Compassion lacking in HK public urination clash

By Ember Swift
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 29, 2014
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The recent clash between a few Hong Kong residents and a mainland couple who allowed their toddler son to urinate on a public street in Hong Kong has generated discussion among millions of netizens. Comments have been polarized between support for the couple's circumstances and criminalization of their behavior. Such a polarization symbolizes the very nature of Hong Kong and mainland's long-term tumultuous relationship. It also points out, quite succinctly, what has been missing from this dialogue: a healthy dose of collective compassion.

When the vacationing mainland couple was unable to get their son to the restroom due to long queues, they did what many mainlanders do and took him to the side of the road. This is a common sight on the mainland, but it is considered against the law in Hong Kong, a densely packed urban island. Certainly, anyone can understand the rationale behind this law. As with any animal waste, human waste generates both visual and aural pollution. Relieving oneself (or one's child) in a restroom rather than the street is understandably preferable.

However, every parent knows that sometimes the call of nature is an immediate one; toddlers don't know when they need to go and can suddenly need a restroom when there is none to be found. The couple had attempted the "more civilized" method to no avail; the queues had been too long for their baby's bladder.

When the couple and their child were filmed in this act, it angered the father and there was a scuffle regarding the photographer's camera and memory card. Reports on this are slightly unclear, but the overall message is not lost: the father felt this photographer was violating his child's vulnerable position (read: nakedness) whereas the photographer felt his free right to film as well as his personal property were both being violated by the father's angry actions.

Thus began the most unfortunate part of this story: the violence. Anger resulted in the father physically pushing the photographer, all while clutching his baby son who was in tears. The shouting and yelling that followed saw the baby continue to protest with fear-induced crying and he was passed back and forth between mother and father throughout the altercation, secondarily soothed by each parent as the shouting persisted. The stroller was held onto by an onlooker to prevent the family from leaving, the mother ended up hitting someone's arm, and there was more shouting. Who was the ultimate victim of such a dramatic scene? Their child, of course. He was the only innocent player and his was the only appropriate reaction: despair. It's a sad day when human compassion cannot be extended on both sides.

Instead, many decades of a dangerous mixture of envy and resentment have clouded the relationship between those who live on the mainland and those who live in Hong Kong. In an effort to distill details down to a simplified view, mainlanders long envied the freedom and open market economy of Hong Kong. That was then followed by an opening of the market on the mainland of which Hong Kong was envious, due to the backdrop of a subsidized economy and the lower cost of living available to mainlanders. Envy breeds resentment and then a whole society's misconceptions and generalizations get boiled down into collisions like this one. People from Hong Kong feel mainlanders aren't civilized and mainlanders feel people from Hong Kong are too high and mighty to be practical.

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