20 February 2019
Mainlanders who have emigrated to Hong Kong want Beijing to find a way out for them. We can see more northbound traffic at the Lowu border. Photo: Internet
Mainlanders who have emigrated to Hong Kong want Beijing to find a way out for them. We can see more northbound traffic at the Lowu border. Photo: Internet

Why mainlanders don’t want to be Hongkongers?

Someone in Beijing must be a fan of HKTV chairman Ricky Wong.

Shortly after the debut of his latest TV drama To Be, Or Not To Be” (literally “I don’t want to be a Hongkonger”), we were told that many mainlanders want to return to China after getting their Hong Kong residency.

That is strange.

We would have thought Hong Kong people loved this city less because of the worsening democratic and education system, and more importantly, the influx of mainland residents which has changed their way of living in every way because now Hongkongers cannot even get a box of milk powder, let alone affordable housing (did you notice the kilometer-long queue for public housing last night?).

The fact is not all Chinese enjoy living in Hong Kong.

They do not enjoy living in Hong Kong so much so that they want mainland authorities to find a way out for them.

That may partly explain why the State Council is contemplating a special “return mechanism” which would allow mainlanders who have emigrated to Hong Kong to re-acquire their right of abode in the mainland.

We can rule out that one of these unhappy immigrants is Jack Ma, whose status as No. 1 Chinese tycoon collapsed when Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing made HK$20 billion in paper wealth yesterday after a mega restructuring of his flagship assets.

Also, none of these distressed bunch would be a Shanghai A-share punter who has seen a 50 per cent stock blowout in the past three months. Now with the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, we can buy A shares without a mainland identity card.

Now, what about mainlanders who hated the peaceful Occupy Central movement and have had enough of Hong Kong being strikingly like Paris (Jimmy Lai being the Hong Kong version of Charlie)?

Not likely. Well, most mainland people do not use Google or Facebook in Hong Kong, but who does not want to skip the queue for international travel with a Hong Kong passport?

Fewer people are coming to Hong Kong. Immigrants on one-way permits, which were created in the 1980s to allow families (mostly aging Hong Kong men with young mainland wives) to reunite in an orderly manner, included 43,000 mainlanders during the 12 months to the middle of last year, down from 47,900.

And every day, we see more than 30,000 cross-border students traveling between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, many of whom are from Type 2 families, meaning neither parent is from Hong Kong.

Why are they not coming?

Well, for one thing, it is more expensive to live in Hong Kong. Making both ends meet is getting much more difficult. Sure, there are jobs for mainlanders but there’s no guarantee they will get employed and the work is usually less desirable.

Add to this a growing anti-China sentiment. Mainland big spenders may still be welcome in Canton Road but they do not live in Tsim Sha Tsui.

If you have friends from the mainland, they might tell you they’re feeling increasingly less welcome by Hong Kong people, who sometimes look for a way to blame their own misfortunes on their cross-border cousins.

For instance, they might begrudge the fact that the mainland stock market did better than its Hong Kong counterpart last year.

I suppose some Hongkongers might even say, “This is a small place, so stay away.”

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EJ Insight writer

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