• Fri
  • Oct 31, 2014
  • Updated: 11:09pm
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

BIO

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.
 

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

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19

This article is now closed to comments

whymak
"We had to become the only society worldwide that restricts outbound travellers to two tins of baby milk powder. It's almost comical."
Sorry about that, you're dead wrong. CY is doing the right thing. In the Land of Braindead Democracy -- or for any country aspiring to become one, you must pander to the lowest common denominator, i.e., the hate-mainland passion.
"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."
Now you begin to sound like Chicken Little and the Chinese 杞人憂天. The sky maybe overcast and we can see the thick air that we are breathing, but it is not falling.
As mainlanders become richer, they will in all likelihood visit places like Paris and Milano, where people have better attitudes and welcome their renminbi. They may even sell their flats purchased here just a short while ago. I just hope that cultural icons like Li Yunde and Lang Lang will still stick around.
If it all pans out as expected, that is, after Hong Kongers lose 50% of their home values and fewer mainland visitors, our bananas will live happily thereafter.
gillianscmp
You honestly think the French will welcome mainland tourist with open arms?
mcheung
The British are definitely doing it during the last Christmas Seasons.
whymak
"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.
aplucky1
just accept it
we do not want you here, you do nothing but make a few merchants happy
use all the infintile names you want, it does not change the fact we do not want your nose picking , line cutting , spitting kind here
italy , france, whoever - feels the same-keep pretending other countries want your money, they dont
ps. nobody we would love to replace you with japanese tourist, they respect the local culture
whymak
According to your displayed symptoms, I strongly urge you to start immediate treatment with a 14-day regime of human rabies immunoglobulin (20 units per kilogram body weight) and rabies vaccine shots. You must have been bitten by another fellow demonstrator at Victoria Park. Life saving should now be your priority while keeping hate China rants in check.

As added precaution, keep away from anti-China demonstrations. Good luck with your recovery.

Signed,
Your primary care physician
whymak
According to your displayed symptoms, I strongly urge you to start immediate treatment with a 14-day regime of human rabies immunoglobulin (20 units per kilogram body weight) and rabies vaccine shots. You must have been bitten by another fellow demonstrator at Victoria Park. Life saving should now be your priority while keeping hate China rants in check.
As added precaution, keep away from anti-China demonstrations. Good luck with your recovery.
Signed,
Your primary care physician
jason.keyes.716
Don't agree with how he expressed it, but there is some merit in the sentiment. I love Mainland "tourists" - they help drive Hong Kong's economy (parallel traders, property investors etc. are another matter).
However, do these tourists really have to cut in line, eat on the trains, pee on the street? I've lived in Hong Kong for 20 years, and I've seen two instances of tourists from the Mainland letting their children urinate on the pavement; I'm yet to see a Hong Kong (or for that matter, any other nationality) family do the same. Yes, the majority of tourists don't engage in behaviours that crass, but it's definitely more prevalent among Mainland tourists than the Hong Kong population. We'd just like for them to be bit decent, that's all.
whymak
According to your displayed symptoms, I strong urge you to get the 14-day regime human rabies immunoglobulin (20 units per kilogram body weight) and rabies vaccine shots. Side effects are not pleasant. Life saving should now be your priority.
You must have contracted this virus from other demonstrators at Victoria Park. Try to stay away from anti-China demonstrations. Good luck with your recovery.

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