Fujian next in line to get individual travel permits
Gary Cheung in Fuzhou
Provincial governor says a timetable will be set for the plan to be introduced
A date is to be set to allow residents from Fujian province to visit Hong Kong on an individual basis, provincial leaders said yesterday.
Governor Lu Zhangong said after a meeting with Hong Kong's Financial Secretary, Henry Tang Ying-yen, that a timetable would be set, adding that the central government would extend the measure to other provinces.
Vice-Governor Wang Meixiang said they had asked the central government to allow people from the province to visit Hong Kong on an individual basis as soon as possible. She expected the scheme to be introduced in several cities before being extending it to the whole province.
'Hong Kong is a small city and there is a limit to its capacity for accommodating tourists,' she said after meeting Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Stephen Ip Shu-kwan.
In the past month, residents from eight cities in Guangdong have been allowed to visit Hong Kong without having to join tour groups.
The new measure is scheduled to be extended to Beijing and Shanghai next Monday. About 150,000 tourists from Fujian arrived in Hong Kong last year.
Mr Ip and Mr Tang are attending promotional events for the Fujian-Hong Kong Week in Fuzhou.
Mr Ip said restrictions on mainland visitors should be relaxed gradually. 'We have to make sure there are adequate support services to meet the needs of tourists. We don't want to see many mainland tourists queuing up for immigration clearance at border crossings,' he said.
Mr Ip said Hong Kong would face its biggest test during the 'golden week' holiday starting on October 1, when many mainland tourists were expected to arrive.
He also said the government was considering launching joint tourism promotions with the Fujian tourism authorities overseas.
Ms Wang said she did not think many Fujian residents would work illegally in Hong Kong on the pretext of travelling to the city for sightseeing.
The income of people in the province had grown rapidly in recent years, she said, with its gross domestic product per head ranking seventh on the mainland.
Fujian, with a population of 34.7 million, has been known as a source of illegal immigrants smuggled to the United States since the early 1990s.