One Country, Two Nations?

Natalie So 30 January 2014

According to my mother, a brand of popular instant noodles from Japan had now been “targeted” in a “raid” by Mainland tourists. That brand is now sold out in most major supermarkets in Hong Kong. This was eerily similar to the milk powder crisis last year, when Hong Kong mothers realized there was no milk powder left in shops for their newborn babies – a problem that the government tried to tackle by prosecuting anyone exiting Hong Kong with more than 1.8 kg of milk powder, even if you had sextuplets. All thanks to Mainlanders, my Mom complained over a shaky Skype connection.

China has become a convenient scapegoat in Hong Kong for all problems ranging from the government’s reluctance to pursue democratic development, or the diminution of Canto-pop. But simply blaming “Communists” just masks the real problems in Hong Kong. Young people often refer to the colonial days with unabashed pride, as if British rule would necessarily be better. This culminated in an incident where protestors trespassed the Chinese Liberation’s People Army headquarters holding Hong Kong’s colonial flag earlier this year.

Objectively, little of the antagonism stems from what Beijing has done –the Chinese government has not drastically undermined the “one country, two systems” agreement with the UK. On most levels, Hong Kong enjoys much autonomy; the government has put forward (cheesy) advertisements engaging citizens in “constructive discussion” about elections and constitutional reform. This would not be possible if the Mainland entirely held the reins.

A lot of the anger actually comes from social problems from within Hong Kong that are not necessarily China-related. True, Mainlanders exacerbate many pressing issues – for instance, ridiculous housing prices have been pumped up because of hot money from the Chinese nouveau riche – but much is also internal. Hong Kong people are frustrated because we live in a developed, stagnating society facing very common problems in cities around the world. For example, rent is extremely high, at almost £834 per square foot in a very cramped apartment. Forget moving out once you hit adulthood – your parents are probably still paying off their own mortgages. 

Hong Kong is struggling. But transferring all the anger to China doesn’t solve anything – protestors who look to Britain forget that our economy depends almost solely on China, and basic needs like water or electricity flow from Dongjiang. We cannot survive being petulant children whining about Beijing. Instead of ranting at Mainlanders for every petty hiccup, perhaps we could try stopping the rhetoric and looking at issues from within.

After all, repeatedly calling our Chief Executive a Communist is not going to make the city any more democratic, or the people any happier.