This past weekend, driven to action by a video circulating around the internet, the Chinese National Tourist Office released a warning to all tourists visiting Hong Kong. According to the Xinhua news agency, who broadcast the advisory, “An undated video clip currently circulating on the Internet shows a Hong Kong tour guide allegedly abusing a group of visitors from the Chinese mainland and forcing them to shop, triggering a backlash from the mainland public.” The video and other witness reports confirm the abuse. In fact, the threats to ‘buy now’ have gotten so bad that, at one point, a 65 year-old man, attempting to argue against the Hong Kong tour guide, died from a heart attack.
You can view the video here, and even if you can’t understand it, you can hear the guide’s demeaning, angry tone and manipulative language. An English transcription of the video shows just how condescending the tour guide was. She stands at the front of the bus, microphone in hand, berating the tourists and reprimanding them for not spending enough money, saying things like “Now you owe me something. I don’t owe you anything. I provided the food and accommodation but you don’t give of yourselves. If you don’t pay in this lifetime, you’ll have to do it in the next. […] Since you chose to come on this tour, you have to play ball. We are going to a watch shop now. Is there any issue with that? We are not going there to just window-shop. You have to buy something.”
Further reading of the transcription reveals that the guide was not just ‘allegedly’ being abusive, but was in fact being abusive outright.
The Chinese National Tourism Administration (NTA) is going to be investigating this incident, and others like it – because apparently the abuse happens on a somewhat regular basis. It took the ‘civilian journalism’ of a cell-phone camera to alert authorities to the true seriousness of the allegations.
There is no word on why the tour guides have gotten to be so pushy and demanding. If they’re like other tour guides around the world, they probably don’t receive any sort of commission from where the tourists spend their money, but desperate economic times call for desperate economic measures – and maybe things are just as dire in Hong Kong as they are elsewhere. Either way, this kind of behavior should not be tolerated, and if you are an American in Hong Kong experiencing something like this, you can contact the nearest American embassy, or call +1 (202) 501-4444 – the emergency State Department assistance number for Americans in foreign countries.