Lai Tung-kwok

Cap on tourists would be unprecedented, says security chief

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 5:14pm

Setting a cap on the number of mainland tourists allowed into Hong Kong would be a tough call, the security chief says.

"Of all the tourist cities in the world, I've never heard of any setting a cap on visitors," Lai Tung-kwok said yesterday.

"Also, setting a clear-cut limit would not be an easy task."

Lai was responding to a call for curbs after facilities were strained by an influx over Lunar New Year.

The secretary for security also said limiting the number of times mainlanders could enter Hong Kong in a day - mooted as a way to curb parallel traders - might not be effective.

He was speaking after more than 380,000 tourists crossed the border in the first three days of the holiday, leading one theme park to suspend ticket sales two days in a row.

But Lai said that although the number of tourists had increased, order was maintained and no "unpleasant incidents" occurred.

He said that as the individual travellers scheme, which allows mainlanders multiple entry to Hong Kong, had run for 10 years, it was time to review the city's tourist facilities and measures.

But he disagreed with suggestions that limiting mainlanders to just one trip a day would get rid of parallel traders.

He said the traders - who buy goods in Hong Kong for sale in Shenzhen and have been blamed for driving up prices and causing shortages - made up only a small percentage of visitors on the individual travellers' scheme. Rather, many business people depended on coming and going freely.

Lai said other recently introduced measures had curbed parallel traders and insisted that those were long-term measures, not just for the new year.

Speaking after a radio show, he said the government would keep a close eye on parallel traders to see if the problem returned.

On the radio show, Lai said the Immigration Department had refused entry to 2,400 regular visitors who abused the system.

Visitors seen carrying large amounts of goods across the border would investigated on return.

Asked his view of a claim that "convenience for mainland tourists and merchants is at the inconvenience of Hongkongers", Lai said he disagreed.