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Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has pledged to keep the number of mainland visitors to the city under control, in response to anxieties among some local residents.
The CE made the remarks in the light of a new policy to be inaugurated this weekend, under which Shenzhen will issue multiple-entry visas to its non-permanent residents, beginning on Saturday.
The arrangement was made last week. Shenzhen authorities said multiple-entry permits will be available to 4.1 million Shenzhen residents who do not hold household registration documents.
In response to concerns that a huge influx of visitors could put more strain on the city's satiated transportation and other resources, Leung said tourism is Hong Kong's foundation industry and the SAR government will pay attention to the number of visitors and ensure there were enough tourist facilities, including restaurants and shops.
"The Hong Kong government will take great care of all districts, especially the facility problems at areas that are more attractive to mainland tourists for sightseeing and shopping," Leung remarked. "On one hand, we will control the numbers coming to Hong Kong and on another; we will increase various service facilities."
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung said the government welcomed the new measure, believing it will be beneficial to Hong Kong's tourism, retail and catering industries.
He added that the Security Bureau will work closely with mainland authorities to control the number of Shenzhen visitors.
Caroline Mak Sui-king, chairwoman of Hong Kong Retail Management Association, concurred that the relaxed travel restrictions for Shenzhen's non-permanent residents will benefit the retail industry. But she doubted the purchasing power of the new visitors will be that strong.
"Please be reminded that quite a large portion of these 4 million visitors are migrant workers whose wages are not very high and they have to send money back to their home towns, so their purchasing power will be quite low," Mak said, adding that Shenzhen visitors normally do not stay overnight, hence its advantage to hotels will be limited.
James Tien Pei-chun, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, suggested that the actual number of extra visitors might have been exaggerated. "Even if there are (a lot), it won't be counted in millions," he said.
He added that the prevailing tension between mainland tourists and local residents is caused largely by the tax difference in consumer products, like baby formula. He urged the Hong Kong government to liaise with the mainland Customs to take more effective actions against smugglers.
Meanwhile, a small protest took place on Tuesday to demand better control of the visitors in face of the city's growing pressures.
The more relaxed policy has also upset green groups. President of Green Sense Roy Tam Hoi-bong said he believed the city has no more room to increase facilities.
"Hong Kong is a very small city with narrow streets. It is impossible to widen the streets if they are jammed by increasing mainland tourists," He said. "Our society has a heavy price to pay when some of the lands designated to redevelop residential buildings have to be rezoned to build hotels."
To be eligible to visit Hong Kong under the relaxed rules, non-permanent residents will be required to have paid social insurance in Shenzhen for a full year.
Previously, non-permanent residents of Shenzhen were required to return to their home provinces to apply for multiple-entry permits. They have been able to obtain single-entry passes since 2010. Multiple-entry permits were made available to Shenzhen permanent residents on April, 2009.