My Take

Hong Kong should welcome more tourists, but not mainlanders

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2015, 12:49am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2015, 12:49am

It's not easy being Michael Tien Puk-sun these days. When was the last time you saw irate protesters rallying outside the office of a directly elected lawmaker and district councillor?

Yet, more than a dozen locals in Tsuen Wan led the charge outside Tien's office on Sunday, angry about his plan to table a proposal as a delegate to the National People's Congress to allow more mainland tourists to visit Hong Kong. This followed rowdy clashes with police a week earlier.

Tien must know about widespread anti-mainland sentiments, especially among residents in northwestern New Territories, the base of support for his seat in Legco.

Embracing mainland visitors could amount to a kiss of death in next year's Legco poll. But, he must have learned from the sorry fate of older brother James Tien Pei-chun, who has the rare distinction of being the only Hong Kong member to be kicked out of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. James had the temerity to call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to quit at the height of the Occupy protests when Beijing made it clear that support for Leung was politically mandatory.

James thought his Legco seat more important than the CPPCC seat.

Michael seems to think his NPC seat more important than Legco. It is a demonstration of loyalty when the Tien family name has become suspect north of the border.

To be fair, Michael Tien's plan is actually quite moderate, proposing to extend the individual visitor scheme to three more mainland cities when 49 cities already enjoy the privilege.

He has also suggested capping the number of visits by Shenzhen residents - who currently make up the bulk of parallel traders from across the border - to 40 a year.

But in our politically charged city, you are either for Hong Kong or you are a "locust" lover, the derogatory Cantonese name for mainlanders.

However defensible Tien's proposal, it's a tough sell.

He and other mainstream loyalists should continue to voice support for mainland visitors, but not expand the scheme.

Instead, we need to do far more to entice quality tourists from elsewhere in Asia and Europe. It's time to diversify.