Hong Kong residents fed up with influx of mainland Chinese tourists call on government to stop them visiting more than once a month
- Groups raise concerns about growing number of package tours in To Kwa Wan, Kowloon City and Hung Hom
- Better use should be made of Kai Tak cruise terminal, say Hongkongers who’ve had enough of crowded streets
The number of mainland Chinese tourists allowed to visit Hong Kong must be capped, concern groups and residents in districts frequently disturbed by them said on Sunday.
The government was also urged to divert some tourists to the Kai Tak cruise terminal and its facilities, which the groups said had not been used enough.
On Sunday, the groups complained residential areas such as To Kwa Wan, Kowloon City and Hung Hom had seen an influx of tourists since the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which connects the city to mainland China, opened in October.
Residents said the increase had disrupted their lives, and the already narrow streets had become difficult to navigate. Tour buses were parked outside office and residential buildings, blocking access, they said.
“Ideally, it would be best to set a quota on the number of Chinese tourists allowed to visit,” said Nette Tsang Wing-tung, a community officer for concern group Synergy Kowloon.
“To Kwa Wan is supposed to be a residential district. But so many of the shops are selling souvenirs to tourists. This is against logical thinking.”
Since 2015, authorities in Hong Kong and on the mainland have only allowed residents of the neighbouring city of Shenzhen to visit Hong Kong once a week, scrapping a “multiple-entry” policy after protests from Hongkongers.
The concern groups want the policies to be tightened further, allowing Shenzhen residents to visit Hong Kong just once a month.
They also want the government to charge all tourists a tax of between HK$20 (US$2.56) and HK$50 for every night they stay in Hong Kong.
That would help deter mainland tourists from coming to Hong Kong on cheap tours for just one or two days, they claim. The tour fees in those cases are often only about 200 yuan (US$29.60).
From January to November last year, about 58.6 million tourists visited Hong Kong, up 10.7 per cent from the previous year. Among them, 45.9 million were mainland tourists, an increase of 14.2 per cent from the same period in 2017.
In November, the number of mainland day trippers jumped 40.3 per cent year on year to a record 2.9 million, and accounted for 86.5 per cent of the city’s total of same-day arrivals.
Alan Au, a member of a Hung Hom community group, said it was common to see 300 mainland tourists blocking the streets as they waited for coaches in some parts of the district.
“Students can’t leave their schools and others can’t leave their office buildings,” he said.
The groups want the government to divert tourists to the Kai Tak cruise terminal, which has been in use since 2013. The port facility received a passenger flow of 748,293 for the first 11 months of last year, already reaching the government’s target for 2023.
Still, the HK$6.6 billion facility resembles a ghost town at times.
The groups said it was common for mainland tourists to board boats for tours of Victoria Harbour. Instead of using the Kowloon City ferry pier, the tourists should be using the cruise terminal so they do not disrupt the lives of locals, they said.
A man who runs a Chinese restaurant, which mostly caters to package tours from the mainland, said residents were complaining about his establishment in Hung Hom for no reason.
“The residents are very unfriendly. They have constantly been launching complaints against my restaurant so government officers always have to come and conduct checks,” said the man, who only gave his surname as Chan.
“I might as well shut the whole place down.”
He said 60 per cent of his customers were visitors on package tours. The restaurant handled 600 to 700 customers a day, but Chan said it was still not making a profit.
A tourist from Shenzhen said she did not think Hongkongers were impolite to her.
“And I don’t think Hong Kong is crowded,” she said. “The mainland is even more crowded.”
Last month, during a Kowloon City District Council meeting, police promised to ban coaches from picking up or dropping off tourists during rush hour at certain spots. But the residents said that had not been effective.
The city’s largest pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, earlier called for curbs on the number of mainlanders on cheap tours, finding itself in the unusual position of echoing pan-democrat comments on the fraught issue of mainland visitors coming to the city.
A Tourism Commission spokesman said the government was very concerned about the impact package tours had, especially during festive seasons.
The government had been in touch with the Travel Industry Council and the trade to encourage drivers, for example, to park coaches at proper spots, the spokesman said.
On the concern groups’ call to tighten the “one week, one visit” requirement for Shenzhen residents, the spokesman said the government would continue to monitor its implementation, adding that it had been in contact with mainland authorities on the overall arrangements for visitors from across the border.
In response to suggestions that tours move from Kowloon City pier to the cruise terminal, the spokesman said it had discussed the subject with “all stakeholders”, but whether that could happen was a decision for the businesses concerned.