• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 3:52pm
NewsHong Kong

Lifeguards in Hong Kong strike over influx of mainland tourists to pools and beaches

Red flag raised at Butterfly Beach and facilities closed at five public pools as about 100 lifeguards strike over a staff shortage and an increased workload

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 1:52pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:40pm

The red flag was hoisted at Butterfly Beach in Tuen Mun and some facilities were closed at five public swimming pools on Tuesday as about 100 lifeguards across the city went on strike.

The lifeguards are protesting a staff shortage and what they say is an increased workload due to an influx of mainland tourists.

Some staged a sit-in at the headquarters of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in Sha Tin. 

While the public has been advised not to swim at Butterfly Beach due to a lack of lifeguards, the 37 other public beaches are all open.

Some facilities such as toddlers' pools have been closed at Morrison Hill Swimming Pool in Wan Chai, Sham Shui Po Park Swimming Pool in Sham Shui Po, Hammer Hill Road Swimming Pool in Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun North West Swimming Pool in Tuen Mun and Shing Mun Valley Swimming Pool in Tsuen Wan.

At Hammer Hill Road, swimmer Ms Lam, 60, said the strike was not affecting her much as most of the pool’s facilities remained open. "I support the strike because one needs to fight for one’s interest in order to have a fair share in this society,” she said.

Alex Kwok Siu-kit, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards' Union, yesterday said the number of lifeguards in the city was cut from 2,400 to 1,580 in 2004. The number went up to 1,900 recently, he said.

"There are about 1,900 lifeguards [now], but don't forget that there have been about 10 more facilities [since 2004]," he said.

Kwok said more mainlanders had come to swim in Hong Kong in recent years, especially after mainland newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily encouraged them to do so last month.

He added that a friend working at the Kowloon Park Swimming Pool had seen a group of 40 mainland tourists visit the pool on a "swimming tour" last month. "They had a flag that said 'Hong Kong one-day swimming tour'. They came at around 1pm and swam for three hours. There were 40 of them," he said.

Kwok claimed that the problem with mainland tourists using the city's public swimming pools and beaches was that some of them were unhygienic.

Some mainland children would relieve themselves by the pool, he said.

"Hong Kong families usually ask their children to go to the toilet first [before allowing them to enter the pool for a swim]," he said.

Kwok added that it was difficult to draw young people to the job because the starting salary for lifeguards was low, at HK$13,000, and there was a lack of career prospects compared with other jobs.

The starting salary for lifeguards should be increased to HK$17,000, he said.

A spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department yesterday said 160 lifeguards had been recruited in the past three years. The department had more than 1,930 lifeguards as of August 1, he said.

The spokesman said that if there were not enough lifeguards on duty in some facilities on Tuesday, those who were rostered off could be asked to report for duty today.

"To ensure the safety of swimmers, the department will not rule out closing part of the facilities if there are not enough lifeguards on duty," the spokesman said.



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This article is now closed to comments

In the eyes of mainlanders, seems everything here in HK, from milk powder, shampoo to swimming pool, are better than those in Mainland. So flattered. Had British requested more land 150 years ago, say, the whole GuangDong province, then today we would have no problem to accept tourists as many as one billion a year, and be able to let them enjoy our facilities as frequent as they like.
There's one entity that is more frightening than Ebola.
Just remember the next time you're in a public pool. Someone has definitely urinated it!
I think the issue is the amount of hired lifeguards are unable to observe the large amount of people, no matter where they're from. Just the sheer number in the pool at one time, maybe because of a swimming tour, cause this. Anybody urinating near the pool should be asked to leave.
Why this doesn't sound harmonious at all! The Silent Majority surely would not support a lifeguard strike! It'll bring HK's economy to a STANDSTILL!!!!
I very rarely see mainlanders in public swimming pools, even Morrison which is close to Causeway Bay. I can't imagine a tourist coming here and taking a swim on the side. I doubt any of them even know where the pool is tucked away. And in all my years, I have never seen a lifeguard saving anyone in any pool in any country. A lot of them are napping usually.
It's another in a long line of local HK lesser men trying to jump on the "everything-bad-is-happening-cause-of-mainlanders" wagon.
Is this a safety issue? Public swimming pools must have a stated capacity and should not admit anyone after that limit is reached.
Or is it discrimination?
This is when I like having a clubhouse with indoor / outdoor pool where you swim with about 30 others. No one urinates around the pool. Lifeguards are happy and well paid. Look up at the sky and have nice lea surly swims at night. I pity those who have to go to cramped swimming pools.
Which law in HK stipulates that public swimming pools are reserved for HK residents only? Is there any sign at pool entrances that ban mainland Chinese or non-HK residents from entering? Are these lifeguards aware that it is their job to rescue anyone in danger regardless of the victim's race, culture or origin?
Turning HK swimming pools into toilets. Yuck!!
Mainlanders are used to it.



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