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Traders will not be able to visit Hong Kong so often. Photo; David Wong

Shenzhen imposes once-a-week limit on cross-border visits to Hong Kong by permanent residents

Restrictions imposed on the city's permanent residents after State Council 'adjustment' in policy will cut number of visitors by a third

Shenzhen's permanent residents are to be limited to just one visit a week to Hong Kong using their multiple-entry permits, a move that will slash the number of these visitors by about 30 per cent, according to sources familiar with the arrangement.

A Hong Kong government source said the restriction would cut the number of visitors to the city by 4.6 million a year.

Shenzhen municipal government issued the ruling yesterday after a decision by the State Council to approve an "adjustment" in the number of trips that multiple-entry permit holders can make to Hong Kong, a notice circulating on the internet said.

The notice set out details of the arrangement - restricting the number of trips by multiple-entry permit holders to one a week - although it did not say when the change would be implemented. The trips cannot be saved up; they must be used or they will be lost.

Shenzhen police and Hong Kong government sources confirmed the new arrangement to the .

The Hong Kong government said last night that it had submitted a proposal to the central government to adjust the multiple-entry policy. "Any adjustment to the policy is pending the central government's announcement," it said in a statement.

Only Shenzhen permanent residents can hold multiple-entry permits, which allow them to make as many trips as they want to Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong government source said the restriction on that category of visitors would cut the number of arrivals by 4.6 million a year, or 30 per cent, which would help crack down on parallel traders, who buy products in Hong Kong to resell at a profit across the border.

About 14.9 million of the 60.8 million visitors to the city last year were from Shenzhen, and held multiple-entry permits.

Brisk trading activities at border towns and the large number of mainland visitors flooding in have become a source of friction and triggered protests and clashes in the New Territories.

Mainland visitors are blamed for buying up daily essentials such as infant formula and diapers, and putting pressure on public transport.

But some Shenzhen residents said they did not believe restricting the number of visits would help resolve the problem of cross-border smugglers - 60 per cent of whom are believed to be Hongkongers.

One white-collar worker in Shenzhen who refused to give her name said: "I am disappointed with Hong Kong. The shopping atmosphere is no longer friendly."

She said she had not crossed the border since the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

And the boss of a trading company said she hoped the restriction could be limited to twice a week, as she frequently travelled to Hong Kong for business and to stock up on baby formula.

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the fact that no start date had been mentioned implied the policy may be gradually introduced.

Meanwhile, North District Parallel Imports Concern Group spokesman Leung Kam-shing doubted the move would be effective. "Parallel-trading syndicates would just employ different people to do the job," he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Shenzhen limits HK visits to one trip a week