• Sun
  • Oct 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:05am
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 February, 2013, 2:57am

Hong Kong must manage mainland visitor flood before a bust-up occurs

Michael Chugani says we must find more sensible ways to cope with the flood of mainland visitors before a bust-up does us real harm

Another fire has been put out. We have to pay a heavy price every time we do that. This time, the price was particularly high. We had to become the only society worldwide that restricts outbound travellers to two tins of baby milk powder. It's almost comical. We're taking about milk powder, for goodness' sake, not gold bars or cash-stuffed suitcases.

This self-inflicted stab into our free market principle was not the only price we paid. Train passengers now face even tighter restrictions on the size and weight of what they take on board. We had to pacify local mothers furious with parallel goods traders for draining our supply of baby milk powder to sell on the mainland for huge profits.

Before this, we had to put out the fire of rich mainlanders paying big bucks to buy property here, making homes unaffordable for locals. Then, too, we had to interfere with the free market with tough measures to cool property prices.

And don't forget the fury of local mothers who had to compete for hospital beds with mainland pregnant women giving birth here so their babies could qualify for Hong Kong residency. Hundreds of thousands of such babies were born before Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying blocked mainland women from giving birth here.

But thousands of Hong Kong-born mainland children have now reached school age and are competing with local kids for scarce places at border town schools. Local parents demand priority for their children. Each of the fires we have had further inflamed anti-mainland sentiments.

I have long banged my head against the wall warning that we need to move beyond political sensitivities and admit we have a ticking time bomb. We've had tensions with mainlanders over hospital beds, high property prices, parallel goods traders, baby milk powder, inflation and school places. What next? Crowded roads, MTR seats, or more shopping areas being "colonised" by them? It doesn't sound all that far-fetched if we remember the flare-ups over such minor things as mainlanders eating in MTR trains and restaurants changing their menus to simplified Chinese.

Policymakers have so far succumbed to political correctness by pretending that sticking band-aids on every flare-up will defuse the bomb. But it just delays the explosion. If estimates are correct, mainland visitors to Hong Kong will rise from the current 35 million to 50 million a year by 2015, or about four million a month. Is there a band-aid big enough to hide the tensions this will most likely spark?

Everything has a breaking point. Do we kid ourselves that we'll never reach that point, or dare we ask the tough questions that need to be asked? How many more mainland tourists can we handle or actually need? Should we slow the flow until we can handle more? Who benefits from the influx aside from retailers? Is it worth trading our way of life - and quality of life - to boost tourist dollars? Does integration simply mean being swamped by mainland visitors? Surely, these are sensible, rather than xenophobic, questions?

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

this is why taiwan will never voluntarily agree to "return to the motherland". Hong Kong is the guinea pig of what happens when the mainland takes over. Everything from then on is a continual erosion of rights and quality of life.
why is everyone commenting seems to have lost their logic cells in their brains
these are NOT TOURISTS
99% are financial vultures
from property to smuggling goods accross the border
this is a tiny terrritory under siege by over a billion greedy nose pickers from the north
My question is, who is benefiting from these Chinese visitors?
Retailers? Though sales may have gone up for some retailers, who is benefiting. The workers are busier than ever dealing with some of the rudest people you can imagine. But the salaries sure haven't kept up with the cost of living. $28-$30 per hour doesn't go very far these days. Then the actual retailers are paying more for less when it comes to retail space.
Then there is the rest of us who pay more for food, housing, transportation and everything else. So who have these visitors benefited? The 1% and a few government officials who have won some brownie points with the communists.
It is time to reset the quota to family visitors and groups and about 5000 individual travelers a day. Hong Kong people want an affordable place for Hong Kong people and we don't want to be the corrupt official money laundering machine for China.
Hong Kong people have every right to want their city not to be turned into a tourist destination swamped by tourists, whether they come from communist China, hegemonic America or wherever. Clashes between mainland tourists and local people have more than one cause, though a deep distrust of communism is a prominent one.
"You honestly think the French will welcome mainland tourist with open arms?"
No. French racist pigs are no better than Hong Kong bananas. But mainlanders are too dumb to know that. Where there are Louis Vuitton bags and Rolex Oysters, the yellow fool and his money are soon parted.


SCMP.com Account