Vancouver to Hong Kong

The gap between ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong and those from mainland China seems to be widening.

The different attitudes displayed by people from Hong Kong and more recent arrivals from mainland China contributes to the tension in the city of Richmond over the expansion of Chinese-language signs, according to a report in The South China Morning Post.

At the same time, bilingual Hong Kong residents (who can often speak both Chinese and English) have almost stopped arriving altogether in Richmond and Metro Vancouver. Indeed, the newspaper suggests thousands of former Hong Kong residents per year now seem to be going home or elsewhere.

By far the greatest proportion of ethnic Chinese arriving in Metro Vancouver now come from The People’s Republic of China.

Here are two recent stories from The South China Morning Post, which is based in Hong Kong. Together the stories paint a dramatic picture of diverging immigration trends and cultural differences among ethnic Chinese immigrants.

This first excerpt, from a strong explains how the controversy over Chinese-language signs in Richmond expanded only after more mainland Chinese arrived, beginning about a decade ago:

…. Kerry Starchuck’s concerns {about the preponderence of Chinese signs in Richmond) roughly coincided with a boom in mainland Chinese migration.

In the past decade, mainlanders overtook bilingual Hongkongers as Richmond’s main immigrants and census data suggests they now outstrip Hong Kong arrivals three to one.

Between 2006 and 2011, Richmond’s population of people claiming Mandarin as their mother tongue grew by 7, 725, while for Cantonese it grew by 2, 680.

Starchuk, a fourth-generation Richmond resident whose great-grandfather’s name graces the local William Bridge Elementary school, said she was unaware of that demographic shift, but she knew changes were afoot in her beloved city. “I just knew that something had happened. Our real estate market went crazy. And I was wondering ‘what’s going on here?’, ” she said.

… Chak Au was the only Richmond councillor who voted in favour of investigating the issue of Chinese signage on Monday.

Chak Au, formerly of Hong Kong, was the only Richmond councillor who voted in favour of investigating the issue of Chinese signage on Monday.

Au a family therapist and former assistant professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, agreed with Starchuk that political correctness made some reluctant to discuss the matter.

“I came to Canada in 1989. I’ve seen a lot of changes, and in Richmond this issue is not going away, ” Au said.

… Au said some business owners “are bringing their way of doing business from their place of origin”, but neglecting English signage and non-Chinese customers “is not a good business model”.

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