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Chinese tourists

NeoDemocrats call for end to multi-entry permits for Shenzhen residents

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 4:41am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 4:47am

Stories about overcrowded swimming pools and faeces in a shower cubicle have emerged as the latest salvos from those arguing for a cap on mainland visitor numbers.

Residents in the New Territories have complained that tourists are placing a strain on pools in Sheung Shui, Tai Po and Tuen Mun during the summer period, according to Tai Po district councillor Francis Yam Kai-bong.

"Residents have told me they could not get into Sheung Shui swimming pool because it was full," Yam said yesterday.

His political group, the NeoDemocrats, wants to scrap multiple-entry permits for Shenzhen permanent residents in order to lower the demand placed on public resources from visitors.

Yam said that since May, he had received seven complaints about a public pool situated minutes away from Sheung Shui MTR station. He described the facility as quite small, with only a leisure pool featuring rides and no standard pool.

Another concern was public hygiene, he said.

"A cleaner found faeces inside a shower cubicle even though a toilet was just next to it," Yam said. "We have no proof to show who was responsible, but the problem [of hygiene] has worsened over the past two years."

Twenty NeoDemocrat members wearing goggles and carrying rubber rings protested at the government's headquarters in Admiralty to highlight the issue.

But Tuen Mun swimming pool was far from full when the Post visited yesterday, and most of the swimmers appeared to be locals, except for mainland tourist Luo Yitian and a few of his friends. "This swimming pool is bigger and cleaner than those in Shenzhen," said Luo.

Taxi driver Tin Ka-sin said he swam there daily and heard swimmers using Putonghua, but they were in the minority. Swimming teacher Li Kin-pui agreed, saying he had seen no notable rise in swimmer numbers.

The government is facing calls to limit entry from across the border, after it forecast tourist numbers could hit 70 million in three years and 100 million in a decade, up from 54 million last year.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has voiced concern about imposing such controls, according to the minutes from a meeting of the Commission on Strategic Development held in May.

Leung cautioned that when reduced tourist numbers begin to bite, people's views "might not be the same". In the days after the meeting, retailers are said to have voiced concern about the impact on business of any controls.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung has said his bureau does not plan to conduct any public consultation to gauge opinion on limiting visitor numbers.