Hong Kong’s Two Faces of Kindness and Rudeness

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In the South China Morning Post, journalist Alex Lo writes about how Hong Kong’s denizens can be unbelievably kind and generous one minute, and then openly racist and unspeakably rude the next.

Mr. Lo cites his fellow Post writer, Michael Chugani, who is a Hong Kong-American Indian journalist, as an example of this. Mr. Chugani attempted to help an elderly lady on the train, asking a younger woman to give up her seat for the older woman. The train carriage happened to be very crowded that day, and the younger woman was sitting in a seat marked for the handicapped or the elderly.

The younger woman refused to give up her seat.

Mr. Chugani took a photo of her, which made her angry. 

She called him by a derogatory slur in Cantonese, roughly translating to “dead Indian,” even though Mr. Chagani was born and raised in Hong Kong. His friend, another journalist named Chip Tsao, wrote about the incident on Facebook and also posted photos of Mr. Chugani and the elderly lady, along with a photo of the younger woman, though her face was hidden.

The post went viral and was also picked up by several news outlets. Netizens, by and large, were supportive of Mr. Chugani, though there were a number of rude remarks as well.

Mr. Low writes, “The incident itself may not qualify as news, but reactions to it say something about us. Like many other unruly MTR incidents involving misbehaving passengers, whether locals or mainlanders, it is a kind of an inkblot or Rorschach test, where people read their own preconceptions into it and draw their own conclusions from there.”

He continues on to say that reactors to the incidents are usually from one of two groups, those who believe that the younger woman’s actions are typical of Hong Kong behavior, and those who think otherwise. Some have even floated the possibility that the rude woman is from the mainland.

Mr. Low thinks that both sides have a point. He has personally seen examples of both kindness and rudeness from the people of Hong Kong, citing the time when a cashier refused to give the Filipino a plastic bag for the newspaper she bought. According to Mr. Low, the cashier told the woman to leave, and yelled, “Yeah, I am discriminating against you and I like it.”

This is the opposite to the time when Mr. Low’s father collapsed in Mong Kok, and strangers stayed with him and guarded him and his belongings until the ambulance came.