Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chinese People as Locusts

I'm from California, so I'm used to a fair amount of anti-immigrant sentiment (especially strong in southern California). It ranges from reasonable objections about crime and drug smuggling due to the porous borders, to the racist and paranoid (fantasies about anchor babies and takeover plans).

Interestingly, this is not an American-only problem. The video below has been making the rounds of the Chinese internet; apparently some Hong Kongers are even harassing Mainlanders on the street by singing the song at them.

Basically, many Hong Kong locals intensely dislike the large numbers of Mainland Chinese who come to Hong Kong legally or otherwise (there is not free travel between the two places; Mainlanders must have a visa to enter, though Hong Kongers can visit China freely). They call them "locusts" and object to their dirty habits, rudeness, loudness, dishonesty, and so on. (To be fair, many of these objections are valid.)

There is of course a political element as well. The government of China wants very much to "assimilate" Hong Kong, which means getting rid of the local culture and replacing it with a Beijing-centric one. Hong Kong has a different language, writing system, and culture (for instance, a free press and a much more vibrant religious scene), and their citizenry unsurprisingly strongly object to these assimilation plans. Hatred for Mainlanders is in part a response to Hong Konger's insecurity about the future of their city and way of life.

It's fascinating how these social problems are so widespread, the poor and pushing trying to improve their lot, and the rich and prosperous trying to defend what they've gotten. (Singapore has a very similar dynamic in many ways.)


  1. Hong Kong up until 1997 was under British rule so throughout that time the people there developed a smug condescending attitude towards Mainland China. However, after the handover in 1997 and rise of China as an economic powerhouse, the resentment towards Mainlanders in China has grown even stronger. Hong Kong's current reaction to the Chinese may in large be driven by jealousy and their refusal to accept that China has now risen above them. Due to the growing wealth and power of the Chinese who with their disposable income is able to come to Hong Kong to splurg on luxury items whilst the common Hong Kong citizen struggles to makes end meet. I find it rather amusing though that Hongers would criticize the Chinese given that Hong Kong etiquette, manners and social behaviour leave a lot to be desired.

    1. Hong Kong's economy used to be mostly based on its role as a bridge between China and the West; now that China is richer and more internationally focused, this role has become less necessary and I think you're right that Hong Kong has been hurt as a result.

      The average Chinese person is a lot less well off than the average Hong Kong person though. I think per capita income is something like $8,000 vs. $49,000 (and HK citizens get subsidized housing, health care and free education). So I'm not sure how important jealousy (at least about China's current status) is in this dynamic.