Hong Kong representatives attending the annual meeting of the national legislature in Beijing this month plan to call for restrictions on the influx of mainland Chinese tourists, after street demonstrations reflecting the displeasure of locals over having their daily lives disrupted by day-trippers. Residents living in towns bordering the mainland have reported Chinese shoppers buying daily necessities such as milk powder in bulk, thus emptying store shelves.
“It started out as a so-called congestion problem, crowd problem, tourism problem,” Michael Tien, a Hong Kong representative at the meeting of the National People’s Congress and the deputy chairman of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party, told the legislature Wednesday, according to Channel News Asia. “It has now escalated to become a political problem, because those who object to the scheme are chanting slogans of wanting independence. That is a very different matter; it has now alerted the highest echelons,” he said.
Tien called for a restriction of China’s multiple-entry visa system employed by mainland Chinese who visit Hong Kong. Multiple-entry visas allow these tourists to return to Hong Kong from another destination, such as Macau, without having to get another visa as long as they do not make a stopover in mainland China. Hong Kong residents have said that Chinese tourists frequently empty shops of baby formula, cosmetics, luxury goods and medicine, with the high demand leading to increased prices. Because Hong Kong does not impose a sales tax on certain goods, they are comparatively more attractive to mainland Chinese shoppers than those available across the border.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying said he is looking into this issue. “A lot of the people are coming to buy so-called parallel goods, and going back,” Channel News Asia quoted Leung as saying. “The original intention of the scheme serving tourists and for people to come and enjoy Hong Kong, together with a bit of spending, stay overnight, accommodation and all that, has completely changed.”
Hong Kong residents have been staging protests over the parallel shopping, with the latest one leading to the arrests of 38 people and the use of pepper spray in the Yuen Long district Sunday. An estimated 400 demonstrators called for the multiple-entry permit system to be revised, with some chanting, “Topple the Chinese Communist Party.”
Some local politicians have indicated limiting Chinese tourists would not solve the problem. Eliza Chan, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference at its annual meeting in Beijing this week, said Tuesday that restricting personal trips to Hong Kong would not avoid all conflicts, according to China Daily. “Recently, the opposition faction and some radical ones in Hong Kong have made new troubles, aiming to disrupt the social order, which was condemned by most local residents,” Chan said. “We must solve the problem and maintain a normal order in society.”
Meanwhile, political watchers are monitoring the development of the overall discussion of Hong Kong’s issues at the meeting of the National People’s Congress. “The tone of the central government in terms of how they treat Hong Kong -- whether it will be a militant tone or more accommodative tone -- is something to be watched,” said Ma Ngok, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, according to Channel News Asia.