A video of a quarrel between mainland tourists caught snacking on a Hong Kong subway train with local passengers has burnt up the internets in both Hong Kong and the mainland. Since the video was uploaded to Youtube five days ago, it has racked up half a million views, and a few hundred thousand more on various Chinese video sites. Here’s a quick summary of what happens in the video:
At the start of the video, a Hong Kong man demands an apology from the girl and her mother but the tourists refuse, saying it is not a big deal. Others then join in on both sides.
One of the Hongkongers presses the emergency button and notifies platform staff. An MTR employee tells the tourists they can’t eat inside the train and a mainland woman says sorry in English. A Hong Kong man then says sarcastically: “Oh, she knows English”.
A mainland woman tries to explain the situation to the MTR staff member but is interrupted by the Hongkongers as the quarrel resumes. At the end of the video, a Hong Kong man says: “No need to speak to them. That’s what mainlanders are like.”
Huang Xiangyang, senior writer at the China Daily, describes the video as a “symbol of the ‘culture clash’ between Hong Kong and the mainland”:
Internet users from the mainland overwhelmingly pointed to Hong Kong residents’ sense of superiority – something that was routinely felt by the less wealthy mainlanders when they visited Hong Kong before its return to the motherland in 1997 – only a very few took a neutral stand, noting that mainland tourists should learn to behave themselves while Hong Kong people should be more tolerant and not overact.
I would no doubt have reacted in the same way as most of my mainland compatriots if I had not lived in Hong Kong for five years. In fact, I was expecting to experience discrimination when I was first sent to the city in 2000 to work for the local bureau of our newspaper.
After all, I had experienced not so subtle discrimination in big cities such as Shanghai where I could not speak the local dialects. Given Hong Kong’s history as a British colony for more than 150 years, what more could I expect?
Yet my fears never materialized. Instead, my five years living and working in Hong Kong are some of my most pleasant memories. Instead of enmity and discrimination, I was shown hospitality and care by the local people, who were always polite and ready to help.
UPDATE: Peking University professor Kong Qingdong responds to the video, calling Hong Kongers bastards, dogs and thieves.
Here’s a news report on Hong Kong television with English subtitles: