China is hinting at imminent changes to its individual visit policy amid mounting pressure in Hong Kong to curb arrivals from the mainland.
However, it warned that the issue should not be exaggerated or politicized, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday, citing Zhou Bo, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
Zhou said the tourist handling capacity of Hong Kong and Macau is nearly full and should not be stretched.
The changes, however, will not adversely affect their tourism industries, the report said.
Zhou said people should not forget the history of the scheme and the fact that it benefited the tourism and retail industries in Hong Kong and Macau.
It helped Hong Kong mitigate the effects of a global travel ban in 2003 when visitors stayed away in great numbers during SARS, he said.
Since then, however, an increasing influx of visitors from the mainland has prompted calls for an end to the Chinese visa scheme by Hong Kong residents.
They are angry at the visitors’ behavior which has been blamed for shortages of basic goods, rising prices, overcrowding and falling hygiene and sanitation standards.
In recent weeks, violent protests have erupted against parallel traders from the mainland.
Shenzhen party secretary Wang Rong said he supports a proposed an exhibition and sales center for Hong Kong goods in a special zone just across the Hong Kong border.
Plans are at a preliminary stage and will take at least another six months of discussions.
China allows residents of 49 mainland cities to travel to Hong Kong once or twice in a certain period for up to seven days at a time as individual tourists.
Shenzhen residents can come and go as they please.
Previously, all visitors from the mainland were required to travel to Hong Kong in groups with a specified length of stay.
In the past year, the Hong Kong government has been planning to limit Shenzhen residents to 52 visits a year, the report said, citing unnamed sources.
However, officials are reluctant to consider tougher restrictions because of their potential impact on the economy.
– Contact us at [email protected]