A debate is raging in the mainland over the death in Hong Kong last week of a visitor from Heilongjiang province.
The media and bloggers blame the failure of the authorities to curb cut-price tours and not the city itself.
The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) issued a statement Sunday warning people not to take part in such cheap tours and said they and the travel agencies that run them could face criminal prosecution.
In an editorial Monday, the Southern Metropolis Daily in Guangzhou ran the headline, “Control the chaos of low-cost tourism, we must pay attention to the role of the tourist”.
Bloggers called for stricter regulation and for the government to play a decisive role in ending the malpractice.
The media has presented the death as the result of a dispute between mainlanders over money that happened to take place in Hong Kong – saying the city was not responsible and is not to blame.
This is very important.
Since the Occupy movement late last year, the city has received bad press in the mainland.
The media reported angry protests against mainland shoppers, including the use of words like ‘locusts’ to describe them, and the booing of the national anthem at World Cup qualifying soccer matches in Hong Kong.
All this damaged the city’s image as a tourist destination.
“I do not go there now,” said Yang Lingmei, a car salesman in Zhuhai, a city in Guangdong province next door to Macau.
“We do not feel welcome and fear that someone will curse us because we speak Putonghua.
“I can buy products I need in Macau and am looking at Thailand for my next holiday trip.
“There are many places to go.”
Hong Kong can do without a further black mark against it.
The man who died last week was Miao Chunqi, a 53-year-old construction contractor who was on a three-day shopping tour with visitors from Hubei, Heilongjiang and Shandong provinces.
The group left Shenzhen on Sunday and was also scheduled to visit Macau on Tuesday.
The dispute occurred when the group was taken to a jewelry shop in Hung Hom on Monday last week.
Miao and his partner did not spend money because they thought the jewelry was overpriced.
The tour leader had an argument with them.
Miao was trying to mediate but got into a fight during which he was dragged outside and beaten unconscious by a gang of four men.
He was certified dead the following day.
In its editorial, the Southern Metropolis Daily said that, in recent years, the CNTA had taken many measures against cut-price tourism, including conducting investigations and canceling licences, but these had not been effective.
To warn of criminal action against tourists who join such tours naturally provoked strong opposition on the internet, it said.
“This makes people suspect that the authorities are trying to hide their own ineffective supervision,” the newspaper said.
The government, the media and tourists all have a role to play in putting an end to this malpractice, the editorial said.
The CNTA defines a cut-price tour as one in which the price is 30 per cent lower than that set by the government.
It has issued minimum prices for 36 cities, including Guilin in Guangxi province, Sanya in Hainan and Lijiang in Yunnan, but not for destinations outside the mainland such as Hong Kong and Macau.
Wu Jingmin, who runs a travel agency in Shenzhen, said that two years ago the CNTA had specifically outlawed such tours but not taken effective action since.
“Everyone is offering such tours,” Wu said.
“Someone who is selling you fake goods will not tell you they are fake.
“This is the same. They have many reasons to explain it.
“The consumer must learn to protect himself and not be cheated.
“But, if that happens, the livelihood of many people will be affected – the shops, travel companies, guides and drivers.”
In their comments, bloggers criticized the government and not Hong Kong for the death.
“Has the CNTA no responsibility in this?” asked one from Beijing.
“How was the tourist to know what was a ‘cut-price’ tour?” asked another from Shenzhen.
One from Changsha said: “This was a result of poor enforcement of the law. Now they are trying to pin the blame on the tourist.”
During these “tours” in Hong Kong, the visitors spend little time sight-seeing.
Instead they are taken to shops and are sometimes locked in rooms for hours at a time until they spend.
The buses have fake tourists planted there by the travel agency who tell the visitors what good value the products are and urge them to buy.
The tour guides use foul language and intimidation to force the visitors to make purchases.
What kind of holiday is this?
– Contact us at [email protected]