Chinese tourists

Problems created by mainland Chinese tourists cannot be ignored

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 3:11am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 3:17pm

Hong Kong people's dissatisfaction over aspects of their livelihood such as rising prices and overcrowding have been widely discussed in the past months.

The overcrowding problem has been exacerbated by the increasing number of mainland tourists, In February, there was an "anti-locust" protest whose participants verbally abused mainland tourists. The people involved should be condemned for their actions. What they did was extreme and cannot be seen as representative of the public.

It is, however, true that the problems we face in our daily lives have been aggravated by the surge in the past few years in the number of mainland visitors. Property prices, rents and prices of consumer goods have shot up, in line with the principles of supply and demand and maximisation of profits for businessmen. Capitalist principles work extremely well in Hong Kong's free market.

I therefore cannot agree with Peter Kammerer's view ("Big city living", March 18) that Hong Kong people are not adaptable and have not evolved. The crux of the problem is physical space and capacity. Hong Kong's population tripled from 2.2 million in the mid-1950s to 6.7 million in 2001. In 2013, Hong Kong had a population of over 7.2 million. With many more developed area over these years, our population density has increased considerably. Tourist numbers increased by 11.7 per cent from 2012 to over 54 million last year. We have only that much space. It is like a glass which can only hold so much water; if we keep pouring water, it will spill over.

When I shopped at Selfridges in London in February, it was much more crowded than five years ago. Mainland Chinese tourists certainly contributed to the increased patronage and to the UK economy. However, it is much larger than stores in Hong Kong and therefore does not feel as congested. If we were not adaptive and tolerant, we could not have survived crises like Sars, and the financial recession of 2007-08. As society progresses, we also become more vocal and voice our discontent on issues of a structural and systemic nature that ordinary citizens cannot overcome.

The capacity problem cannot be solved simply by us going to less crowded places, nor patiently waiting for another MTR train. By now, the chief executive must have recognised that we have lost patience and he should respond positively to the call for control over the influx of mainland visitors.

Beatrice Lee, Lam Tin