Beijing. A row in a Hong Kong subway train between mainland Chinese and local passengers has snowballed into an ugly exchange involving a Peking University professor after he labelled Hong Kongers as “dogs.”
It all began on Jan. 15, when a Hong Kong man riding the subway chided a mainland family for letting their child snack in the carriage — which is not allowed — according to mainland and Hong Kong media reports.
The subsequent quarrel was videotaped by onlookers and put on the Internet, drawing comments from both sides of the Hong Kong border — the most scathing of which came from Peking University professor Kong Qingdong.
Speaking on a talk show on Internet television site tv.V1.cn last week, the Chinese-language professor repeatedly used the terms “dogs trained by colonialists,” “worshippers of the West” and “bastards” as he criticised Hong Kongers.
With an increasing number of Hong Kongers resenting mainland immigrants and visitors because of concerns that their living conditions and even birthrights will be threatened, Prof Kong’s remarks could not have come at a worse time.
They quickly drew intense fire from the former British colony, with a Hong Kong netizen reflecting the thoughts of many when he asked: “How could a Peking University professor spew vulgarities so thoughtlessly?”
Many netizens and media organizations in mainland China also criticized him for being insensitive.
The mainland’s China News Service quoted Associate Professor Denny Ho of Hong Kong Polytechnic University as slamming the 48-year-old for being “illogical” in suggesting that being law-abiding was equivalent to being “servile,” while being lawless meant “having character.”
In his comments, Prof Kong had tried to argue that Hong Kongers were not law-abiding by nature, but had been drilled to be by their colonial masters.
“So why should they feel superior to mainlanders since they have been trained to be the ‘running dogs’ of the British government?” he asked.
He insisted that mainland Chinese were “truer” to their own nature.
“If a society had to maintain its order through strict laws such as hefty fines for littering, as happened in Singapore, its ‘law-abiding’ look does not reflect the true nature of its people,” he said. “Instead, it shows they are a servile bunch who can be whipped into line.”
Over the weekend, the academic continued to put up a vigorous defence of his stance in China’s ultra-leftist Web site, Utopia.
But he also claimed in the commentary that his words had been “twisted” by the Guangzhou-based Southern Daily Groups – whose newspapers are known to defy government control – and some Hong Kong media.
“I’ve never intended to call all Hong Kongers ‘dogs’,” he wrote, adding that he had used the epithet only for Hong Kongers who were mean to mainlanders.
He also said he had used the word “bastard” to refer only to Hong Kongers who refused to speak Mandarin when interacting with mainland Chinese, not to all Chinese who could not speak Mandarin.
The issue also drew comments from prominent figures such as Hong Kong’s former chief secretary Henry Tang, who is now running for the chief executive post. The rule of law is one of Hong Kong’s core values, he said, and Hong Kongers should be proud of this heritage.
The Ming Pao Daily News cited him as calling for mutual understanding. Hong Kongers should try to understand mainlanders’ way of life, he said, while the latter should appreciate the freedom, openness and human rights practice of Hong Kong society.
But he also added: “I won’t make that sort of comment that Prof Kong made. A professor should observe his dignity.”
The South China Morning Post reported yesterday that YouTube had deleted the footage of Prof Kong’s talk show, citing violation of the Web site’s policy “prohibiting hate speech.”