Hong Kong at Tipping Point: Locusts, Luxury Retailer, Mainland Mums

Hong Kong is at a tipping point. Relations between locals and Mainlanders are at a new low, with as inflammatory ad in popular Chinese tabloid “Apple Daily” this week portraying the visitors as locusts.

From "Apple Daily" on 1 February 2012

As reported in AFP:
The full-page advert demanded action to stop mainland Chinese “infiltration” of the territory, showing a huge locust overlooking Hong Kong’s skyline with the words “Hong Kongers have had enough!” and “This city is dying, you know?”

The ad was paid for by private donations. Reactions have been mixed – and extreme.

On one side commentators decry this portrayal as bigoted and narrow-minded. On the other proponents say the influx of Mainland Chinese is threatening local culture.

The flash points have been diverse and, well, odd.

First there was the mass protests at Dolce & Gabbana. Here a security guard waved away a Hong Kong local who was trying to photograph the storefront. He said only Mainlanders could take photos. (Rumours suggest he was protecting a Mainland government official who was buying out the store and didn’t want to be sighted.)

This double standard for photographs morphed into a series of protests, including a mass rally where thousands gathered outside the store.  See an earlier blog posting:

D&G Hong Kong: Tempest in Tsim Sha Tsui

Also in the mix are the high numbers of Mainland mothers-to-be crossing the border to give birth in Hong Kong hospitals. They come for access to latest medical care – and to give their children “right of abode.” Anyone born on Hong Kong soil is granted residency under Basic Law.

Locals are concerned that these unscheduled hospital visits cause strains on public health – which are paid for by local taxes. They also foresee a growing local population with Mainland roots. In time this will over-ride local culture.

Other instances are cited – from the increase in property prices as Mainlanders buy apartments, to the rise of signs in simplified Chinese. (See sidebar below for explanation of simplified versus traditional characters.)

When I watched the fireworks over Victoria Harbour on 30 June 1997 – the last night of British rule – I knew there would be changes in 50 years time. The agreement between Britain and China ensured “One Country, Two Systems” for that minimum period.

Yet few could predict the steady chipping away that’s occurred in the last 15 years. Slowly, slowly Hong Kong is becoming more and more a part of China. And that’s what has locals worried.

While advertisements that cast other people as locusts isn’t the sensitive, open-minded way to gain the issue attention, it has worked. Now more than ever Beijing is concerned about Hong Kong’s integration.

Tensions continue…


Cantonese versus Mandarin – Traditional versus Simplified

There are two types of spoken Chinese – Mandarin (Mainland) and Cantonese (Hong Kong). There are two types of written Chinese – traditional or complex (Taiwan and Hong Kong) and simplified (Mainland).

In Taiwan they speak Mandarin and write with traditional characters. On the Mainland they speak Mandarin and use simplified characters. In Hong Kong they speak Cantonese and write with traditional characters.

Simplified characters are just that – the same words written with fewer brush strokes. Below are examples where the number of lines is halved making it easier and quicker to write. The word “Men” for door takes 8 brush strokes in traditional characters versus three for the simplified version.

Simplified characters became standard in China in the 1950s as the government sought to boost education levels across a then-poor nation.  One country, two systems I understand – but one country, two written languages? That’s harder to master.

Examples: Traditional Versus Simplified Chinese

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