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I don't want to move back home

Photo via SCMP

One interesting aspect of living in Hong Kong has been observing the ever-mounting tension between Hong Kong residents and Mainland Chinese people (or 'Mainlanders' - which has transformed to have a very negative and derogatory connotation). As a sociopolitical science student, it's continuously fascinated me in the past couple of months, so I thought that I would share some of my views. My class is split about 50/50 in terms of HK and Mainland students; I was very disappointed (absolutely shattered, actually) to have missed a debate from another module, where tensions were finally to surface and a massive row erupted in class about education in HK. Hong Kongers vs. Mainlanders. 

These type of disputes are hardly new though and it's the only kind of debate that I stay away from, mainly because I'm still quite undecided about a lot of the issues. Also, there's the fact that, regardless of which side I take, I'd be inevitably perceived as a traitor and/or a phony. No thank you. 

For me, it's quite easy to empathise with either side. As for the HK residents, it's quite understandable for them to be unhappy with the social changes that the handover has brought on, such as Mainlanders taking advantage of social welfare in HK, worsening overcrowding problems by coming to HK to have children, taking away employment opportunities for locals, keeping housing prices high, etc. Although I do have to say some complaints are more legitimate than others because some are crude generalisations rather than social awareness. In the past couple of months, I've heard local residents complain that Mainlanders "smell", "are uncivilised", and "shit on our MTR" (which I've never personally seen thankfully). 

I will admit that people travelling from Mainland China do frequently fail to queue up, speak too loudly on the phone, and can be rude. But as a non-local resident of HK, I don't tend to attribute these nuisances to a certain group of people (I just elbow back and talk louder). I think it's inevitable that every little fault is amplified when there are political sentiments involved. 

It's unfortunate that HK residents feel so negatively about these changes but it's simply the reality. Hong Kong is indeed a part of China now and efforts to integrate and assimilate the region is inevitable; what can be negotiated is level of autonomy that HK can have during this process (although whether or not HK 'needs' China is an exponentially more complicated issue). As with any political change, however minor, both sides needs to give some and take some.

The situation right now is kind of like an adult moving back home, which is likely in the cards for me in the coming months. You're grown up, you've created your own identity completely away from your parents, and you're independent. But inexorable circumstances has forced you to move back home, live under the reins of your parents, who don't get what you're all about. There's obviously going to be an adjustment phase, where tears, rebellion, and binging are commonplace. I'm so looking forward to this, by the way. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there needs to be open dialogue between the two sides, whether it's among politicians or students. And overall, debate - however irrational at times - can be a healthy exercise. 

Min ChenComment