Chief Executive CY Leung said yesterday that Hong Kong will not expand its Individual Visit Scheme for tourists from the mainland, as news reports have suggested, but that the government is actually seeking to tighten up the current system.
The scheme currently allows residents of 49 mainland cities to apply for a multi-entry travel permit to visit Hong Kong.
This year, the number of mainlanders who traveled to Hong Kong during the Lunar New Year holiday dropped for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Despite the decline and contrary to newspaper reports, the scheme is not being extended to more mainland cities, Leung said while speaking before the start of an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.
“I have been advising the central government not to expand the scheme, as Hong Kong’s capacity to receive tourists is limited,” he said, adding that the numbers of visitors has put pressure on local peoples’s livelihoods.
Tensions between Hong Kong and the mainland have escalated in recent years as Hongkongers have accused cross-border shoppers of flooding the territory and snapping up necessities at a lower tax rate, which results in either scarcity or upped prices of products. Earlier this month, local residents stormed a Hong Kong mall and heckled mainland shoppers during a protest against the so-called parallel traders who stock up on products for cheap and re-sell them over the border.
Fewer mainland residents are expected to visit Hong Kong in upcoming years, due in part to high costs, limited hotel rooms and an “unwelcoming attitude” from towards mainlanders.
Shi Wanjing, a Shanghai financial auditor, said a tighter travel control policy will only widen the gap between Hong Kong and the mainland.
“[…] it is ridiculous to hear that Hong Kong, which is part of our own country, is trying to push mainland visitors outside,” he was quoted as saying in a Straits Times report.
Wei Xiaoan, secretary-general of the China Tourism Leisure Association, agreed.
“The limited capacity theory is not that convincing. When some place is overwhelmed by visitors, other visitors go somewhere else. The number of tourists should be adjusted by the market, not government policies.”
[Image via justaslice]