Everyone in Hong Kong should have heard of the mainland parallel-goods traders who discriminated by the local citizens. The MTR Corporation’s new policy setting limit to the weight of the luggage and the demonstration against the traders held by the local citizens are some of the evidences showing the discrimination against the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong (Lee & Lo, 2012). Actually, the mainland Chinese settling in Hong Kong faces lots of barriers in different aspects. According to the United Nation, the living standard of a people will be degraded by the social, political, environmental, cultural and economic barriers (The United Nation, 1976). This essay will discuss the barriers occurred, the response by different stakeholders and the Hong Kong government’s role in this issue.
The reason why the mainland Chinese migrates to Hong Kong may help understand the issue. In 1962, the Hong Kong government adopted the Touch Base Policy, which allowed the mainland Chinese arriving the city area to settle in Hong Kong. Since there was starvation in China at that time, thousands of people who were strong and young migrated to Hong Kong by swimming and climbing the hill. They devoted themselves to work for the factories and increased the productivity of light industry (The Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, 2001). Due to the booming economy of Hong Kong and the introduction of the Basic Law in 1997, many mainland Chinese came and gave birth to their children to enjoy the right of abode in Hong Kong (Ming Pao, 2011). Therefore, the two main purposes for the mainland Chinese to settle in Hong Kong are working and enjoying the welfare.
The social barriers faced by people are defined by the lack of help from the society, the exclusion from the welfare and the disconnection from the social network (The United Nation, 1976). As mentioned above, the mainland Chinese settle in Hong Kong to enjoy the benefit provided by the government. However, the one who does not have the right of abode cannot enjoy the welfare. The most familiar case is the difference in the fee of medical service. The charge of the service of accident and emergency for the local citizen is $100 per attendance while that of people with no right of abode charges $570 per attendance which is five times to the local one (Hospital Authority, 2007).
This shows that the mainland Chinese staying in Hong Kong less than 7 years cannot enjoy the medical services at the lowest cost. Even the mainland Chinese with the right of abode cannot fully enjoy the welfare of the society. Consider the free education provided to the children with the right of abode, it is obvious that the mainland children in Hong Kong may have difficulties in learning using English and Cantonese which are not their mother tongue (Caritas Hong Kong- Tsuen Wan Community Centre, 1998). There is no extra resource to help the migrated children to adapt to the learning environment which is different from that of mainland China.
Beyond the social barriers are the economic barriers, which are known as the lack of participation in production, trading and consumption (The United Nation, 1976). Another purpose of settling in Hong Kong is to get the employment opportunity as stated above. However, it is difficult for the mainland Chinese to find a job in Hong Kong. According to the report conducted by the Hong Kong government, the employment rate of the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong was 45.7%, lower than the overall employment rate in Hong Kong (60.3%) in 2006 (Hong Kong Government, 2007). This can be caused by their small social network and low education level of the migrated mainland Chinese.
Moreover, there are not many types of work they can choose. 82% of the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong was having works with low-technique in 2006 (Hong Kong Government, 2007). As the mainland Chinese are of low education level with few techniques for work, most of them work as sales assistants but not technician. This implies that the mainland Chinese has a relative low chance to earn high profit in Hong Kong. Actually, the income rate of the mainland Chinese are much lower than that of the local citizens. The median of income of the mainland Chinese is around $6000 while that of the local citizens is $10000 (Hong Kong Government, 2007). Having a low income set them into living problem as they may have difficulty in buying necessity, paying utilities expense and paying for the meal.
Getting low income not only leads to the difficulty in buy food and stuff, but also leads to the residential problem. The environmental barriers mean the poor living condition of the residents and the negative atmosphere of the environment (The United Nation, 1976). According to the report of Society for Community Organization in 2009, the median of monthly rent of bed space apartment is $1265 and that of suite is $2300 (Society for Community Organization, 2009). If the mainland Chinese chooses to rent a bed space apartment or a suite, they will spend a large part of their income to live in an area with poor condition. They can also choose to rent the public housing or purchase their private house, but this will cost them more which they may not afford. Moreover, the characteristic of the district they lived may create negative emotion to the mainland Chinese.
If you are living in a city that was degraded by many people, you will probably become sad all days. Actually, when the mainland Chinese rent the public housing in Hong Kong, they may often be allocated to the Western part of New Territory, as it is the new developed town with more space. The problem faced by the mainland Chinese when they are settling will create sad emotion which will be accumulated. This leads to the high rate of unemployment, suicide and family violence and also leads to the name of ‘city of sadness’ for Tin Shui Wai (Chang, 2007). Fung is an example described in the program of the New Magazine. She is a mainland woman settled in Hong Kong for 10 years with no husband and she find it hard to live in Tin Shui Wai as there are many cases similar to hers (New Magazine, 2007). It is obvious that the mainland Chinese may face both physical and mental barriers raised by the environment.
In concord with the environmental barriers, the mainland Chinese may face cultural barriers. It is about the loss of the acceptance of their cultures and behaviors from the society (The United Nation, 1976). While you are walking on the street, you may have the experience that the Chinese near you are not saying the same language compared to yours or do not familiar with Cantonese. Actually, many migrated mainland Chinese has their only accent or dialect. From the data of the Population Census 2011, 5.3% of the resident in Hong Kong spoke Putonghua or other Chinese dialect (Hong Kong Government, 2012). This leads to the obstruction for them to communicate with the local citizens.
Moreover, the habits of the mainland Chinese are different from that of the local people. For example, there are many cases of corruption in the mainland and the residents there usually bribe the government officers or the manager of the company to enjoy services earlier than others or obtain other benefits. When the mainland Chinese settles in Hong Kong, they cannot change this practice which is not accepted here immediately. Therefore, they will be discriminated by the local citizens when they want to jump the queue by giving extra money (Ming Pao, 2012). Obviously, such behaviors may create discrimination against the mainland Chinese and they may find it hard to communicate with the local citizens.
Above the previous four kinds of barriers is the political barrier. Political barriers occur when people are excluded in the procedure of establishing policies as no one can represent them to fight for their right (The United Nation, 1976). In the case of migrated Chinese, they only have the permanent right of abode and so the voting right in Legislative Council and District Council when they live in Hong Kong for more than 7 years (Hong Kong Government, 1997). Therefore, if they only live for less than 7 years, they cannot exercise their voting right to vote for the councilor who is willing to strive for their interests. Some may argue that there are still some councilors, who consider the right of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong, however; as there are too few councilors representing them, it is likely that the councilors cannot align the decision making in the council to the rights of the mainland Chinese.
From the above, we find different barriers faced by the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong with different nature. Whether they should be included in the Hong Kong society has come to a controversial issue between the groups that advocate and the groups that oppose.
‘Citizens should tolerate the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong as they are only of different values with us.’ the former chief executive Donald Tsang said (RTHK, 2012). This is one of the points that support their inclusion in Hong Kong. As the mainland Chinese was adapted to their habits in China, they cannot change their mind step right after they settled in Hong Kong. It is rude to repel them just because their behaviors are different from us.
Moreover, Hong Kong is an international city consisted of people come from different cities or countries. It is the common practice for the Hong Kong citizens to treat people with different race in the same way to encourage cultural diversification. If we only give respect to the white but detest the mainland Chinese, an image that Hong Kong is not a city that can include all kinds of groups may be created. This may probably damage the reputation and discredit the name of travellers’ paradise of Hong Kong. One of the possible outcomes is the decrease in amount of travellers and investment in Hong Kong and this will lead to the decrease in social benefits as well.
Furthermore, exclusion of them in Hong Kong will create negative emotions to the society. When there are people blaming the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong, it will usually create ‘war’ between local Chinese and mainland Chinese. We can easily find posters and articles posted by them to insult each other on the Internet. People supporting each side will also organize campaigns that dishonor another side and this will aggravate conflict in the society (Ming Pao, 2011). Another negative impact raised by the exclusion is the deadly tragedy of mainland Chinese. When the mainland Chinese cannot settle down properly and are scorned by the Hong Kong people, sadness will accumulate. As there are not enough resources for the assistance or counseling to the mainland Chinese, they may try to solve the problem by themselves. The solutions usually include improper behaviors like committing suicide. This kind of negative news does cast a shadow on the society.
On the other hand, there are groups that oppose the inclusion of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong. Firstly, they state that the mainland Chinese should respect the unique culture of Hong Kong. For example, some of the citizens think that the main language used by Hong Kong people should be Cantonese. Also, they may think that there are some hidden rules which are sometimes broken by the mainland should be kept up, such as queuing, talking softly in public area, and no eating on the train. If many mainland Chinese enters or settles in Hong Kong, they may influence the original culture of Hong Kong and make the society worse as they image.
Secondly, Hong Kong is already very crowded that there should not be more people settle down. According to the world record, Mongkok is the most crowded place in the world and its average population density is 130 thousands. The public transports and facilities in Hong Kong are also fully used by the local citizens. If more mainland Chinese settle down here, a lot of place in Hong Kong will become more packed and this will create extra demand of the provision of public transportation.
Thirdly, the mainland Chinese will use up the limited resources which originally belong to the local citizens. For instance, the medical services provided for the pregnant woman are limited, as there are limited doctors and bed in the public hospitals. Although the charges of the public medical services for the mainland Chinese are much higher, the mainland Chinese is still willing to give birth in order to enjoy higher service quality and evade the punishment under the one-child policy.
Under this circumstance, the doctors will become more stressful and not enough public medical services will be provided to the local women. Some says that, the foreign migrants settled in Hong Kong may also use up the limited resources; however, the population of the China is very large compared to other countries (Li & Lok, 2012). If we advocate the inclusion of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong, large amount of the mainland will rush to Hong Kong for varied reasons and the situation will be completely different compared to the case of the foreign migrants.
We could find different points of view in the society which have already listed above and it is the government responsibility to balance between the opinions of the citizens for or against the inclusion of mainland Chinese.
The most important thing needed to redeem the reputation of Hong Kong is to help the mainland Chinese overcomes their barriers faced in Hong Kong. To deal with the economic barriers, the government should help the mainland Chinese to find jobs with higher income by promoting their competitiveness. To begin with, the government can allocate more resources to the community centers for them to organize language and practical skill workshops which can enrich the abilities of the mainland Chinese so that they can attract the local employers. In addition, the government can take the initiative opening up more positions for the mainland Chinese to apply so that the private firms will follow and this will create job opportunity for them.
To solve the social barriers, the government can appoint the school to create a better learning environment for the mainland children by adopting small class teaching of the English lesson or making tutorial class for them. This relies on the extra resources given by the government to help the children enjoy the education more effectively. To deal with the cultural barriers the mainland Chinese faced, the government should force them to abolish their bad customs. Specifically, the government should produce more advertisements about the moral standard of Hong Kong citizens which can be broadcast on TV and radio so that the migrated mainland Chinese will be influenced and follow our practices.
Not only the mainland Chinese should be educated, but also the local residents should be inculcated about the equality of people with different cultures. As the economist said, good institutions always align self-interest with the social interest (Cowen & Tabarrok, 2011). It is known that globalization encourages the movement of people from their countries of origin to another places. It will become more common that the mainland Chinese settles in Hong Kong as the relationship between Hong Kong and Chinese become closer.
Therefore, it is for the social interest that local citizens should accept the existence of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong so that the conflicts in the society will be alleviated. To fulfill this social interest, institutions to the public should be introduced. The government should first strengthen the citizenship education about inclusion of mainland Chinese for the primary and secondary school students as they are the pillar of the society. Then, the government should produce more TV programs and large campaigns to change the whole atmosphere of the society. Actually, there are some programs on the TV promoting equally treatment to the mainland Chinese like ‘Southern and northern’, one of the episode of the program in RTHK talking about the difficulties faced by the migrated Chinese woman in Hong Kong (RTHK, 2011).
As citizens in Hong Kong, we must be aware of the existence of mainland Chinese. There are increasing potential that the China will overtake Hong Kong to become a city with high CGDP. There is also globalization encouraging the inflow of mainland Chinese. Inclusion of mainland Chinese is a must in the 21st century and we should confront to the problem existed to alleviate the conflicts in the society. It is found that there are economic, political, social, cultural and environmental barriers faced by the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong. There are also increasing discussion on whether we should advocate the inclusion of them. When it comes to the benefits of the public, the government should act as the lubricant between groups with different opinions and create a harmonious atmosphere. In the coming future, it is possible that there is no discrimination against the mainland Chinese and they may become part of the Hong Kong.
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