One mainland Chinese couple's decision to allow their toddler to pee on a busy Hong Kong street became a hot topic of debate on social media last week, underscoring rising tensions between China and Hong Kong.
The photos of the mother holding a napkin to her 2-year-old son's bottom while he urinated went viral overnight. Well-known news reporter for Hong Kong-based Phoenix Media Luqiu Luwei brought the news to light on Twitter-like Sina Weibo first and received more than 100,000 retweets.
Footage recorded by a passerby captured a scuffle break out between the child's parents and an angry crowd that had gathered. In the video, the mother repeated many times that she took her son to the public toilet, but the queue was so long that her son couldn't hold it. “What can I do?” she asked.
According to local media report, the child was not just urinating but also defecating. Hong Kong’s Public Cleansing and Prevention of Nuisances Regulation prohibits parents or guardians from allowing a child under 12 “to obey the call of nature” in any public street without reasonable excuses, or else face a 2,000 Hong Kong dollar fine (about 258 dollars).
Below is the video of the scene. The mother is seen at 1:02 trying to grab the camera of a photographer who took a snapshot of the child as he did his business:
The incident aroused a huge debate online over the standards of social behavior in mainland China and Hong Kong, which has been a Special Administrative Region of China since 1997.
Many discussed whether it is tolerable for young children to urinate in public. Some netizens pointed to examples of toddlers urinating on streets in the United States or France and the kind smiles of understanding that those parents receive from passersby.
Still, a large number of people online argued that pissing in public is uncivilized.
I always believe that the baseline for discussing tolerance is to obey the rules. A free and dynamic society is based on the establishment and execution of a set of comprehensive mechanisms. By no means it is tolerable to allow children to piss in the street whenever they want. Although Hong Kongers appeared to be aggressive over this incident, it is because they love their city. The mainlanders should reflect on our own behavior.
In Hong Kong, some newspaper columnists and netizens have raged that “piss-gate” is actually a “war on civilization” and claimed that if Hong Kongers tolerate such behavior, they would be downgraded to animal status.
Other Chinese web users called out the hypocrisy of Hong Kongers, pointing out that taking photos of a 2-year-old child as he urinated and posting it online is uncivilized in itself.
A Weibo post written by an anonymous user has been quoted and circulated widely, even in mainstream media:
Good manners don’t only mean not peeing in public, but also includes kindness and tolerance. A truly well-mannered man would kindly ask the mom whether she needs the help or guide her to find the toilet in such circumstances, instead of taking pictures of the kid as more proof of mainland tourists’ bad manners.
Popular Weibo account “pretending in New York” (@假装在纽约) commented:
Any friction between Hong Kong and mainland China escalated to worse tension, with both sides being blind to their own problems while picky about the other’s. If both sides try to be objective and tolerant, the disagreements can be easily solved. There is no denying that some mainlanders lack civilized manners, but Hong Kongers should realize their prejudice and discrimination. Otherwise, it echoes with what The New York Times says: “Rich people between Hong Kong and the mainland make money hand in hand while poor people call each other names”, which is really sad.
On the famous mainland forum Tianya, netizens called for boycotting Hong Kong beginning June 1:
When mainland Chinese stop going to Hong Kong for one to three months, then we can wait and see how Hong Kongers feel about it. They will beg us to go there. We should express our dissatisfaction through our actions.
It was not the first time instance of conflict between mainland China and Hong Kong. Similar incidents have been brought to light time and again in recent years. Hong Kong locals are angry about what they perceive as the encroachment on their space and lifestyle by the influx of mainland tourists. A total of 40.7 million Chinese tourists flooded into Hong Kong last year, and residents complain about the crowded sidewalks, skyrocketing rent and “misbehavior” of the visitors.
Meanwhile, mainland Chinese complain that they are not welcomed and respected by these people from their own country, despite their contribution to the economy via tourism in Hong Kong.
Yeung Zi Wah, a Hong Kong blogger, believed the best solution is to enforce the existing laws and regulations concerning public hygiene:
要解決遊客隨地大小便的問題，歸根究底還是需要港府嚴厲執法，發揮阻嚇力才有用[…] 就比在網上互相謾罵為好，否則港人拍攝再多的「便溺特寫」也無補於事。 可恨的是，向來代表中國政府官方立場的喉舌報章與香港官員就此事件，都同聲同氣批評港人不夠「包容」，反正道而行，當真是反智到極點，無疑是深化中港矛盾的罪魁禍首。
To solve the problem of tourists pissing or defecating in public, the solution is for the Hong Kong government to enforce the law so that people would not dare to behave like that. […] Cursing online or taking “public toilet feature photos” won't solve the problem. However, both the Chinese official mouthpiece newspapers and the Hong Kong government officials keep on criticizing Hong Kong people for not being “tolerant”. They take the wrong track against common sense. These are the people accountable for the escalating Hong Kong and China conflict.