The Great Urine Wars of Hong Kong

While I was rolling my eyes at some imported, HK $325 (US $41) Japan melons, my toddler dashed back from his duties pushing our cart into the ankles of other shoppers and urgently squeaked, “Mama, I need that tiny toilet!”

Ditching our salsa verde-laden cart, I slung him under my arm and sprinted out of City!Super and across the mall to the restrooms where the scaled-down children’s toilet is located.

We made it in time, used the tiny toilet successfully, explored the flush mechanism and then sauntered back to the grocery store with a pair of smug grins slapped across our faces.

This was early days toilet training. It all could have ended another way. We might have found ourselves standing in a puddle of urine next to those Japanese melons.

But it didn’t happen. And we’re not Mainland Chinese. If we were, we would have been confronted and filmed while I desperately tried to help the little guy deal with an urgent accident.

The Great Hong Kong Urine Wars comic _

This is exactly what did happen to a family visiting Hong Kong from Mainland China when their desperate two-year-old son was helped by his embarrassed mother to pee into the gutter on a pubic street. (See the South China Morning Post story here.) A huge scene was made by some bystanders who filmed the poor kid and his parents. Why? Because a segment of Hong Kong is upset about increased numbers of Mainland tourists and the increasing influence of Mainland China being felt in Hong Kong. Both reasonable things to be concerned about.

But why have they chosen little kids peeing in public as their personal bugaboo?

Because they’re assholes. Assholes who are taking out their frustration on individuals whom they’ve marked as rustic, bumpkins who can’t function in Hong Kong’s “civilized” society.

They need to find a better target for their frustration.

A real target, like say, the increasing self-censorship of the Hong Kong press. Or perhaps Beijing’s influence on the upcoming Hong Kong Chief Executive election. Hell, I could even deal with them complaining about adult Mainlanders spitting. But little kids peeing in public? Give me a break.

My young toilet trainee and I could have joined the protest announced by some Mainland Chinese who encouraged people to come to Hong Kong for the explicit purpose of allowing their young children to pee in the streets as a sort of “in your face” to “full of themselves” Honkongers. (See SCMP story here.)

My son and I are, however, western expats and not Mainland Chinese. If my young charge peed in the middle of Mong Kok everyone would simply titter and go about their business, because, at the end of the day, it is simply not that big of a deal.


34 responses to “The Great Urine Wars of Hong Kong

  1. first of all that child was not URINATING, he pooped. but it’s not his fault, it’s his parents. and I’m sorry but I think for me no matter if you’re MC, local or expat I just don’t want anyone to do their business right on the street. There are enough of better places to do it, especially not pooping in the middle of the street.
    Sh.t in subway cars, in the middle of H&M. It’s not about peeing, because even thought it’s also disgusting it can be forgiven. But shi…ng. C’mon you won’t tell me you would feel OK if someone did it right in front of you or your house. My husband’s father is HK, but his mother is from Shanghai and she says she’s ashamed of the reputation some people make for all the Mainland people.

    • Agreed that this is something better avoided. News reports I saw indicated it wasn’t poop. Either way, I still think this is way overblown as a social issue in Hong Kong. (And it can be addressed in more constructive ways than filming a little kid.)

      • medias are bought, look at the sites like where you can see full videos, more pictures and what really happens to locals.
        You really thinking letting child poop in the middle of the street is overblown? Would you like this to happen in front of your doors? They don’t film the child to have fun, it’s an evidence: any normal country has a fine for this and people need to have evidence. You probably don’t know that it was the mother who started to be violent and father who hit a filming guy with his own child. Would you use your baby as a weapon?

      • I understand there is a lot of frustration in Hong Kong right now, I just think in terms of Hong Kong/Mainland issues, there are “bigger fish to fry,” than this one. We’re just going to disagree on this one! No worries.

      • You wrote a 500-word article on an “overblown” social issue based on wrong facts and you have nothing more to say except to beg to disagree with those who set the record straight? Do you realize that your misguided sense of protecting the so-called victim added to Hong Kong’s frustration . Why do you think the whole world (BBC, Daily Mail, Washington Post, Business Week and of course our Red Post) all got the facts wrong by reporting that it was a girl peeing?

  2. New look!

    But to the topic – yes. Priorities. We are on the same page here. And as it happens, my toddler actually did pee on a street today – in fact, she peed in the middle of a rather busy driveway for a rather large condo and held up rather a lot of traffic. It went like this: “Mum I need the toilet!” “Well quickly, hurry, we’re right in the middle of a driveway here and the nearest toilet’s… Oh. You mean, like, immediately. Well, but would you at least keep walking we’re going to get run over here!”

    Nobody filmed us, thank goodness.

    That I saw – I haven’t gone and checked Stomp.

    So, stuff happens and yes, you have to try your best but time and toilets aren’t always available (and businesses aren’t always approachable) and in the general scheme of things I think maybe there’s more to worry about.

    • Oh dear! Now that is funny. (Well, except for when it was actually happening and you were blocking a line of cars, then I’m guessing it was not too funny.)

  3. I feel for the parents in this situation. Despite what they were letting their child do, if I was in their situation and someone started filming my child, I would probably do the same thing.
    It’s sometimes hard to remember that there are vast cultural differences in how we raise our children across the globe, but we need to remember that we are all parents and will protect and love our children.
    If you live in an area that promotes tourism (pretty much anywhere really) you should be prepared to often see people doing things that seem odd or even sometimes offensive. It’s just the way it goes.

  4. well, are you aware mainland children urinate and defecate on the streets and inside malls (not restrooms) of HK? I even seen photos of mainland parents instructing their children to urinate in glasses of restaurants AND/OR in thre restaurant dining room because they are too lazy to go to the restroom.

    I haven’t seem mainland chinese urinate and defecate outside of the PRC Controlled regions. I wonder what happens if PRC chinese urinate and defecate say in the streets of Denmark? Paris? maybe New York? maybe in your living room?

    PRC Chinese simply doesn’t respect HK, period. There are bathrooms everywhere in HK, in McDonalds, cha chang tans, restaurants, hotels, in malls, etc. THERE IS NO EXCUSE. I would simply fine the PRC chinese parents 1500 HKD for each of their kids urination/defecation similar to leaving cig butts on the ground.

  5. Pingback: From Hong Kong With Love: A Toilet Map for Mainland Tourists – China Real Time Report – WSJ | CHINDIA ALERT: You'll be living in their world, very soon·

      • How so that we target the mainland Chinese when they are the only species that pee and poop IN BROAD DAYLIGHT and openly on our streets, train cabins and even restaurants?!

      • Yes, I understand that from your perspective, mainland Chinese people are as bad as the zombie apocalypse. But, seriously I have published all of your comments on this post, so folks are free to read them and understand your points.

        I, however, deeply believe that it is very wrong to generalize about entires swaths of population based on race or nationality. Complain about the PRC government all your want, but please refrain from making sweeping generalizations about Chinese people or citizens generally. Using the word “some” once in a while would be useful.

    • Maybe I should bring some infants and defecate in your living room?

      You can easily find bathrooms in the nearest fast food restaurant in HK (ie McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, Cafe De Coral, Maxims, Fairwood, etc.) Plus all the chinese restaurants, malls, and public restrooms.

      It is NOT about elitism, it is about common courtesy. I would fine the parents whose kid defecate 1500 HKD similar to leaving a cig butt on the ground. (Police are allowed to instant fine for dumping trash on the ground.)

  6. Actually its a common occurance, when I visited china parents would give their toddler sons pants with a hole in it to wear so they can pee wherever and whenever. I do think media does run away with stories but I have personally experienced being shoved in line many times, being hit by a mainlander after putting my hand out to stop more of the tourists from cutting me in line, my aunt being cussed out after she she complained about being cut in line.

    I am chinese american by the way.. Perhaps you never had to experience any of these eude tendencies because you are white. If you try living in a hong kongers shoes and you experience being shoved aside all the time in your own country you would understand.

    • Hi and thanks for chiming in. I have experienced all if this, both living in mainland China (4 years) and in Hong Kong. Yes, it is annoying. Yes, it would be nice if I never had to experience people peeing or spitting in public or queue jumping. But, I still don’t think filming a little kid peeing and posting it on the web is the way to deal with the problem. We’re all humans and some of us (no matter where we’re from) are careless and rude.

      I also still think there are more important issues for people living in Hong Kong to focus their energy on, like the next chief executive election and issues related to the erosion of free speech. Children peeing is small change compared to these big issues that will really impact Hong Kong for years to come.

      • fine, just fine the parents 1500 HKD for defecation on the street, maindlander or not. (Apparently mainland chinese weren’t fined, while Nepalese dude got fined 1500 HKD and charged, have to appear in court.)

  7. I applaud your efforts “chiming in” on this pee-poo storm in a tea cup. Came across this from an ‘old China hand’:

    On the whole, I think we would all appreciate a little common courtesy extended to one another on this ‘fragrant island’. Or am I mistaken that all the pushing and shoveling, whatnot, are done entirely by mainland tourists? Pot and kettle come to mind.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve been besieged by negative comments for writing this post. For fairness sake, I’ve kept publishing them, but have stopped replying. (I notice that Big Lychee was smart enough to turn off comments on his post about this topic!)

      We’re all human, right? Sometimes messy, dirty and vulgar. I think most of us are trying our best. (And certainly if some of us are not, then we shouldn’t give a whole country a black mark because of the actions of some.)

      • expatlingo, actually biglychee comment system is out of commission for the time being, waiting for are giving mainland chinese way too much rope (that they hang themselves.)

        to your “shouldn’t give a whole country black mark because of actions of some” comment, problem is I see the same stuff/bad acts over and over whether it is in HK, China, Europe, Seattle, Singapore, New York, etc. remember you are a whie American where you don’t hear what they really think about you. It entertains me to hear what PRC chinese said about the American in front of them and after the American left.

        There are now whole website containing poisonious chinese foods in HK newspapers. Furthermore, behavior of the PRC Chinese gov’t just prove my point of PRC Citizens doesn’t fall far from the PRC tree.

        you are welcome to read “Poorly Made In China” and the PRC mentality is earning money/profits above all else.

        now PRC China is the newest bully pushing and sinking Vietnam boats (and telling Phillipines and Japan to buzz off in areas even the UN acknowledge isn’t PRC China’s)

      • Hi Nulle, Your thoughts are as wide ranging as ever! Would appreciate it if we could stay on topic (at least generally!) in these discussions.

        I deeply believe that it is very wrong to generalize about entires swaths of population based on race or nationality. Complain about the PRC government all your want, but please refrain from making sweeping generalizations about people or citizens generally. Hell, if we all believed the stereotypes about Americans I’d be an obese gun-toting creationist, but I’m not.

  8. I remember visiting Hong Kong in the ate 80s and 90s as a Taiwanese and being met with a similar icy reception as the Mainlanders are getting. At that time, store owners might not even acknowledge me if I spoke in Mandarin. (Hong Kongers have terrible spoken Mandarin.) Even today, they jump to attention when I speak English, but not Mandarin. I don’t find the people in HK to be as *friendly* to outsiders as the Taiwanese (and I’m not just saying this because I’m from Taiwan). And while the Mainlanders may be loud and clueless about basic protocols when visiting other countries, I also believe that people in Hong Kong are now looking for any opportunity to bash Mainlanders, legitimate or not. A big problem, for sure, especially since HK is a part of China.

    • I truly love Hong Kong, but my goodness some Hongkongers are full of themselves. Very interesting that Taiwanese received the same reception previously. And it is so true that a certain segment of Hong Kong is looking for any opportunity to bash Mainlanders. I might suggest they express their rage to the Chinese and Hong Kong governments, rather than Mainland Chinese tourists…

  9. Thanks for posting on an important topic and giving an ‘outsiders’ view on the matter. Like you, i’m an outsider as an ethnic Chinese having been raised in Singapore, lived in Australia, Western Europe, the U.S., Shenzhen and now HK. Yes i agree and see this as little more than an opportunity for some (a considerable?) segment of the Hong Kong population taking out their frustrations on mainland Chinese over whom they have felt – unjustifiably – superior for decades. Hence, the label ‘civilisation’ – or lack thereof – gets smugly bandied about.

    Truth be told, we often forget that the notion and phenomenon of being more ‘civilised’ goes hand-in-hand with colonial violence. So, yes, many Hong Kongers are more ‘civilised’ in the sense that they’ve more fully internalised the norms and mores of their former colonial masters.
    On this score, i’ll agree that they’re not Chinese but suffer a ‘Banana syndrome’: yellow outside, white inside (akin to the Oreo in the U.S).
    Let’s not forget that British Hong Kong had its birth in the ignominy of the First Opium Wars in which some 20,000 to 25,000 Chinese were mercilessly slaughtered so that the Mathieson(?) brothers could ply their drug trade. Regrettably, no signs of civility here whatsoever.

    No matter. Memories are short and history is quickly forgotten. Why not, especially if being a Western lackey gives one the material privilege of token membership in the circuits of Western capitalism. [It is why the perception of superiority on the part of some Hong Kongers is mis-placed]. Now that the ‘socialist’ PRC has become the centre of the capitalist world, we are witnessing a real ‘reversal of fortune’. Yet, old prejudices – as much as misplaced psychologies of supremacy – still need to be vented.

    Too bad, we’re all worse off for it….

    • Thanks for your long, thoughtful comment. As you can see from others’ comments, this topic stokes a raw nerve! Personally, I completely understand Hong Kong people’s frustration and fear of the PRC government itself, but I draw the line at making blanket ugly statements about “all mainland Chinese” based on the actions of a few.

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