Carrie Lam must act now on tour group chaos
- The influx of mainland visitors to Tung Chung since the opening of the mega bridge has resulted in upset residents and allowed localists to rouse anti-mainland sentiments
- The fault falls squarely on officials – including the chief executive – for failing to anticipate the trouble
Transport chief Frank Chan Fan and his bureau have overestimated usage for the cross-border express rail link and underestimated that for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. The latter, however, presents a more immediate problem for the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
The bridge’s opening has led to an influx of mainland visitors during weekends and predictably caused overcrowding and chaos in Tung Chung. The problems have caused much grumblings from residents; “localists” have been quick to exploit them to rouse anti-mainland sentiments.
The fault falls squarely on officials for failing to anticipate the trouble. While they have been laying the blame on unauthorised mainland tour organisers, it’s already creating problems for the Hong Kong government. Localist thugs had targeted mainland tour guides, even legitimate ones, under the guise of checking for illegal operators, causing rows and scuffling as a result. Police had to intervene.
This must be déjà vu for many officials, especially Lam. It’s re-enacting the crisis of baby milk formula supplies being cleared out by mainland visitors and parallel traders, and that of expectant mainland mothers taking up beds at local hospitals. Both contributed to the rise of localism by causing resentment among many Hong Kong people against mainlanders.
Lam’s predecessor and former boss Leung Chun-ying acted decisively at the time by slamming the door on mainland mothers-to-be and imposing strict quotas on infant formula cans being allowed to be carried across the border.
As Leung’s No 2, Lam must have been involved in making those decisions. She must now act with similar decisiveness. Trying to divert mainland tours to other entries into Hong Kong is a good start. But if there are really too many illegal tour operators, the time to intercept them is at the mainland side of the mega bridge, not when they have already arrived in North Lantau. Trying to check and stop them and their tour members on our side just contributed to the pandemonium, as we witnessed this weekend.
We need to convince Zhuhai authorities to step up checks and enforcement, and impose stricter quotas on tours. In addition, we should offer to help on their side with our own border control agents. If mainland officers are allowed to operate at the West Kowloon terminus of the express rail link, surely there is no reason why our own agents couldn’t operate under a similar, if temporary, arrangement.