Parallel trading

Wide backing for tighter solo visitor scheme

Survey of residents in North District find mainland travellers blamed for higher prices

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 4:04am

More than half of the residents and shopkeepers in North District want the individual traveller scheme for mainlanders to be tightened, a survey commissioned by the area's district council found.

The face-to-face poll, conducted in February and June in Sheung Shui and Fanling, interviewed 705 residents, 100 shopkeepers and 800 people travelling on individual permits. It found 64 per cent of border town residents thought the scheme should be made more restrictive, as did 57 per cent of shopkeepers. Eighty-two per cent of residents said the visitors pushed up the cost of necessities, and 80 per cent thought they were responsible for stock shortages in shops.

However, 44 per cent of individual travellers thought the scheme should continue running, and 82.4 per cent said it boosted the economy. Thirty-six per cent thought the scheme should be extended.

Only 34.6 per cent of travellers thought they had pushed up the prices of daily necessities and 37.5 per cent believed they had caused a shortage of goods.

The scheme has allowed mainlanders from 49 cities to visit Hong Kong without joining tour groups since 2003. Under the scheme, millions of mainlanders visit Hong Kong every year, boosting the retail, catering and property sectors. But critics have questioned whether the city has reached its capacity to accommodate the influx of visitors - some of whom have been accused of parallel-goods trading.

"Some visitors buy daily necessities for their own use, but some also buy products, like infant formula, to earn extra money by reselling them in the mainland," said Leung Kim-shing, spokesman for North District Parallel Imports Concern Group.

A district councillor said the government should target parallel-goods trading but not the scheme.

"The government should try to reduce the nuisance caused by parallel-goods traders at MTR stations, but not necessarily curb individual travellers, which may impact on our economy," said Simon Wong Yun-keung of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.