National People's Congress deputy seeks quota for mainland travellers to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 3:46am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 3:46am

A National People's Congress deputy has called for a cap on permits issued to mainland travellers to Hong Kong.

Michael Tien Puk-sun said yesterday he would table his proposal at the NPC's annual session in Beijing next month.

Since 2003, the individual visit scheme has allowed mainlanders from 49 cities to visit Hong Kong without joining tour groups.

Millions of mainlanders visit Hong Kong every year, boosting retail, catering and property businesses but irking locals by clogging public transport and popular leisure spots.

Hong Kong officials have said they will not put a cap on the number of tourists. But Tien said he had already written to the NPC seeking quotas.

"Neither the central nor local governments would want to see conflicts between Hongkongers and mainlanders to continue because of a lack of resources and space in Hong Kong," he said.

The 54 million people who visited the city last year included 41 million from the mainland, more than half of them under the individual visit scheme.

In the first 10 months of last year, the number of mainland tourists surged 18 per cent, as critics questioned whether the city had reached its capacity to accommodate the influx of visitors.

"I hope that … the Ministry of Public Security can set a quota on the individual traveller scheme, and plan for the increase in the number of tourists," Tien wrote in his letter to the NPC. He said he hoped Beijing could limit the growth to about 3 to 5 per cent a year.

Tourism-sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing believed the idea was unlikely to be accepted.

"Tourists are now concentrated in Kowloon, Sha Tin and Sheung Shui," Yiu said. "I think [the solution] is to divert tourists and develop other districts such as Lantau, and build a large shopping mall near our border."

Lo Sui-on, a board member of China Travel Service Hong Kong, said as an international metropolis, the city "can't set too many restrictions".