An “anti-locust” campaign by disgruntled Hong Kong residents upset with the influx of mainland Chinese tourists and visitors threatens the city’s tourism, much to the dismay of local officials.
Groups of protesters marched through the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon on Sunday, demanding that the Hong Kong government take measures to curb the numbers of mainland visitors in the autonomous territory. These visitors, who are dubbed “locusts” by their detractors, are accused of hogging the already congested city’s resources and overwhelming locals. A scuffle broke out at the beginning when counterdemonstrators also showed up, until police intervened.
According to the South China Morning Post, protesters marched along Canton Road, a luxury shopping street that is a popular destination for mainland tourists, holding up signs that read “Go Back to China” and “Reclaim Hong Kong.”
One visitor named Ma He, originally from Shanghai, happened to see the protests. “Are they not Chinese themselves? I heard that Hong Kong people were educated and civilized. It seems I was wrong,” he said.
Another mainlander from Shenzhen who was indulging in some shopping was also confused by the protests. “We are here to shop. It helps the economy of Hong Kong. I do not understand why they do not welcome us.”
Many Hong Kong officials were appalled by the xenophobic protests. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor spoke firmly against the demonstrations, which she said threatened the relationship between the two governments and put tourism at risk. “We will absolutely not tolerate it if such events happen again,” Lam said. “I believe such behavior belongs to only a few extremists and definitely does not represent most citizens’ opinions and their values.”
“The harassment of the tourists on Canton Road is very regrettable,” Commerce Minister Greg So Kam-leung said. “We strongly condemn this sort of action.”
“The government understands that growth in the number of tourists has a certain level of impact on the lives of Hong Kongers," he added. "But tourism has contributed a lot in creating job opportunities. It makes up 4.5 percent of our economy.”
Changes in China’s economy and demographics have brought many mainlanders to Hong Kong. China’s growing middle class is becoming wealthier and more educated, sparking a desire to spend and an interest in travel. Hong Kong's culture, which differs from mainland China's, along with different taxes on imported luxury goods, makes Hong Kong a popular travel destination.