[UPDATE: Detailed police record confirmed that it was a 2-year-old boy, not a girl. But the arguments below stand.]
A fierce fight between a mainland couple and several Hong Kong locals over a toddler urinating in a busy Hong Kong street has become the latest topic that took China’s social media by storm, marking the ever-worsening cross-border tension.
To be fair, it’s not news that resentment and discrimination against mainland Chinese among Hong Kongers are on the rise, especially towards “locust” mainland tourists who flood to the island every day. It’s also not uncommon to see Chinese parents let their kids pee or poo in public.
That’s why when iFeng, a Hong Kong based news outlet, first broke the news of a fight between mainland tourists and Hong Kongers over kid peeing in the street, the post went by almost unnoticed, with a few Chinese netizens expressing shame and embarrassment. They assumed that it was just another one of those “Chinese tourists are the new ugly Americans” moments.
But the story made a swift turn when more details were revealed. It was originally reported that a mainland tourist couple, who were caught letting their young kid go in the street, were stopped by local Hong Kongers when they picked up the kid and were trying to leave, and thus the quarrel and then fight.
Later, more video clips and pictures from the scene showed that the mom used a diaper to catch the kid’s urine, and then put away the diaper in her bag. The clash started when the dad caught someone taking pictures of the kid – after all, it’s a girl. The couple grabbed the camera and took away the memory card. That’s when the whole thing escalated. During the fight, the mom repeatedly stressed: “There is a long line in front of the restroom, and my kid cannot hold it any longer.”
The story is currently the No. 1 trending topic on Weibo. Most Chinese netizens have shifted their positions to side with the mainland couple: “It’s a toddler. If she wants to go, she has to go. The mom, who did use diapers, handled it well enough.” Many sympathized with the couple: “I wouldn’t allow others to take pictures of my daughter taking a pee, either, if I were in the same situation.”
In the eyes of mainland netizens, the incident is more than culture clash. They see the reason why a toddle’s pee has evolved into a cross-border storm lie in Hong Kong people’s prejudice and discrimination against mainland Chinese. While mainland tourists do need to work on their manners, Hong Kongers also need to work on their discrimination.
“To not to pee in public is good manner. Kindness and understanding are also good manners. In this case, a truly well-mannered man would offer help to the mom and help her find a public restroom, instead of taking pictures of the kid as another proof of mainland tourists’ ill manners.” Popular Weibo account 假装在纽约 commented.
Some even pointed out that many radical Hong Kongers are now “professional anti-mainland” bashers who picks at anything mainland. While their frustration is understandable, their hate speech and discriminating behaviors aren’t going to help anyone.
Many called out the hypocrisy of Hong Kongers in this incident – they lashed out on a toddler while drunken foreigners can be found to pee in the streets of Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s famous bar strip, almost every night. Others also blamed iFeng of “out-of-context” reporting, and intentionally stirring up tensions between the mainland and Hong Kong – they actually demanded that iFeng and its journalist Luqiu Luwei to apologize to the couple and the kid.
To this point, the online war between Hong Kong and mainland netizens has more to do with both sides venting out accumulated tension than with public peeing, manners or social tolerance. At the end of the day, the question for parents is: How to deal with young kids who need to let go immediately? And the question for Beijing is: How to deal with a Hong Kong that wants to let go of Chinese influence entirely?