24 October 2016
Residents in Sheung Shui protest against smuggling. As the mainland journalist notes, Shanghainese would also become resentful if outsiders snapped up their daily necessities. Photo: Internet
Residents in Sheung Shui protest against smuggling. As the mainland journalist notes, Shanghainese would also become resentful if outsiders snapped up their daily necessities. Photo: Internet

Mainlander living in HK gives own account of city and its people

If you rely solely on views expressed on WeChat or Weibo to gauge the state of cross-border relations, you would most likely get the impression that the situation is really bad.

There, you’d get nothing but mudslinging and exchanges of abusive words when netizens on both sides of the border engage in heated debate.

If you read nothing but editorials in hawkish Beijing mouthpieces like the Global Times, you may think that China is just about to dissolve the “one country, two systems” arrangement.

But mainlanders living in Hong Kong may have a more credible account of what the city and its people are really like.

On Tencent’s news portal, a media practitioner from the mainland who has been living in Hong Kong for more than two years has offered his own experiences and thoughts.

His conclusion is that prejudice and discrimination, to which he is occasionally and unavoidably subjected as a mainlander, can never overshadow the respect, care and benevolence that he receives from Hongkongers.

He says mainlanders and officials should learn from Hong Kong’s well-established systems instead of pouring fuel on the flames of anger with irrational remarks.

Trivial but touching moments moved him to conclude that Hong Kong is a caring society and its people as a whole are civilized.

One occasion he recalls was during last year’s Occupy protests.

One night he and his wife needed to visit a friend in the Mid-Levels but got lost somewhere along Garden Road, which was partially closed to traffic.

Fearful that the protesters might turn their ire on them, the mainland couple did not dare to ask people at the protest site for directions.

But to their great surprise, one young lad, who was obviously a protester, as he was shouting pro-democracy slogans in Cantonese, approached them, identified himself as a volunteer from the Hong Kong Federation of Students, and asked if they needed any help.

Told of their problem, the young man, speaking in Putonghua, told them how to get to their destination, even showing them the route on his smartphone. He then offered the couple some biscuits.

When the Umbrella Movement broke out last year, international media applauded the way Hong Kong students conducted themselves, describing them as the world’s most polite protesters.

Based on his own experience, the mainlander says he couldn’t agree more.

He also recalls many other small incidents that gave him a more lasting impression of Hong Kong people than what is portrayed on traditional and social media.

One day, after eating at a local cha chaan teng, he realized he had no cash. 

But the cashier, instead of berating him, just asked him to pay next time.

On the MTR, a stranger called his attention to the fact that his backpack was open. 

He also appreciates the efficiency of the city’s police force.

Once he filed a noise compliant on the force’s webpage at midnight, and within just a few minutes a police car arrived. The officer told the neighbor downstairs to turn down the volume of the television set.

Since 2013, when a string of incidents involving the behavior of visitors from the mainland were highlighted in media reports, creating negative feelings on both sides of the border, he says he has not felt any bias or hostility from colleagues and friends.

In fact, most locals he knows try to avoid any pointed discussions involving resentment or antagonism toward mainlanders, but he’s the one who insists on learning more about Hongkongers’ true feelings.

“Surely, Shanghainese will also become resentful if people from neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang constantly overwhelm the city, snap up goods, take up school places and crowd out locals in the job market,” he writes.

He urges people on both sides of the border to refrain from making untruthful and unreasonable denunciations and shed their biases, which get in the way of improving cross-border relations.

Instead of flooding Hong Kong and competing with locals for resources, or engaging in useless debates about which side is wrong, he asks his fellow mainlanders to pressure their own officials to improve food safety, healthcare and educational services.

“It will be more constructive than just joining the call for the mainland to halt water and electricity supplies to the city, which makes no sense at all,” he says.

Yet before long, his short article on the Tencent portal was subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse, the commenters labeling the journalist a “traitor” to the mainland.

The netizens’ lopsided, harsh reactions were so extreme that Tencent’s webmaster eventually disabled the comment function. 

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EJ Insight writer

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