Police step up vigil after complaints on 'illegal' tour guides

November 12, 2018 16:43
'Tung Chung Future' leader Wong Chun-yeung (front row, center). Tsuen Wan District Councilor Roy Tam (front row, left) and others launch a "Reclaim Tung Chung" protest on Sunday. Photos: HKEJ

Responding to reports that some mainland Chinese travel operators are offering "illegal" services in Hong Kong in relation to bus tours via the newly-opened cross-border sea bridge, Hong Kong authorities have begun to tighten their scrutiny on the tour activities.

On Sunday, more than a hundred police officers were deployed to Tung Chung to carry out checks as the government sought to determine if the people who were leading the tour groups from the mainland were breaking Hong Kong regulations by acting as unauthorized guides.

The officers were there to collect evidence and record information about the mainland tour escorts, acting on complaints from tourism industry representatives who had warned that some of the Chinese travel operators are not complying with the Hong Kong rules, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Since the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) opened to the public on Oct. 24, Hong Kong has seen an influx of mainland tourists via the new route, with many of them entering in groups organized by travel agencies in the mainland and mainly spending time in Tung Chung before returning to China the same day.

Reports, however, surfaced that most of the mainland tourist groups had failed to follow the local rule that requires inbound mainland tourist groups to be hosted by Hong Kong travel agencies and be registered with the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong after arrival.

Moreover, some tour leaders even changed into tour guides when in Hong Kong, which made them unauthorized workers.

In response to local criticism, the police sent out a number of officers on Sunday to monitor congestion and collect evidence and record information of leaders of those tours.

The move was said to come after a meeting jointly conducted last week by the Security Bureau, the Immigration Department and the Transport and Housing Bureau.

Lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun, who is a lawyer by profession, said it was uncommon to see police officers being dispatched to have an operation targeting mainland tourist groups.

He noted that such cases, where mainland tourist groups are suspected of not following the local regulations, are normally followed up by the Travel Industry Council and the Travel Agents Registry.

While police have the right to enforce law, they may cite regulations such as those pertaining to illegal workers, rather than refer to the Travel Agents Ordinance, in their enforcement actions, Tse said. 

According to a HKEJ source, the police was waiting for a final decision by the Department of Justice before making further moves.

In related news, an activist group that calls itself Tung Chung Future launched a “Reclaim Tung Chung” protest campaign on Sunday to protest against nuisance created by mainland tourists swarming in to the town.

The campaign was kicked off with the aim to help Tung Chung residents gain back their normal life, following a litany of complaints about tourist congestion and loud and improper behavior of the visitors from across the border.

However, Wong Chun-yeung, leader of the group, called it off after the police warned that the campaign became a demonstration, which was different from what the group had applied for.

Wong and some campaign participants were later seen on the streets advising some mainland tourists who were sitting outside retail outlets to station themselves elsewhere.

As they tried to engage with the visitors, they clashed with members from the pro-Beijing Treasure Friendship Group.

Wong told media that his group will evaluate the effectiveness of this campaign and watch how the government responds to their appeal before deciding whether to launch another “Reclaim Tung Chung” action.

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Lawmaker Regina Ip (in red) was surrounded by protesters who demanded a dialogue with her. Ip was eventually escorted out of the area by the police, with officers forming human chains to ensure safe passage for the pro-Beijing political figure. Photo: HKE