Sunday, January 22, 2012

Conflict within the Chinese diaspora

It is an odd time to post this (on Chinese New Year's Eve) -- conflict within the ethnic Chinese diaspora. Nevertheless, I feel that it is something worth thinking about. What does it mean to be Chinese? How are the Chinese emigrating from China now same/different from the Chinese diaspora that emigrated from China generations ago?

See the YouTube videos of 《香港人大戰內地人》 [Hong Konger wages war against Mainland Chinese] aboard a Hong Kong train.
Part 1:
Part 2:

Similar stuff is happening in multi-ethnic Singapore too. Descendants of earlier ethnic Chinese migrants living in South-East Asia have developed their own ethos/culture, with huge influences from the other ethnic groups. With a flood of China Chinese immigrants arriving on Singapore shores in recent years, various conflicts arise. E.g. The "No cooking or eating curry" uproar resulting in the "Cook and share a pot of curry" backlash event.

I wonder if something similar would happen in Richmond (dubbed the Chinese enclave) or other parts of Metro Vancouver. In Canada, earlier waves of Chinese immigrants were mostly Cantonese-speaking from Tai Shan [台山] or Hong Kong or other parts of Southern China. I wonder if they would have open conflict with the newer Mandarin-speaking Chinese immigrants from China. Personally, I have observed subtle prejudices from both sides to the other party. Being both Mandarin and Cantonese speaking (albeit not excellent in either), I am perched on an interesting no-man's land whereby I get to hear "stories" from both parties.
Yes, I was ever laughed at by Hong Kongers for my broken Cantonese. Yes, I was also ever laughed at by China Chinese for my half-past-six Mandarin. But guess what? In Metro Vancouver, being able to speak both gives me an upper hand for either side to consider me "自己人" [a member of their in-group].
p.s. If you can read Cantonese (or use a translator), you can see the Facebook url below for the Hong Konger's side of the story. 對於《香港人大戰內地人》by Ken Wai on Monday, 16 January 2012 at 21:27.對於香港人大戰內地人/10150481589033366


  1. Is a dilemma in s'pore. Between having > PRCs or > pinoys or > indians, the choice is obvious to maintain the racial balance in sg.

    Besides better for value at hawker ctrs i prefer hawker ctrs since is mostly local hawkers instead of foreigners at food court or coffeeshop chains.

    After the mrt breakdown incident with video inside the carriage, i wonder when such incident of the above with video will happen inside our tube.

  2. Hi Xianlong,

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting on my blog.

    Regarding the ethnic-based immigration dilemma in Singapore, I think the "obvious" choice to maintain the racial balance is from the PAP perspective. Canada's does not discriminate on race for its immigration applicants. Based on Canadian values, it is repulsive to restrict opportunities (e.g. immigration) based on ethnicity.

    Yup, enjoy the hawker ctrs while you can. As you've pointed out, the profit driven approach to policy planning means that hawker ctrs are a dying structure, to be replaced by higher rental yielding food courts and malls.

    Cheers, WD.

  3. Hi WD,

    what was the whole commotion in the Hong Kong MTR about? haha. sorry, I can't understand cantonese

  4. Hi I,

    Thanks for visiting.

    The actual offending event wasn't caught on the video, so there is no hard evidence of what happened. Here is a version of the offending event according to the story from the HK guy Ken's FB page.

    PRC mom passed a packet of snacks to a child on HK MTR. Child accidentally spilled some of the snacks onto himself/herself and the floor. HK guy Ken pointed to the "No Eating" sign and told them, "Excuse me, no eating is allowed here."

    PRC mom said that they were just packing up, it was only the child eating, and scolded the HK guy for being busybody.

    HK guy Ken confronted PRC mom that he saw her putting food into her mouth too, i.e. she ate too.

    Then another PRC lady laughed mockingly, "They speak [Mandarin] really badly!"

    HK guy Ken replied angrily, "Yes, I spoke really badly. This is HKer's place, you [should] speak Cantonese to me!"


    Everyone kept quiet for a while. I think video 1 started from this point. A woman (probably from HK) said in Cantonese, "...overboard..."

    A HK guy (not sure if it is Ken or another person, because there was another HK guy involved) who shouted at 00:16 of video 1, "Do you have anything to say? An apology would be enough."

    The HK woman continued, "What the heck!?! Even scold us back! Are you kidding?"

    HK guy asked again at 00:20 of video 1, "Do you have anything to say?"

    PRC women spoke amongst themselves in Mandarin [Note: Not quite clear what was said. Something about people siding each other, referring negatively to the HKers, and that one cannot reason with them] and told their children to sit down.

    Finally at 00:40 of video 1, a HK guy shouted for the station master to come.


    I think the most telling point was in video 2, where a PRC girl exclaimed at 00:52, "It should be mom is in the wrong."

    And she was quickly "Shhhh!" by a PRC lady.


    Hope the above helps.

    Cheers, WD.