Getting messages across, HK-style

As with any sort of bullying, shouting at Mainland shoppers in a threatening or hate-filled manner is nasty. Anyone doing it is a very naughty boy and, if the ‘threatening’ bit is sufficiently serious and provable, liable to arrest and prosecution. That’s the statement-of-the-obvious disclaimer out of the way.

The Great Tsimshatsui Anti-Locust Mayhem Frenzy Outrage last Sunday was a pretty minor thing. The best the organizers could do on-line was attract 100 or so people. If it weren’t for the Voice of Loving Hong Kong counter-protest, few would even have noticed. On a scale of 1 (silently seething) to 10 (burning and beating an Indonesian maid), it ranks at about 5 for obnoxiousness. Yet Hong Kong government officials react as if a rioting lynch mob had left a blood-soaked trail of death and destruction the length of Canton Road.

The rapidly orchestrated expressions of shock by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and three other ministers tell us that someone is panicking and wants to send an unmistakable message to someone else, and they don’t care how contrived or desperate it looks to third parties. Maybe the message is from Chief Executive CY Leung to Beijing to show his distaste for the local unpatriotic rabble. In theory, it could be from the bureaucrats to assure their tycoon buddies that the Mainland Tourist Pig-Trough will be protected. Or it could be a signal from nervous officials that our generally laid-back forces of law and order can and will get tough if this sort of protest graduates to window-breaking or nose-punching. (Or all of the above, etc.)

The key thing here is that someone is jumpy. That implies that the amateurish little protest on Sunday hit a very raw nerve. It even suggests that at least some elements in our leadership, for all their apparent obliviousness to public grievances about the Mainland influx, do in fact realize that something could snap. In other words, they don’t entirely believe the baloney about how the extreme market distortions and social disruption are outweighed by the economic benefits. If so, it could even be that some of our less clueless policymakers suspect that the game might be up, and they are going to have to do something soon to relieve the pressure.

(Meanwhile, taxpayers are asked to stump up funds for another Disney hotel, to lure yet more tourists. Something is really out of control. It should be obvious now that, whatever the original intention, the influx of visitors is narrowing Hong Kong’s economic base and limiting employment and entrepreneurial choices for most residents.)

The lesson here is not new. As we found out in 2003-05 over the Article 23 security law and in 2012 over National Education, there is only one way to get the Hong Kong government to see sense and change what it is doing. Writing to your local legislator won’t do it; calling a radio phone-in won’t do it; letters to the editor don’t work; handing in a petition to a grinning senior official is pointless. Needless to say, voting won’t have any effect. The only way for the public to convince Hong Kong’s out-of-touch and arrogant government that it is wrong is to assemble on the streets in sufficient numbers as to implicitly threaten the unthinkable.

Maybe it will still take an outbreak of window-smashing at Gucci, Prada and Hermes, much as we would all find the sight of broken glass on luxury displays intensely depressing and, to use government-speak, ‘regrettable’. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to the stage where someone gets hurt – though with wheeled suitcases trundling over toes day after day across the city, it’s amazing no-one has gone berserk yet. Physical bullying of innocent visitors is wrong. But physical bullying of the government is, sadly, the only thing that’s going to work.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Getting messages across, HK-style

  1. Mary Hinge says:

    All 100% spot on (sadly).

    Although with respect to:

    “… physical bullying of the government is, sadly, the only thing that’s going to work.”

    I rather hope that in 2017 (yes I know – long time to wait!) a CE candidate is allowed to stand on a platform of luxury goods tax plus arrival/departure tax (on everybody); and make such taxes ‘revenue-neutral’, by deducting any income made from the salaries tax-bill levied on the middle class. Nothing wrong with that, surely. Even old Lu Ping has said there are too many mainlanders here.

    Oh, and raze Disneyland to the ground. Let’s have some public housing instead.

  2. spud says:

    So said: “The government understands that growth in the number of tourists has a certain level of impact on the lives of Hongkongers. But tourism has contributed a lot in creating job opportunities. It makes up 4.5 per cent of our economy.”

    4.5% is that it???? Not much for a pillar of the economy. Maybe So has slipped something out he should not have.

  3. maugrim says:

    Some spot on points. However, there is something wrong and indeed galling when many of the spokespeople gravely intoning about “we are all Chinese/open for business/a world city” etc, are, coincidently, Heads of tourism boards, or have interests in retail outlets. Personally, I think the protestors made a mistake in bringing Colonial era flags to such a ‘protest’, it only confuses the real issue and worse, provide even more ammunition to critics. That said, my blood boils a bit more when I see Mainlanders lecturing us that such behaviour was ‘impolite’, which it was. What a pity such awareness gets switched off all too often. When the spark is struck, it will be about things like that that make our blood boil a little, with bigger, more relevant issues such as resource misallocation more likley to be ignored.

  4. Gumshoe says:

    Personally insulting the shoppers was a bad move because it gives ammunition to the shoe shiners against an otherwise great protest. With the soaring emotions we can only expect more of the same.

  5. Sojourner says:

    Bravo, Hemlock!

    In the words of the suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst “The argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument in modern politics. “

  6. Sid says:

    Shouting out insults at people who are different has always been the norm in many parts of HK. Only now that they’re directed at beloved compatriots are CY and co paying some attention.

  7. Ex Tax Payer says:

    Spot on ! Here here !

    Well spoken ( written)

  8. Sojourner says:

    @ Gumshoe — It’s behind a paywall for us cheapskates. You couldn’t be a stalwart fellow and copy and paste for us?

  9. Sojourner says:

    Btw, for those of you on Facebook, if you visit the SCMP page and read the comments on the stories relating to this issue it’s depressing the large number of expats/foreigners who think all opposition to the influx of Mainlanders is nothing but bigotry and xenophobia and who totally buy into the official line that it’s “good for Hong Kong”.

    I do my little bit to change hearts and minds, but between self-righteous expats and the 50-centers it’s a frustrating business.

  10. Backspace-Enter-Shift says:

    Every year HK has a “Dress Down” day charity fundraiser. I think it’s time to now drop that event, replacing it with a “Dress like a Mainlander” day. I quite fancy wearing some thin-soled slip-on shoes, and nasty-material trousers that come well above my belly-button that are garnished with a nice belt buckle. I find it an attractive look. Furthermore, it would make the town’s boys look like they’d just stepped out of a brothel (ditto for the girls if they copied their Mainland counterparts).

  11. Shenwen says:

    Bravo for protesting. Bravo for denigrating an entire nation as ‘locusts’. Bravo for insulting people whose only crime is that they came to HK to spend some money in HK.

    I am all for smashing windows. Disrupting businesses. You know, making real protest. Standing up to be heard. Showing balls for the cause.

    Sadly, the 100 or so people who turned up on Sunday are way too cowardly for that and prefer the easy route of gathering in the safety of a crowd, targeting innocent people and spewing their irrational hatred of Chinese visitors onto HK streets.

  12. Sojourner says:

    Fair enough,. Shenwen.

    And now you’ve vented your spleen, please give us your considered assessment of the pros and cons of mass Mainland tourism.

  13. Gumshoe says:

    @sojourner A great trick is to use Google Chrome, press CTRL+SHIFT+n to get an incognito window, and then you’re around the IP tracker.

  14. Shenwen says:

    No spleen being vented here

    But if you are going to protest, aim better.

  15. Sojourner says:

    Thanks, Gumshoe!

  16. nulle says:

    as I said before, now protesting in Hong Kong could get you arrested or investigated (then arrest you on trumped up charges.)

    I also heard reports that HK gov’t or the CCP have bugged offices of democratic or opposition to CCP in HK.

  17. @Sojourner – right click on the link then open in an incognito window (in Chrome) or private window (in Firefox). That fools the SCMP into thinking you haven’t visited before – it allows a certain number of views before shutting you out.

  18. wayne says:

    Your conclusion is spot-on. Hong Kong peopel are driven up the wall because all the rational means of expressing our discontent to the government FAILED. The HK commie government only listens to Beijing. Desperate times take desperate measures. HKers are made to do this. What would you do if you were the Polish Jews invaded by the Nazi’s? I know you might think it’s an exaggeration, but we feel exactly like this. There will be more demonstrations to come to show Hong Kongers are not meek and weak. It’s time to get back what we deserve – peace and quiet, freedom and justice as well as law and order and a civilised society, just as it was before 1997.

  19. wayne says:

    BTW, why are you not on Facebook? I hate this thing, but it’s the best way to spread one’s ideas and thoughts. You will reach a much bigger audience through it.

Comments are closed.