News / Asia

Hong Kong Anti-Mainlander Protest Highlights Frustration With Visitor Influx

  • About 100 Hong Kong activists, angered by surging numbers of mainland Chinese visitors in the city, stage a protest on Canton Road, on February 16, 2014. (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • A female tourist from mainland China (right) tries to avoid the protesters. (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • A banner held by a protester reads, 'China locusts, go back to the mainland.' Above, Hong Kong's former British colonial flag is raised by another protester in a gesture of defiance toward the Chinese government. (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • Other anti-mainlander protesters hold signs saying 'China locusts, go home' (left), and 'Locusts grab up baby formula, (as) Hong Kong babies (are forced to) feed on flour' (center). (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • Protest organizer Ronald Leung Kam Sing says the demonstrators are emotional because Hong Kong citizens have become very frustrated with the city's influx of mainlanders. (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • Pro-government and pro-Beijing activists hold a counter-demonstration on Canton Road, waving flags of China (left) and Hong Kong (right). One activist holds a sign saying, 'Down with traitors, dogs and betrayers of the country!' (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • Another counter-demonstrator holds a banner saying, 'Hong Kong separatists spread evil and harm our country'. (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • Counter-demonstrators from the 'Voice of Loving Hong Kong' group set up a welcoming point for mainland Chinese visitors on the street. (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • Mr. Yang, a mainland visitor from China's northeastern province of Heilongjiang, says Hong Kongers are too unfriendly. (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • Protesters chase mainland visitors into a luxury retail store, which closes its doors to protect the mainlanders. (Iris Tong, VOA)
  • Hong Kong police set up a tape line to block the protesters from approaching the mainland shoppers. (Iris Tong, VOA)
Scenes from Hong Kong Anti-Mainlander Protest
A recent protest by Hong Kong residents targeting shoppers from mainland China is drawing attention to local people's growing frustrations about a wave of mainlanders visiting the city and how authorities are handling the situation.
At the February 16 protest, about 100 Hong Kongers shouted insults at mainland Chinese visitors shopping in an upscale district of the Kowloon peninsula.
It was the first time that Hong Kongers who resent the rising number of mainlanders in the city had displayed their anger by confronting the visitors directly in such a central location.
The protest on Canton Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui district triggered a strong backlash, with the Hong Kong government accusing the anti-mainlander activists of tarnishing the territory's image.
But the incident also intensified the controversy about how the former British colony of 7 million people has been coping with the surge in mainland visitors.
Mainland visitors: who are they?
The Hong Kong Tourism Board has reported that the number of visitor arrivals from mainland China last year was 41 million, a 17 percent increase on the year before.
The total number of visitor arrivals was 54 million.
University of Hong Kong social studies professor Paul Yip said most of the arrivals from mainland China were tourists who flock to Hong Kong's theme parks and hotels.
He said a smaller share of the arrivals, about one-quarter, were mainland shoppers who make brief daytime visits to buy everything from luxury watches to daily essentials such as baby milk formula.
Speaking to VOA by phone from Hong Kong, Yip said many Hong Kongers see the advantages that those mainland visitors bring.
"Hong Kong people know that tourism is one of the city's major sources of income and provides a lot of job opportunities for the retail and the services sectors," he said.
How mainlanders impact Hong Kong
But the more Hong Kong stores cater to the mainlanders, the more the city's shopping landscape has changed.
Yip said the expansion of shops popular with mainland shoppers in prime areas has raised rental costs for other stores liked by residents and foreign visitors from elsewhere, forcing those stores to shut down or relocate.
Mainlanders also have been competing with locals for space on Hong Kong's crowded trains and buses.
Many of the mainlanders who enter Hong Kong do so as part of tour groups. But an increasing number of them also secure individual permits from southern Chinese cities to cross the mainland's internal border with Hong Kong.
South China Morning Post columnist Michael Chugani, also speaking by phone from Hong Kong, said that the decade-old individual travel scheme is part of the problem.
"There are now 49 cities on the mainland that can send tourists to Hong Kong, and the number of people who qualify to come under that open door policy is about 300 million," Chugani said.
"Now they are all within an hour's train ride or bus ride to Hong Kong. That is roughly the size of the whole of America, population-wise. And just imagine if the whole of America had a 30-minute or a one-hour bus ride into the city of Manhattan. Could Manhattan handle it? Obviously not, right?" said Chugani.
Protesters vent anger, mainlanders react
One of the Hong Kong activists who harassed the mainland shoppers in Kowloon said Hong Kongers cannot cope with such a situation, either.
Speaking at the demonstration, organizer Ronald Leung said, "If the government does not listen to us, we will talk to the tourists directly. We will say to them, 'There are too many of you here. Please stop coming. This is not about hurting feelings. This is about protecting our Hong Kong'."
The protesters also called the mainlanders "locusts."
Reaction from the mainlanders at the scene was mixed.
“Hong Kongers are too unfriendly. I dare not come again in the future,” said one tourist.
Another said, “If we came to Hong Kong and followed the basic local requirements, and were more civilized, then I believe this would not happen.”
The protesters' insults also offended many Hong Kongers, including Chugani.
Assessing the government's visitor strategy
But the columnist said most of the blame for the incident should be placed on what he called the Hong Kong government's "failed policies."
"Essentially we have just become one giant shopping center for hundreds of millions of mainland visitors," he said.
"Now that's a failed policy, because when the government opens up the border, they have got to say, how many are coming? Do we have the transport structure, the shopping malls, the hospitals, and all the other things they will need? The government never thought of these things."
Two days after the anti-mainlander protest, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters his administration has been managing the influx by building more infrastructure.
"We fully appreciate the pressures that have been brought on certain districts in Hong Kong as a result of the large number of tourists coming to Hong Kong," Leung said.
"At the same time, we will increase the supply or availability of tourist-related facilities in Hong Kong. One very good example is the construction of large shopping facilities on the man-made island that will be part of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge. So... we manage demand and increase supply at the same time," said Leung.
The Hong Kong government also has tried to limit the growth of mainland arrivals by persuading Chinese officials not to allow residents of more cities to travel to the territory as individuals.
The number of Chinese cities that grant such permits has remained at 49 since 2009, but Leung has not taken any steps to reduce the number of mainland visitors in the short-term. His administration also said it expects to welcome 70 million visitors a year by 2017, with most of the increase coming from the mainland.
Alternative ways of managing the tide
Hong Kong University's Yip said authorities should consider short-term measures to regulate the flow of mainlanders, like taxing them.
"I think the government can do better," said Yip. "And they need to do better, because the situation is really reaching a breaking point."
Chugani said Hong Kong businesses that benefit from mainland customers oppose any attempts to limit arrival numbers, fearing such moves could damage their profitability.
He said the Hong Kong government sympathizes with that concern and wants to avoid the loss of lower-skilled retail and tourism jobs that keep the city's unemployment rate down.
Leung also has warned that any taxes on mainland visitors could prompt the Chinese government to impose similar taxes on Hong Kongers who travel to the mainland for business and pleasure.
Yip said Hong Kong should try to build trust with mainland China so that both sides can find a solution that makes the city more livable and enjoyable for residents and visitors alike.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Cantonese service. Iris Tong contributed from Hong Kong.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs