Zhang Xiaoming warns protesters: parallel traders are the problem, not all mainland visitors
Parallel traders are the problem, not mainland visitors in general, says Zhang Xiaoming
A top mainland official in charge of Hong Kong affairs has warned anti-parallel trading protesters against venting their anger on all mainland visitors to the city.
As internet users yesterday continued to drum up support for another protest against parallel traders in Sheung Shui today, the director of the central government's liaison office, Zhang Xiaoming , said that while the problem of grey market traders would be dealt with, it should not be exaggerated to involve mainland tourists.
Meeting Hong Kong representatives to the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, Zhang said blame should not be placed on the individual visit scheme - which allows mainland tourists to visit Hong Kong on an individual basis - when it came to problems caused by parallel traders.
"The overall implementation of the individual visit scheme has been good," he said. "The problem now is mainly to do with parallel traders … especially when their activities overlapped with mainlanders doing their shopping before the Lunar New Year. It affected many residents in North District."
His comments came after a series of protests in Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin aimed at traders from the mainland, some of which have turned violent, with police using pepper spray.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying earlier vowed to float ideas to limit mainland visitor numbers while he was in Beijing for the NPC this week.
Zhang said parallel traders occupied roads and public space and doing something about the nuisance they created for residents should be a priority.
But he said the problem should not be exaggerated or used as a tool to escalate cross-border conflict. Sixty per cent of parallel traders are Hong Kong residents, with the rest Shenzhen residents on multiple-entry permits to Hong Kong, Zhang said.
He also said the individual visit scheme should not be dismissed, noting that Hong Kong's biggest advantage was its support from the mainland.
NPC deputy Priscilla Lau Pui-king, who proposed a cap on solo mainland visitors, believed Beijing would listen to the deputies' ideas on the matter. She said Zhang had reiterated that the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office would study the problem and find ways to solve it.
NPC deputy and Liberal Party honorary chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said: "We're not trying to expel our guests, we just hope the parallel trading problem can be dealt with."