Hide your kids, hide your wife – child abduction rumours are currently sweeping around the city with 9,000 Hong Kongers having now signed an online petition. However, it is highly probable that what we are witnessing is a load of old bollocks.
In March 2010, a rumour spread like wildfire around online forums that a small Western boy had come close to being kidnapped by two Chinese women. It even made the front page of the SCMP, yet – as Joseph Bosco – an anthropology professor at CUHK showed – the vague rumours bore the hallmarks of classic ‘scarelore’ and were a personalisation of the supposed risks and fears faced by expat residents in HK. Similar stories went viral last year about another alleged abduction at Disneyland, but there remains no evidence that either of these incidents ever took place.
The latest round of scare-mongering is directed at mainlanders. They seem to be a natural extension of a series of ‘locusts vs dogs’ confrontations which began with the ‘D&G racism debacle’ earlier in the year. Here is a link to some infographics which summarise the situation thus far.
These urban legends often share the same characteristics within the ‘parental nightmares’ trope. All involve a helpless child narrowly escaping the clutches of evil. Kidnapping from theme parks is particularly common, as is an attempt to change the child’s appearance. Details are always very hazy, frequently change, bear no witnesses and the police/press never seem to report on it. And often it is a malicious individual – or couple – of another ethnicity which is supposedly responsible.
As the conspiracy theories continue, it seems the moral panic over mainlanders is far from over. With Hong Kongers fearful of being overrun by mainland drivers, mothers, shoppers and kidnappers, it appears our backward-cousins-to-the-north are to local people what the Mexicans are to the Americans or the Poles to the British.
In order to define an ‘us’, we must have a ‘them’ and post-colonial Hong Kong has a permanent identity crisis.
Poster created by manic mothers forum, tinykylie.com – (who are currently pushing another conspiracy theroy about the dangers of milk!). Click for full resolution.
An isotype man attempting to escape in a taxi is ruthlessly dragged away by ethnic kidnapper. Allegedly.