Before 1997, you could hardly meet a mandarin speaking person throughout Hong Kong but now you can hardly find a place where they don’t. It has become so ubiquitous that whenever my foreign friends asked me about the main changes in Hong Kong after 1997, it is my readymade answer. Hong Kong is nothing more than just a small dot in the map of greater China, but Beijing seemed to be in such a hurry to recapture it that they sent all of their extra men here all at the same time and it surely overwhelmed Hong Kong.
Political and cultural differences played a great role in polarizing our society in Hong Kong. It said to be the main two causes that created deep-rooted bitterness between Hong Kong people and mainlanders. But it wasn’t done overnight. There was a time like SARS epidemic in 2003, when Hong Kong economy got a beating and needed a helping hand from the motherland, and they came in huge numbers. Hong Kong was genuinely grateful. By this generosity Beijing managed to kill two birds with one stone: they were not only helping Hong Kong in adversity but also claiming its authority over Hong Kong by sending more people of its own.
But the trend didn’t stop there. They kept on coming and overstayed their welcome. Hong Kong was already a crowded place before and the sudden influxes of mainlanders didn’t help. Hong Kong was hosting more than double of its actual population at a time – statics showed and the public infrastructures as well as general services ran well over its capacity. Government found a new mantra of “Looking North, but they took it almost literary, and started looking only to the North by forgetting everything else. For the sake of tourism and trade, everything else was forgotten and more mainlanders were invited in. As a result, public transportations got overcrowded, public and entertainment venues were oversubscribed, government services were overwhelmed, housing prices as well as renting went up, competition grew in manifold, and people’s livelihood suffered in great deal which created resentment among locals towards mainlanders. But it was the hoarding mentality such as hospital maternity ward, milk-powder fiasco, parallel trading, school place snatching displayed by the mainlanders that the locals disliked the most. Other uncouth and uncivilized behaviors such as talking loudly, eating and sleeping on public transport, and urinating and defecating in public places disgusted the locals in great deal.
Both Hong Kong government and Beijing did almost nothing to allay public’s concern, people’s insecurity gradually morphed into anger and resentment, and suddenly everyone started talking and became very vocal. The schism between the two had already widen up by now and it only grew wider henceforth. A perfect situation for politic to take root, it provided more materials for both pro and opposition parties, and Hong Kong’s political aspiration had never been so louder since then. Unlike its counterparts from around the globe, Hong Kong students which were in long lull hitherto suddenly rose up and asserted its claim as one of the formidable forces of Hong Kong politics for the very first time and the Umbrella Movement was the pinnacle of their newly found aspiration. And as the saying goes, the rest is the history and the ever widening gap between the locals and the mainlanders is not receding anytime soon.
In fact, it had become so bad and serious by now that they got blamed for almost everything bad happened in Hong Kong and reconciliation is the last thing they have in mind. Being communist or associated with them is enough to flare up unnecessary frictions in Hong Kong.
But there are always two sides of a coin that we all seem to forget here in Hong Kong. A story is never complete until we heard from the both sides and this piece won’t be completed before we heard from the mainlanders’ side as well.
Hong Kong is a totally services-oriented economy, it produces almost nothing by its own and everything we need here is imported from outside. Needless to guess, it all comes from where else, China. The dynamic economy of Hong Kong runs not by big conglomerates but SMEs and almost all of them rely on China for their businesses and survival. Our stock market and housing, two main drivers of our economy might not survive without China’s money. Our hotels, restaurants and transportation industries will suffer without them. Without China, our daily necessities like foods, clothes and households items like furniture, electronic appliances and other stuffs will cost more. Many won’t know but we also import our fuels and petroleum products from China as well. Most importantly of them all, we get our drinking water from China as well and without China, Hong Kong will be a lot different place than it is now. It won’t be a calamity or something like that, but it won’t definitely be as vibrant, busy and successful as we have now for sure.
As the saying goes, politic is politic, and as long as you can justify and make people to belief it, anything goes in politic. Talking is cheap without responsibility in politics but our actions have consequences. As far as I am concerned, our politicians in Hong Kong lack real ideology as well as charisma and behave almost with impunity. Be grateful that we still have freedom of speech, press and humans right despite being a part of communist China. Politics has its own place but can also be a very danger game if not careful. Do anything but don’t gamble away Hong Kong’s future and be condemned by history. My two cents of advice, at the end, would be something like this. We don’t have to like each other and we can keep on bickering for as long as we like. But keep it to the sibling rivalry level and never let it escalate further up. If not, we will end up fighting no one but our own brothers and nothing is worse than that.
TIM I GURUNG/AUTHOR AT ISSLCARE – http://www.timigurung.com
AUTHOR’S NOTE – An extracted version of this article was published on a local news portal on 15 July 2016 and you can read it here – http://www.ejinsight.com/20160715-why-hk-people-should-learn-to-live-with-mainlanders/