• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 9:19am
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 July, 2013, 3:36am

Tourism officials have no idea about the push and shove of daily life

Michael Chugani says those pushing for more mainland tourists have no idea how unbearable daily life already is for the average person


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.

Last Saturday, at 2pm, I took the East Rail line to Lo Wu. As we neared the Shenzhen border, the overcrowded train filled up even more, mostly with mainlanders, some of them parallel-goods traders. By the time we reached Sheung Shui, the train was so packed I thought it would endanger us all if more people boarded. But the platform was overflowing with passengers who fought their way in. One furious local who squeezed in hurled obscenities at a mainland woman whose parallel goods had taken up a lot of space. She hurled obscenities back.

When I returned the next morning, the Hong Kong side of the border crossing was packed with mainland visitors lining up to enter. Some impatient ones swore loudly. A Hong Kong policeman ordered them to shut up.

I am writing this in the hope that Jack So Chak-kwong, head of the Economic Development Commission's task force on tourism, will read it. He wants to double the number of hotel rooms in the next 10 years for an expected jump in mainland visitors. People like So and our government policymakers rarely, if ever, ride the East Rail. They have chauffeur-driven cars. The angry scenes I saw have become a regular occurrence as mainland visitor numbers swell. It is a time bomb but our policymakers do not hear the ticking.

Officials say the soaring numbers of mainland tourists have kept our economy afloat by creating numerous local jobs. But on the day I read that a tripling of the rent to HK$1.58 million a month had priced McDonald's out of Causeway Bay's Russell Street - a shopping strip of upscale stores catering to rich mainlanders - I also read that many Hongkongers were living in cubicles tinier than coffins. If hitching the health of our economy to mainland tourists creates prosperity, why do we still have a million poor people, many in subdivided slum flats, even though tourist numbers have swelled?

Cosmetics retail chain Sa Sa will take over the McDonald's lease. Sa Sa's bosses have reaped billions after Hong Kong opened its doors wide to mainland tourists. But have they trickled a fair share of their fortunes down to their workers? I'll wager most still live in cubicles or public housing subsidised by taxpayers.

The truth is that mainland visitor growth has mostly enriched landlords and retailers such as Chow Tai Fook, the jewellery chain store owned by New World Development tycoon Cheng Yu-tung. Not much of the money is trickling down.

But forget about the truth. Is it wise to make our economy so reliant on mainland tourists? Surely, we should also expand it to give it a firmer footing. According to So, visitors could double to 100 million, mostly from the mainland. That's over eight million a month, more than our total population. He must be loopy if he thinks tiny Hong Kong can handle that.

Yes, we need tourist dollars, but when our policymakers build more hotels, bridges and high-speed rail links to increase tourism, do they think about the little things that ordinary Hongkongers must endure as a result, such as overcrowded streets and MTR trains?

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


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This article is now closed to comments

Donald Tsang's legacies will be: a) destroying HK's street life by turning the city into a tourist attraction for mainlanders and, b) building massive infrastructure projects that we don't need. We will be suffering from his misplaced priorities for decades to come.
John Adams
Michael : I agree 1,000 % with what you wrote.
I have no personal prejudice against visitors from the Mainland, and indeed the new individual visitor scheme makes it easier for both my company's customers and my personal PRC friends to come to HK.
But this PRC- tourism-to-buy-luxury-goods craze is pure loony-ism.
And if Jack So supports the craze so adamantly he needs his head examined
"The truth is that mainland visitor growth has mostly enriched landlords and retailers such as Chow Tai Fook, the jewellery chain store owned by New World Development tycoon Cheng Yu-tung. Not much of the money is trickling down."
Can't agree more with you Michael......Just hope the policymakers will do something about this! Hong Kong was and still is run by the rich landlords all in the name of Free Market!
Spot on! The real problem is - the government officials in Hong Kong and many local/Chinese businessmen don't really care. They believe that as long as 'money' keeps flowing in, it's okay. And honestly, we can't really blame them because many Hong Kong people do think that money is everything and they choose money over 'quality tourists' and 'civility'. Also, the rich never suffer what we have been suffering. They can move to 'the west' where civility is the norm and where governments and politicians will not allow such horrible disruptions to happen to their people! I feel this more deeply every time I come back to HK. It's so very sad that many good things established in HK before the handover have been undone so rapidly! Now, I don't even go shopping when I'm back in town because the fun is lost. I finish my work, pack up and leave and I really feel sad that I can no long enjoy my home town I was once so proud of!
Don't forget starving the economy of housing supply
I too like to ask this question "do they think about the little things that ordinary Hongkongers must endure as a result, such as overcrowded streets and MTR trains?". Perhaps its time for people like Mr Jack So, the policy makers or even the privileged's to experience a week of two of an ordinary HK citizen struggling to make a living or try their daily life, living as they live.
How can you be so sure the parallel goods trader you saw on the MTR was not a Hong Kong resident?
In the recent crack-down by police and customs officials, a large proportion of these traders were found to be Hong Kong residents earning a lawful living by trading ....... just like businessmen dressed in suits and ties down town.
The problem is less with the number of visitors who number less than 2-5% (total annual visitors of 30 million divided by 365 days) of HK's resident population. The real grievance is towards HK's endemic unfair distribution of income.
John Adams
Only the landlord oligarchs make real money out of this, eventually
But that's HK - the landlords and tycoons suck us dry with everything from electricity to groceries and 7/11 in between.
So let's at least shut down all their golf courses and give the land to our indigenous population !
Either that or pray for a Moses-like plague to strike down the first-born of all oligarchs ( just joking)
And once the CCP eases luxury goods taxes and high import tariffs on the mainland (which is slowly beginning), HK will suddenly be a desert where one can hear the crickets chirping at night.




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