Ever since Hong Kong’s handover in 1997, there has been a huge influx of mainlanders coming to Hong Kong. As a mainland-born Hong Kong resident myself, albeit one who moved young, I fell nervous about the recent rising sentiment in Hong Kong against immigrants from the mainland.
But many Hongkongers now increasingly loathe the presence of mainlanders in the city. The number of mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong, the rising housing costs caused by mainland investment in the local real estate market and the poor manners of many mainland tourists all contribute to Hongkongers’ reluctance to accept mainlanders into their society.
One of the major reasons why Hong Kong residents frown upon mainlanders is that many mainland women give birth to their babies in Hong Kong hospitals.
Ten years ago, the motive for mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong was to escape the one-child policy in the mainland.
However, as mainlanders are allowed to move more freely between the two areas, another motive has emerged: the right of adobe.
Under the law, every child born in Hong Kong can enjoy the right of citizenship and other services such as free education and public welfare, which are fulsome compared to the mainland. Thus, whether or not the parents are Hong Kong natives, children born in Hong Kong enjoy the full benefits of Hong Kong citizenship.
Leung Tak-Yeung, organizer of the Hong Kong Obstetric Service Concern Group, describes how “in the absence of staff increases to keep in step with the soaring numbers of expectant mothers who come to us, our main concern is maintaining our high standards of obstetric and gynecological services.”
Data collected by the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong show that last year, out of the 88,500 newborns in Hong Kong, more than 45 percent or 40,000 were children of mainland mothers.
The rise in the number of expectant mainland mothers has driven the price of reserving rooms in hospitals upward, making it difficult for locals to find the best possible healthcare for themselves.
Another reason why Hong Kong locals resent the interference of mainlanders in their city is because of the negative effects of mainland investment in the Hong Kong real estate market. Even after a sharp decline in prices caused by the global recession in 2008, Hong Kong’s housing prices are among the most expensive in the world, at an average rate of $2,060 per square foot.
As the yuan is appreciating, more and more mainland investors are buying apartments in Hong Kong, driving up the costs for locals. A new residential project in Wong Tai Sin, for instance, has had 30 percent of its presale flats purchased by mainlanders. Mainlanders are also investing in high-end properties such as the Midlevels, an area popular among Hong Kong’s most wealthy professionals.
For locals who have saved their money for decades to buy decent housing in Hong Kong, their dreams of home ownership have been destroyed by rising housing prices.
Mainland tourists are also notorious for spitting on sidewalks, leaving trash behind and chatting at the top of their lungs. I have always defended my compatriots, claiming that Hongkongers are too sensitive to minor differences.
However, after an experience with mainland tourists at an adventure park, I was left truly disappointed by their actions. They talked so loudly I could hear them through headphones turned to the maximum.
Trying to disassociate myself with them, I only become more involved when one person nearly spat on my shoe. And after the group had left the bench, there was already a small mountain of plastic bottles, polystyrene lunch boxes and paper bags.
Despite this encounter, I still feel saddened by Hongkongers’ aversion to immigrants from the mainland.
Just recently, the Hong Kong Hospital Authority announced that public hospitals would not accept maternity bookings from mainland expectant mothers after April 9.
I understand that it is important to ensure the tranquility and contentment of the Hong Kong people first. But rather than targeting a specific group, I believe that there should be quotas set on all immigrant groups concerning the number of houses they can buy or the number of expectant mothers that can come, rather than just mainland immigrants.
The author is a student at the Hong Kong International School. firstname.lastname@example.org