The mutual dislike between Hong Kong-ers and Chinese mainlanders is nothing new. Although Hong Kong is part of China, it runs as a special administrative region and a half autonomous economy.
Unlike the motherland, Hong Kong has a historical advantage as an ex-British colony, benefiting from modernization, bilingualism in English – the global language of business, and was virtually untouched by the Cultural Revolution. As a result, Hong Kong not only has a robust economy but is also one of the world’s wealthiest international business centers. Hong Kong natives, free riding on this privilege, can’t help but to get a little big headed.
In January, a video of Hong Kong-ers and mainlanders arguing on a Hong Kong subway had gone viral on the internet. The conflict originated because a mainlander was eating noodles on the subway, violating the subway’s ten commandments. So, what began as a bite of food turned into a cyber “cold-war.” This video inflamed the resentment felt on both sides. Hong Kong-ers consider themselves to be superior and classier, while finding their mainland counterparts crude and uncivilized. Eating, the mainlander’s behavior on the subway, reinforced this stereotype.
Hong Kong-ers did not hesitate to express their disgust. A group of them donated money to print a full-page advertisement in the Apple Daily newspaper that compared mainlanders to locusts. In this ad, there is a giant green locust looking over a metropolitan city, cheekily referring to Chinese mainlanders as the invasive locust ready to nest its larvae in Hong Kong. These humble Hong Kong-ers point out a couple of attributes to reiterate how much more superior they are, and how the mainland invaders need to “respect local culture.” According to this ad, without Hong Kong, mainlanders would “all be doomed.” With the slogan “Hong Kong people have had enough!”, this ad demands to bring a halt to the invasion of the oh-so uncivilized mainlanders.
Though resourceful mainlander Netizens did not take this affront lying down. Countless fired-up Netizens from major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen responded by parodying the ad. All of these parodies use the same locust background and language, but adjust the wording to point out the bigotry of the original ad. Soon, parodies from almost all the major cities in China infested the internet. Before long, the sassy parody became a popular meme in the Chinese-speaking world.
Did Hong Kong learn its lesson? By responding to the distasteful newspaper ad with sophistication and humor, mainland Netizens gave lie to the unfair stereotype.