Where is Tuen Mun?

During the previous weekend “double-not” (「雙非」) parents (couples who both are non-Hong Kong residents, but with kids enjoying the right of abode in Hong Kong) were upset as their kids failed to secure places in their preferred schools. Some of the “double-not” students living in Shenzhen, as a result of the allocation, will have to commute for at least an hour when the new school year starts (SCMP: Cross-border pupils face long commutes to distant schools). While some of parents do not even have an idea of where the schools are (one of their remarkable comments: “I’ve never been to the school… I don’t know where the school is. Where is Tuen Mun?”), locals are upset about the scarce resources being allocated to the “Hong Kong residents” who do not even reside in Hong Kong.

The “double-not” situation has been a problem in Hong Kong since the Chong Fung Yuen case in 2001, in which the Court of Final Appeal ruled that Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong enjoyed the right of abode regardless of the Hong Kong immigration status of their parents. The CFA’s decision catalyzed an era of demographic disaster: there was an influx of mainland women trying to give birth in public hospitals until 2012, parents engaged in fierce battle for milk powder, and when the “double-not” babies approach school age, it sparked a competition (particularly in the Northern area of Hong Kong) among local and “double-not” parents for limited school places.

Perhaps we should really show some sympathy towards the cross-border students who have to suffer long hours of travelling every day, and maybe also those devoted parents who tried to get the best for their kids. Yet, it’s hard for the locals to do so in the current situation. Not only is the Mainland-Hong Kong conflict caused by the limited resources, the more significant underlying reason is the difference in the value systems of the “double-not” parents and Hong Kong locals. With taxpaying locals spending money trying to move to a better school network, it’s certainly distressing to see others reap without sowing. To a certain extent, Hong Kong relies on the Mainland for its resources and monetary/ fiscal stimuli, and as a result, some of our Mainland counterparts think they are ENTITLED to the welfare in Hong Kong due to our reliance to the country. In their opinion, Hong Kong would not have been as prosperous as it is now if we did not have the help of our motherland. Some of the “double-not” parents think they’re doing no harm to Hong Kong. Instead, they are even mercifully granting us their support with the labor force that Hong Kong is running short of. One of the moms said to the reporter: 「香港以前無人生仔,支持我哋過嚟生,支援你哋下一代」(“There was no one giving birth in Hong Kong, [the government, probly?] supports us to give birth in Hong Kong, in order to provide assistance to your next generation”) (source). Oh wow.

 (Image source: HK Magazine)

Yes, a low birth rate may undermine Hong Kong’s development, yet a problematic population policy and inadequate resources (and the inappropriate allocation of them) are also irrefutable causes of our demographic disaster. The adverse consequence of the “double-not” trend is irreversible. In the future years parents will continue to compete with each other to fight for resources and opportunities. And perhaps the other aspect of the aftermath is even more problematic: locals dissatisfied about the economy and their well-being while the infiltration of a population which takes Hong Kong resources for granted continues, further worsening the conflict and tension within the city. The lack of school places due to the increased “double-not” children population is only one of the threats to Hong Kong caused by the city’s demographic imbalance, the local’s resentment towards their mainland counterparts and the contrasting cultures of the two are also tearing the city apart. It’s understandable that parents want the best for their children, and locals are not wrong to be angry about having their opportunities and resources deprived, yet given the government’s failure to solve this conundrum, the situation is grim. And sadly, if this impasse continues, Hong Kong will be at its peril.

Or maybe, it already is.