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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid