‘Mass-tourism from the Mainland probably rescued Hong Kong from certain doom after SARS in 2003. Now, with the purchasing power of China’s middle class hitting a peak, Hong Kong needs to expand the pie to include poorer groups like Shenzhen’s migrant workers.’ That, more or less, is the Standard’s line, via the ‘Mary Ma’ column, on the ill-timed announcement that an extra 4 million Shenzen-ites will be allowed to come and go as they please.
Until recently, the Hong Kong Tourism Board would – to put it daintily – climax without disrobing at the news. The HKTB has long had an almost autistic obsession with increasing the number of visitors to the Big Lychee as an end in itself. But on this occasion, its titular boss, Liberal Party rich-kid James Tien, expresses doubts. The extra visitors might engage in smuggling, he says. Such smuggling would be in a northbound direction, thus mainly a concern for Mainland customs officials; the main threat to Hong Kong would be all the extra giant boxes and bags being dragged through our train stations. Still, the fact that Tien has come out against cramming extra people into our crowded city is noteworthy. The reason, of course, is that he is running for a Legislative Council seat.
My fabricated conspiracy theory about resentful Shenzhen officials hasn’t chimed. Indeed, the Special Economic Zone doesn’t seem to benefit at all from allowing more residents to shop across the border (they just have more Yakult and God knows what else being smuggled back in). It would be hilarious to think that someone thought the ‘4 million influx’ idea would be popular and give pro-Beijing parties a boost in the election. One distinct possibility is that years ago Hong Kong officials actually asked for the individual visit scheme to be extended to Shenzhen’s migrant workers. It does ring some bells – maybe back in Tung Chee-hwa’s time? Someone for our press to name and shame.
The word on the street is that this, along with the proposal to set up a ‘Locustland’ zone in the New Territories, is part of something bigger. One thing that clearly alarms Hongkongers is that foreign visitors in town might think that Mainlanders who squat everywhere and let their kids pee on the sidewalk are locals. And they do not see this threat to their city’s reputation as an accident: they think it is part of Beijing’s grand design to absorb and neutralize Hong Kong. Make the Big Lychee look like a Mainland city, make foreigners think it’s a Mainland city, and before long – it is a Mainland city. Other elements of the strategy: the sort-of imposition of National Education, the astronaut-adoration rituals, the spread of simplified characters, overweening security measures for senior Beijing officials, and so on.
Some planned Mainlandization is obviously underway and is unavoidable as part of the constitutional transformation from British colony to Special Administrative Region of the PRC. Put it in the context of China’s development – with a new middle class yearning to travel – and it is easy to see why Mainland cultural influence has extended beyond just symbols (look at how many Hongkongers have worked on their Mandarin without having a gun pointed at them). But to what extent is this process non-organic: deliberate, designed, scheduled, and actively implemented and enforced? And what do the forces engaged in remodeling a civic psyche think they’re trying to achieve?
For an answer, we can turn to the Hudson Institute, one of those L Street think-tanks that churn out worthy policy documents pushing rugged, but not rabid, right-of-centre positions. Avid fans of this sort of thing might like to start with this review of a book on Taiwan, and how Beijing has successfully convinced the world, not least through manipulation of language, that the place only half-exists or half-deserves to exist.
The same author compares the apparently all-powerful Mainland with its peripheral ‘mini-China’ offshoots – notably Taiwan, but also Hong Kong, Singapore and Chinatowns. Where have China’s energy, knowhow, creativity and resources come from? Which of these two parallel Chinas is the more advanced, and which the more backward? Which looks more impressive to the subjects of the Chinese Communist Party: the mainland of the People’s Republic, or those renegade and ex-colonial entities and diaspora? He says:
The Communist Party of China seems to believe that at least one way to deal with … widespread deterioration in civic morale is to deprive Chinese on the mainland of the sight and the sound of an alternative “Chinese” way of doing things. This is what the PRC’s desired “liberation” of Taiwan is all about.
…and so, if we embrace this analysis, is the gradual imposed Mainlandization of Hong Kong. Hongkongers must accept at least nominal conversion to Mainland-hood because their current state of cheerful rebelliousness (getting weepy at the sight of the wrong flag, for heaven’s sake) could be interpreted by true Mainlanders as proof that the CCP is a false ruler and should give up power. Seen from Beijing, Hong Kong’s separate identity threatens one-party rule.
Which all sounds really heavy. On a less paranoid note, we should look not only at Beijing’s apparent determination to eliminate evidence of a successful non-CCP ‘alternative China’, but at the quality and effectiveness of its attempts to do so. If the best they can do is disgust Hongkongers with the sight of urinating toddlers in Causeway Bay, it’s going to be an uphill struggle.
And here I thought you would comment on the story in today’s SCMP about the Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School in Sha Tin canceling some religion classes in favour of national education.
Something along the lines of: “Christian school swaps one form of brainwashing for another.”
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebodys ringin the till
Someones knockin at the door
Somebodys ringin’ the till
Do me a favour,
Open the door
And tell them to push off
Who’s this Suzie, Suzie Wong,
Mainland mistress, hanging on,
Kids beside her, looking grim
Open the door and tell them to push off.
Someone’s knockin at the door
Somebodys ringin the till
Someones knockin at the door
Somebodys ringin the till
Was entertaining to see the smugglers and hoarders push back against the criticism. “Why complain? We’re buying coffee and eating bread in HK while we boost the grey market! What would you do without us?”
In passing: There’s a curious but welcome silence from the DAB politicos on all things these days. We should have LegCo elections more often.
It was said on these pages yesterday, If I wanted to live on the Mainland I would do so. Filthy air, living in an absurd shopping mall, no space, unable to use a fast food joint because its sleeping quarters for peasants etc etc are making me question why my home is suddenly not so nice a place to live in after all.
The mayor of Shenzhen stands to make a billion yuan a year out of the new rules’ exit and re-entry permit fees
The weepy Olympian must work on her medal-biting. She is only nipping at it. Teeth should be involved.
In Discovery Bay (I know boo hiss – tis the air) there is an under used area called, imaginatively, North Plaza.
Not crowded, a few not so cheap but cheerful restaurants, outdoor seating, shaded by umbrellas and the other supermarket.
However change is a coming. HKR have built a big hotel with a wedding chapel. Naturally, as is the way with most of these HK family firms, they will run it themselves and guess who they are targeting?
Hence the invasion of Discovery Bay will shortly begin and knowing how gobby western expatriates can be I do expect better fireworks than the one’s Disneys insist on firing every fucking night.
Stephen, it’s ironic that DB’ers having a beer bought from ParknShop whilst using a rubbish bin as a collective table is exactly the sort of entertainment our northern guest workers prefer.
Meanwhile ExCo member Fanny LAW is slagging off Education Secretary, Eddie NG, over the national education issue. Eddie must be thinking “With friends like Fanny, who needs enemies.”
What’s happened to collective responsibility? A suspicious man might think that the ground is being laid for Eddie’s departure and the axing of national education.
The beers are from 7-11, I’ll have you know!
Vile / Maugrim,
Your both wrong. North Plaza – Beers are from Wellcome and tables and umbrellas are provided by HKR. However I fear I soon may have to decamp to the other plaza where apparently (not) you can buy a beer in PNS and use a bin as a table and share with our northern friends.
I don’t know anything about up north, can’t understand their accents.
Panic not about Discovery Bay. HKR have made their fortunes from well-off expats and westernised Hong Kongers. That’s their market and they will likely stick to it.
Even if Mainlanders are prepared to pay for high end hotel rooms, they demand Mong Kok or CWB.
‘Eddie must be thinking “With friends like Fanny, who needs enemies.”’
Locusts descending on DB: that cannot be all bad. There is a angle here somewhere.
Something else: we have a CEO, who has his cabinet (the Executive Branch), we have a legislative council (the Legislative Branch) and we have the judiciary. All independent, as Montesqieu envisioned.
What exactly do we need an Executive Council for ? What do these people do ?
Ironic isn’t it. The whole of HKG is getting the shits because more people are coming (or threatening to come). So why t f do we need a 3rd runway that will only serve to bring in even more.
The last 15 years is starting to make sense. Beijing throws a few seemingly pointless infrastructure projects our way which the parasites (tycoons) are only too happy to fight over and which our arse kissing leaders are happy to push ahead, the bridge to nowhere, the high speed rail link, the endless shopping malls and residential projects above MTR stations etc…we all thought these were designed to line the pockets of a select few, but really their true meaning was to enable mainlanders to get here and stay more easily.
Whilst the clowns who call themselves politicians are busy throwing bananas or taking some moral high ground over some trivial issue like the location of media for a press conference, they have failed to notice the master plan. Get as many mainlanders in before the politicians stop arguing amongst themselves ,so they can water down the local HK population and enable us to seamlessly merge with the motherland and kiss bye bye to democracy.
p.s. one overlooked benefit of the mainlanders settling here would be that they would surely add to the HK females gene pool and add a cup size or two so that the use of tempos or chicken fillets in the bras would no longer be required.
Hong Kong 15 years from now Hong Kong GeoExpat advert :
300 sq foot 3/F flat in Stanley Main Street ( shared kitchen and bathroom) : HK$ 55 Million / HK$150,000 p.m
Alternative China’s…? Hmmm, I seem to remember vaguely, things called “…Chinese Exclusion Act” etc., including our very own HK Peak. Perhaps us AC’s have benefitted MORE from CCP achievements, than mainland brethren, hence the wish to share in those (recent) benefits. In view of the global epidemic of corruption, rapidly getting institutionalized everywhere (lobbying, PACs, escaping billionaires) emigration may be only temporary relief — until local corruption inevitably surfaces: scramble for contracts, school places? But until then, brief holidays are indeed a welcome respite from all-too-familiar, corrupt, local faces, I suppose.