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The romantic choice of ‘Hong Kong’s Lara Croft’ sparks surprise backlash

Couple-w

Zhu: she usually does the lifting

She is called “Hong Kong’s Lara Croft”, a reference to the heroine in Tomb Raider.

Zhu Qianpei (or Chu Chin-pui in Cantonese) first became an internet sensation in Hong Kong last year when an amazed onlooker snapped photos of the 29 year-old moving tonnes of heavy goods on a trolley in the city’s streets, wearing just a black tank top and a pair of denim shorts.

The photos went viral because of her healthy looks and strong physique. More importantly she was eking out her living in a traditionally male-dominated industry, endearing her to the public. Many were soon describing Zhu as “the most beautiful courier in the logistics world” and some nicknamed her “the goddess of Hong Kong”. HSBC even tapped Zhu to endorse its insurance business. In the ad she pulled a trolley and told the camera: “It’s not easy to make a living, but I work hard because I promised myself I would support my family.”

Despite her newfound fame, Zhu stayed loyal to a job she’d started in 2009. Her labour-intensive trade, Apple Daily reports, earns her roughly HK$18,000 ($2,300) a month and one third of her income is spent on renting a tiny five square-metre “nano flat”.

But her living standards may be about to get an upgrade thanks to Zhu’s surging popularity in mainland China.

Given the rise of short video platforms such as Douyin (see WiC437), there has been no shortage of women filming themselves doing all sorts of heavy- duty work at construction sites. However, according to website Huxiu, most of these clips are elaborate schemes to create an instant internet sensation. The women in question typically switch to more congenial roles (such as singing and modelling) once they get known.

In comparison, Zhu looks the real deal, Huxiu says, as she has been making an honest living with her “sweat and blood” for 10 years.

Indeed, Zhu has won over so many mainland admirers that she was asked onto a dating show on Jiangsu Satellite TV last month.

Ditching her tank top for a white dress, Zhu impressed all three of her potential dates and their families. “She could put up with hardship and works hard, that is a virtue that is very valuable in Chinese culture. I really like you,” one of the parents said.

In the end, Zhu chose a 35 year-old television personality who admired her resilience.

“All work is noble and worthy of respect,” the mainlander commented of Zhu’s tough but low-paid occupation. “I believe it is a person’s spirit that is the most important. I will try my hardest to give you a stable home and a happy life.”

Many Hongkongers, however, were not so supportive. They were irked that Zhu – so recently lauded as a salt-of-the-earth type and the pride of the city – had sought a rich spouse across the border. That’s not entirely surprising given the rising tensions in the former British colony, spurred by the anxieties of a vocal and typically younger section of society. Termed ‘localists’ their attitude towards the Chinese ‘motherland’ – to which Hong Kong was returned in 1997 – is antagonistic. The localists resent what they see as the increasing incursions on Hong Kong’s freedoms and way of life and – as WiC has frequently reported – foment anti-Beijing protests on a regular basis.

In this respect, Zhu’s romantic choice of a mainlander touched a raw nerve and sparked a localist backlash. “One country two systems is doomed if Hong Kong’s finest women are all marrying mainland guys,” one Hong Kong netizen fumed.

That said, there’s no guarantee that things will work out between “the goddess of Hong Kong” and her new Beijing-based boyfriend. One difference they have to sort out: Zhu insists on continuing with her courier job but her boyfriend’s mother really wants her to quit…


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