(PS: 4A全称是 American Association of Advertising
The alienated lives of
By Michelle Fei (HK
Updated: 2010-07-24 06:20
They are talented young mainlanders who
have come to work and study in Hong Kong. The SAR government
believes these young people are critical to the city’s future. But
in the end, few of the mainlanders are willing to stay for long,
driven away by what they see as a lack of culture, the high cost of
living and their sense of alienation in a city where the walls seem
to be closing in. Michelle Fei reports.
"Welcome to the drifter’s home," said
Ian Yeung self-deprecatingly as he opened the door to his
Yeung, a 23-year-old mainlander, is
studying for his master’s degree at Hong Kong Baptist University
Googling "Hong Kong drifter" in Chinese
elicits some 1,300,000 returns. "Hong Kong drifter" is the local
equivalent for "Beijing drifters", a term used to describe
non-local young intellectuals who flock to Beijing to build up
their careers. "Hong Kong drifter" refers to mainland youth who
come here with big ambitions, to study or work. Some do OK. Others
fail. They come and go, coloring the city with their youthful
enterprise and exuberance.
Yeung left behind a comfortable life in
his hometown of Chongqing, traveling to Hong Kong in 2009 to join
some 10,000 other mainland youth.
In the middle of the living room of
what passes as the home he shares with three others sits an old
square table and three unmatched chairs. The handkerchief-sized
living room of the 300-square-foot two-bedroom apartment felt
overtaken by the table, a plastic wardrobe and a rusted iron
bunk-bed which Ian shared with another mainland student surnamed
Wang. Five measured steps across the living room are two tiny
bedrooms, occupied by two mainland girls.
The full perspective of the place can
be taken in at a glance. This was not a "home" in any sense of the
word. Such is the lifestyle of the Hong Kong drifters, bent on
meeting fresh challenges and looking for self-improvement
The track of these "pioneers" can be
traced back to 1998, when a group of top students from the mainland
were admitted to Hong Kong universities. The landmark event was
made possible when the Hong Kong Jockey Club made a HK$100 million
Today, Hong Kong actively seeks out
mainland youth with promising futures. These young people are seen
as vital to the city’s future prosperity – and an infusion on new
blood in a city with a rapidly ageing population and a declining
The SAR government since 1998 has
adopted immigration policies intended to attract more mainland
In August 2001, Immigration
Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) was enacted. It
targeted mainland graduates who had obtained a degree or higher
qualification at a full-time and locally-accredited program in Hong
By March of 2007, some 1,078 qualified
mainland graduates were living and working in Hong Kong under the
policy and the annual compound growth rate among mainland students
in Hong Kong grew to 30 percent, according to the Annual Employers
Report on the Development of Mainland Talents in Hong Kong
(2007-08). The study was carried out by the Hong Kong Association
of Mainland Graduates (HKAMG).
Cai Chun-hui, a beneficiary of the 2001
IANG policy, came to Hong Kong in Jan 2002 to study a Bachelor
program in Hong Kong Baptist University with scholarships valued at
Speaking about the policy, he was
appreciative of the benefits he had obtained but he added there
have been considerable difficulties. "My mainland classmates all
were under huge pressure in job hunting as we were only allowed to
stay in Hong Kong for three months after graduation," says Cai, who
now holds a PhD and is a permanent Hong Kong resident.
Restrictions for mainland youth
studying and working in Hong Kong have been relaxed since May 19,
2008. Successful applicants under the IANG may be granted 12
months’ stay after graduation.
As policy obstacles diminished, the
employment rate of mainland graduates remained low. Research
conducted by HKAMG revealed that more than 90 percent of the
mainland students express their wish to work in Hong Kong after
graduation, but less than 18 percent find jobs.
"Employers often feel reluctant to hire
mainland graduates as they don’t want to be bothered by the
relatively complicated visa applying procedure," says Cai.
The language barrier is another
commonly considered challenge among mainland graduates as they
often find it hard to communicate with their boss or colleagues,
not to mention their clients.
However, Geng Chun-ya, chairman of
HKAMG, thought the communication problem should never be an excuse.
"Language differences would not necessarily block communicating,
it’s all about your attitude, about whether you are determined to
take the initiative to learn the culture of the society and to
immerse into the society," says Geng.
Geng also valued mainland graduates as
"the most cost-effective labor", citing that "they are young, they
are well-educated, they are hard-working, and most importantly,
they are cheap."
On the other hand, another noticeable
trend is that, among the limited numbers among this "most
cost-effective labor" that managed to find jobs in Hong Kong, most
have left or plan to leave the SAR after a few years’ working
experience, according to Chen Xiao-wei, president of the HKBU
Postgraduate Association (2008-09). Chen remarked that this might
be due to the extremely high living cost in Hong Kong, especially
the sky-high property prices.
"With two to three years’ working
experience in Hong Kong, I can find a well-paid job on the mainland
with the same amount of salary Hong Kong offers me, then why should
I stay in Hong Kong wasting my money instead of moving to a cheaper
place?" argues Chen.
Besides the cost of living, there is a
sense of not belonging that nettles the "Hong Kong drifters".
"Hong Kong lacks its own culture, and
that’s why people often come and go, taking advantage of the
procedure but hardly settling down here," says Qiu Yue, who
graduated from Lingnan University in 2006 and a current staff
member of Wonderful Sky Financial Group Limited. She will become a
Hong Kong permanent resident this year yet she plans to leave the
SAR right after that.
The so-called "poor city culture"
problem may contribute to the sense of alienation among young
mainlanders living here. What bothers the mainlanders even more is
the relationship issue, according to HKAMG Chairman Geng.
"After a few years’ working in Hong
Kong, they will grow to a marriageable age and then the
relationship issue or the marriage issue will loom quickly and
become a major concern for mainland youth," adds Geng.
"My friends all found it almost
impossible to find a boyfriend in Hong Kong," says Ye Dan, who has
worked as an insurance broker since her graduation from the
Department of Finance and Insurance, Lingnan University in 2006.
She observes that young Hong Kong men share little in common with
mainland young women. "Hong Kong drifters" are said to be either
too independent minded or too realistic.
At a dating party held by HKAMG to
alleviate the "relationship crisis", over 100 mainland single women
attended while less than 20 bachelors presented. "The serious
imbalance in sex ratio among mainland youth in Hong Kong is the
crux of the problem," concludes Geng.
Nevertheless, little effort can be made
to change the imbalanced sex ratio symptom or to solve the
relationship issue. An association of mainland youth, which could
bring them together and concerned about their welfare, might help
strengthen their sense of belonging in the SAR, according to Chen
Xiao-wei, the student association leader.
Recently, the first non-profit
association of mainland migrants, New Family, was founded by Hui
Wing-mau, founder and chairman of Shimao Property Holdings Ltd,
vowing to offer one-package help to new-coming mainland migrants to
help them adapt to the new environment as soon as possible.
"Though we are living in kind of
‘Dwelling Narrowness’ condition right now, but there’s a huge space
for our career development outside," says Ian Yeung, with hopeful
expression in his eyes.
(HK Edition 07/24/2010