A suggestion by former Executive Council member Franklin Lam Fan-keung that Hong Kong should open its arms to new immigrants and foreign workers, especially from mainland China, has not found much favor with the public, judging from the comments posted on a local online forum.
Lam had proposed, among other things, that Hong Kong should import 200,000 workers and develop Tung Chung, an area situated on the northwestern coast of Lantau Island, into a 700,000-people town.
The city also needs more tourists and immigrants to prevent economic recession and loss of opportunities, he said.
Responding to Lam’s comments — which were made during a press conference in the city Thursday, a netizen quickly launched a discussion on hkgolden.com, one of the most popular online forums in Hong Kong, accusing the former official of overstating the risks the city faces.
“Hong Kong will not die without new immigrants and tourists,” said the netizen, who chose to remain anonymous. “If the size of population is a factor to maintain economic growth, China should have beaten the United States, Germany, Japan and France long ago.”
Last year, China ranked No.93 worldwide in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita with US$9,844 while Hong Kong ranked No.7 with US$52,722. The US was in the sixth spot at US$53,101, Germany was in the 15th place with US$40,007, Japan was No.22 with US$35,899 and France was No. 23 with US$35,784, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The post by the aforementioned netizen has fueled active discussion on the online forum. Some participants said labor importation will cause unemployment for locals while more immigrants will mean heavier social welfare burden for the city.
Hong Kong should instead focus on bringing down the population density, as it will help improve locals’ living quality, they said.
In the new conference Thursday, Lam — who is the founder of the think-tank HKGolden50 — urged Hongkongers to shed their anti-mainland attitude. It is ethically wrong for the city to discriminate against mainland students, new immigrants and visitors from China, he said.
Economist Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu believes Hong Kong has a closed-door attitude as there was an increase of 3 million inbound tourists in the first half this year compared to a year ago, and as there was also growth in trade figures.
Some campaigns seen recently against mainland tourists represent one-off cases that stemmed from different cultural sensitivities, he said, according to a Hong Kong Economic Journal report Friday.
Cutting mainland tourist number by 20 percent will only have a short-term effect on the local economy, and will not threaten the city’s position as a prime financial center, he said.
HKGolden50, founded in June 2011, currently operates a website hkgolden50.org, which looks very similar to hkgolden.com but serves a very different audience group.
The former says it aims to encourage discussions so that “Hong Kong can move forward and further develop our city into an even more prosperous, vibrant, and compassionate metropolis”.
Joe Lam, chief executive of HKGolden Forum, said in a previous interview that the website will do its best to uphold freedom of information.
Anti-government and anti-Beijing comments are currently allowed to be shown on the website anonymously. Netizens say HKGolden Forum in Hong Kong is comparable to Tianya.cn, a popular online forum in the mainland.
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