TOURISM
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Golden Week

Hong Kong should control mainland visitor numbers, councillor says

Executive councillor Starry Lee says HK officials want to have control over the number coming in

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 3:56am

In "golden week" nine years ago, Hong Kong gladly opened its doors to mainlanders who wanted to visit individually rather than in tour groups.

At that time the city was recovering from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic and struggling economically.

But the current flood of mainlanders into the city, and the prospect of a lot more coming, yesterday prompted Starry Lee Wai-king, a member of the Executive Council, to say enough is enough - the Hong Kong government wants the right to decide how many are allowed in.

She said the administration wants to set up a system that gives it control over the inflow.

"For details such as whether the SAR government has a say over which [mainland] city's people can come, more discussions are needed," she said in a TVB programme.

However, Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong said the city should consider how to accommodate more visitors, instead of stopping them. "As a city open for business, we should have a positive attitude and think about how to increase [the capacity of] our infrastructure to welcome visitors," he said.

Early last month, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he understood the pressure being put on the city's facilities by the influx of mainland tourists. He said the city needed to have a mechanism to curb the pressure, but he did not comment on whether the government would set a quota.

Lee's remarks came as reports emerged of tense stand-offs between locals and mainland visitors at camp sites in Pui O on Lantau Island. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said only 10 per cent of 52 designated camping spots in Pui O were booked by mainlanders or foreigners. But of the 250 or so tents set up on the beach, about a quarter were occupied by mainlanders or foreigners.

The altercations are the latest sign of growing discontent over the large number of mainlanders coming to Hong Kong. Reports of mainlanders snapping up local property and parallel-goods traders stripping shops bare of goods have led to calls for a rethink about the individual visitor scheme. In 2002, about 6.8 million mainlanders visited Hong Kong. Last year the figure was 28 million.

Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung welcomed the possibility of a quota. "If there are too many tourists coming to Hong Kong, we may not be able to maintain the quality of our services, which would leave our visitors with a bad impression," he said.

A 38-year-old Sichuan man will appear in court today charged with assaulting a woman tour guide in a row over shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui.