This story is written as an assignment for the Reporting and Writing (JMSC1005) course during the fall semester in 2016 at HKU.
Anti-mainland China sentiment in Hong Kong has once again been fuelled as accusation of mainland Chinese using up the local blood supply were circulated on social media.
The post was originated from HKGolden, a Chinese-language online forum in Hong Kong popular among people with political view of preserving the city’s autonomy, or localists, to discuss current affairs.
“Do you know why the Hong Kong Red Cross has been issuing appeals for blood donation more and more frequently in these two years?” A HKGolden user under the pseudonym “Zichrini” posted this message in early November, 2016. “It is because more and more mainland Chinese are being treated in private hospitals in Hong Kong, increasing the demand of blood.”
“Hong Kong people donate blood voluntarily, but private hospitals use the blood and earn money by admitting rich mainland Chinese patients,” the poster said.
“I would not donate blood anymore unless the Red Cross promises not to supply any blood to private hospitals,” The poster who claimed to be a frequent blood donor himself concluded by announcing his decision. The post attracted over 200 replies, and was subsequently being shared on other social media such as Facebook. Netizens debated over whether the poster’s action should be justified.
“Even though I dislike mainland Chinese, local patients would be affected too if we stop donating blood,” said forum user “Tolperisone”. Facebook user Daniel Kwan has similar view. “As long as the blood is used to save lives, it’s fine,” he said.
Meanwhile, forum user “Hikma” believed that by boycotting blood donation, the Red Cross would be forced to think of measures to reduce the blood usage of mainland Chinese patients, for example charging private hospitals for blood. “Blood donors have the right to know on whom the blood is being used, just like charity donations,” another forum user “You don’t know anything” also commented.
Athena Wong, a 22-year-old student who has donated blood for six times, disagreed with boycotting blood donation. “I wouldn’t mind if my blood goes to a mainland Chinese or a foreigner as long as it helps people,” Wong said. She described the boycott as selfish, but, at the same time, understandable. “I understand their hatred,” she said. “I personally dislike mainlanders as well.”
“Such unverified message on the internet won’t affect my decision on blood donation,” said Timothy Chan, a 21-year-old frequent blood donor. “Also, I don’t think that the Red Cross would ever stop providing blood specifically to mainland Chinese even if people boycott blood donation.”
The Hong Kong Red Cross is currently the only institute collecting blood through voluntary donation and distributing blood free of charge to all public and private hospitals in Hong Kong.
The amount of blood collected has increased in recent years. In 2015, 261,110 blood units were collected, which was more than 254,053 in 2014 and 247,041 in 2013. However, the number of first-time donor in 2015 dropped by 4.9%. The Red Cross suggested that the fall was due to the lower birth rate in the late 90s and the implementation of the New Senior Secondary education curriculum since 2009 which shortened the length of secondary education from seven to six years, reducing the timeslots allocated for the Red Cross to promote blood donation in schools.
An appeal for blood donation is issued whenever the blood inventories drop below a normal level. Five were already published before the end of 2016, which is one more comparing to the total of four in 2015.
The Red Cross explained the reasons behind the frequent appeals were mainly the increasing life expectancy of the population and the rising number of elderly patients requiring blood transfusion. Since blood has a limited duration of storage, it is important to maintain a stable supply of blood. However, the blood donor turnout rate is often affected by bad weather and long holidays, according to the Red Cross. The daily average number of blood donors is currently 800–900, lower than the target of 1,100.
Upon asking about the blood usage of public and private hospitals, the Red Cross replied by saying that there was no such figure, but since public hospitals account for around 90% of the hospitalisation services locally, most of the blood is being used by public hospitals.
This is not the first time that mainland Chinese are accused of using up the blood storage in Hong Kong. Earlier this year, rumours about the Hong Kong Red Cross providing blood to the mainland causing shortages in blood inventories were circulated on the Internet. The Red Cross later released a statement clarifying that no blood has ever been distributed to hospitals outside Hong Kong.
The public has been increasingly concerned about the exploitation of medical resources after many mainland women took advantage of the lax rules and gave birth to their children in Hong Kong a few years ago, causing shortages in maternity beds for local mothers. The government eventually banned pregnant Chinese women from entering the city without a reservation at the hospital in 2013.
The influx of mainland mothers were actually to be blamed the shortages of blood in Hong Kong at the time. Dr Lee Cheuk-kwong, consultant of the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, was quoted as saying that one of the reasons for the shortages of blood in 2013 was the increased blood usage in the maternity unit, which was likely to be caused by the presence of mainland mothers. However, Lee could not be reached to comment on the situation now.
This debate is part of the long existed on-going Hong Kong–Mainland conflict. Localists blame the mainland Chinese for driving up prices and using up the resources as many mainland tourists shop in Hong Kong for goods. Several anti-mainlander protests were held in the past few years, many of which turned ugly, resulting in arrests and the use of pepper spray by police.
Recent political scenes have also contributed to the rising dissatisfaction of Hong Kong people towards China. Beijing’s decision to interpret the city’s constitutional document the Basic Law in order to expel elected localist Legislative Council members recently has raised controversies as many see it as violating Hong Kong’s autonomy promised by China during the handover from the British 20 years ago.
The act of blaming mainland Chinese for exploiting local resources this time is unlikely to be the last one, as anti-mainland China sentiment has no sign of turning in the near future due to the constantly rising tension between Hong Kong and China.
The original post on HKGolden (the same message was posted twice):
One of the Facebook pages that reposted the message:
Appeals for blood donation and statements from the Red Cross in the past years:
Document of Legislative Council about blood donation:
Article from Singtao about the reduction of first-time donor:
Article from AppleDaily about the blood shortages in 2013: