Lancôme wouldn’t have envisaged that its promotional gig featuring Cantopop singer Denise Ho will blow up into such a big controversy and stir fresh animosity between Hongkongers and their mainland cousins.
The French cosmetics brand was forced to cancel the planned event after Beijing mouthpiece Global Times took potshots at the company.
As Ho appears to sympathize with independence-leaning activists, Lancôme’s hiring of the singer is tantamount to using mainland consumers’ money to support a Hong Kong separatist movement, the newspaper said.
The strong words, which drew many “likes” from mainland netizens, prompted Lancôme to beat a retreat and announce that it has scrapped the Denise Ho event due to “security reasons”.
Beijing often tells its critics “don’t politicize everything”. But with the Lancôme move, it has effectively politicized what was purely a business affair for the French company.
As nationalist sentiments were stoked, we are now seeing fresh rants against Hong Kong people on mainland online forums.
Amid the recriminations, badmouthing of Hong Kong by the mainlanders who once lived and worked in the city get particularly blown up by media across the border.
The people say Hong Kong’s past laurels were purely fortuitous, and that the city’s lucky run is nearing an end as mainland cities are nipping at its heels, if not surpassing, in many aspects.
Various points are made as to why the people chose to go back to the mainland, rather than stay on in Hong Kong.
Some of the points are indeed valid, but most of the criticism amounts to nothing more than a smear campaign by ultra-patriotic citizens north of the border.
The Hong Kong-bashing has gone to such an extent that some mainlanders still living and working in the city are taking issue with their fellow citizens and coming to the defense of Hong Kong.
Sasha Tao, who hails from Anhui province and now works as a stock analyst in Hong Kong, had some strong words to say to her compatriots who are raging against Hong Kong and its people.
Writing on her WeChat blog, which has over 11,000 followers (and counting), Sasha makes several interesting observations.
Mainlanders working in Hong Kong’s securities sector can learn a lot as there is perhaps no better secondary market anywhere else in Asia, she notes, also pointing out that the salaries in Hong Kong can put the mainland to shame.
Further, there is no comparison when it comes to research and trading methodology between the two places.
Hong Kong’s proximity to China and its still unparalleled global alignment make it the most suitable stronghold for an up-close look at the Chinese economy while staying free from all the problems facing the mainland, she writes.
Other wage-earners in non-financial sectors can also identify with the many virtues that Hong Kong offers.
Though cramped living is a cross to bear, spacious homes are not hard to find outside the city’s urban area, if you don’t mind spending a little more time in commuting.
Where to live is always a personal choice, depending on what aspect one wants to prioritize, Sasha points out.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too when you want a big home, with cheap rent, and right in the city center in Hong Kong, nor will you in Beijing, Shanghai or any other big city on the planet.”
The drifters in Beijing, for instance, can either choose to live in Yanjiao (燕郊), a major commuter town in the neighboring Heibei province, and spend more than three hours a day packed like sardines on the peak-hour train, or rent a nice condo in the downtown Chaoyang (朝陽) district where the average rent can be even higher than that on the Hong Kong Island.
Even Hong Kong’s detractors have to admit to some well-known facts about the city.
Hong Kong’s convenience, connectivity and ease of transport are something that mainland cities can only dream of.
A person can attend three to four results announcements or conferences in different locations across Hong Kong in a day but that will be unimaginable in a place like Beijing or Shanghai, where public transport systems can never guarantee such efficiency.
And, don’t forget Hong Kong’s various other merits, including its cultural melting pot status, diversified dining and entertainment options, and its reputation for being a metropolis where residents can feel safe anytime during the day or night.
Sasha noted that she once had a debate with some friends from Shanghai as to which city is better — Shanghai or Hong Kong.
She said she proudly told her friends that in Hong Kong she doesn’t have to deal with the whirlpool of “guanxi”, or workplace intrigues and gossip, and can access Google and Gmail unobstructed.
The Shanghai friends found that they didn’t have much of a case in defending their own city.
Anyone who can survive in the highly competitive urban jungle of Hong Kong can perhaps survive anywhere.
As Sasha sees it, some people who decided to leave Hong Kong may have been at the bottom rung in the career race here as they were probably unable to adjust to the frenetic pace and workload.
“Love the city you live and work. If not, you can leave. But just don’t make up the kind of highfalutin, Hong Kong-in-decline excuses,” that’s her word of advice for her fellow citizens.
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