Dogs and locusts
Old divisions find a new expression
Feb 4th 2012 | HONG KONG | from the print edition
“That’s what mainlanders are like,” was perhaps the nastiest thing said by any Hong Konger in the metro carriage. But soon a well-known loudmouth professor at Peking University was suggesting that some in the former colony were “British running dogs”. This caused some Hong Kongers to take to the streets to protest. On February 1st another group took out a full-page advertisement in a Hong Kong newspaper complaining about mainland “locusts” swarming into the territory; it called for the government to stop the “infiltration”.
In the past two months Hong Kong has seen a spate of related protests: one against the thousands of expectant mothers who pour in from the mainland to give birth in local hospitals; another involving a march against Dolce & Gabbana, a prominent Italian retailer, when it was thought to be favouring shoppers from the mainland. Though Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, a border still runs between the territory and mainland China, and access from the mainland is restricted. The Hong Kongers’ broad complaint is longstanding: they see hordes of mainlanders putting a strain on public resources. Mainlanders in turn feel that Hong Kongers are arrogant and disloyal to the motherland.
What has changed drastically in the past few years is that the old fear of poor mainland Chinese swamping Hong Kong has been washed away by floods of rich mainland shoppers. Where once Hong Kongers disdained their countrymen from the mainland as Ah Chan, the derisory term for a bumpkin, they are now more likely to hear themselves disparaged as Kong Chan, Hong Kong bumpkins, by mainlanders flush with cash.