“I enjoy going to Hong Kong, to try different foods, see the sights and to shop for iPhone or other electronic items. The goods are cheaper there and the quality is guaranteed. But I wonder if I should go again. The people there do not welcome us.”
Yang Qi-ming works for a transport company in Zhuhai and, like other residents of the city, can easily obtain a visa to visit Hong Kong, 70 minutes across the Pearl River by boat.
In the past, he had made the trips two or three times a year, mainly for pleasure but also doing some shopping — buying items for his own use or for his friends. He is not a “parallel trader”.
“We cannot understand the attitude of Hong Kong people. Of the parallel traders, a half or more are Hong Kong residents. The rest come from Shenzhen, not Zhuhai or other cities. But we are all targeted. I could go to Macau or elsewhere,” said Yang.
He is not alone in his views. Many people in the Pearl River Delta cannot understand why Hong Kong people reject visitors who come to spend money in their city.
“If mainlanders stop spending in Hong Kong, how will its economy survive?” is a common opinion.
Writing in the latest issue of a weekly magazine Global Blog, Jia Jia said that, over the last year, the term “locust” has been widely used against mainland visitors.
“This abuse is getting worse and the displays of opposition stronger. I greatly dislike this feeling of prejudice. I feel people are looking at me strangely. I feel the tension is getting worse and worse.”
He said that when he goes to Hong Kong now, he avoids tourist spots and visits remote and quiet places.
“In the past, Hong Kong people went to Shenzhen and Guangzhou to spend and had a sense of economic superiority. But now they have lost it. The reason for the ‘locust’ theory is their belief that, economically, Hong Kong people have been marginalized, while they still consider themselves more civilized,” yang said.
Over the weekend, two top Chinese government officials also brought up this issue.
Zhang Xiaoming, head of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said the problem of parallel trading should not be exaggerated or used as a tool to escalate cross-border conflict.
“Sixty per cent of parallel traders are Hong Kong residents, with the rest Shenzhen residents on multiple-entry permits,” he said. “The overall implementation of the individual visit scheme has been good.”
Speaking at a news conference during the NPC in Beijing, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said that, while the scheme had greatly helped Hong Kong’s economy since 2003, there was a limit to the number of visitors that the city’s infrastructure can cope with.
“The central government is paying very close attention to this new situation and the new problems. The departments of the government concerned are working closely with the SAR government. According to the needs, we can adjust and improve the policies that will not harm exchanges and trade between the people on the two sides,” he said.
The mainland can reduce the price gap in products by cutting the costs of distribution and middlemen, Gao said.
The minister’s comments are a strong indicator that Beijing is willing to agree to the demand of the HK government to put restrictions on the number of visits by Shenzhen residents.
There are other factors for the creation of the “locust theory”. One is that, when they visit Hong Kong, mainlanders think they are going to another Chinese city and do not see the need to adjust their behavior, as they do in foreign countries where they are unfamiliar with the language, culture and customs. There the mind-set is different — more alert, self-conscious and sensitive.
A second is the presentation in the mainland media of the handover. The portrayal is that Hong Kong had suffered from 150 years of unfair colonial rule, that its people were eager for reunification and that the return was a cause for national celebration.
This means that mainland visitors are completely unprepared for the fact that many Hong Kong residents feel different to and better than them, and that some regret the handover and wish that the British were still governing the city or that it was independent. The mainlanders consider these sentiments incomprehensible and unpatriotic.
Jia says the process of mutual understanding will take a long time.
“Mainland people must gradually understand Hong Kong, with many doubting the loyalty of its people to China. As for Hong Kong people, if they continue to oppose mainland visitors, then this conflict will never end.”
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