other people cannot change that title, therefore you cannot stop wealthy Chinese tourists from shopping in HK.

    The only thing I wish to see is the change in the behaviors of mainland Chinese tourists. I was walking out of a MTR exit once, the first thing that came into my sight as I walked up the stairs was a butt. A kid’s butt. He was peeing on the sidewalk. Great. That was definitely not what you want to see before you have lunch. I think the Chinese government should work on stuff like spitting and defacating in public, what’s acceptable in parts of China are not acceptible in HK. That’s one of my wishes. The other wish is that I hope my friends and fellow HK citizens can find a way to cooperate and change the look in their eyes from hatred to friendliness.

  29. Kenny says:

    Great piece. I think the survey pointed out some home truths about the status of identity in HK today. I think most people who are HK born or part of the HK diaspora will readily identify themselves as HK Chinese rather than just Chinese (with its implicit inclusion of the rest of China) and in some ways this is regrettable. If you ask the average American or Brit where they are from they will usually say ‘New York’, ‘Jersey’, ‘Slough’ etc, a certain amount of civic pride is natural, however they would probably also be equally happy calling themselves American, or English (not so much British, as there is also some peculiar pride/prejudice thing going in with the home nations), but certainly none would be at pains to point out that they were London-English or Houston-American etc. I think that says a lot more about the Chinese govt more than anything else. There is a mixture or pride and shame when one invokes their Chinese identity, one of heritage, which one can probably be proud of, but then there is also the pall of the communist era, from which we are only beginning to emerge from. hence, if given a choice, HK people, when claiming to be HK Chinese, really claim 2 things: I have Chinese heritage, and was born/live in a free society, and this interpretation is clearly different from what the mainland commissars have in mind. The knee jerk reaction from China is evidence of this interpretation gap.

  30. JK says:

    It’s no point to discuss if HK can return to the good old time during the colonial period. And don’t forget the fact that the ‘good old time’ was created by the HK people but not the British. Nevertheless, the British built a platform, a fair environment for the HK people to proliferate the idiosyncrasy that they possessed.
    In fact, I totally agree the observation that the Chinese government is in attempt diluting our long-exist culture does exacerbate the segregation and allow hatred fire-up.
    I hope the situation will gradually improve, I love my home city. Never find one that efficient, organise, yet fun and diversify.

  31. trent says:

    Reverse racism. Can’t seem to feel hopeful for Hong Kong’s future.

  32. Ivan Wong says:

    To all those who responded to this article, here is my take and comments on the various responses.

    Firstly, I am an Australian Citizen for some 42 years of Chinese ancestry, the old Canton, but was born and bred in Malaysia. Whilst the post articulated very valid concerns of Hong Kong residents about being overrun by Mainland Chinese, I believe most residents have an inherent fear of the unknown. That is being overrun by these rude and uneducated tourists.

    I have since the mid nineties visited HK nearly every year as I have my wife’s families in HK. My observations over these years can be summed up below.

    1) Yes, there are certainly many more Putonghua speaking people on the streets whether they are from Mainland China or anywhere else, I do not know. I personally can neither read or write Chinese. I can only use very basic Cantonese.
    2) So these Mainland Chinese are rude and pee on the MTR. I have not had the displeasure of witnessing this. However, and dependent on the child’s age, one might be more sympathetic to excuse such occurrence. What is this poor little kid to do? Wet his pants, I suppose. I am not making any excuse for this action.
    3) Culturally, it is perhaps acceptable in the Mainland where sanitation for the public at large is still a problem to pee anywhere when the urge desperately require relieve. When I was growing up in Malaysia, as a young boy, I had also peed on the streets. However, my Australian experience and my growing up certainly tells me that such actions are unacceptable no matter where one lives. I do not believe that these tourists are necessarily rude or uneducated.
    4) Since time immemorial, economic refugees to far away land are part of the human desire to better one’s life with the eternal hope to provide a better existence for one’s family from it’s root. My dearest father left Canton as sixteen year old boy to seek a better life in Malaysia. He was uneducated and worked as a labourer to ultimately provide his family of 11 surviving children to be now in all corners of the world. The point I am making is perhaps related to the discomfort of HK residents to the influx of Mainland Chinese taking over their jobs and create greater demands of HK infrastructure. That is totally understandable. This fear do create the notion that HK Chinese is better than the uneducated and rude Chinese from the Mainland.
    5) China is in my opinion the most influential economic power now. When China sneezes, we suffer a very bad dose of the cold. THE GFC that had pervaded the world is on the brink again of a second coming due to the malaise of the Eurozone. If I was a HK citizen, I would welcome the hordes of Mainland Chinese to my shores to fire up economic demands in hotels and all industries dependent on tourism. In respect of rude Chinese, the Chinese from Mainland or Hong Kong do not have a mortgage on rudeness. When one thinks about these so called wealthy Chinese tourists, perhaps through their new found wealth, they are being pampered in their own environment hence carrying that expectation when they travel. It is up to each and everyone of us to “educate” them on manners and etiquette if we see them acting inappropriately. I am sure in time, these tourist will also learn as they travel wider than just HK.

    In summary, I would just like to say that the some of prejudices that I have read in some respondents comments are perhaps best kept for another day. Bearing any grudge is counter productive. One must try and be more forgiving and give the benefit of doubt to those that we do not understand. Political refugees and economic refugees and swarming this earth and the West is bearing the brunt of these terrible a happenings.

    Live and let live. The fortunate ones like myself who through my eternal debt to my parents have been given the opportunity to have a better life must not forget our roots.

    Cheers to all and wishing you all a very peaceful and safe Year of the Dragon.

  33. WesternGirl says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I am a Canadian HK Chinese teenager and I have always described the difference between HK Chinese and Mainland Chinese to be similar to the difference between Americans and Canadians, albeit less severe.
    I’ve even had experiences with Mainland Chinese in other countries like France (most recently this christmas). They are incredibly loud and rude and just refuse to follow the rules in other countries. I was waiting in line at the longchamp store in Paris to pick up my purchase after i paid and this mainland couple were behind me. They wanted to pick up their purchase right away after they paid so they just decided to cut right in front of me and shove their ticket in the clerk’s face. And since all the salespeople were french, they had no idea how to tell to wait, they just didn’t understand the concept of a line and thought because they made a much more substantial purchase than I did, they deserved to be served before me. I thought it was completely ridiculous and I told the man to “wait a sec” in mandarin to which he responded that he didnt understand (but he totally did) in mandarin. But by then I got my purchase and I left.
    Mainland Chinese tourists just have the worst reputation around the world, which is just sad.

    • Chloe says:

      I am also a Canadian HK Chinese but in my 20s now. I had the same encounter as you in Paris, it is mind boggling how they think money grant them the way ahead of everybody else. Behaviors like these are the exact reasons why frustration build up and perhaps leading to resentment among people.

      My friend works at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Canada here described encountering a group of Mainland Chinese that would yell at the speaker, in Mandarin, “chicken bun”. I would think it is basic manners for one who is living, staying temporarily or even visiting another country to pick up local customs and at least make an effort to speak their language. I feel that HK Chinese feel more strongly about this because in other countries, people can’t tell the difference and often associate us the same.

      I am proud of my heritage as a HK Chinese, and I would explain the difference between that and a Mainland Chinese to my colleagues here in Canada at every occasion I can.

      Great read though, thank you.

  34. [...] Blog is back to writing about China, which is a good thing: Chinese officials are primarily incensed because the trend is going the wrong way. Conventional [...]

  35. Kevin B says:

    I’m was born and grew up in Southern California. I dare say I know how you guys feel :)

  36. Fabienne says:

    The comparison of Hong Kong being to China as Quebec is to Canada is perfect. Good blogpost.

  37. Eugene says:

    I truly identify with the sentimentality with the writer. I grew up in HK the first 15 years of my life (the first 7 being under the jurisdiction of the British Queen,) and went on to study in Canada and now in New York over the past 7 years. The context from within and without gave me a pretty good view of the things that I like and dislike regarding my identity as a Chinese, and as Chinese person from Hong Kong.

    My personal thought is that the Chinese government, as per their usual way of pushing through their agendas in their typical heavy-handed way, is driven by a sense of pride (naturally and understandably so) and entitlement (which is what the seed of the conflicts seems to lie.) Such entitlement that they project onto the “ownership of Hong Kong”, I feel, is the source of many misunderstanding and passive (and sometimes more active) aggressions between the members of the two. Ownership and an attempt to wash down a culture should be differentiated. I personally have no problem identifying myself as Chinese, and with some pride and a sense of humor too. Yet when people ask me if I’m from China, I would point out the distinct cultural differences between Hong Kong and mainland China. (Pardon my ignorance, as I am not well versed in identity politics…) From my impression, Mainland Chinese government and citizens, tend to have suppressed images that they don’t like by force – covering up all the shit, i.e. corruption, that happens, and propagandize a very artificial and single-dimensional image. This suppression does not work in a culture where the (HK) population is brought up in an international context and is savvy about the history and the society they live in, sans censorship. Most of the said youtube video conflicts seem to be ignorant people from both sides insulting with very weak argumentative basis, and the Mainlander always ends in screaming that HK is going down and Mainland economy is in the rise… which is true, and the HK local would complain about how uncivilized their behaviors are… which is also true at times. And those stereotypes do come from somewhere, and HK-ers did have a history of a sense of privileged entitlement in the past– in freedom, in a stable and prosperous society, and in being a prestigious, high-status international center. Yet mainlanders nowadays come with a sense of entitlement and money to spend, expecting that people in HK will bend over to please where the money comes from. And when HK-ers point out behaviors that are not generally accepted in the city, the mainlanders-in-question tend to brag about how HK is now a part of China, and how they bring economic stimulation to Hong Kong. And that exchange tend to be without any respect for the history and traditions of Hong Kong, clouded by said sense of entitlement. With that said, if a Mainlander, with all the behaviors that are accepted in (certain parts of) Mainland but not in any big international cities like HK, with a slight sense of respect for travelling to someone else’s home and respect the customs there, like I would when I travel to a foreign country, that friction has to be reduced significantly, and HK people would be more welcoming to both their visit and their financial sprees.

    The rudeness / entitlement I perceive from certain individuals from the Mainland can contribute to 1) their sudden growth in wealth and status, that propels them to attempt to claim things aggressively and try to out-”posh” other people with a sense of entitlement, which is the part that turns most HK people off; yet 2) they carry with them a baggage of historical suppression in freedom and the difficulty to break out of that mold under a corrupted and suppressing governance – in the past, at least – I do not know much about the current Chiense government and wish that is it sans corruption and one that operates with a hint more humility. If the mainlanders travel to HK with the awareness of a cultural differences, respect the way people has been living the past 100 years, and be a little more humble, I bet Hong Kong will be a much, much more welcoming place to them.

    With that said, which may make me sound like an ignorant, elitist kid from Hong Kong who uses “us” and “them”- I have made quite some friends over the years from mainland whilst abroad, and I have no problem, and even a sense of pride, associating myself with them as friends and colleagues and as a people that come from the same roots. The mainlanders who I call friends possess a great respect of the world and others who inhabit in it, they are humble, nice and courteous – characteristics that are traditionally a staple of the Chinese identity.

    I think both sides need to learn something we teach in most kindergartens – mutual respect, sense of humility/humbleness and seeking understanding empowered by knowledge of others. A transparency that acknowledges cultural differences rather than covering them up and try to advance an agenda that only one side wishes to advance versus the attempt to dilute a culture and try to reinforce an ownership that is already a fact, will probably greatly lubricate the conflicts and friction between two merging cultures. And I wish to carry more pride saying that I’m a Chinese, as well as the great traditions and culture that is uniquely from Hong Kong, a place where I grew up.

    Just my 2 cents!

    • Eugene says:

      please pardon my grammatical mistakes as I didn’t proof read when I typed this in a whim… and don’t even try to attack how I’m not civilized b/c of a few grammatical errors (as I often see on youtube, attacking HK governmental officials… that’s just petty.)
      thanks!

  38. Charles Liu says:

    I for one would like to remind those HKer who better identify themselves as British – remember how your imperial master treated you back in the hand-over days? No dog tag/UK passport for you.

    • Kris says:

      Charles, you are right – British imperial master. Since HKers /were/ the subject, it would make sense if the British did mistreat ua, because they are the “superior” foreigner – not to mention that we were not treated /that/ badly under the colonial rule. Consider India and Singapore, the former British colony, and we are treated the same way too.

      But how would you feel when your supposed ancestor of your own race, who promises to treat you nicely, ended up swallowing their words? How would you feel when you are discriminated in your own land? How would you feel when your rights (let’s say freedom of speech), which is given by the “merciless imperial master”, are taken by your own race?

      Not to mention, Hong Kong would still be a small, insignificant fishing village if we were not colonised by the British. The Chinese government, regardless of its dynasty, would not give a damn to the southernmost village of the barbarian Canton. Would China even cared to take us back if we were not one of the most prosperous financial centre of the world (and Macau’s amazing Gambling industry)?

      I lived 14 years under the SAR governance and I still preferred the days of my early childhood. Dear sir, I could hardly be convinced that you are able to sympathise with the pain that we bear.

    • Peter says:

      What are you talking about? My relos got UK passports – British National Ov…oh wait it has European Union on top, oh what’s that??

  39. RG says:

    I’m originally from the U.S. but I’ve lived, worked, and traveled throughout the Pearl River Delta (including HK) for the last several years, and the majority of my colleagues are from Hong Kong or Guangdong. That HK is different should be readily apparent to any visitor, Mainland Chinese or foreign. While living in Guangzhou, I’ve always been glad to have Hong Kong nearby as a respite of civility and modernity. I have a great appreciation for the distinctly Hong Kong Chinese culture, including the food, language, traditions, and holidays that can only be found in Hong Kong and some overseas Chinese communities.

    It is said to watch the CCP turn Hong Kong into a giant amusement park/shopping mall, and unfortunately, the HK government is complicit, letting the property development cartel run amok with luxury apartments and expensive retail. As usual, Hemlock says it better than I can:

    “The deluge of Mainland tourists and money, and higher rents, and the subsequent crushing of independent retailers serving local inhabitants has been going on for a good 10 years, and it is if anything getting worse. Mainland mothers giving birth here and stripping supermarket shelves of non-adulterated baby formula add to the alienation. And then all these Mainland investors buy up local apartments to leave empty, while Hongkongers can’t afford to live or start a business in their own city. The property interests evict, knock-down and rebuild to rake in yet more money, while the rest of the Big Lychee gets swept aside as an irrelevance…Britain kept Hong Kong relatively insulated from Beijing right to the end. Hence the irritating opinion polls on citizens’ identity, and hence the growing refusal to accept D&G-Mainlander imperialism and the developer-Tsang regime conspiracy to smother the city in Mandarin-speaking, simplified character-using shopping malls.”

    via The Big Lychee, http://biglychee.com/blog/2012/01/10/unprecedented-constitutional-setting-gets-grouchy-in-unexpected-ways-part-4203/

  40. Charlie says:

    If I were from Hong Kong, I would not call myself Chinese, I would say I’m from Hong Kong. The difference between the two is blatantly obviously – Hong Kong locals are from a cultured and worldly place, whereas Mainland Chinese have been subject to a lifetime of propaganda. It’s not their fault, but they are tragically uncultured. I’m seven years into Mainland China, speak Chinese and take bi-annual trips to Hong Kong.

  41. VancouverHKer says:

    I stand by every word you said.

  42. HK_LOL says:

    I find it funny how Hong Kong locals consider themselves well-mannered. Yes, compared to most of the tourists from mainland, they are, but HK locals are still far less well-mannered compared to Western civilizations. I see a fair share of HK locals pushing/jumping the line to get into the MTR, not giving up their seats for elders/pregnant ladies, speaking loudly so everyone around them can hear them, etc.

    I’ve been to other places in Asia (including cities in mainland China) with people waiting in line to get into the subway in a much more civilized way than most HK locals. At least they would wait till people in the subway finish getting off before entering, unlike HK locals.

  43. Andy says:

    This article resonated a lot of my sentiments after my return visit to Hong Kong this past winter. It pains me to no end to see the gradual decline of the Hong Kong economy and civility beneath the deluge of “Mainlander” influence. Yes, Hong Kong heritage is under threat of being diluted, but this is not the first time that an influx of Mainlanders threaten to affect the identity of this little “fishing village”. What is the great divide this time round, however, is the level of wealth paired with lack of discipline and ethics that is driving the “infiltration”.

    If we were to look back, there is a significant number of Hong Kongers whose grandparents and parents fed China during the 50′s and 60′s. Conversely, only a selected few can claim themselves aboriginals/ original denizens tracing back even further than Qing dynasty. The reality is, under whichever rule, we will always face such “dilution”. The question is then how to preserve the flow without disruption of the “civility” and “heritage” that so defines Hong Kong.

    The unifying factor was a common interest to help each other out. If anything, Hong Kong was a place where the West and East met with civility, and where Chinese traditions, values and core believes were observed at the same time. It did take British several years to educate out the “spitting in the streets, littering on the whim etc.” that was characteristics of the crass “Chinamen”. It was done nonetheless, through patience, education and necessary regulations. (we should be grateful that our laws were not as strict as those in Singapore, although I am personally not opposed to them if it is what is necessary to reign in the fragrant aspect of our city).

    But more importantly, it was never an issue of whose Chinese and who is not. Hong Kong citizens, and those who went overseas too, have always been proud to be a Chinese. We are proud of our heritage, and we celebrate it. What is the real problem for us stems from those who wish of us to identify ourselves as Chinese, but along party lines, along the brutally pragmatic aspects of our culture. What is lost in the “modern” Chinese is a particular sensibility, of knowing limitations, of knowing the “middle ground”. What is amiss is courtesy, “lai”, that once governed our interactions with one another to some extent. That, is what divides us, the traditional versus the “Wall Street (movie)” version of Chinese.

    The difference, however, perhaps what is more at risk is “civility, decorum” that should have been the trademark

  44. Andy says:

    Oops, somehow the format got messed up. Please ignore “The difference, however, perhaps what is more at risk is “civility, decorum” that should have been the trademark” I though I had deleted that as it was supposed to be in an earlier paragraph.

  45. Kenny says:

    Putting the identity issue to one side for a minute, I think a part of this Anti-Mainlander sentiment arises due to the fact that HKers probably (consciously or not) see a former version of themselves. I also think that too much emphasis is placed on this perceived ‘civility gap’, as if somehow HK ppl are somehow holier than there northern cousins. Civility (for want of a better word) is a function of societal wealth, and is a feature which can really only take root after a sustained period of prosperity – in essence, the establishment of an aspirational middle class. China is not there yet, but its time will come soon enough. Considering the benefits mainlander consumption brings to the economy (the birth influx notwithstanding), I think they can come and spit and piss as much as they like, and as much it repels me, I don’t think they make the place smell/look any worse than Manchester on a saturday night, or the Paris metro. I think HKers are making too big a deal out of this, probably because we feel slightly embarrassed that they are our cousins.

    • J J says:

      Former version of ourselves? You mean our parents or grandparents spilt and shit on the street, jump queue in the 50s? I doubt.

      I agree to your point that civility are things that will improve over time. But what about respecting others, or maybe respecting themselves? These are common standard of a civilise world. I guess you wont speak Chinese to the French if you’re in France, or to Japs in Japan, I guess one will at least speak English in a foreign country. First is that they wont understand you; and Second, it’s their land, their home, so we ought to speak their language.

      But what did the recent “eating in train Youtube” tell us, or the common phenomenon in Hong Kong, people worship them like god, simply because they have money and we gave away all my identity bits by bits.

      Do you think economic prosperity worth that loosing your soul? your home? and the future of your generation? If yes, can you give us a quote for splitting and pissing your home? I guess many would love to pay and do so. It’s not a big deal, we will pay you. (according to your logic)

      We are not making a big deal, we are just standing up for ourselves, for the rights HK people

      • Kenny says:

        If you seriously think that people in Hong Kong in the 1950′s were a paragon of decency I think you must have a case of selective amnesia. The custom of spitting itself was only recently eradicated, after an intense public educational campaign, and of course, the influence of the SARS outbreak. Public sanitation was only brought about in HK in the 50′s, and even if you look now, streets in HK are hardly world class in terms of cleanliness. That we still have HK citizens living in cage houses is a blight upon our collective soul. Are we really that different?
        Since my logic clearly troubles you, please allow me to reframe the argument in a way you might find easier to understand. My point is that it is slightly hypocritical to say that Mainlanders are an uncouth, nouveau riche lot when the existence of indigenous wealth in Hong Kong has only preceded that of mainland China by several decades. Secondly, if one finds mainlanders so truly abhorrent, then why are we so keen to welcome them to HK?
        In my view mainland Chinese tourists merely represent the latest incarnation of the infamous “American Tourist”. I have no issue with that. Many of the mainlanders are experiencing economic freedom for the first time in their lives and for many HK may be their first destination. If we pride ourselves on being an open and tolerant society then we should accept that differences in ‘culture’ will come to a head from time to time. This is particularly true when the positives far outweigh the negatives. Another point is that HKers appear to reserve a special brand of venom towards their mainland cousins precisely because, as I said, they remind us of ourselves. Think about it – you could easily have been born either side of border.
        If you are keen on paying to defecate/spit on my house, feel free. My address is:
        D Tsang
        Government House
        Upper Albert Road
        Central
        Hong Kong

  46. TruthBeTold says:

    After reading this article, which proved quite insightful, and reading through most of the comments I would like to point out a few things on my mind.
    I am a “privileged foreigner” studying in Hong Kong. Upon my arrival, I was in complete awe, but also complete ignorance about the differences between HK and mainland China. Keep in mind, I have been to China and quite a few places, but never to Hong Kong. All the modernities of the West with the subtleties of the East all mixed into one, that was the main thing running through my mind.

    HK behavior as I’ve experienced it:
    -From the moment I arrived I have not stopped hearing negativity out of the mouths of HKers. Like many of you have stated and reiterated, you are not Chinese- you ARE HONG KONGESE. I hear put-down after put-down, negativity, insults, and just plain spite for mainland Chinese people.
    -Take the MTR for example, I have been pushed, shoved, harassed, called names all by “local HKer’. As I speak Potonghua and understand a bit of Cantonese, I understand quite a lot so these conversations I do pick up on. Some HKer yell,scream, and talk excessively loud. When it comes to saying sorry, it isn’t that often. Most people I have seen and come in contact with read their newspapers, talk, chat, play games, watch TV on their phones and do not understand when they intrude on someone else’s space. Another incident was when I was trying to get off the MTR and was pushed back onto the train by an elderly lady rushing to get a seat. Many times I see people push and shove just to get a seat. Enough with that-
    On a positive note, I do appreciate people here giving up their seats to others.
    -Some complain about foreigners and their loose cultures (making out in public [too much PDA], drunkenness, rude). Many times when going to the malls, parks, MTR even I find dozens of HKers making out, feeling each other up, being quite indecent themselves. Sometimes, if it is bad enough (like in my home country alike) I politely tap them on the shoulder and say, “get a room.” The only places I’ve really seen Westerners do that sort of thing is in LKF, and when they are really drunk (usually in LKF or Wanchai).

    These are just a few of the examples of my experiences in HK. I do however want to make one thing clear- for everyone. When you talk about “the mainland Chinese”, please be careful and not overgeneralize. Just from my experiences alone, I have had to come to terms about what HK is like. Although I am not 100% a fan of mainland China, in reflecting back I find the people I have met on the Mainland are more welcoming, hospitable, share more, are more humble. However, some I have seen have lacked certain social graces that are accepted norms by the majority in our societies. Based on my experiences alone, I do not hate or not like the HKers or have an heightened affection for “the Chinese”, I treat people as individuals and say there are some people worse off, but also some that are well-mannered and well-educated.

    By the way, who is Chinese? What does it mean to be Chinese? What about the individuals from the mainland that do not identify as Chinese, but maybe as Hui, Miao, Tibetan, Ugyher? Why do you get to assign an identity for them? Why can they not determine who they want to be, just like you want to be a separate Hong Kongese?

    Just some thoughts and reflections as an outsider. I do realize that these are just my experiences and cannot be necessarily applied to anyone else.

    • throughthelookingglass says:

      Thank you for your objective comment. I agree with your characterization of HK. I am by no means a Mainland supporter, but I also think HK needs to tone down the vitriol considering they are not the best examples of civility and manners either. It’s all on a spectrum of rudeness and uncivility. HKers have a tendency to try to walk through you in crowds and will make an irritated sound as if it is your fault that they walked into you. None of them ever apologize for this. They sneer at you and think themselves superior to you if you don’t speak Cantonese fluently. They have bad service at restaurants and stores; only after the SARS outbreak did this improve because they finally realized you can’t mistreat customers if you want repeat business. They also have an unbelievable superiority complex for a place so small and cramped: they immigrate elsewhere and proudly boast they have citizenship in some Western country as a way to show that they have money or that they’re educated, but while living in the Western country, they sneer and treat it with disdain because it is not as ‘exciting or developed’ as HK. Some HKers also spit on the streets and toss garbage and dirty water from windows as recent as 5-10 years ago; I’m sure this practice hasn’t changed in certain areas of HK.

      Based on all these complaints from both sides, I would say HKers and Mainlanders have the same basic foundation of rudeness and an overinflated and unjustified sense of superiority to others. You know what they say about people in glass houses…

      Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of each culture, why doesn’t anyone focus on the positive? Are there no positive aspects left? Chinese people are everywhere in the world; if they stopped putting so much energy into hating one another and everyone else, they would totally dominate every corner of this planet because we’re all hardworking and understand what it means to work and sacrifice for a collective goal.

  47. theorycraft says:

    um… China or maybe its corrupt officials think that their system is the best way. They want Tibet to be more like China and they want HK to be more like China. They want Taiwanese to feel Chinese. They don’t have an expansionist policy, they just want to control everything. They don’t want Cantonese to love china or be proud to be chinese, they want them to know any alternatives to loving China and being part of the PRC

  48. theorycraft says:

    I have never been to HK but after Mao, Chinese [in the mainland] have a each person for themselves mentality where you could share food with someone so everyone can eat or you can keep it so that if somebody stole half from you, you would still be able to eat the other half. And they care mostly about money. Its the governments fault, since their rapid growth economically has not sped up their etiquette so many mannerisms are similar to those in 3rd world countries and also anytime a person cries foul whether to government unfairness or neighborly unfairness, the Chinese government just dangles more money in front of them. Just like the Chinese ignore their piracy, pollution, corruption and say to foreigners ‘we have the richest government in the world so haha’ And while they may lack innovation, they feel proud that they could buy any innovative company if not for those pathetic protectionist Americans.

    • theorycraft says:

      “yes there are many grievances but look how much money we have now, you should focus on the good and ignore the 1% side effects” (like Maos 9 good for every 1 bad explanation during the great leap forward)

  49. Van says:

    At the moment my best thinking on china runs like this: it is founded on racial arrogance. China’s government has one principal aim – to make china super strong so that it can ‘never again’ be subjected to foreign humiliation. But in reality, parts or all of china have been ruled by foreign or mixed regimes intermittently from the get go. And, to call that humiliation is simply arrogant and racist. I am aware of counterarguments, but they’re not convincing (that’s a restrained way of putting it). Lastly, I am truly sorry to hear that hk is being culturally erased by the heavy magnet of chinese influence, and i hope it doesnt come over as glib when i say that the fact that hong kong ever existed is proof that there is hope for the chinese race yet.

  50. Graeme Nicol says:

    I guess similar sentiment can also be found in Beijing & Shanghai with respect to non-locals from “the provinces”, and such sentiment can be quite ugly at times, especially given that it is backed up by regressive migration policies such as hukou system.

    I think at least some of these HK attitudes can be attributed to the same smug self-satisfied right-wing xenophobia which developed areas often feel towards to inferior developing areas, and it is present in Western Europe towards migrants from Eastern European it’s present in America towards Mexicans… It’s fucking ugly, ugly in the UK, ugly in the US, ugly in Beijing, and equally ugly in Hong Kong. I mean how much credence would anyone give to letters printed in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper about immigrants eroding British values and “way of life”… why should such attitudes be treated differently among Hong Kongers ?

    …to be fair to Hong Kong though it is a little different, due to the sheer manipulative power of the Mainland government. While Mainland people may be poorer than the average Hong Konger, the government is not, which gives rise to the more politicised (and in my view more legitimate) strand of anti-mainland sentiment.

    I also suggest that what Hong Kong is feeling regards to cultural dilution is the work of globalisation and neo-liberal capitalism, not just the Chinese government. People all over the world feel the erosion of values, and direct that frustration in the direction of whoever is flexing the financial muscle. It’s certain that Hong Kong exerts considerable financial muscle within Mainland culture and economics, so who has eroded whose cultural values more since Hong Kong’s reunification ? Are mainland values colonising Hong Kong, or are in fact the capitalistic culture and values of Hong Kong (and Taiwan & South Korea) re-shaping the culture of the Mainland, through their entertainment industry, pop culture, luxury brands, property developers etc. Mainland cities are becoming much more like Hong Kong than Hong Kong is becoming like the Mainland…

    It’s also worth remembering that the behaviour of Hong Kongers on the mainland can be less then virtuous, using mainland China as a source of cheap labour for sweatshops and as a source of cheap sex and mistresses… of course that doesn’t represent the majority of Hong Kongers, but then surely neither do the majority of Mainlanders who visit HK urinate everywhere.

    As for using the example of someone pissing on a train in Edinburgh, clearly the writer is not aware of Edinburgh’s reputation as a stag-party destination…

  51. cbc says:

    this guy is “Educated”

  52. James says:

    As Westerner with many close friends from HK and other parts of the mainland I read this article and responses with deep interest. In fact I read it twice.
    As for politeness I would like to use the example of restaurant waiters – be it in HK or Australia – I can only say that I strongly disagree with any suggestion that mainland people generally are anything but extremely respectful and polite. In fact in this area of manners they win hands down!!
    This evening I enjoyed the Chinese New Year celebrations in suburban Melbourne(Box Hill) with some thousands of overwhelmingly Chinese people mostly below age 30. I can tell there was a strong presence of both HK and mainland people and what a polite, happy respectful gathering it was by all Chinese where ever they had originated. I saw no trace of impolite behaviour. The young generation of mainland and HK Chinese in the Australian environment are a great gift to this country and example of good manners and civil behaviour for us all to copy.

  53. bitman says:

    Great Article! I agree to the point that you talk about the cultural difference between HK people and Mainlanders are because of different backgrounds, that explains why hk people do feel hateful to see Mainlanders ‘ rude behaviours but the mainlander feel fine with it. I totally agree to that. Actually,Hk ppl is not the only people unwelcome Mainlanders.I find that in Canada too as I am now living in Canada (I am from HK). There are lots of Asians in Canada right now. They include Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese…etcetc.However, some of them are being discriminated because the Canadians think that these Asians are all CHINESE, not because they are Asian. For example, I was with this Japanese friend shopping in a grocery store in Richmond. She accidentally hit an old man with her shopping cart. She apologized at once, but the white old man is still not very happy with that so he said “I don’t know Chinese know manners ?” At first i was angry to hear that, but then I gave up to argue with him because Chinese people do not know manners. Since Asians all look alike, the negative impression they have given to the Canadians have affected how Canadians think about other Asian countries too.They made the Canadians think that all Asian are rude no matter what Asian countries you are from.So… in conclusion, many countries unwelcome mainlanders, and thats why I feel ashamed to claim myself as CHINESE.

  54. KR says:

    It seems as though many in the debate are too caught up with the individual examples of behavior/attitude of both Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese, which are merely conduct of rude/ignorant people that could be found anywhere in the world. In other words, these examples are practically unrelated to the issue.

    The difference between “Mainland Chinese” and “Hong Kong Chinese” isn’t in realms of education/conduct/behavior or even one of “sub-ethnicity” as the conflict is now made out to be. Simply put, the basic freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong aren’t available to those in Mainland China despite the proximity in locale and economic growth (imagine these sentiments of a Mainland Chinese: If I have as much money as a Hong Kongese, why can’t I watch certain movies in the Mainland? If I don’t like what my government is doing, why can’t I take it out to the streets? If I’m just as experienced as a social researcher than any Hong Kong researchers, why can’t I conduct a government popularity poll and publish honest results?; or imagine these sentiments of a Hong Kongese: Why are posters of our annual Tiananmen Square memorial being torn off the walls? Why does Infernal Affair have an alternative ending in China so different from the original movie?). The conduct of and conflicts between the two groups stem from the difference between those who have the freedoms and those who don’t.

    Are we to judge that those who enjoy the freedoms are more superior than those who don’t? (wars fought on the basis of “liberation from a dictatorship” are still being fought in the 21st century points to the fact that the West certainly thinks so, and many a “Hong Kongese” certainly buys it too) Is it possible that if the Mainland Cihnese was given the same freedoms then this conflict today wouldn’t have come about? Has any Mainland Chinese or Hong Kong Chinese who felt “injured” one way or another by “the other kind of Chinese” really sincerely reflected on how small-minded he/she would be to make statements such as “personally I think that Hong Kongese are loud and obnoxious” or “based on my experiences, Mainland Chinese are rude and uncivilized”?

    Hong Kong has never had a very active political population. The typical “Hong Kongese” isn’t a drama queen; he isn’t interested in taking sides, he’s interested in growth and stability. He’s upset and whiny right now because these two things are threatened by the new changes taking place, and these changes are occurring largely due to the influences of the most powerful non-democratic countries in the world. It’s likely that the “Hong Kongese” would take any side that doesn’t focus so much on minute, energy-draining differences but instead respects the Hong Kongese’s goal of attaining a genuinely better life (which equals economic growth, low unemployment rate, low crime rate, relatively high standards of education and health) and facilitates his efforts.

    It’s easy to take individual personal incidents out of context. Emotionally charged events render easily manipulated masses. In the case between Hong Kong and Mainland China, both the media and the government are successfully steering us in directions that will lead to an avoidable disaster rather than harmony and stability. But let us all be above media/governmental manipulation, respect each other’s differences created by our political systems, agree to disagree, let go of having to be “right” all the time, TAKE A DEEP BREATH, and NEVER EVER be so ignorant as to point fingers at or generalize one or the other despite one or two or three or ten or a hundred negative personal experiences (after all, you haven’t met EVERYONE in the Mainland or Hong Kong).

    Sincerely,
    Chinese born and raised in Hong Kong with:
    (1) grandparents from Guangdong and Guangxi,
    (2) family members who were persecuted in the Cultural Revolution,
    (3) family members who have settled in Taiwan,
    (4) family members who still reside in Mainland, and
    (5) family members, whether from HK, Mainland or Taiwan, who interact civilly and don’t bad-mouth one another as portrayed by popular media or uninformed/victim-minded commenters

  55. M says:

    First of all…great article – very insightful! This is certainly a hot topic but a rather sad topic to discuss.

    It’s funny how you see that Chinese – no matter mainlander or hongkies, are more united when we’re not in our own country. In Australia you can definitely see more harmony within the Chinese society, actually within most Asians.

    I love HK unfortunately not so much the local people [apart from my family :)], cause I also think that a lot of us are quite rude, arrogant and most importantly, we’re never united. Please correct me if I’m wrong but the only time I feel that we’re united is when something goes terribly wrong, e.g. SARS and now this. Really? Do we have the right to generalise and judge others? (Apart from the fact that we feel like HK is ours and they’re in our land…wait, we are geographically part of China right?) Majority of us are lucky that our great great great grand-parents escaped to HK in the early days but now (actually…always have) we turn around and look down on the ones that were less fortunate and had suffered the hard times.

    We keep pointing out each others bad – seems a bit old school don’t you think so? No ones more superior than the other so respect the ‘differences’ is probably more helpful. Why use words to harm each other and at the same time it doesn’t solve the problem? Honestly, the professor and part/most of those who go to HK are definitely old school. But are we blaming them for their cultural difference and not doing anything to make it better? Maybe…or maybe we feel a bit helpless. Then we’re a bit old school ourselves don’t you think?

    At first when I watched this video I was really pissed off and then I did some self-reflection…I’m still pissed off but at least I read this article, what other people think and now writing down my own thoughts, it made me realise, hey…at least I learnt something valuable. However, the truth is, if there are less old school Chinese in HK, I will certainly love the place more!

  56. bjbj says:

    A great article, thanks for sharing. There are some subtle points you mentioned that I think speak more to your own biases as a person from Hong Kong. The biggest to stand out is the condescending tone. Only in Hong Kong do people of chinese descent consider HK to be more civilized. Like any large city, there will be a population of people (for socio-economic reasons) that do not know any better and commit these disgusting acts- examples of defecating on the subway- in public. It’s ignorant to even generalize these as the actions of “mainlanders”. Secondly, the way you categorize those from China as simply that- mainlanders- is naive and demonstrates that you don’t understand the history of China as well as you might think you do. The authoritarian system you consider the PRC is not a super-efficient machine. The key is that the governements of each province, city, district have their own agenda. This results you get a wide variety of cultures, mannerisms, and customs. There are many examples, which you can read up on wikipedia if you’re interested, of these inter-sect rivalries. The laymen from beijing will have misconceptions about those from Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chendgu etc. and the reverse is true as well. Disregarding the human rights policy- or lack there of in China, the central government is following the right policy, to integrate all these different cultures. Consider this; there is very likely another person, just like you, in Shanghai, posting about how Shanghai is different than the rest of China, how its people are more civilized, its dialect more descriptive, its culture more rich, and demanding that fact be acknowledged and acted upon.

    • KR says:

      I absolutely agree that each city/province in China is unique and would like to be acknowledged as so. However, you missed the author’s point that ALL Mainlanders, unlike Hong Kong people, have never enjoyed freedoms of speech, press, religion and other rights. Although generalization is ignorant, the “generalization” of “Mainlanders” in this entry isn’t generalization at all – it’s a fact. As for the author having a condescending tone, I could only offer this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

      • bjbj says:

        I’m having trouble understanding the argument you’re making. Are you suggesting that I that I do inferior and that I should not or that I do and you’re kindly offering your opinion as to why that is; which is that I’m letting the author of the article make me feel that way. Haha, its ridiculous either case,of course I’m not personally offended by this article. My critique is to the authors arguement, in that he is not doing justice in portraying the situation by adding additional bias to a very subjective topic. The authors generalization of the restriction of freedoms is Mainland is oversimplified. I would argue there are a proportion of the population(albeit small) of both HK and Beijing (for example) that have had these freedoms throughout most of the century. Lets start with the premise that speech,press, religion lead to individual freedom, and that individual freedom enables one to live better (relatively) with greater security( in all senses of the word). Consider the purpose of the speech, press, religions…etc. In more ways than one, they are protection from others, in so much that if an injustice has occured to oneself, one can appeal to the press, to religion, laws..etc, for justice. HK citizens never had a great military to rely on, but did have money. This financial stability, for those that capitalized on it, allowed them to literally purchase their freedom. Between the 1950s-1990s, you can bet there were people just as powerful, with just as much of this freedom, if not more, living in BJ. Rather than money, they relied on their affiliation with the communist party. A large army, legions of guards; these individuals felt just as safe and enjoyed their lives perhaps even more than their HK counterparts. Now skip to modern day and its still a matter of where one lies on the socio-economical ladder. Sure, raw percentage numbers would indicate that a higher percentage of people in HK are rich and therefore have these freedoms, but take into account that HK has ~8 million people and Beijing Greater has ~20 million people and the numbers begin balance.

        • Chan Chi Wai says:

          It is absurd reading some of the comments from the Hong Kongers here. China and the Chinese people are about to entering into another stage of economic development. A development that may even surpass America and China may become a crucial partner is helping Europe to save its Euro currency. Here, these Hong Kongers are talking about manners and rudeness?? LOL You got to be kidding me. Yeah, the Hong Kongers have all the freedom they want but they don’t seem to know what to do with it. Like a kid given a key to a car but this child does not know how to drive yet.

          • Emma says:

            Ohhhhh, right. Too bad not everyone is money-minded in HK. Too bad they still care about manners. What a shame. They should simply put behind their values, norms, culture, and even freedom to please the communist party. That would lead to the best outcome won’t you say?

          • KR says:

            I agree that it’s crazy to argue about manners and rudeness. However, HKers are not the only ones who are talking about it. Mainlanders are as well. But you probably won’t get it until someone allows her child to poop in the middle of Disneyland when the bathroom is just a 3-minute walk. And the problem is, the childish one here is the PRC government riling that up.

            “the Hong Kongers have all the freedom they want but they don’t seem to know what to do with it. Like a kid given a key to a car but this child does not know how to drive yet.” > Any facts to back that up? Or is it just your opinion? For what I know, the whole system in HK is almost entirely dependent on the financial sector, and the HK economic system is extremely advanced before turnover.

        • KR says:

          No no. I think both your comments are very insightful. I don’t get the first part of what you’re saying, but your point about the difference between “buying” freedom with money and with party affiliation is fascinating, and very true. I do see that the discussion is oversimplified, and it’s unfortunate we have few statistics to point out these differences. However, I’m still skeptical of a lot of areas, such as the social justice system (China’s death penalty and the high efficiency in scheduled execution; high crime rate); the medical/hygiene (SARS…); the economy (the huge number of very poor population; education system; etc.), etc. It is easy to see that HK has a relatively longer history in these areas being more advanced. Surely there are exceptions, but in general, there’s still more transparency in Hong Kong.

  57. Stace says:

    A fascinating piece, thank you! I’m Australian, and honestly I don’t have much to do with many Chinese (Or Hong Kong Chinese) people. All of this is new to me, I had no idea. But I now feel somewhat enlightened! It is good to be educated on global matters, no matter what my background. It broadens the mind.

  58. Chan Chi Wai says:

    I am a Chinese American and have lived in America for over 20 years. I don’t like America. America now is like the dying Rome. I don’t like Hong Kong because my Hong Kong childhood was horrible. I was an outcast to put it mildly. Nothing has changed about Hong Kong, a very materialistic society. My parents were born in Hong Kong. I also hate my grandparents because they married off one of their daughters to a Chinese American so that they and we can one day live in America. Her daughter, my aunt, has been living a very unhappy life.

    I am pro China period. For the Hong Kong people to understand China they need to understand what socialism and communism did for China during the Japanese invasion. It reunited the country and empower the 95% of the peasant population. Being Chinese is more than practicing the tradition. It is also about understanding the political history of China. I know, Hong Kong people do not like the mainlanders. Hong Kong isn’t British. This is the shameful legacy since the territory was original sold to repay the English for the Opium War. I hate the English.

    Here is the deal for the Hong Kongers here. Your mind needs to expand and to understand the larger political history of China and the Chinese people. Being called just “Chinese” is too insulting to you. Maybe if you stop being obsessed by your superficial, materialistic needs…. Serve your nation. Serve your motherland. Perhaps, your little ego is in the way…

  59. [...] Kong Chinese are a very different type of Chinese than Mainland Chinese, as Cam McMurchy recently wrote at depth on. The most clear measurement of this has been the increasing number of Hong Kongers who identify [...]

  60. zepplin says:

    Agree with the diagnosis, not the prescription. Carrots will not work either. Identity is not something that can be changed with carrots and sticks.

    Democratizing of the mainland and improved “suzhi” of mainlanders might help, but that’s the tail wagging the dog. Further integration might help, but that’s against the will of the Hong Kong people, and sets a bad example for Taiwan. Increased autonomy like the author suggests will most certainly not help.

    In the end, the only cure is time: either assimilation with time, or independence with time. If not one generation, then ten generations, if not ten, then a hundred. That is the strategy ingrained in the mandarins of Beijing. If you think they give a damn about the “not-Chinese” by the random barks of an official or a professor, you are sadly mistaken. It will only get worse if/when Taiwan folds, for then Hong Kong’s emo will have absolutely no relevance.

    If you identify as “Hong Kong” and not “China”, and wish for a Hong Kong identity separate from China, plot for secession. Begin with greater autonomy, and when the time is right, true elections. Prevent Taiwan reunification at all cost, and above all, don’t compromise with Beijing: it won’t end well.

    If you only care about yourself and your progeny and not the greater Hong Kong, a easier path is to just emigrate. I recommend USA.

    If you identify with “China” over “Hong Kong”, relax; make lot’s of mainland friends, make lot’s of Hong Kong friends; time is probably on your side.

    If you are undecided: 別跟自己過不去

    • Chan Chi Wai says:

      Not time, but experiences. If you were a Chinese communist during the 20s and 30s fighting against the Japanese and the cultural Chinese elites of the KMT often walking between the fine lines of being Chinese patriots and “running dogs,” you would have no problems with socialism and communism or even Chairman Mao. Of course, some Hong Kongers with too much freedom and do not know what to do with it may accuse any forms of indoctrination as brain washing. Believe me, when the lives of your country men and the Chinese nation are on the line during the heydays of the Chinese communism revolution, that’s the only honorable things to do. Time does not change people. It is the experiences and reflections that change people.

  61. Dean Ooi says:

    Essentially the quarrel is over ideologies and individuals. Most people would prefer to live under a “free” system where they have a right to choose. But no system is ideal or perfect. Democracy and capitalism are largely products of Western thought which you have evolved as a result of progress in science. The more you know how things work the more you think you are entitled to them and your place in the Universe as individuals gain more prominence. But we know excessive freedom and democracy can be harmful even to oneself, let alone others. The Western culture of materialism leads to egocentricity. It emphasizes the individuals over the group. It focuses on what the senses convey to the mind and how the mind can gain by scheming and manipulating. The ideals of liberty and human rights are fine but we don’t really trust the West looking at what it has done to itself, its people and the world (war, slavery, colonialism, unrestrained consumerism, development and hedonism but we appreciate the fruits of scientific progress it has brought.) China is fighting hard to maintain sovereignty and stability. It is adverse to Western democracy not to prolong individual rule (it is already a collective leadership but not based on Westminster system which it and some of us rightfully distrust.) The traditional values in Confucianism in running a nation are more appropriate and useful. Ultimately, it has got to do with individual character cultivation.

  62. [...] between different Chinese identities are nothing new. The author of the Zhongnanhai blog reminds us of the distinct identity that Hong Kong feels from the rest of China, even though it reverted to Chinese sovereignty in [...]

  63. [...] == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Following the extensive amount of attention paid recently to the issue of large numbers of pregnant women from mainland China who travel to Hong Kong to deliver their [...]

  64. kotak says:

    theres a guy from the mainland, jeff tung chi fung, now residing in singapore, who seems to be so protective of chinese from the mainland, yet his fb says he is from hongkong…??????? so proud of the money yet embarrassed of lineage???

  65. Doug T. says:

    Not many Westerners understand we Hongkies that well – this article is really well-written. But there’s a slip though – it refers to HK as ‘part of China’. HK is not part of China, but just a Chinese dependent territory. A depenent territory is a territory which

    (1) has internal self-government and

    (2) only foreign affairs and defence is left in the hand of the sovereign state

    HK matches these definitions and is therefore a dependent territory. A dependent territory is considered as a territory of its sovereign state, but not part of its sovereign state – HK is a Chinese territory but not part of China.

  66. [...] want to add my $.02 to a discussion already well covered by Cam and Stan about who/what is and isn’t a “China expert.” For me, “China expert” has as [...]

  67. babzary says:

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