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Hong Kong Protesters Target Shopping Mainland Chinese Tourists

Anti-mainland Chinese protest in Tsim Sha Tsui on February 2014. Photo from United Social Press by Nathan Tsui.

An anti-mainland Chinese protest in Tsim Sha Tsui in February 2014. Photo from United Social Press by Nathan Tsui.

[The author of this post is a volunteer editor for news site inmediahk.net, which is quoted in this report.]

A protest against mainland Chinese tourists took place in the most crowded shopping district in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong on February 17, 2014, with about a hundred protesters yelling at mainland Chinese tourists and calling them “locusts”.

The total number of tourists in Hong Kong in 2012 reached 48 million, with 72 percent coming from mainland China and most of them under the “individual visit scheme“. It has been estimated that the number of tourists would rise to more than 54 million visits in 2013, with 75 percent coming from mainland China and 67 percent under the “individual visit scheme”, half of which were coming from Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Though the huge number of tourists has contributed to Hong Kong's economic growth, it has generated a number of social problems. In addition to the seemingly always overcrowded shopping districts, hopping the border to shop for daily necessities has led to the shortage of goods such as infant milk powder and medicines. Shops that serve local communities’ needs have been turning into luxury good shops for mainland Chinese nouveau riche or pharmacies that sell infant milk powder and medicines for professional cross-border carriers.

However, as the “anti-locust” action targeted individual tourists rather than policymakers, only about a hundred joined the protest and it ended up in a confrontation with pro-government anti anti-locust protesters. The next day, a number of key government officials criticized the act as “barbaric”.

Indeed, many people disagreed with the action. For example, blogger “Montwithin” found the protesters, who claimed that they were “localists”, unreasonable:

今天的「本土」經常口中念念有詞要「反共」[...],但從來不敢去挑戰共產黨的軍政機關[...],對共產黨政權的極權、壓制自由和人權沒有半點批評,反而喜歡攻擊在「中港矛盾」上立場跟他們不一樣的香港人,説穿了祇不過是黨同伐異而已。到現在更變本加厲去騷擾沒有任何反抗能力的遊客,就跟義和拳一樣,是欺善怕惡。
如果要說遊客太多社會不勝負荷,那控訴的對象就應該是政府,問它爲什麽不採取任何措施減少這個問題。

The so-called “localists” in Hong Kong today claimed that they are against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) […] yet they seldom challenge the Chinese communist institutions and criticize the human rights violations and authoritative nature of the CCP regime. Instead, they like to attack those Hong Kong people who don't share their views when it comes to the “Hong Kong and China conflict”. They cannot agree to disagree. Now, they even harass tourists who can't fight back. They act like the Boxer Rioters [in Qing Dynasty] by choosing the weak to attack.

Even if society has been overwhelmed by the huge number of tourists, they should direct their anger at the government and demand policy changes.

But Lam Shui-Bun pointed out that the “barbaric act” is a reaction to the government's refusal to address the problem:

梁振英政府一直對大力發展旅遊業所帶來社會問題視而不見,導致族群衝突的炸彈爆發,有市民竟然要直接向內地旅客表達不滿。因此,香港政府才是族群衝突的始作俑者,是香港的可悲。
不論香港政府如何企圖增加旅遊景點,其實旺角、尖沙咀、銅鑼灣等熱門遊客區也是旅客必到之處,不能夠無限量增加旅客數目。旅客為香港帶來的擠迫,以及社會資源分配問題,香港人每日也感受得到。大力發展旅遊產業,所帶來的資本摧毀了本土特色的小店文化,更帶動了租金和物價上漲,香港人每日也感受得到。旅遊業所帶來的大部份經濟收益,通通流到大財團和資本家的口袋裡,普羅市民根本沒有明顯的得益,香港人每日也感受到。試問香港人又怎會不憤怒呢?

Leung Chun-ying's government had been playing dumb in regard to the problems brought by tourism and the explosion of cross-border social conflicts. [Instead of demanding the government to address the problem], people expressed their anger directly at the tourists. The Hong Kong government should be responsible for such conflict. The incident also reflected the pathetic situation in Hong Kong.

The government wanted to solve the problem by investing in more touristic spots, but the existing shopping districts in Mongkok, Tsim Sha Shui and Causeway Bay are still the “must visit” sites. These districts can no longer take in more tourists. Moreover, the city is overcrowded with tourists and people can feel the uneven distribution of social resources. The capital investing in the tourist sector has killed local shops and pushed up rent and inflation. The economic benefits are in the pockets of big corporations and capitalists, and ordinary Hong Kong people have gained very little. How can they not get angry?

Jonathan Chan, on the other hand, criticized the protesters for ruining the campaign:

一次絕劣的政治行動,又將本來努力構建的理論正當性被推翻了。[...] 這次「驅蝗遊行」另一個秀逗的地方,是參與者口叫「反殖民」,卻舉著港英旗。[...] 不但會含糊了反對自由行的目標,而且「政治不正確」,給建制派扣「港英餘孽」帽子的籍口。

A extremely poor political action has ruined all the justifiable reasons [for policy changes]. A highly funny scene is that the protesters chanted an “anti-colonialism” slogan during the “anti-locust” rally while holding the British colonial flag […] An action like that has distorted the objective of bringing change to the “individual visit scheme”, and it also has provided an opportunity for the pro-government political forces to label them as “colonial leftover subjects” because of the flag's “political incorrectness”.

Judging from the reaction on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo as translated by Mitch Blatt from China Hush, the British flag did generate public opinion in mainland China that may justify the Beijing government's policy in Hong Kong:

洋羽君在倭国:Haha, raising the British colonial flag to oppose colonialism, this wave of Hong Kong people is really cool. Except for yelling the slogans “Chinaman,” “locusts,” and “independence,” what other tricks do you have? Would singing a big imperial country’s national song make you feel strong? God Save the Queer, Oh, no, I mean Queen.
深情拥浮云:Raising the Union Jack to oppose imperialism. That’s a really good joke.
nbcherry:What do they mean by waving the British era flag? Being a dog for your compatriots isn’t as good as being a British running dog?
渣熊josh:I think British people are laughing until they cry.
XDH-谢: Really funny! If all the people holding up the Union Jack could go to England, then Hong Kong wouldn’t feel so crowded!

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