Hong Kong people are complaining about mainland visitors crowding the city’s public swimming pools and causing inconvenience to locals, with the alleged poor hygiene of some visitors also fueling resentment.
The mainlanders’ rush is said to have gathered steam after a Shenzhen newspaper pointed out recently that Hong Kong swimming pools offer a better option in terms of prices and facilities, compared to the pools across the border, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Monday.
Southern Metropolis Daily said in an article last month that one can use top-quality pools in Hong Kong for about half what similar facilities would cost in Shenzhen.
After the report was published, Hong Kong reported eight cases of swimming pool closures within a month, the highest for a single month since 2008. The shutdowns were prompted by vomit and waste in the water.
During the first seven months of the year, 14 closures were recorded compared with 15 for the whole of 2013.
A spokesman for North District Parallel Imports Concern Group, citing data from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, said authorities were forced to shut down some public pools due to the bad behavior of some visitors who flocked to Hong Kong following the report.
Spitting is a common complaint against mainlanders, while some people were even said to have relieved themselves in the swimming pools.
The concern group urged authorities to give priority to local residents and take care of their needs first before opening up the pools to visitors.
Some lifeguards said they witnessed tour groups from mainland march into the pools, causing inconvenience and disorder.
Alex Kwok, general secretary of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards’ Union, said mainlanders account for 50 percent to 70 percent of all swimmers in Pui O, Repulse Bay and Gold Coast and in swimming pools along the West Rail Line.
The visitors sometimes disturb order in the swimming pools, adding to the workload of lifeguards.
A spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it may not be practical to check the identity of users at the swimming pools as it will take too long.
Meanwhile, some academics averred that Hong Kong, as an international metropolis, should not impose any restrictions on non-local visitors to public swimming pools or other venues.
The most important thing is to enhance the management of the facilities and ensure that users comply with the rules of the venues, said Lobo Louie Hung-Tak, associate professor at the department of physical education at Hong Kong Baptist University.
Noting that some have suggested charging higher fees for non-local users, Louie said such a move will not be effective. A big difference in fees for locals and visitors will give rise to disputes while a small difference will not affect the flow of mainland Chinese, he said.
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