Hongkongers want solo travel scheme scaled down

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 6:31pm

The individual visit scheme for mainland tourists should be scaled down because of its negative impact on the city, according to half the Hongkongers surveyed in a poll released on Friday.

Chinese University researchers found that 51.2 per cent of the 755 people polled said the travel programme should be cut back. A large minority of respondents – 38.1 per cent – said it should remain unchanged while only 6.5 per cent supported enlarging it.

The survey results showed Hongkongers had conflicting views of the scheme – recognising that it had brought them economic benefits along with adverse impacts since its introduction in 2003, researchers said.

The solo travel scheme lets mainland tourists visit the city individually instead of in groups.

The survey was conducted by the university’s Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies between last Friday and Tuesday.

While 60.3 per cent of respondents agreed that the scheme had expanded business for Hong Kong, 62.8 per cent said the influx of mainland tourists had made the city less safe.

Sixty-eight per cent agreed that the influx had pushed up prices and shop rents, while 59.5 per cent said the increased contact between Hongkongers and mainlanders had not helped to build mutual trust.

Over the nine years since its launch, the programme has widened from the initial four mainland cities to 49, making 270 million people eligible to visit Hong Kong.

The poll comes at a time when Hongkongers have become increasingly sceptical about mainland visitors over a series of issues.

They include an attempt by Shenzhen to allow 4.1 million of its non-permanent residents to visit Hong Kong on multiple-entry permits. That was put on hold after strong opposition by Hongkongers prompted Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to take up the issue with mainland authorities.

More recently, Hongkongers living near the border have protested against mainland parallel-goods traders swamping their local train station and nearby pavements, and against a new-town project that they feared was designed for rich mainlanders.