The security minister was grilled by lawmakers on Monday who criticised the government for not doing enough to curb cross-border parallel traders.
Lai Tung-kwok, secretary for security, repeatedly dodged critical remarks in a security panel meeting in the Legislative Council as lawmakers expressed worries that the illegal trades have intensified some Hongkongers’ hatred towards mainlanders.
“We will closely monitor the modus operandi of parallel trade activities, [and] continue to adopt the strategy of cracking down at source.
“We will also maintain close intelligence exchange with mainland authorities to combat organised parallel trade activities,” Lai said.
But lawmakers – both pro-establishment and pro-democracy – slammed the bureau for failing to curb the situation.
“The ineffective and incapable policies have created a state of rivalry [between Hongkongers and mainland Chinese],” said pro-establishment legislator Lam Tai-fai. “I can’t see any policy by which you can solve the problem at its root.”
Beijing-friendly lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said: “The policy of multiple entry [for mainlanders] has gone uncontrolled.”
On the pro-democracy camp, Gary Fan Kwok-wai, of the NeoDemocrats, asked for the multiple entry scheme to be completely scrapped.
Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of the Labour Party, said: “These tourists are destroying the local culture. Under what degree of social chaos will the government be willing to take back the right to issue these permits?”
The right currently rests with the mainland authorities. Lai did not reply to the question directly.
Lai said the scope of the multiple entry scheme will be based on the capacity of Hong Kong’s border and tourist facilities, but Ho argued the criterion should be Hong Kong’s overall capacity.
Meanwhile, Lai repeated the government’s stance that putting the Basic Law’s Article 23 into legislation was not a focus of work “in the coming year”.