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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid