Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday he will propose to central government officials next month that the Individual Visit Scheme be tightened.
Mainlanders are likely to be perplexed by this unwelcoming gesture. They feel that by coming and spending money here, they are helping the local economy.
A senior official of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference pointed out that many mainlanders resent the “anti-locust” protests in Hong Kong.
Central authorities, however, appear to have a better understanding of the situation.
They know that Hong Kong is a small city with about seven million people, while the mainland has a population of more than 1.3 billion people. If mainlanders continue flooding the city to procure daily necessities, the lives of local residents will be seriously affected.
Thus, officials are willing to adjust the mechanism for granting “multi-entry permits” for mainland travelers under the current scheme. The policy can stand some revision.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has to shoulder some of the responsibilities for the negative impact of the scheme.
The government has failed to divert mainland tourists, who tend to overwhelm a few shopping districts, to other parts of the territory.
The National People’s Congress and the CPPCC will hold their twin meetings in Beijing next month. It is understood that the tightening of the individual travel policy will be on top of the discussions about issues affecting Hong Kong.
In the light of Leung’s speech on Tuesday, the central government is expected to finally agree to tighten the multi-entry permit policy.
If that’s the case, Shenzhen residents will be most affected. Sources inside the Chinese government have admitted that Shenzhen’s stand on the issue is their main concern when reviewing the individual visit scheme.
From Shenzhen’s point of view, Hong Kong’s complaint about being overwhelmed by too many mainland visitors just isn’t fair. In the first place, it was Hong Kong that sought help from the mainland when its economy was in recession. (Editor’s note: the individual visit scheme was launched in 2003 after the city’s economy took a beating from SARS epidemic.)
However, if the central government is determined to change the situation, Shenzhen will have no choice but to accept.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 24.
Translation by Betsy Tse
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