Answers needed as political row looms over mega bridge influx
- As thousands of mainland trippers take the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau route by public transport, Tung Chung still struggles to cope despite the latest traffic diversion measures
Despite enhanced traffic diversion measures and a slight drop in visitor numbers brought by the newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, overcrowding in Tung Chung still persisted over the past two weekends. Regrettably, the problem was further compounded by anti-mainland protesters clashing with visitors and their supporters at the Lantau outpost on Sunday. The ugly scenes do nothing for cross-border relations and our image as a tourism city.
With tens of thousands of weekend trippers flooding the neighbourhood, residents are understandably frustrated. But there is no excuse to breed hatred against visitors. The rowdy protest to “recover” Tung Chung is similar to those found a few years ago in Sheung Shui and Tsim Sha Tsui. The former was swarmed with those trafficking Hong Kong goods for sale on the mainland, and the latter is a popular shopping area for tourists. The campaigns related to the two districts have given Hong Kong a bad name on the mainland, and the negative sentiments are still lingering.
What set the Sunday campaign apart is that the protesters were targeting visitors who mainly came for the mega bridge, followed by a brief stop in Tung Chung before returning home. The activists chased away those sitting on the floor outside shopping centres and confronted escorts of suspicious tours. Tension surged further when a rival mainland-friendly group countered their actions. The row must not be allowed to continue lest a new round of cross-border confrontation emerge.
The government should have foreseen the influx. The weekend crowds prove that the measures to divert visitors to other places are not effective. Indeed, the underlying problem is apparently a surge in those not part of official tours. As they arrive on public transport and decide their own sightseeing activities, concerns have been raised that they are not subject to the same regulations as inbound tours. The authorities must seek clarification and plug any loophole. Unless the cause of the problem is fixed, the influx brought by the mega bridge risks escalating into a political row that upsets greater regional integration and development.