Since the implementation of Individual Visit Scheme, the number of mainland visitors visiting Hong Kong has increased at a tremendous speed (Siu, 2015). Although it stimulated Hong Kong's economy and increased capital inflow, it has also brought about culture shock to Hong Kong people. The ‘uncivilized’ behaviors of mainlanders have been reported by various media and includes pooing and peeing in the public, littering and spitting, damaging public facilities, putting one’s foot on the opposite seat in public transportation, sitting on tables in public areas, washing feet using the drinking fountain, intercepting queues and speaking extremely loud etc. (香港網絡大典, 2016) Although these behaviors are tolerable in mainland China, in Hong Kong it is not due to cultural differences, and as a result these behaviors have become a prominent label for mainlanders. By assuming all people in mainland China have the tendency to perform in improper ways, mainlanders in Hong Kong face prejudice in nearly every context one can think of. This essay will first define what is prejudice, and then describe how worse is the situation that mainlanders are facing in Hong Kong in terms of prejudice, and afterwards analyze in what ways have cultural differences contributed to the distinction on level of acceptance to the above-mentioned improper behaviors, and finally give suggestions on how to eliminate this prejudice in terms of policy making.
What is Prejudice?
Prejudice is defined as “negative attitudes towards other people that are based on faulty and inflexible stereotypes” (Lustig & Koester, 2010, p.156). It involves judgment on a person of a group of people not based on “direct experiences and firsthand knowledge”, but based on negative prejudgment due to its difference from the judge (Lustig & Koester, 2010, p.156). One prominent reason is because people tend to like people that are similar to themselves but not those who are different due to the human brain structure. Highfield (2008) points out that researchers have found out that the lower part of the "medial prefrontal cortex" (MPFC) is used when people see someone who are alike with themselves, while the upper part of the MPFC is used when seeing those who are not different from themselves, and this also applies to infants who tended to look at persons who are of the same skin color as themselves. Prejudice is, therefore, inevitable in any community, where different people come together.
Situation: How serious is prejudice faced by mainlanders in Hong Kong?
For those Hong Kong people who have prejudice over mainlanders, even though some mainlanders do not exhibit the above-mentioned behaviors, Hong Kong people will still ignore such omission and continue believing in the prejudiced view they already have on them (Allport, 1954). This phenomenon affects mainlanders’ life in every dimension. In terms of macro perspective, many polices, such as the rule that they can start queuing for public housing only after residing for seven years, and the exclusion of mainlanders over protection by the Race Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 602) etc. (香港社區組織協會, 2016). In terms of micro perspective, mainlanders are treated by government staff, police, customers, colleagues, employers and classmates rudely, and some are even laughed at when shopping and dining in public (香港社區組織協會, 2016). The human rights situation for mainlanders in Hong Kong is severe and must be remedied.
Analysis and Meta-analysis: Dimensions of Interpersonal Relationships
The three dimensions of interpersonal relationships suggested by Lustig & Koester (2010), which is control, affiliation and activation, can help explain why certain behaviors of mainlanders are different from Hong Kong. Those mainlanders who visit Hong Kong can be quite rich and therefore assume themselves have much higher status than Hong Kong people. They think that they have helped Hong Kong people to maintain their living by bringing them capital, and that they have contributed a lot to tourism in Hong Kong. With high social dominance, they would exert control on those service which do not appeal to them. One typical case exemplifying this phenomenon happened in 2013, when a mainlander travelling on a boat to Hong Kong from Macau was told to put his perambulator properly, the man responded with this ‘bad service’ by insulting the staff on the ship as ‘dog staff’ and laughing at Hong Kong people that they ‘can be easily bullied’ (蘋果日報, 2013). This case suggests that some mainlanders just do not conserve exerting control over Hong Kong people, and this is one reason why Hong Kong people have hatred towards mainlanders, which results in prejudice consequently.
The affiliation dimension is about the physical closeness between people. Andersen, Lustig & Andersen (1990) put forward an explanation on why low-contact cultures, i.e. cultures with high physical closeness, are usually found in colder climates. This can be due to that in hot weather plants are more abundant, and biodiversity is also greater. In hot weather the concentration of food source is greater, whereas in cold weather do not, and therefore people have to live closer to get help from the others when they run out of necessities vital for survival. In a populated environment, people ensure that they have enough personal space by developing ‘norms that encourage greater distance and privacy’ (as cited in Lustig & Koester, 2010, p. 254). Most part of the China has a temperate climate, and compared to Hong Kong’s subtropical climate, theoretically mainlanders should have a more low-contact culture than Hong Kong. Another reason for mainlanders having a more low-contact culture is that false accusations on the helper who assisted a fallen person or a person just crash by a car as the injurer is too common in China. It is convenient for the injured person to get money from the helper as little does the person know if he can find the injurer who already escaped shortly after the incident to compensate for his medical cost. This fraudulent crime prevails due to the fact that Chinese courts have made judgments ordering the helper to compensate for the fallen person, such as the Pang Yu case in 2007 (南方網, 2007). Such judgments make mainlanders feel unsafe and many of them become not willing to help in case of encountering an injury case in the public without the basic legal protection they should have, such as that in the Wang Yue case (Demick, 2011). Based on my observation, mainlanders also suspect a person to be a trickster more easily than Hong Kong people do, due to the prevalence of other fraudulent crimes such as blessing scams, money-dropping scams and phone fraud in mainland China. In short, loopholes in the legal system and the inability for the Chinese police to stop fraudulent crimes have contributed to the extreme low level of affiliation among mainlanders. Hong Kong people, living in the ninth safest city in the world where there is a more comprehensive legal system and not much fraud, certainly have a more willing heart to help out victims in the public and to them low-affiliation mainlanders are cold-blooded (Bushell-Embling, 2017).
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- Education University of Hong Kong – Department of English Language Education
- prejudice faced mainlanders hong kong intercultural communication analysis possible solutions policy making