Hong Kong protesters call for limit to Chinese tourists

Residents gather at Tsim Sha Tsui shopping cenre to vent anger at behaviour of visitors from mainland

The Star Ferry carrying passengers across Victoria Harbour. Nearly 41 million mainland Chinese tourists visited Hong Kong last year. Photograph: Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images

The Star Ferry carrying passengers across Victoria Harbour. Nearly 41 million mainland Chinese tourists visited Hong Kong last year. Photograph: Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images

 


A demonstration in the glitzy Tsim Sha Tsui shopping precinct by Hong Kong residents angry at the huge influx of mainland Chinese into the territory led to scuffles at the weekend, local media reported.

Scores of protesters marched through Kowloon demanding curbs on the number of visitors from the mainland, as part of what the demonstrators called an “anti-locust campaign”.

During the 90-minute protest about 100 people marched from the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui to Canton Road, a street lined with jewellery shops and high-end fashion outlets popular with visitors from the mainland.

Along this street you hear mainly Mandarin Chinese, the dialect spoken in mainland China, and relatively little Cantonese, the dialect spoken in Hong Kong. Sales staff slip easily in and out of both dialects, which are quite different.

Millions of visitors
Nearly 41 million mainland Chinese tourists visited Hong Kong last year. The influx from China is considered both a blessing and a curse in the former British colony, which reverted to Chinese rule in July 1997.

People in Hong Kong, which enjoys a high degree of autonomy, often complain about the behaviour of mainland tourists who, they say, spit, jump queues, allow their children to urinate in public places and disobey traffic rules.

Property prices
Mainland Chinese have also taken advantage of the strong yuan to buy property in Hong Kong – whose currency the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the weaker US dollar – and this has driven up property prices.

Waving colonial era Hong Kong flags and chanting “Chinese locusts! Go home,” demonstrators clashed with others opposed to the demonstration, who were waving a “Welcome to Hong Kong” banner, and police were forced to intervene, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

“I think the government should listen to our voice seriously. It has to stop allowing Chinese tourists into Hong Kong. We do not want them,” organiser Ronald Leung Kam-shing told the newspaper.

Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development Gregory So Kam-leung said he regretted the action.

“We strongly condemn this sort of action,” he said.

Mr So estimated last month that tourist numbers could climb 30 per cent to 70 million a year within three years and 100 million in a decade.

It is more than a decade since the rules changed to allow mainland tourists to travel to Hong Kong without being part of an organised tour group.