Last tourists in visa storm accept compensation and go home

Talks end with mainland travellers accepting 5,000 yuan in compensation and air tickets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 5:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 5:40am

The last of the mainland tourists who had refused to leave the Lok Ma Chau border crossing after a visa row with their tour company finally accepted compensation and went home last night.

They were part of a tour group of 480 from Jilin province on a two-week trip to Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taiwan. After two days in Hong Kong, most left for Taiwan on Friday, but 170 were left in limbo because their Taiwanese visas had not been issued.

The tourists had refused to leave their bus until they were paid cash for what they claimed was a scam. Most had drifted away on Saturday but a hard core group of 20 remained defiant yesterday. They said they would only leave upon confirmation that others who had left had received compensation in Shenzhen.

One of the two buses left for the checkpoint at about 1pm with 12 tourists after they each received 5,000 yuan (HK$6,330) and an air ticket home.

But the final eight were still sitting tight in another bus. Then at about 7pm representatives from Infinitus, a direct sales health-food company which the tourists said organised the tour, and the Shenzhen travel agency responsible for handling their visa applications, entered the bus for another round of negotiations.

Infinitus' representative Chen Lixin had earlier insisted that all those returning were paid after crossing the border.

Finally, at about 9pm, the bus left for the border after the eight accepted the same amount of compensation.

To avoid a repeat of such a visa debacle, the city's tourism watchdog will discuss if a review of guidelines is needed to require local agencies to verify that tourists travelling to third destinations via Hong Kong have the required visas before they arrive.

The company is a subsidiary of the Lee Kum Kee Health Products Group, which is itself a subsidiary of Lee Kum Kee Group, a Hong Kong-based company famous for its cooking sauces.

Members of the group were either employees of Infinitus, its customers or members of its direct sales network.

"Our demands are not outrageous. We are only asking for an explanation and compensation valued according to the mainland's tourism law," a tourist surnamed Xu had said earlier.

Another outraged tourist, Jiao Xu, insisted he would stay until his travel visa expired on December 26. He was also adamant that he would hold out for 10,500 yuan he said he had been promised, but he too accepted 5,000 yuan.

The Hong Kong Travel Industry Council had received no complaint about any local travel agency, said director Joseph Tung Yao-chung, adding that the mainland travel agency involved would continue to handle disputes on compensation.

On Saturday Lee Kum Kee Health Products Group said the tour had nothing to do with the company and that it was organised by the distributors.