- Hong Kong residents fund newspaper ad against influx of pregnant mainland Chinese women
- Number of live births by mainland mothers in Hong Kong increased 52.3% from 2006-2010
- Recent incidents suggest growing resentment against mainland Chinese, branded "locusts"
Tensions between Hong Kong residents and visitors from mainland China ratcheted up Wednesday, after a full-page advertisement decrying a so-called invasion of "locusts" from across the border appeared in a local newspaper.
The advertisement in the Apple Daily asks if Hong Kongers approve of spending HK$1,000,000 (US$128,925) every 18 minutes to take care of children borne by mainland parents and declares that "Hong Kong people have had enough!"
Picturing a giant locust perched atop a mountain overlooking Hong Kong, the ad invokes the locally-coined locust label used to describe mainlanders, reflecting a concern among some residents in Hong Kong that mainland Chinese are "taking over" the city.
A surge in the number of pregnant Chinese women crossing into Hong Kong to give birth has put a growing burden on the resources of local hospitals. According to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, the number of live births in Hong Kong by mainland mothers went from 26,838 in 2006 to 40,875 in 2010 -- a 52% increase.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong Hospital Authority official said in a radio interview that public hospitals may ban mainland mothers to ensure that local pregnant women can be accommodated. This follows a decision last year by Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health, York Chow, to cap the number of non-local women giving birth in the city in 2012 at 35,000.
In addition to the perception of better medical services, many mainland women choose to give birth in Hong Kong so their children can gain the right of abode and other privileges conferred by a Hong Kong identity card.
Of the 41.9 million visitors to Hong Kong in 2011, the majority -- more than 28 million -- hailed from mainland China, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Wednesday's advert was organized by internet users, who raised more than US$12,000 within a week, according to the South China Morning Post. "[Mainlanders] have already crossed our bottom line," organizer Yung Jhon, told the Post. "Why are mainland mothers flooding in to take up resources in public hospitals, getting our benefits and social welfare? Why do mainlanders ... refuse to follow our rules and order? We can't accept that."
The ad comes after a series of incidents in recent weeks that point to a growing resentment among locals, with some critics suggesting this is due to a deeper unease and anxiety over Beijing's degree of influence in local affairs and Hong Kong's autonomy within the "one country, two systems" that took effect after the city's handover to Beijing in 1997.
"The greatest fear Hong Kong people have is Hong Kong becoming just one more city in China," Chinese University of Hong Kong anthropologist Gordon Mathews told Time magazine last week.
In December, a row between locals and mainland visitors on a city train was caught on video and widely circulated online. The prolonged yelling match, sparked when an local man became incensed by a woman who had disobeyed the no-eating rules and ended up spilling food on seats, led passengers to press the emergency button.
Another incident occurred last month outside a Dolce & Gabbana store in Hong Kong when shop staff were accused of discriminating against locals by preventing them from taking pictures, while mainland tourists and other foreigners were reportedly allowed to do so.
In China, reaction to the newspaper ad on micro-blogging site Sina Weibo ranged from indignation from sadness. "If you are independent enough, then don't use resources from the mainland!" wrote a user named lan-tong.
@pqdexiaoxi pointed out that Hong Kongers have provided the mainland with flood disaster relief several times over the past decades. "I believe many mainlanders are very grateful, but the advertisement hurts our feelings."
@bingjilinjiezhi said: "As parents, we all hope to find better living conditions for our children. Why should that be criticized?"