Global Observer

Hong Kong protests drivers from mainland China

Hong Kong protests drivers from mainland China

Posting in Cities

HONG KONG -- Anyone who has been to China would remember the chaotic road traffic. Would you allow some of China's cars and drivers into your city?

HONG KONG — Anyone who has been to China would remember the chaotic road traffic: incessantly honking horns, disorderly driving, marathon jams.

Would you allow some of China’s cars and drivers into your city? What if your city’s roads are already jam-packed with cars? Also, they normally drive on a different side of the road. All of the above would describe what is about to happen to Hong Kong, and people are not happy.

A new plan, to be implemented this month, would allow Hong Kong and mainland Chinese cars to cross the border on a controlled quota basis. The cars and drivers would be allowed to stay for seven days.

Some Hong Kong residents say they are afraid the new plan would exacerbate the problems of congestion, air pollution and accidents on the roads. The concern has sparked petitions and an angry 300-person protest.

A central talking point is that mainland Chinese drive on the right side of the road, while Hong Kong, a former British colony and current semi-autonomous region of China, drives on the left; the cars have steering wheels on different sides.

A government official had previously provided statistical evidence that Hong Kong drivers had caused many more accidents than mainland drivers, proportionately speaking.

Let’s be real here. The underlying reason for opposition is strong tensions in Hong Kong regarding the influx of mainland Chinese over the past decade. Some Hong Kong people feel squeezed out of the city’s resources as an increasing number of mainland Chinese have flooded the city to buy luxury goods, speculate in the properties market and, most critically, have babies to gain birthright citizenship.

But those who oppose the latest border plans raise legitimate safety concerns. The mainland’s style of driving (as in, maniacal) is different from Hong Kong’s. The question is whether they would adapt once over the border.

Photo: poeloq

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Vanessa Ko

Correspondent (Hong Kong)

Vanessa Ko has written for TIME, South China Morning Post and Phnom Penh Post. She holds degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Hong Kong. She is based in Hong Kong, China. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure