Pointless protests in malls

Updated: 2015-02-16 07:29

(HK Edition)

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Protests against mainland parallel traders in Hong Kong have taken place in the last two consecutive weekends, with scuffles breaking out in Tuen Mun and Sha Tin amid a surge of shoppers from mainland ahead of the Spring Festival.

Spring Festival is the biggest holiday for the country. Residents in Hong Kong and on the mainland share the same tradition and culture, value the same feelings of being with their loved ones in the holiday season of family reunion. Therefore, if people from both sides of the border could understand and respect each other more, there would not have been so much bickering.

Locals, especially those who live in the North District of Hong Kong bordering Shenzhen, may have every reason to vent their anger and grievances at parallel trading which has pushed up prices for food stuff and many other daily necessities. Local commuters also have a reason to complain against the influx of visitors for obstructing MTR stations and crowding the streets. However, flourishing parallel trading is good business for many Hong Kong retailers. While causing some nuisances, mainland visitors have made significant contributions to Hong Kong's economy.

Parallel trade in Hong Kong is nothing new. This phenomenon could be traced back to the latter period of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Earlier last century, Lo Wu Control Point was active with parallel trade going both ways - carrying Western medicine and milk formula to the mainland and staple goods back to Hong Kong.

For decades since the mainland began pursuing the policy of opening to the outside world, many Hong Kong people had been trafficking in parallel goods across the border to make quick money. But this time round, the difference is that the city is now overwhelmed by many mainland day-trippers who ply their trades by exploiting the multi-entry scheme.

The protest in Sha Tin on Sunday implied once again the rivalry over resources. If not addressed appropriately, the social problem could get worse causing irreparable damage to the city's economic integration with the mainland. The government should therefore put forward more workable measures to tackle the social tensions sparked by thriving parallel trading by plugging the loopholes of the multiple-entry visa program. Meanwhile, it is equally important for the SAR government to uphold Hong Kong's fine tradition of the rule of law, and prevent people from trying to fan antagonistic sentiments toward mainlanders to serve their political agenda.

Throughout all its development history, Hong Kong has been enjoying the world-acclaimed reputation as a shopping paradise. Late last month, Hong Kong was once again ranked the world's freest economy. Openness and hospitality are essential ingredients for the city's commercial prosperity. Hong Kong people should welcome everyone from around the world with open arm.

Pointless protests in malls

(HK Edition 02/16/2015 page10)