Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 5:06am

Tick tock! Mainland tourist time bomb is set to blast

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.
 

Public Eye is not gloating … but we told you so. We warned the glut of mainland tourists to our tiny city was a ticking time bomb. But policymakers turned a deaf ear, until the Lunar New Year, when shameful images of mainlanders being forced by crooked travel agencies to sleep in seedy guesthouses, and even in a tourist bus, drew global attention. Now th ey are all scrambling to admit things have got out of hand. It's time to admit the disadvantages now outweigh the advantages of giving easy entry to millions of mainlanders. The tensions we saw when half a million mainlanders flooded the city during the Lunar New Year was just a warning of a coming explosion. We can expect mainland visitors to swell to 50 million a year in two years' time. Even France - the world's top tourist destination - only has about 70 million annually. No other city has 1.3 billion people at its doorstep, with 300 million in southern China eligible for easy entry and within an hour's reach of Hong Kong. Officials insist it is impossible to reverse the multiple entry visas for mainlanders, but other cities limit visitor numbers by choosing the people they allow in. Our immigration officers blindly allow in mainlanders who come several times a day for questionable reasons, yet closely scrutinise those from places such as the Philippines. We need to wake up and smell the time bomb.

 

What would one call the ugly confrontations then?

Security chief Lai Tung-kwok is unworried about the time bomb. He said we have had no "unpleasant incidents", despite the swelling number of mainland visitors. He has obviously forgotten about the ugly confrontations over mainlanders eating on the MTR, parallel-goods traders in Sheung Shui, and outside the Tsim Sha Tsui Dolce & Gabbana store. Our overpaid bureaucrats prefer to wait until after "unpleasant incidents" happen before they act. That's why we always say they need to beam back to earth from La la land.

 

Opposing the two-can milk powder cap is vulturous

Can you hear that screeching sound? It's the vultures crying for more. After having gorged themselves on the desperate plight of local mothers, some suppliers and retailers of baby milk powder are still not satisfied. They have ganged up to blast government measures against parallel-goods traders, which will limit outbound travellers to two cans of milk powder, as a violation of free trade. This is how such vultures see free trade: they've jacked up infant formula prices by up to 40 per cent in the past three years to profit from the lunatic mainland demand for milk powder. They cared little that their profiteering not only squeezed local mothers financially, but made it virtually impossible for them to buy infant formula. That's not free trade, it's sickening greed. Suppliers and retailers have now promised a stable supply to local mothers. Well, it's too late. The government should stand firm against these vultures. The only reason they want the two-can limit scrapped is because they want to continue cashing in on the mainland market. Local mothers should be able to buy milk powder wherever they want, whenever they want. They should not have to show the birth certificates of their babies to get a regular supply, as the vultures propose. The government will have hell to pay - we'll make sure of that - if it kowtows to the vultures.

 

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