Chinese mobile phone users have a sneaking suspicion they’re being ripped off

No longer the mobile carrier of the people?
No longer the mobile carrier of the people?
Image: Reuters/Aly Song
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China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile phone carrier, is facing a public relations crisis over fairness and equality: A significant number of its 700 million subscribers on the mainland are furious after learning that the company is offering much better deals to subscribers in Hong Kong.

China Mobile has started offering a monthly package for 17,000 minutes and 10,000 text messages plus unlimited data for HK$68, the equivalent of about 54 yuan ($8). In mainland China, a similar amount only gets subscribers about 350 monthly minutes of voice calls, 10 MB of data, and an additional per SMS fee. A Weibo comment thread (registration required) that has generated a staggering 860,553 comments or reposts, asked, “With such a huge gap… is it possible our living standards are 100 times higher than Hong Kong’s?”

Issues of fairness across Greater China are a sore topic for Chinese citizens, especially among mainland dwellers who resent the more affluent Hong Kong and Taiwan. Bloggers criticized what they called China Mobile’s “One country, two systems” approach to its customers—a reference to Hong Kong and Beijing’s separate political systems. One blogger said, “In mainland, some people can’t even afford to eat a boiled tea egg, but we’re being charged more.” Another user commented, “China Mobile is shameless.”

While mainland China is home to only three main carriers, all state-owned, Hong Kong is home to at least five, making its mobile phone market much more competitive.

Still, this isn’t good news for China Mobile, which has been in something of a rut because of increased competition from its competitors and the encroachment of mobile messaging apps like WeChat. According to the People’s Daily, China Mobile has responded (registration required) by trying to explain the differences in the packages, but internet users were still dissatisfied. One blogger responded, “China Mobile, get the hell out of China.”