The bitter political showdown over Hong Kong’s constitutional development and the overwhelming influx of tourists and immigrants from the mainland caused tension, prejudice and even hatred on both sides of the border in the Year of the Horse.
As the Year of the Goat begins, it is an auspicious time to reintroduce some “positive energy” into the relationship of mutual dependence between Hongkongers and mainlanders.
The number of mainland students in the territory has risen steadily during the past decade, and many choose to remain in Hong Kong to pursue career opportunities after graduation.
Here are some of their stories about their first encounters with Hongkongers, which gave rise to lasting feelings of gratitude toward the city and its residents.
Jennie Liang, a graduate of Hong Kong Baptist University who hails from Hunan province, told EJ Insight about her first day in Hong Kong more than five years ago.
“That was a Sunday in August, and I was surprised to find that the university registration counter was closed during the weekend and I wasn’t allowed to stay in the dormitory,” Jennie said.
When she got to the campus, it was almost dark, and she didn’t know what to do and where to spend the night.
She wandered aimlessly with her heavy luggage along the bustling streets of Kowloon Tong in a city totally strange to her.
Jennie finally managed to grab a taxi and asked the driver if he could drive her to a nearby hotel with cheap room rates.
The driver, a Mr. Ho, told her in his poor Putonghua that it might be hard to find one, since night had already fallen, but he kindly offered to help her in her quest.
Mr. Ho drove her to a guesthouse managed by a church, thinking it should be safer for a young lady, but it was fully booked.
They then went to several other hotels, but none had vacancies.
Mr. Ho even called his wife and asked her to browse the internet to find possible accommodation, but the effort was to no avail.
Jennie then asked the taxi driver to drop her off at a 24-hour McDonald’s.
Before Mr. Ho took off, he left Jennie his mobile number and asked her to call him if there was an emergency.
While Jennie was sitting in a corner of the restaurant thinking she would have to spend her first night in Hong Kong like this, Mr. Ho called her at about 10 p.m. and said his wife had just found a cheap and clean guesthouse for her in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Jennie said she almost came to tears.
The couple didn’t take any money from her.
That night, Jennie said, she discovered that apart from its skyscrapers and commercialism, Hong Kong is a caring city.
Other mainland students have shared their stories on WeChat.
One student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology said that the first time she took a minibus to the campus to attend class, she didn’t know she needed to call out to the driver in advance before her stop, and it didn’t help that she couldn’t speak Cantonese.
Also, she was slightly afraid of the driver, a big, tattooed man in his 50s who kept grumbling about something she could not understand.
When the bus ended up at the terminus, to her great surprise, the driver, discovering he still had a passenger, asked in broken Putonghua where she had wanted to go.
He then drove her to HKUST and told her she could tell the driver when she boarded the minibus next time that she was heading for the campus. She would then need to pay only a lower fare, as the distance to the university is just half the length of the route.
She couldn’t thank him enough.
A month later, she took the same driver’s minibus on her way to the university. At first, she wanted to thank him again, but she decided he must have already forgotten her.
Then when she was about to tap her Octopus card against the reader, the driver suddenly stopped her and laughed: “Ah, I know you … you can just pay half the price … remember to save money next time …” and he set the fare on the card reader to half the original price so she could enjoy the discount.
She was again overwhelmed by gratitude.
Another mainland student said he will always remember when a stranger chased him down a long distance to return a wallet he’d lost.
One student said she was surprised that when she arrived in Hong Kong with a huge suitcase, many people volunteered to help her carry it up staircases and then left before she could even say “thank you”.
Another student said she was deeply moved when her professor gave her an extra lecture in his spare time after she missed the class because she was sick.
These may be tiny incidents, but they happen all the time amid the hurly-burly of this modern metropolis known for its fast-paced lifestyle.
There are so many mainlanders who remain grateful for such encounters with kind, generous and helpful Hongkongers.
May these stories, and many more happening right now, help rebuild mutual trust and foster reconciliation in the new year.
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