Hong Kong’s “localists” depict mainlanders as locusts ruining the territory and bringing an end to a vaunted way of life.

In this article, we first discuss anti-mainlander prejudice in Hong Kong and its resemblance to earlier biases by Shanghai people against Chinese from neighboring provinces. We then empirically test claims localists make about the mainlander presence in Hong Kong and show that mainland visitors and migrants are not working the harms attributed to them. There follows a review of “insect language” as integral to racial vilification in several settings, with Hong Kong’s anti-locust movement a recent example. We go on to elaborate on the vilifiers themselves and on the Hong Kong government’s obligations, under international and local law, to punish them.

Hong Kong nativism, we contend, is significant beyond the SAR and its relations with the rest of China. Nativist “anti-locust” agitation exemplifies the global advancement of ethnic antagonism as a putative solution to problems that are actually rooted in gross and increasing inequality, not ethnicity per se. Vilification of ethnic groups and these underlying problems must be addressed politically and legally and, while the Hong Kong case is both structurally similar to others and highly specific, what is done in the SAR will have wider implications.