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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid