'Drastic' 20pc cut in mainland visitors only one option, says Leung

Advisory body working to 'fine-tune' the number of tourists allowed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 4:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 11:35am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying today said that a 20 per cent cut in the number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong was only one option being considered by a key government appointed advisory body.

Speaking before an Executive Council meeting this morning, Leung said there could be a need for what he called “demand management” of tourist numbers before any decision is made on Hong Kong’s visitor capacity.

“[It is about] whether [we should] slow down the increase of visitors, or stop it, or reduce the number of visitors. We shall conduct various studies and will reflect Hong Kong’s views to the central government,” Leung said.

The government was now listening to the views of the public, businesses and the tourism sector, he said.

Tourism is an important sector of Hong Kong’s economy, he stressed, adding: “We will make sure that whatever we do, when we arrive at a decision, we will have a full understanding of the implications of any new policy.”

During a meeting of the Commission on Strategic Development yesterday, Leung reportedly sought opinions on a 20 per cent reduction to the 40 million mainlanders visiting Hong Kong every year.

On yesterday’s agenda was the recent tensions between Hong Kong and the mainland, partly brought about by an influx of mainland visitors under the mainland’s individual visit scheme.

He said today: “It is impossible for anyone to formulate any measure that can accurately fine-tune the number of visitors, be it a 20 per cent cut or 15 per cent cut.

“At this stage, we are listening to different views and the government has not come up with any proposal.”

“The Individual visit scheme is a central government policy,” he added.

A 20 per cent reduction in visitors to the city is too drastic, members of the commission said yesterday.

Leung, who chairs the commission, sought opinions on an option of a 20 per cent reduction to the 40 million mainlanders visiting Hong Kong every year, according to one of the members.

"Everyone opposed such a drastic cut," said the member, who declined to be named.

Another member, lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said most members agreed the city was overcrowded, but doubted if individual visitors from the mainland were the main cause.

"If we just cut the number of mainland visitors without solving the problems - such as the school places shortage caused by children born to mainlanders - those problems will remain," Chan said.

Chan added that reducing the number of mainland visitors would help to ease tensions in the city, but some members said it would be detrimental to the economy."Some businesses relying on mainland visitors may have to close down," he said.

Meanwhile, a survey by the North District Parallel Imports Concern Group found that the number of pharmacies in Shek Wu Hui, Sheung Shui, increased by 26 per cent in the past year.

The group tallied the number of shops in the area targeting parallel-goods traders and mainlanders twice last year, and in January this year. It says the individual visit scheme for mainlanders has seen more visitors engaging in parallel-goods trading and has limited the variety of shops in border areas.

From last June to January, the number of money changers in the area rose from 23 to 31, while processed food wholesalers went from 10 to 16.

Pharmacies were up from 34 to 43. The number of wholesalers suspected to be targeting the traders went up from seven to 26. The group called for multiple-entry permits for mainlanders to be scrapped and wants the individual visit scheme cut.