I'm no fan of Hong Kong's youth

I'm no fan of Hong Kong's youth
REALITY CHECK? Hong Kong people think they are superior to their mainland brothers and sisters. The writer says such thinking is unjustified, and that the city's youth will be no match for those from the mainland.
PHOTO: Reuters

I have a confession to make. I am a "locust".

I qualify because I was born on the mainland, and I am now living in Hong Kong.

Our family came to Hong Kong from the mainland in the 1950s, and we settled in Diamond Hill, then a squatter village. There were many families like ours. We swarmed the hillside of Diamond Hill, renting bungalows and building illegal shanty huts.

The locals did not like it, but could not do anything to stop us because we outnumbered them - there was safety in numbers. Most of the "locusts", our family included, were not from Guangdong province and did not speak Cantonese.

Unlike today, it was then the "locusts" who looked down on the Cantonese-speaking locals because of their uncouth manners in public, such as swearing and being loud, spitting and nose-picking. They were also more inclined to queue-jump, litter, and other anti-social behaviour.

They were less educated than the "locusts", who were mostly university graduates, some from famous institutions on the mainland and overseas. Many "locusts" were fluent in English but not the locals.

In spite of the many cultural differences and mutual feelings of disdain, I never witnessed any ugly confrontation between the local people and the new immigrants, probably because everybody was too busy trying to make enough money to survive.

There is a new generation of "locusts" coming to Hong Kong. They come here to shop and do sightseeing. Now it is the "locusts" who are looked down upon. The locals complain about their uncivilised behaviour, such as eating on trains and letting their toddlers urinate in public.

The local people's grievances against them are countless: They deprive locals of daily necessities, or their suitcases get in the way of pedestrians and roll over people's feet. They make traffic congestion worse and they do not speak a word of Cantonese.

Hong Kong people think they are superior to their mainland brothers and sisters. I think their superiority complex is wholly unjustified. All Chinese come from the same gene pool.

I am not a fan of the young people of today's Hong Kong. They have poor language skills. Never mind English; many are unable to speak clearly even in Cantonese. And they are arrogant and self-centred.

The mainland Chinese students I have met are more humble and hard-working, and they speak better English. All you need to do is use public transport to see the difference between the two groups.

In Hong Kong, I have never been offered a seat on the MTR. All the young people rush past me to grab a seat so that they can continue to bury their heads in their smartphones.

In Shenzhen, I am often offered a seat on the Metro by young people because of my grey hair.

I would never underestimate the potential of the mainland and the people there. The depth of its talent is formidable. Let us suppose 1 per cent of the people on the mainland are exceptionally bright and talented. With its population of 1.3 billion, that means there are 13 million of them.

Nowadays, many young people on the mainland go overseas for higher education, just like Hong Kong youngsters. In the near future, there will be millions of talented, Western-educated people swarming all over the major cities on the mainland. Many of them will come to Hong Kong, not to shop but to work, and Hong Kong youngsters will be no match for them.

Hong Kong was promised 50 years of autonomy. I predict at the end of that period, most of the business and academic leaders in Hong Kong will be mainland-born Chinese, and no one will even notice they were not born in Hong Kong.

Things change in 50 years. It has been that long since I left Diamond Hill. Nowadays, no one would guess I used to be a "locust".

The writer was a consultant pathologist for the Hong Kong government and St Paul's Hospital before his recent retirement.

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