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Human Rights & Social Issues

Hong Kong’s xenophobia against China is holding everyone back


People protest against allowing Mainland mothers to give birth in Hong Kong hospitals

People protest against allowing Mainland mothers to give birth in Hong Kong hospitals

Recent initiatives by the government to curb transportation of milk formula across the Hong Kong-Mainland border have been called unconstitutional according to World Trade Organisation free trade agreements.

The initiative came after concerns over a milk formula shortage that have been escalating since it was discovered that tourists from the Mainland were transporting as many as 40 tins of the powder over the border following melamine scares.

This has been one of the many concerns over Mainlanders threatening the quality of life in Hong Kong, including accusations that Mainland women take up space in maternity wards, leaving little space for local mothers. Protests have sprung up (although this means very little, since Hong Kongers tend to protest about everything from the content of Japanese manga to the content of school lunch boxes), where Mainlanders were likened to locusts descending on the valuable resources of the city-state.

Even more embarrassingly, a handful (around 12,000) of Hong Kongers petitioned US President Barack Obama for help regarding this milk formula “deficiency,” citing potential malnutrition and/or starvation of Hong Kong infants.

In the words of Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I often travel back and forth between North America and Hong Kong. Each time I return to North America, the anger exhibited in the Hong Kong media towards Mainlanders seems to be getting more and more ridiculous.

The fact that Hong Kongers use the word malnutrition is an insult to many across the world who face real malnutrition. Is this really the image Hong Kongers want on the world stage? If I knew nothing of Hong Kong and simply saw a news article about Hong Kongers petitioning Obama for milk formula, I’d think either Hong Kongers live in dire poverty (which is not the case), or they were hysterical.

This hysteria draws on a deep xenophobia of outsiders, something that often expressed against anyone who isn’t Cantonese-speaking Han Chinese. I cite the recent documentaries from media company RTHK on the matter of discrimination in Hong Kong against various ethnic and religious groups, including Filipinos, Sikhs, and Muslims. (Documentary is Cantonese-language.) Earlier this year, a Filipina domestic worker who had worked in Hong Kong for 25 years lost a court battle over the right to permanent residency. Many public figures were vocal in their opposition to the court case, with some arguing that domestic workers should not be allowed to become Hong Kongers “overnight.”

It could be argued that Hong Kong is finally experiencing the same xenophobia that many developed nations have against immigrants and refugees. An example of this is right-wing American hysteria about “anchor babies,” a derogatory term referring to babies of illegal or immigrant families who use the baby to later bring relatives into the country for citizenship. Hmm. Sounds remarkably like public outrage over Mainland mothers crossing the border to give birth in Hong Kong.

Instead of wasting effort on fear and outrage, people in Hong Kong should learn how to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Shortage of milk formula in Hong Kong? Why not have more stores along the border that sell the product in bulk? As for hospital maternity wards being overcrowded with expectant mothers from the Mainland, doctors across the city have already stated that they have expanded obstetric services to meet growing demands. The myth of immigrants in Hong Kong taking up public resources is simply untrue; according to the Labour and Welfare Bureau, only about 5.6 percent of new immigrants were on social security.

Anger on its own is not productive. Hong Kong is a global financial hub and a diverse and multi-national place. We should be embracing that and pushing to be more progressive.

Originally posted at: Meanwhile in China
 
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About Victoria Sung

Victoria holds a Masters degree in Media, Culture, and Communications from New York University. Hailing from Canada, raised in Hong Kong, and educated in the US, she hopes to use her degree to foster cross-cultural communication. Chief editor of meanwhileinchinanews.com.

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