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Locust (Hong Kong slang)

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Locust (mainland Chinese tourist)

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Attack article which nonetheless evidences two things. One, the privileged will complain bitterly of having to share. And two, walling off one's country is not the exclusive province of Communist systems preventing flight. It is also the means by which rich capitalist countries prevent immigration.

Locust (Cantonese: Wong Chung, 蝗 蟲), is a derogatory term used by the people of Hong Kong, both Chinese and expatriate residents, to describe tourists from mainland China, who are widely perceived in Hong Kong as being ignorant, arrogant, noisy, grasping and rude. The term derives from a perception that mainland tourists have descended on Hong Kong like a swarm of locusts, devouring or spoiling everything in their path. The term was coined about two years ago and remains extremely popular locally, despite embarrassed efforts by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to persuade the people of Hong Kong to welcome the current invasion of mainland tourists.

BackgroundEdit

Before 1997, when Hong Kong was a British colony, the border between Hong Kong and China was firmly sealed. Only a handful of mainland visitors were allowed into the territory, and visits for tourism were discouraged. Tourists from mainland China were first allowed to visit Hong Kong after it returned to China in 1997, but their numbers were small and they had to travel in organized tour groups. In 2003, to help redress a short-term decline in tourist visits to Hong Kong in the wake of the SARS crisis, the SAR government introduced the so-called Individual Visit Scheme, which permitted residents of selected mainland cities to visit Hong Kong and Macau without joining a tour group. While the scheme initially had a benign effect, by boosting tourism in the two special administrative regions, it has been widely abused in the past two years. The government has abandoned any attempt to restrict the number of visits permitted under the scheme, resulting in an alarming rise in the number of mainland 'tourists' coming to Hong Kong.

The HKSAR Government is widely believed to pander to business interests. Although opinion polls have shown that a majority of Hong Kong citizens dislike and resent the presence of so many mainland tourists in Hong Kong, their views have so far been ignored by the government. Many retail outlets have welcomed the influx of mainlanders because their main aim in visiting Hong Kong is to buy items of jewellery and other high-end consumer goods, or to buy Western products (particularly baby milk power) which are perceived as being more reliable than the cheap (and sometimes poisonous) knock-offs produced in mainland China itself. It has been observed that it would be more correct to describe mainland visitors as profiteers rather than tourists. A recent letter to the South China Morning Post described their behavior as 'one-dimensional'.

As the number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong has soared, so has local resentment at their presence. Many Hong Kong residents now complain that they are second-class citizens in their own city. Hong Kong is a small, crowded city, and the 'locusts' are now widely perceived as placing an intolerable strain upon the territory's infrastructure. They are also resented because their behavior is felt to be uncivilized. A recent case that aroused widespread anger in Hong Kong involved a mainland mother who allowed her small child to urinate in the street. Cases have also been reported of mainland tourists urinating in train carriages and on the floors of shopping malls. Major causes of irritation with the 'locusts', in order of seriousness, are (a) that they queue-jump; (b) that they crowd local residents out of restaurants and train carriages; (c) that they throw away the wrapping paper from their purchases, littering the environs of the city's supermarkets; and (d) that they talk loudly to one another. Bad behavior on the part of a small minority of mainland visitors has reinforced a perception in Hong Kong that mainlanders in general are incapable of observing the decencies of a civilized city. This perception goes back as far as the 1970s, when the contrast between living standards in capitalist Hong Kong and communist China was far starker than it is today.

Government reactionEdit

Favourable comments about the 'locusts' by sycophantic pro-Chinese local politicians have aroused widespread anger in Hong Kong. One particularly crass comment, made by a political adviser who has evidently not travelled by bus or train for years, is that local residents unable to board a train should 'wait for the next one'. Since all local trains are crowded with mainland tourists between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., this advice seemed fatuous in the extreme. Exhortations to be nice to mainland tourists and to try to educate them out of their deplorable habits have aroused equal derision among ordinary Hong Kong residents.

The HKSAR Government has acknowledged that the growing numbers of mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong is a cause for concern, and the Chief Executive has floated the possibility of a 20% reduction in numbers. There is a widespread feeling that such a limited cut would be too little, too late. As the tempers of Hong Kong residents grow shorter during the hot and humid Hong Kong summer, the likelihood grows stronger by the day that local frustration at the manifold inconveniences caused by the ceaseless inflow of 'locusts' will explode into violent confrontations. There have already been a number of small-scale incidents, with locals and mainlanders trading insults.

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