On Sunday around noon when I returned to Hong Kong from Shenzhen via the Huanggang-Lok Ma Chau checkpoint, I was stunned once I stepped out of the building. The compound outside was so full of Hong Kong-bound tourists. After a half-hour navigating over hundreds of suitcases in the direction as indicated by the signage, I came to a dead end. I had to double back with equal difficulty until finally I found the waiting bus. It took a full 90 minutes.
The tourist guide told me this has been the usual scene ever since the new building opened, and the same chaos also takes place daily at the Lowu and Western checkpoints.
Enough is enough, and it is about time we do something about it.
Tourism is one of the pillars of our economy, employing directly and indirectly almost a million workers. The contribution of mainland tourists to this pillar is also undeniable. But as always, too much of a good thing will deteriorate into a nuisance at some point.
The economic value of tourism is now on a relentless trend of diminishing returns, and the accompanying social costs are becoming more obvious by the day. Business appears to be flourishing, but with employment kept low and shop and office rental rising, there is no incentive - in fact, no room - to diversify into other trades. Like me at the checkpoint, Hong Kong is stuck in the swell of mainland tourists, and there seems to be no way out of it.
It will take political guts and acumen to navigate out of this predicament, but as things are going, this is not a job cut out for C.Y. Leung's administration, which has much more imminent problems fighting for individual as well as collective survival. In the short run, the plan seems to be to just keep the status quo and let the community and infrastructure gradually adjust to it. Leung can also please a lot of people here if he can, in a very high-profile way, put a stop to more mainland tourists flooding in.
We all know that this is just cosmetic, but it is what politicians under popular pressure all do. Leung is in a very weak position with no bargaining chips; the only thing he can sacrifice is the city's long-term future.
But we can hardly blame him. He's under constant bombardment from friends and foes alike. Put the blame on the petty politicians whom we either directly or indirectly elected. This is perhaps the price we all have to pay for a semblance of democracy.
So, let's go back to earlier this year, when opinion polls all indicated a big majority wanted Leung to lead Hong Kong to make changes. That was the general wish of the people and why he got the job.
So far, he and his team have done nothing wrong, because they have not been allowed to do anything. Apart from the character assassination of Leung and the people around him, he and his administration are held responsible for all the sins he inherited from his predecessor. According to the great American democratic tradition, which our dissidents so admire, all political differences and grudges have to be put aside in favour of a general reconciliation when the election is over. It is not happening here.
This is not fair, to C.Y. Leung et al., as well as to you and me. We want change, not witch-hunting. We want progress, not hindrance. We did not elect a saint who has to be "whiter than white", but someone who can plug the leaks.
Since Leung is still standing after the last round of assaults, why don't we give ourselves a chance and this man a break? Let him implement his election pledges, and then let us see. If Leung is that inept, it will show, and then everybody will love to see him go.
Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development