Monday, March 05, 2012

Anti-Mainlander Rumors in Hong Kong

The level of anti-mainlander sentiment in Hong Kong has gotten close to the danger level. In the past two weeks, since the government announced a scheme to allow Hong Kong cars to drive in the mainland and mainlander cars to come to Hong Kong, people have been furious about this, more angry than at the number of mainlander women coming to Hong Kong to give birth. Even though the number of cars would be small (50 per day for a maximum of 7 days, so a total maximum of 350 cars in HK at any one time), people are up in arms. People comment on how dangerous it will be with mainlanders driving on the left side, but in cars designed for the right side, and how mainlanders don't follow the rules. There are even photos of the few mainland cars that do now have licenses to enter HK (which are placed below their Guangdong Province license plates) making illegal turns.

A sign of a new dangerous level in tension comes from rumors circulating on the web and a story on Yahoo News that a "gang" of mainlanders tried to kidnap a 3-year old girl. The story is illogical and vague, claiming that a man and a woman and 13-year old boy tried to walk away with a 3-year old girl who was crying loudly, but they somehow got away. A mother then appeared with a stroller saying the girl was hers. The story has all the marks of a moral panic type rumor, including lack of any evidence, or witnesses.

With worries about the world economy, about who is going to be the next Chief Executive (and with the two leading candidates embroiled in scandal accusations, and our current CE embarrassed and humiliated and being found running around with tycoons and Macau gambling moguls), there is plenty to be worried about. Hong Kongers keep waiting to see who Beijing will give the nod to; so far they have not indicated a preference, which is actually good, and allows "HK people to run HK."  But the uncertainty is leading to all sorts of conspiracy theories.

Mainlanders used to be looked down upon as "A-Chan" bumpkins; now they come in the thousands to shop in Hong Kong's cheaper, duty-free stores, especially in luxury goods stores, which are so popular with tourists that one must line up to enter.  Resentment is rising, and many see mainlanders as driven by money. In their moral condemnation of mainlanders, they are willing to believe a rather illogical rumor of an attempted kidnapping. (As one poster noted in an online forum, if mainlanders wanted to kidnap a child, it would be a lot easier to do it in the mainland rather than in HK). But the rumor does provide evidence that all is not well in HK; there  is a lot of anxiety and resentment.

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