Hong Kong's 'Anchor Babies'-Style Controversy

baby article.jpgReuters

Hong Kong complains of a pestilence problem: "locusts" have invaded and crowded out locals for facilities, made finding a place to stay a challenge in the recent years, caused public nuisances and infuriated the local populace. However, these "locusts" are not the literal plague of Biblical fame, but the recent influx of mainland Chinese into Hong Kong. And in the latest development in the increasing tensions between Hong Kong and China ever since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule 15 years ago, Hong Kong singer Eason Chan recently released a new album, ...3mm, which features a song titled "Not Polite (非禮)" (embedded at the bottom of the post).

Bad Canto has translated the song, revealing that it contains lyrics like "Stumble in the hospital and jump queue/Deliver a chubby, stupid kid" and "It's just my luck having you in my whole trip of public transport/Before I rebuke, you curse and gift 'six words' for my family." The song also features the word "locust," the pejorative Hong Kong natives use to refer to pregnant women from the Chinese mainland who come into Hong Kong to give birth so that the child receives Hong Kong citizenship. These lyrics resonate with the locals' longstanding discontent and provoked the ire of mainland Chinese.

Indeed, Hong Kong seems to be marked by much discontent this year, which has been peppered with various public protests and altercations. The list compiled above highlights some of the biggest ones. However, Asia Society Associate Fellow Jeffrey Wasserstrom believes that there are important nuances to this turmoil. I interviewed Wasserstrom on the phone about the developments of Hong Kong-mainland China relations and tensions.

Since Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, how have Hong Kong citizens' impression of China progressed?

You've got to separate out two kinds of tension: the reaction to the mainland government, and a separate reaction to people from the mainland, and those get twisted together in a lot of different ways.

There's been ongoing concern among a lot of local Hong Kong residents about protecting the degree of autonomy that Hong Kong has from the rest of mainland. And it's still pretty significant how in cultural ways and some political ways Hong Kong has really been protecting itself.

There's been periodic tension about tourism from the mainland and immigration from the mainland, which is separate in a lot of ways from the political issues but sometimes it gets intertwined. There have been periodic complaints about officials from the mainland coming to Hong Kong and behaving in uncouth ways.

Have there always been political tensions ever since Hong Kong returned to China?

The political anxiety has been there the whole time. The question is whether Beijing will really live up to its promise to allow Hong Kong to operate differently. Hong Kong used to be a colonial territory and as a colony there were plenty of limits put on the economy and political freedoms: there was censorship of the press and things like that. But during the years right before the handover, because Britain knew it was going to be giving Hong Kong back, it allowed more autonomy and more democracy to take place in the colony than would be typical in a colonial setting.

Presented by

Shuan Sim, a contributor to the Asia Society's blog, is originally from Singapore and is currently studying Journalism at New York University.

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