Limit border crossings to one return trip a day for Shenzhen residents, says Liberal

Liberal chief to ask Beijing to limit multiple-entry visa holders to one return trip per day, hot on heels of brother's plan to cap tourists

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 8:40am

His younger brother was dismissed as "selfish" by state media for suggesting a cap on tourist numbers in Hong Kong, but that has not stopped Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun from coming up with his own proposal to limit tourist numbers.

Tien, a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, wants Shenzhen residents banned from making more than one return trip across the border a day, instead of being allowed to make unlimited trips on their multiple-entry permits.

The legislator and former Tourism Board chief will put his idea forward next week when the CPPCC and the National People's Congress hold their annual sessions in Beijing.

The idea is aimed at parallel-goods traders, who buy products in Hong Kong for resale across the border. The traders are accused of overwhelming towns in the northern New Territories and clearing the shelves of goods such as infant-milk formula.

At the same time, Tien's brother, New People's Party legislator and NPC deputy Michael Tien Puk-sun, will be pushing ahead with his proposal to cap the number of permits for mainland tourists, despite government mouthpiece the Global Times condemning the idea.

James Tien said criticism would not deter him either. "There is no perfect solution to the problem … but we will be cautious, and try not to make people feel that we are unwelcoming towards tourists."

Tien believes his idea would cut visitor numbers by a few million a year and help bring balance to Hong Kong's tourist industry by reducing its reliance on day-trippers from Shenzhen and making it more appealing for other visitors.

The question of whether Hong Kong can or should welcome more tourists has been a matter of hot debate, especially after a government report last month forecast annual visitor numbers would double to 100 million within a decade.

Fellow CPPCC delegate Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee will propose a review of the one-way permit scheme, under which 150 mainlanders per day are allowed to settle in Hong Kong. As well as looking at the quota, Chow will ask Beijing to consider introducing a means test in light of a court ruling in December that allows new arrivals to apply for welfare.

"The criteria should include whether the applicant could be 'financially self-sufficient'," she said. Asked whether such a test could be considered discriminatory, Chow said: "It shouldn't be seen that way … It is common in immigration policies overseas."

In both cases, Beijing, rather than Hong Kong, has the power to issue permits, set quotas and decide on rules for their use.

Howard Young, another local CPPCC delegate, will press Beijing to discourage mainland tourists from visiting the Philippines, in light of Manila's lack of apology for the 2010 killing of eight Hong Kong hostages by gunman Rolando Mendoza. Hong Kong this month suspended visa-free entry for Philippine officials.

Young believes a travel warning from Beijing would be more effective as China was a "growing market for Filipino tourism".