Shops may be added at Hong Kong checkpoint of mega bridge to ease influx of mainland Chinese tourists to Tung Chung, leader Carrie Lam says
- Chief executive also says government is working on other ways to solve the problem of overcrowding in Lantau town after tempers flared again at weekend
Shops could be opened inside the Hong Kong checkpoint of the new cross-border mega bridge to Macau and Zhuhai to prevent a normally quiet town on Lantau Island being swamped by tourists, Hong Kong’s leader said on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also said the government was working on other ways to solve the problem, such as getting in touch with bus operators to launch a booking system for services across the bridge.
Local travel agents were also asked to roll out more local tours to divert travellers to different areas, she added.
Lawmakers were concerned that such measures would cause other residential areas in the New Territories to become overcrowded, but Lam dismissed such worries.
Tempers have flared in recent weekends with tens of thousands of mainland Chinese travellers, many in tour groups, crossing the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and visiting Tung Chung, rekindling memories of similar scenes in other border towns that had witnessed tensions between locals and visitors. The bridge opened last month.
At a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday, Lam said work was under way to open more shops in the checkpoint building.
“Then the visitors don’t need to go to Tung Chung to buy souvenirs … I hope this can be done soon,” she said.
Lam also said authorities noticed that up to 10,000 travellers a day on average stayed at the bridge’s Hong Kong checkpoint and did not use any local transport service.
“Since they were just coming here for the experience … we are studying whether we can make the east artificial island a tourist attraction so travellers can stay there before going back,” the chief executive said, referring to one of the structures on the crossing.
Lam added that was also what President Xi Jinping had done when he officiated at the opening of the bridge on October 23. He went to the east artificial island and returned to the mainland.
The 55km crossing consists of the Hong Kong bridge section, a tunnel, and the mainland bridge section. The three structures were linked by four artificial islands. Two of them house the Hong Kong and mainland checkpoints respectively, while the other two – known as the east and west artificial islands – are at the two ends of the tunnel.
Lam reiterated that authorities had rolled out diversion measures and were considering relocating a bus stop of the B6 route, which ran from the checkpoint to the centre of Tung Chung.
Authorities were also working with operators to launch a booking service for the “golden buses” – or the shuttle service that ran between the Hong Kong and Zhuhai-Macau checkpoints, she added.
Lam said Guangdong authorities had issued documents urging mainland travel agents to abide by the law, and not to organise illegal tour groups to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong travel agents were also asked to roll out more city tours to different areas or attractions so that Tung Chung would not be overcrowded.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen was concerned the government’s measures to divert tourists to other areas meant that residential areas such as Tsing Yi would see an influx of mainland travellers.
But Lam said the government was trying to divert travellers to other tourist areas such as Sunny Bay, and it was not its policy to divert people to residential ones.