• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 4:07am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 12:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 10:17pm

Why are Hong Kong people last in line in their own city?

Michael Chugani cannot understand why our policymakers appear to prioritise the needs of the visitor hordes over residents' welfare

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.
 

What was it that King Cnut tried to do? Oh yes, he tried to turn back the tide. I thought of Cnut over the holiday break when I foolishly tested Commerce Secretary Greg So Kam-leung's assertion that Hong Kong could handle 100 million visitors.

My first stop was the Victoria Park fair on Lunar New Year's Eve. It quickly became clear that you don't get to walk at this fair. You are pushed along by a human tide. I fought my way out and fled after 15 minutes but got trapped in an even thicker tide of locals and mainlanders across from the Sogo store. This time, I actually feared for my life.

On the third day of the Lunar New Year, I gathered enough nerve to test So's claim again. Riding the Peak Tram was out of the question. The line of mostly mainlanders stretched back to Garden Road. I headed for the number 15 bus to the Peak. The line at the Exchange Square terminus was so long I had to wait for four buses.

During the ride, it hit me that the long bus and tram lines meant the Peak would be a madhouse. I tried to get off but got trapped on the upper deck by a wall of people along the stairs. I cursed and yelled at the driver to wait.

Next stop, Tsim Sha Tsui, where I got hit by so many wheeled suitcases that I actually kicked one in a fit of rage. I decided I had done enough testing and headed home.

Here's what I want to ask So: if, with 54 million visitors a year, a Peak trip on a holiday requires waiting for four buses, how many buses must I wait for in 2017 when we will have 70 million visitors, and in 2023 when there will be 100 million? Should we pioneer triple-decker buses, build an escalator, or more Peak Tram systems? If Ocean Park had to suspend ticket sales this year and last year due to the Lunar New Year crush, what will it be like in 2017?

Sure, I could stay at home during "golden week" holidays. But why should taxpayers like me have to be prisoners in our own homes while we turn the city over to visitors?

So is not the only one loopy enough to think we can handle 100 million visitors. Jack So Chak-kwong, head of the Economic Development Commission's task force on tourism, boastfully said so too last July.

I wrote here at the time that if he and other policymakers rode public transport instead of chauffeur-driven cars, they wouldn't be talking through their rear ends, to which he replied in a letter to the editor that he does indeed use the MTR.

I take that with a pinch of salt. I have seen some legislators ride the MTR but never people like Jack So, Greg So or other policymakers.

Cnut couldn't stop the tide. Neither can Hong Kong. But how to manage the tide? Build more hotels, say policymakers.

That shows how clueless they are about public resentment towards the growing tide. It doesn't matter to the policymakers that locals now avoid Ocean Park, must queue for hours to ride the Peak Tram, and have to fight for walking space in city streets. The tourists must have hotels. They come first.

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

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17

This article is now closed to comments

Dao-Phooy
Agree with the comments 100%. Yesterday, the small look-out near the Adventist was jammed with tour buses and the traffic was stopped because there was no room for those on the road to move in. Whilst waiting, I counted 3 large buses heading up to the Peak. We are facing gridlock. Will anybody in Government push for a policy to prevent us facing such a bleak future? Just look at the nightmare pictures in Gulangyu and Macau!
SpeakFreely
...continue..and government can claim success by offering more low pay jobs as sales clerk at stores...but look at the real high end job in hk is actually getting less and less and that's why our GDP per capita has been flat in the past 10 years...
MingBaakMei
Chugani what you have identified, lack of appreciation of the problem by the HK Govt.,is indicative of the way the govt is run these days.
Nobody is prepared to take a decision as they will be castigated if wrong and ignored if right. There is a real morale problem in the whole of the government; across all government depts.
HK is gradually falling apart, largely because those in charge are petrified of falling foul of those north of the border. Better they, those in charge, develop a backbone now, otherwise we will be subsumed long before 2047.
yellow_lynx_cat
It is a slow colonization process, which Communist China learnt from the Soviet teachers. The Soviets did the same to many Central Asian "republics" by systematically moving Russians to settle there over the 1950's and then gradually displacing the locals' language, culture, history and herirtage.
China is now doing the same, squeezing out Cantonese, using their Communise in many terms, now in CUHK the entrance exam for Physics doctorate degree is set in Broken Chinese character (the paper is set by a so-called professor from the Mainland) - so that Hong Kong students who are used to doing exams in English are disadvantaged and the mainlander students are favoured. CUHK local students must fight back!
realestate
One can well understand why the Mainlanders want to come to HK but is hard to understand why the powers-that-be in HK bend over backwards to please them at the expense of its own citizens.Some argue that the Northerners will take HK down piece by piece, I however suspect it will be the other way round.
lucifer
What a disaster....just cap the number of people admitted. Create a scheme limits the number of people who can be admitted. have the travel agencies give out this numbers and advertise that if you don't have a number, you will not be admitted.
sclibrary
Businesses gain, and residents lose out. That is all there is to it regarding the HK-mainlanders situation
shellbell
Well said! The madness has now extended beyond the traditional tourist belt of Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and the theme parks, and entered into residential areas like Tuen Mun (SCMP 27 Jan ****www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1414186/once-tranquil-towns-ring-sound-cash-registers?page=all). Suggestions to divert tourist traffic is also not working - it just means there are fewer places where you can hope to escape the flood of tourists. The city is simply overwhelmed.
SpeakFreely
Michael, the issue is HK government and biz man do not want to invest in HK to increase GDP per capita so they simply go for "revenue" increase by jacking up population and tourist. This is a simple n quick way to increase their top line but scarifying the middle class and tax prayer. The increase in tourist and population will benefit most the landlords and developers, as they can get more rent, but not for taxpayers particularly middle class as everything is getting expensive and quality of life is getting worst. Time to think about leaving hk if you want better quality of life. So is only part of the government pushing for top line but the government overall and the Legco should have an overall road map for hk people but they don't care. Greg So is similar to the then sec of health who admitted tens of thousand of mainland mom for profit for the so called health industry, or doctors, but he didn't care about the mess left behind from the unplanned child for the city. I'm not against immigration but the mainland mom is totally not planned but was lobbied by doctors for no reasons that was stopped in 2 seconds by leung, right? For tourist this I s similar but the stack holders are developers and landlords, hard to fight them...that probably why the so called border shopping plaza was never being considered as this won't benefit the landlords and developers inside the city....they want more tariffing and more biz for charging more rent...
singleline
Besides helping importing more Chinese tourists, the linked exchange rate also helps importing inflation into Hong Kong.
At such low interest rates, those property developers stand to gain.
One of them is the wealthiest person in Asia.
The resulting financial repression also greatly benefits the banks.
That's why HSBC was able to earn one-third of its pre-tax profit from Hong Kong --- a small city with only 7 million people.
Of course the great majority of bank depositors and fixed-income-earning pensioners lose out as a result.
One way to help the majority of Hong Kong people without risking the exhaustion of our reserves is to repeal the linked exchange rate system.
Higher interest rates is the only way to fully deflate the bubble of our overheated property market, which has almost kidnapped our whole economy.
(Unfortunately, imitating Hong Kong, China is also practising the high-land-price policy in most of her cities.)

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