Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cultural conflict - China vs HK

In the past few days, a minor incident in a busy street of Hong Kong raised heated debates between netizens of Hong Kong and China. The case as reported in the press: A tourist couple from China allowed their two year old boy to urinate & defecate in a busy street in HK. A few passers-by condemned their act with one man took picture. The couple was furious, the father took the man’s mobile phone, and the mother assaulted the man who did not allow the couple to walk away and called the police. Heated arguments ensured. Videos of the row were taken by passers-by and were later released and circulated widely in social media.
The police came and the couple was arrested. The father was released without charge as he was more than willing to return the man’s mobile phone/memory card of the mobile phone.  The mother was however charged with assault (no discrimination on the part of the HK police; HK police are famous or infamous for charging all kinds of assaults no matter how minor they are, e.g. a man poking a finger at the sternum of another man). No charge was laid on public urination/defecation. Taking pictures in public places is not an offense, according to the police.
Later press reports however revealed the following interesting developments:
China’s official newspaper Global Times took side with the couple quoting supporting words from a number of professors saying that HK people (probably including police arrest) were just too hysterical. of China took up the issue and did a survey (a sample of some 128,000) on Chinese citizens’ attitude towards kids urinating/defecating in public.  Surprisingly or unsurprisingly 64% said it is acceptable under some circumstances, 24% said it is acceptable (under all circumstances) while 11% said it is unacceptable (under all circumstances).
A journalist of Phoenix TV (a satellite TV headquartered in HK with its major business in China) Rose Luqiu Luwei commented in her Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) condemning the parents. Rose was born and educated in Shanghai before she emigrated to HK in 2005. She became famous after being the last female journalist stayed behind reporting in Bagdad during the Iraqi War.  Rose angered many Chinese netizens (unavoidably with some abusive language towards her, afterall it is the anonymous internet). Rose was adamant. She was said to have later added in her Weibo that the following two acts are definitely wrong on the part of the parents (paraphrased by your author, any discrepancy to the original is his responsibility):
  1. Parents should protect the privacy or human right of their kids by not exposing their private parts in public. In other words, it is the parents’ responsibility to provide a protected environment for their kids to satisfy their calls of nature.
  2. It is wrong for the mother to assault the man. In other words, it is wrong to use physical force in conflict situations.
On the other hand, HK netizens are angered by the couple’s in-hygienic act and their refusal to respect Hong Kong culture when they are being tourists in HK.
Facts are multi-faceted while myths are simple and direct. In myth, it is always “I am the good guy and you are the bad guy”.  As an example of elevating a minor incidence into a myth of cultural conflict, this is what was reported in Globe Times, the official media of the Chinese Government:
Video footage shot by passers-by posted later online showed the mother clutching a diaper and then putting it into a bag. She placed the diaper beneath the girl to stop her urinating on the street, a Phoenix TV report revealed on Tuesday.

"I tried to use the bathroom but there was a long line," she explains to onlookers in the video. "My child wanted to pee so badly, what should I do?"
Slight twist of the facts: (1) A girl rather than a boy, painting a negative image on the photographer (“what was he really after?") (2) kid only urinated (urination in public is less obnoxious than defecation in public) and the urine was "collected"  (the fact is photo was taken with feces on the ground) (3) Accepting the mother’s words (in particular public urination with an unavoidable reason) as fact, (4) Based on the alleged fact in 3 above, there is no other option available (or you will do the same). This last point appeals to the sentiment of Chinese because the majority of them consider that to be a valid excuse (as per survey mentioned above).
In a later article (titled: Rude video unveils vulgarity of Hongkongers), Global Times became more open in propagating the myth of cultural conflict:
Some Hongkongers adopt a discriminatory attitude toward their mainland peers, but they are actually discriminating against themselves. They try to declare distance from mainlanders and intimacy with foreign cultures. After all, Hong Kong has already returned to China. It is normal that unpleasant sentiments occur between Hong Kong and the mainland. While the mainland acknowledges the defect in the mentality of Hong Kong society, it should show its magnanimity and there's no need to politicize any of the frictions between them.
Remarks: the approach of article is inspired by the analytical method of historical events as explained in Pail A. Cohen’s book “History in three keys: The Boxer as Event, Experience and Myth”
Rose of Phoenix TV reporting out of Bagdad

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