The lawmaker representing the city’s retail industry has backed calls for a restriction on mainland visitors.
Vincent Fang Kang, from the pro-business Liberal Party, wants Shenzhen permanent residents banned from making more than one return trip across the border a day.
He hopes the move will alleviate residents’ discontent and put an end to recent protests that have targeted tourists.
He said his constituents backed the call, despite the government’s reservations.
Of Shenzhen’s 10.5 million people, some 2.9 million are permanent residents who are eligible to apply for multiple-entry permits, which allow them to make unlimited trips across the border every day.
“Some places in Hong Kong [have become] very crowded, so we have asked the government many times whether we can try the ‘single visit’ [model],” Fang said on TVB yesterday.
Residents in the northern New Territories have complained about mainland tourists and parallel-goods traders “overwhelming” communities and clearing the shelves of goods such as infant formula, for personal use or resale across the border.
“We initially proposed [the restriction] to the secretary for security, but he asked me, ‘Mr Fang, this will hurt your sector – have you asked their advice?” Fang said.
“But we have to strike a balance [between business and residents’ interests]. We don’t want people’s discontent to continue, and we don’t want to see people protesting every week to irritate the tourists. So, focusing on the long term, I persuaded many [representatives in my] sector, and they said: ‘OK, Mr Fang, call for the curb’.”
Recently, protests against mainland visitors have taken place in the popular shopping destinations of Tsim Sha Tsui, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. The protests have involved activists insulting mainland visitors and telling them to shop on the mainland instead.
Fang believes these protests contributed to a drop in the number of mainland visitors during the Labour Day holidays.
Some 388,070 mainlanders visited Hong Kong from May 1 to 3 – 1.6 per cent fewer than last year, when 394,000 visited.
Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said that changing the entry scheme for Shenzhen permanent residents could cause resentment and may dissuade some mainland travellers from visiting.
He said any proposal to change the policy should be backed up by statistics.
“We don’t know how many [Shenzhen residents] are travelling to Hong Kong more than once a day. If all you are doing is trying to stop parallel-goods trading, why don’t you deploy more manpower to enforce the law?”