I have discovered a new annoyance: Hong Kong-based Western expats complaining about Mainland Chinese tourists.
This month’s edition of “Southside Magazine,” the English-language magazine catering to residents of southern Hong Kong Island (Stanley, Repulse Bay, Aberdeen, etc), features an article by Carolynne Dear called, “Snap Unhappy: Camera-wielding tourists are turning Repulse Bay into a no-go area for some families.” The article complains about the large numbers of Mainland Chinese tourists visiting Repulse Bay and highlights their interest in photographing blonde children as alarming.
To give you an idea of the flavor of the article:
“[I]n Repulse Bay … past the volleyball nets and beyond the ice-cream shop, the bucolic sounds of the afternoon are drowned out by the rumble of idling engines from coaches lining Beach Road. The air is heady with the stench of diesel and the beach is a mass of camera-wielding tourists.
“[B]asic differences in etiquette between mainland China and [Hong Kong] are not winning the tourists many fans. Parking problems aside, one of the biggest complaints from expat residents is the photo-taking of Western children.
The article then quotes several upset expat parents, including this mother:
“Although it’s flattering on one level that people want to take photos of your child, it often feels like an invasion of your privacy, especially when it upsets your children and makes an otherwise pleasant day awkward.
“My children have even been photographed inside the car. We pulled up at lights outside Ocean Park, and a tourist bus pulled up next to us. Suddenly flashbulbs started popping and we realized there was a surge of people on the bus taking pictures of my two children asleep in the back of the car. It was unbelievable.”
It’s all rather over-dramatic and slightly ugly. Privileged white people complaining about Mainland Chinese — who may well have lived through The Great Leap Forward’s epic famine and the Cultural Revolution and who are only allowed to have one child themselves — enjoying a vacation in Hong Kong, a day at the beach, and delighting in your children. The horror!
Yes, I know, strangers take pictures of your children can be annoying (my daughter resorted to hiding her hair and face in a hooded jacket to avoid it in Hangzhou recently), but please don’t be hysterical. You are fortunate. You live in one of the most expensive housing areas in Hong Kong (after The Peak). If you are out in public, people — gasp! even Mainland Chinese people — may talk to you and take pictures.
Thank god, the article concludes with some reasonable thoughts. A teacher originally from Guangdong province says:
“Don’t be too worried… Most tourists are just curious. For the Chinese, taking pictures of children does not have the same sinister connotations that it does for Westerners.”
And similarly sage thoughts are shared from another Western expat:
“[W]hen I have travelled in South America and Asia, I have taken photos of locals. Pictures are just a part of traveling.”