One Country Two Cultures

So, I’m not going to even try translating it, but the underlying theme of the piece is that a cultural divide does exist between the mainland and Hong Kong, despite the common ethnicity of their people. Sarcasm aside, Tao really has keen insight where it concerns the relationship between ‘mother and son’ since the fateful reunification.

The incident was just a reflection of that divide at a more tangible level, which relates to social behavior. As far as the public security officers were concerned, jumping queues and elbowing one’s way through crowds were just normal daily activities of citizens and not worthy of media attention, hence the overly eager Hong Kong reporters trying to film the chaos were just being officious and must be restrained with force. After all, it is not uncommon for them to show their authority by roughing up disobedient citizens – they were not treating the out-of-line Hong Kong reporters with any more aggression than would ordinarily be used. From the reporters’ standpoint, they came to get a story on the Olympic ticket sale arrangement, and any anomaly (like queue jumping) would suit them fine, but the least they would expect was to get manhandled. Even if they stepped inside the temporary restricted zone, that still didn’t warrant their being manhandled by the police using force.

I am not saying that the Hong Kong reporters were hundred percent faultless, but the issue of whether they need to do some self-reflection, both on this case and on others involving celebrities (as raised by ESWN), is not the subject of discussion in this post. What I am trying to highlight here is that difference in explicit social behavior, on top of differences in intangible values like moral standards, perception of civil liberties, perception of the West, civic rights and duties awareness, sense of rule of law and world view etc., are often the root causes of conflict and disharmony between many Western-educated Hong Kongers and many mainlanders (especially the nouveaux riches).

The incident reminds me of a story that a friend told me. My friend K was on a cruise trip to Italy last year. She was with a tour group consisting of Vancouverites, most of whom are Hong Kong immigrants. One evening, the tour group went into a restaurant in a tourist area to have a buffet dinner. As soon as they entered, they were ‘ordered’ by a sullen waiter to gather at one corner table far away from the buffet serving area where the food was laid out. When they were seated, plates of pre-selected food were distributed to them. As they were wondering why they weren’t allowed to go over to the buffet serving area to pick the food they liked, somebody with a Hong Kong tour group at the next table explained to them in Cantonese. The reason is that ever since mainland Chinese tourists began swamping Italy, many buffet restaurants have adopted this ‘quarantine’ policy for all Chinese tourists (regardless of their place of origin), as the boorish behavior and total lack of etiquette of some mainland tourists (including carrying whole platters of food back to their table) has forced the restaurants to come up with such a discriminating policy.

Last weekend, I went with a friend to Fisherman’s Wharf (in Richmond) for a fish-and-chip take-out lunch at a favorite joint. There was a long line when we arrived and we queued at the end while chatting away leisurely. When we got near the front of the line, a Putonghua-speaking kid about four or five years old came up from behind, yelling to his mom at the back ‘不要排隊’ (‘let’s not line up’). So I just stared at him and said in Putonghua: ‘每個人都要排隊’ (‘everybody has to line up’). He cowered and ran back to his mom. I just wished that it was his mom and not I, a stranger, who told him that.

Hong Kongers have had to put up with crude behavior and unhygienic habits of mainland tourists and immigrants for a long time now. Can you blame them (especially those who were born and grew up under colonial rule) for insisting on clinging to the identity of being a Hong Konger first, Chinese second? Mainlanders can resist Westernization (or universal values for that matter) for as long as they please for whatever reasons, but if they are unable to observe the universal code of civil behavior, i.e. respecting the rights (to congeniality, to privacy and personal space, to social orderliness, to freedom of expression, to freedom of speech etc.) of other people, then they cannot expect to be treated with respect and courtesy as citizens of the world.

It is not news that Japanese tourists are always the far more welcome tourists everywhere compared to mainland Chinese tourists. Surely this has nothing to do with their purchasing power?