Cross-border tensions

Intro

SCMP:

A recent outspoken defence of local culture was the result of a “psychological imbalance” among Hongkongers who felt powerless when faced with the mainland’s economic growth, said speakers at a pro-Beijing forum yesterday.

Are Hong Kongers hanging on to their local culture because they feel threatened?  Of course.  Why would we want to be associated with people who

Economic growth isn’t everything.  Without social growth, you just end up with a bunch of Beverly Hillbillies, totally out of place with their new-found wealth.  And when these hillbillies start romping all over Hong Kong, of course there are going to be tensions.

Hospitals

Let’s start at the beginning (of life).  The Basic Law of Hong Kong states that any Chinese citizen who is born in Hong Kong, regardless of their parent’s status, is a permanent resident of Hong Kong and is immediately granted access to our better health care system, education system, and more.  Thus mainland mothers, whether to seek a better life for their children or simply to circumvent the mainland’s draconian one-child policy, have given birth to over 200 thousand babies in Hong Kong from 2001 to 2012, when the local government set the quota for maternity spaces for such mothers to zero.  The boon of babies has overwhelmed local hospitals.

Apple Daily:

Mrs. Deng stated that in her maternity ward with four beds, she was thrown in with two mainlanders from Wenzhou.  The two mainlanders had 20 relatives between them.  They would show up at 7am every day to drop off their luggage, before heading off to romp around town.  Some of the men would return during the day to nap on the vacant bed. [It is also stated in the article that the men would use the ward’s shower.]

[…]Mrs. Deng was eventually offered a double room but refused, as she had befriended a local mother from one of the double rooms, whose roommate brought in her family for a round of hot pot!

[…]Mrs. Deng said she felt as if she were stuck in a hospital in Shenzhen.

Milk powder

After the babies are born, they have to be fed.  However, the mainland’s milk powder is known to be tainted, and given the toxicity of what mainlanders are forced to eat and drink, so is breast milk.  So mainlanders who can afford it buy milk powder overseas, especially in Hong Kong but also Australia and Europe.

The resulting clearance of Hong Kong’s store shelves by foreign mothers has obviously not gone over well, and the export of milk powder from Hong Kong was eventually restricted to 1.8 kilograms (2 large tins) per person per 24 hours.  There were attempts by Beijing loyalists to tag on an expiry clause to the new regulation, but due to an ongoing filibuster in the Legislative Council at the time, the amendment lapsed before it could be voted on. (Subsidiary legislation is passed by the government without the need to go through Legco.  Legco may amend or repeal the legislation, but only within a limited window of time.)

(Source: Facebook)

Inside Sheung Shui Station (Source: Facebook via BadCanto)

(Source: TIME)

Outside Sheung Shui MTR station, before the export regulations (Source: TIME)

Primary Education

After the babies in Shenzhen have been weaned off of Hong Kong-bought formula milk, those of them lucky enough to be born here are now set to enter Hong Kong’s primary school system.  Since most of them, despite being legal Hong Kongers, live across the border with their parents, they generally apply to schools in the Northern district (including Sheung Shui and Fanling), leading to a shortage of places for local students, some of which are diverted to neighbouring Tai Po.

This year, the Northern district has been able to create some extra school places, by increasing the size of each class and by converting special-use classrooms such as music rooms, neither of which is beneficial to the education of Northern-district children.  Furthermore, students choosing to return to their home district will not be allowed to choose to remain in their Tai Po schools if their new allocation is not to their liking.

There will be a greater problem in six years time, when the flow of students across the border suddenly stops (due to the current regulations on maternity ward places) and schools in Northern district are suddenly unable to fill their primary one classes.  Students in higher grades may find themselves forced to move during the middle of their primary school educations as these schools start to shut down.  These students will become the victims of the local government who failed to deal with the problem of cross-border births earlier.

Students crossing the border to go to school in Hong Kong. (Source: SCMP)

Students crossing the border to go to school in Hong Kong. (Source: SCMP)

Higher Education

Our universities like to pride themselves on being international, but a university is hardly international at all if its non-local students all come from the same country, namely China.

(Source: SCMP)

(Source: SCMP)

The proportion of mainland students is even worse in postgraduate courses and research programmes, where in some cases local students are a minority.  In fact, an infamous letter from the City University of Hong Kong even asked local postgraduate students to adjust their schedules to help mainlanders graduate before their visas expired.

Then again, what’s the use of a degree when most Hong Kongers are doomed to serve in retail anyway?

Disclaimer: I do have a few friends from the mainland, but they fit in with Hong Kong way more than your average Mandarin-only, sitting-in-his-underwear-with-the-dorm-door-open student.  (Yes, that actually happened.)

Retail

Mainlanders love shopping in Hong Kong, no doubt about it.  In Tsim Sha Tsui, jewellers and gold merchants from the same chain are often located right across the street from each other.  Rents in Hong Kong are the highest in the world and increasing.  Among the victims are everything from long-time eateries such as Lee Yuen Congee Noodles, to the major cinema chain UA Cinemas.  It seems that more and more of Hong Kong has become little more than a shopping mall for the mainland elite.  These stores are even known to discriminate against locals, as store managers know they can make a buck more easily from our northern neighbours.  This has led to much tension and even protests, for example this one outside Dolce & Gabbana on Canton Road (i.e. Hong Kong’s de facto Chinese Concession).

Note: the article from which the above picture was taken says “For whatever reason, protestors started waving the British Hong Kong flag”.  This is incorrect.  The flag contains Hong Kong’s former coat of arms but not the Union Jack and is a local creation designed to promote independence from both traditional British colonization and the new-style Chinese “colonization” (quotes might not be necessary here).

Real Estate

Apart from rising store rents, mainlanders are also accused of driving up residential rents.  As Hong Kong has limited land suitable for building high-rises, housing is at a premium compared to most (if not all) other places in the world.  Developers also know they can churn out a higher profit building for the (local and mainland) upper-class rather than for the grassroots, who are forced to line up for a massively inadequate public housing system while living in conditions like in the photo below.  Even middle-class youth find themselves still living with their parents, lining up for the same public housing scheme as the rest.

(Source: Wall Street Journal via Hong Wrong)

(Source: Wall Street Journal via Hong Wrong)

The government has responded by increasing stamp duties as well as imposing a new form of stamp duty on mainland and corporate buyers of property.  However, common sense dictates that while stemming demand a bit, this also decreases owners’ willingness to sell, meaning prices go nowhere if not further up.  (You’ll be surprised at how little common sense our officials have).

The Standard:

Transactions by foreign investors accounted for 19.5 percent of deals thus far [in 2012], compared with 13.7 percent in 2011 and 5.1 percent in 2010.

Conclusion

With mainland Chinese adversely affecting Hong Kongers’ lives in so many aspects, of course Hong Kongers have become increasingly territorial, some even calling for a fully independent Hong Kong.  These tensions are being caused by:

  • Limited land in Hong Kong, making real estate lucrative for investors but too pricey for the working class
  • Tainted and counterfeit goods on the mainland meaning shoppers would rather come here
    • Also, high import tariffs making these goods more expensive on the mainland
    • Also, the rise of the RMB yuan, increasing mainlanders’ purchasing power in Hong Kong and overseas
  • Better public services such as education for those born here, leading to birth tourism
  • The uncouth nature of mainland tourists, both perceived and real
  • Poor government policy in dealing with the mainland influx
  • etc.

Will these tensions lead to an ultimate showdown with the mainland?  It’s unlikely.  China is a major superpower and Hong Kong has everything to lose.  Still, the rising resentment of Hong Kongers towards the mainland is not something to be taken lightly.

Well, that’s all for this post.  Y’all come back now, ya hear?

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3 thoughts on “Cross-border tensions

  1. […] This superiority complex carried by the Chinese is despite them coming to Hong Kong in droves for milk powder, primary school places, and whatnot. […]

  2. […] in scandals over the past year, including the former head of the freaking ICAC!  Meanwhile, cross-border tensions are hitting a new high, and a record low 13.3% of young Hong Kongers aged 18-29 view themselves as […]

  3. […] I mentioned in an earlier post, nearly all non-local students are from the mainland, that is, over 90% of our […]

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