More residents crossing the border on Chung Yeung

October 25, 2023 09:57
Photo: RTHK

There was something special about my family's birthday dinner last weekend. We booked a decent Taiwanese restaurant but we talked – for the first time – about possibly hosting the birthday meal next time in China.

When we finished the dinner at 9 pm, the staff told us they were so thankful to sign off because the lady boss had already left early to catch the high-speed train to China that night.

You would probably have similar findings over the weekend that the traffic was exceptionally smooth and some of the bars and restaurants were half empty, if not empty. Forget the night vibes – it did not work magic in October.

A record number of people left Hong Kong for a short break in the past Chung Yeung festival. On Monday, some 576,000 local residents out of a total of 664,000 inbound passengers returned to Hong Kong on Monday, the last day of the holiday, according to the Immigration Department.

Some 514,000 people had to queue up at the checkpoints at West Kowloon high-speed rail terminus, Lok Ma Chau, Lo Wu and Shenzhen Bay Port while more than 82,000 people came from the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao mega bridge.

All these numbers surpassed the peak of the national holiday in October when Hong Kong also enjoyed a long weekend. (Noted the “One country, two systems” prevailed during Chung Yeung Festival because it is not a holiday on the mainland.)

Local reports suggested that some people had to wait for one hour at the West Kowloon Terminus platform before getting onto the train on Saturday, the first day of the holiday. For those who returned from the bridge was even worse. Some had to wait over two hours in the Gongbei Tunnel in Zhuhai.

Now a regular user of the bridge, I understand people’s frustrations because the bridge had no more traffic than the Western Harbour Tunnel on a regular day.

The heavy traffic stemmed from the fact that passengers must get off the car or bus to pass through the customs in mainland and Hong Kong, and a long queue there would make the traffic jam even worse.

When asked about the cross-border frustrations, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said the government needs effective crowd management measures but noted that the large influx at West Kowloon station had proved "the success of the government's efforts to promote integration with the mainland."

Thanks to the border reopening and the weak renminbi, we saw more Hong Kong people going across the border to spend as they get better food and service in Shenzhen, Zhuhai and other nearby cities.

Recently I learned that mainland students in Hong Kong would go back to China, mainly Shenzhen - on weekends for food and entertainment.

In the wake of this seemingly irreversible trend, some may find it assuring that the peak might be over for now because the next holiday – Christmas - would only come in two months.

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EJ Insight writer