Scuffles broke out between demonstrators and shoppers in one of Hong Kong’s toniest shopping precincts on Sunday as angry locals took to the streets to protest the growing influx of mainland Chinese tourists.
Tensions between Hong Kong Chinese and Mainland Chinese – whether tourists or parallel traders or immigrants – have been growing increasingly tense in recent years.
They reached boiling point on Sunday 15 February 2014 as an estimated 100 protesters marched down Canton Road, which is lined with expensive boutiques, yelling insults at well-heeled mainland shoppers.
“Locusts!” the protesters screamed at the startled shoppers, who had come to Hong Kong to engage in retail therapy.
The term locust has become something of a racial slur in Hong Kong, used to describe mainlanders, who they feel are swarming into their city to bleed it dry.
Lower Prices, Better Quality
Mainland Chinese prefer shopping in Hong Kong to their hometowns for a variety of reasons.
First, because of Hong Kong’s free-port status, prices here tend to be cheaper. Second, there is a perception that the quality of goods here is higher. Third, they think that the selection of goods here is better.
Hong Kong is, after all, thought of as a trendsetter for the country.
And then there is the issue of pirated goods. The assumption is that goods purchased in Hong Kong are genuine rather than fake.
From powdered milk to baby formula to wine – countless scandals involving shoddy and even dangerous goods have rocked China in recent years.
Somewhat ironically, I attended a round table discussion last week, and the topic was Hong Kong’s economic prospects for 2014.
Some of the attendees were representatives of the tourism industry, and they all spoke enthusiastically of the extremely positive impact that tourism from the mainland was having on the local economy.
Opportunities for Entrepreneurs
Not only was mainland tourism good for business owners, it was also creating jobs as well as countless opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs, participants said.
But the demonstrators were having none of it. As they hurled insults at Mandarin speakers, tempers flared and blows were exchanged.
I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if the protesters got their wish. What if the mainland authorities decided to stop issuing exit visas for mainlanders to visit Hong Kong?
Or what if the mainlanders themselves simply got fed up with the place and decided to take their money elsewhere?
To the demonstrators, I only have this to say: Be careful what you ask for. You might get it. There’s some truth to that old saying about killing the goose that laid the golden egg.