Hong Kong has been enjoying a capitalist system since for a long time. Even after 1997, the region has kept this feature, which makes it significantly different from mainland China. However, tension between the people in Hong Kong and the people in mainland China has been increasing over time. Some Hong Kong citizens post on media outlets: “We are Hongkongers, not Chinese.” Mainlanders have a very bad image of Hong Kong people: rich, always want their resources, and cannot behave well. Why does this happen? And are there any remedies?
Many people can provide reasons for this, but mainly people who dislike the mainlanders dislike what they do in Hong Kong. It’s also the capitalist system in Hong Kong which attracts so many mainlanders. The Hong Kong government issues some policy remedies, however, they may go in the wrong direction.
Here is one example why mainlanders go to Hong Kong, and why Hong Kong people dislike them. One issue are the rights gained by childbirth in Hong Kong. Different from mainland China, Hong Kong passport holders have many more benefits than mainlanders. They have more Visa-Free countries to travel to, and a lot of social benefits. If a baby is born in Hong Kong, he or she automatically becomes a Hong Kong citizen, and can get all the benefits regardless the parents’ citizenship. Furthermore, mainland citizens believe in the superiority of Hong Kong’s health care and education system, so they are attracted to give birth there. Under a free market mechanism, it is natural that mainlanders flow into Hong Kong, and want to be part of it. Hong Kong citizens are annoyed because now their taxes are to be paid to raise children whose parents do not pay taxes, and the hospitals are not sufficient for Hong Kong women to give birth in. The government responded by prohibiting mainlander women from giving birth in Hong Kong, and prohibiting pregnant women from travelling into the region.
People who study economics 101 understand that free trade benefits each side, but they may get confused in this case. An alternative “free” policy direction may help resolve the issue in a better way. First of all, if giving birth in Hong Kong does not come with social benefits, it lowers the incentives for people to give birth in Hong Kong, which will reduce their incentive to move there. Simply to refuse a pregnant woman at the border does not imply any “free” concepts. Secondly, Hong Kong has a mixed medical system, public with private, and the private hospitals are well maintained. If mainland women are only allowed into private hospitals, and they are responsible for the medical expenses, much of the problem can be solved. More private hospitals for mainland women will open up, and both sides will get what they want. If one is concerned that doctors will be in shortage, always remember that doctors can flow from other markets. I admit that these options are hard to be implemented, but they fit better with the free market ideal, and can generate more benefits than the current system.
The moral of the story is that every problem has an opportunity behind it. Details of these options can be complicated, but a simple “ban it” policy cannot solve problems completely, and will only increase the tension between the two regions.